The Measure of Success

The day reaches its end, a good day, yet the weariness is still there.  The pots and pans are scrubbed, leftovers tucked away.  The children, too, are scrubbed and tucked away.  Only the blowing wind, the rain pattering on the sill, the occasional rumble of thunder now.


How do we measure our days?  How does my soul measure the fruitfulness of a day?  These thoughts weigh on my mind as I turn on the faucet and let the hot water beat on my skin.  The days end, a good day, yet I feel that I didn’t accomplish enough.  I didn’t get to this or that.  Pictures still wait to be hung on our walls here, piles of clutter still wait to be organized.  For heaven’s sake, I have nothing ready for the baby coming in just a few weeks.  I groan inwardly as I think of all that needs to be done.  Hospital bags packed, baby clothes pulled out and washed and organized, freezer stocked with meals.  Carving out and setting up a little space for this little life that is coming.  My social media outlets are filling up with news and pictures of all my friends and family that were due ahead of us, each one welcoming a baby.  Each a reminder that soon it will be our turn.

So much left to do, and my heart feels unprepared.  So many people have given us words of woe about the transition from 2 to 3 children, and I groan every time.  Really?  So few encourage or speak words of strength.  I need the borrowed strength right now, I think.  It seems my preparations have been mostly around labor this time, trying to fight back the fears and worries of a repeat of what happened at Noah’s birth.  {A baby in distress, taken from me right at birth due to swallowed meconium, while my body experienced its own trauma from a broken/separated pelvis and postpartum hemorrhage.  Not to mention a very slow and complicated recovery.}  How to prepare my heart and mind for the adjustments that are to come?

All I want to do is savor this season a little longer, this time as a family of four, before we transition and never pass this way again.

Then these words via Ann Voskamp’s blog today:

“The thing I know most about seasons —  is that God made them to change.  And it is in the passing through them, the move from one season to the next, that true beauty is brought forth.” {Laura Boggess}

It makes me think about labor, just one kind of passing from one season to the next.  All that comes when that baby comes, all the unknowns and questions and uncertainties, all the newness all over again.  I want to resist the change and the fears surrounding the unknowns.  But true beauty is brought forth in the passing.  The letting go, the welcoming what is to come, whatever it is.  Trusting, surrendering to this wild and untamable yet good God who is most certainly more intent on my conformity to Christ than my comfort, my holiness rather than my happiness.  {Why again is surrender so hard, so daily?}

And so I look back over the day.. what is the measure of my days, Lord?  What is the measure of success?  Is it every task crossed off the list?  Is it what my hands can accomplish that makes me feel worthy, worthy of having been given another day breathing air?  Why is this always what my soul comes back to? Like a dog returns to its vomit, why do I return over and over the stinking pile of guilt and shame?  If I feel this way now, how will I feel in a few weeks when I am totally unable to lift a finger to accomplish much around here besides feeding, swaddling, changing a newborn?  What do you say, Lord?

“When the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us not by works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of His mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us in full measure through Jesus Christ our Savior. And so, since we have been justified by His grace, we become heirs with the confident expectation of eternal life.” {Titus 3:4-7 NET}

The passage goes on to exhort the readers to good works, because of the example of the Good Work that Christ did for us, and because our good works are profitable for others.  Ahh yes, this balance again.  The Lord’s gentle grace whispered again:

“My child, it isn’t what you do that can ever attain worthiness.  You cannot measure yourself or your days by the works of your hands.  You must rest in what I have done for you, what I have accomplished, what I finished.  I have made you worthy.  And yet, yes, you must work, there is much work I have for you.  The work of love, of likewise pouring out your life.  The work of kindness and ministering grace and reconciliation to all that I put before you.  The work of the mundane tasks and necessary preparations in each day.  These things are the practical avenues through which you can show love.  And of course, you fail and grow faint and weary.  But I am your God, your Creator, the One who formed you.  I remember that you are dust.  Come to me, let me pour out grace afresh.  Let me restore and renew.”

