Category Archives: devotion

A Mama Makes Attempts At Holy Week {Preparing for Easter}

To celebrate Easter, I do something this year I have never done before. I do Lent.

For Lent, I throw off, disentangle, make lighter. I throw off writing, emails, twitter and television–because that’s what Lent is–a quiet time of reflection, of giving up things that get in the way, of turning to the Saviour and looking Him full in the face, only to fully be reminded of our sin and just how much we need him–how much we really need Easter.

I have to ask myself–can Easter really be celebrated any other way? Can we really pack and cram all of the reflection, revelation, soul-enriching, awareness of our sin and need for a Saviour, thanksgiving and rejoicing for His life, death and resurrection into just one day? Really? Because that’s how I was raised to celebrate it–the church I grew up in never encouraged families to take more time than Easter Sunday to reflect and celebrate.

So here I am, doing Lent, leading my family quietly {maybe not so quietly?}, Husband so thankful that I have found the resources and made the effort for everyone, teaching them what I have learned.

But while I try to do Lent, while I teach children God’s ways, I utterly fail.

He comes home and finds me in the kitchen, spewing words, trying to prepare a special Christian passover meal for all of us. I am the most disorganized person I know–even though I read the ideas and recipes days before, and marinated the lamb overnight, I had taken on too much for such a huge feast in one evening–my accursed genes follow me forever.

It is the worst feeling in the world–as things begin to fall apart, it feels as if the girl that had it all together left my body and some other girl took over–some of our worst flaws we are so helpless over. As Paul said, “What I don’t want to do, I do, and what I want to do, I dont do.”

Candles lit, worship music playing, I talk through gritted teeth and tell children to just cooperate as we all prepare together. Even the best of Christian activities and the most quiet, stilling music cannot save us.

Only God–only Him on that cross can do that for me and only His presence here will save us.

Husband reminds me to instruct them politely. I nod that he’s right, and tell him that he doesn’t know what I went through with children today who wouldn’t obey and do their work and I feel like a failing Mama.

When I get all wound tight inside I can’t seem to stop, and I keep going–I tell him that I figured out why it’s so hard for me to instruct, teach, have conversations–why it wears me out so much–I’m an introvert, and my natural bent is to let someone learn on their own, without my input. I want to be alone, doing my own thing. Eldest daughter pipes up with, “Then why in the world did you decide to homeschool us?”

Oh, I wish I had stopped. This tongue of death–sometimes I wish I could cut it off. At this moment, my emotions couldn’t be any worse–I have hit rock bottom.

Here I am, consumed with the sins of discontentment, strife, impatience and ingratitude, and I see exactly why I need Easter–why I need His resurrection life so desperately.

Here I am, feeling like a failure, feeling like a victim, and I forget to have a grateful heart for what God has done.

I forget that just a few nights before, during our Lent devotion, Lorna had said she had a question. She was worried about dying and going to heaven, for an infinite amount of time, not know what would happen or what her life would be like there.

And Husband says, “Lorna, you’re right–it is a little scary, because heaven is a place we don’t know much of, it’s a place we’ve never been to and don’t understand the way there, what the journey will be like…

“You know when you were born, you were just a little baby, and you came into this big world, and you were crying and it was scary, but it was great and you were here in this new place, just looking around in wonder?” She nods.

“That’s what heaven is like–it is going to be amazing and wonderful. It is something that we don’t understand on this side of it–but this side is only one part of life–when you get there, you will have a whole new life and then you will understand.”

She told her daddy she gets it now, him at the head of the table, all of us listening to one another and learning.

How could I forget such beauty? How does my heart so easily fester and callous up?

It is late when the feast is finally ready, and we all take our seats.

In preparing the meal in such haste and fury, I am not prepared for what it will do to my heart when my youngest in angel voice shyly asks the first question: “Why are we eating unleavened bread?”

