Category Archives: Refiner’s Fire

A Divided Loyalty and the Stinging Truth

{The Conundrums of Christian Writing and Blogging: A Series}



                                                                                                                            photo credit

Two weeks ago I watched as the endorsements deadline for my first book came and went. I watched the deadline pass, knowing seven authors hadn’t responded.


Endorsements are the pithy accolades that appear in the opening pages and on the front and back covers of a book. Two months ago I learned from my publisher that it’s the author’s responsibility to ask other writers if they might be willing to take a look at the book and write an endorsement. The emails I dutifully typed to more than a dozen authors were among the most awkward I have ever written, because when it comes right down to it, asking for an endorsement for your book is asking for praise, and asking for praise places you in a position of vulnerability and weakness. Not my favorite place.

I waited. And I cried tears of relief and joy as I read some of the early endorsements that came in. I felt a little like Sally Field at the Oscars. People like my book, they like it, they really like it!

Until, that is, the endorsements stopped coming, and the deadline passed.

They’re busy, I told myself. They have their own deadlines, their own jobs, their own families to feed and socks to match and dry cleaning to retrieve. It’s not all about you.

Rationally, intellectually, I knew this was true. But emotionally I tumbled fast, head over heels down the slippery slope in a blur of self-pity and sorrow.


                                                                                                                photo credit 

I had always assumed that once I passed a “certain point” – landed an agent or sold a book or achieved a certain number of readers or blog subscribers – I would miraculously be able to let it all go. I assumed the insecurities would diminish, comparisons would fade away, envy would subside. I assumed I would reach a point of satisfaction, of enough.


But that hasn’t been the case for me. Because there is always the next thing.

The week the deadline passed and the endorsements didn’t come, I read the Book of James from start to finish every morning for seven days straight. The following week, when the endorsements still didn’t come, I read the Book of James from start to finish every morning for seven days straight.

“Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? …Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.”(James 4:4, 4:8)

I needed to read these words again and again, to hammer them into my mind and heart. I needed to awaken every morning and read these same words because I knew I was losing the battle, succumbing to temptation, letting my desire for worldly achievement win. And I knew I couldn’t save myself.

Friends, hear this: nothing will cease the cycle of not enough — not your next achievement or your next success; not the fanciest accolade or the highest praise. Nothing will haul you out of the pit of self-pity, not even the one-pound bar of dark chocolate your husband brings home from Trader Joe’s.

Nothing, that is, but God.

The Bible isn’t a quick fix for me. That’s why I have to read it every day. That’s why I have to read the same verses for fourteen days straight. My Bible is not a balm, but a hammer — pounding , repeating, forcing the hard, beautiful truth deep into my mind and heart one verse, one word, one syllable at a time.

I received one more eleventh-hour endorsement for the book on the morning it was scheduled to go to press. The remaining endorsements never came. And I won’t tell you it didn’t hurt; I won’t tell you it wasn’t a crushing blow. But I will tell you this: I came closer to God in those weeks of waiting. His truth was hard; it stung. But as I came closer to God, he pulled me closer to him. And then he shored me up and gently pushed me back out again, armed with new courage and fresh strength.      






A Massachusetts native, Michelle DeRusha moved to Nebraska in 2001, where she discovered the Great Plains, grasshoppers the size of Cornish hens … and God. Michelle writes about finding and keeping faith in the everyday at michellederusha.com, as well as for the Lincoln Journal Star, Prodigal Magazine and The High Calling. She’s mom to two bug-loving boys, Noah and Rowan, and is married to Brad, an English professor who reads Moby Dick for fun. Her first book, Spiritual Misfit: A Memoir of Uneasy Faith, will be published in April 2014. She hangs out here on facebook and twitter.



Hey–isn’t Michelle awesome? I *so* love her honesty, y’all. Do you struggle with this as a writer? Or just in life in general? Let’s discuss this in the comments! 

**This is a series–I hope you’ll be back next week, for more delving into this. At the end of the series, Kelli Woodford and I are hosting a link-up here for you to share your own stories of what makes Christian writing and blogging hard for you. Kelli and I will choose one *amazing* story from the link-up to feature on both of our blogs sometime around the end of February (nailed-down dates to come). So, what are the issues we face and deal with as writers? Please keep this theme in mind, and think of how you’d like to share your own story or journey of blogging/writing with us! **{Requirements for link-up: Please no maligning/no mention in a negative manner of other blogs/authors/writers/brothers & sisters in Christ. Hurt does happen in community, and if we write about that, one option is to change the name/situation/dates, so that the people involved remain anonymous and are protected. “Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” Proverbs 17:9}












       
Advertisements

For When The Noise Drowns You Out and You’ve Made an Idol of Your Writing {Again}

“I’m a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world.”–Mother Theresa

I can get so lost in how low the number of readers are or so preoccupied with my own worries and fears–you know the ones–

What would this side think of my writing, what would folks of this belief think, what if I lose readers if I write what I really feel, can I be vulnerable, how honest should I be, and one of the worst questions that plagues my mind at times: What is the point of writing when there are so many more that say it better and reach many more than I do?

And then I think this writing thing of mine will never go anywhere. I get disappointed, an unhealthy self-pity and hedonism sets in, and then anger holds my heart in its tight grip. In searching for myself and my happiness as a writer, as an artist, and co-creator with God, I forget the God that imparts the poetry and breathes life into my weary bones. I start to think it’s all about me.

And then, suddenly, like a slow dawning, an awakening, my eyes are opened, and I see myself thinking about myself too much–in one flash of a moment, my mind is completely clear, I have His mind, and I can see myself through his lens.

I have wrestled with this writing thing, oh, how I’ve wrestled. There were entire days I just stayed in my pajamas, barely ate, and wasn’t present with my kids because I was so engrossed in my writing, and I was steeped in unhealthy habits that had been rutted out during three years of ill health.

I felt so guilty for my need to create, to have something of my own, and I’ve struggled to find balance between the nurture of art and relationship. I’ve felt at times that God’s greatest calling for me was raising my girls and oh yes, it is, and who will be there for them if not I? But then, my heart screams back, why did God make me with this wild desire to create? 

