This summer we felt God calling us to do something different.
We agreed that as soon as nice weather hit, we would have church outside. Alone.
This, for me, was unconventional. Risky.
Will my children turn out normal if they miss several months of Sunday School?
So we hit the trail.
A 1.25 mile hike to a waterfall.
We found a cozy nook and opened God's Word.
Proverbs 4: 10-12 "Listen, my son, accept what I say, and the years of your life will be many. I guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run you will not stumble."
My husband shared the reality of truth, that this life is a journey, a path.
Many trails wander off it temptingly, many dangerous plants look lovely, it is easy to get lost.
Every week a different aspect of this truth.
Every week a different power point presentation of God's beauty, in His cathedral.
We spent time in prayer.
Lifting up our children earnestly to their loving Father, laying our friends, family, at His feet.
This is our family. Defined and isolated for a brief moment.
This is the job of a family, and the joy of a family.
Three hours later, we emerged from the ferns.
Refreshed and victorious and laughing.
Acts 2:28 "You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence."
We are unconventional for a season.
We are obedient for a life time.
Today I hear Rowan speak an unkind word in the other room.
Before I can reprimand, Grant's voice instructs, "Rowan, you're wandering off the path. Be careful or you'll get lost."
Will my children turn out normal if they miss several months of Sunday School?
Possibly not, but then, normal was never the goal.
I sat alone in bed last night.
Dave was still downstairs and I had a moment of silence.
After a depressing day of disciplining bickering children, Dave and I proceeded to bicker for an hour before I went up to bed. Failure followed me up the stairs, it lurked behind me in the shadows of the hall. I could sense the tangible presence of evil in my bedroom as I sat there. My soul felt like an incline that Satan was scaling, an incline with too many toeholds, an easy conquer.
My body sat alert, rested, why did I feel so utterly exhausted? I had slept all day, why this lethargy of spirit? My soul was tired. For weeks I had been on guard, taunt and watching. Now, the company gone, the painful situations resolved, I collapsed internally.
I tried to pray and found my eyes roving the room, unsettled.
They landed on a picture entitled, "The Greatest Moments of a Girl's Life."
When Dave and I were on our honeymoon, I had seen this picture and loved it. It would have been awkward to travel with, so I just assumed I could get it later. Incorrect. I searched high and low for it and never could find it again. My loving husband never forgot how much I lamented not buying that picture and he kept his eyes open on ebay until it came up and he bought it. He gave it to me last week for our anniversary.
I was so blessed and delighted.
My eyes caressed the beautiful pictures that represented the "greatest moments." The engagement, the wedding day, the honeymoon, the baby's birth etc.
My smile broadened into laughter as I realized my "greatest moments" were very different from the ones represented in the picture.
The engagement was romantic, but it wasn't Dave I was engaged to first. And when that ring was ripped off my finger the loss made me howl with pain. As I writhed on the floor I said, "God, I'm going to keep trusting You even though I don't want to. I'm going to trust that You know what You're doing." And He did. That was a great moment.
The wedding day was wonderful, but more wonderful, was the moment Dave and I realized we were completely incapable of sacrificial love. We cried out to God to change our selfish hearts. We established a prayer time together. We asked God to teach us how to love like Jesus. And he began to, right then. That was a great moment.
Having babies was delightful (I had epidurals mostly), but the moment the nurses told us that the 9 hour blood transfusion they were giving our four year old was his main hope, was much much greater. Dave and I locked eyes across the room, and in the heavy silence after the nurses left, said yes, yes God you can haveGrant back if you like, he's Yours, Your will not ours. That was a great moment.
I was amused when I looked at the picture again that the last "greatest moment" was the birth of the first child. Meaning, my great moments would have been over at the ripe old age of 25. Thankfully, I am still a growing girl, with lots of great moments before me, lots more opportunities for God to work.
The thought was vaseline to my soul and I felt the oppression slipping off me. Toeholds filled in with trust.
Yes, these weeks have been difficult, but really, they were full of great moments.
Maybe not quite as picturesque....but great nonetheless.
