on birthdays and finding joy

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My birthday last week was a fairly ordinary “workday” for me, and also not the easiest day with the children. ¬†I found myself scrubbing toilets and floors, folding laundry, settling sibling disputes, feeding hungry mouths–all the usual work that fills my days up to the brim. ¬†Of course there is a part of me that wants to just rest and be free from all work for a day (unrealistic), but then I also don’t mind taking care of these little ones that I love so much and this home that keeps us all together. ¬†I share my birthday with my mom, so my gift to her this year was to buy a few skeins of yarn for her to choose from so that I could knit her a shawl. ¬†She picked the color I had had on my mind for her, a rustic-y soft light red called Bergamot, and helped pick out a shawl pattern. ¬†I wanted to wind up her yarn on our birthday and cast on. ¬†I realized as I began knitting it that I was knitting this exact pattern just about this time last year on a road trip to upstate New York with Brandon’s family as a commissioned shawl for a friend. ¬†How funny and coincidental to be knitting it again at the same time a year later. ¬†It’s such an enjoyable pattern–all knitting and yarn overs and no purling!

I had planned on making a yummy dinner for my birthday since Brandon would be working a normal work-day and since we never really eat out with Phoebe and her dietary needs. ¬†I wanted to make Against the Grain’s Pesto Prosciutto Chicken with a GF pasta on the side, and creme br√Ľl√©e for dessert, which is my favorite. ¬†The dinner took longer than I expected and once I got it in the oven, the kids and I and Brandon decided to go for a walk while it baked. ¬†It had been raining and we had felt a bit cooped up. ¬†The kids splashed in all sorts of muddy puddles so B bathed them quickly when we got home while I finished up dinner and it was late and nerves were a bit raw by this time. ¬†My dinner didn’t look at all like the lovely cookbook’s pictures, which is always annoying, but it was still delicious. ¬†I had made a creme br√Ľl√©e earlier in the afternoon and infused it with culinary lavender because I love love love lavender especially in desserts.

We lit candles and I turned on french music because somehow everything felt like a french sort of dinner, and we ate at nearly 8pm. ¬†I had some cards to open, and then B put the finishing touches on the creme br√Ľl√©e, the kids sang happy birthday to me which was the best part. ¬†The fuzzy photo of me with phoebe is the only such picture I snagged on this day, but its worth including since this is me, turning 33.

I had received word in the afternoon that Brandon’s grandfather had died. ¬†He had been in the hospital after some falls and other health issues so we knew it was coming, but it still felt so soon. ¬†Sadly we weren’t very close with him, but it’s still surreal and strange to consider death on your birthday. ¬†Probably quite healthy. ¬†Really that’s what we’re all marking–here’s another year, gone. ¬†Another year comes–bringing me closer to my own end. ¬†Time is passing, time is coming. ¬†Let’s stop and celebrate and remember and pay attention.

We quickly got the kids to bed, then got cozy for a movie of my pick. ¬†We watched “Florence Foster Jenkins” which was so interesting and funny and also a little sad (based on a true story). ¬†I cried and cried at the end. ¬†I don’t want to spoil the movie for those of you who may want to see it, but I will say I commiserated with the protagonist (Meryl Streep). ¬†She loved music and in her mind she had a beautiful singing voice, but in reality her voice was terrible. ¬†She pursues singing and her husband tries desperately to protect her from the truth of her real performance. ¬†It makes you wonder: Is this reality that we know of ourselves the reality others know of us? ¬†Aren’t so many of us afraid that maybe everyone is really laughing at us and about us behind our backs? ¬†What if we are really quite terrible at the things we think we’re good at, at the things we most love?

