january

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She’s a red bird out in the winter landscape
all barren, bleak and brown
but made new
Because a child is here
and wherever a child is, there is life and curiosity and wonder
all things made new again.

It is early January and we woke on Sunday without electricity.  We lit our fire and got a text that church services would be cancelled for the day, so we snuggled in for a cozy morning.  Ice came down, blanketing everything, turning our bleak ordinary into something new, magical.  As soon as she had eaten breakfast, Phoebe bundled up in her red Phoebe sweater which I knit for her a few years ago (it still fits!) and went out to explore.  I went with her, exploring our usual and ordinary little plot of ground which looked so transformed by the ice.  All morning we heard limbs cracking and exploding in our neighborhood.  Generators were running.

I’ve been in a reflective state these past couple of weeks.  It used to be that I spent much of December reflecting on the end of the year and journaling, setting goals and listening to the Lord for His Word to me for the coming new year.  Now with two children’s birthdays and the Christmas festivities, I am far too busy in December for much reflection at all.  I’ve realized that January has become that time for me, and I give myself the whole month to go slow, to put my ear to God’s Word and listen.  It has been good to be in ordinary time, no big celebrations, just the quiet return to old paths.

I still haven’t processed it yet, this changing of years, the closing of the last and the start of the new.  I find myself more discouraged, tired and overwhelmed this year than I think I’ve ever been.  I feel like my plate is incredibly full, even as I watch other women juggle far more than I.  I feel my smallness.  I feel quieted.  I also feel more hopeful and trusting of the Lord than I think I’ve ever been going into a new year–can all those realities coexist at once?  I’m not sure how.

I find myself disoriented by it all, like somehow I’ve lost my way a bit.  My ear is to the ground, my face set firmly on His, my feet retracing all the old and worn paths.  It is good; He is my good.  Nothing can separate us from His love.  Nothing else will satisfy us.

I pray you and I hear His voice early in our year.  That we seek Him about the year to come and wait for a word from Him, a glimpse of Him, more than watchmen wait for the morning.  That we persist like a lover in pursuit of her Beloved.  I pray that we see the little red birds in the bleak winter landscape, all things ordinary made beautiful and new.  All the things we think are tired, old, lost — redeemed.

“You shall no longer be termed Forsaken,
and your land shall no longer be termed Desolate
but you shall be called ‘My Delight is in Her,’
and your land ‘Married,’
and your land shall be married.
For as a young man marries a young woman,
so shall your builder marry you,
and as a bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
so shall your God rejoice in you.”
Isaiah 62:4-5

 

january

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A fresh new year—the ending of one year and the beginning of another makes us all pause, take note, consider, evaluate.  Even when we don’t want to, don’t have the energy to, or don’t believe in setting goals, intentions, or making resolutions–somehow we still in some way find ourselves reflective.  Even when we’re afraid all we say we will change and do and accomplish will inevitably fail, and all the ways we plan to better ourselves might end up like last year’s plans.  We still find ourselves wanting.  New Years resolutions–aren’t they filled with wanting?  And there’s nothing really wrong with that in some ways.  It’s natural for us to want to improve, change, increase, grow.  It’s good and right.  It’s the natural way for any living thing: to grow.

Yet I sometimes hear in all our New Years talk a lot of discontent.  We chatter on about the things we want to attain for ourselves this year, the things we think we need to have to be happier, more comfortable, more seen and known, contented, successful.  In this I think we have to be careful.  Yes, let us reflect, let us learn to number our days–but not for our own glory and renown, but for God’s glory and the sake of the kingdom.  Let us evaluate where in life we have gotten off track in regard to His purposes for us, and endeavor to readjust.

Gratitude is good and right, too–seeing what we already have, seeing all the gifts of God’s grace, seeing how far He has brought us and trusting Him to carry us all the way Home.  Remembering that truly we need far less than we think, remembering that our happiness comes not in our feeding our fleshly desires but in denying them.  In letting God fulfill us, satisfy us.  Remembering that if we are discontent today with all the bounty we have before us, we will still be discontent tomorrow even if we attain more.  Remembering that God alone is our good, our portion, our inheritance–and if we are in Christ, we always have Him, and that is enough.  There is always joy available to us, there is always grace as long as we have breath, there is always the opportunity to be content.

