Monday, December 11, 2017

Gritty Glory

I was asked to offer some words of encouragement for a first time mom's baby shower at our church a couple months ago. I have finally edited it from my rough speaking notes to an only semi-polished draft, and am posting it here because I have lost track of which of my friends have asked for a copy. 

Also, averaging one post every other year seems like a doable pace for me...




The most glorious tasks do not look glorious. They do not feel super spiritual. It’s a confusing phenomenon, really. Glory is usually accomplished through grit.

We see this in our Bible. The places where God reveals His glory most are among some of the worst conditions. Take the incarnation of Jesus. A scandalous marriage, a dingy stable, and rugged shepherds. Or his miracles: feeding hot, tired, hungry people in a field. Healing the unclean lepers. Reclining with sinners and tax collectors. Or go back to the Old Testament and look at the flood. (Think about the devastation and death and mud that paved the way to a rich promise and a vibrant rainbow!) Think of the anguish of the Hebrews working as slaves that led to the glorious exodus as God miraculously delivered his people and renewed his covenant with them. Even his method of deliverance, with the plagues of Egypt, revealed his glory through the most horrifying (and just gross) circumstances. Bugs and boils and so much loss.

Adam himself was formed from the dust of the ground.

God isn't scared of grit and grime. He uses it, and shocks everyone with how much glory he can bring from the ashes. 

The greatest moment of glory, the climax of God’s masterful storytelling, comes when his son is murdered, and buried in the dirt. It didn’t make any sense to the disciples. It was not as it should be. Jesus was the king! The Christ! The long awaited, anointed Son of God! 

But through the dirt, God gave His Son more glory than our finite minds could have ever imagined. 

What am I getting at? Glory comes through yucky things.

As a mother, you are being given a glorious task. Changing culture, one little life at a time, is a high calling (and hard work). I remember the anticipation I had before Asher was born about how excited I was to get to work on the kingdom of God through what our pastor fondly refers to as the “original church growth program.” I knew it would be hard work and that there would be spit up and dirty diapers and lots of discipline, and that was all true.

But I didn’t realize how muddy it would get. Not literally— although there is that too—but I’m talking mirky. Things get confusing. Our bodies get tired. Our selfishness is exposed, and laundry becomes a serious spiritual issue I never, ever, ever anticipated! I love Rachel Jankovic’s analogy of running on a treadmill. She said before she had kids that she thought parenting would be like running on a treadmill. She knew it would be hard, but she had her running shoes. She was ready. But what she didn’t expect was being pelted by potatoes while someone kept increasing the speed and incline on the machine!

Constantly dodging potatoes has a way of throwing you off your balance. 

Motherhood is intense. You’ve had the blessing of being old enough to witness your mom raising little ones, but even still, it will be different from what you’ve imagined. Wildly different. And you will find yourself genuinely wondering how it is possible for even a tiny spark of glory to come from finally tackling that pile of hand washing that’s been cluttering the sink, despite the fact that you know it’s true. 

The grit of motherhood can weigh you down, piling all kinds of false accusations on you. You will wonder if you’re doing it right. You’ll often times fight feelings of failure. You’ll see your sins presenting themselves in the lives of your children and be tempted to despair. 
But that is not good, because it is not from the Holy Spirit. And guilt is a horrible motivator.

When things feel heavy, and messy, and you’re overwhelmed with the load of seemingly insignificant work on your shoulders, you have to remember what God does with mud.

Motherhood is a blessed calling to gritty glorification. We mothers have been given a unique position in our culture. We have been given the most tedious, minuscule little tasks as we tend to and care for the children in our homes. Snotty noses, temper tantrums, sticky peanut butter and wet beds. What a mess! But what a joy to know what comes from messes like these.

This is how God works. He takes the ugly and makes it beautiful beyond reckoning. When things feel murky, press on. Look with the eyes of faith to see the glory ahead. And work with joy, knowing that God is the one who gathers the harvest and turns the grit into gold.