I’m sure it was the combination of watching that movie, it being my birthday, and also processing the news of Brandon’s grandpa’s death. ¬†It made me think and wrestle a bit with life, with the things I love and spend time on, with my role as a stay-at-home mother. ¬†I sometimes wrestle with this blog. ¬†I don’t know why, it seems so silly in the light of day. ¬†I love sharing our little life here. ¬†It helps me keep track of things, our lives little record for now. ¬†I’m not sure if I’ll do it forever. ¬†It’s important to reevaluate frequently what I give myself to. ¬†I enjoy taking pictures and capturing these fleeting moments. ¬†I’m thankful to have a space to write and share with you whatever God seems to lay on my heart. ¬†I’m not trying to “make it big” or be somebody, I’m not making an income doing this. ¬†I don’t mind it being mostly small and personal and shared with those few who happen to find this place on the internet and with whomever it resonates. ¬†I leave it to God to use it as He chooses. ¬†But then sometimes I doubt myself. ¬†Are my motives wrong, self-serving? ¬†Is this a huge waste of time and a distraction? ¬†Is it too personal to share our family life so openly in such a dangerous and dark world? ¬†My blogging has brought occasional criticism, but mostly I feel it from my own inner critic. ¬†Brandon is relentless in support of it, which is always so odd to me because he is so anti social-media-anything. ¬†Anyway, for whatever reason this is where my mind went after watching that movie. ¬†Wrestling with the silliness of my spending time photographing, knitting, writing words, creating. ¬†Who has time for all of this when you have little ones and when the world is full of pain and need? ¬†Am I spending my life on what really matters? ¬†Are my little endeavors to bring beauty and joy and even occasionally to write words–are these small endeavors mattering?

I crawled into bed and picked up my book and opened to these words. ¬†(The author was sharing about finding a little resale boutique in her neighborhood, a beautiful little gem and yet she went in and found herself to be the only customer. ¬†She imagined being the store owner, the way the woman had attractively laid out her wares, rearranging and bravely taking a risk to run this little business that wasn’t really garnering that much attention. ¬†She wondered if the woman got discouraged on the days when there was no business. ¬†What makes her think things will work out? ¬†Why does she return to it day after day?):

“She returns to what she loves to do, because she loves it and she can’t not do it. ¬†She goes back to the joy of pursuing her passion. ¬†Because its not likely that anyone is coming in and exclaiming, ‘I’m so glad you’re here! ¬†I’ve been waiting for you to sell secondhand clothes in this space all of my life!’ ¬†It’s not likely that anyone is affirming her passion or holding her hand through those moments of sheer panic. ¬†I’m also pretty certain people aren’t stampeding to her door to say thank you or to make spirit tunnels for her to run through at the end of the day after she’s vacuumed the floor and locked up for the thousandth time.

This is what I’m getting at: joy isn’t in the response of others based on what we do. ¬†Joy is in doing what God created us to do and has given us to do. ¬†Joy is in pursuing with faith and abandon the passions God has laid in our hearts, and doing them in his honor. ¬†We serve for the smile on his face.

And joy begets joy. ¬†When we serve God with joy, we in a round-about way encourage others to serve God with joy. ¬†Artists appreciate another’s art, joy is derived from another’s joy, and passion feeds off and grows from another’s passion.

So whatever you’re doing–homeschooling, event planning, cake baking, medical research, substitute teaching, diaper changing, coaching, putting words out into the world, or yes, running a small boutique–do it with joy as unto the Lord. ¬†Don’t look for appreciation from others or a spirit tunnel at the end of the day as an indicator of whether or not you’re on the right track. ¬†Look to God, who created you to be a creator that flings tangerine passion and joy into the world. ¬†He is smiling as you do what you do for him.

There is no mold, no one right way of showing Jesus, for where the Spirit is, there is freedom. ¬†He has made us each different, combining us all to make a collage, a collage that when you step back and look you suddenly see: it’s Jesus!

Different mediums.
Different brushes.
Different strokes for reaching different folks.
You there, with your unique talents, passions, and gifts.
Go in freedom.
Tell them about Jesus with your life.
Do it with grace and tangerine joy.”

