Can’t believe my baby girl is eight years old today. I’m so so thankful to be this girl’s mama. What a gift. Here’s the top ten of Elianna’s year seven. 1) It’s a blast to see you continue reading and … Continue reading
It’s been a big year for Titus. Gigantic. Taking this time to pause and reflect on it has made me re-live what we’ve been through and see it from a distance rather than in the close-up of day to day … Continue reading
I’ve said before that a garden is a metaphor for most all of life and it seems I’ve only uncovered a minuscule amount of all that could be learned there. Joe Rigney says that Scripture is the lens through which we … Continue reading
I’ve been thinking a lot about the Planned Parenthood sting video that’s been all over the internet.
It’s awful. And sad and horrifying and gut-turning. And every response I’ve seen has been appropriately revolted. Of course, I have limited circles, so maybe there are people out there (besides PP) saying that it’s just fine and no big deal and actually quite lovely. If there are, they are staying comparatively quiet.
As a stay-home mom, what can I do to play a part in stopping this great evil? It’s easy to feel insignificant. When I first saw the video, I kept thinking–we’ve got to DO something. We’ve got to get this out there; people must know! Surely someone, somewhere, can order this stopped! And then I saw this. And I remembered that we already do know. Everyone knows.
The difference is simply, does the dead baby’s body get dropped, bloody, into a garbage bag or some other container, and taken out to the trash to slowly decompose without a name or a grave or a stuffed animal or a blanket OR does he or she get “harvested”, pulled apart and shipped to whatever lab deals in this kind of deathly desecration.
We moms know what it’s like to see our baby on ultrasound for the first time. We know the utter astonishment and miracle of seeing another person’s heart beating inside your womb. We know the amazement that such a thing is possible and the profound sense of otherness that that little person has from us. They are not us. They are not our body. They are unique and they have a God-given right to a protected residence inside of us for nine months.
These are old arguments. The same simple truths we’ve been saying for years. But part of what we can do is keep saying them. The fight for the unborn is not something we can get on a bandwagon for when popular opinion isn’t too opposed to it. It’s something we say, even when it’s an old story. It’s something we say when the chips of public opinion are down and when they’re not. And if we’re faithful, it’s something we’ve been saying when the babies were taken out to the trash, like they have been for the past decades, and now, when the world wakes up to be astonished that they’re also being taken apart and harvested for the damning benefit of others. Can you really say that one is worse than the other? Are our consciences only pricked when shocked with some new evil?
So, I’ll tell you my resolves in regard to this battle for the dead and dying, and ask for you to consider how God might stir you respond.
-I shared the video of PP’s horror and will continue to expose the evil when given an opportunity. I let myself be re-ignited in my horror and resolve.
-I resolve to be unafraid to say that babies are being murdered by their doctors and their mothers and their fathers, no matter who it offends. And to offer the forgiveness of the cross freely, just as it was offered to me.
-I resolve to continue supporting local crisis pregnancy centers.
-I resolve to be willing to engage in relationships and conversations with people who agree and disagree with me and to ask God to help me be persuasive, loving and fearless.
-I resolve to fear God and remember that, in the end, I will give an account, and that cowards have no business in God’s kingdom.
-I resolve to fight back the darkness by loving the children God has given me and not using them; to remember that although they are not in my womb, they are still dependent in many ways and will require more and more of my sacrifices for their good, not less, as time goes on.
-I resolve, in as much as God gives us this grace, to be a family that points to a deeper reality of family–that is, God’s family. To love each other well and remember that God puts children in families, with a mother and father, because it tells them something about Him. And God makes men and women into moms and dads, because it tells them something about Him. And that when a family lacks a dad or a mom, it is still saying something profound about God–that he cares, that he’s there, and that he can make all grace abound to them because He Himself is willing to be their Father because of his Son’s death on the cross.
-I resolve to meditate and act on the Scriptures and to pray for sleepers, who are more dead than the babies they kill, to awake.
“Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:6-17 ESV)
Let’s resolve to push back the darkness, moms, and let’s start at home.
So often moms talk about seasons of life.
We like to remind ourselves frequently about the transient changing nature of our children. If we’re having a hard day with our three year old, we take the wiser, long-view approach and remember that this is a season. It will pass. We will be faithful to parent and shepherd through this hard time, knowing that it won’t always be this way.
And the same is true for our emotional state. How often I remind myself that the irrational thoughts I’m thinking will not last. They will subside and this season of feeling a certain way will wax and eventually wane. It’s hopeful to acknowledge this, to acknowledge the fact that life is not normally static. It’s like the weather–it goes in seasons and changes even daily. Seasons are comforting–there’s a beginning, a middle and an end.
Yet there are some parts of life that aren’t so seasonal. Or they’re unpredictable seasons at best. What do we do when our season may not change or it may be prolonged? And what if that prolonged season is a hard one?