I think of the words I studied in the Gospels this morning:  Come to me like a child.  I watch my daughter dance amidst the mess of toys, the unpacked boxes, the unhung pictures, the scattered books.  Unhindered, unhurried.  Delighting in being delighted in.  Lord, let me be the daughter who dances freely and lightly in the unforced rhythms of grace.  

Help me to “be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know the Messiah’s love that surpasses knowledge.” {Eph. 3:17-19}  To measure the immeasurable love of Christ for me.


{The Shelves} Glimpses of Grace

The sun rises on a crisp new day.


She stands by the window, steaming cup of the strongest coffee in cold hands.  She just stands in the silence.  Her heart is quiet.  She wants to just be here, in this hallowed here.  A whisper in her soul says, “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.  They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness” {Lam. 3:22-24}.

A heavy sigh.  A deep breath.  Yes.  A new start, thank you, Lord.

The list of resolves begin:  Today will be different.
I won’t raise my voice at them today.
I won’t be irritated and distracted and selfish today.
I will serve them happily.
I will enjoy them.
I will open my heart to the beautiful messes.
I won’t be surprised when they disobey.
I will be patient.
I won’t discipline in anger.

And on and on.. this litany of guilt and hope.

And then, the first child’s cry and the day of work has begun.  She leaves her coffee, and gets the littlest one to nurse, and the giving away begins again.

But then the baby has a blow out.  And the three year old wakes up whining and with a runny nose again.  Her husband forgot to take the trash out.  Milk is spilled, plastic forks are banging on the table and dropping on the floor, along with food.  There’s one child talking back and another one screaming.  And she’s hardly made it through breakfast before every single resolve has been broken.  What to make of this?  What hope is there for tomorrow?  What hope is there for her, in her frail and broken flesh to love well?

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If there is one book I would recommend to any mom, maybe even any woman, it’s this one by Gloria Furman.  It’s what’s on the bedside table this month.


Gloria writes for 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, per the parable at the beginning of this post, 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?

“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” (Furman, 16-17).

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Gloria Furman is a momma to four children, a pastor’s wife, a doula, a blogger, a missionary and church-planter in Dubai. In this book, with a ton of humor and fresh vulnerable honesty, she shares about the way the gospel of grace has impacted and sustained her in each of these endeavors.  How it has impacted the way they open their home, deal with a debilitating nerve disorder in her husband’s arms, raise their children, serve the people of Dubai, learn a new language, deal with infant-induced sleep-deprivation, dirty dishes, bill paying, etc.

One of the things that struck me to the core was her discussion of our common “use” of the gospel as the means for salvation, but not our daily means for sanctification.  She quotes D.A. Carson:

“First, if the gospel becomes that by which we slip into the kingdom, but all the business of transformation turns on postgospel disciplines and strategies, then we shall constantly be directing the attention of people away from the gospel, away from the cross and resurrection.  Soon the gospel will be something that we quietly assume is necessary for salvation, but not what we are excited about, not what we are preaching, not the power of God.”

Her book goes on to unfold how we need the gospel, how we need to preach the gospel to ourselves daily, that we are to appropriate God’s grace to us in the gospel in order to depend moment-by-moment on Christ’s sufficient righteousness instead of our own attempts at righteousness.  It is so transformative a truth, so freeing, and so mind-blowing that it is one she applies to the various different aspects of managing a home, revealing how it plays out practically in our day-to-day.

It’s a book I will treasure and will read again and again.  There has not been another book, outside of the inspired words of Scripture, that has met and been a salve to my soul like this book in the current circumstance as a stay-at-home momma, wife, and manager of the home.  It literally has breathed new life into this soul of mine!  I highly commend it to you!

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“Even in my darkest doubts when I do the same thing again the next day, my hope is still built on the righteousness of Christ.  The gospel keeps me relating to God on the basis of Jesus’ perfections, not on the illusions of my religious achievements.  God strengthens me and protects me according to his faithfulness, not mine (2 Thess. 3:3)” (Furman, 33).

{For those of you who are interested, Gloria Furman will release her second book, Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full: Gospel Meditations for Busy Moms at the end of this month!!!}