christmas day

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This was probably our favorite Christmas with the kids thus far.  Whereas last year all of us cried at some point on Christmas morning and the children kept fighting over gifts, this year everyone seemed relaxed and content.  I got up a good bit earlier than the kids to make our breakfast cake, enjoyed some time alone with coffee and candlelight and the Lord, and just savored that holy quiet anticipation waiting for the house to wake up.  Soon the patter of feet running down the hallway, squeals and giggles and snuggles.  We let the kids open their stockings right away, which was really fun.  Phoebe tried on her socks that I had knit for her for the first time which was so awesome for me to finally see them on her and see how they fit!  Brandon read the Christmas story, and we ate our Blueberry Yogurt Morning Cake (thanks to Shauna Niequist’s recipe, adapted to be gluten-free) with eggs + sausage, and sang happy birthday to Jesus.  The kids truly love doing that.

After breakfast we opened the gifts under the tree and just took our time.  They got a lot of books this year, mainly, plus one bigger item and a couple of hand knits and clothing items.  Family members also contributed some of their gifts.  I bought Brandon some new jeans + boots, and a woodburning kit.  He bought me a beautiful bracelet (which I adore), a book I have been wanting, cozy socks, and some knitting supplies (a yarn bowl + wooden needles)!  We headed out for a walk and bike ride, then B + I snuggled and watched a movie (and I knitted) while the kids took naps.  After they woke up we headed to my parents house (10 min away) to gather with family, open some presents there together and have dinner.  It was maybe one of my favorite times together, singing Christmas songs with my brother leading us in worship + piano playing.  My parents always make the most amazing celebratory meals, and we were not disappointed!

It was a sweet day of worship and pouring out love on each other.  It was simple + extravagant at the same time.  For some reason it’s hard to achieve that, I feel, to worship our God and love one another extravagantly, and yet to keep the gifts simple.   It’s a battle to keep our focus on celebrating the greatest gift of all, which is Christ.  We fail in one way or another every year, but still, even knowing our frail and broken nature, He offers Himself to us afresh each year.

I hope you had a very Merry Christmas with your loved ones + that you have a blessed and happy New Year!  Thanks so much for reading along here with our little family.  You truly bless me!

On Worship

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“I see three stages of movement toward the ideal experience of worship.  We may experience all three in one hour, and God is pleased with all three — if indeed they are stages on the way to full joy in him.  I will mention them in reverse order.

1. There is the final stage in which we feel an unencumbered joy in the manifold perfections of God — the joy of gratitude, wonder, hope, admiration.  “My soul is feasted as with marrow and fat and my mouth praises thee with joyful lips” (Psalm 63:5).  In this stage we are satisfied with the excellency of God, and we overflow with the joy of his fellowship.  This is the feast of Christian Hedonism.

2.  In a prior stage that we often taste, we do not feel fulness, but rather longing and desire.  Having tasted the feast before, we recall the goodness of the Lord — but it seems far off.  We preach to our souls not to be downcast, because we are sure we shall again praise the Lord (Psalm 42:5).  Yet for now our hearts are not very fervent.

Even though this falls far short of the ideal of vigorous, heartfelt adoration and hope, yet it is a great honor to God.  We honor the water from a mountain spring not only by the satisfied “ahhh” after drinking our fill, but also by the unquenched longing to be satisfied while still climbing to it.

In fact, these two stages are not really separable in the true saint, because all satisfaction in this life is still shot through with longing and all genuine longing has tasted the satisfying water of life.  David Brainerd expressed the paradox:

Of late, God has been pleased to keep my soul hungry almost continually, so that I have been filled with a kind of pleasing pain.  When I really enjoy God, I feel my desire of Him the more insatiable and my thirsting after holiness more unquenchable.

3.  The lowest stage of worship — where all genuine worship starts, and where it often returns for a dark season — is the barrenness of soul that scarcely feels any longing, and yet is still granted the grace of repentant sorrow for having so little love.  “When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was stupid and ignorant, I was like a beast toward thee” (Psalm 73:22).

