long days of small things

In order to find God it is perhaps not always necessary to leave the creatures behind…The world is crowded with Him…
The real labor is to remember, to attend.
In fact, to come awake.  Still more, to remain awake.
C. S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm

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Yesterday I woke up to the laughter and squall of children in the room next to mine.  The day began in the rush and hurry of need and hungry tummies.  I normally try to get up before the children, but I had been struggling with sleeplessness and a bout of anxiety in the middle of the night and slept fitfully.  My plans for the morning were interrupted by an unexpected trip to the doctors office to check on one child who woke up with pink eye in both eyes, then running to pick up a prescription and grab a few groceries before heading home.  It was afternoon before I breathed a breath of prayer to God and realized I had completely missed my time with Him in the morning.  My soul instantly cringed–how could it have been nearly all day before I even remembered God?  Then came the familiar rush of guilt with a dose of self-hatred to boot.  All this soul amnesia.  I shake my head as I wash the dishes.

Last November I retreated away to a hermitage a few hours from here.  I went alone for the weekend, Brandon had offered to keep the kiddos.  Motherhood and the constant presence of people all looking to me with their pressing needs–it can wear an introvert out.  It can wear any person out, I’m sure!  We need to pay attention to our souls, we must take small breaks, place spaces in our calendars, slip away when we can to refuel.  We need silence, we need reflection, we need sleep and solitude.  That weekend was glorious.  The cabin was perfectly cozy at the very tip top of a mountain.  I kept my journal open and wrote endlessly, read the scriptures and studied, read other books, knitted without interruption, went for walks in the woods, cooked simple meals, rested, worshipped, prayed.  It took me almost the whole weekend to really relax and unwind, and I realized how tightly wound motherhood had made me, along with the added role of care taking for phoebe.  All of the worry and strain, the financial burden, the roller coaster of her improvement and decline.  I needed that time away, so I could reenter the fray with renewed energy and focus and love.  I needed time to seek God in the quiet, as I used to in my days before children.  I needed uninterrupted time alone with Him to hear from Him.

If only we could have these times whenever we need them.  If only we could guarantee some respite, rest, and silence throughout the year, then we could seek God as we desire to, as we think we should.  And I do believe times of refreshing will come, pockets of rest.

However, when we would flee difficulties in motherhood, most of the time God would have us press in.  Where we would avoid and escape, He has us pick back up, day and night.  Motherhood is so constant, endless, around the clock, with needs that can simply swallow us whole.  Our souls can cry out–

“Oh, that I had wings of a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest.
I would flee away and stay in the desert;
I would hurry to my place of shelter,
far from the tempest and storm.”
(Psalm 55:6-8)

We think we will find relief in escape, in a break–a sometimes we do.  But is it good for us to set our eyes on the next break on the horizon and survive until then hanging on by our toenails?  Beyond that–can we only find God in our escapes, our breaks, in the quiet place of refuge?

Or could He possibly have treasures for us right in the maelstrom of motherhood, right in the trenches of it?  Must we wait for Him on the sidelines of life–sidelined by little people and their needs–or can we have Him right here to the full in a way we never expected or anticipated before?

Could pressing in and finding Him in the weary work–could this possibly be the point?  The thing He wants us to learn, the muscle He wants to strengthen?  Of course its far easier to find Him in the quiet place of refuge.  But if we can’t find that quiet place of refuge, do we wave the white flag of defeat and turn our hearts off to God until we can have a moment alone?  Or can we find a way to God in the very mundane, simple, undervalued work/tasks of motherhood?

Could the tasks turn out to be a path to God?

What if the very practice of mothering and doing the work of motherhood–washing the dishes, feeding the hungry mouths, wiping the bottoms, folding the laundry, teaching, admonishing, disciplining, training, guiding–could these things possibly be a spiritual discipline of sorts, leading us to know God, experience Him, enjoy Him in a way we never could or would choose otherwise?  Could there be treasures here for us–right here in this season–that we’ll miss if we shut down and vow to hold on until the crazy ride is over?

