Books for Mom

DSC_0116.jpg

Give the momma you love the gift of a good book this Mother’s Day!  If Brandon asks me what I want for Mother’s Day, there is usually a book involved, whether it’s a new one or just time to read one.  One of the things I am asked most frequently here is about book recommendations on varying subjects.  I have a little link on the slide-out bar on the right hand of my blog over there —> called “Recommended Reads.”  If you click on it, you will find my top recommendations on all sorts of subjects related to the things I blog about (family, theology, motherhood, marriage, children, celiac’s disease, etc.).

Since Mother’s Day is just a couple of days away, I wanted to share some of my “momma” favorites with you and some that are on my wishlist this year!  These are some of the books that the Lord has used to profoundly shape me in the last few years.  I believe strongly in the power of a good word at the right time to be greatly effective in helping us, shaping us, encouraging us.  Of course, nothing beats the Scriptures in fueling us as mothers, but sometimes we need the help of another in unpacking and applying the Scriptures.  All of the books listed here will do that for you, all of them rooted in Scripture, all of them gently teaching and guiding and instructing you as a woman and mother in your role.

What the mom you love really wants for Mother’s Day is to know she is somehow doing this well, this motherhood thing. She desperately needs encouragement, hope, biblical support and training. She needs fresh vision. In a world where motherhood is discredited and often discarded, she needs to know that this work counts in the Kingdom of God. She needs to remember why it counts.

When you build up a mother, you are building up the one raising the next generation of disciples. When you build up a mother, you are building up the Body of Christ, you are building the Kingdom. 

  1. Give Them Grace: Dazzling your kids with the love of Jesus by Fitzpatrick + Thompson

This one has helped me so much as a momma who leans heavily toward moralism/legalism.  Grace is still as scandalous as ever for me, dangerous even.  I scribbled these words across the intro to this book: “God wants more for my children than obedience.  He wants to give them more than a tidy life — He wants to give them the Gospel.  He wants to give them grace.”  As Tullian Tchividjian says in the into, “The biggest lie about grace that Satan wants Christian parents to buy is the idea that grace is dangerous and therefore needs to ‘kept in check.’  By believing this, we not only prove we don’t understand grace, but we violate gospel advancement in the lives of our children.  A ‘yes, grace, but..’ disposition is the kind of fearful posture that keeps moralism swirling around in their hearts.”  If you are a momma (or know a momma!) in the trenches of parenting who needs to remember the goal of parenting, who needs to go back to the foundations of grace, this book is for you!  I have underlined and dog-eared it to death.  Highly, highly recommend.

2.  Your Beautiful Purpose: discovering and enjoying what God can do through you by Susie Larson

This one is such a beautiful and practical read, and certainly not just for mothers!  I loved this one from cover to cover and slowly went through the study material in the back of the book, soaking it all in.  Larson’s writing is scripture-saturated and Christ-exalting.  I include this one as a book for momma’s because if a mother were to read it through the lens of motherhood being a part of her beautiful purpose on this earth, it would be quite profound.  This book encourages you to uncover God’s purpose for you and helps with practical things like when to move forward, how to wait on God’s timing or discern His voice, how to walk in your own calling and not coveting another’s, what to do with being criticized, etc.  So very good and helpful and encouraging.  I will return to this one often!

Who we are and what we possess.  These are the two targets the enemy aims for again and again.  If he can get us to doubt, he can trip us up.  If he can get us thinking we’re poor though we’re really rich, we’ll scratch and claw our way through life; and we’ll live anxious and afraid, like we’re without hope.  And if he can convince us we lack something good, he’ll be able to tempt us to live frantic and hurried lives, never satisfied, always wanting more.  We’ll skim life’s surfaces and miss its depths.  We’ll live jealous, me-focused lives and forsake the whole reason we’re blessed: because God loves to love us, and He loves to love through us.  Jesus promises that those who trust Him lack no good thing (Ps.34:10).  These aging earthen vessels carry the treasure of heaven within.  Ponder the significance of that truth every single day.” (Larson)

3.  A Million Little Ways: Uncover the art you were made to live by Emily Freeman

So you know I love Emily, right?!  I got to meet her (!!!) last summer at her book party for Simply Tuesday (another book you should go buy right now).  I met her on the pages of this book and in many ways, this blog was born as a result.  Again, this is not a book that is specific to motherhood at all, but is one I think could greatly encourage the mother who wonders whether her menial and daily work with littles is of any value to our missional God.  She writes to show that all of life can be lived to the glory of God, not just the time we spend reading the Bible or praying.  All of life lived for His glory, even the small and mundane tasks of our day, can be the art that we offer to the world to the glory of God.  You may not see yourself as an artist, I certainly didn’t before reading this book.  But she argues from scripture how God made each of us a work of art, and each of us have an art to offer.  Whether its washing dishes, decorating homes, hammering nails or hammering words on the keys, God is not so small that He is only glorified in what we typically call “spiritual” activities.  He wants to be revealed and glorified in all that we do.  These words are words I will read again probably every year.  She is an incredible writer, and her words set me free and brought so. much. joy.

