family + summer gatherings 5: these blue mountains

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While family was in town visiting, we squeezed in as many picnics as we could.  This one, up at Craggy Gardens, one of our favorite spots.  After dinner we hiked up above the picnic area to catch this view and this gorgeous sunset in the dusky light.  Truly breath-taking.  I’m super thankful for my brothers and the way they love on my kiddos.  My little ones adore them (and the Aunties, too!) and hopefully they will one day realize what a sweet gift it is to have lots of family that loves on them and spends time with them!  And I’m thankful for my parents who taught us to love the outdoors, still so hip + young and able to get out and enjoy God’s creation.

Let There Be Light

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This little board book for children is absolutely LOVELY.  I’m always looking for ways to teach my children God’s Word and to bring Scripture to life for them.  The illustrations are truly stunning, and this book has been lying around the house for a few weeks now, with the kids constantly poring back over the magical yet life-like drawings.  This book aims to break down the story of Creation found in Genesis 1-2, illustrating how God formed all that we see from nothing, culminating in His creation of mankind, the crowning glory of His creative work.  The artwork and text is engaging for young readers (intended for ages 4-8) and also agrees with the biblical account, which is, of course, important to us!  I love the way the illustrator imaginatively depicted God’s person in each of the pictures, whether as a form of light or as a hand hidden within the illustration, displaying Him as intimately involved with the work of creating.

A boardbook edition of the popular Let There Be Light, the story of Creation from Nobel Peace Prize winner, bestselling author, and cultural icon Archbishop Desmond Tutu paired with Nancy Tillman, the phenomenally successful New York Times bestselling children’s author/illustrator of On the Night You Were Born.

I would highly recommend it as a delightful read, and as a tool for teaching the concept of Creation in an easy-to-break-down and understand way to your children!  To pick up a copy of your own, click HERE.

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I received a complimentary copy of this book from HarperCollins Christian Publishing in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Counting His graces

“The initial step for a soul to come to knowledge of God is contemplation of nature.”
{Irenaeus}

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“Some people, in order to discover God, read books.  But there is a great book: the very appearance of created things.  Look above you!  Look below you!  Read it.  God, whom you want to discover, never wrote that book with ink.  Instead He set before your eyes the things that He had made.  Can you ask for a louder voice than that?”
{St. Augustine}

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“Christ wears ‘two shoes’ in the world: Scripture and nature.  Both are necessary to understand the Lord, and at no stage can creation be seen as a separation of things from God.”
{John Scottus Eriugena}

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“Nature is schoolmistress, the soul the pupil; and whatever one has taught or the other has learned has come from God–the Teacher of the teacher.”
{Tertullian}

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“The whole earth is a living icon of the face of God.”
{St. John of Damascus}

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“I see You in the field of stars
I see You in the yield of the land
In every breath and sound, a blade of grass, a simple flower,
An echo of Your holy Name.”
{Abraham Ibn Ezra}

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“See that I am God.  See that I am in everything.  See that I do everything.
See that I have never stopped ordering my works, nor ever shall, eternally.
See that I lead everything on to the conclusion I ordained for it before time began,
by the same power, wisdom and love with which I made it.
How can anything be amiss?”
{Julian of Norwich}

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“I want creation to penetrate you with so much admiration that wherever you go, the least plant may bring you the clear remembrance of the Creator.”
{Basil the Great}

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“Everywhere windows and gates, and I did not know it.  No.
I have known it and I have forgotten it and I remember it again.”
{Ann Voskamp}

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Sometimes a hard week calls for the rest of soul that comes from escaping into the wild for a bit.  Going where only the sound of wind, and birds, buzzing bees, and hushed voices live.

Leaving behind the busy world and going where your soul can grow a size or two,
expanding and remembering that we live to collect moments, not things.

And in these moments, ordinary, simple, we find we are counting His gifts.

“Counting His graces makes all moments into one holy kiss of communion
and communion comes in the common.
He will break bread and I will take and the world is His feast!”
{Ann Voskamp}

Going where the voice of man is quieted, absent almost.  And the voice of God is amplified.
Looking into what He has made and seeing how His invisible qualities are written over each one {Rom.1:20}, how the expanse of sky is declaring His glory {Ps. 19:1}.

This is what brings rest to our souls on the Sabbath: the coupling of the Word of God spoken over us, the quiet expanse of the Creation singing over us.

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If you listen close, if you listen patient, you could hear it.  The way the tree’s fingers reach for heaven, the way they scrape through dirt and up to sky, hands raised to Him.  Their speaking is bound to time, to the rhythm of the seasons, and in this season they let go of their leaves, the million little hands that cup the warm sun and drink it down to the roots.  They close up and keep warm for the long cold months and they nourish the ground with what falls.  It’s a death of sorts.  A death that gives way to the next years’ life.

Do they get tired of this rhythm like I get tired of it?  The bondage of corruption.  The work of living.. producing, growing, feeding, transporting, competing, protecting.  And all the small deaths before the final death.

Can you hear the groaning?  In the way they winter, can you hear their cry for redemption soon?

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.  For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.”  {Rom. 8:18-23}

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And how back in that good Garden, where futility and thorn began (Gen.3), the creation’s eye was trained on mankind and on the story of redemption playing out.

The star that bore witness (Matt.2:9-10) and the rocks that held their tongues in worship (Lk. 19:40).  And then, when the Redeemer held arms wide and let breath go, creation couldn’t hold back any longer.  The Son, in whom was all light and life, had darkened, and so the Sun could no longer shine (Lk. 23:45).  The earth gave a violent shudder and the rocks broke open, maybe from horror, maybe from worship they could no longer silence (Matt. 27:51).  How could Life itself die?  How could the creation open up her cold ground to bury the Creator?

Though redemption was secured that day, creation still groans and labors toward the consummation.  These waiting trees, bound in time and curse, they are still waiting and watching as the Story of redemption continues to unfurl.  And I can’t help but wonder if they don’t glory over redemption’s victory every time.  One more life redeemed, one more reminder of the redemption they too will one day receive, when all things can return to full obedience to God’s intended design.

This past weekend, my extended family gathered to sing and to feast and to rejoice over the life and death of one of our own beloved ones.  Yes, mourning too, but oh, how the grave is swallowed up in victory!  The mourning doesn’t stand out to me, the piercing joy is what I remember.  And as we gathered yet another time to sing together, these words ran through my mind.  My sweet loved one, he lived a lot of life far from God and from his family.  But in his last years, he came near and he found his Redeemer.  And the wasted years were swallowed up in joy and in victory and blessed assurance.

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My loved one, they said he smiled as he died.  That his mouth hung open in a small smile as he breathed his last; but two hours later, his mouth closed in a full-on grin.

He went out of this world in JOY and the Father saw fit to lead Him out in peace.  The very mountains and hills broke forth into singing before the One who carried him to glory, and the trees of the fields clapped their hands with a raucous, fist-pumping roar of praise (Isa.55:12).  The very creation can’t help but rejoice in God’s acts of redemption.  The beauty of the Gospel… there’s nothing like it!  You can almost hear it, if you listen.  The heart hears the testimony, because there is no language where the voice is not heard (Ps.19:1-4).  The heavens declare the glory of God, and day to day pours forth speech.  “For since the beginning of the world, His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (Rom.1:20).

The Gospel is the story creation labors to tell, season in and season out.  Redemption is what makes creation sing, for she knows her full release from corruption is coming.  What a mercy that every day God puts the Gospel visibly on display in the created order for all our senses to experience, to the praise of His glorious grace.

Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.  For we were saved in this hope. {Rom.8:24}

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