What if God is not only found in the lofty theological ivory towers, the seminary classroom, the pew, the sanctuary, the prayer closet, the monastery–but here, scrubbing the floor around a toilet.
Here, chopping onions and carrots.
Here, holding a feverish child.
Here, in the pickup lane at school.
Here, singing a hymn over a sleepless child.
Here, organizing shelves, stacking piles.
Here, in the rush-hour traffic home from work.
Here, in the weary waking hours.

What if we could find God in the ordinary work of motherhood rather than trying to fit our old habits and disciplines into this new rhythm–which for most of us feels cramped, incompatible, impossible.

Is it possible in this season of little ones to be both a good mother and to keep close company with God?

This is what is addressed in Catherine McNiel’s book Long Days of Small Things: Motherhood as a Spiritual Discipline.  This book exceeded my expectations.  I was a bit afraid it would be another moany-groany book about motherhood without being terribly helpful.  Instead, it was honest.  Real.  Insightful.  Provocative.  Thoughtful.  Helpful.  It addressed our great hunger for God, our desire to know Him, our frustration with all the things that seem to work against us and keep us from Him.  She ends each chapter with a practice, tangible things to anchor us to God throughout the day.  Things like our breath:

“Inhale deeply and realize you are breathing in God’s unfailing love.  Exhale and release into his unceasing presence.  Suddenly, breathing–your easiest daily accomplishment–is an act of worship, meditation, and prayer.” (McNiel, p. 12)

Without adding a burden of more tasks to our schedule, McNiel helps us to find God in each of the tasks we already perform daily, and do them as unto the Lord.  Like walking, eating and drinking, cooking, household tasks, sleepless nights, pregnancy, diapers, breastfeeding, to name a few.

McNiel commiserates without sounding whiney, encourages and exhorts without loading on a heavy burden of guilt.  She feels like a true companion in this journey of motherhood, someone who understands its complexities and enjoys them, glory, grit and all, because of the way they point us to God.

I devoured this book, crying over sections of it, marking up nearly every page, returning to it over and over, savoring it.  It is one I will need to reread more than a few times, I believe.

If you are a mother afraid you might be missing out on some great spiritual life because of your busy role as mother–maybe this book is for you.  If you ever feel a bit like you can’t breathe under the pressing weight of this season, a bit like you can’t breathe–Maybe this is one to ask for for Mother’s Day?

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Thank you to Tyndale Publishers for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.
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yarn along

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Phoebe and I did school yesterday sprawled out on a blanket under a great spreading maple in our backyard.  We began reading The Penderwicks.  I’m not even sure what led me to this book but I remember hearing somewhere along the way recommendations of it.  We’ve been listening to The Little House on the Prairie series on audio books, too, and Phoebe’s been re-inspired to run through the yard with her bonnet strings dangling around her neck like Laura.

I’m still not reading much lately.  Odd for me, I know,  but by the time evening comes and I’m free to read I just don’t have much brain power left.  I’m in need of some light hearted stories, so if you have any book recommendations, I’d love to hear them!

I’ve mainly been working on my waterrock vest for the Appalachian Knits spring KAL that I’m participating in.  The designer of the pattern is my friend from middle + high school days, Jennifer, and she is the one who taught me to knit!  So it’s really fun working on her pattern.  Everything she makes is gorgeous.  I’ve almost finished the body and ready to begin arm hole shaping.  I’m adding another inch or so to the body since this is a cotton/linen blend yarn and I plan to wash/dry it, so I’m adding length to account for shrinkage.  Plus I have a long torso, I think.  Anyway, I’m really enjoying knitting it.  I’ve started some socks for Phoebe too and I plan to knit a couple pairs for each of the kids and eventually a pair for myself too.

Joining with Nicole’s Crafting On, a weekly craft link up, as well as another knitting friend here.