A young woman at a retreat a couple months ago asked me why I started writing, started blogging. My tongue got heavy in my mouth and in slow-motion, I said to her, “I don’t really know, is the real answer” I went on to tell her who and what had inspired me, but the true thing about it all, was, I really didn’t know, and I still don’t.

I wrote a couple of pretty good posts after that, and people related well and they got way more attention than I possibly ever thought, and I was grateful.

But then the tide changed. 


{Friends, I’m at Bibledude today. Would you follow me over there for the rest of this story? I would love for you to tell me in the comments there how you’ve struggled in writing. If you have a question, please ask. Let’s wrestle this thing out together. } (((Thank you))) 

**Don’t forget, Ruth Povey will be leading the charge and guest-hosting Concrete Words Monday, July 1st. Come link up on our prompt, the Tainted.

This post shared with Jennifer for #TellHisStory Emily for Imperfect ProseMichelle DeRusha

In the Trenches {& 15 Best Links of the Week & A Fun Weekend Challenge}

I stay up too late, trying to catch some quiet, relished moments, and then need extra sleep in the morning because my body can’t function on little rest.

When I walk in and face the children, it feels like they have one over on me, like I just can’t keep up.

Always running to keep up and I’m so weary. Chronic illness for three and a half years, and the battle is getting harder, just when I thought I could see the top of the mountain, hoping I could start climbing down the other side. It was only a thick cloud hiding the ever-towering mountain from my weary eyes.

I don’t feel very brave. But some say being brave is about getting in the fight, and not sitting on the sidelines. Some say it’s not brave unless you’re afraid.

And I’m very afraid. I think of their precious faces, and I pray will all my heart that He would heal this illness so that I can wake each morning feeling like a conqueror.

I heard someone say recently, that if we felt like conquerors, if there were no battle to keep us in the trenches, we would never learn humility.

I guess the bravest of us really are in the trenches, learning the ropes that are ever-changing, climbing high with all our might, just to get to the top and realize there is a long way to go.

And with God, He sees all that lies ahead, and He keeps us going when we feel like giving up the race, and falling to the sidelines, becoming a spectator.

I feel His thrumming in my chest, when I lie awake, when all the house is quiet, and He says, stay in it, child. Don’t give up, beloved. There is work to be done yet. Until then, rest. But don’t ever give up or give in.

Keep going, put one foot in front of the other and do the next good thing.

**On Fridays I join Lisa-Jo and the #FiveMinuteFriday Community. We write for five minutes flat, with no extreme editing, no worrying about perfect grammar, no worrying if our words sound just right. “Unscripted. Unedited. Real.”–Lisa-Jo Baker

The one-word prompt this week: BRAVE.

 Five Minute Friday

Now for #concretewords highlight of the week! The writer I’m highlighting this week for #concretewords is:

Janel Andrews for Piano #1–in Poetic Form —I absolutely loved reading this. Gorgeous. Janel is totally new to Concrete Words–let’s encourage her!

*********
Some lovely reading, some creativity, some beauty for the weekend?

All the best links for me this week: {And stay tuned or scroll down for your weekend challenge!! FUN!}

This story–only Amber Haines can say the words caddywhompus, webbernets, and talk about flowers and Kingdom come in a way that makes me want to know God like a child again all in one post. This girl is amazing. 
This post by Lisa-Jo. Seriously. If you’re a mother, you need this one. This weekend. Read this and breathe. 
THIS by Seth Haines–if you read one thing on this list–this. I believe in God the Father, Almighty maker of heaven, maker of earth. Beautiful video at the end of Rich Mullins. 
This one by Deidra Riggs–yes, yes, yes.  
This video based on one of Lisa-Jo’s post. All of us mothers need to watch this a couple times, y’all. At least. 
This post by Ann Voskamp— this blessed me, got down under my skin in all the right ways… for the days when life is unbearably moving too fast, and you aren’t sure how to hold on…. just remember a sheen of grace covers everything…
This post by my friend, Holly, at A Lifetime of Days— absolutely glorious. For when you need a change, and things are stale. 
Some beauty to capture and open the brain to possibility…beautiful places all over the world 
Some creativity for the weekend–a wall that happily heralds summer… I will definitely be doing this… I’ll get some white frames on the cheap… This is so easy–just some leaves and spray-paint!
This video on making tiny gardens is interesting and may inspire a hobby this summer? I would recycle things around the house for my own tiny garden–broken clay pots & pieces, stones & rocks to make paths, marbles for garden globes….

For the Writers:
This post from Margaret Feinberg :things we all need to know, whether we write on a blog, or writing a book
Laura Boggess writes an informative post to help us avoid the snags of bad style
Mary Demuth’s 25 Very Best Blog Practices–this helped me. Some of it I already knew–but it’s good to have it re-confirmed. My guess is it will be beneficial to you, too. 
Your weekend challenge from Moi: Go out into your swampy, snowy, icicle-y yard {whichever applies to your region} and find some beauty–take your camera with you and snap something. I’m doing this, too! Just for kicks: Link pics in comments here all weekend.  The rest of your challenge is below…. Happy weekend, friends! 
Tell me in the comments: What were your favorite links this week? How do you struggle to be brave? 

When Your Voice Is Silent {Fear Day 26}

This week, I’m working out fears in my marriage {And I haven’t even begun to touch it, I think–is that ever a deep well. But God. Come back tomorrow for a few thoughts on growing old in marriage}.

And on Fridays, I link up with Lisa-Jo at lisajobaker.com  for a sort of flash writing mob–and I write for five minutes, no editing, back-tracking, or over-thinking, with just a one-word prompt. If you’d like to join, find Lisa-Jo’s button below…



GO.

