the Father’s love

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Well, all the kids have been battling a minor head cold the past few days.  We had a quieter weekend with more tasks and mundane work at home to catch up on on Saturday.  Yesterday we stayed home from church, not wanting to pass on the sickies, opting instead for a quiet easy walk at nearby Lake Powhatan.  We always ache to be with our church family, but the days when we are forced to stay home with feverish babies are days to receive with open hands, a good sort of rest and quietness.  We basked in the sun and the glorious first-fall-feeling day, all bundled up to keep little sick ones warm in the wind.  We spent the afternoon resting, reading, snacking on the porch after naps + looking through old photo albums, then riding bikes in front of our house while dinner simmered on the stove.  Simple things, small things, all the things we can easily take for granted.  What a gift it is the have each other, to be together, to work through the hard moments when we are all sharp and fractious, stumbling along in our journey to understand grace, offering quiet sorry’s and long hugs.  What a sweetness to just let the work sit, as much as we are able, and let our souls sink down deeper in our faithful God.

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I’ve been reading through the Gospels all year.  I thought I’d be farther by now, but it has been the sweetest, most powerful journey alone with the Lord, just His Word and I, and I’ve had to go so slow to just savor the beauty of all His Spirit has been speaking to me.  I’ve chased whatever rabbit trails He’s told me to, sought for understanding only to find usually more questions and mystery.  But I have felt so very near to my Savior and so much more reacquainted with His ways, His agenda, His heart beat.

Lately I’ve been in the first few chapters of Luke.  You can’t come to early Luke and not feel like it’s Christmas time.  It’s just heavy with the anticipation surrounding that time of year.  It’s hard to say which Gospel writer I enjoy best, each so distinct and variegated, but I do think it could be Luke.  There’s something about the way he turns a phrase and tells a story.

I’ve often wondered what Jesus was like growing up.  After the accounts of His birth, we have no details to fill in the gaps between his birth and his 30’s, other than the singular story of Him, recorded by Luke (2:41-52) of Jesus at age twelve.  This singular story recording that time when Mary + Joseph lost Jesus for three days, giving us a glimpse into His boyhood and the mysterious way that He was both fully human and fully divine as a child.  Here Luke finds it important to tell us that at age twelve, Jesus was beginning to display His independence, His God-ness, His otherness a bit more.  His wisdom astounded the leaders + teachers in the synagogue.  He was already beginning to be aware that He had to be about His Father’s work.  He was already beginning to move away from dependence on His earthly parents with a growing awakening to His calling, a strength, a focus, a settledness and resolve.  Yet, when His parents scolded Him in their great relief to have found Him, the Scriptures tell us He submitted Himself to them.  Willingly, He submitted His God-ness to live under their human, yet God-given, authority.

From this point on, in every Gospel account, we don’t see Jesus do a thing until He has first been baptized by John the Baptizer and the Holy Spirit descends upon Him.  Every work of Jesus thereafter recorded in the Scriptures flows from the infilling of the Holy Spirit, an outpouring from within.  His work is preceded by His baptism, the Father’s pronouncement of Sonship + good pleasure over Him.  This is how His work begins.  This is where our work must begin also.  First, our own house in order.  First, our own soul.  First, our own rootedness + settledness in our identity as His dearly loved child.  First, our own experience of His love lavished on us.

Then all our work can flow from the awareness that He is the orchestrator behind it, the generator of it.  The sustainer of us in it.  Then, and only then, our identity is not dependent on our work or our success, but in that deeply personal work He has already accomplished in us in the secret place with Him.  This frees us up from striving for a name, striving for an outcome, being crippled by the negative response of others–whether that be indifference, unpopularity, misunderstanding, or plain criticism.  Only when we know we are settled securely in the Father’s love + good-pleasure over us do we really have anything to pour out onto others.

“A voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son, with you I am well-pleased.'”
(Luke 3:22)

How He would need these words in the days to come.  He went straight up out of the waters of this moment into the bone dry heat of the desert to fast and be tempted by Satan for 40 days and nights.  How He would need those words to draw upon in order to finish His course, in all the ways that the coming days would test His certainty of His Father’s love and good-pleasure over Him.  How He would need those words when He hung on the cross in His bleakest and most desperate moment, when He would cry out, “Father, why have You forsaken Me?”