 

Falling Free

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You guys.  I am so terribly behind on posting a review for this book and I feel awful about it because IT IS SUCH AN INCREDIBLE BOOK!  It deserved a really great, lengthy, shining blog post a long time ago.  I received it last fall when it released and read it within a week or so.  Honestly it was maybe in my top five favorite reads from 2016.  It was one of those books you finish and want to immediately purchase copies of for everyone you love.  I highly recommend it!

Shannan Martin’s book Falling Free: Rescued from the life I always wanted came into my hands in the middle of our house search.  In a sense I was resistant to reading it, since Martin’s book is a memoir sharing about their leaving behind the life they thought they always wanted for something that seemed far riskier, smaller, and challenging.  Its good to read something like this while in the midst of your own home search.  What Martin was leaving behind–a cute farmhouse, a mini homestead, a comfortable community–these are some of the things my husband and I are looking for and dreaming about.  And not that there is anything wrong with having a farmhouse or a homestead or a wonderful church community.  But Martin sure does challenge our notions of what we need, what we expect, what we feel entitled to, what we think God would have for us, what we think is safe, what we hope for.  She brings perspective.  She gives courage to truly abandon your life to the faithfulness of God, even in the face of the risk and discomfort involved.  She holds out the glory of Jesus and the life of following and obeying Him as higher and greater than our small dreams, our small hopes for a comfortable, safe, monochromatic life.

An author I have loved, Emily P. Freeman, has highly recommended Martin’s writing, which is what led me to check out her first book. I was not disappointed!  She is at turns hilarious, witty, and yet poignant and insightful.  She can turn a phrase like few authors I’ve read, bringing fresh insight and conviction to our typical American way of life and thinking.  And her taco recipe has become a regular staple in our home.  (Thank you, Shannon.)

I can’t tell you more about it because I simply can’t decide what to emphasize most.  Just go read it.  If you at all feel bound up, go read it.  If while you have most comforts and pleasures accessible at your right hand yet can’t shake the niggling sense that you’re missing something, go read it.  If you’re hungry for the kingdom of God, go read it.  If you’re hungry for more of God, go read it.  If you’re just plain bored, go read it.

Read at your own risk.  Prepare to be perturbed, disturbed, challenged, convicted, awakened, and set free from the life you think you want to the life God would have for you.

Thank you to Book Look Bloggers for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

 

 

 

yarn along

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I’m kniting on my Lila sleeve number two, and loving this project so much.  I can’t wait to wear it but also never want it to end! 🙂  No second sleeve syndrome over here.  I did, however, cast on for a pair of baby socks for a friend and also need to finish up another small gift item for someone else, as well.  So I’m forcing myself to set aside my lila for a few days.  Maybe.

I am crazy, crazy I know.. because I selected two books to review this month while I’m packing and moving and trying to buy a house because I simply don’t have enough to do already.  Actually, I just couldn’t resist these books!  I cannot wait to dive into this one on motherhood.  I need regular motherhood check-ups in this busy season of Long Days of Small Things.  This title grabbed me immediately and I so hope this book lives up to my expectations!  I HOPE to review it this month, so I will let you know what I think.  I did finish up The Broken Way, I tried to make it last as long as I could.  I didn’t allow myself to mark it up at all because I just wanted to savor and read and let it wash over me.  I loved it so, so very much, and will be rereading it maybe immediately.  And this time mark it up.  Please go get a copy of it!  Ann is such a gift and such an encouragement to me time and again.  And, if you notice, she also endorses the above book.

I’m linking up with Ginny’s weekly yarn along and also Nicole’s KCCO.  
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yarn along

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Almost done with the body of Noah’s sweater and getting ready to split for sleeves.  I haven’t knit a sweater bottom-up before, so it will be interesting to do it this way!  I love love love it so far.  It’s different/challenging enough to keep me interested, but also a very relaxing knit, and who can’t love working with Brooklyn Tweed?  I keep worrying it’ll be too small but I *think* it’s good.  We’ll see!