In the years before I was a mother, I often would spend a portion of New Years Eve and day journaling about the big moments of the closing year, and the things I felt God had done in me and in my life, and then recording where I found myself at that present time and the scripture I sensed God was highlighting for me for the coming year.  This season of motherhood and being late in my fourth pregnancy makes finding such uninterrupted time for journaling scarce.  Instead of feeling “behind” because I don’t have all my reflections and thoughts in order by the first of January, I’ve been taking the whole month of January as a time of reflection.

It’s been a sweet month in that way.  The rush of the holy holidays behind us, children’s birthdays done for a year, and now stretching before us a string of ordinary days.  Back to our common life.  Mornings spent mostly at home working on school, house work, small projects here and there, organizing, cooking, playing in the mud and snow, trips to the library, neighborhood walks, books on the couch, pizza on fridays.  Weekends spent cramming in as much time with daddy, to-do list items crossed off before baby comes, running errands, worship and rest.  There has been a lot of journaling, listening, reflecting in the early morning quiet, when the world is still hushed and dark and I sit with the scriptures and coffee.

But the beginning of this year was also hard.  Brandon worked the first two weeks straight without taking a day off, working late into the evenings, and it took a toll on us both.  During that time I was also sick with a head cold, as well as some other body grievances, and felt pretty wiped out and depleted.  Phoebe has had some major setbacks in her appetite and eating, which has caused me to do a good bit of revamping our usual staples, recipe testing, and recipe hunting, which is all very exhausting.  I’ve had my share of breakdowns over the last month, nights when I just end the day in a pool of tears.  So yes, January: back to the ordinary, which can be sweet, but also can feel like a slow plod forward with a summit far off in the distance, obscured by clouds.  Sometimes I feel like I’ve lost my way and can’t remember what my course is supposed to be anyway.

It’s never too late to step back and take time, take stock.  Even if in your January there wasn’t much time for it, February is as good a time as any.

There are a few extra-biblical resources I would recommend to you if you’re looking for a few books to help you along the way.  These particular titles kept coming to mind throughout this past month, books that have grounded and inspired and set me on course.

  • The Songs of Jesus: A year of daily devotions in the Psalms by Tim Keller
    I believe this is the third or fourth year I’ve read through this devotional daily.  Some years ago I was studying the Psalms and bought this resource to help stay saturated in them, and I don’t know that I’ll ever really graduate from daily reading the Psalms.  This  book is helpful in that it is short and entirely feasible to squeeze in when you literally have moments to read before little children’s feet hit the floor.  It’s also one I frequently read aloud to Brandon or the kids if they are up early snuggling with me.
  • A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society by Eugene Peterson
    I read this years ago in college but am curious to re-read it lately.  This concept of our Christian lives being “a long  obedience in the same direction,” the endurance and seemingly slow returns of the Christian life rings true for me lately.  The world seems to be spinning ahead faster and faster, and we are a people more entitled and impatient than ever.  Yet if we do not remember and return to this reality, that our Christian lives will look more like a long obedience in one narrow direction, I believe we will lose heart and fall away.  We need encouragement in our endurance!  Also, this book happens to center around the Psalms of Ascent:  “I knew that following Jesus could never develop into a ‘long obedience’ without a deepening life of prayer and that the Psalms had always been the primary means by which Christians learned to pray everything they lived, and live everything they prayed over the long haul.” (Peterson)
  • Your Beautiful Purpose by Susie Larson
    This book, combined with Emily Freeman’s book below, were two that gave me permission to pursue some dreams and passions and desires of my heart, to make room in my life for creative expression (this blog, photography, knitting, reading) and to see God’s purpose in it.  The two books together seemed to have a conversation in my soul that helped me discern more of my purpose, which was incredibly freeing and fruitful.
  • A Million Little Ways by Emily Freeman
    See above. 🙂
  • Transforming Grace: Living Confidently in God’s Unfailing Love by Jerry Bridges
    This one came to me a few years ago in a terrible season of battling a besetting sin.  I needed to understand how God’s grace was literally transforming me when I felt that I was making no headway.  This is just one of those books I think any Christian can benefit from reading at any time, but particularly those of us who just can’t seem to get beyond moralistic living, those of us who always come to God with our performance in our right hand, whether for good or ill.