I answer, “We eat Matzah to remind us that the Israelites did not have time for yeast to rise because they had to be ready to move when God said. For us as Christians, it reminds us to live lightly, always ready to go when the call comes…like a thief in the night, Jesus is going to return and we will all go home. We eat matzah because tonight we remember Jesus…bread without yeast, to remember Jesus who was without sin.”

Eldest looks straight into my eyes as I talk, and I feel the weight of God’s glory all around us–her eyes so alive with His resurrection.

When Husband takes the bread, tears it right into, and I tell the girls, say it in unison and they do: “Because He was broken for us,” something just tears my heart wide open.

My second oldest asks her question, and I didn’t tell her to, but she addresses her Dad–“Daddy, why are we eating bitter herbs?” –her voice so reverent, reminding me that I don’t know as much as I think I do. He explains about the bitterness of sins and my heart begins to bleed out.

When eldest daughter asks her question, “Why tonight do we dip our herbs twice?” Husband explains that our fathers wept salty tears {he dips the herb into the salty water}they dipped hyssop branches into the blood of the Passover lamb and marked their doorposts that the Angel of Death would pass over.

For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins.

I watch Husband’s hands dipping the herbs into hope, telling us that we can wipe our tears because now we have new life in Christ–He has rebirthed us–and after all the whirlwind of my sin, my desires and my passions, my heart is finally stilled.

But it is really after the last question has been asked that it fully sinks in.

It is when he serves the lamb that my heart slows, the blood stops racing, and I close eyes and just listen as he reads:

“As the Jews needed the blood of the lamb on their doorpost for the angel of death to pass over them, so we need the blood of the lamb on our hearts for the angel of death to pass over our souls. And we have a lamb…as John the Baptist proclaimed, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). And he was a voluntary sacrificial lamb for Jesus said, “No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.” (John 10:17-18)

“What does that mean? It means that Jesus planned His own sacrifice. It means that Jesus intentionally planted the tree from which His cross would be carved…willingly placed the iron ore in the heart of the earth from which the nails would be cast…voluntarily placed his Judas in the womb of a woman…set in motion the political machinery that would send Pilate to Jerusalem…the ropes used to tie His hands and the soldiers used to lead Him were unnecessary. Had they not been there, had there been no trial, no Pilate, no crowd, the very same crucifixion would have occurred. Had Jesus been forced to nail Himself to the Cross, He would have done it. For it was not the soldiers who killed Him, nor the screams of the mob. It was His devotion to us.” (~Max Lucado, God Came Near, pg. 79-81)

I just nod, eyes closed, it’s all I can do. I just relent and let Him completely take over.

Little Lilly lifts her glass to clink it against our’s as we toast the celebration of His new life, a shy, excited little smile on her face. Husband and I look at one another, the twinkle of hope in our eye.

I wonder why we don’t do Lent–this thing that was so hard starting out–all year long.

{For dessert: “New Life”}

John Piper, a man I believe to be doctrinally sound, on Lent: ““Lent” means spring. But it’s more like winter—the last blast of cold before the warm green is here to stay. It reminds us of the flint-faced Christ moving to Jerusalem. O how we need the discipline of Lent!! Break a bad habit before Good Friday! Life is too short to coast. Brake! Stand on the hood. Look! Over there! Don’t say you can’t. We don’t allow that word at our house (Matthew 19:26).”

“Lent or no Lent, not doing some things you feel like doing is the daily pattern for the disciples of Jesus. Yes, daily. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).”

