Vision

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My vision has been small, too limited.

Somehow over the years, I’ve gotten overly side-tracked on many good things like healthy living, educational strategies, community-building goals, hobby farm projects and so on, all the while missing a greater, more comprehensive understanding that God has a bigger plan for our family, for every family, that is greater than just mastering a few areas of interest.

God wants our families to reflect His glory on the earth. 

He desires to use us as stewards to heal the land, to restore a culture of life, to release beauty, and restore healing and joy, to initiate celebration and service as habits of life, and to love deeply like a million stars pulsing light faithfully day and night.  He’s got a place for each of our families in this cosmic masterpiece.

He has bigger dreams for my family than just turning out some nice Christiany kids, if only I were up for co-operating.  The confounding part is that He doesn’t seem to need my strategies, just my co-operation.

So often, I’ve longed to be used by God, but I think I have generally been unusable, as I’ve allowed my own strategies, priorities and preferences (and comfort, ugh) to block the way.  So, how do I cooperate with God?  These talks gave me some clues.  Start in Romans 12:1-2 and that’s all there is to it:

Step one: “…present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God…”

Step two: “…do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

So basically, all I need to do is die to myself, and die to this world.

And be transformed, utterly and unalterably changed.

Sounds… impossible.  Good thing I have a God who deals with the impossible every day, even impossible-me.

What People Think

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“What other people think of me is none of my business.”

Those words jumped out at me from an article I was reading last night and sort of cut into me; how guilty I am of wanting people to think well of me. 

But as our life gets more uncommon, I recognize how easily our choices can disturb and irritate people.  And, it’s hard on me.  Though, I’m getting to the place where it would be more difficult to live falsely, to ignore God’s call on our life, I do fall into this thinking from time to time.

“Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he?” (Isaiah 2:22)

All people are precious to the Lord, but I am not to seek their affirmation.  I am only to set my eyes on the One who made me and every day calls me deeper into intimacy with him through surrender and obedience.

He calls us each on a narrow path, and it’s silliness to sort of glance yonder at the wide road and wonder if those guys still think I’m cool as I’m slashing brush out of my way and stumbling over stones and slipping in the mud.

I look like a fool, and who can I really expect to encourage that, besides the One who intended that the foolish things of His Kingdom would confound the ways and wisdom of this world?

When God Writes Your Life

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Back in the spring I had heard about a Christian women’s retreat that I really wanted to go to, but I knew the three hours was too far to travel with baby’s imminent arrival.  Then, a month ago, I discovered this same retreat had moved to my area instead!  I could go! 

Then, the organizer mentioned that the venue they were working with had pulled out at the last minute and they were seeking other options.

Immediately a surge went through me: we should host this.  I was pretty sure it was God’s Spirit prompting me to do this, but the practical side of me was like, “No way!  That would be so much work, and besides, you might go into labor – how… awkward!”  However, I timidly proposed the concept to Ben and his immediate response was, “Let’s do it!”

And so we opened our doors.  The women organizing did an amazing job at looking after all the details, with only a zany couple of weeks to work with.  The way the entire thing worked out was simply a series of miracles, each step a new indication of God’s good pleasure in bringing us together.

About sixty women and daughters (and so many sweet nursing babies!) packed into our place for three days of pure worship and fellowship (they slept at home and out-of-towners billeted).  Nancy Campbell, whose ministry is called Above Rubies, flew in from Tennessee to dig into God’s Word and wrestle out challenging, convicting and powerful stuff that was both refreshing, uncommon, and so very needed in times like ours.

The ladies who attended (mostly strangers to me) came from nearby and far away (some as far as North Bay!).  It honored me deeply to have these women-on-a-mission in our home; it was like hosting sixty queens for a weekend – a wee bit awesome!

It was a powerful time of heart-connect as we spent time worshiping, praying for each other, sharing our motherhood-struggles, listening to Spirit-filled teaching and, of course, eating together.

What a thing it is to come as strangers, and leave as sisters.