Maybe you need those words today, too, in your Tuesday work.  In your ordinary moments and your boring mundane.  In the tasks that you are putting your hand to, the hidden work that no one sees, the uncelebrated and passed-over, the thankless efforts.  May He speak His love over you today as you head into a new week.  May your own soul be at rest in Him, so that you can abide in that place even while heading into the fray.

Summer is coming to a quiet little end around here, melting sleepily away into chilly morning air.  (We still have a beach trip planned, so I’m hoping some warmth hangs around for a little while longer!)  The goldenrod are blazing their signal, summer giving way to fall.  DSC_0360 DSC_0362 DSC_0413 DSC_0415 DSC_0398 DSC_0381 DSC_0384DSC_0430DSC_0434DSC_0427

This next picture was taken by Phoebe:


These three were taken by Noah:

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I love seeing their little happy fingers holding the camera and clicking away.  I love seeing their perspective.

The Gospels

It’s spitting rain outside right now.  A dreary start to the week, but I don’t mind.  The house is quiet, all three children, two of which are sick, asleep in their beds.  I can hear the tapping of rain against the roof and windows, a quiet rhythm, a beckoning.


Quietly, I set the percolator back on the stove, the smell of freshly ground beans fills the kitchen.  I make my way to the fireplace, to the desk.  Normally I don’t allow myself such a luxury during nap time, but I’m battling this head cold too and my body is asking for rest.  I’m relieved, grateful for the excuse.  My soul has been so full lately, aching to spill out.

This season of motherhood is busy.  It pulls me in a lot of different directions.  Aside from that, our culture spins on the wheels of distraction.  So many things vie for our attention and seek our focus.  We have to protect our focus, friends.  What are the main things?  What can I simply not live without?  What is my mission, my purpose, my calling?  This is a process we return to again and again, we get out of balance and find ourselves exhausted, overrun, and numb.  We go back to the drawing board, we go back to our focus and we pare down what has come in and choked out our time and energy.  We pare down what might be good but not best.  We remind ourselves to stay fully present in this present season, that other seasons may come when our time must be managed differently.  But for now, hand to the plow, girls, hand to the plow.

“Don’t work for shortcuts to God.  The market is flooded with surefire, easy going formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time.  Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do.  The way of life–to God–is vigorous and requires total attention.”
{Matt. 7:13-14 MSG}

You may know by now that I’m a resource geek.  I love finding + sharing helpful books and tools to spur myself and others on in our journey to knowing Christ better and in displaying His glory in our lives.  And we certainly do live in an age + current culture of endless resources.  There are always more books, bible studies, online communities, and great companies to support.

The voices can crowd in and get a bit loud.

That’s how I found myself at the start of 2015, looking for a quiet refuge.  Feeling that my soul has gotten a bit harried.  Hurried and harried.  I love bible study resources more than any girl you know, but that still small voice that I’ve come to know and trust has been calling me to quiet down.  To come back to just the pure Word.  No other voices.  Just His.


I found myself aching to spend time with Jesus.  Of course, I know all of Scripture is God-breathed, all of it is His inspired word, all of it points to Jesus.  But suddenly I find myself aching to walk with Jesus and hear His red-letter words, to study and become exceedingly familiar with the three years of His precious life that we find recorded in the Gospels.  I find myself needing just to journey beside Him on His earthly journey.  What was He like?  What were His priorities?  How did He spend His time?  Did He rest?  Did He celebrate?  Did He laugh?  I remember watching the Bible series that came out not too long ago on the History channel, and feeling the winsome pull of this Jesus even imperfectly rendered in the series.  So much so that when He went to the cross (on the show) I missed Him.  I felt the missing of Him that I imagine the disciples felt when He was just gone.  I wept from the missing of Him and the longing for full fellowship with Him promised to us in glory that I can only begin to understand through His indwelling Spirit now.  A foretaste of glory.