Sometimes the voice is silent within
My real voice
You only hear me when I get angry, Love
Words of frustration come out louder
But inside there is a deep well of silence
Of things unsaid between us
Things I don’t know how to say
I pray for voice to come out wise and strong
I ask Heaven for peace to reign in this tongue
There are so many things silent, Love
And perhaps some things are better left unsaid
There will be a time for all of this inside of me to unfurl
But I came from tongues that knew no bounds,
Voices that always had to be heard
Making their wounds on their exact mark
And God has gently led, quieted me some
And in the dark, here in the thick of it, in the sweltering
I lay here with you and I give myself over to you
In the quiet, in the gentle peace of it
In the quaking, and the making of love so powerful on holy ground
And I take my shoes off,
And I lament who I’ve been, and repent of my hard heart
And I give myself over, Love.

STOP.

{Today’s one-word prompt was Voice.}
If you’d like to join our writing flash mob? Click below…

Five Minute Friday

 

Also linking up with The Nester, and all the other 31-Dayers.…This ought to be one wild, brave ride…

Do you struggle with fear– of no having voice in your marriage–is it something you see God teaching you wisdom in–the tongue? Is marriage not turning out quite like you thought? Please tell me your story? Have you seen God redeem these fears in your marriage? Have you found grace? Your comments so encourage me. I draw strength from your kind words and knowing you were here. My faith walk is seasoned with the right ingredients when you hang around…


This is one post in a series of 31 days of Fear. You can find the entire 31 Day collective here. {I’ve jumped from Day 12 to Day 22 because I want to finish this series at the end of the month & this gal started late}

I hope you will come with me on this journey–to get a taste of glorious redemption as I soul-search and look for Jesus smack-dab in the middle of my fears. And Jesus sits with sinners. I won’t have to look very far.

I pray God gives me the strength and the courage to complete 31 days–y’all, it’s going to be hard on this ‘ol gal to write every.single.day. Pray for me?   

Some other 31 Day collectives I’m loving: Shelly @ Redemptions BeautyAmber Haines , and Lisa-Jo

Fear Won’t Stop You {31 Days of Fear–Day #2}

Day 2 of 31 Days of Fear…I ask for grace for this posting from the archives, but I’m working on something, and I plan to take a break over the weekends–weekend posts will be short but sweet–I hope you come back to take a look, to taste of glorious redemption as I soul-search and look for Jesus in the midst of my fears.

I set out, screen door slamming behind, metal vibrating and hear the crunch-crunch-crunch, wet, grainy- smooth underneath my running shoes and I can barely get a good breath in.

As I pound along the road, tightened ribs begin to separate and lungs expand and I suck in the oxygen deep like a milk-starved baby.

I throw my head back and look to the pink and purple sunset sky above and just run like that wild like a child.

And it’s like in this inhaling, I’m breathing in God and the quietness settles heavy on me and a chorus rises, a symphony swells. And I can hear it all–the frogs in the marsh, birds call off to the east and the west, all around and crickets chirp in the grass my feet breeze past below. And it swells and rises up to meet me, lifts me up in it’s crescendoing.

I run past a white-tail deer, leaping and bounding away from me and then the rushing water of the river underneath the bridge. I turn and go back, climb up on the rail, all childish giddiness, peering down into the water, listening to her quiet rhythm, and the flood waters rising, they touch me with their hush.

I run past fields turned marsh with standing flood waters where cows once grazed.

And God said to me, “All these flood waters? They are neck-high because you are drowning in my grace. And that weight that makes you feel you can’t breathe? That’s my glory. Daughter, your drowning is not without purpose–you’re sinking in me.”

I let out a cry and it comes out hard in pants as I run.

And God said, “Daughter, do you see the burning bush? And do you see the thundering mountain? I look up and see two dark clouds in the sky, one like a burning bush and one like a mountain.

“Sometimes, child, life’s flames have felt too hot, the fire has seemed unquenchable and raging, but what you couldn’t see in the consuming fire, was that it was me burning into you. And the mountain has thundered and shaken you. There has been a quaking and everything has toppled down, nothing has felt stable and now life is turned upside down, but sometimes that is the way I move, thundering and shaking. And it’s been me all along. Though you searched hard, I’ve been right with you the whole time.

And God said, “Those trees you see that look as if they are about to slide under the sucking current–what you can’t see is that underneath the water, the roots go deep and strong because they’ve been hit over and over and over by the storm and they know how to hold on.”

Then God shows me a giant black hand in the sky and it’s pointing to a huge black cloud that resembles a storm and covers a vast area of land. “This is how you’ve been guided all along,” He whispers.

And God says, “Daughter, the whole time you felt I was nowhere to be found, even that I had forsaken you and you thought you were sinking, child–I was holding you up. And you see that joy on your face, do you feel that fierce love you have that covers over an offense? Do you sense new level of grace, that new-found freedom that makes you strong of heart, being firm in who you are in me, yet you are able to be Christ’s scarred hands and feet to those who drive the nails in your own hands and feet?–That’s my mark on you, daughter, because in the midst of the strorm, when I passed by as a cloud so intimately near, I left my imprint on you. Do you know you have my imprint? You bear my image, my name, my glory, my power, my resurrection life and there is no end to what you can do, child? Did you know?”

“Yes, I’ve left my imprint on you.

You. look. like. me.”

The bats, they swoop low overhead, and look for prey in the night. The night-song rises and speaks to me. I hear God say, “Daughter, it’s here in this night, in this groping-along darkness that you’ll find your courage, your strength.

And fear won’t stop you.”

Faith swells and I’m swollen pregnant with this promise here in the dark.

                                                                              *Edited post from the archives

Linking up with The Nester, and all the other 31-Dayers.…This ought to be one wild, brave ride…

Do you struggle with fear, friend? What has God whispered to your heart about it? Your comments so encourage me. I draw strength from your kind words and knowing you were here. My faith walk is seasoned with the right ingredients when you hang around…


This post also linked with:

Orphans At The Gate–{What To Do When You Are Wandering and Failing}

I’m good at ignoring reality, bad at serving others’ needs, even my own. It’s my naturally introverted personality. I really need to engage quietly with my world–bathe in sunlight, pause at a meandering brook, revel in children’s laughter, bathtime’s bubbles and bedtime’s wandering stories.

