Category Archives: homemaking

Advent: Preparing For Christ’s Coming {31 Days to Holistic Christ-Centered Living–Day #11}

Dishes in dishwasher and it humming and quietly grinding away, night has fallen and we all happily scrub counter-tops, light pumpkin-scented candles and put cereal boxes and banana peels–the remnants of the day–away.

The girls settled down with a movie, I think about Mr. Simmons coming home as I shower. I look forward to kissing him at the door and wonder what I will wear.

I feel a little like a love-sick teenager as I anticipate his coming, a little like the bride waiting for her bridegroom,

a lot like the church, the chosen bride of God, waiting for Christ’s coming.

Through all of it they held out.
The elect–those Israel children that told Moses they would rather go back to slavery under Pharaoh than to be desert-wandering–they waited so long and through much arduous toiling and slavery, through much miserable oppression–they just waited.

For generations and generations they waited. Each and every old man waited in exile for his ransom, His Saviour, and in his death, when no Saviour had come, he told the story to his children again of a Saviour, a shoot that would spring up from the stump of Jesse, as the scrolls foretold.

He would tell his children as they gathered ’round, of Immanuel, God with us, God that would come to them, these children held captive by sin.

“O come, O come Immanuel and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lowly exile here
until the Son of God appear
Rejoice, rejoice!
Immanuel shall come to thee O Israel”

And when Mr. Simmons finally arrives, my hair still dripping, I kiss him and all six of us gather tight on the couch and light the candle on the advent wreath.

We let the candle burn bright in the dark room, God’s bright light, the only pure light shed upon our dark hearts.

And His perfect plan unfolds, all of us gathered ’round, waiting, just waiting for the story of the Saviour

and we hold out for the promised birth.

And we wait for our ransom, and we wait for Him to come and bring our freedom.

Immanuel. God with us. We wait for that.

We wait in the lonely season, in the dry desert. And it is here that we meet Him.

And we know Him as Immanuel.

I shift my gaze and see a little one falling asleep by the table that holds up our advent wreath, our waiting. And children touch one another back and forth and the baby wanders around while Mr. Simmons reads from the bible and I wonder if this lighting of the candle, this waiting, this beholding is helping at all.

I grow a little frustrated underneath my weak smile and I see the sin in all of us.

I see how that it will never be perfect here. We will never fully know God here in these sin-filled bodies. I silently pray in my heart for deliverance for us all.

And I wait. And I hope for Him to come. I shift my gaze again and in the dark we all feel Him here.

“O come thy rod of Jesse, free
thy own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of Hell they people save
and give them victory over the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Immanuel shall come to thee, oh Israel.”

Please watch the video below of “O Come, O Come, Immanuel” with scenes from Nativity Story:

And this one a beautiful song by Christy Nockels, “Waiting Here For You”, if you would like to listen in worship?

I wasn’t able to link up with Jen at Soli De Gloria this week since I didn’t do a Monday post, but I wanted to share her post, a vlog, because it really touched me. You will certainly be blessed if you would like to click on the link below…

Join me at Ann’s today for more ideas and inspirations on preparing for Christ’s Coming?

also at Emily’s…

Seasons {31 Days to Holistic Christ-Centered Living–Day #10}

I’m not so much sitting as I am reclined back, feet propped on suspended laziness under the maple tree, head resting against a pillow, listening to leaves rustle, sway and fall in the cool breeze of Autumn air, the warmth of the sun wrapping me in my cotton cocoon.

This is the dual season of fall and winter in the Deep South. The strong arctic wind blasts of snow are somewhere far away to the North. As I sit here (recline here), I notice the Spider Lillies are in bloom in our backyard. Lorna walks up to me and says, “Mama, the spider web flowers are blooming!” and my heart smiles warm.

It’s a full circle of life moment, when I recall all in one breath how my Mama, as a little girl, always enjoyed the spider lillies blooming in the fall, how Autumn has always been her favorite season, how as a small child, I brought the delicate spiny autumn inside for her to put on the sill, and how I, as a young girl, wrote poet’s lines about my favorite flower and pined for a love lost on leaves blowing in the fall.

Now my daughter knows the joy of them and their meaning–the ending of one season, sad as it is, but the beginning of something far greater than we could imagine.

God sees the bigger picture, doesn’t He?

We never fully see, but thinking that we can see, our perspective grows jaded and gloomy, like looking through a glass darkly, and we doubt and lose hope.

And we feel the pull and the dull ache as all the shallow, hard, dry places where seed has been swept away and not allowed to grow are carved and etched deep,

God’s mighty hand grasping, pulling, tilling, and gently plowing so none of the soil is lost but all is repaired, refreshed and He moistens the soil and awakens it by putting in new soil.

Something new–I can only explain it as the mystery of the blood pouring down,

is birthing life in me, the light of that glorious sacrificial gospel spilling red and rich upon my heart.

Red and rich and delicate because all this frailness, this sin-wracked body that I live in, must be willing to receive like the thin webbing of those autumn flowers–and they shoot up, the blood liveliness–

that aliveness –from Earth’s fertile soil, that soil dark and dying, the depths of decaying rottenness giving life–like the life-blood shooting up from veins as nails drive into His hands and feet.

And the seed cannot reproduce less it die first.

Then, through suffering with Christ, we are awakened and all we have to do is accept the sacrifice on our behalf and the blood shoots up, alive in us, making us alive to Him.

And I’ve been grafted in–in the midst of a desert-wandering life–he has drenched me in the life-blood and called me His own.

I watch my children, all the golden halos of them, dancing in the flowers, running and laughing amongst the red webbed flowers, and I run after them, and I think this is how God sees me:

just a child brought home, all of us dancing in all this grace, soaking up the moments given, the seconds and hours and days birthed out of love for us and I stand grateful, for it is just a season, a changing, a dying so that something greater can be birthed.

And this, too, shall pass.