I know many people choose a “word” for the year.  I find God often seems to choose a word for the year for me, a scripture.  (Sometimes I think we are skeptical that God speaks to us in this way, but I have found that if I ask Him to give me a word (scripture) over the coming year, a focus, a truth that He is planning to weave into the fabric of my life in those days–and then I wait for Him to answer–I find that He has always answered.  His primary means of speaking to us is through His Word, and He loves His Word (see Psalm 119) and delights to answer a cry from a heart hungry for His Word.  I think we can be confident that praying this is praying in accord with His will (1 Jn. 5:14)).

He seems to highlight and repeat a certain scripture to me, something that speaks to a current need or struggle or question.  This year, the word “peace” came up in my soul so unexpectedly.  We live in tumultuous times, yes, but in my own home and heart, there is a cry for peace!   And then, this scripture came up time and time again, everywhere I turned.  It will be my focus for the year 2018, and I leave it with you, too, as an encouragement onward in your own race!  I hope that in this new year, you and I both find ourselves walking a bit more closely with Jesus, growing in grace.

“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever, Amen.”
Hebrews 13:20-21 esv

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all things new

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January slips by quiet.  The world is all in a rage, my head spins with it all.  My own little world hidden in these four walls spins, too.  We begin packing.  We are moving from this rental because our landlord plans to sell it to a friend next month.  We plod along with schooling, with work on Phoebe’s health.  It seems most days I can barely keep up with the demands.  The kids and I have been sick for the last couple of weeks with a bad respiratory virus.  We’ve been inside and home more than usual, letting them rest and heal.  On the sunnier and warmer days, we’ve been out, walking our usual routes in the neighborhood.  I’m saying goodbye in my own slow way, imprinting things in my memory, detaching, shifting.  I’m thankful for some time left to do that.

For many years, since college really, I’ve leaned in close and quiet at the beginning and end of each year.  Many people make goals and dream dreams, and I’m all for that, and often have a few quiet goals of my own.  But the passing of each year heightens my awareness that time is slipping by, speeding onward.  My life is being spent faster than I realize.  What interests me most in the reflection on that is what the Lord is doing in these days.  In the last weeks of December, I’m prayerfully asking Him to direct my steps in the coming year, specifically in the Scriptures.  I seek a word form Him, usually a theme for the coming year, something He is going to teach me from scripture, something He wants me to attend to.  Last year He led me to Psalm 93.  He seemed to say that the coming year (2016) was going to feel a bit like being in a tumult of rising waters, but He reminded me that He sits enthroned above the waters.  He is sovereign and mighty to save.  That scripture ministered to me over and over again in the year as we faced one of the hardest years of our married lives.  I think it’s what kept my head above water.  I felt a bit of trepidation asking Him again this past December what He would say to me about 2017.  The week of Christmas we received some of the worst and scariest news yet about Phoebe’s recovery/health and also flooded with medical bills we have no way to pay.  At the same time, our landlord called to inform us we had two months to find a new place to live.  I have cried a lot of tears.  I have been brought low, back to the painful and sweet place where I remember that my God is sufficient, He is all I need, He is my strong refuge, my reward, my shield, the lifter of my head.  It’s that place where whatever my heart is set upon gets sifted and my soul remembers its true end.  I am made for God and nothing else will satisfy.  Not even a secure home to live in.  Not even the basic finances we need, or the health of my child.  He is able to provide these things, and I am confident He will take care of us.  But my heart cannot be set on my changing circumstances.  They are fickle and uncertain.

In the tumult of these emotions and the quiet place of just being laid bare before the Lord, He spoke to me Revelation 21:5:  “Behold, I am making all things new.”  He kept speaking it to me everywhere I would turn, though my heart resisted it.  Resisted hope.  Hope is painful!  It’s easier to brace for disappointment.  It’s part of why it’s been hard for me to write about it on the blog–there’s a part of me still afraid to hope.  What does He mean that He is making all things new?  Will we see our girl finally turn a corner this year and truly and fully recover?  Will we find a home that we love, a place to raise our little brood, a place to set down roots and live out the kingdom?  Will we find some rest this year from the onslaught of difficulty?  I can’t say.  Maybe we will be made new, even as our difficulties continue.