Nancy, herself, personifies the Fruit of the Spirit.  Her gentle nature and deep convictions are refreshing and motivating, as were her many practical ideas for developing our roles as mothers.

The whole whirlwind time pushed me to consider, what if I let God write my life all the time?  What if I was just ready to jump in whenever He asked me to do a new thing?  Because, really, it seemed, down to the last detail, that He had orchestrated this *magical* time in a way I could not have imagined.  It left me blessed beyond what I can adequately describe.

God is ready to do crazy, big, radical things in our lives, but how often do I shrug off His plan for my own easier way, my own preferences, simply indulging my own weak desires or fears?  I just don’t want to mess with that kind of life anymore.

I want Him to write my story all the time, and that means letting go and letting Him work out the details; that’s faith, perhaps the hardest thing on earth.

Pause

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I watched her from the house, as she sauntered around the property taking photos; pictures of dead leaves, grasshoppers, the barn, the logs stacked beside the garage, her own reflection in the van window, a chicken, a row of fence.

I observed her focus, her pure attentiveness to the task at hand.  No one told her what to do.  She took her time with the camera and experimented with angles and perspectives, trying again if the first shot wasn’t quite right.

It takes time to develop art, to grow perspective.

It takes freedom from noise, from distraction, from go-go-go to flourish and find one’s voice.

What a delight it was to watch one of my little ones finding her voice in the quiet cool space of a breezy fall afternoon, away from the pressure of others, or the clock, or a pitiless schedule.

So much abundance is found in the pauses between the noise, this is where the life grows, and somehow, I think children know this best.

You Are Loved

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I find all sorts of random photos on my camera these days, as lately the kids have been taking most of the pictures.  There are a lot of hilarious shots, but this one struck me as particularly cute.

Poppy hates those cats, yet somehow she’s brave enough to go close when there’s a window between them.  God knew this about Poppy way before the world began.  It prompted me to consider how He knows each one of us so intimately, so passionately, so without strings attached…

Today, dear friend, in this moment, there is a Super-Power God who loves you, who decided way back when that you were necessary and important to His ultimate purposes.  He took great care to design you and knit deep inside of the safety of your mother’s womb, because he wanted to make you just right.

You had to be made in secret, because you were just such a good surprise for the world!

And not only did He knit you, He knit together a hope and a purpose and an expected end for your days, all of it just so, for your ultimate good and His ultimate glory.

He knew an enemy would come, though, and attempt to weigh down your shoulders with guilt, with fear, with burdens so heavy you feel you might die.  He knew that the enemy would try to steal you, kill you and destroy you every single day, especially as you try to tread the sacred ground of motherhood.

But, God promised that:

“He tends his flock like a shepherd:

He gathers the lambs in his arms

and carries them close to his heart;

he gently leads those that have young.” (Is. 40:11)

He is not holding your sin or your failures against you.  Nothing you do is too scary for Him, too disappointing, or too bad for Him.

When He sees you all He sees is love.

So, today, know that in the middle of your relationship struggles, your bombed-out house, your crying kids, and the private burdens carried deep inside your own heart: you are safe, you are not alone, you are loved.

Debate

There is a recurring debate around here, between Snowy (4) and Tucker (6), as to how to properly pronounce the word cucumber.

Tucker is convinced one must say “cew-cumber”, while Snowy believes the proper pronunciation is “cuke-umber”.

This repetitive conversation can take on a life of its own for a good fifteen minutes or so every day around lunch time.  The rest of us have tried to intervene, to reason, and to clarify, alas to no avail.

What has been definitively ruled out by both of them is Auden’s preference: “cute-cumber”.

Time for Tea

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The wood is getting stacked and we’ve even made a few morning fires to take the edge off of the cool start to the day.  The tea pot is starting to make a more frequent appearance and the kids are lining up to make choices about which tea to drink this time.  Add a little dollop of our friends’ homegrown honey and all that’s left is to choose which cozy nook to snuggle into.