Gratitude:

#399 this season of desert-wandering…and knowing that God has a plan for it all

#400 these hard two weeks of trudging while Mr. Simmons works overtime…sun up to late nights cooking suppers, baths, devotions, eating suppers all together and bedtime stories and putting little ones back in bed over and over when they hop out…can i say thank you, once again, even for this? can i really lift up a thank you to God–even now–when i’m exhausted? are the worn places that i feel really making me a velveteen mama?

#401 large cartons of strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and grapes

#402 a mentor-friend, so kind and gentle, keeps writing and checking on me, offering support, advice and comfort for me to lean into

#403 a few loyal friends who keep writing, calling and just keep being there for me

#404 the way their smiles make the day seem brighter, the sun a halo on their heads

#405 a new exercise routine that has me feeling better and more like myself

#406 my sister, my mother and me all together at the movie late in the night on Thanksgiving…girl time and my mother’s “I’m glad we did this!”

#407 Older sisters wanting to give Christmas gifts to younger sisters

#408 these changing seasons…knowing that whatever comes, God is nearest in the hard times, in the pain, in the hurt. He is here.

31 Days to Holistic, Christ-Centered Living– Day #6: Endurance

It’s Sunday evening and we are running alongside one another, Lorna and I. She says to me, “How far are we going to run?”

“A pretty long ways,” I hesitantly tell her. “Well, how far is that?” she asks.

“Four miles,” I say, thinking how my feet fall in rhythm with hers.

“FOUR miles?!” she pants it out incredulous.

After several minutes, she stops to take a walk break, and I slow down for her. I tell her to take a deep breath, look at the beautiful sunset, the moon sort of sitting in the sky, and pick up her pace.

After about a fourth of a mile, she needs another break, and I tell her she can just as soon as we get around this curve.

“When are we going to run fast?” she questions me, just a tad impatient.

“We aren’t. This is a test of your endurance, not your speed. This is a test to see how long you can last.”

“Oh.” She thinks for a moment.

“Well, what’s the answer?”

“You tell me. Show me what you can do.”

She sighs a muffled groan and we keep on in rhythmic stride. Pink and orange sunset hangs low over wheat fields silent in winter’s first cold gales and the sun dips to kiss the trees. We run past cows grazing and she points out a baby calf to me.

On the way home we break into a fast run and she beats me to the house, my daughter with the long legs and the inquisitive mind, my daughter who doesn’t like children’s movies anymore, who reads my One Thousand Gifts book, and who is becoming a woman way too fast–

my daughter with whom I am so grateful to be sharing these moments with.

Gratitude:

#365 Bella, grabbing Lilly and enfolding her in a tight embrace, and wrapping arm around her ears when the train comes so she won’t be afraid–how they care for one another

#366 how Lilly is so submissive and leans into her big sister until the train passes

#367 time carved out to breathe–driving to meet a friend to run–feeling alive and how I tell her the thing that is really important–how much I am grateful for her

#368 another date with Husband–him taking such good care of me–getting me out of the house–sharing a sandwich and getting coffee–him sitting next to me, shielding me

#369 Husband calling everyone over without me knowing because I am sad

#370 Sunday lunch around the table the way it should be–steaming hot greens, chicken, brown rice, cornbread and rolls–everyone helping their plate and passing the butter

#371 good, rich time spent with family–hearing their voices and laughter ring off the walls of my home–all of us smiling and giggling at Lilly’s antics and sharing the best sour cream and pear coffee cake with espresso in my grandmother’s china.

#372 sitting on my porch swing with my mother and talking like old friends

#373 a Sunday evening run with my daughter that’s big enough to keep up with me

#374 the beautiful sunset I take in as I run, God’s creation, that I’m seeing it all and appreciating it all for it’s simple beauty

#375 God’s amazing love and shepharding care for me

#376 that I felt like picking flowers in the backyard and arranging them in vases for the kitchen–a sign I’m getting better

#377 the branches with red and golden leaves that I took straight inside and put in a tall vase on our dining table after Husband plucked them down for me

#378 how when I am sad, but don’t show it or say it, but Husband knows anyway–that’s love

#379 how God is branching me out and making me reach out farther and higher in worship and love toward His children

#380 this recipe to Pumkin Latte cupcakes pictured here–how it makes the house feel and smell like fall! And little chubby hands reaching for yummy goodness!

Join me at Ann’s today for counting pure graces and gifts from the Father:

at L.L.’s place, Seedling In Stone:

On In Around button

at Jenn’s for Soli De Gloria:

and also, join me here as I follow the Compassion bloggers in Equador this week!

Compassion Bloggers: Ecuador 2011

31 Days to Holistic, Christ-Centered Living– Day #5: Grounded

I’ve yelled at my daughter, but my anger does not burn so deep that I do not notice the bowed head, the nervous dancing of eyes, the chin tilted up slightly, strong, so that she doesn’t cry. I let the moment pass quietly.

We all go out to the backyard, all of us swinging, Bella in my lap, I am like a child again, wind in my hair, and I look over at her next to me, wildly pushing, pumping the swing back and forth, and in the gentle rhythm of our afternoon, I say, “You know Mama always loves you, don’t you, Ivy? I’m sorry for getting angry and yelling, but you know when Mama does that, I don’t stop loving you, right?” She nods a silent yes, eyes big with wonder, her a sponge soaking up all of my words, my. every. word. my every nuance, my every expression. And here, flying in air, sun shining on my head, I am grounded.

They are all gone for a whole three days to their Papa and Meme’s, and I am going crazy, here in this tall ceilinged, shiny pine-floored house. I don’t know what to do, here all empty, and me all empty. If I talked, it would echo, but I don’t murmur a word, because no one would hear. Husband gone to work, I feel lost in the quiet of this place, floating with no gravity in space. When they all finally rush in, eyes huge, searching for me, face flushed with excitement, I hug them fiercely, soft cold cheek pressed to mine–and there it is–I’m grounded right here in a place called now.