Last night the kittens began their journey to cathood.
I put out a plate of tuna.
Their little noses sniffed the air and they neared the plate. One kitten clearly did not appreciate the smell and walked backwards all the way across the room, little baby tail waving high in distress.
The others lost interest in the smell and went to explore other mysteries.
I tried coaxing them to it. I tried oh-so-gently putting their faces in it. They were clearly not interested.
"I don't understand, the book said they should start eating solid food at five weeks." I complained to Dave.
Dave was swinging a pen playfully above a fuzzy grey head and didn't seem too concerned.
Just as the crease between my eyebrows was deepening to a crevasse, the idea came, strong and sure.
I ran and got the mama.
Jane walked into the parlor, gave a maternal glance around, and went straight for the plate of tuna. She ate with a will. Four weeks of nursing four babies gives one an appetite. Really, I can only imagine.
Mariette (previously known as Marius, Dave got some parts mixed up), came over and watched her mama closely. She stretched out her neck and took a tentative bite. Another, less cautious. Faster and with vigor she ate. Dave and I laughed as she literally threw herself on top of the food and devoured.
After a few minutes Emmett came over and repeated, almost exactly, the performance of his sister.
Aspen frolicked over and sniffed Emmett, then bit his ear, which was covered in food. Aspen attempted to eat her brother. But Emmett shrugged her off and she finally got the hint that she should eat the food and not him. She had a light meal, but we were satisfied.
Cosette never ate. She constantly tried to nurse as Jane fed. Jane would not let her. It was time to grow up.
This morning I talked to the kids about the kittens, about how exciting it was to watch them take that first meal. But, I also talked to them about spiritual food. What if the babies had refused to eat? They wouldn't grow and thrive into adult cats.Their growth would be stunted.
I explained that we are composed of two parts. The body, which we can measure and weigh with scales and rulers, and the soul, which God alone can comprehend the size of. I told them that there are some big men walking around with tiny little baby souls and there are small children with robust enormous souls.
Some throw themselves on God's word and devour.
Some try to take their meal off others.
Some refuse to eat.
The mama cat leads by example.
The kittens have the choice to follow....or starve.
I care about my children's physical health. I want them to be healthy and strong and vital. But more than that I care deeply about their souls. I want to see their souls stretch and reach and grow and thrive. So I lead them to the meal, eat like a mama cat nursing four babes, and watch as they take a tentative bite. I purr in satisfaction.
Purr and pray.
"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Cor. 4:16-18
We have just completed our third week of company.
There is high energy as siblings and their children weave in and through our day.
There is conversation, laughter, dancing, and prayer.
And I grow weary.
I'm in the kitchen cooking another mammoth meal, I'm pretty sure there are mash potatoes in my hair.
My eyes, roving the counter for a spatula, happen to land on my tea cup.
I feel the thirst in my body and soul. Tea time, in the afternoon, is when I meet with God. My Bible comes out of it's special drawer in the kitchen table and I sip and read nourishment. It's been a while and I'm needy.
Unbidden, and unwanted if truth be known, comes the thought, what are you imbibing for, if not to expend the energy? That rings of spiritual gluttony and I try to focus on the beans.
But I can't.
The Bible, that I read daily, speaks more of battles and races than clinking china.
Ecclesiastes 3 speaks of, "A time for war and a time for peace," and implies that there will be both.
So I get back to work with a will, in faith, knowing that God will use those quiet days of study to articulate His will.
Knowing that the deep draughts of tea and truth have a battle cry at their core and it must be uttered.
Knowing that though my body is weary, my soul is most at peace when in the fray.
And when quiet comes again, as it will, I will embrace it, but only as a means to an end.
This, my friends, is the secret to sustainable living.
