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? 🙂 🙂  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.

 

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. 🙂  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

grateful

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So it’s Friday and our week has been b u s y, tumultuous, happy, and emotional.  We look forward to our Friday ritual tonight of homemade (gluten-free) pizzas and a movie of the kid’s choosing.  We look forward to a weekend, to rest and worship.  We give thanks.

Phoebe began her homeschool co-op on Monday, and so we began our own schooling this week as well.  It has been really good and really awkward at times, too, just trying to establish some new rhythms and figure out how navigate these new waters.  There have already been moans and groans, there have been a multitude of interruptions from two little ones underfoot.  There have been potty accidents as Philippa slowly attempts potty training.  Phoebe and I are both loving it, though, and my heart is filled with thanks!  We have had time to cover a lot of material this week, but also play soccer, ride bikes, play outside, go to the pool, run our usual errands, snuggle together and read, begin a nature journal, press flowers, bake and cook.  Schoolwork is sprinkled throughout, and informal learning is emphasized as much as more formal schooling.  The younger two kids usually join us for the beginning of our morning work, doing their own little puzzles or coloring worksheets, before scattering off to play.  What a privilege and a blessing that we get to do it this way!  I don’t want to take it for granted for a second.  This is high and holy work!

Phoebe had a bad bike accident on Wednesday around lunch time, all of us cruising back home on our bikes after playing “soccer” at a nearby field.  She lost control of her bike and I watched in horror as her bike went down and she slammed her face into the pavement.  I grabbed her and saw her front teeth all bent back toward her throat, her mouth bleeding profusely, and we jumped immediately in the van and headed to urgent care.  After a thorough check and a visit to her dentist, we breathed great thanks to a faithful God who protected her from serious injury!  She will loose her front three teeth soon as a result, and she is bruised and scraped, but for the most part is already carrying on in her usual activities.

This morning she had her year check-up after receiving her diagnosis of Celiac disease last July.  She has gained three pounds in the last three months, which is HUGE for our little tiny girl.  She has gained almost 10 pounds in the past year!  Her BMI has increased, and she is in the 20th percentile for weight, which is a first!  We are full of praise once again to our God who has helped us all the way, and who continues to lead us as we seek Phoebe’s health and full recovery.

In all the muddled ordinary of life, it is easy for me to adopt a complaining or entitled heart.  It is easy, natural even, for me to miss the moments of extravagant grace hidden in these everyday moments, even the ugly ones.

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thess. 5:18)

I don’t want to give in to what is natural, I want a supernatural life, something that can’t be explained apart from the grace of God.  I desire for Him to do this kind of work in me.  I want my children to see their mother pursuing deep roots in Jesus, to see their mother turning her heart back to praise, to see their mother making time for creativity, reflection, truth, and beauty.

Gratitude: A Prayer and Praise Coloring Journal arrived on my doorstep this week, a beautiful summons to slow down, to return to the simple yet profound act of giving thanks.  It couldn’t have been more timely, after the sort of week we’ve had, brim-full with opportunity to worry, complain, grumble, and give in to exhaustion.  I’m excited to dig into this new-to-me format of coloring, of slowing, of turning my mind and heart to thanks, of lingering over scripture and meditating on the simple and profound healing balm.  This journal is absolutely stunning, sturdy, quality pages, simple yet arresting designs, bringing scripture to life and giving it feet.  I pray that for me it is just one simple tool that helps me keep my eyes fixed on Jesus as I go through each day’s work.  Maybe it would be a helpful tool to you, too?  If so, this little journal releases in just a few days (Sept. 1).

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This post contains affiliate links.  

Thanks to Tyndale Publishers for a complimentary copy of this beautiful journal in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

all this light

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The heavy snows of last weekend lingered all week, now just piled in soggy clumps here and there.  We have played so much in it, the kids bemoaning the sun and the melting each day.  It’s been an ordinary sort of week around here, lots of cleaning and tasks and bills and such.  The sun was so inviting this morning we were out for a bike ride and jaunt to our little neighborhood playground, but it was still so freezing out!

I found myself battling against some heavy dark of soul this week.  I don’t know how much more to share of it here, but only do so because it seemed to be a theme this week between the Lord and I, and I see it reflected in the pictures above, the favorite snapshots from the week: dark + light.  I found myself scribbling in my journal yesterday afternoon, “Thank you, Lord — the night can be so dark, black as coal, but the light falls so sweetly this morning.”  I found myself cheered by the afternoon light pooling on our dining room table, slanting across my journal laid open, dancing across the snow.  These children bring so much light, so much laughter.  Life with them is good–I’m so thankful.  Could it be that He wanted me to notice?  Could it be that He wanted me to see?  Could it be that He wanted to preach to me the light of the glory of His grace to me in these ordinary earthly realities?  To let the light slant just so in beams across my path, to remind me:   The light always overcomes the dark, always.