I am sitting at the computer writing, stacks of paper all around, flecks of dust floating in light streaming through window, and my little one comes to me, reaches her chubby arms up in the air, just wanting me. I pick her up, smile at her, her wet oval mischievous grin so contagious, her soft baby cheeks so inviting. I pull her close, smell her hair, kiss the golden halo of her. She holds me tightly, doesn’t want to let go. She pulls back, her blue-orbed eyes staring at me, and awe-struck she touches my eye lashes, fingers my eyebrows, pets the hair framing my face. I marvel at her gentleness and meekness–how she harnesses all of that relentless energy toward the stillness of the moment. And she is too small to know this, but she grounds me.

I hear my eldest daughter yell at her little sister, and my skin crawls, and my heart aches. I tell her to go to the corner, and I tell her that she should not, even if she hears me yell, do the same to her sisters. I talk to Husband for a moment. “Did I explain that correctly?”, me submissive to His leading. He glances at me as he is putting away the groceries. “Well, yeah, the best way that you can, I suppose.” But conviction makes me go to her, and I’m pulled by this weight of responsibility God has given, these gifts. I ask her if she understands what she did wrong, and she nods yes, and I tell her that Mama messes up all the time too, and I yell, because of the sin in my heart, and that is why Jesus came as a sacrifice, and He makes all things right. I ask her if she wants to pray to Jesus about it. She looks at me, eyes so large and luminous like the moon outside, and says “Not right now.” I nod, knowing that she is embarrassed. Oh, pride begins so young. I tell her that I need help too, so why don’t we pray together. So she bows her head as I hold her in this redemptive embrace, Christ holding us in His shed blood , and God over it all, His soverign plan for me and my daughter playing out, here, in this place called now. And I doubt she will ever really know how this Mama is grounded.

I come in late after a run, and Bella hears me and gets up out of the bed, peeks around the corner at me, and I tell her to give me a hug and get back in bed. Littlest one hears my voice, and begins to cry out from her crib. Having been put to bed without me, I know that she won’t quiet down and go to sleep without seeing me first. All I want to do is shower, eat and sit quietly with Husband for a few minutes before getting to bed, but I hear her cry for her mama, and I don’t want to disappoint her. I know she needs me, so I take her up out of the crib, her reaching out little hands for me, and sit with her in the rocker, nuzzle her, and she snuggles close, and we rock in the dark. She relaxes into me and me into her. And because she needed me, I get this: just this quiet moment, this moment so priceless, this moment when I feel so grounded and so here in this place called now.

And I wonder if they will ever know how much they teach me.

Gratitude List:

#358 laundry piled high giving me plenty to do

#359 the way remembering the cross helps me serve my family

#360 me being able to sit at table and help girls with schoolwork–seeing God’s gradual healing in my life, even in hard days

#361 a whole day spent with Husband, going to see Courageous, and how we choke out tears, a meal taken together, coffee, and browzing the Christian bookstore–a whole day! pure grace!

#362 how Christ made Himself nothing, even to the point of death on a cross, and if I’m made low, it really is okay because He’s already done it. So can I.

#363 how we go shopping together, and he gets whatever I need for a holiday with the girls

#364 how when he calls me and says he has to work late, i reassure him that we are fine, we have already made the pumpkin spice bread, squash bowl dip and and other treats, and that the girls will have a good time dressing up and handing out candy and drinks to the neighborhood kids. how i serve my family and he doesn’t have to feel guilty for not being there. for the grace pouring over me, just drowning me. it abounds.

my four yr old wanted to be a spider–we had plenty of webbing left over, so we decorated the entrance for the neighborhood trick-or-treaters–i loved seeing the girls serve with such joy each child that came to our home


If you are looking for the ending to “What Does My Faith Rest Upon?”, it will be posted today or tomorrow. As Ann says, thank you for grace.

Please join me at Ann’s for counting pure grace on this journey:

Also, linking up with Seedling In Stone for On, In and Around Mondays

31 Days to Holistic, Christ-Centered Living– Day #7: What My Faith Rests Upon…

The beginning to this story is here

I look up, rain pouring in my face, and I cannot see well.

It’s dark and all I can see is Him. But I don’t know what He’s trying to say.

So many voices, and at times like this, I just want to draw my family close, my little ones under my wing, Husband over me, covering, and I want to just shut out the world because the cold winds, they blow right through, and how to make it stop?

Can I buy a window to keep that kind of force-gale wind out? But I know God said to us in His word, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27

So I know that I’m not meant to stay this way, cocooned up, wrapped warm, no matter how much I think I need the comfort, for His children are hurting.

He has only allowed me to draw close like this, because He is about to branch me out, open, like bare oak tree branches, hands naked, reaching up, raised high in the sky in worship.

And when I can’t make sense of all the hurt, pain, and rejection, and when I don’t understand why I am not accepted in some circles, why things feel awkward and hard with those loved ones when I want things to be fluid and loving, and my world feels off-kilter, like it’s great big orb has fallen clumsily off it’s axis and everything is sliding…then what does my faith rest upon?

Because really, when I am slammed with reality, the truth is, it isn’t about me, and my hurt, and my pain, or even needing to keep my world on it’s axis, yes, even, for the sake of my family.

When we find things like this blog on the interwebs, and we sit, lump in throat, and tears in eyes, and we realize that this world does not contain just us, as hard as we try to wrap cocoon ourselves in our comfortable home, candles, bible reading, and happy stories–we are somehow pulled out of our cocoon, out of skin, and we are asked to die on that cross with our Savior.

And we keep coming back to this place, which forces us to ask WHAT does this all mean? This journey, what does it mean? Here, where we are now–why are we here yet again, not in a church?

When we would love to indulge in just sitting in the pew, and be unseen, hardly noticed by anyone, God uproots us yet again, and has used this illness to do it. WHY do we have no desire to continue going to church to play the game–the game of social groups and accepted statuses?

Why do we shy away from church and steely sharp steeples, but want to run into the arms of God and homeless people and little children–orphans who need our help–orphans who just need someone to hold them, them sitting all alone, simply because there arent enough hands?