From the Desiring God blog: So, How Was Your Easter?–“How can we be Easter people–24/7, 365 days of the year?”…

**A few ideas we are creating around here and some ramblings this week for Easter…thank you in advance, friends, for grace…

{I’m always conservative with Easter baskets and lean more toward Christian celebration than American tradition–if you would like to do this, too–} this year, a Christian book on Easter–one for the little ones and HERE is one for older ones. and for teens?  this study by Adam Hamilton has excellent reviews or this book by Strobel— {or you can order their own copy of Devotions for Lent–my girls love theirs–a small devotion booklet–go here to order–w/ Amazon 1-day or 2-day shipping, you could have it by Fri.–I’m also lightly sprinkling in some pastel chocolate eggs, a chocolate cross, a stuffed bunny or lamb with ribbon and hand-written bible verse around the neck. You may also place some plastic eggs filled with scripture or you may opt for natural brown hen’s eggs with ribbon and a hole-punched scripture attached {this could be a treasure hunt–you could put the scripture reference only and have your little one look them up and read together}? You could also use a filler and place moss found in your yard on top and tuck in some Lilly of the Valley here and there… A sterling silver cross necklace would make a wonderful gift for a tween or teen. The main thing is keeping it simple and centered on Who we are celebrating…

We have made our Grace Garden {go HERE to see Ann’s ideas}, and it turned out beautiful–I would like to encourage you to make your own–we had so much fun!–on Friday night, the girls will make catepillars out of wax, wrap in a leaf and tuck under the moss atop our stone tomb and then we will make our butterfly and it will sit atop our Grace Garden on Sunday morning! The girls are so intrigued with a caterpillar’s transformation right now, so this works perfect for us!

You can go HERE, Desiring God blog, to read Noel Piper {John Piper’s wife} on Lent and Holy Week–for further inspiration

You can go HERE, to Ann Voskamp’s site to get ideas and free printouts for your own Christian Passover meal…

You can go HERE if you are interested in Lent devotions for the rest of this holy week–in preparation for Easter–maybe you would like to print it out to be ready for next year?

Shared with sweet Ann and others at….

Jennifer….

kd…

”JourneyTowardsEpiphany”

Tracy…

and Shanda…

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My Heart’s Cry to Heaven {and A Blogger’s Prayer}

I lay in our high four-poster bed, and everything is swirling around. I can’t sleep, eyes hurting and heavy in mid-afternoon–the anxiety threatens to break me–and I moan and let the tears stream, let them break open past the lump in throat, let the trapped burn escape.

I bury my head in feather pillow, the soft brown cotton catching the wet, the words and voices circulating in my head relentless. Husband hears, comes and holds me and talks to me. I tell him it’s happening again, and oh, the frustration of it.

How did I get here again? I have no idea. Why am I so weak?

I don’t want to be drowned in a sea of confusion, a hopeless tossing of words, phrases, voices, too many voices, and screens, too many screens buzzing, my constant typing on the black keys, lined up in a  shiny plastic row. They click at me and give me no history, no story.

When I look at the screen, there is no one there. Just words, just letters, advertisements and lights making my brain forget how to sleep. When I step away from the click-clicking of the keyboard, I can still hear it, the humming, the whirring, running, on and on it goes.

I walk across pine floors and I forget to notice the gorgeous light. I’ve forgotten the beauty of a story told on paper, bound and handed down between covers, the words kept for safe-keeping to be whispered quietly only between me and the Lord in the morning light.

When it all boils down and I’m left with the bottom , the pit of myself and mankind–what really matters?

There are too many voices, too many deadlines, too much rush and hurry, too many demands to meet, too much worry, too much reaching for me, hands grasping.

Where is God’s voice in all of that? Because I can’t hear it.

My heart is fragile and weak, it is easily swayed, weighed down with the cares of this world, and I am quickly overwhelmed and taken like a tsunami crashing over me.

I want to give my life for my Savior King.

If there is to be a tsunami, Oh Lord, wash over me, overtake me like the consuming mighty ocean, it’s waters heavy and drenching, bending me, and burn me up with Your three times hotter holy flame. Consume me in the fires of your love that cannot be quenched.

Hold my hand as you stand in the flames with me. Here I want to powerfully, wrecklessly be lost in You. Here in Your deep lake of fire, I will swim and pray that You will come rescue me. Completely take me, wash me clean, relentlessly pouring and crashing over and over and over me.