E. J. Carnell points toward these same stages when he says,

Rectitude, we know, is met in one of two ways: either by a spontaneous expression of the good or by spontaneous sorrow for having failed.  The one is direct fulfillment; the other indirect fulfillment.

Worship is a way of gladly reflecting back to God the radiance of his worth.  This is the ideal.  For God surely is more glorified when we delight in his magnificence than when we are so unmoved by it we scarcely feel anything, and only wish we could.  Yet he is also glorified by the spark of anticipated gladness that gives rise to the sorrow we feel when our hearts are lukewarm.  Even in the miserable guilt we feel over our beast-like insensitivity, the glory of God shines.  If God were not gloriously desirable, why would we feel sorrowful for not feasting fully on his beauty?

Yet even this sorrow, to honor God, must in one sense be an end in itself — not that it shouldn’t lead on to something better, but that it must be real and spontaneous.  The glory from which we fall short cannot be reflected in a calculated sorrow…

Neither God nor my wife is honored when we celebrate the high days of our relationship out of a sense of duty.  They are honored when I delight in them!  Therefore to honor God in worship we must not seek him disinterestedly, for fear of gaining some joy in worship and so ruining the moral value of the act.  But instead we must seek him hedonistically, the way a thirsty deer seeks the stream, precisely for the joy of seeing and knowing him!  Worship is nothing less than obedience to the command of God, “Delight yourself in the Lord!””

-John Piper, Desiring God (p. 85-86, 87)

For the Broken Ones

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For you who feel alone:

He can find you.

“Now the Angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur.  And He said, ‘Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from, and where are you going?'” {Genesis 16:7-8}

For you Hagars: the cast out, the used up, the sin-broken, the sin-sick, the undeserving, the unwanted, the rejected ones, the forgotten ones.

“The Lord has heard your affliction.” {Genesis 16:11}

He cannot resist the broken ones, the searching ones, the lost ones.  The unseen ones.

“Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, ‘Have I also here seen Him who sees me?'” {Genesis 16:13}

He sees you today.  He knows you.  He foreknew you.

“For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,

When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.” {Psalm 139:13-16}

You, His marvelous work.  His masterpiece.  Does your soul know it very well?  Present with you from the moment of your conception, your genesis, your beginning.  Delighting over you.  Singing over you.  Knitting you together.  Writing out the story of all of your days.  Yes, He saw you then.  He knew you then.

“Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?” {Psalm 139:7}

And why would I ever want to, God?  There is no shame in Your presence.  There is only fullness of joy.  Because You are the God who sees, the God who saw me before any other, who knew my days and knew all my faltering and failing, and still said “Yes” to me.  Still choose me, set me apart.  Still said “No” to Jesus {Mark 14:36} so You could say “Yes” to me.  To fellowship with me.  To unbroken presence with me.

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“When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?” {Psalm 8:3-4}

This sky that takes my breath away, You breathed it into existence.

The star-breathing God, the One who made all this glory.. what is one small man, one small woman, that You are mindful of us? Mindful.  Mind full.. of us.  Who are You, that You are mindful of me?

This is our God.

This is my God.

I worship You today.

Worry is Replaced by Worship

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“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t there more to life than food and more to the body than clothing?  

“Look at the birds in the sky: They do not sow, or reap, or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you more valuable than they are?  And which of you by worrying can add even one hour to his life?  

“Why do you worry about clothing? Think about how the flowers of the field grow; they do not work or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed like one of these!  And if this is how God clothes the wild grass, which is here today and tomorrow is tossed into the fire to heat the oven, won’t he clothe you even more, you people of little faith?  

“So then, don’t worry saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’  For the unconverted pursue these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  So then, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own.”

{Matthew 6:25-34 NET}

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Worry robs us of joy.

Worry reveals that to our deepest core we believe God is not good, He will not come through.

“He is able, and He is present, and He is good.  Worry is replaced by worship.  And it may be that you have to sing all day long.  It may be that you have to worship all night long.  But you have the power in your mouth to proclaim what you see and hear of the One who killed your giant.  And as you worship Him, worry doesn’t have room to take up a foothold in your heart and in your life.”  {Louie Giglio}