And yet, why havent we done something? Why are we still here? Is this called incubation? If that is what this is, it is pretty miserable.

But im learning to hate it less and less, to be angry with God less and less, and to give thanks for my circumstances more and more. Truly, this is a miracle straight from the throne room of Heaven. This is not something I can do on my own.

So I pick up the cross, bent low, and I carry it like He did, bent and broken for me, and I find my faith resting on that rugged, splintery cross. And where my faith has seemed more like doubt, and where it has been splintery and where winter has blown straight cold through, it rests on that heavy beamed cross–because that saving tree, it can take it all. And my redemptive God, He can make all whole. How I love Him! How He is my only rock, my only fortress, my only Hope, my only true joy!

When my faith is resting upon that cross, that sure rock, that strong foundation, I really can count it–all the suffering–every last hard blast of it–and call it joy.

And maybe joy looks like my bare oak arms branched out, roots deep in the ground, surging straight to the well of God and the gospel of grace and arms stretching to touch a little child in need of Him? Maybe this is how I worship? Maybe this is my only right response to the suffering on that sacred tree?

Maybe this is what my faith really looks like when it’s resting there.

I think there is definitely more to this that I would like to explore. I hope to write more tomorrow at Ann’s on Walk With Him Wednesday, so please come back.

Join me, if you like, at Ann’s for last week’s post on faith–im joining late!

And please join me as I follow the Compassion bloggers in Equador this week!

Compassion Bloggers: Ecuador 2011

31 Days to Holistic, Christ-Centered Living: Capturing Time In A Bottle

Bella calls to me in her four year old lisp, “Mama, look! I found a wasthp nesth!”

“Bella, just stop, not right now,” I shoo her away with my words, having barely glanced her way. I’m intensely focused on helping one of her older sisters with schoolwork.

But something stops me this time: this is my moment to not repeat yesterday’s failings.

Dust yourself off. Try again. Repeat.

And they grow the fastest while I’m standing at the drier folding towels.

I know I do this too often, shoo them away when I’m doing something that I deem more important than their story, or question, or just their wanting to be with me–to have my full attention.

I ask her again to show me what she found. She holds out her hand and shows me the dormant wasp nest. I tell her how neat it is. A few minutes later when she comes running, exclaiming she caught a butterfly, my interest is definitely peaked.

“Wait! Don’t move! I’m going to grab my camera.” I gazelle-sprint for the camera, and dive back to the front yard, just in time to capture her holding the butterfly.

How do I capture time? Can I really put it in a bottle, make it stop just for me? They grow so fast. How can I be sure that I’m not carried away with daily demands so much that I’m ignoring the most glorious command–investing in these precious lives that God has given me?

They look up at me, light in their eyes as they hold the butterfly with broken wing, and I shoot the moment away, shutter clicking.

We go inside and eldest daughter and I google search how to fix a broken Monarch butterfly’s wing. Our butterfly prances around on our hands, drinking from a coca-cola bottle cap. It takes a while, but I find instructions and courage enough to fix the little guy.

Lorna and Bella watch intently as I feed the winged creature by gently putting a needle dipped in sugar water up to his curled tongue, and it rolls out straight–long, thin, and straw-like. We watch in amazement. We are quiet in the moment–really present with one another.

Then I tell Lorna that her Father will be home soon, so we need to put him away and begin supper–I tell her to put the little guy–who she says is Albert if it’s a boy, and Flutter Shy if it’s a girl–into a jar with lots of large holes in the lid.

And my mind starts doing that spinning thing again–how to do it all? Pour into four little ones, clean messes, serve Husband, take the time to share a broken-butterfly-wing-moment with my daughter?

Isn’t a clean, peaceful home part of living holistically? Isn’t that part of my job description? And time with my Lord went out the window today–how did that
happen? Isn’t that part of the recipe for peace and joy also?

I look over and see the butterfly, Albert, in his jar, lying on his side. I dash over and rip the hole pricked lid off, and pull him out. The holes weren’t large enough and he is dying. Eldest daughter is really, really sad. So am I.

I know that all the messes will not be gotten up and the supper will not be nearly done when he walks in the door, but I let it go. It doesn’t matter as much as this moment with this precious one and her butterfly.

This is the sacrifice for spending time with them, investing in them, being interested in what they’re interested in: everything will not be perfect.

I cannot capture time and imprison it in a bottle, and it does not wait just for me, just for little me. I begin to see, and the glass that I see through darkly gets a little brighter and I see that this is the theme of living holistically, to putting my faith to action–yes, everyday there will be messes, none of it will ever be perfect, and time will never slow down for me–so the most important thing is that these precious ones have their rightful place in my heart–coming only after God and Husband.

And nothing–nothing–comes before. Not laundry, not supper strictly held to the clock, not writing or blogging, not answering emails, not sweeping floors. At the end of my life, I will not wish that I had folded more laundry or answered more blinking lights and buzzing screens.

I will want more broken butterfly wing days.

I look at my daughter’s sad eyes, and I look around at all the things to be done–all the demands–they stare me in the face–but I stare right back and I courageously choose the right thing.

I let the rhythm of them carry me, these precious ones, their smiles, their sweet dimples that beg to be kissed, their inquisitive, trusting eyes asking questions, needing me and I let the rhythm carry me into the night until I sigh a contented sigh of having given all and lay head on pillow.

Gratitude:

#345 light streaming in, light in daughter’s eyes, a moment realizing how priceless she is

#346 baking cookies from scratch with my girls–eldest daughter learning how to do it on her own

#347 my relief at planning and knowing we will be done with schoolwork by Christmas with a long break

#348 folding laundry by drier, heater, and 1000 Gifts on audio and my wonderful friend who sent it to me

#349 hot cocoa and the conversation i have with the girls about how some children in the world would love to fill their bellies with these things–how it is sobering to us all

#350 hot tea at bedtime and reading 1000 Gifts

#351 a close friend that sticks by me, forgives all my failings, and in the midst of her crazy schedule, she needs me enough to anticipate carving out time to run with me and talk until it’s much later than we intended to stay

#352 hot chai tea and a table at the book store–me springing to buy her tea, her springing to buy us both muffins and this verse of scripture: “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”

#353 this verse: “Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of one’s friend springs from his earnest counsel.”