We’ve pared way down this fall.  As far as schedule goes, there’s a lot more white space on the calendar during our weekdays. There’s a large chunk of each weekday that is fully devoted to home-culture (educational pursuits, chores, lessons, and rest) that I have rarely tampered with this fall, and the results have been wonderful.

We are joyfully productive and working out of a place of settled contentment, not reactive busyness.

Even for all the white space on the calendar, we are happily busy with good and important things, as we constantly try to hone in on the essentials and prioritize opportunities.  Having limits and boundaries on our time, even when it’s not convenient, even when I feel guilty, even when a million good things present themselves every new week, is freeing, in spite of how difficult it is to establish.

Creativity, productivity and ingenuity seem to require a quality of time that is rare, and cannot be teased out of a boiling pot of frenzied activity.

There is a beautiful peace and fullness when home is a place of warm, intimate connectivity, void of the hassle of ceaseless traffic and reactive living.  It takes deliberate work to foster peace, beauty and creativity in this way, and it has been difficult for me.  I don’t want to miss out on other good things, and I don’t want to disappoint anyone, except that I can’t do everything! For a time, this sweet spot is my ministry, and that means that for a time, it is my priority.

We certainly have motion here, but the atmosphere is different when Mama’s not rushed, candles are lit, a little classical music is dancing in the background, and something yummy is sautéing on the stove.

One boy works out some new chords on the piano, while another builds his plane model in the basement.  A girl takes random bits of silverware to her room so she can polish it, while her brother makes the longest-train-track-ever out of Kapla blocks.  Two more sing on swings in the backyard, while another two ‘organize’ plastic cups on the floor beneath my feet.  This environment (even when it explodes in chaos at regular intervals!) fosters a prayerfulness and contentment in my own heart that I rarely find when hustling around town in the van trying not to be late for whatever.

Embracing a simpler schedule is much different than living in a perpetual whirlwind-rotating-door-experience where I throw some frozen pizzas in the oven a few too many times in a row because we’re just too busy.  Of course there are seasons for that, but a life with margin is one that is intentionally grounded in a way that helps both children and parents thrive.

We’re leaving space to breath, and I love it.

Words Create Reality

I am embracing the latter stages of pregnancy number nine, and I suppose by any reasonable estimation I should be getting more frail and haggard with each one.   After all, pregnancy can be demanding on the body.

However, my experience is almost exactly the opposite.  This pregnancy has been ‘easier’ in many ways than my early pregnancies.  And, while all glory goes to God for His gentle goodness and faithfulness to me in this area, there is a little secret experiment that I have been trying from my end that I believe has improved this particular gestational journey.

For some time now, maybe a year, I have been reflecting on the verse in Proverbs that says:

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”

And it occurred to me that perhaps I could apply this verse to my pregnancy experience, because, this is an area I have been guilty of complaining about in the past (i.e. speaking words of death).  I don’t enjoy being pregnant…  I love the fruit of it, so it’s worth it, but truly, I have struggled in different ways with every single one.

So, I decided to experiment.

What if I didn’t talk about the negative stuff I was experiencing?  What if I didn’t share the laundry list of (let’s face it, boring) symptoms with everyone who (empathetically) asked?  What if I didn’t even share with Ben the physical challenges I was experiencing?  What if I gave no verbal air time to my physical feelings?

What if I just spoke words of blessing over my body, what if I spoke about the (however remote!) positive things that this pregnancy was doing for me?  What if I determined only to speak words of life over my experience?

And while I don’t think I pulled this off perfectly, something happened.

My experience of pregnancy stopped owning me like a cruel tyrant, and instead, I have experienced a generalized better health, and more positive frame of mind towards the whole journey.

Though, yes, I feel (and look) like the Marshmallow Man, I am doing great.  All this roundness is just cocooning the next love of my life, and it is so worth it!

I believe that the fruit of my words has blessed my body and freed me from the chains of distress and anxiety that can often accompany these kinds of days.  There is so much creative power in words.  In fact, when I looked up the word ‘healed’ in the book of Proverbs, I found those four or five references also included a connection with the words we speak!