We walk quiet through the familiar trails, children happy to be in the sun and fresh air.  Everything seems colorless, bleak, brown.  Winter.  I breathe deep.  It’s bleak and barren now, but spring is barely a whisper on the wind.  It will burst into color soon enough.  One way or another, all this death, destined for a resurrection.

greater things

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Just a little glimpse into our week.  We’ve been home a lot, doing tasks around the house, staying in instead of facing the cold or rainy weather, doing crafts and reading books.  In reading Emily Freeman’s book Simply Tuesday last year (“last year” sounds weird to say, still), she talks about grounding ourselves in our present moments by keeping track of what fills our days.  She does this by keeping a list called “These are the days of..”  I’ve been finding myself mentally making a list, smiling over some moments, mourning others, and keenly aware that these days will soon fade into others.  These things that are so common to me right now I will pretty much completely forget in a few years time, the way that winter slowly gives way to spring, frost melting and crocus pushing up through soil.  These days so full of children, diapers, immediate felt needs, discipline, correction, training, tiptoeing in the early morning hours so as not to wake the baby, squeezing in tiny moments of prayer and scripture, etc.

These are the days of…
the kids banging on the window while they watch brandon leave for work
vacuuming around the toys
a never-ending laundry basket
morning snuggles
usually tidy but not always clean
philippa playing dress up in the laundry basket
noah says to me, “picture this” meaning, take a picture of this.
“adventures in odyssey” playing in the car

The year is two weeks underway, and already it is off to quite a start.  Brandon and I have spent some time looking ahead and have been totally overwhelmed with some of the needs and demands this year is going to present to us.  We are facing potentially one of our most challenging years yet financially.  We are not seeing the growth and healthy response to the gluten-free diet that we should be seeing from Phoebe and have more medical work ahead of us to figure out why.  We hope to buy our first home.  We may need a new car as Brandon’s well-loved car nears 300K miles.  We celebrate our 10th anniversary in May.  We have a family trip planned in the summer that we don’t want to miss.  We have some medical needs to deal with in 2016.  Our firstborn will start school in the fall.  And other things I can’t mention.

The only appropriate response we’ve been able to muster to all that is to come is prayer.  We have been totally brought to our knees in dependency and pleading with the Lord for wisdom, for guidance, for provision, for help.

I asked Phoebe the other night what she wanted to pray for and she said happily, “I want to ask God to give me everything I want.”  I thought to correct her at first, but then found myself nodding with understanding.  Isn’t that essentially what we’re doing when we pray?  In so many ways, we’re bringing our “wants” before God, asking Him to give us all the things we think we want and need.

“Keep us safe, Lord.  Keep us healthy.  Turn the children’s hearts to you.  Provide for our needs.  Work out this difficult situation.  Help us, Lord.  Bring justice.  Forgive us.  Forgive them.”

More than teaching her to be careful what she prays for, or to somehow imply that there is a right way to pray to God, I want to teach her to be real before Him and bring her whole heart before Him.  I want to teach her that it’s the safest place for all her honest emotions.  The place where she really can bare her soul, respectfully and honoring Him, of course, but with vulnerability + transparency.  Isn’t this what He urges us to do, to bring our requests before Him, to pour out our hearts to Him and to ask for what we need and want?  The beauty of children is their innocent asking, their constant and unabashed neediness.  Yet as we age, we learn that usually getting everything we want strangles the life right out of the soul.  We learn that we don’t really know what’s best for us, even though we think we do.  We learn we can safely ask God for anything in accordance with His will, and yet we surrender all our requests to the safety of His will, knowing that even a good request, even a godly desire might be refused because He is after greater things for us.

Maybe He is after greater things than a totally safe life.

Maybe He is after greater things than perfect health.

Maybe He is after greater things than all our needs met all the time.

Maybe He is after greater things.

In our neediness, in our brokenness, in our failure, in our struggle, in our emptiness, in our loneliness–isn’t this where we grope for Him?  Where we are are most reminded of our dependency?

I read this scripture the other day in Proverbs and felt like I finally understood it.

No ill befalls the righteous,
but the wicked are filled with trouble.  (Prov. 12:21)

Really?  No ill befalls the righteous?  My life is full of ill!

Maybe the same things/events/circumstances happen to both those who follow God and those who don’t.  Maybe the difference isn’t in what occurs, but the way each responds to it.  Maybe all that the enemy plans for my harm, destruction, and discouragement, the Lord uses to drive me deeper into Him.  Maybe what could derail me instead deepens me in Christ Jesus.  Maybe that’s how whatever could be called “ill” can somehow, in the mysterious ways of God, in the wisdom of God that seems like folly to man, can somehow be called “blessing.”

When I bent to pray over the New Year in the early morning dark all alone, when I pled for Him to give me direction over this year and when I sought Him for a word over it, He clearly whispered Psalm 93 in my spirit.  It speaks of waters rising, waters threatening to swallow up, to overflow, to drown.  And yet, it speaks of Him reigning supreme.  I believe He was wanting to tell me ahead of time what kind of year I can expect to have.  I believe some things are going to come in this year that will make me feel totally out of breath, totally surrounded.  (We are two weeks in and already feeling it.)  He has spoken so much comfort and strength to me through the Scriptures.  And this is the beauty of following Him, this is the beauty of knowing Him: He promises to go with me, to go before me, to carry me, to comfort me, to strengthen and establish me.  He promises that nothing can come to me that He will not work for my good.  He promises that in the end, not even death can separate me from Him.  For the child of God, nothing is empty, nothing is meaningless, nothing is not ripe with blessing and fruitfulness, if we are willing to receive it, if we are willing to be open to it.  The blessed life is not always the feel-good life.  But what is my good?  My good is to be near Him.  To behold His beauty.  To experience the power of His presence.  To hear His voice.  Sometimes the hardest of circumstances, the most desperate of times, the greatest of griefs are what it will take for me to experience Him the most deeply.  He is faithful.

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)

for the fearful + trembling ones

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“The Lord reigns; He is robed in majesty;
The Lord is robed, He has put on strength as His belt.
Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.
Your throne is established from of old;
You are from everlasting.

The floods have lifted up, O Lord,
The floods have lifted up their voice;
The floods lift up their roaring.
Mightier than the thunders of many waters,
Mightier than the waves of the sea,
The Lord on high is mighty!

Your decrees are very trustworthy;
Holiness befits Your house,
O Lord, forevermore.”

Psalm 93

This is how I enter a New Year.  This, Psalm 93, is the word that breaks out over it.  If I’m honest, I often begin a new year fearful.  Maybe that’s something that will change one day, maybe it’s changing right now.  The reality is, it’s the honest truth of my heart.  He knows it anyway, I might as well be honest.  He receives me, even in my frailty and insecurity.

I look back over the past year and I can’t believe the trials that were faced, the things that hit us that we could never have seen coming.  And I fear, what is ahead?  I know that no one gets through life unscathed, no one gets through a year unscathed by hardship of some kind.  I know pain is on its way to me.  Loss.  Difficulty.  And yet, joy is on its way to me, too.  Good things are coming.  Great joys are coming!  We end the year singing hymns of peace on earth + good tidings of great joy, and yet I start the year feeling like the floods are threatening to rise up, they lift their voice and demand to be heard.  But over it all, He reigns.

Mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea, the Lord on high is mighty!

No matter what comes, no matter what threatens to come, this is the ground beneath my feet:  the Lord reigns.

It is the wonderful thing about being under His rule: it is brim-full of promise.  He works all things together for my good.  His purpose will stand and no one can thwart it.  The good work He began in me He will bring to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.  He will perfect that which concerns me.  All His promises to me are yes + amen in Jesus Christ.  He will never leave me nor forsake me.  He gives more grace. He will make me happy by what His hands have done.  All that He asks of me, His grace will provide.  No weapon formed against me will prosper.  That same power that raised Christ from the dead is now living in me.  Christ in me, the hope of glory, the greatest mystery of all.

“For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed,
But My kindness shall not depart from you,
Nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,
Says the Lord, who has mercy on you.”
(Isaiah 54:10)

“God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea
Though its waters roar and be troubled
Though the mountains shake with its swelling.

There is a river whose streams
Shall make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High
God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved;
God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.
The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved,
He uttered His voice, the earth melted.

The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge.”
(Psalm 46:1-7)

This is the answer to all of my anxieties: the Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge.  This is the antidote: the Lord reigns.

I don’t have to hold my world up.  I don’t have to hold Him on His throne–He establishes it, He is robed in strength + majesty.