#354 Husband saying, “Go!” and him tenderly caring for me

#355 staying at home instead of going out and all of us finding plenty to be content with right at home

#356 telling Husband over airways as he drives home that I was lonely without him and the girls missed him too on this Saturday, and him sounding so happy to know that he is a priceless piece to this family puzzle

#357 hard eucharisteo–not going on our anniversary trip that we had planned, but instead going on a string of small dates to the movies or to get coffee–being at home with the kids 24/7 and this stubborn heart that longs to escape learning to be thankful for my context

Please join me at Ann’s site for more gratitude lists and thanks to God:

Also, linking up with Jen at Soli Deo Gloria:

31 Days to Holistic, Christ-Centered Living: Jesus Saves!

I am trying to make supper, but do not have the ingredients I need, Little one keeps jumping out of the tub and running into the kitchen, sopping wet, and I know that Husband will walk in the door soon, and being the first day of the new schedule, I want to prove to him that I can do it. I glance sharply at the clock, wound tight with my endeavors to keep to the hands that race so quickly around the numbered face.

I break, sinful, weak creature that I am, and raise my voice to my daughter and scold her for almost burning the cookies–her love project.

I immediately see my fault. We’ve been here too many times before–I know this scene–I’ve messed up over and over–too much to not recognize myself in the mirror of her sad eyes.

She had gotten everything down, mixed it all up, determined, and when I came to help, she had proudly held it up to me, beaming, wanting my approval. She had done this, this love-serving, to please me. Why would I scold her when something in the plan goes off course?

I go over to her, try to drum up some emotion, try to feel this remorse, to be connected to the moment with her, but it’s too painful, and she knows, and I put my arm around her and say, “I’m sorry for yelling and being mean to you, you know?”

I know that I should open up more, let the emotion flow, share the gospel with her like I have before, about how this wretched mama needs the cross, but I don’t. Time demands of us to continue our tasks.

My eyes snap to the stove’s clock again. My head is spinning, like Earth rotating so wildly fast that it feels as if it’s standing still, the thoughts running fierce and intense like an ultra-marathoner.

“Didn’t I say I wanted to learn to live this holistic, Christ-centered life? Didn’t I say I wanted to learn and didn’t we make a schedule, Husband and I, to help me sleep better, wake earlier, be more present with the children, and didn’t we say reading time for everyone, Bible at the supper table every night and I want to nurture and I have desires deep down to please my family and make them happy.

Isn’t this what I’ve wanted since I first read “Stepping Heavenward” years ago and an idea came into my head?

That everything doesn’t have to be blinking lights, screens, and fast food–that we can really be present with one another, really talk, really serve–offering it all up to God as a whole–every intricate part of our lives–this is what holistic living means. That we can live slow.

What did it say–the quote I read in Ann’s book by bedside’s soft light?

“I slept and dreamt life was joy, I awoke and saw life was service, I acted and, behold, service was joy!”–Tagore

When my fourth was born, the milk would not nourish her and she was losing weight and it about drove this mama mad and the post-partum depression went untreated, and has caused stress-disorder in my body, says the doctor. So now I swallow down a pill every day to get back on track.

I stand there feeling like the schedule is on a runaway frieght train, and I will cave under all the pressure. My neck tightens and my throat begins to close in.

This is why I stay in the room, closed off all the time, the voice tells me. “May as well give up; you can’t do it,” the black angel says from his perch on my shoulder. “No point in making yourself this frustrated and causing a panic attack and causing everyone to be unhappy too–you should just throw in the towel.” His voice sounds like reason, like wisdom. It is true that if I continue like this, I will just get more ill.

I say out loud, “Oh God, help me.” Shane and Shane sings “Burn us up” on the little player next to the stove and I stare at the flame burning in the lit candle, how it dances furiously and licks the side of the glass.

I drop my head, in hand, rub temples and talk to Him, thinking of those three brave in the fire, when the King told them to bow to the idol, to reject their God, how they stood in the face of imminent death and said,

“O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18 NIV(emphasis added)

I want that kind of faith-to be brave in the face of death, to stare unmoving at the enemy of my soul, to say, “Burn me up” when I fear the destruction of my flesh, to not flinch in the storm of all the gospel might demand of me, what circumstances it might require me to continue to believe in the midst of.

There are martyrs who are dying for the cause of Christ overseas, there are orphans dying with no one to hold them while they are dying–they die alone. There is a child alone in the desert right now, wasting away with starvation. This makes me wonder why I can’t have faith in the middle of my daily struggles.

Why do I listen to the deciever when I know that Christ has already conquered him for me?

As I talk to God, head in hands, the miracle happens: His presence comes and breaks me.

I sob surrender to Him.

And I know at that moment that this is how I start living this holistic, Christ-centered, offering unto Him life: It is only through the cross of Christ that has conquered my enemy, Satan, and because not only did He conquer him, but Jesus is here, with me, right here in my need, clutching my hand in the fire, in my desperate moment.

All I have to do is cry out and surrender to the grace pouring over me. To the cross I cling…moment by moment.

I cannot comment back on my site–Google has denied access– in the meantime, please know that I read and bask in every encouraging word! Thank you for being here!

Please join me at Ann’s site for more reflections, ponderings on faith:

31 Days to Holistic, Christ-Centered living: The Key to Change

The eyes snap open, and an overwhelming feeling like child lost in the tumultuous crashing of waves, blood churning, heart pounding, remembering yesterday’s failure and not wanting to repeat it.