4.  Glimpses of Grace: Treasuring the Gospel in your home by Gloria Furman

Gloria is basically my best friend, she just doesn’t know it.  This one will always probably be in the very top three of my favorite books on parenting/motherhood ever.  If you knew how much I read, you would know that is saying a lot.  I will read everything she writes.  In this book, she addresses the stay-at-home momma or the working woman, and she writes to unveil how the Gospel impacts our normal, daily, mundane lives.  Does God care about the mundane tasks we perform day in and day out?  How does His grace change the way we do laundry, potty training, bed-making, cooking, grocery shopping, guest-hosting?

For me, this has been my greatest struggle as a parent thus far.  This seeming endless battle to live a pure and holy life before God in even the mundane details of life, and yet this daily failing and floundering.  My heart is so often discouraged and barely feels brave enough to whisper: Is there any purpose in it?  Is there any hope in it?  Can a sin-bent woman such as myself ever live a life that pleases God?  This book answers those questions so beautifully and with a heap of humor.

“Theology is for homemakers who need to know who God is, who they are, and what this mundane life is all about…As homemakers who are made in God’s image and desire to live for God, we need to know what God’s intentions are for us and for the work we do in the home.  More specifically, we need to know: What does the gospel have to do with our everyday lives in the home?  How does the gospel impact our dish washing, floor mopping, bill paying, friend making, guest hosting, and dinner cooking?  How does the fact that Jesus himself bore our sins in his body on the tree so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24) make a difference in my mundane life today?…This book is a description of the distinctly Christian hope of God’s glory and how it relates to the home”  (Gloria Furman)

5. Desperate: Hope for the mom who needs to breathe by Sarah Mae + Sally Clarkson

This one was a mother’s day gift to me a few years ago from Brandon.  It had me at “desperate.”  I found so much practical encouragement for how to run our home, and how to face all the various aspects of motherhood that drive me crazy and bring me to my knees.  One of my favorite aspects of this book is the way it fleshes out the mentoring relationship we crave and should experience between the older + younger generations, as each chapter begins with Sarah writing a letter with a motherhood question to Sally, and Sally’s response.  A beautiful and easy read that has stuck with me and shaped my parenting since first reading it.  I feel like it is a huge dose of momma encouragement.

6.  The Ministry of Motherhood: Following Christ’s example in reaching the hearts of our children by Sally Clarkson

Have you, momma of littles, ever been wiping noses and bottoms and counter tops all day and wondered what on earth this is accomplishing?  Have you ever missed your former days of being more active in ministry?  This book will help you see the ministry right before you, the daily ministry of discipling your children.  We know that Jesus called us to make disciples, and as a mother I often find myself more caught up in discipling others before I’ve even invested that energy and attention in my own children.  This book is so helpful in that regard, breathing fresh life and focus into your parenting.  Perfect for the mom who needs a tune-up in her own vision of her work in her children’s lives.

7.  The Life-giving Home: Creating a place of belonging and becoming by Sally + Sarah Clarkson

Yes, a third book by Sally Clarkson!  This one is so unique in that she coauthors it with her now-adult daughter, talking about the scriptural purpose of the home.  After a few chapters setting the foundation for the book, the book is organized around the seasons of the home, each chapter focusing on a month of the year and discussing a theme of that month.  For example, January focuses on “Creating a framework for home: rhythms, routines, and rituals,” and June focuses on “Times of Delight: creating a value for play.”  Sally and Sarah take turns authoring these chapters, each offering their perspectives and experiences from their own home and ideas for your home.  Chock full of inspiration and resources for the mom who is looking for fresh ideas to make her home life-giving.  This one is a must-read!

“We must understand homemaking not as a retreat from the fallen world, not as a retrenchment from culture, but as a profound engagement with it.  We must understand the creation of a home as a work of incarnational power and creativity.  ‘Kingdom come’ doesn’t happen on some cosmic scale; the whole point is that it invades the physical at the humblest level.  As Christ was born a tiny human child of Mary, so Christ comes again, invading the human realm in and through our ordinary love of children and friends, spouses and siblings.  His Kingdom comes in the way we celebrate, the shelter we make of our homes, the joy we put into what we cook and eat and create, our willingness to welcome strangers into our midst.  As the Holy Spirit fills us, our families and friendships and the particular physical spaces of our lives become the spaces where Christ is born again and again — growing, ordering, renewing, healing.”  (Clarkson)

The following two are not pictured but are books on my wishlist, ones I am eager to read very soon!

8. Missional Motherhood: the everyday ministry of motherhood in the grand plan of God by Gloria Furman

51R09My10nL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Yes, this is the newest release from Gloria Furman, releasing this month!  I can hardly wait to get my hands on it.  “Gloria Furman helps women live out God’s story of redemption in their daily lives as they nurture their children and joyfully share the message of the gospel with those around them” (from the amazon description).

9.  Wild and Free: a hope-filled anthem for the woman who feels she is both too much and never enough by Haley Morgan and Jess Connolly

515nSd04QLL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

If that title doesn’t resonate with you, dear woman, I’m not sure you have a pulse.  This one is not specific at all to motherhood, but is one I think every mother could probably relate to. This, from the amazon description:  “Wild and Free is an anthem and an invitation in equal parts to find freedom from the cultural captivity that holds us back, and freedom to step into the wild and holy call of God in our lives. With fresh biblical insight tracing all the way back to Eve and a treasury of practical application, Jess and Hayley reveal how women today can walk in the true liberty we already have in Jesus.”  I’m hoping and praying this one breathes fresh life into the wild and holy call of motherhood and the other roles I fill as a woman on this earth in my generation.  I cannot wait to review it later this month here on the blog, so check back!