But sometimes, when I’m overwhelmed, I go too deep inside, so deep it’s unhealthy. I forget to eat. Hours pass while thinking and writing, and we haven’t done homeschooling and I marathon-race to catch up to time, my old nemesis.

I go so deep, I don’t do what’s best for me and my family. I don’t run because I just can’t bring myself to walk. out. that. door.

 I don’t go to church because the lights are too bright and people’s handshakes make my fragile soul quake. The sheer thought of the sea of faces makes my stomach lurch. Slamming doors, blaring toy horns, and the sibling screams and fighting make insides churn.

And I grow weary of growing things–flowers always so dry in this heat, children that won’t relent, thirsty for me–and I’m thirsty myself. They always need me, pull at every corner of me. I’ve given way more of myself away than I would’ve ever dreamt possible when this all began. And yet, I know that God, the Master Gardener–he never grows weary and so I pray for some of his strength, seek His face like a blind woman, feeling the grooves and crevices with her hands, desperate for some spark of recognition, some slight remembering.

It comes out in a whispered hush when I first get out of bed in the morning and Satan whispers his first words of defeat to me for the day. I hear him–“You’re such a failure, an idiot–you should just crawl back in bed.” I hate that I do this ugly self-talk, and my soul cries and it just comes out gently hushed–in barely audible groans–“God, help. Help me through this day.”

I want to find a well that runs deep, an oasis in this desert. God, He’s still gardening, though my eyes see darkly and I can’t make out the fruits–He’s preparing something like paradise. Oh, I’ve searched so hard and so long, so desperately I’ve drank blood from the camel’s side, letting it substitute when God offers real drink in this parched land.

And my eyes widen in horror at what I’ve allowed my children to drink in lieu of God’s pure goodness and sweet righteousness.

How?! How, I ask God, can I give them drink, these children looking at me, thirsting, when I am parched myself?

How do I die to self some more, because really–I get it–I think that’s what you’re asking of me–asking me to forge on, to travel through this pilgrim land searching for the Promised Land, only a cloud to follow, the holy heaviness of you pointing the way.

My eyes are hazed over with the fog of you, You all mystery, and my limbs are weary with the weight of promise and the burden of this place called Now. I groan and ache with the reality of it.

And I sojourn with others weary–I see it in their eyes, hear it in their words, read the pain in their face as they stand there and tell me that they had lost all hope. Yet, I know You’ve promised so much more–and all you ask of me is to trust that I will some day hold the promise in my palm.

For now, it is elusive this side of Heaven and Your perfect Presence, and the only real joy here, now, is getting to know You, tasting of you, yearning for you more and more until my heart’s cry is only “More of you! More of you! Christ, come! Come, and save! Part those skies and ride in like thunder, swift, mighty, fire in your eyes, take me, Beloved!”

But here I stay and while I wait, orphaned, here–in this Now–I wander under-prepared and oh so inadequate and I just beat on Your chest, God, like a confused, angry child and beg, “Why?” My heart hardens and I struggle in my own sin-stench. I have been the desert-wanderer, the chosen child, grafted into your family vine–I’ve been that one, given so much grace and refusing to see–refusing to open my mouth and eat the manna.

My stomach lurches and groans with pains and yet I refuse to see the manna you’ve provided as good. 

I don’t do what’s good for me. I go deep inside and hide in caverns of sin and recesses of bitterness and grievance. What I would see if I came out of my cave, is you standing there, gently holding out your hand, offering life–real life.

And the whole time I’m refusing what’s good for me, You’re saying “Something better is coming, child, if you will just eat–just open your mouth.”

I swallow down the goodness of you, and I’m a stubborn child, surprised at the sweetness and delight of it. I want to be there with my children–swallow down all that goodness–open mouth wide.

I dont want to miss the moments that were designed for me to comfort, to soothe, to affirm. I don’t want to miss any opportunity because of my lack, because I’m inadequate to behold the beauty with abandon, because im shunning all the noise and racket and pounding feet that make up the song of life.

With so many things calling all around for my attention, so reckless, holding me, dangling there in their throat-choking grasp, God just keeps planting me firmly on the ground, keeps showing me that the most authentic, most deserving and most precious community is right here at home.

They are my sojourners.

I flail around in bitterness and the cold left by absence of fellowship. I grieve and what for when God has put me here with them to nurture and to talk with, to read for hours in the hammock with and play music with and read the bible with, to worship with as we bake cookies and scrub dirty counters, to explore nature with, to run through the hills and go on a life-adventure with.

The whole wide world–and the wide web–can make it seem as though what mothers do in their homes isn’t important–that the little, quiet, sacred community we’re building isn’t holy work. It all seems to scream that we need to be doing some ministry to the poor, or we need to be involved in a local church, or serving in community in some way.

The deceptiveness of culture has slowly trickled down into the church and told women that just being a mother and wife isn’t enough. But that’s a lie from the roaring hell-lion.

Oh, how the roaming lion wants to decieve us to think that the work we’re doing–the work of a mother–isn’t holy and sacred–he does not want us to think that just loving them is enough.

I know that if I’m serving in the context that God has placed me in, I will touch the lives I’m meant to touch, regardless of my church affiliation, my community and ministry involvement, or my blog numbers.

I am only human–and God knows–He designed me this way. A standard that tells me I have to constantly be reaching higher depletes me of the air and life that I could give where He has called me to give–and mostly, that is at home.

I really think this could be my oasis–the deep well of laughter and bedtime giggles and stories and living like Jesus is in the room.

This could be my strength to never stopthe eternal value of four lives that have been discipled for Christ–literally led to Christ’s feet at the cross and transformed, radically changed and devoted to His cause.

We can do that–you can do that–I can do that–that’s the burden God placed in us mothers.  When else will we get the chance to disciple so intensely? To put our mark on someone, to leave a legacy?

We have such an amazingly golden opportunity here with our children.

When else will this godly call, this priceless hour pass by again?