"But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. My mouth will tell of your righteousness, Of your salvation all day long, though I know not its measure." Psalm 71: 15 Rowan and Rose crawl aboard at early dawn. Rosy plants herself on top of me and Rowan spoons into my side. I hold them close, whisper love, whisper praise. And I remember that two years ago this wouldn't have happened. They were squirmy, inarticulate babes who never snuggled long. My mind reclines further and I remember one baby laying in bed with me poking the watermelon sized Rose in my belly. We'd both laugh when her little foot would push back indignant. Oh the precious fragile years of babyhood! Rowan has an uncanny way of studying my face and then asking a question that rips the veil off my thoughts. He looks up at me, searching, catches the glimpse of nostalgia in my eyes, The rain fell like time, frenzied and quick, His voice broke the silence, a thousand years thick. "If you could have a special magic wish mommy, would you wish for us to be babies again?" I think hard and honestly and respond, "No." He looks a little hurt, "But we were so cute!" "Oh you were so cute! But...." How do I explain it? How can I explain that if they stay babies they will miss so much. Psalm 71 is entitled "A prayer for old age." "Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come." And I answer, something like this, "Rowan God has great things to do in/with your life and Rosy's life. Hard things. Wonderful things. He has a whole beautiful life for you to live. There are people in this world who may never know about Jesus unless you tell them. It would be selfish of mommy to keep you from growing up in Jesus." He nods acquiense and snuggles close. Rose entwines closer still. I don't know the measure of God's salvation. But I do know this, It's much much more than any of us can fathom. And the grace that saved us is the same grace that is there to help us every. single. day. I want to stop thinking that I'm cute as a baby and grow up in Jesus. There are people in this world who may never know about Jesus unless I tell them. I desperately want a glimpse of measureless right now.
My brother Mike, his wife Caroline, and their two children Christopher (4) and Emily (2) flew in for an extended visit. The first morning they were here Mike gave me a gift. He gave me a ring. It's white gold with a one carat diamond. It belonged to our great-grandmother on my mother's paternal side.
Before I can utter a thank-you, he says, "Grandpa gave it to me a long time ago. He told me that it was a big diamond but it had a crack in the heart of it. It's flawed, so it's pretty much worthless." I flinch. A priceless, worthless ring passed down through the generations. I put it on.
The days go by quickly with company, and there are messes and mayhem, and I struggle and strive to love like Christ. In the midst of all this there's mourning. My mom's dear friend passed away. Her friend's name was Mary, and she was a blithe, joyful spirit, full of the love of God. So on Saturday, Mom and I left the children, siblings, and grandchildren, and slipped away to Mary's funeral. The video clips of her family talking were extremely touching, but one thing stood out to me. Her kids talked about loving her, but they also talked about arguing with her, being angry with her, and butting heads with her on different occasions. She wasn't perfect. She was wonderful, she was a godly woman, but she was real.
So Sunday morning at breakfast, I told the kids about the funeral. I happened to glance down at the ring my brother gave me. The analogy hit me, "You know, Uncle Mike, told me that this ring is worthless because it's cracked, but he's wrong. This diamond is just like us, flawed in the heart. Mary wasn't perfect but her cracks gave Jesus a place to shine through. Jesus can shine through our imperfections, too." The kids nodded slowly, as they processed this information. Grant broke the silence, "Then you can always wear that ring mommy and remember that everyone is cracked open and it's good."
An hour later we sat in church. A whole row of my family worshipped together. Grant snuggled up next to me and during the service ran his finger along the surface of the ring, feeling the edges of the crevice. My immediate thought was to pull away, I didn't want him to get cut on the flaw. But no, the ring is to remind me that I am cracked open as well ,and that my children may very well be victims of my jagged edges. I don't recoil from them in order to save them from wounds, I pray for God to bind up any gashes that I, in my sinfulness, may make. But I let them know me, flaws and all. We stand to sing and instinctively one of my hands rests on my son's shoulder and the other, the diamond ring hand, the flawed, cracked, priceless hand raises high to the Lord.
Several of Mary's family members spoke of having visions of her going to Heaven and they said she was beautiful, shining, perfect. Yes. Someday the diamond will have no flaws. Someday.... But until then, I wear the ring and remember, "We're all cracked open, and it's good."
The flawed ring and the flawed soul will pass down through the generations, but so will the grace and the blessings. Thank you Lord.