What are some of your top favorite books on motherhood?  I’d love to hear your recommendations!

*Full Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post.  Please understand these are all books I am freely recommending of my own volition because I strongly believe they will be a blessing.   By clicking through to amazon and purchasing a book via this post you are helping to support this blog and my family at no additional cost to you!  Basically I am just receiving a tiny “thank you” from amazon for the referral I would be giving anyway.  My family and I thank you!

winter rains + change

DSC_0042DSC_0044DSC_0038DSC_0045DSC_0001DSC_0002DSC_0008DSC_0096DSC_0025DSC_0093DSC_0056DSC_0060DSC_0052DSC_0078 (1)DSC_0081DSC_0076DSC_0064DSC_0084DSC_0137DSC_0141DSC_0152DSC_0151DSC_0161.jpgDSC_0162DSC_0164DSC_0165DSC_0168DSC_0172DSC_0122.jpgDSC_0188DSC_0191DSC_0180

Last week was a terribly busy and stressful week with more doctor appointments than I care to recall.  Everyone here is okay, just some appointments following up on Phoebe’s growth and progress since her diagnosis, a first-time visit to a brand new support group for kids with Celiacs, and some appointments for myself.  I had heart surgery a number of years ago, and have been mostly doing fine, but lately have had an increase in palpitations/skipped beats, so I’m following up on it and wearing a heart monitor for the next month (its so fun to be a tangle of wires).  It was strangely gratifying to have the doctor tell me it’s probably mostly the fact that I have three kids five and under.  Sleep deprivation and stress can do crazy things to a person!

A drizzly cold rain is spitting outside as I type this over a steaming mug of tea.  Every day it seems we hear more and more birds singing, and February is nearly over.  We try to get outside and run and explore as much as we can.  Spring is on its way, though I can’t say I love spring as much as I do winter.  I am still hoping for one more good snow in March!  In fact Phoebe dressed all in white the other day and told me she was a snowflake and then proceeded to chant “We want snow to come our way” all morning.  God gives special attention to the prayers of a child, right? 😉  I don’t want to let go of the early mornings huddled around the fire, everyone gathered over books, tangled hair and blankets.

We went to SC over the weekend to help Brandon’s parents do some work on their house to get it ready to sell.  While the guys worked outside all weekend, my mother-in-law, kids and I spent time together inside and out exploring some nearby parks.  We are always grateful for time with them and that they offered to pay Brandon for the work, which is unnecessary but a huge blessing to us in this season where finances are tighter than ever.

In other random news, Phoebe had her first loose tooth last week.  She got up from nap one day with a terrified expression, like she thought she would be in trouble, and announced that she wouldn’t be sucking her fingers anymore because her tooth felt uncomfortable.  All week she tilted her head to the side while she chewed (it is her front bottom tooth) and yesterday morning during breakfast, it just came right out.  I think she was surprised that it really didn’t hurt!  She had a note and $1 from the tooth fairy in the morning, which she promptly put in her little wallet.  Noah thinks the whole thing is so cool and he can’t wait for his teeth to fall out.

Meanwhile, Philippa has been getting molars and has been miserable the past few days.  Also, I have begun officially weaning her.  She nurses only in the morning and at night before bed, but because of some of my own health reasons, I need to wean her.  I’ve been delaying it because she still loves it and so do I.  I kept hoping she would sort of lose interest.  She cried pitifully for it this morning and I nearly caved, but it’s one of those times that necessity must rule over emotion.  I will hold onto the night feeding a little longer and then in a few weeks we will both have to let go.  I have loved nursing my babies so much, and I never know if God will choose to give us another, but I have also been nursing and pregnant nonstop for the past six years and my body is letting me know it needs a rest.  If it was up to me I would probably hold onto these years forever, but God finds a way to help us let go, even when our fingers have to pried off of the thing.

I love being a mother so much, I count this the most privileged work of my life.  I hate the letting go parts that come with it, and I know I will fight it at every stage.

I’m so thankful that in it all, all the changes I don’t love, my God remains changeless.  I love that the same words that soothe my soul and bring me peace and comfort are the words that have comforted and satisfied countless thousands of others for hundreds of years.  Changeless.