I’ve needed to preach the truth of the Gospel over my soul this week, leaning hard into what the Word says is true rather than what I feel.  I found particular comfort in these words:

“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit…

You are a hiding place for me;
You preserve me from trouble;
You surround me with shouts of deliverance…

Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD.”

Psalm 32:1-2, 7, 10

I am blessed, not because of any other glad or fortuitous circumstance, but namely because I am one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.  This is the happiest circumstance of my life, and it is permanent, unchanging, unswerving, though the enemy of my soul would often try to convince me otherwise.

Maybe you needed to remember, too.  If you are in Christ Jesus, your sins are covered.  All His ways to you are grace.  He is your hiding place, your secret place.  His steadfast love is your shield and buckler against the enemy, your promise that in the end, no matter what comes, it will be well with your soul.  I hope you see His light this weekend, and His steadfast love surrounding you.

He speaks grace

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We pull close to each other in the dark, in our usual way.  Legs and arms in a tangle, my head on his warm chest.  The hushed sounds of a sleeping home.  His breath is slowing as he drifts.  I am pressed heavy with the weight of a parenting failure.  I know I won’t sleep unless I confess to him.  The words creak out slowly.  He listens.  The tears come in a hot rush, the wracking sobs.  He holds.  He strokes my hair.

He speaks grace.  He speaks grace.

He tells me it is wrong, but that it is okay.  He forgives me.  He tells me the Gospel.  In my desperate fear that I will never overcome this, I will always keep floundering and failing in this area of weakness, that I will keep spiraling farther + farther down, he silences me.  He reminds me that the strength I have to obey comes from God who gladly gives me all that I need for life + godliness. He calls out the attack of the enemy on our family.  He commiserates with my weakness.  He, too, knows what it’s like to fail in this way.  He tells me the plan for the weekend, the plan in place to protect ourselves from falling into this ditch again.  We will take it a step at a time, he says.  We will do this together.  He loves me, even now.  Even as ugly as I am.  Even when I hate myself.  He loves me.  He holds me.  He doesn’t push away, he doesn’t hesitate to stay with me and to keep loving me.  He prays over me, he prays for me, he prays for us both.  He kisses me.

This is the beauty of marriage.  He can drive me crazy with how he leaves scraps of paper everywhere, how he leaves the laundry piled, how he forgets, how he moves so slowly.  I can drive him crazy with the disorganized refrigerator, my slow morning starts, my managing.  But in the dark of night–he is there for me like no one else.  He loves me at my absolute worst and my ugliest.  He doesn’t just love me at arms reach–he pulls me close.  He accepts me.

This is grace.  This is the Gospel.  This is the unfathomable gift found in an imperfect marriage between two ordinary sinners-turned-saints.  Christ in us, the hope of glory (Col. 1:27).

This is the uncanny, inexplicable love that Jesus demonstrated for us when He gave up His life for us while we were yet sinners.  While we were still sinning, utterly undeserving.  He loved.  He bled. He gave.

I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God;
Incline your ear to me; hear my words.
Wondrously show your steadfast love,
O Savior of those who seek refuge from their adversaries at your right hand.
Keep me as the apple of your eye;
Hide me in the shadow of your wings,
From the wicked who do me violence,
My deadly enemies who surround me.
{Psalm 17:6-9}

Catching up

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Well, I bit off a bit more than I could chew.  I’m terribly behind in posting reviews on the last few books I received so I’m going to lump them together here.

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The Beauty of Grace by Dawn Camp

This book was a fun read, something easy and encouraging, a great way to wind down before bed.  It is a compilation of writings on various topics such as purpose, surrender, trust, + worship, written by some of today’s most popular writers and bloggers.  Some of the contributors were old favorites of mine such as Tsh Oxenreider, Ann Voskamp, Lisa-Jo Baker, Emily Freeman.  Others such as Kristen Strong, Kayla Aimee, Bonnie Gray, Leeana Tankersley, Maggie Whitley, + Deidra Riggs, were new to me.  There were many other contributors, each offering a short meditation or reflection on the topic, along with a scripture. Since it was a compilation of writers writing on a variety of topics, I would classify it as more inspirational rather than instructional.

Some of my favorite features are the accompanying photographs and the brevity of the chapters, as well as the fact that it’s arranged topically so you can flip through it to whatever interests you.