I’m already arguing with myself–and it’s all in my head–I don’t say it out loud–the mind bends and whirls–what I will do first–which hat to take down, which to leave on the shelf?

Part of me gearing up, a loud, “Yes!”, the other half of me screaming, dreading, “No!” I pull the covers over my head, ignore the tiny footsteps pounding on pine floors, shrieks and squeals echoing off of morning sun splashed ceilings, slamming of doors–they are my shrill, body-bolting, repetitive alarm.

Can I handle it? Today’s driving demands, they harass me, their nails go deep, they keep pounding and my body feels the weight, and the overflow of adrenaline, all of the reserves–too much of it released, surges and seeps into every part of me.

The neck begins to tense, immediate pain shooting down the jugular veins, through my frail shoulders and the head aches, and I feel as though I will break, small and helpless.

I find strength to touch the floor with feet anyway. And some days, I just say, “Lord, help me,” as I gaze at curtain shrouded sky, wanting to really see, not having much to say, knowing my prayer reaches Him, but stilling myself for what comes next.

The little one has crawled out of her crib, and is running around chasing her sisters, and my nerves are at bursting pressure-point, and I know they will run ahead of me all day, and I will grasp at trying to keep up.

So we start the gentle rhythm of the day–as gently as a team of wild horses gone off course, and I’m the one that’s supposed to be steering–we go outside to do work and to teach and to learn, because stress can always melt in sunshine and those faces are more endearing.

And just as if there was never anything holding it all together in the first place, like dominoes all lined in a row, just waiting for that first, airy brush of a fingertip, all caves in.

I yell at a child to just stop screaming, and I rant at another child to never, ever, hit her sister with the broom again. Teeming with impatience, I am wanting some time alone to write, to let my mind rest, and I am intently focused on helping one child with schoolwork, thinking, “If we can just get this one page done.”

And I know the clothes await folding in the drier, mocking me with their very existence, crumbs and dirt tracked in the mud room collect and call out to me from their dark hiding places, and all has gone awry and I have not been the steer-er, gentle guide that I should be.

How exactly do I do this holistic living, this peaceful home, this joy-giving life, this gratefulness, the gospel mine to tell, Christ at the center always, and how do I live this out–all these responsibilities, all these gifts He’s placed in my hands, these precious ones–how do I make sure I mother them well?

And my soul-mate, the man that God has given me the power to make or break? Oh, what a sobering thing–how do I nurture respect, love and submissiveness–oh so much at stake here–how do I make sure to bring him good, and not harm, all the days of my life?

And Satan tries to pound and drive it into my skull–that I’m not good enough. He tries again and again to let it seep down deep. That I have failed them. I feel the weight of my sin creeping over me like a heavy cloak. I am an empty hull, a broken shell, crushed under his devouring mouth.

But that’s just the first verse. Then I remember the refrain.

Jesus saves.

There is more to this gospel story–this story that God has allowed me to be apart of–and I’m so grateful. Come back tomorrow for the ending?

For now, please watch the video for a taste of how powerful a mystery God has revealed to us through the law and the fulfillment of that law–his Son, Christ Jesus. The beginning of the song is very different–it will perplex you no doubt,

but please wait for the ending–you will not be disappointed–I promise!

Gratitude:

#328 the damp coolness in the air when rain is coming

#329 Husband telling me he is proud of my work with the girls

#330 Ivy’s assessment: “C’mon, Everyone is good at something: Lorna is good at making people laugh, Daddy is good at art, Bella is good at smiling and dimples, Mama is good at reading, Lilly is good at being cute, and I’m good at eating and making messes!” and the spontaneous laughter of everyone at the table.

#331 Husband who knows just how to settle the raging storm within by being a strong, quiet anchor

#332 missing them as soon as they are fastened in Papa’s truck

#333 my little Lilly’s sweet pursing of lips into heart-shaped smile–eyes twinkling mischievously, so much life in her

#334 this post: my heart’s desire–and for Katie Davis, and for Husband and i reading together, me barely able to say the words through gut-wrenching emotion

#335 how God uses people thousands of miles away, unbeknown to them, to preach the gospel to us, just by their lives

#336 how we both get emotional reading together–how it hits at the very core of us

#337 this blog: how it slays me, how it just cuts right through the fat, all the unnecessary indulgences and whispers to me what is important: the gospel.

#338 a whole weekend of quiet while children are with grandparents and we nurture marriage, we go out, nap in hammock, cuddle and watch movies, talk and talk and talk, smiling into each other’s eyes like love-sick puppies

#339 that my favorite part of the whole weekend was us confessing what God has been doing in our hearts–an outpouring, a cleansing, a healing, hope and Husband’s leading

#340 friend who texts yes, they would love to–they have been looking forward to fellowship–friendships once broken and where forgiveness and reconciliation was humanly impossible, God restored, redeemed, fused together such a strong bond that none could break, and He called His creation good

#341 the fellowship of the body of Christ found through a friendship bonded through years of suffering and rejoicing together, found through the writings of missionaries and the supporting of those love-projects, found in the eyes of a widow, the smile of an orphan

#342 amazement at God’s great grace and favor upon me–me just a sinner–not just any sinner, but a wretched one, and the great hope of salvation and redemption

#343 this suffering that is the only way to true beauty

#344 for Ann, and her blog –one of the first posts I ever read that shook me to the core, faces hot and wet as Husband and i both read, her book, that set me on a journey that I never expected, how when they played this video in church service one morning, it would challenge my heart, and change the course of my life forever–thank you, Ann!

Little Women



In the winter of 2010, with Husband working a lot, we Simmons girls huddled together on the couch, the old crochet blanket our assuagement, the red-eyed heater our sun and glowing warmth, and our favorite old movie our cheer.