When my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”
(Psalm 61:2 ASV)

 

season of light

DSC_0003DSC_0005DSC_0020 (1)DSC_0027DSC_0001 (1)DSC_0018 (1)DSC_0015 (2)DSC_0022DSC_0024DSC_0001DSC_0029 (1)DSC_0008DSC_0011DSC_0012DSC_0025DSC_0018DSC_0019DSC_0029DSC_0031DSC_0050DSC_0026DSC_0034DSC_0057DSC_0035DSC_0060DSC_0015 (1)DSC_0042

Our week has been sort of slow, quiet, different.  We started off the week with a stomach bug which thankfully didn’t pass through the family as we thought it would, but it took a couple of days for Phoebe to be herself again.  And we’ve been battling a head cold.  And it rained for half the week.  So we have been pretty hunkered down.  As much as I hate battling sickness, it has given us some time to just be together and read books, snuggle, knit, watch movies, stay in our jammies.  In the midst of it, we’ve been observing Advent together, momma reading this book in the mornings in the early + dark quiet, bent over coffee.  Kids gather over this book in the evenings, freshly bathed and coloring ornaments to decorate the Jesse Tree as I read.  We’ve slowly been pulling out Christmas decorations, putting things here and there as we have time.  Phoebe made my bed for me this morning, and I snapped a picture of that simple grace.  In all its rumpled glory, it sings of her sweet spirit, her kindness and the quiet way she serves even at her young age.  I hope I can be more like her.

It’s been sweet, savoring this season of light so far.  Remembering our Savior, the hope of His birth, the way it proclaims the Gospel to us:  Jesus came, even in the midst of a very broken and fallen and evil world, a wicked generation.  He still came.  He didn’t just come to visit us, God visiting man, He came as one of us, God and man.  The hope in this!  The glory!  That He knows our frailty in an experiential way.  He knows our need.  Our weakness.  He offers Himself to us.  I pray for you and for myself this season that above all else we open our hearts and hands to receive Him.

 

the baby is one

DSC_0296DSC_0298DSC_0317DSC_0007DSC_0022DSC_0002DSC_0029DSC_0034DSC_0030DSC_0025DSC_0038DSC_0040DSC_0043DSC_0050DSC_0058DSC_0061DSC_0063DSC_0074DSC_0078 (1)DSC_0081DSC_0083DSC_0090DSC_0093DSC_0100DSC_0101DSC_0107DSC_0111DSC_0114DSC_0117DSC_0124DSC_0126DSC_0133DSC_0140DSC_0146 (1)DSC_0154DSC_0160DSC_0166DSC_0171DSC_0181DSC_0185DSC_0192DSC_0188DSC_0191DSC_0194DSC_0198DSC_0199DSC_0201DSC_0204DSC_0210DSC_0211DSC_0216DSC_0217DSC_0228DSC_0229DSC_0232DSC_0237DSC_0235DSC_0238DSC_0239DSC_0245DSC_0249DSC_0254DSC_0256DSC_0257DSC_0274DSC_0286DSC_0287DSC_0288DSC_0313

We celebrated with family yesterday afternoon, opening gifts, enjoying a meal together, and feasting on cake (gluten-free + vegan!).  Our sweet babes are so blessed to have aunties + uncles and grandparents nearby who will love on them in this way and bless them with sweet gifts.  Phippa, as we call her, received some warm clothes, a new bike, and a doll from Brandon + I.  She was the first of our kiddos to not cry during the first-birthday song/cake experience, and to actually eat and enjoy her cake!  So I think she loved it.  We all did!  What a treat to be together with family and to all love on this sweet little gift from God to us, our precious girl.  We adore her!  My heart is a little sad that she is already one and moving on up, but it’s good to remember all the fun things that are ahead.  Her first steps, words forming into sentences, more + more that she is able to do and that we are able to know of her.  Her little party was a great way for us to begin Thanksgiving week.  Our hearts are ever mindful of the great kindness He has shown us in these little souls entrusted to our care!

Psalm 91 has been on my heart the last few days, these verses in particular my prayer for our little Philippa Ruth:

 “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
    I will protect him, because he knows my name.
 When he calls to me, I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble;
    I will rescue him and honor him.
 With long life I will satisfy him
    and show him my salvation.”
(Psalm 91:14-16 esv)

the bond of sisters

DSC_0150DSC_0095DSC_0096DSC_0099DSC_0105DSC_0108DSC_0103DSC_0115DSC_0122DSC_0125DSC_0128DSC_0130DSC_0134DSC_0136DSC_0138DSC_0143DSC_0140DSC_0151DSC_0153DSC_0160

How did this happen, that you are already days away from being O N E, my littlest one?  I love these ordinary days with you.  Ordinary, and yet when I look closer, when I quiet my complaining and squint past the piles of mess and the squabbling, days that are heavy with glory.  These days are full and exhausting, but I think they will always be my favorite.

Older sister clambers over crib rails into bed with the younger.  Giggles and laughter and momma rocking quiet with camera in hand, freezing ordinary glory into little squares.

Hanging on

DSC_0224 DSC_0249 DSC_0251 DSC_0231 DSC_0232 DSC_0248DSC_0233 DSC_0239 DSC_0266DSC_0262 DSC_0257 DSC_0260 DSC_0264 DSC_0265 DSC_0274 DSC_0268 DSC_0270 DSC_0275 unnamed-1 unnamed-4DSC_0279 DSC_0280 DSC_0281unnamed-3DSC_0282DSC_0292