-Christine Hoover, From Good to Grace

Isn’t that so sweet of God, to speak right to what I was struggling with at the long end of the day? ¬†He affirmed me, affirmed His love for me, affirmed my freedom in Him, affirmed His smile over me. ¬†What more could you ask for on a birthday? ¬†I hope you are encouraged, too, dear reader. ¬†Whatever you do, do it for Him, do it as unto Him, do it with joy and gusto and don’t worry about the response or affirmation or notice of others. ¬† Take risks. ¬†Live boldly. ¬†Be brave. ¬†Be a pioneer. ¬†Follow where He leads. ¬†When we get our eyes off of Him we get into all sorts of trouble, don’t we? ¬†It’s His good-pleasure over us that we’re after, it’s His approval alone that matters.

At the end of the Florence Foster Jenkins movie, after criticism about her singing voice, Florence on her deathbed said: ¬†“They can say I can’t sing, but no one can say I didn’t sing.”

So, sing, friend.  You go on singing, and I will too.  His ear is tuned to hear our voice.

 

 

 

yarn along

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It took Brandon a little while to decide on a hat pattern for the yarn that he picked out, but we finally did and I cast on for it a few days ago. ¬†He is very particular, not wanting anything slouchy or “trendy,” and likes more classic simple hats, but with some kind of a bit of interest. ¬†So I think what we picked will be good. ¬†This yarn is nice to work with so far, I’m still learning how variegated yarns knit up. ¬†I can’t quite foresee it until I start knitting with it. ¬†This one almost looks camo-ish to me as it knits up, so I’m curious to see how the end result will look. ¬†It’s very bright and the blue is dark enough that in the evenings it’s hard to work on it because I can’t see my stitches super well in low light. ¬†I’ve been working on some gift knitting as well, always a few projects on the go. ¬†I’ve had a little idea too, something I’ve been praying about and thinking about, a way to share some of my knitting with you folks, too. ¬†I’ll share more about it soon!

Still reading From Good to Grace¬†(affiliate link), not much time for reading these busy days, and I’m enjoying this one slowly.. hoping I really digest it versus speed read through it and it not sink in. ¬†Are you tired of seeing it’s cover yet? ūüôā ūüôā ¬†Maybe next week I’ll be onto something new. ¬†Maybe.

What are you knitting or reading lately?  I always love hearing from you and getting ideas for new books and projects!

Linking up with Nicole of Frontier Dreams weekly Crafting On.

 

yarn along

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I finished Philippa’s socks a few days ago and she has happily been wearing them here and there when its chilly enough for socks. ¬†I cast on a pair for Noah on Sunday and am ready to turn the heel on sock no. 2. ¬†It’s fun how the yarn faded into a deeper blue on the toe of his first sock. ¬†I hope they don’t look too mismatched, but for kids socks, they are super soft,¬†bright and cheery, and I know my children are happy with them!

I’m still reading From Good to Grace, but couldn’t take a pic of it for this post, since it was in my room and Noah is napping in there. ¬†Below are a couple of pictures of Philippa enjoying her sockies.

Linking up with Nicole’s weekly Crafting On post.

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beginnings + endings

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It’s the shoulder-season time of year, things beginning and ending. ¬†Schools nearing their finish, spring bursting into summer. ¬†Pools are opening, farmers markets are filling with first fruits.

Phoebe had her ballet recital a few days ago and did so well! ¬†We were so proud of all her hard work and focus, and truly amazed at how much she has learned this year. ¬†I don’t know that we can afford to keep her in classes going forward, but¬†it was a joy to see her complete a semester. ¬†She was way too grown up in her makeup (gag, though–sort of hate seeing kids in makeup. ¬†Luckily she hated it too and couldn’t wait to get it off) and she was enamored watching the rest of her dance company do their performances. ¬†So fun to watch her.