(Thank you to Revell Publishing for a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.)

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Worry Less So You Can Live More by Jane Rubietta

I was drawn to this book…. for a friend. Ha. Just kidding. Yes, I admit it: I’m a worrier. Rubietta is a new author to me, though as an author of fifteen books, she is certainly not new to the writing scene.  I was initially struck and refreshed by her writing, which was poetic + depthy. She writes this book to share her own story of moving from worry to delight and encouraging readers to do the same, and yet her style is such that you are drawn in and lost in her words.  It reads gently, more like a memoir than a self-help book.  Probably my favorite feature is how she ends each chapter in an application section with scripture, some provoking questions, and then prayer, called Votum, and a response from God, sung back over us, a Benedictus, all written by Rubietta herself.

She covers how to delight even in our most anxious seasons, the dailyness of God’s presence, the way worry boxes us in when God invites us to live in wide open spaces, how our tears are tools, and our difficulties are gifts that give us empathy.  Truly beautiful.  One not to miss.

A little excerpt for you:

“I quit reading fiction–too frivolous if people are perishing.  No more cracking jokes.  Somewhere along the journey I stopped laughing, lost all perspective and balance.  Everything seemed overly important, everything an issue, whether it was paying two cents too much for a gallon of milk or gasoline (Good Christian Women save money, and furrow our brows while doing so) or being two minutes late for a commitment.

But all this seriousness is killing me.  It’s killing my heart, probably literally, but also figuratively.  Joie de vivre–joy of living, of life–is not a reality, only a fun French phrase.  Isn’t the root of such dreadful seriousness…worry?  And isn’t worry a misunderstanding of the God who carries the whole world in his hands?…

Forgoing delight is like an emotional vow of poverty, based on a poor understanding of God.  Will God love us more if we live our devout and holy life without cracking a smile or having our heart turn somersaults over the sunset or the erratic path of a butterfly?  As though God were a great big Curmudgeon in the Sky, with furrowed brows and a tight fist.  This isn’t God the Abba-Daddy, this is God the judgmental, finger-pointing, shaming miser.  But looking around, where’s the evidence of a God like that on this globe?  Enormous generosity blossoms from the earth, drips from heaven, appears at the lip of the world every single morning and every single evening.  Unfailingly generous, it seems to me, is this God we love and serve and maybe try to keep a safe distance from.”

(Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for a free copy in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.)

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Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson

Oh, friends.  This one is a good one!  A great one.  Clarkson is a trusted source of wisdom, a biblically grounded woman with a heart heavily inclined toward discipleship, a seasoned mother of adult children, a gifted and engaging writer.  Sitting with this book feels much like sitting with Clarkson in a cabin in the snowy Colorado mountains over a cup of steaming tea as she reaches hands across the table and takes your hand and implores + encourages you to own your life.  We live in an age of incredible distraction.  All of our technology has afforded us unprecedented levels of busyness.  As women, we need a call to live lives of great intention + purpose, lives grounded in scripture where we find our identity, our worth, and the very reason for our existence.  Clarkson’s book is just such a siren call, reminding, encouraging, exhorting, all the while pouring out from her own deep well of lessons learned and life lived.  What will your legacy be?  Are you living today with your legacy in mind?  Are you living carried to and fro by the whims of your circumstances?  Maybe you would be helped by Clarkson’s book.  I certainly have been!  Rather than heaping on further guilt or a heavier burden to carry, Clarkson writes in such a way as to inspire and gently instruct and gives courage that we really can fulfill the purposes God has for us individually while we walk out our time here.

A little excerpt for you:

“My counsel to all those crying out for help: in order to move from chaos to order, we must each make  plan that will move us away from a never-ending flurry of activities toward God’s design for our lives.  That plan begins by identifying the drainers and sources of chaos that steal our spiritual and emotional energy.  To move forward, in other words, we must first recognize what is holding us back…Often there is a subtle confusion about how life ‘got’ this way.  Nonstop activity is a cultural badge of honor that supposedly means a person is making progress.  Busyness falsely promises productivity.  Frankly, our culture encourages us to take on more and more, and busyness and distraction can be addicting.  Yet we are drifting further from the life God designed us to live.  Surely this is not the abundant life God promised.  Is there a better way to find purpose and satisfaction?”

(Thank you to Tyndale Publishers for a free copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.)

Happy reading, folks!  As always, I love to hear from you: what you’ve been reading and enjoying lately?

 

 

 

Finish the Day

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“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

(Borrowed this quote from this lovely blog, a good word for the late end of this day.)