Lorna, always the original mind, having grown listless, said, “I am so bo-o-ored with just sitting in the house all the time.” She dreamt up a theatrical for her sisters to perform while she directed. These little women of mine did a good job of making fun and persuading their parents to join in. They were so merry, their wild imaginations soaring and landing who knows where. There were all sorts of new worlds to see and characters to play. Of course, Ivy complained, as usual, “I’m tired of playing the boy…Why can’t I be the lost girl?” She entreated for her part and her sisters were won over, as the velvet dress was placed in her hands. Bella, being the smallest and youngest of the three, and most in need of exerting her will, frowned at being told how to act out her scene and made it an arduous effort for her director-sister.

















In the late evenings when we heard Mr. Simmons come to the door, all joyously met him with a chorus-cry of “Daddy!” There would be much jumping on the leg and clutching of his arm, all gathering around and cloaking him in affection and devotion. Lilly’s sunny little face, smile spread wide, would run in unsteady haste to him, and attack him with her tiny, chubby baby hands. “Hey little Lilly!” he exclaimed. “Hey babe”, with a kiss to the lips. We all would follow him to his throne where he would be entertained with our histrionics and melodramatic tellings of the happenings of our day.

Lorna- “Daddy, Mama made us do chores ALL DAY, and I have made up a play for everyone and I want you and Mama to come to see our play after supper, okay?”

Ivy- ” Daddy, today-at school- I did not have to move my clip ALL day, and Mrs. Pat says that I am her baby because I am the littlest in the class!”

Isabella- dimpled cheeks glowing radiant–“Dadddy, I catch a frog today–look! He isn’t moving!”

Lillian- “Da-nay”-her special way of saying Daddy

Gratitude:

#179 that with the regrets of sinful behavior, when we fail one another–there is also this–a tight-knit family–all six of us–loving one another, making home and shelter in the grace of God

#180 a humble pink flower delivered to my desk by tiny hands, tucked and pressed into a small envelope and the contents, “i love you”

#181 a day full of trudging for our whole family

#182 i know that this trudging is God’s way of growing us and who knows who we will be when we emerge?

#183 these–Ann Voskamp’s words contained in this book –a light to me in my darkest night–“It is in the dark that God is passing by. God in in the tremors. Dark is the holiest ground, the glory passing by. In the blackest, God is closest, at work, forging His perfect and right will. Though it is black and we can’t see and our world seems to be free-falling and we feel utterly alone, Christ is most present to us, I-beam supporting in earthquake.” Thank you, for these words, Ann!

#184 a special, comforting hug from a daughter who is too “big” to need Mama’s lovin’

#185 Lorna’s mumbling protest when i leave the kitchen, “I’m not going to play this game if i can’t play it my way.” and her response to her Daddy when asked what she means–“don’t you understand teenager talk, Daddy?” oh my.

#186 continuing my gratitude list when the days have been HARD and i don’t feel like it

#187 carrot polish on tiny fingernails and piggie style braids by big sister

#188 brown hen’s eggs sitting next to one another, waiting to be cracked

#189 baby spinach summer salad and Lorna’s “I made it with Daddy’s special dressing”

#190 delving out wholesome food to my children and watching them take in life

#191 following Husband when he says there isn’t enough and we have to be patient and the security of being provided for and protected from the dark pit of greed

#192 a fridge full of food

#193 air conditioning–even if it is only one unit for this large house–what a luxury

#194 the simple delight of beautiful, second-hand free clothes from a neighbor, and Lorna’s excitement, ” i love all of my new clothes!”

#195 Lorna’s prayer, “God, help our family, especially Mama.”

#196 that we have started praying together at bedtime again after a dry season

#197 girls organizing and cleaning laundry, bins, and piles of bed linens to make Mama happy, and a teary thank you–if the laundry room is a castle, then i am a queen!

#198 that God has “people” who take care of His daughters!

#199 dear new friends that God sent to encourage, and one with a very special gift sent to my door–strangers made friends across the web and i am in awe

#200 trying to hold onto slippery grace

#201 my sweet girls making my bed–i feel i am somehow being rewarded for years of taking care of their every need

#202 a week-long illness, a relapse, this dark place that won’t lift, that God still has me and He is nearest.

#203 this song and this song here is a different version with the musician’s heart and prayer behind the song, with live piano…these songs encompass my prayer for this week if you would like to listen– i know of no other music that is more gospel-centered or musicians with purer hearts

Figuring Out Homemaking–How God Wants To Teach Us His Heart

What have I been given? What does it mean to make a home? Am I adequate to the task? What is it that God has given me, given me to work with, given me to be happy? Do I even see it all, know it all? Do I see what is right in front of me? I am jolted out of my daydream…”Mama, you gotta paint my finganailsth.” And I think it, and almost don’t say it, but then it comes out anyway, “Bella, I already painted your fingernails several times.” I remember how stubborn she was when I asked her to say thank you. “Bella, are you going to tell Mama thank you for painting your nails?” And I knew that I wanted something that she wouldn’t {couldn’t} give. I am not sure if it was her acting like the child, or me.

She is teaching me again. Here she is, she has come to me, asking to be served. Who else would need so much from me, demand so much, ask to be served this way, and give me the opportunity to learn what it is that God wants to teach me? Didn’t I ask Him to teach me patience? Didn’t I pray, brokenhearted over my wretchedness, “God, give me patience, teach me to be more like you, gentle and help me to understand kindness and how to speak and act with gentleness, meekness and kindness. Let my words be soft to them.”?
So I tell her, “Lay out your fingers like this”, and I grab the drippy red bottle. I see her fingers splayed out like my heart is splayed out, and in these moments He speaks to me, and Jesus says, “My body was splayed out like this for you, and my heart, open and exposed for the world to see, ached for you and for my Father. The blood that ran, ran for you, for these moments, so that you can have life, so that you can give to her what I have given you. Grace.” And I know that I, being the vilest of creatures that spat on Him on that sacred cross with my hateful heart, the heart that just wants to be left alone, and does not want to serve–it is I that He has come to save. In this light, the light of His gospel, it is not hard to serve. And yet, underneath all of this grace being shed, is a heart that is fearful and is afraid to ask the question, “How am I going to serve and be good, and be all of these things that You have called me to be, when my mind is battered and weary, and I cannot see straight, cannot think straight, cannot sleep, cannot feel normal?”