Last week around this time I was scurrying to pack up for a quick little two day-ish visit to one my long-time best college girlfriend’s house in Tennessee.  To my shame, I haven’t made the trek to visit her in probably 3 or so years, though she has graciously come to visit me or meet up somewhere multiple times since then.  The busyness of these days, the super tight budget that makes a few hours drive a costly luxury–these are the things that have kept me away.  Then one day you realize you hardly talk anymore, and it’s okay because you know you have a long stretch of history to draw from and that you will pick up again where you left off.  Even still, life is whirring by, some of our children are school-aged, and the easy on-a-whim hang outs are becoming harder.  I think as I’ve gotten into these years of parenting a handful of little ones I’ve come to realize how difficult it seems to be to make new friends.  I’m not giving up on it, but the challenge has certainly made me treasure my old friendships more and long to do a better job keeping up with them.  I’m sure it’s the introvert in me, but I’d rather have a few friendships that go deep than to have my arms stretched full wide with a bunch of shallow ones.  Anyway, these days are often lonely and can leave you bewildered wondering who are the friends who are really in the trenches with you?  Who you can call or text and ask for prayer in a moment of weakness, desperation, darkness, or celebration?  Who are the friends who will stand by you when you are at your worst and gently call you back to the truth?  Who are the ones who will be brave and faithful enough to speak words that feel a whole lot like wounds that later prove to be kisses?  These are the friends I want to hold on to.  The ones I want to make space in the budget for.  These are the ones I hope to be roomies with again one day, when we are old widows clinging to rickety walkers, after we’ve buried husbands and kissed great-grandchildren’s newborn skin.  These years with young ones will stretch our friendships to the max, but I hope we can always pick up again and find our way back to each other.  It was a true gift to spend this time with my sweet friend and her three girls.  What a profound wonder to see our little ones all playing together, to share hearts late into the night as we barely hold our eyes open.  She sent me off on Thursday with a travel mug full of fresh hot coffee, and in every way I felt full.  Hang on to your friends, girls.  It’s so worthwhile.

When Your Faith Survives

The house is quiet.  Oh, glorious quiet.  The first hints of light are streaking across the sky, the earliest birds beginning their song.  Bleary-eyed, I try to gather my wits, my scattered thoughts.  I try to focus my mind on the words I’m reading instead of letting them run in and out of my brain like a stream of water while I keep fretting over the days’ concerns.

I hear the faint creak of their door open, the hushed padding of feet over the floor.  She always runs when she turns the corner and sees me in that chair, sucking her fingers, hair wild in every direction.  Warm legs as soft as silk, long and scrawny, slide under the blanket next to mine.  We sit there like that for a long time, me reading quietly (or aloud if she asks) and sipping coffee slow, her sucking fingers and cozied up, skin warming skin.

It’s one of my favorite times of the day, I think it is hers, too.

10410089_10152709450052605_8699195633210494252_n

When I held her for the first time 4 1/2 years ago, my heart burst wide open in love.  I know I’ve probably always struggled with fear, but a whole new world of fear opened up to me when I held that impossibly tiny, wrinkly warm little bundle.  This kind of love–it’s painful.  To love this much is be wide open to a world of unknown hurts.

We had perplexing growth/feeding issues with her from the start.  She always seemed okay, never titled “failure to thrive,” but never really thriving either.  Since she was my first, I figured a lot of it was normal.  Still, the niggling fear that something could be wrong, that something wasn’t quite right kept nagging me.  We pursued every medical option that could have been a possibility, never finding anything.  I would push the feeling down.

In the dark of night, fears would loom heavy.  Please don’t allow any harm to come to her, Lord.  Please keep her healthy, help her to grow.  Please help her to eat, to have an appetite.  (It’s funny how in parenting, you have no idea the battles you will face.  Never did I expect to pray so much over a child to eat and have an appetite and to grow.)  The desperate and anxious prayers of a mother over her child would roll over and over in my mind as I would try to quell them and get back to sleep.

The feeling that something wasn’t right has never really gone away.  My second and third born children have not had any similarities to her eating/vomiting/growth issues.  Finally, at her 4 year check-up, we pursued some testing again.

It’s been a little over two weeks since we received her diagnosis:  Celiacs disease.  Finally it all makes sense.  Relief flooded in at the same time as a whole new level of fear.  I hung up the phone after receiving the phone call and my fingers flipped through pages desperate:

unnamed

Sure, in our day, we hear a lot about Celiacs, and the gluten-free diet is a current fad diet.  But to hear that my “perfect” little girl has an autoimmune disease–it shook me.  That trippy weird slow-realization that falls over you that nothing will ever quite be the same again.  A new normal will be found, but life as you knew it is over.  Part of me wanted to tell myself I was being a big baby.  This is awesome news, this is SO MUCH better than it could have been, there is so much to be thankful for.  And all of that is true!  Still, we are not ever helped when we push down our true feelings and scold ourselves for feeling that way.  No, we are to run to the mercy seat with those feelings.  We run to our God, who is a refuge for us and who urges us to come and pour out our hearts to Him, cast all our cares on Him, find mercy + grace in our time of need.  We let ourselves feel what we are really feeling about this news/trial/difficulty and we tell Him.  We pour it out in the safety of His company, the privacy of His all-knowing, already-knowing presence.  We let Him get to our hearts, tend to them.  If we don’t do this from the beginning, I think we risk hardening our hearts, cutting them off, and that is ripe ground for the seeds of apathy + bitterness to grow.