We gave Phoebe a violin for her birthday in December but had to pack it up rather quickly since we were moving shortly thereafter and I had no idea how to tune it, so she hadn’t really been allowed to try it out. ¬†I felt a bit like a horrible mom for giving her a gift and then basically putting it away for months.. so we found a little local music store and went this week to get it tuned and learn a bit how to hold it. ¬†I’d like to start her in some lessons soon. ¬†She is eager to learn and has been pulling it out and playing often now that she’s allowed. ¬†I want our home to be filled with music, even though the beginning process of learning and instrument feels a bit painful. ¬†I know older moms whose kiddos play and sing together (even my own siblings and I) and the sacrifice in the beginning (of more noise) is so worthwhile in the end!

I do some photography on the side (very little! very amateur!) for my dad and husband’s remodeling business, taking “after” pictures of their work for their website. ¬†I was out at a client’s home in Fairview and stopped by a little self-serve farm stand nearby to pick up fresh flowers and fresh strawberries. ¬†These berries are the best. ¬†Everything from that farm stand is impeccable, and I’m rarely out that way so I stop there whenever I am. ¬†Anyway, I knew we had to make a strawberry pie with those berries, and fresh homemade vanilla ice cream. ¬†So Phoebe and I got to work on that in the afternoon, after wrapping up some school work while the other two were sleeping. ¬†It’s fun to bake with her but also messy and sometimes I’m not up for the extra work. ¬†Our pie was pretty good, but not quite what I was imagining. ¬†Anyone have a good strawberry pie recipe (gluten free/paleo)? ¬†Brandon loved it, though.

We’ve had a lot of rain this past week and the last couple of days have finally been dry and warm and sunny, so we checked on our little green growing things. ¬†Our garden is a bed of hope for me, a reminder of so many precious truths: seeds will produce fruit, hope begins in the dark soil but eventually bursts into reality. ¬†Great bounty¬†comes from small endeavors in faithfulness. ¬†We grow whatever we feed + nurture. Weeds come easy and choke out the good plants, while the good plants take more effort to grow. ¬†Putting hands in soil, watering daily, watching and waiting–it somehow teaches me on a deeper level than just reading about seeds and soil. ¬†Physically toiling in it preaches. ¬†It reminds me of Jesus’ giving us the gift of the Lord’s supper: bread and wine. ¬†Physical elements that we are meant to regularly handle, touch, taste, see, smell. ¬†It preaches the Gospel to us in a different way, a physical way. ¬†Every time I take the Lord’s supper, the experience of it itself preaches, brings new understanding, new enjoyment of God, deeper worship of Him. ¬†We are busy growing things aren’t we–all these beginnings and endings, these little indicators that seasons are passing, time is moving, children are growing right before our eyes. ¬†Time is slipping away, pushing forward whether we are ready for it or not. ¬†We can’t hold a single day down. ¬†We can see it and receive it and enjoy it and¬†then it slips right out of our hands, making room for the next day, the next beginning.

I’ve been reading in Ecclesiastes for the past couple of weeks as I study through the Old Testament (using Nancy Guthrie’s Seeing Jesus in the OT series, which I highly recommend!) Anyway, I’ve been reading¬†about toil and meaninglessness and vanity and living for the moment. ¬†It’s been a bit depressing for me at times, because in some ways I find my cynical self agreeing with the hopelessness of the author at times. ¬†Does any of this matter? ¬†All this toil that seems to produce so little? ¬†Yet we have a hope that the author didn’t yet have, the hope we find in Christ who reversed the curse when He rose from the dead and who gives value to all of our work, telling us that whatever we do for the least of these in His name will last. ¬†It’s a mystery to me still, but yet I plod onward–learning to do small things with care and love and with eyes fixed on Jesus, finding Him and worshiping Him in all the little beginnings and endings. ¬†It’s part of why I blog here–to see the ordinary, holy moments in my days, to mark the passing of time, to savor the things that I so easily miss, to look and hunt for beauty in the bread and in the wine. ¬†To see that He gives everything, and everything I have is somehow a gift from Him, even the hard things. ¬†All is grace. ¬†He withholds no good thing from us.

yarn along

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Still reading From Good to Grace by Christine Hoover and enjoying it so deeply.  Highly recommend.