Reading Come Thou Long Expected Jesus advent readings with Brandon in the evenings before we fall asleep.  I’m also still finishing up Missional Motherhood.  Needing some good fiction next, I think.

I’m linking up with Ginny’s weekly yarn along today, where we share what we’re currently reading + knitting.

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three books

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Moments & Days: How our Holy Celebrations Shape Our Faith by Michelle Van Loon

There seem to be an abundance of books published lately about time, our use of our time, what we say yes and no to, how overcommitted we are as a culture, about sabbath and white space and rest.  Van Loon’s book strikes an entirely different chord.  After reading her book, I am most challenged by her rendering of time, how it is not something that is ours to measure, but rather something that measures us.

“I’d like to suggest that our watches and Day-Timers and Google calendars are not the measure of our worth.  We who belong to Jesus understand (at least in our heads) that we are not our own.  Our eternal God has given us this slice of eternity, right here and now, in which to live for and with him.

Following a calendar that tells us our lives are not all about us is a powerful place to learn to inhabit the sacred gift of time.  When Paul acknowledged not all followers of Jesus see specific days as holy, he wasn’t suggesting that everyone in the church needed to hit the ‘delete’ button on the discussion (Rom. 14:5-10).  He was instead encouraging them to give one another lots of grace as they sought how to honor God together in community.  He never discounted the value of the weekly/yearly rhythm of holy days.  He simply wanted the Jewish and Gentile followers of Jesus to understand that the finished work of Jesus the Messiah fills full the meaning of these festival days.” (Van Loon, p.xvii

I was not raised in a church that practiced liturgy or observed the Christian calendar.  I am so thankful for my father’s strong insistence in teaching us that we are not bound to the law in this way, no longer bound to keeping holy days and feasts.  As such, I really had no familiarity with this way of faith.  My legalistic/perfectionist bent is better off for it, I’m sure.  I keenly remember my first exposure to someone who prayed through the Common Book of Prayer, a simple mailman who went to church with us, who carried a prayer rug with him in his mail car, who wrote and sang the most haunting music with his wife.  They sang at our wedding.  I found his habits strange, uncomfortable, curious–and yet he was a kind old soul and there was something drawing about his love of liturgy.  Over the years since then, it seems to have become more common to hear of Christians observing Advent and Lent and to hear chatter about the Christian calendar.  I have often been curious to do more research in hopes of understanding, and I have found myself hungry to observe the calendar with the wider community of saints.

Van Loon’s book is perfect in this regard.  Jewish by heritage, she came to faith in Christ in her teens and she tells a bit of her story of coming to faith, understanding her entire Jewish background and all of the feasts finding their fulfillment in Jesus.  She speaks about her intellectual understanding of the Christian calendar versus the experience of worshipping through it with her community.

The first half of the book unpacks the major Jewish feasts, explaining their history and how Christ is on display in each one.  For the Jewish people, “time was defined by seeing themselves as part of God’s eternal story.  As they participated in specific appointed times to meet with God throughout each year, they immersed themselves afresh in his story of creation, redemption, and re-creation” (Van Loon, p.17).

The second half of the book travels through the Christian calendar.  “Each day and season in the Christian year moves us through the main events in Jesus’ life and ministry.  But the Christian year is not merely an annual memorial tour.  It is meant to be a way to help us remember we are living eternity every day” (Van Loon, p.108).

She also includes a glossary of Jewish terms, side-by-side calendar comparisons, recipes commonly associated with the feasts, and a thick list of resources for further study.

I found her book to be incredibly insightful, whetting my appetite for further study and for further experience.  Well-written, engaging, historical, Christ-exalting, revealing the ties that bind us together in the body of Christ, her book is one I highly recommend.  It will be one I refer back to frequently!  I just picked it up again to refer back to her notes on the Advent season, as that is now upon us.