My heart is weak, and I need you, oh, desperately how I need you. If there are to be swirling thoughts and voices that won’t stop, Lord that it would be your voice circulating, permeating the synapses. Let me awake with Your holy voice calling my name relentless.

Let me not be able to get away from it, let me not escape You, when I rise with the sun, at mid-morning and again when I prepare lunch, when I sit outside in your creation while children run free and when I sit to consume the bread you’ve given and when I light the Lenten candle, when I lay head on pillow at night.

Lord, pursue me, Hound of Heaven, come hot and heavy after me, my thoughts haunted by you, my every waking moment pricked with awareness of you and my sleeping moments laid upon your pillow of grace, covered and cloaked in the blanket of Your wings.

Father, pursue me between the pages of books, descend upon me heavy as I teach my children Your ways, wash over me, bending me beneath the weight of Your glory as I bend to correct them, consume me with Your presence in the red letters of Jesus’ words as I read in soft, early light, prick my heart with your holiness as I prepare meals, as I meditate on You, and follow hard after me as I serve Husband’s needs, and never stop chasing me as I tap out words, only let the words pour pure as You separate the gold from the trash in Your holy fire.

And Father, teach me the meaning of these words, words that sweet Ann spoke:

“All art is a call to come to an altar, to come lay down and die to self. So be it. He is enough.”

         {An excerpt from Ann Voskamp’s prayer, called A Blogger’s Prayer}:

“I am no longer my own blogger, but Thine.

Refine me with each post how You will, rank me how You will.

Put me to service, or put me to suffering.

Let me be a follower, instead of seeking followers

Let me post for thee or be put aside for thee,

Lifted high, only for thee, or brought low, all for thee.”


          Go HERE to read the full Blogger’s Prayer and get your own “Upside Down Blogger” button.

{An absolutely gorgeous song of worship–Savior King–you don’t want to miss this! Worth the few minutes to watch. A God-glorifying display of corporate worship–watch a few times and let God fill you up, just wash over and over and over you, friend!!}

{A little dose of honesty and testimony? I had no idea what to write this morning, I wasn’t even going to join in the counting this week due to exhaustion–I prayed and asked God to guide me and to use what I write to bring Him glory only…and this story and prayer poured out of me. I saw the Blogger’s Prayer as I had never seen before! All for HIS glory!!}

Gratitude:

#608 A work day at the church and a couple hours spent there during a rare day date

#609 How it brought us closer–horizontally and vertically–gave us joy to serve

#610 How Husband said he was glad I convinced him to go even though he was tired–how we push one another constantly toward God and others–the beauty and glory of marriage God has blessed

#611 How this pushing toward God and loving others fulfills the two greatest commandments–and I wonder if maybe the Holy Spirit is speaking to one another through us? Oh, the beautiful mystery

#612 How Ivy runs to the door everytime, just at the last second when I’m heading down steps, even more than once, for a kiss and to say “bye, Mama. I love you.”

#613 These sweet memories I will hold in my heart forever

#614 An email from a lovely friend telling me to not even write back, just to see the silver lining of all of us being sick, gather up my girls wrapped in blankets, watch movies, and drink something hot–and that is just what I did and will do more often when we aren’t sick

#615 Lovely emails, warm comments from friends that make the heart toasty inside

#616 Ivy asking if she can pray for Lilly when she is sick, my nod, and her going over to her, laying hands and asking for God to heal

#617 Our new vehicle, finally here! Now I can take the girls to free classes, on field trips with the group, and to the doctor!

#618 How Lilly won’t talk, just “Mmm, mmm”‘s at us constantly and we laugh happy over our baby

#619 Knowing she’s only this small once

#620 Knowing deep-down that God will take care of her, that she will eventually talk–if you are reading this, would you pray?