We must seize it with all the gusto we can muster and that takes putting off of some earthly things, some voices that call wild in the wind and vie for our attention and ask to carry us and toss us around with every new doctrine and opinion.

So I won’t crawl back into bed. Not today. I will stand with my children, Husband by my side, us all just orphans at the gate. And I will remember that. I will remember that as I mother them–they are orphans–they are His–and they are waiting for His return just as ardently, expectantly, desperately as I am.

While they wait, while I wait, I will mother these gifts well, with my dying breath, I will be a real mother to them–a mother worn for the journey–and they won’t have to journey or wander alone.

I will journey with them, and at the end, place them back into His hands.

Gratitude: {#956-976}……..

#956…a lunch in the park…women talking, children playing…

#957…the warmth of sunlight…

#958…hard eucharisteo…learning to hang in there when these social events aren’t easy for me…

#959…my sweet Bella flourishing in the classroom with her Mama after not doing so well in the other classroom…

#960…a director who gives me the week off when energy is flagging and anxiety takes over…the practical care of a sister in Christ…

#961…having the week to clear my mind, rest, renewal…

#962…patching up disagreements, how best friends can scrub you like sand-paper and make you Christ-smooth

#963…chasing butterflies, dragonflies in the backyard with my girls…

#964…watching my strong girls swim their hearts out for the team…

#965…hard eucharisteo…pounding headache and nausea, the noise of the crowd too much–giving it to God and learning to be a {somewhat} patient mama through it all, loving on my children…

#966…going out to celebrate with the girls for their first meet out of town–Husband meeting us when he got off work..

#967…watching birds, squirrels in the backyard…

#968…not going anywhere, napping in the hammock on a Sunday afternoon; Sabbath rest…

#969…my Bella asking if she is still the new girl next week, reassuring her that no, she is not the “new girl” after the first week.

#970…taking care of my sweet Bella-girl, how she lets me bathe her face with a cool cloth to bring down fever, how she sits up and tries to spoon in the ice cream, submissively puts the thermometer under her tongue, lets me hold her…

#971…Lorna making oranges for Bella, bringing them to her bed…

#972…Ivy’s concerned “Bella, are you hot?”

#973…Spider lillies splashing the whole backyard in red…

A gift cool, warm, sun-soaked…
#974…the end of my daughter’s nose…
#975…hot shower
#976…feeling the warmth of sun on my bare skin and then the first of tiniest drops of rain….

Still counting and linking up with sweet Ann and others… On In Around button

When No One Sees But God {And Gratitude In Pictures}

Quietly, soft worship lullabies playing in the background, I write scripture on the board for my girls to copy.

Before I can finish a sentence, one already needs me for a math question, and I move around and hover, serving their needs, quieting this one that blurts out words that cut, instructing another one how to find and keep up with her pencil, and helping yet another little one settle down with crayons so her older sisters can focus on the tasks at hand.

And no one sees this–it is just a grace that enevelops and I know His presence consumes.

There is no need for approval from man when you are right in the lap of the Father.

.


 

Fellowship and growing in the word with the body of Christ are things we’ve wanted. But it has been elusive and just isn’t something God has allowed at this point in our lives for some reason. It’s been a long season.

And if I’m being honest, I’m envious of others who have that. But I’m not alone in my aloneness. I know others have these same questions, these same lonely feelings, these same burnings and groanings. We are in a season right now, not in growing in the word, or revelation, but in our deeds, serving, our behavior, attitudes, and sins and idols of the heart.

 












This is not a work of our own hands, our own will–only grace can do this work–only His spirit and sometimes the Spirit groans and travails within our souls in words that are hard to describe, hard to verbalize or even secretly etch out onto paper.










I hesitantly, very timidly try to tap it out here, not knowing if I can even understand it myself, or if I can rightly convey these groanings.

 
 

Sometimes the Spirit within is longing for heaven, for something altogether different, something eternal, and all those fleshly things–they churn hard within, the mind and weak nature not knowing what to do with those things. And so the Spirit groans. I ache.

The temptation is to fill it with things that won’t suffice. And I forget and in my earthly skin, I fill and fill and still, I’m empty, this body of death holding nothing but decay for me.

 

Like a woman birthing and wild with pain, God is weeding so much out and doing such a pulling, tearing, hard work. Everyday we become more and more like what he wants us to be. Are we finally becoming in our home as we want to be? With no one watching, no one knowing, not even family–because in our isolation no one sees–no one except us and God.

He is the only one that sees. and that is what makes it so hard and it is also what makes it so real and rewarding. There is no body of other believers seeing our works, our good attitudes and servanthood–and cheering us on– no pastor encouraging us and saying “well done”, not even really any family visiting to take part in the fruits God may have lavished upon our home.

 
 

 
 

The girls and I talk about the scripture scribbled in bright colors across a white board in morning light–how Jesus said we shouldn’t do things to be seen by men, to not let our left hand know what our right hand is doing, to do it for our Father in Heaven, that He who is not seen may see our good works and reward us in Heaven. He warned that those who do good works for men to see have already received their reward in full and will receive none in heaven.

This convicts me and lets me know I’m on the right path and where I have erred.

Right before Husband gets home, we stop everything and clean up and wipe counters, put dishes in dishwasher and light candles. He walks in from seven grueling 16 1/2 hour days and says he forgot the prize at the store, but the girls ask if they still get to do their presentation tonight of what they’re learning for their Daddy. He says, Of course, I want you to do it for me, and I will bring your prize home from work tomorrow!

We have dinner together at the table because we all desire togetherness, and when it’s neglected, we wander blindly and falter, and can’t find any sure thing. And we gravitate back towards what holds us like glue–truth–the sanctity of this holy moment of togetherness, of giving thanks. This is a miracle–a true miracle of grace.

It is so much easier to fullfill our fleshly desires than to be selfless and loving and to sit with one another and to talk, and discipline kids when they dont want to sit or eat, and listen to stories and give and share. We read the bible at the table each night, but it isnt always pleasant. I find it difficult to sit still, to just be with them, to take in all the noise, to be gentle and patient, put simply–to love. And I ache.