So when I was honest with myself, I felt betrayed.  We had prayed and prayed that God would work in her body, heal her body.  We had pursued multiple tests over the years.  We had fought the issue when friends + family were all saying to let it go, that she was fine, just quirky.

What do you do when God allows the thing you have plead with Him never to do?  

What do you do with that?

A few days after the diagnosis, we were driving in the quiet rain on our way to church.  A flood of words came to me, and I scribbled them as fast as I could into my journal:

Sometimes the greatest gift God can give us is the gift of betraying us.  The gift of the bad news.  The unsettling, scary diagnosis.  Because when our faith survives what we thought our souls could never survive–that is a gift worth more than gold.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  (James 1:2-4)

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:6-7)

We are afraid of deep waters, resistant, and of course we would be.  But our God is a perfect parent–our parent who is more about perfecting us than pampering us.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
    and the flame shall not consume you.  (Isaiah 43:2)

He will at various times in our lives lead us through deep waters.  How else can He teach us, how else can He allow us to experience His everlasting arms underneath that keep us afloat?

The eternal God is your dwelling place,
    and underneath are the everlasting arms.  (Deuteronomy 33:27)

We resist the fiery trial–but it is only in the fire that our faith is really tested, proved, purified.  It’s only when we come through the fire that we can know: this ground we stand on is solid.  Real.  Firm.  Unshakeable.  The mountains may move and tremble; He remains the same.

God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble at its swelling.  (Psalm 46:1-3)

We cannot hope to be unaffected by the brokenness of this world.  We cannot expect not to suffer as His children the same afflictions and hardships common to man.

For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matt. 5:45)

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

But He will carry us.  He will not change.  He is good, unfailing.

Let’s not measure His love for us by the hand He deals us.  Look at Christ:  what hand did His Father deal Him?  He was perfect, sinless.  Yet He had nowhere to lay His head.  He obeyed perfectly, was perfectly upright; yet He was despised, rejected by men.  The very ones He created, the ones He came to rescue hated + betrayed Him, cried out for His blood.  He plead with His Father to deny Him the cross, to take away that cup, but the Father did not.  And Jesus surrendered to His Father’s will.

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Rom. 8:32)

Let’s not measure His love for us by the hand He deals us.  Let’s measure His (immeasurable) love for us in the way He gives Himself to us unfailingly, continually–the way He remains with us.  The way He carries us.  The way He gives more grace.  The way He gives us JESUS–and all the rich inheritance of promises found in Him.

It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed. (Deuteronomy 31:8)

No matter what comes–our lives are hidden in Christ.  Our future is secure.  And it strikes me: this is the bi-focus of the Christian faith.  What are bifocals?  A pair of glasses containing lenses with two parts with different focal lengths.  Our focus in the Christian life must always be bi-focal: at once seeing the present and also looking beyond the present, through it really, to the future.  Let us look to our eternal future, our future grace and find strength in this moment of need.

“…looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross.”  (Hebrews 12:2)

Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His Word;
Just to rest upon His promise,
And to know, ‘Thus saith the Lord.

Jesus, Jesus, How I trust Him
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er
Jesus, Jesus precious Jesus
Oh for grace to trust Him more.

Dedicated

We dedicated our darling little Philippa Ruth to the Lord this past Sunday, also dedicating ourselves to bring her up in the training + admonition of the Lord.  Making such a public statement of commitment is beautiful, but also difficult.  With our firstborn, we did so with innocent pride.  Now with our third, we do so fully aware of our complete inability to do the task at hand apart from Christ’s Spirit working in us.  We are so thankful for “Christ in us, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).  Apart from that promise, we truly would be hopeless!

DSC_0042 DSC_0056 DSC_0073-3 DSC_0118

The familiar lines from Psalm 145 rang through my soul that day:

“One generation shall commend your works to another,
    and shall declare your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
    and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds,
    and I will declare your greatness.
They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness
    and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.

The Lord is gracious and merciful,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all,
    and his mercy is over all that he has made.

 All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord,
    and all your saints shall bless you!
 They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom
    and tell of your power,
 to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds,
    and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
    and your dominion endures throughout all generations.

The Lord is faithful in all his words
    and kind in all his works.”  {Psalm 145:4-13 ESV}

Little Philippa,

We so hope to show you what a mighty God you have.  The One who breathed life into you, the One who formed you in the “secret places” of my womb long before we even knew you were in existence.  The One who shaped your very form to be exactly as it is.  The One who created you to reflect His image.  His works are awesome, child.  He is faithful in all His words, kind in all His works.  Indeed, His mercy is over all He has made.  He is rich in compassion.  Unlike your human parents, He is slow to anger.  He abounds in love.  He has already lavished such great love on you, littlest one, because He has entrusted you to us.  The hymn I have sung over you almost every night these past six months that we have held you has been an old one, “When All Thy Mercies, O My God.”

When all Thy mercies, O my God,
My rising soul surveys,
Transported with the view I’m lost
In wonder, love, and praise.

Unnumbered comforts to my soul
Thy tender care bestowed
Before my infant heart could know
From whom those comforts flowed

When worn with sickness, oft hast Thou,
With health renewed my face,
And when in sins and sorrows bowed,
Revived my soul with grace.