Isn’t it, in a world gone mad, in a tumultuous world where bombings, terrorism, murder + rape, earthquakes + hurricanes, failing health, failing finances, failing relationships loom heavy– Isn’t it really the truth?

The world is established; it shall never be moved. (Ps. 93:1)

It feels wild and raging and out of control.  But His word says it really is somehow all in His hands.  The bedrock beneath all of our quaking and heaving is still the same: His purposes are fixed, they shall never be moved, not even a fraction of an inch by the sinfulness and instability of man and the fallenness of the created order.  When it feels senseless, I must remember: It is all ordered by purpose.

So maybe I’m the only one who quakes a bit at the start of a new year.  Maybe I’m the only distrusting and fearful child of His that looks back over the last year and sees all the hardship that came and sometimes forgets how His grace saw me through it all.  Maybe I’m the only one who felt a bit bowled over by some things that came in 2015.  Maybe I’m the only one who feels the enemy of my soul breathing threats and lies at the back of my neck.  But I doubt it.  For anyone else who quakes a bit at the verge of a new year, for anyone else who feels like they’re standing on shaking ground, for anyone else who is staring certain hardship right in the face:

He is our constant source of stability (Isa. 33:6).  

The Lord of hosts is with us.  The Immanuel of Christmas, the one who came to be with us as one of us, goes into this new year with us.  He goes before.  His hand is upon us.  He is our rearguard.

Yes, the Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge.

So for you and I, the trembling ones, the quaking and sometimes-unbelieving ones:

May we know in 2016 that His throne is established, that we are His people, that He will establish us, that He will carry us, that His grace will see us through.  May He be the security of our times.

Hello, 2015!

Welcome to a new year, folks!  How have you been spending New Years Day?  After almost rushing to the ER this morning with a rambunctious boy that seemed to have a possible broken arm, it’s been an otherwise usual Thursday.  No time off around here.  I’ve been begrudgingly taking down Christmas from around the house, while listening to more Christmas music.  That’s ok, right??

Meanwhile my little ones have been doing this sort of stuff:

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It was a late and exhausting night for my husband and I both last night and there was No. WAY. we were staying up till midnight voluntarily.  I mean, when you have a newborn… WHO DOES THAT?!  Who volunteers for less sleep?  Not us.

We tucked the kids in bed at usual bedtime, made chocolate chip cookies, snuggled by the fire and watched “Life Below Zero,” our latest hulu addiction.  I awoke startled to a ruckus at 12:03 am, realized it was fireworks, rolled over and said “Happy New Year, babe” to Brandon, and back to sleep I went.  So that was that.

I fully intend to spend a chunk of time, when I have one (a girl can dream, right?) journaling about this past year and looking forward to what I sense God is up to in 2015.  Some goal setting will happen then.  I have already had quite a few goals rumbling around in my heart but I need to sift through and see what is reasonable to pursue this year, and what is just going to make me feel like a big fat failure.

For the past number of years I have asked God to give me a word for the year, a focus for He and I.  Last year (2014.. last year?  that feels weird to say already) was the “feast of grace” year.  I feel like for the past year or two God has been taking me back to the very basics of our faith.. the Gospel.  Grace.  And as I’ve been trying to listen to the Lord in the busy work of this season, bustling around, asking Him for a word for this year, all I can think is: JESUS.  I just want Jesus.  I want to know Him better.  I want to adore Him more.  I want to see His glory every day.  I want Him in the worst way.  Desperate for Him.

Motherhood has a way of paring you down, paring life down to the essentials.  The basics.  The absolute necessities.

Motherhood has a way of making you desperate for Jesus.  Maybe I’m the only one.

I don’t know if that’s my “word” yet, I’m still sitting on it and laying it before the Lord.  But I can tell you that I will be placing myself deeply in the Word with renewed efforts this year.  The first number of weeks with a newborn interrupt our routines in the best of ways, but my soul has been starving for deep and prolonged time in God’s Word.  I’ve been carving time out for that this past week and already the soul-numbness and apathy that creeps in when I neglect time in God’s Word is being replaced with sweet hunger.

A friend wrote me today asking about some ideas/ways to stay in God’s Word right now, and it made me think.  I want to share these simple ideas + tools with any one else out there like me who is hungry for more of Jesus in 2015.

1.  Timothy Willard recently published a book called Longing for More (which I am actually reviewing on the blog sometime this week hopefully).

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This would be a wonderful tool, with daily readings for the entire year, organized around the seasons and rhythms of daily life.  More on this book to come in the next few days, but for now, I recommend it to you as a devotional-type read with scriptures, prayers and meditations.

2.  I’ve recently begun following along with the lovely “She Reads Truth” community during the Advent season.  They are starting a study of the Gospel of John as of today and you can follow along for free on their blog here or through their app!

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If you’re looking for an online community of women who want to be in the Word and are looking for kinship and accountability in it, this is a great resource!  I plan to follow along as I can.  If you want to dig deeper into John, they also offer an optional/additional study pack here.

3.  The best years are the years when I’m committed to a year of Scripture memory.  Anyone else?  It’s hard to commit at the outset of the year, but those are the years when I have drawn the closest to the Lord and seen the greatest fruit.  I’m nervous, as usual, to commit this year with all that I’m juggling, but if I don’t have time to meditate on God’s Word, some other things are going to have to be eliminated.

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I have journeyed with Beth Moore’s blog community (called “Siesta Scripture Memory Team”) every year since she began it (she usually offers it every other year).  It is a very doable amount of memorization, two verses a month, on the 1st and 15th of the month.  Beth posts the verse she is memorizing on the 1st and 15th of each month, and you go and post your own or borrow hers if you need inspiration.  She shares a whole lot more about it on her blog, and the very first post is up today!

Of course, there are a lot of lovely bible studies available out there as well!

What are you doing to keep in the Word this 2015?  I’d love to hear what you’re studying or what resources you may have to share!  Let’s encourage one another in this great and beautiful pursuit of Jesus.

Remember the War

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One of the books that kept company with me during the Advent season was Piper’s “Good News of Great Joy.”  It was a sweet guide prompting me to see and to savor Jesus’ glory specifically in His incarnation.  Piper is clear that observing the Advent season + traditions is not a biblical mandate but is simply a tool for meditating on the wonders of the incarnation, God coming to earth in human form, and thereby increasing our worship and enjoyment of Jesus.

I loved how Piper argued for the benefit of observing Advent, even though it is not required, at the outset of his book, and finished it with an exhortation not to worship the tradition of Advent itself.  He reminds that keeping a tradition such as Advent is a religious ritual that was meant to be a shadow pointing us to the substance.  It serves a purpose but ultimately we must set our gaze not on the religious ritual itself, but on the person of Jesus.  See, we are creatures who are bent toward worship, and easily we begin to worship the means of worship, the traditions themselves, instead of the Object.

I love the sharp, quiet, and simple exhortation at the end of Piper’s Advent readings:

“Religious ritual is like a shadow of a great and glorious Person. Let us turn from the shadow and look the Person in the face (2 Corinthians 4:6).  My little children, keep yourselves from (religious) idols (1 John 5:21).”

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There is a war of feelings in me as we close the year, the end of a beautiful and hard year.  As I look at Christmas decorations and begin to tuck them away; as we find our souls missing the habit of Advent readings and longings.  As December closes, I find my soul weary from the constant beckoning of materialism and the endless marketing campaigns to “buy more” and “not to miss this sale.”  My soul is weary from the shallow, empty promises this world gives to satisfy.

I love this quote a fellow blogger shared earlier this week:

“I am wired by nature to love the same toys that the world loves. I start to fit in.  I start to love what others love.  I start to call earth ‘home.’  Before you know it, I am calling luxuries ‘needs’ and using my money just the way unbelievers do.  I begin to forget the war.  I don’t think much about people perishing.  Missions and unreached people drop out of my mind.  I stop dreaming about the triumphs of grace.  I sink into a secular mindset that looks first to what man can do, not what God can do.  It is a terrible sickness.  And I thank God for those who have forced me again and again toward a wartime mindset.”

{Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life}

As we turn toward January, toward a New Year, our hearts are full of resolutions and goals, hopes and dreams.  Let us engage in the work of examination, looking for ways we have grown addicted to the world and to our own flesh, and for ways we can forsake these sins and grow in holiness as blood-bought children of God.  Let’s remember the war we are in, and armor up for it once again.