Monday, January 4, 2016

A Tale of Two Stars

Every night (and before most naps), my children request a bedtime story. I push my imagination into the corners of my mind where it used to flow naturally but now needs to stretch and wiggle a bit to fit. I come up with all sorts of wild tales about ents, astronauts, fairies, knights, ninjas, and talking animals. Every night it's different. Sometimes I have a plan but most often I begin my stories before I have a truly clear idea of where they are going. They're always entertaining for my children, and sometimes entertaining for me, as I inevitably laugh at how in the world I got to this place and how am I ever going to end this thing!

One night this week it was an Epiphany story, and as the last day of Christmas approaches this week and we turn our eyes to the light of Christ, I thought I'd share it with you.
Enjoy, and happy Epiphany!


Two Stars, TL 1/3/16

Once upon a time, before there was time, there was darkness. 
God did not want the darkness, and so he spoke, and light appeared.

It made him glad, but he wanted to make the light special. 
To give it form. 
So a few days later, he shaped the light into suns, moons, and most beautifully, stars. They sprinkled the darkness with glittering diamonds, and God was very pleased. The stars were one of God's special creatures, and they worked for Him gladly.

Well, most of them did.

One day, one of the most beautiful of all the stars had a thought. It was an evil and wicked thought. He decided that because God had made him the loveliest of stars, that he should get to reign above all the other stars. 
That he should get to be like God. 
That perhaps he should be God. 

It was a selfish and prideful thought, but he let it fester and grow in his heart, and as all sinful thoughts do, it cast a dark shadow on that beautiful star of light. The shadow grew, and before long, he decided that he did not like to be a star of light. He did not like the light at all. 
He fell from the sky and God's goodness, and landed in God's world.

He had a plan. A wicked plan. 
A plan to defeat God and become God. 
Because he was made of light, he could bend that light and appear in any form he chose, and so he chose the form of a beautiful and majestic dragon. He walked the earth in search of God's greatest joy, and found her in a garden. He convinced that joy of God to reject her glory and follow him. He convinced her that it is greater to become like God than to have fellowship with Him. 
And she ate God's judgement. 
The dragon-star watched with glee as her husband followed her, and he taunted God with his victory.

That star brought a curse, and the darkness filled the earth.

But God had a plan. A glorious plan. 
A plan to defeat the darkness.
Because he was God, he did not need to bend light to appear in a different form. All he had to do was speak, and God became a baby growing in a mother's womb. He knew that to save his world from the darkness, he would have to send light to it. He knew that in the world He created one had to become small to become great. 

To tell the world of his plan, he chose a star. A wondrous star. This star with royal beauty bright was placed high in the heavens, and God caused the star to shine so fiercely that all men saw it, even those who lived afar off in distant countries. 
It pointed to the little town where the little God-baby came. 
And people came to see this plan of God's. 

That star watched as the God-baby grew into a God-man and died, 
charging straight at the shadows to slay them. 
He watched as the God-man filled his tomb with so much light that the heavy stone could not contain it, and rolled away to let it out. 
And now that star rejoices with God as they laugh together, watching the light slowly chase the shadows from every corner of the earth.

That star's joy was made full in God's joy.
And that star's glory still shines bright today.

TL, 2/4/16

How you are fallen from heaven
 O Day Star, son of Dawn!
You said in your heart,
‘I will ascend to heaven;
above the stars of God 
I will set my throne on high;
I will make myself like the Most High.’
But you are brought down to Sheol,
to the far reaches of the pit.

[Excerpts from Isaiah 14]

*   *   *   *   *

And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.

[Matt 2:9-10]

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thankful Story

The most bittersweet of holidays for this mama. 
Thanksgiving is absolutely dripping with some of the hardest, and most precious, memories of my life.

The loss and burial of a very dear grandmother, then a celebration of thanks the following day, with a room bursting at the seams with all of her descendants.

Then five years later, the pain and loss of our third baby, an empty womb that should have been two months full, mingled with the joy of a table encompassed with family, among them a niece my baby’s same age, growing in her mother's womb, who I can now hold, and watch, and remember.