I ache for all the moments I miss because I’m selfish and yet I can’t seem to discipline my body and my mind to just still while He sings over me, to just be all here, right now, wherever and however He has asked it of me. It is hard, and awkward, and brings up sin out of all of us–just maybe this is the very purpose.

We all clap and cheer and holler like a bunch of sillies hell-bent on love for each precious grace-daughter as she stands up and recites her memory work. There are smiles all around as my three daughters bow and their Daddy laughs deep baratone. Run off and brush your teeth, I tell them.

They all scurry away to bed and just for a moment I forget the ache.

I sit in the nursery rocker while Husband sleeps and the house moans, the girls sleepy heads all in beds and the quiet I have longed for all day is finally here. I rock my toddler baby girl, and as I sing about God’s greatness, the God-head three in one, Father, Spirit and Son, the Lion and the Lamb, the soft tones of Isabella’s favorite worship song waft over to her bed a few feet away, the “God Song”, she calls it and I haven’t been at all perfect this day–actually I’ve been a downright wretch of a sinner–and somehow His grace just envelops and none of it matters.

There is only us and God watching from above. It is very lonely but oh so hallowed, sacred and holy. So quiet, more reflecting his heart than anything I’ve ever known. More peace in our home abounds than ever before.

Oh yeah, there are times screams pierce and words cut deep, but I know He has us. I know His presence consumes everything.

I know I’m safe in His lap and okay just being me, the child He’s rocking so tightly.

Gratitude in pictures:

 
#917…A Daddy and a daughter growing fast
 
 
#918…Two sisters who love one another…
 
 
#919… Laughter…

 
#920…her hair ablaze with light…
 
 
#921…  a shaft of light…
 
 
#922… Lilly pretending to be a puppy at the table…
 
 
 
#923… Innocence of a child…

 
#924 Baby girl pulling Daddy on to jump too…
 
 
#925… Little one who insists her Mama jump with her!
 
 
926…her beauty…
 
 
#927…her humor…
 
 
#928…them wrapped up in sun…perfection to this Mama’s eyes…
 
 
#929… her wisps, her lashes, her cheeks…
 
 
#930…sunset on the beach, another season ending, another season full of opportunity on the way…
 

**Friends, your comments mean so much to me–they soul-drench me in grace and minister to me. And your prayers mean even more. I am not able to answer each comment–I am probably wrestling a mountain of laundry, or baby girl who apparently thinks freedom means clothes-free; teaching a Classical Conversations lesson, cleaning up potty-training baby girl’s messes, reading a good book with my kids in the hammock, {or dancing to hip-hop with them while they roll their eyes}, out running, having a glass of wine with Husband, or lying in a warm bath just trying to breathe, friend! I hope you understand? Thank you in advance for grace. If you are reading this, you are awesome and I already love you! Head here to get to know me better and to read why during this season of life, I am just quietly writing, and not visiting via social media as much….

** Thank you for so, so much grace, friends. My heart cannot express in mere words,  my gratefulness.
Still counting and joining in community with sweet Ann and others…

 

*Photos in post: Lorna and Ivy sketching Leif the Lucky…
All four girls very busy…
Lorna working on her history sketch…
Solemn Isabella …
Reading in the hammock…
Husband reading bible…
Toys on nursery floor…
Shaft of light on wooden floor…
Girls hovered over a lizard…
Heads huddled up…
Ants in tree bark on a nature walk…
Lilly napping…
Playing with a balloon…
The Lord’s Prayer…
Playing with favorite ponies…
Girls fingerpainting…
Masterpiece…
Early American History–Individuality…
Bella’s art…
Lilly’s art…
Family around the table on a day Husband was home…

Linking with L.L…

On In Around button

 
Still counting and joining in community with sweet Ann and others…







 

Embracing Plucked Daffodils {And Resurrection Life}

I am cold, hurting, sad and despondent and he says, “get dressed and come outside with me–it’s such a nice, warm day”. Something inside me jumps at the thought of being in the sunshine after so much grey cloudiness and rain in my life. It has been a long time coming–this spring rejuvenating joyousness–this resurrection!

As I throw my clothes on, not caring if my hair hasn’t been washed {i’m going to the sunlight}, girls all dressed and I step outside, this change is hard. Hard because my emotions don’t feel it. But I’ve been here before, and I know that the emotions are not always in sync with what my heart and soul {God’s Spirit speaking?} are saying is vital, purposeful, helpful, and joy-creating. Human emotions don’t so easily give way to the joy-creating and peace-creating moments. My emotions stand hard and stubborn as brick, and they are not easily destroyed and replaced with God’s love, gentleness, patience, and hope.

Hope is a funny thing….it’s like stepping outside to the sun’s blinding when I’ve been hibernating inside my comfort place, my isolation for too long. It all feels raw, open, it hurts and blinds and in the same breath feels like warmth to the soul, the soul slowly waking, and the Son telling me time to get up.

He turns on the radio, and says, “You ARE ready–wow! Let’s go!” And my heart is so easily led because it craves it and needs it. My heart craves, this heart that is only for him. And it is this that God is trying to show me–yes, my heart craves, and it is truly HIM that i crave, that my heart yearns to follow.

In the sunlight, always the blinding light, I am so thankful that He gives spring….and I see it. I see that the leaves, the brown, black and grey, the dead things must come for life to come forth. All of the wretched things, the things I hate the most, the things that seem so evil to me–cloudy days that offer no hope, rain that never gives any light or warmth, no life or beauty to be found, all of the loneliness and disappointment, the anguish, the desperate pleas for help, and the trudging through of the feet–all of these must be so that HOPE can come.

So that LIFE can push really hard, can push hard and long against the surface, so hard until it seems I will give way, and when I think that my weary heart and soul can take no more, there it is!
Life to be felt, touched, all warmth and sun and the SON comes in strong, like a team of wild stallions beating back ocean waves, and He calms me with His steady hand, touches me, ME who doesn’t deserve anything, feeling like a silly child for asking, for reaching out, and He gently cradles me like summer sun, blinding the eyes and letting lids drift off asleep.