Knitting philippa’s second sock. ¬†She¬†seemed completely disinterested in these until I tried the first sock on her and she started wiggling her little toes in it. ¬†Now she is so excited to see me knitting the second one. ¬†It amazes me every time, how excited the children get when I’m making something just for them.

What are you reading or making lately? ¬†Linking up with Nicole’s Crafting On. ‚̧

remembering

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Brandon and I slipped away for our anniversary weekend (May 12th) to celebrate 11 years. ¬†Friday began with his parents arriving to our home (so thankful to them for their willingness to drive to us and watch the kiddos for the weekend!) and us transferring all the needed info to them, and then we left just before noon. ¬†We decided to stop for lunch in Black Mountain on our way to our cabin in Banner Elk, NC. ¬†We shared a pizza (with gluten in it! ¬†So strange!) which immediately made Brandon’s day. ¬†I had asked if we could stop at my favorite yarn store while there because I had a gift card to spend there. ¬†We went in and Brandon surprised me: he had called ahead and had a gift waiting for me there, and also told me I could buy some yarn. ¬†A “reasonable amount” of yarn, he said. ¬†EEE! ¬†So I bought a couple skeins of¬†speckly hand-dyed yarn, which I’ve been dying to try for awhile now, and I’m planning on knitting a shawl with it. ¬†Brandon also picked out a skein of brilliant blue/purple Wollmeise yarn for a hat for himself. ¬†I am super stoked to try the yarn he picked! ¬†It feels heavenly. ¬†It’s really neat to see him take an interest in yarn with me, even though he’ll probably never knit. ¬†He appreciates¬†the artistry of it, I think, and he had fun picking out something for me to make for him.

From there we drove further up into the mountains, not wanting to arrive at our cabin too late. ¬†I had been to this cabin before on a little solo retreat last fall, but I wanted to share it with B, knowing how much he would enjoy it. ¬†We made a stop to the grocery store before heading up to the cabin. ¬†We brought most of our own food, simple meals without much fuss or prep needed. ¬†It was strange to not have to think about things being “gluten-free” or worry about cross-contamination in a different kitchen. ¬†Our lives have changed so much with Phoebe’s diagnosis almost two years ago. ¬†We have grown accustomed to it and we don’t mind the change at all, but we forget how much easier it is to shop/eat without concern about gluten. ¬†It was a nice mental break for both of us.

There are some really beautiful spots in these North Carolina mountains.  We have seen magnificent mountains when we lived in Colorado so we sometimes dismiss these quiet hills, and then the beauty surprises.  Our little cabin was nestled with a couple of other cabins at the top of a mountain, a quiet haven with the scripture from Matthew 11:28 posted:

¬†“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

The rain was beginning to fall heavily, we got into our cabin and Brandon unloaded the car. ¬†The cabin smells just like my aunt and uncle’s cottage in ¬†Muskoka, Ontario–a wooden cozy cabin smell. ¬†We lit the candles that were waiting, cracked the windows to hear the rain, turned on the little gas heater, unpacked our few things. ¬†The rain grew into a thunderstorm, and we just sat in the stillness, knitting, reading.

I’m not quite sure why we had the best time, but we did. ¬†Maybe it was just a sweet gift from the Lord, knowing we need refreshing. ¬†Maybe its because we both built some surprises for each other into our weekend. ¬†Maybe it was all the quiet. ¬†B and I both are introverts and I didn’t realize how much we both crave some uninterrupted quiet. ¬†Space to think. ¬†I used to be afraid of being an old couple with nothing more to say to each other, but this anniversary showed me there is a place of comfortable silence. ¬†A silence not because you are weary of each other, but because you rest in other’s presence without always needing to fill it with conversation. ¬†There is a security there. ¬†We know each other. ¬†We love each other. ¬†There is less striving than there used to be.