Crossing the Waters: Following Jesus Through the Storms, the Fish, the Doubt, and the Seas by Leslie Leyland Fields

I read Surviving the Island of Grace by Fields earlier this year and so enjoyed her memoir of her early days meeting her husband and finding her way into a life as a commercial salmon fisherwoman in the wilds of Alaska.  When I saw that she was publishing a new book, I squealed with glee.  Her writing is quite engaging, often rooted in landscape, honest, raw, and resonating with the human experience.  This one particularly caught my attention because I have recently finished a slow two-year personal study through the four Gospel accounts, a searching for a fresh encounter with Jesus.  It also caught my attention because this past year, 2016, has been a year themed with “water.”  In early January the Lord specifically gave me Psalm 93 as an anthem over the year, and I have referred back to it countless times.  It has been a good year in many respects, but also incredibly difficult in others.  It has been a great comfort to remember that the Lord told me ahead of time it would feel as though the waters were going to overtake me.  Yet, He sits above the waters and is mightier than them.

So, the fact that this book was about journeying through the Gospels specifically with an eye to the theme of “waters,” had me.  I was not disappointed!  Fields’ writing was as interesting as ever, weaving together seamlessly her own rich understanding of a life on the water, her personal journey through the Promised Land, and her retelling of the biblical account of Jesus’ life in that same landscape.  She unpacks and brings life to biblical stories that have become, perhaps, common and stale to the seasoned student of scripture through her unique lens as a fisherwoman.  She makes you feel the weight of the nets in your own hands, the sharpness of the salt air, the whip of wind and lurch of skiff.  I found myself in her questions and doubts as well as in her discoveries and worship.

As soon as I finished it I wanted to start it all over again.   Highly, highly recommend.

Has Anyone Ever Seen God? 101 Questions and Answers about God, the World, and the Bible by Carolyn Larsen

This quaint little book is of a devotional nature, yet organized as Q + A.  With attractive design and beautiful illustrations, it asks 101 questions such as:

  • What (or who) is the Holy Spirit?
  • Is there anything God can’t do?
  • Does God speak to people today?
  • Why did God make spiders, snakes, and other creepy things?
  • Why were the Israelites God’s chosen people?
  • Why does God sometimes seem to hide?

The author then answers these questions simply and biblically, with a scripture reference at the bottom of each page.  As you can see, the questions range from theological to practical in nature.  I think it is a great little gift book for anyone coming of age in their faith, a new believer, someone curious about the Christian faith.  Though not terribly depthy, it may whet the appetite and open avenues of conversation or further study.  It is part of a trilogy of similar books, the others being Can I Really Know Jesus, and What Does God Really Promise.

It would be a great book to tuck at your child’s bedside, or give a copy to a curious neighbor along with some fresh baked goods.

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With warm thanks to Tyndale House Publishers for their complimentary copies of these books in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions expressed are mine.

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yarn along

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Ha!  I haven’t posted since last week’s yarn along.  It was a super busy week, followed by a weekend away visiting Brandon’s parents in South Carolina, and then back to busy with school and catching up on house things.  The weekend away afforded me some extra knitting time, so I cast on a new project, a Leksak tunic for Philippa.  I’m using up some old yarn in my stash that is something probably cheapy that I bought before I knew how to knit (used it for a weaving), but it feels like wool/dk weight.  It’s knitting up quickly.

Also, I’m eager to dive into Crossing the Waters by Leslie Leyland Fields.  I read her book Surviving the Island of Grace about her early life as a salmon fisherwoman on Kodiak Island in Alaska and thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in Alaska life.  This book looks promising!  She lends her knowledge and life experience as a fisherwoman as she looks at the biblical accounts of the disciples and their many experiences with Jesus on the water.

I’m linking up with Ginny’s weekly yarn along today, a little wednesday community that shares what we’re currently reading and knitting.  

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