Husband has been gone out of town. I know that it will be late, and I know that he will be tired when I finally kissed him at the door. I know I will not see him, know that I will be busy getting the children to bed, that he will eat, take a shower, and finally fall into sleep that he desperately needs. So I am astounded at how much joy and satisfaction there is in my evening. I marvel at how God can change my heart. I do get a little stressed and I do forget and yell. But I guess thats where the grace part comes in, because we are all unworthy. I don’t let Satan win this round. To finally be in the place again, that I was meant to be, after so much sensless toiling over books, late at night, til my body felt it would break in half –my heart rings out and sings “YES” –this is where I find joy. The little nitch that God has created me to be in–the nitch of serving my family, of making a happy home, of creating a safe resting place, and gently (sometimes not so gently) teaching and guiding my girls. I feel Him calling to me, saying “Come up here, come up now, my Beloved…rest in my arms, and let me be your shephard. Let go of the things that you worry and fret over and let me lead you to the place that I will plant you and make you blossom with the fullness of all that I am”.

The girls and I clean and make home tidy, have supper at the table and play the “love game” as Ivy calls it, where you go ’round the table and each person says something they love about someone else, or why they love them. Lorna says, “I love Mama because….she takes care of us even when she doesn’t want to.”

These love games are hard for me, but very needed to scrape the dull surface and get underneath where the deep dark crevices are that need filling with God’s light. And it is SO satisfying–it brings me so much joy that they do this love-game without being prompted. A knock at the door, it is dark, and Husband’s shadow can just be made in the dim light and glare of glass, his hands full of gifts from family he’s been with. Candles lit, and towel laid out for his bath, he goes and we are left to the elation of the tearing and ripping of paper, and shrieks of delight. I indulge in their happy, glowy faces, and Bella saying, “Isth my baby!”

After we clean everything up, I lay the baby down and go to the older girls’ room and climb in bed with them. I have the book, “Stepping Heavenward” in my hand. Lorna says, with a frown,” What is that?” I read the cover to her, “Stepping Heavenward–One Woman’s Journey to Godliness”. She says “What does godliness mean?” “It means to be like God and this is one girl’s journey, or a story about how she became more like God”. “Oh”. I read the first entry to her, about Katherine’s birthday, and how she feels she is getting so old at 16, and about how she can’t be good and wants to be kind to her mother but just when she means to be good, the most awful things come out of her mouth. And when we are done, Lorna says,”This book is very interesting! I love this book! Can we read it together until the book is finished?” I say, with amazement, and a smile of satisfaction, “Yes, of course”. Amazement that she is so interested in “godliness”, satisfaction that she loves the book, amazed that my idea worked, amazed that she knows what all the words mean, satisfaction and wonder at how the moment I climb into the bed with them, just that simple act, opens the wild childhood closet of time, and they just talk to me, and I learn things about them I would not have known. This is so, so priceless.

And as I tuck blankets around little shoulders, so thankful that I can have this effect–that I can comfort and love–I think I see what it is that God has given and what it is He is saying. I see that I can open my heart to Him and receive His grace, His blood shed, love and cherish that cross, that blood spilled, and when my heart is connected to Him this way, then I can love my children this way as well. When I throw open my heart’s doors to Him in wild abandon, then He fills it with so much love to give, so much grace. And my heart is opened to my little ones and then serving isn’t hard, because I begin to crave these moments, when the scales fall off and I see that these moments are holy. And I see so clearly, He has answered me with His light, His Cross, His Word, His Gospel–this is how to make a home.

And I don’t have to be afraid.

#71 tiny red nails

#72 Mama needs a journal to write down thanks, and Lorna’s response

#73 how Lorna says, “I’ll let you have my journal—it’s small; i don’t write in it anymore. I’ll just tear out my secrets.”

#74 how when I ask her what kind of secrets these are, she says, “none of your business—that’s why they invented diaries—it’s none of anyone’s beeswax!”

#75 babies wet and clean wrapped in towels, skin soaked and shiny

#76 three little heads hiding under covers in the thunderstorm

#77 candles glowing warm and making home cozy

#78 story making eyes sleepy

#79 how a bedtime story can make any bad day seem good

#80 how when trying to ply a thank you out of Bella, she just looks at me wide-eyed, and says in an almost-whisper, “your eyes are big”.

#81 how I melt and forget about my adamant request, kiss her little rose lips

#82 how Lilly climbs like a little monkey up in a chair next to me and says “ooh-ooh” like a little monkey. Maybe she is a monkey. She knows how to get Mama’s attention and I love it.

#83 how Bella comes to me when i’m at the computer, and says “Mama, I wanna get in you lap and watch heppalump
(emphasis with a pop on the “p”)

#84 that she asks so sweet, that she wants to be held, because if not, i may forget to hold her

#85 unexpected gifts on such a normal, exhausting, base day

#86 joy on their faces and hearing their little excited voices

#87 Bella’s cute three year old lisp

#88 Ivy asking to take pictures with the camera while we read

#89 strap around her neck, camera in hand, making pretend she is a professional photographer, just like Mama

#90 posing with her book, already endeared to her because we share it together at night

#91 Lorna so tired from helping Mama and taking care of littles, laying her head and falling asleep on her pillow while sisters laugh giddy

#92 Christ’s body splayed out on that cross for me

#93 the blood that ran for me, and covers me, makes everything new

#94 how God is teaching me that His plans are grander than my plans

#95 that He is healing me, by helping me open my heart to His way

#96 this verse shared by husband: “Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.” Psalm 107: 8,9

#97 that husband was gone so that i could learn to serve, and find joy even in the hard, pushing through the angst moments

i am joining in the counting a couple days late, as usual, but counting still. to join in the counting, and to connect with other mommies, grandmommies, and singles who are doing the same, slip on over to Ann’s site with this button: