Listening For His Voice

Normally on Sunday’s if I post, I post only Scripture.  To quiet my voice and all others and let Gods voice ring out across the Internet.  Today I wanted to make an exception to share this powerful video with you.  Sara Groves speaks my heart language.  I pray that today you and I are able to be extravagantly wasteful enough to rest.  May you and I be faith-filled enough to rest.  When we choose to put aside our ever-present work and rest, we are in essence saying to God, “I know you will care for me.  You will provide.  You are in control, not me.  You are worthy of my dependency and my quiet, available spirit, rather than only my bustling and busy activity.  You are sufficient.  You are able.  You are enough.”

the Father’s love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This next picture was taken by Phoebe:

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These three were taken by Noah:

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

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)

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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.

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(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!