Looking back, I had the best college experience imaginable.  I never saw it coming.  You see, I fell in love with Jesus in the pages of scripture when I was 18 years old, living on my own in the rugged snowy peaks of Breckenridge, Colorado.  Something shifted then in my heart, and although I had been a Christian since childhood, I was suddenly hooked by God’s word.  I couldn’t wait to study it and I couldn’t get enough.  It began in the Gospel of Mark.  With a commentary in hand and a journal, I read and studied and devoured God’s Word.  Shortly thereafter, in a strange turn of events, God interrupted my plan and brought me back to the gentle mountains of North Carolina to college at Montreat.  I fell in love with God there and He renewed and reformed me there.  My understanding of Him was so broken and He opened my eyes to the edges of His hugeness, the mere fringes of His glory.  I studied Outdoor Education, but I took + audited as many bible courses as I could possibly fit into my schedule.  One my favorites was a course called “Gospels” with Bill Cain.  He was the college Chaplain at the time, and he made a great impact on my life.  He was so winsome, so joyful.  I had never read and been immersed in the Gospels before like I was during that semester.  I remember reading Yancey’s book “The Jesus I Never Knew” and just falling in love with Jesus all over again.  I thought I knew Him, but He was a beautiful mystery.

Now, I am thirty years old, as old as He was when He began His earthly ministry, when He turned water to wine.  My husband just turned thirty-three, the age Jesus was when He went to the cross.  It’s hard to imagine that He completed His work at age thirty-three, a work so revolutionary it would forever divide history into two eras:  B.C. and A.D.  Before Christ + After Death.  We mark our entire human history around those three years.  

And I’m thirty.  It’s sobering.  I am called to be the literal and physical hands + feet of Jesus to the world around me.  I am equipped with the same power He had to perform the miraculous.  In fact, He said I would be able to work even greater works than His.  And so, I’ve been in Matthew.  I know I’ll dip into some other studies over the course of the year along with my church family and as God leads, but all year long, I intend to walk with Jesus in the Gospels, all the while asking Him to make it new.  To make me new.

I can’t even begin to tell you how precious and fruitful it has already been.  It’s like standing beneath a firehose with an open mouth, trying to drink it all in.  It’s hard to read the Gospels and not be struck by the shift in paradigm from the kingdom of men (constantly at work building our own kingdoms) to the kingdom of God.  It’s hard to read the Gospels and not see all the incongruities of my life and the life that Christ exemplifies and calls me to.  It’s hard to read the Gospels and not feel a bit uncomfortable with how comfortable I’ve grown in the world–how the constant barrage + current of the world system continually and daily pushes against me, tugging me to go along downstream, to go with the flow.  The kingdom life will look + feel like constant resistance, constant work.  A life surrounded by needy people — people who need hope, love, life, healing, forgiveness.

I read Matthew chapter 9 and I am absolutely floored by its end.  I literally read it in tears:

“Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.  But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.  Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.  Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”  (vs. 35-38)

Can you imagine Jesus in the flesh preaching the Gospel to you?  Oh, to have heard that.  What a mess we were, and yet He was moved with compassion.  He sees how scattered and weary we are, bumbling about like idiotic sheep, scrambling, looking, bleating for a shepherd.

Listen to it again, in the Message translation:

Then Jesus made a circuit of all the towns and villages. He taught in their meeting places, reported kingdom news, and healed their diseased bodies, healed their bruised and hurt lives. When he looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd. “What a huge harvest!” he said to his disciples. “How few workers! On your knees and pray for harvest hands!”

It’s nearly more than I can bear.  I can’t wait to fall more in love with Jesus through the Gospel accounts and remembering what He was busy about when He was busy on this earth in the frail bounds of a human body.  If you’re looking for a place to read, if you’re curious who this Jesus is, consider joining me?  Grab your bible and a journal and read just a little bit a day and record what He says to you.  Write down what confuses you, what questions it raises.  Chase all the rabbit trails.  Take your time.  Let’s grow very familiar with Jesus together, friends.  Let’s fall in love with Him all over again.