We also talked a lot about our marriage, where we are now. ¬†We tried to remember every anniversary and which ones were our favorites, which ones were disappointments. ¬†We reminisced about last year and how much we enjoyed our anniversary backpacking trip, but how exhausting¬†it was. ¬†He gave me a card with constellations on it and I laughed because I almost bought the same one for him. ¬†It was our “thing” when we fell in love while working for a backpacking organization. ¬†While we were apart often leading various trips, we would look up at the big dipper at night and know that both of us were looking up at the same cluster of stars in the same sky, and it sort of became “our” constellation.

Our lives have become so much about our children, as they must, but we needed to have some extended time just the two of us to remember each other. ¬†To re-member, as Ann Voskamp would say. ¬†Our remembering our love for each other, our commitment to each other before and beyond having children together–it re-members us, puts us back again, all the broken bits held together again. ¬†We needed to remember that when all else¬†fades into the background and its just the two of us, we still really like each other.

I’m not sure why, but I think we also recovered some kindness. ¬†In all the mounting stress of these little years, the sleepless nights, the endless giving and dealing with interruptions, the financial strain of living on one income, the care-taking of a child whose health goes up and down–we have grown careless with each other. ¬†We have lost some of our common courtesy, some of our simple gentle handling even in the way we talk to each other in¬†response to hurts and offenses.

Have you heard Sara Groves album¬†Fireflies and Songs? ¬†I feel like the whole thing is about marriage in one way or another. ¬†I think of her lyric “Run for your lives, all tenderness is gone in the blink of an eye.” ¬†Isn’t it shocking in marriage how this happens, how the rub of life and the comfortableness with each other can creep in and cause us to loose our tenderness toward one another, the common kindness that we extend to strangers but now can’t muster up for the one we love the most? ¬†We have grown careless with each other, and yet something¬†jarred us awake to the reality that simple kindness and gentleness with one another is worth fighting for. ¬†Better to have it than to fight to be right.

In the morning, we slept in as late as we could. ¬†We enjoyed steaming mugs in a drizzly rain. ¬†We lingered long over books and bibles. ¬†He geared up to go fly fishing–the first time for him in many months. ¬†We spent most of the day on the river nearby, eating a picnic lunch there and staying until we needed to head back to the cabin to make dinner. ¬†The next morning before we drove back home, we went to a different spot on the river and he fished again while I knitted. ¬†It was mother’s day and it felt odd not to be home with my babies, but we enjoyed every minute away together without a hint of guilt.

I remember hearing someone share that the secret to their lasting marriage was falling in love over and over again, and I didn’t quite understand it at the time, but I think I do now. ¬†I think it was the first time in our 11 years together that I felt like I was falling in love again, seeing Brandon with renewed eyes. ¬†Yet it’s not the superficial, young and untried love of a newlywed. ¬†It is love reignited, love that has withstood some hard tests and storms and still remains, steady and strong.

It wasn’t a fancy trip, we didn’t travel far. ¬†We didn’t spend much and we didn’t do much. But somehow in the mystery of the simplicity, God blessed us with renewed love for one another. ¬†With hope for a bright future. ¬†With the comfort of His presence and the comfort of each other, all we have walked together. ¬†All the intimacy between us, the secrets only we know: the darkest valleys, the sweetest victories. ¬†All these miles traveled together, whether good or bad. ¬†Hand in hand, with eyes fixed on our Prize, helping each other make it to the end, saying to one another as we go: I still see you. ¬†I still love you.