Through every period of my life
Thy goodness I’ll pursue,
And after death, in distant worlds,
The glorious theme renew.

My favorite line reminds me that He has lavished His love on you FIRST.  He first loved you, before your infant heart could know. He first loved you because He entrusted you to a mommy and daddy who are counted amongst His people, a mommy and daddy who are covered in grace, who will sing over you the song of His great love and mercy for ruined sinners such as ourselves.  A mommy and daddy who He has first lavished with the Gospel of grace, who in turn plan to ravish your heart with that Gospel.

We praise Him for your precious life and the joy you bring to our family.

We love you so!
Mommy + Daddy

{Photography by Celena Simpson Photography}

Making

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  (Ephesians 2:10)

10995935_10153145693472605_1875563300672622684_n 11014279_10153159421927605_3937216003618544911_n

Lately I’ve been playing around with making things.  I think there are a few reasons why I suddenly feel the need to make more art, but one sticks out to me in particular.  When you are busy in the work of parenting + homemaking, when this life of laundry, meal making, dishes, discipline, training, playing, errands, and mundane rhythms is your everyday, it can feel sort of endless.  The long-haul nature of it can wear on a person who likes to see a finished product or an accomplished goal.  The reality is, we cross many things off our lists every day, we finish a lot of menial tasks every day, and that counts for something important and it feels GOOD.  Then, little feet jump out of bed in the morning and the tidiness and order gives way to glorious chaos once again.  It’s the reality of our work as mothers, bringing some semblance of order from chaos day in and day out.

Beyond the actual work of managing and running a home, the work of raising little people into adulthood is D A U N T I N G.  If we look too far ahead, we can feel entirely overwhelmed and underprepared for what lies in the future.  The thing about parenthood is, it’s a fairly thankless and inglorious job.  More than that, it’s a marathon not a sprint.  Not even a cute little 5k.  It’s long-haulish.  Because of that, we find ourselves parenting to our particular children’s individual needs + bents and we see little glimpses of progress, but more often than not (at least in our home) we slap our proverbial foreheads and think, “How many hundreds of times have I told you this?!?!”  (Or maybe we actually say it, if we are having a weak moment.)

It’s such a work of slow returns and slow progress.  Surely progress is happening, growth is happening right under our noses, but it’s often as imperceptible as our children’s physical growth.

Maybe that’s why I’ve been craving some crafty projects lately, things that I can start, work on, and F I N I S H and see that I have, in fact, accomplished something.  Not only is the work itself soothing and relaxing, but the end product reminds me that I am still able to accomplish something lasting.  It reminds me that one day, I will see all the days of labor that melted into weeks, into months, into years produce a great harvest.  It even whispers to me that much like my children are, in a sense, the masterpiece my life is working to produce, in the very process of this … God is making a masterpiece out of me.  All the intense ways that motherhood presses me–it’s shaping and forming me more into the image He is after, the image of His Son.  I am His workmanship, and His goal is for me to grow up into full spiritual maturity.

“…until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”  (Ephesians 4:13-16)

When we grow weary in the seemingly endless and slow-producing work of parenting, let us remember He is parenting us and we are just as slow and stubborn and forgetful as our darling children.  And if it helps to alleviate some stress or to give you that sense of satisfaction that comes from accomplishing + finishing something?  Go make something.  It could be anything… a batch of cookies, a meal, a card, a bouquet of wildflowers, a hand-sewn or embroidered dress.  Enjoy the small steps, the small minutes of working with your hands, producing something, and seeing your effort come to fruition in the end product.  And while you’re at it, remember, you are His workmanship, His masterpiece, to the praise of His glorious grace.

11069266_10153165669487605_4493170504852929840_n

 

(The weaving pictured above was inspired by the lovely Beautiful Mess blog + you can find free tutorials for weaving here.  This weaving was my first and I’m already working on another!)

Keep Plowing

11172120 Every year I follow along with the Passion Conference via the live stream. Sometimes it’s just sheer piercing pain to follow along, to hear the speakers calling out to and calling up the next generation, speaking to purpose and destiny.  For the past three years I’ve followed along while nursing babies, while recovering from birth in the hospital, while washing dishes in the sink and surrounded by scattered toys and laundry basket.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am not complaining.  I cannot express enough how much I adore this season of being a momma.  It was always a dream of mine to be living THIS right here, babies and a house and just the ordinary work of the home.  Maybe you think that’s a small dream, I don’t know.  When Brandon and I found out our little firstborn was on her way, I didn’t have some big career I was leaving behind like so many of my momma friends.  I had been working service jobs for some time since graduating from college.  So it wasn’t a hard thing to switch to stay-at-home-momma mode.  It has been the greatest joy of my life!

Still, you get a bit in the trenches of it and then you tune into something like Passion and the other ambitions of your heart, the other ambitions for great kingdom work around the world are stirred up again.  They are remembered again.  Oh yes, that’s who I used to be.  I mean, that’s who I still am.  Somehow and somewhere, buried under the piles of laundry, bills, dishes, and dark-circled eyes. Somewhere beyond this little world the big world is still spinning.