Part of my work in walking in greater health is to speak words of life as a lifestyle. 

How amazing!

It doesn’t mean that my pregnancy has been trouble free, but oh my, how my heart has been set free as I have stopped harboring words of complaint or grief or death.

So, while this may sound like simple denial, all I can say is that I believe it has helped bless me with my best pregnancy experience to date.  God’s Word again turns my world upside down and I am ‘eating the fruit’ of a choice made in faith, even if I sound kind of crazy.  Since I believe that my pregnancy is a gift from God, I can also accept that this process is His best for me, therefore, I’m not lying if I say I’m ‘doing great’ even if I am a little green ;)

Happy Day Party

This weekend 30 dads and boys descended on our place, in order to celebrate Duke’s entry into the next season of his life, early manhood.  As Auden says, it was his “Happy Day Party”.

Regretfully, I took a total of 3 pictures, as my clandestine paparazzi skills are sorely lacking.  These first two I took through the window, while holding Poppy, and trying to keep the curtain out of the way.

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This first picture is of everyone arriving and just playing some pick-up road hockey.

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And this one is a picture of “the rules” portion of the evening, where these 30 men spent (literally) almost an hour discussing and dissecting the rules for the giant game of Flags they were going to play.  I’ve never seen some of those (younger) guys sit for so long, but I suppose the stakes were high!

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And then they played a few giant games of Flags, before settling into a big BBQ dinner and cake, and an evening of road-hockey under our old tennis court lights.  The party ended at nine, but some hard-core athletes stayed around till eleven, when even those dads started their long limp to the car.

Something about this time was so very precious, almost old-fashioned in its sweet perfection; dads and sons, brothers and friends of all ages just being together.  There’s something beautiful in not segregating ages, but instead bridging the gaps in a world that likes to compartmentalize every stage of life.

There was something so awesome in the connect of it; it was play, it was fun, it was light-hearted fellowship between boys and men.

It’s easy, but uncommon: boys grow into good men when they spend time with good men.  We’re so thankful for all the good men in our life.

Fighting Back

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In a heaving world, full of wars and rumors of war, disease, crisis and catastrophe, there are two responses I can choose: fear or hope.

Though much of the current global horror is real, I believe half the terror is the fear that aims to grip and strangle every single one of us.  I believe it is one of our enemy’s deadliest weapons, and when we submit to fear, when we acquiesce to this bleak state of existence, we begin dying and we take our eyes off of God (just like the enemy wants us to).

Why be living-dead?  Why live in a paralyzed state of dread, like some droidish half-human?

Fear tempts everyone, but we must each choose what to do with it in our own hearts.  I can either embrace it, letting it make itself at home within me (hacking away at my faith, my health and my functioning).  Or, I can shove it and refuse it and deny it having any part in me.

As for me and my house, we will live until we dieWe were made to be more than conquerors.

A key element of life in God’s Kingdom is hope.  {I am learning how very difficult it is to cling to this most beautiful power in times like these, because, I know, I look and sound and live like a fool.}

But, I’m done with doubt, with fear and pandering around in the rubble of wasted ‘what if’s’.

I have tasted the greatest hope of all, to know life free and safe, tucked under the shadow of God’s wing.  And though my flesh, and this world, and the enemy should bruise and scar and harm me (and alas, eventually kill me), I will not back down and live in the wasteland of fear anymore.

I’d rather fight back.

Believing that God’s Word is true and that hope will eventually bring every victory, be it in this teeny gap between eternities or when I’ve gone home for real, hope is the only option left for me in the face of such outrageous doom.

Our weapons to push back fear and even the darkness itself are faith, hope, love, prayer, joy, self-control, goodness, etc.; this is where the real power lies, dormant, until we surrender fully to the secret supremacy that undergirds every part of God’s magnificent Kingdom.

We must learn to be hope incarnate; this will change the world.