#621 Our home, a roof over our head

#622 Me learning to really make it home, a peaceful, safe place, not just a place of no rest for the weary

#623 Ivy’s prayer at the supper table–her thanking God for everyone in her sweet voice–Mama, Daddy, sisters, and everything we’ve been given–a long list–this reminder from an angel child

#624 Being blessed financially so that we will soon be able to finish our kitchen–{I will finally have cabinets!}, make some badly-needed home repairs, close in and build the school room (!!), and buy all schooling needs–all praise to God!

#625 Ordering books, all kinds of lovely books!

#626 Husband and I sitting huddled on swing, warm blanket wrapped around us, drinking coffee in early morning–the only thing our voices and the song of the birds

#627 Staying home for Sabbath rest

#628 The medicine of a good clean comedy, Husband and I laughing together hard

#629 Surrendering to the season God has called forth in my life–staying in while the pollen stirs–trying to get well–writing less, just listening quietly to Him–oh, this is hard. Might you pray for me,
friends?

And how perfect it is–writing about feeling overwhelmed–and Ann has a beautiful Joy-In-A-Box over at her place today–a gift to cheer someone in need of joy, to cheer you in the giving, for the overwhelmed ones…

Join the JOY DARE with us? Click here to learn more…

Shared in community with sweet Ann and others at…

L.L….

On In Around button

Laura…

Jen…

and Michelle…

Cultivating Time With The Father {31 Days to Holistic Christ-Centered Living Day#16}

When I was a very young mother with two small ones, I went through a season of illness. My baby was only months old when postpartum depression took me under with the sucking force of it’s quick sand.

There were so many days that I was a ball of a mess of emotions, I couldn’t get out of bed or get dressed, I got angry with my two small children, I couldn’t handle the baby’s cries, and one time I even put the baby in her crib and walked next door to my mom’s to call my Pastor’s wife for help in a moment of pure desperation.

When Husband came home in the evening, I didn’t know what to do with the hormonal chaos that threatened to overtake me, and I blurted out too many words, making the air thick and heavy and it left us rotting and sagging, everything crumbling under the weight, our footing and our course unsure.


I was a woman lost and empty
.


I had nothing to give my family because I was void inside. I was depleted, depraved and hopeless on my own.

I was rotting in my own sin-stink, and I self-loathed and I was flailing and sinking in my attempt for a way out, an escape.

And maybe if I just whisper this, or if I shout it, maybe it really is true–

the miraculous wonder of God is that He is mighty to save and He offers a way out for us.

“Now I know that the Lord saves his annointed; he will answer him from holy heaven with the saving might of his right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright. O Lord, save the king! May he answer us when we call.” Psalm 20:6-9


My Pastor’s wife encouraged me in everyday liturgy, not in legalistic, religious forms, but in habits that would benefit me, that would bring me closer to God, that would make me whole and bring peace to my family’s days.

I began meeting with God in the quiet every morning with just my bible and my restless heart.

As I came to God in the stillness, He met me there and quieted my soul, melted my resistance, and He hushed my angry, weary, frustrated spirit.

It was this liturgy, this rhythm of habits, a consistent gathering with God that would illuminate my path and cause me to blossom in the rich depths of the soil of His word and worship and prayer.

It was in this revolving back to God, this daily habitual clinging, that I came up out of the depression, out of the mighty quick sand’s grasp, and I was able to give to my family, to be patient with my children and begin teaching them about God, and I found truest joy.

I still huddle quiet with God in the stillness and beauty of softest morning light every day.

And on days that I don’t do so well, I don’t let it beat me into the ground. I just start over the next day and come to Him who is waiting there for me, my Beloved.

“Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me.” Song of Songs 2:13

And I know that it is this beautiful liturgy, this constant turning to God, these revolutions over and over again back to Him that are my lifeline, my true north.

This is part of a series, 4 Ways To Radically Change Your Life In the New Year–An Unresolution…you can go here to read the original post that started it all.

I hope you will join me as I try to explore the rest of the 4 Ways this week…

Join me at Ann’s for more reflections on the practice of habits?…

And at Emily’s…