And then I see, I see the brown leaves, {so happy to be picking up those brown leaves, everyone pitching in, the warm sun our helper}, and I know what they have covered up this whole time–it has been life growing underneath.

It was life cocooned up in an earthen grave, like that catepillar the girls placed in the grace garden, just like that Resurrection Man whose body was wrapped and laid in a cold tomb.

In the front yard, where he is raking strong and ferocious, we meander and follow him, walking and looking, taking in beauty, holding hands, snapping our happy day in freeze-frames.
 Then it happens: I hear him say, “No, Bella, you know Mama doesn’t want you to do that”. It is always Mama that doesn’t want the children to run and frollick and make mischief, always Mama that has a hard time with letting go and living fully the resurrection. And in an instant I see that Bella has plucked all my lovely daffodils from the front garden, the only sign of life in this deadness, the only beauty that I loved, and before I think, I say sternly, “NO, Bella!” and now her tiny shoulders droop, her joyous flower-possessing countenance falls, and straightaway, she is a mess, and so am I.

 I go to her, drawn like the pull of heartache, and kneel down beside her. I say, “It is okay, Bella. You can have Mama’s flowers“. And these words are hard for me to say, and they are pulled out like weeds stuck in the hard winter ground, that cold earthen grave where my heart is wrapped up. I hurt, I am torn, and my anger dissolving, I know that I must let go. I know that this is good for me and for her–to learn grace. I hug her and keep saying it over and over, and of course, in Bella’s usual style, she has to punish me just a bit. She can’t move past it right away, and oh, she is MY child; she definitely came from my womb, this child that has it hard letting go.
And suddenly I realize that it is not I that is supposed to be teaching her in this moment, but it is she that is teaching me, and she is teaching me well–oh, the lessons I learn from her about how to live out this life that springs forth from painful grave, me just dust returning to dust one day.
I am a broken Mama, throwing myself against the stubborness of this child, and breaking over and over and over.

God knows that this is what this sinful, hard heart of mine needs. WHY is my first reaction– when they are {mischeviously}, blithely having carefree, airy and sun-happy fun–to sternly correct and break littles’ spirits?

Couldn’t I, being fully aware of her possessing my prize, just have let my laugh carry on the wind, reaching her with a warm enveloping smile and letting her know that I will always give her what is mine?

In putting away Easter and Lent, and seeing the sin that so easily creeps back in–the exhaustion and the anxiety that tries to take over like a dark cloak–maybe what I’m really seeing clearly is that to live this resurrection–to carry Easter with me I must not hold tight, but let go.

Is it really things that bring beauty, like flowers, or is it the God-breathed moments with my daughter,  The Word Himself gently shooting shafts of light through the darkness of our hearts together?

For aren’t we all just groping along, bling, trying to find the way? Aren’t we weary sojourners looking for home? Isn’t this earth full of so much darkness and death, threatening to swallow us up, taking us down to the depths of the grave?

If that is true, then aren’t these God-given moments of truth all we really have–to behold with awe and let our breath be taken with beauty, to just stand on holy ground speechless?

This letting go and living fully the resurrection life is apart of grace, a reflection of the Father’s love. This is how He meant it to be. He never meant for me to give anything or live anything that He hasn’t already lived and freely given me.

This is grace:–not only mercy and pardon, but a beautiful gift laid at my feet for the taking, laid at the feet of the undeserving, a beautiful gift paid for with His life.

I don’t do this life so gracefully–more like a child with fist clenched tight, really, but this grace part He is so generously and gently teaching.

I’m opening fist and learning and accepting His grace, all the gifts laid at my feet, and my daughter–I let her pluck the daffodil from my open hand, and she and I, we are dancing–sometimes quiet and stilled, sometimes blasting out the stereo–just dancing like crazy in this God-breathed life of grace.

*an edited post from archives

Shared with Ann in community at…

Resurrecting A Marriage {Ponderings of Easter}

The kids are at the grandparents for the weekend and we are getting ready to leave and Husband tells me matter-of-factly that it’s not a date, asks me why I’m wearing heels. Heels click loudly on hardwood and ring through the house and I am embarrassed at my obviousness. My heart is crushed, because in my little-girl-grown-up-heart, I had so hoped he would notice, say I was pretty, look at me longingly, put his hand just there on the small of my back as he led me to the car.

Instead, an hour later, it all comes out of me hot and rushed and a little too loud how that I don’t feel loved.

Why is it that God made me that way–with a particular love-language that my husband doesn’t understand?

I look up to Father, to the One who can fill this deep, vast void in me, this canyon of waters that rushes wild and snares anything that comes along in it’s thrashing.

I look to the One who knows the ache and understands the pain of rejection.

I look to the One who gets me, who points my sin out to me gently one by one, so I’m not overwhelmed, and seeing my ugly, loves me anyway–unconditionally.

I look up and I say to Him, “Father, you know my heart. You know my heart, Father. You know my heart.”

And He does. He knows that I love my husband passionately, that I would go to hell and back for that man, that my children are my crown of glory, that I would go down to the depths before I would let one blonde hair on their halo-heads be touched by evil. God understands, because His Son is His crown, whom He loves, in whom He is pleased, and I am a co-heir with him, and I am God’s beloved, His beautiful jeweled crown.

He knows that I spend hours reading, thinking, trying to learn new ways to make home happy and peaceful and safe and a place that everyone wants to be. He knows that I search frantically for the way. He knows that on my own I am helpless in the ways of homemaking and the ways of God.

He knows that I am a screw-up. He knows that just the moment that I write a beautiful story about mothering, and hit publish, then I grind my teeth and yell at my children, and their happy chin botches up and their lip turns down and quivers and the eyes look at me, deep pools of hurt.

He knows that I forget to be grateful, I forget to do the simple act of telling Him thanks, that this home has more harsh words–words that break– than I want it to.