I am not kidding when I say they are sweet memories. They are some of the sweetest of my life, these moments of loss, tied permanently to this day of giving thanks. And I am thankful.

Are you suffering this Thanksgiving? Give thanks. Two of the hardest days of my life were realized on this holiday, and yet I can look back with a smile because they were drenched in thanksgiving. I am so thankful to have had these hard providences fall on a time when the practice of recognizing blessing is custom. Instead of dwelling on why, my mind was gently guided toward singing praises for what I know: God is faithful.

He is so faithful, I knew that one day I would look back and understand. The big picture is hard to see when you’re standing in the corner of the canvas where God is brushing on the shadow strokes. But when He is finished, the masterpiece is revealed, and we can see His glorious handwork. 

I said goodbye to my Grandma Lois, and buried her the day before Thanksgiving. 
I said goodbye to my third child and cried as my body ached on Thanksgiving. 
A couple months later, my body held new life within, my Grandmother’s namesake. 
Then today, this Thanksgiving morning, my little Lois learned to say a new word. 
“Bye bye.”

God’s story telling gives me chills sometimes. He is a master, an artist, an author, more talented than any of His created can comprehend. I can trust Him to tell a good story, and I know I will enjoy it more if I simply remember to give thanks in the shadows.

Eucharisteo. Soli Deo Gloria!

Monday, September 7, 2015

A Brother Back Scratch

"Can you scratch my back? A little harder. Like, use your fingernails. Ahhh..."


Friday, August 14, 2015

Happy 8 Years!

The alarm was set to 6 AM, the promise of a quiet cup of coffee shared with my love of now eight years penciled in before the work day began. Then half an hour before, my bed shook with the presence of two delighted little boys clamoring to tell me they beat the sun awake. What, why? Eyes glued shut, I could hear Hubby in the shower and early morning coffee date plans shattering. It’s ok, these are the blessings of a wonderful marriage climbing on my stiff and sore body. Rejoice. Happy Anniversary, fruit of the womb. I tucked them in my bed, “rest,” and stumbled into the kitchen to brew a larger than normal pot of coffee when a sad little cry drifted through the baby monitor. Still rubbing sleep from my eyes, I climbed the stairs as coffee dripped through a paper filter to find a baby awake a full two hours earlier than expected. She needed a complete outfit change and the comfort of mother’s milk, which I gave her, accompanied by the suppressed giddy laughter of boys who were undoubtedly making a pile of pillows and blankets on my bed. More fruit, reminders to my weary soul so desperately in need of reminding at that hour. Hubby joined me on the couch with a cup of coffee and we sat in the darkness, silently laughing at how children can both mess things up and make them better, all at the same time. Baby’s belly was full and she wanted to play, so on the floor she went, and to the coffee I walked, the brightness of the kitchen light making me squint.
There, on the counter, this:

It is such a happy life I live.
Boys dared to emerge from the bedroom, sunlight starting to brighten the house, baby squawking on the floor for a book she is not allowed to chew on, and a warm smile from a man who loves me well.
A Happy Anniversary, indeed.

Date Night at Benjamin's


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

First Day of School!!

Last week we started Kindergarten!!

I am schooling both of the boys at the same time.
Asher just turned six:

And Gray turned four in April:

We are having so much fun.
Hello, homeschool world! We are happy to be here!

*   *   *   *   *

If you're curious, here is our homeschool schedule:

[Psalm 1 with hand motions]
[Apostles Creed]
Phonics Museum (Veritas Press)
(Right Start)

For history I will be reading historical fiction and non fiction picture books through the year. 

For Bible, we are reading The Child's Story Bible by Catherine F. Vos, as well as listening to the ESV audio Bible.

We will be continuing at Providence Friday School Co-op, which will cover topics like art, science, music, catechism, and sports. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Sweet Baby Shower

A friend and I threw an ice cream baby shower for a sweet baby girl this week.

Mama and Baby with the hostesses!

This is Mama's first baby girl after two boys, 
so we went over-the-top feminine with the decor!

[We played games and gave out jars of homemade hot fudge for prizes!]

It was a *sweet* time!