Really we don’t need much
Just strength to believe
There’s honey in the rock,
There’s more than we see
In these patches of joy
These stretches of sorrow
There’s enough for today
There will be enough tomorrow.
Sara Groves, Enough

From Good to Grace

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The kiddos and I were out this morning spreading mulch around the front flower beds, taking trips back and forth with a borrowed wheelbarrow wagon. ¬†These little ones love to work hard, especially if every trip back and forth is rewarded with a ride in the wagon! ¬†We’ve all come in now to find refuge from the crazy heat (does it feel terribly hot to anyone else for May??) so I have a minute to put up a quick little knittery post.

Over the weekend I cast on a baby gift item, so I can’t share too many details here, but it is really a fun knit so far. ¬†More about it once it has been gifted!

Also, I finished The Awakening of Miss Prim (enjoyed it!) and began reading From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel¬†by Christine Hoover. ¬†Friends, this one is meeting me in a very profound way. ¬†There are some things my husband and I are working through, praying over, laying before the Lord, and this book is speaking directly to it. ¬†I bought it back when it was a new release with some saved birthday money last year and its funny how I haven’t felt like it was the right time to read it until now. ¬†The author is addressing her own tendency and battle with legalism/moralism, what she is calling her “goodness addiction,” which is basically whenever we try to earn our way to God, whenever we think we must be “good” for Him, in order to earn His love or favor or grace or salvation. ¬†This is one of my most deeply rooted battles, something I struggle with every single day, and something the Lord must be working to free me from. ¬†Of course, He began speaking to me of this back in my early college days, and its amazing to see the progress He and I have made, and yet sometimes it startles me to see how my “goodness addiction” creeps back in. ¬†I love how the author quotes:

“The Gospel was not my working theology: Mine was moralism and legalism–a religion of duty and self control through human willpower. ¬†The goal was self-justification, not the justification by faith in Christ that the gospel offers. ¬†But, as many people can tell you, moralism and legalism can “pass” for Christianity, at least outwardly, in the good times. ¬†It is only when crises come that you find there is no foundation on which to stand. ¬†And crises are what God used to reveal my heart’s true need for him.” ¬†(Hoover, quoting Rose Marie Miller)

Yes, when life is working for us, working hard to earn God’s favor or to stay in His good graces flies under the radar, and looks an awful lot like Christianity. ¬†We’re productive! ¬†We’re doing good things! ¬†We’re happy-clappy and strong! ¬†We can feel pretty good about ourselves, even a big smug about our work for God. ¬†Maybe a tad reproving¬†of other believers who aren’t as productive as we. ¬†In fact, I believe this heresy is still terribly prevalent in our current church culture, at least here in America. ¬†I feel like since¬†I battle this so deeply, I see it easily in others. ¬†But our crises sift us. ¬†It’s one of the few beautiful gifts that come from a painful trial.

One of the hardest things about this whole past two-year journey dealing with all the ups and downs and life changes that have come with Phoebe’s diagnosis has been the way it has wiped me out. ¬†It has made me feel emotionally and mentally weak. ¬†I don’t know much else how to describe it beyond a feeling like I can’t breathe. ¬†On the hardest days, I’ve literally felt physically short of breath. ¬†An old heart condition of mine began to flare up, and I was back on a heart monitor for a month and seeing a cardiologist. ¬†As far as we could find, there was no physical problem, so the cardiologist told me it must be stress.

I’ve had to pare down a lot of my commitments and focus most of my energy on caring for Phoebe’s particular needs. ¬†I have felt pretty lame as a Christian in the sense of how “small” my circle has been drawn, how very small my efforts seem, how very unable I am to serve in some of the ways I used to and desire to. ¬†Guilt comes easily. ¬†I’ve learned a lot. ¬†I’ve learned that the Christian community isn’t terribly great at letting each other go through seasons of weakness and unproductivity. ¬†The great injustice of suffering something is that not only are you bearing the burden of your ordeal, but then you feel terribly guilty for your weakness in it. ¬†You feel guilty that you aren’t being “a better Christian” in the midst of it. ¬†You feel like you must hide your suffering and struggle and questions. ¬†As Ann Voskamp said in her book The Broken Way, “When the church¬†isn’t for the suffering and broken, then the church isn’t for Christ.” ¬†We can say until we’re blue in the face that we are a place for the broken, but if the broken don’t really feel welcome? ¬†If the broken don’t really feel safe to just BE WEAK and be seemingly useless for a season?