He knows that I run in a vicious cycle of try hard, fail, give up and try hard again, as the Pastor said on Easter Sunday. He knows I try hard at Lent and celebrating Easter and I am deficient.

He knows that Easter draws close, I close up and want to withdraw, because as his death becomes more and more real, as the thing draws heavy upon me, my human emotions and expressions simply cannot do Him justice. And I’m rendered useless in His presence.

He is the only One that really sees my heart, sees my tears, mourns with me, catches my tears and keeps each one in a bottle. He never forgets one tear that escapes the soul-windows, them leaking out pain.

Husband and I walk hand in hand into a local restaurant dating back to the 1840’s and when we sit down and after the waiter has left, he touches my knee, looks me in the eye, and he already has me.

Those soft blue eyes with such care in them, I just get lost and want to leap right in like a wild woman. He says he is sorry, and that’s all I really need to hear. And the conversation continues and we talk about the artists splayed on the brick wall, and we are a little taken with the place, and I convince him to share some World Famous Black Bottom Pie.

What I really have a hard time swallowing down, though, as we sit there and I look at him, is that I have been ungrateful. I know that I pushed until I got what I wanted–time, closeness, and it’s just the two of us in all the world if I can just get five uninterrupted moments to stare into those eyes.

But I long for the day when I serve him so well that I have abundant grace to pour out when he is in a dry season and he can’t readily give me those moments–I long to be this woman full of grace, wisdom on my lips.

God, burn me, Refiner’s fire, from the inside out–start with my mouth–and just take over and consume–love through me, serve through me.

Later when we are finally alone in the dark, and he reaches over and lays his hand on me as I lie still, lets it slide down, I feel the kindling of the moment, tiny sparks that take over and consume.

And I am this–bride waiting with candle burning brightly, always waiting for her bridegroom when he chooses to come for her.

I weep inside over who I’ve been, for when I have fallen asleep and let my wick go out, when I have missed the glory of God, quenched the Holy Spirit with the crushing words of my mouth.

I weep only on the inside and I open up completely to him, this man that has such power over me, let the grace pour over me as the love between us is made.

My heart, through my husband, is revealed to me and drawn back to God, who holds me and is the only One who can fill this scary, raving mad unquenchable void in me.

Gratitude:

#689 e-mails from beautiful sisters

#690 for mentors

#691 illness leaving our home finally, Satan’s lies defeated

#692 my best friend coming to my home for a spontaneous visit

#693 the grace of her sitting on my porch swing, pouring our hearts out

#694 the way she dotes on my girls–how she does this everytime she sees them–the thousand, countless ways she is thoughtful toward me

#695 how they call her Auntie April, because she is that to them

#696 our run through the trails later

#697 how we can say anything to one another, how we kackle silly and share unabashadly what God is showing us about our sinful hearts

#698 hours outside in the sun picnicing, Husband coming home and playing badmitton until twilight pushes us all inside

#699 how Bella runs up to her Daddy in the drive and asks him to come play–how he can’t say no

#700 Bella writing her ABC’s and her name

#701 her dimpled grin–how her whole face lights up like the heavens when she shows me so proud–how i could fall into those deep ravines of cuteness and get lost right there at the corner of her mouth

#702 how I wonder if the glory of God can be summed up in the face of this child

#703 Ivy’s loving hugs that make me feel wrapped up in a warm blanket

#704 Ivy coming and telling me she clasps her hands together and prays to Jesus in her head, and she hears Him talking to her

#705 Lorna’s “I Am From” poem–that she’s a poet at heart like her Mama

#706 that I was able after a two-year battle with illness, to take babies to doctor and store–still can’t believe I’m better–glory to Him

#707 After Bella’s shots, her concern when the nurse places Lilly on the table, and she says to my Granny upon stepping out of the room: “I bet Lilly is crying.”

#708 an incredible few weeks of Lent and how God has lavishly blessed our time together as a family

#709 how He took us from being lost in exhaustion and t.v. to re-focusing our efforts toward our family goals–His grace to be at the supper table, enjoying God together

#710 an amazing Easter service, indescribable worship to an even more indescribable God, communion and the confession of sins at the altar, loving prayer woman-to-woman and man-to-man, the gospel like i have never seen it presented

#711 how in my failures, God meets me and when my human emotions fall short of expressing and celebrating His beauty, how He is still glorified through me, not because of me, but because He is God

#712 that the story of the cross and His blood shed never gets old–a fresh revelation of His gospel and grace all over again

#713 that God almighty Himself would wrestle with me, would reveal Himself to me, over and over, in spite of myself

#714 that His blood speaks a better word than all the empty claims I’ve heard upon this Earth, speaks righteousness for me and stands in my defense–lines from a favorite song

#715 a beautiful day of Easter celebration with family, that I was able to pull off a gorgeous dinner, with all their help, in spite of my organization handicap–how we all worked together, talked, laughed

#716 the beautiful grace of my parents washing up the dishes side-by-side before they left

#717 my Husband, how even though I’m his help-meet, he is also my helper in life–how he is there for me always in every circumstance and we are a team

#718 Husband’s remark as we fall asleep, a beautiful day, a job well done, everyone was proud, he says–I don’t understand this, but accept the grace anyway

#719 this song that broke me during Easter service–one of my favorites… and here is the video–it is  not for the faint of heart, but is a real depiction of our Lord and the blood He spilled for us…the blood I praise Him for…

{I actually have two videos for you…if you only have time for one, definitely–choose the second–I watched this at church Sunday and have never heard the gospel presented quite like this–it will rock your world}

Friends, your comments mean so much to me–please leave your thoughts so that I can drop by at your place to leave some encouragement for you. I am not able to answer each comment–I am probably in some corner of my home sorting through laundry in danger of mildewing, and I hope to visit with you as soon as I get the chance! Thank you in advance for grace, friends! I love this community of grace-filled people!

Shared with Ann in community at…

and Laura…

L.L…
On In Around button

Emily…

Jennifer….

Michelle…

and Shanda…

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…