It’s hard to not be set aflame with great desire to see the nations glad in God when you watch something like Passion.  And then you sit there amidst your four little walls and the temptation is to feel small.  What is this that I’m doing here?

And then the dangerous question, the question that comes up so often in my heart: Is this enough, God?

Is this enough, in light of all You’ve done for me, Jesus, to just be here cleaning toilets, filling tummies, reading stories, teaching manners, nursing babies, mediating sibling rivalries, folding clothes, running errands?  Is this a worthy way to spend my days?  Is there more I should be doing?  Something more important?

I think any momma who is honest will admit she asks herself that question.

Last night I watched + listened to Christine Caine speaking from 1 Kings 19.  It’s well worth your time to go and read the account in its entirety.  She was speaking about Elisha, how he got his beginnings in ministry.  Did you know that second only to Jesus, he worked the most recorded miracles in Scripture?  Elijah found him plowing, and he became Elijah’s assistant.

Did you catch that?  Elijah found him plowing.  There he was, just working his field, behind a long row of oxen’s rear ends.  A place of anonymity.  A place of slow progress and slow returns.  God found him busy working.  God found him.  While he was being faithful in the mundane, the unglamorous + irreverent, the dirty, the small, the stinky, and anonymous work, God saw him.  God came to him there and gave him a ministry.

Christine Caine was making the point that we simply cannot be resistant to work.  We must be busy working, right where we are, wherever we can be.  If we want to be greatly used in the kingdom of God, we simply cannot be afraid of plain hard work.

Are we looking for importance?  For a big name?  For a glamorous position?  For esteem?  Success?  Money?

As I’ve gotten deeper into parenting (while, admittedly, I am still quite the newbie to parenthood), I’ve gotten better at learning what I can feasibly take on and what is going to put too much strain on the family. It’s still so hard to say no sometimes. Yes, there is pressure and guilt, whether real or imagined, from a culture (even the Christian culture) that places such a high premium on productivity, activity, and busyness.

There are a lot of opportunities that I would love to be a part of. Even hearing about global and foreign needs can make me so restless at home. Is this really enough, God, when children are starving? When children are being trafficked? When there are so many who are still unreached? It feels wrong in some ways to just be investing into my own home and children when the need is so great. Yet I know it is “my field” right now.

My husband and I recently went on a little “visioning” date for the New Year and over the course of a few hours worked through Jennie Allen’s “dream guide” and then discussed it together. One of the things I am most convicted about afresh this year is to be wholly given and devoted to my primary field, which is Brandon and my children. I’m often busy mentally at home with girlfriends, fellow mommas, this blog space, and responding to needs in these spheres. While that’s all so good and important, it can’t be that I’m neglecting my kids in order to “minister” elsewhere. I’m so convicted that, as for me, the very best and firsts of my strength must be given to my immediate family (1 Tim. 5:8). If there are scraps of time and energy and resources left, then of course, I am eager to invest it in others as much as I am able. For me the struggle is often getting that backwards, and the result is a husband and children who are getting the scraps and leftovers.

But if you’re like me do you ever wonder, what, then, do I do with these burning desires in my heart to participate in these other kingdom works? When I’m aching to go to Africa but have no means? When there are needs at church that I simply cannot logistically work out a way to help with?

Maybe it’s not revolutionary to you, but the realization hit hard last night while watching Passion. “PRAY the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (Matt. 9:38) Send the workers into the harvest, Lord! My field here right now may be very small, very tucked away on an obscure little anonymous and unseen plot of land. But I can pray. I can pray the Lord of the harvest to equip and send workers out into the field. I can pray for souls to come to salvation, for all nations to be made glad in Him. I can pray for daily opportunities to plant seeds while I’m plowing this little muddy field.  I can trust that at some point, I will be the worker He sends into that field.  But in the meantime… this right here is the field I’ve been sent to: DSC_0068 DSC_0072 DSC_0081 For the one so desperately wanting to contribute, you are contributing to the work by raising children up in the fear + admonition of the Lord. God has entrusted you with these children, these precious lives, and you, in all the world, are the best equipped to love, to suffer long with, and train up these little lives.  That’s why He gave them to YOU.  If you don’t invest in them, who will?

Don’t miss this precious and most important work right in front of you because the global need is beckoning and your former freedoms haunt.

With that said, let’s not discredit prayer as a major contribution. But, see, it too is unseen. It feels small. It feels unimportant and, once again, anonymous. God sees. God hears. The God who beckons us to pray for Him to send out workers, He will honor that prayer with a harvest. A harvest of workers in fields where we cannot work.

If we are not willing to grow smaller in our labors for Him we can never expect to be used greatly by Him.  It is the humility of our plowing the prepares us to serve Him in more public endeavors with humility.  You see, while we are busy at our plows, He is also turning the soil of the hardened ground of our hearts, breaking up the hard clods of pride there, making us soft, broken, pliable, ready, available, open.  Preparing us, accustoming us to decreasing, that He might increase.

What an incredible God we serve, who both calls and enables us to co-labor with Him.  What an incredible God, who always reminds us that the servant cannot be greater than his Master (John 13:16), who takes us from one place of serving to another.  In the end, no matter what plow He has sovereignly placed in our hands, let us serve Him there with great humility and joy.  Let Him find us working!