I am just now, just now after almost two¬†years on this journey, just now beginning to surrender to my uselessness before the Lord. ¬†I can’t even describe in words how He has been ministering to me and speaking and carrying and meeting me in ways I do not deserve and can hardly receive. ¬†I have learned that I must ask Him and HIM ALONE what He wants from me. ¬†What does faithfulness look like, Lord, in this season? ¬†What do you want from me? ¬†Not: what does the church want from me? ¬†Not: what does my family want from me? ¬†Not: what do my friends expect of me? ¬†But what do YOU want, Lord? ¬†And His answer:

“Worship. ¬†I desire your worship. ¬†That is all. ¬†In everything you do, in whatever you put your hand to–do it as unto me. ¬†Do it for me. ¬†Find me in it. ¬†Enjoy me. ¬†Receive from me. ¬†Do the hard work of receiving all of me. ¬†I gave myself for you, to you. ¬†I am split open, broken, blood-spilt for you. ¬†Take and drink. ¬†Take and eat. ¬†This is your holy hard work. ¬†This must come before you do any endeavor in my name, and this must be the place from which you continually abide.”

And I believe I am finally learning to rest in Him.  To receive Him.  To be weak before Him, as much as I despise that weakness in myself and wish I could be a star pupil.  I am learning to stop earning what has already been DONE for me.  I am learning to stop trampling His precious blood underfoot as I run about in all my human efforts (Heb. 10:28).  I have tried to do great things for God, when all along He has wanted me to see what great things He has done for me.  I have had my eyes turned inward, when He has wanted them turned upward.

Laying down all this striving? ¬†It feels a lot like a death of sorts. ¬†Death to a way of thinking, a way of living, a former identity. ¬†That old flesh of mine keeps resurrecting, it would seem. ¬†And death feels terribly counter-intuitive and painful to the flesh. ¬†It is plain unnatural. ¬†But it is the upside-down way of the Kingdom of God: whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (Matt. 16:25). ¬†Sometimes we have to lose everything we’re clinging to in order to see and know and experience how held we are.

We get to be weak, friends. ¬†We get to be the weak that we are. ¬†He receives us just like this. ¬†He wants us to drink our fill of Him again and again and again. ¬†Maybe His goal isn’t for us to eventually move from our place of weakness to being strong again. ¬†Maybe His goal for us is to remain here. ¬†To remain terribly, painfully aware of our inability and weakness so that we are dependent on Him for every thing. ¬†Maybe thats what He means when He says He uses the weak things of the world to shame the wise (1 Cor. 1:27) rather than saying He transforms the weak into bastions of strength. ¬†If that feels a bit scandalous for you to say (as it does for me) than maybe we’re really not walking in grace like we think we are. ¬†Maybe we really need to revisit the scripture and take a good hard look at what the Gospel is.

Anyway.. My little yarn along post turned into¬†pouring out my heart. ¬†I hope it resonates with someone out there just a little bit. ¬†I hope if it does you’ll consider¬†reading Christine Hoover’s fantastic book, From Good to Grace.

(And just so you know, I don’t get any kickback for promoting her book. ¬†I just share good books because I believe in the power of the written word as a tool for change. ¬†I do always link to amazon and technically am an affiliate with them, but I have never made a single dime off of that affiliation. ¬†Just so you know. ūüôā ¬†Because I know I’m skeptical of people like that. ¬†#skepticforlife)

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I’ve written about this theme many times. ¬†If you’re interested, here are a few of those posts:

You Get to Be Weak
Savoring the Gospel When You Fail
From Legalism to a Feast of Grace