There are personal seasons in our lives that are not so much seasons, but a way of life–maybe a disabled child, a chronic illness, a financial strain. And no matter the length or the depth of difficulty, as Christians we can rest assured that these are not arbitrary. Both the length and the depth are suited exactly to what will bring us to the end, refined and reflective of Christ. And more than that, we can be assured that for the duration, it will be a season where grace is abounding to us in increasing measure in the presence of the Lord.
The same holds true in a broader sense for the hard season Christians find themselves in now with the heart-breaking SCOTUS ruling on so-called same sex marriage. I say “so-called” not to mock it, but to revere the God who made marriage between a man and a woman in the beginning and to whom we owe everything: life and breath and all the rest. I cannot redefine a term that He has made and given clear definition to, that’s why I say “so-called.” I say it because to do otherwise would be unloving and untrue. God does love us all. He loves sinners. He came so that all of us sinners could not only be saved by Him, but die with Him, die to our sin–to ourselves and our own notions of right and wrong–and live in Him and His unchanging goodness and truth.
In this likely prolonged season that our country has entered, where sex and race, are all becoming simply abstract changeable concepts, we can rest assured that although difficult, grace will be given to us for the duration, in increasing measure to those who love him and fear him and keep his commands. He will not leave us alone, he will give all the grace and mercy needed each day for every possible circumstance and for the long haul of this season we now find ourselves in.
“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:1-5 ESV)
“For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:16-17 ESV)
Last year I wrote a little bit about our gardens. Mainly I wanted to write about the resurrection and the garden was my opportunity.
This year I want to take you on a garden tour. Mostly because I’m excited about our garden and whenever I’m revved up about something I want to share it. So if you love gardening, I hope you’ll enjoy this tour from a novice with a lot of starter pep.
Also, gardens are metaphors for just about everything. So if I resort to a little philosophizing, you’ll have to forgive me.
Eliza is my garden partner in crime. We can’t be trusted at the garden store together. She’s a natural gardener with a great memory for plants and instincts for nurturing. I depend on her. Here she is, about to trek down to the garden.
This year we have one big garden. Last year we had two small gardens and also planted some sweet corn in a small section of the big garden. This year we went for broke and decided to break all the rules by tilling up a garden much too big for us (rule one: start small), that’s far away from our house (rule two: make your garden right next to your house).
I like to think of it as our destination garden. We visit everyday for a little (or a lot of) work and enjoyment. The walk down to the garden is usually enjoyable and romantic: walking under the big oaks, crossing the creek, peering into the woods and spotting an occasional deer.
It’s the walk back up to the house that is devoid of romance. Huffing and puffing, pushing a wheelbarrow full of tools, burning calves, lungs gasping, with Titus on my back. It’s a weird kind of painful fun.
The history of this garden is one of love and neglect. Apparently a couple owners back, this garden was put in by a lady who loved gardening, with a great fence to keep deer out. The owner who had the place before us didn’t use it at all, so it had seen at least three or more years of neglect when we got it.
Now we’re bringing it back to life and trying to make it a pleasant place to be. Last year, with just the corn planted and most of it still untilled, it was highly unpleasant. It was oppressively buggy and weedy. The weeds were insurmountable, even in the section we tilled. It was a losing battle of stinging nettle, thistles and tall grasses.
This year, we are taming it, civilizing it, naming it. It’s Our Garden. Eliza made a wreath out of buckthorn and sign with birch bark–we’ve claimed it as our own.
To the right, as you enter, are the raised beds. I used these last year with great success and wanted to use them again. I’ve got zucchini, lettuces, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, purple basil, lavender and carrots in here. We’ll see how they do.
Around the raised bed are stepping stones that were left in the garden by a previous owner. We uncovered them all over the place, cleaned them off and are glad to have them. Between the stones and the fence I’ve planted gladiola bulbs in the hopes of adding beauty and having flowers to cut and bring inside.
Straight ahead from the entrance is a bench that I concocted out of tree stumps and an old railroad tie I found in the woods. With the garden being far from the house, I realized that a place to sit is a must have. I want to be able to enjoy the garden without having to run inside to rest.
Just beyond the bench is the strawberry patch, fenced in by old dead logs I scavenged in the woods.
Between the strawberry patch and the fence are two small raspberry bushes that our neighbors gave us. They are fantastic gardeners and very generous. I can’t wait to see these happy fellas get going.
Across from the strawberry patch are the tomato and pepper plants. I tried my hand at making some rustic trellises, again, scavenging from the woods. Most fun I’ve had in a long time.
Past the tomatoes are the peas, beans and cukes. Plus a couple rows of carrots here and there and an artichoke plant. After that, you’ll run into two plots occupied by friends. Since the garden was so big, I offered plots to those who expressed interest. Gardens are better with friends. No doubt about it. To have fruit and friendship grow is quite a gift.
Beyond their plots we planted a couple rows of potatoes, marked by sticks, so we don’t forget where they are.
Back on the other side of the garden is an asparagus trench that we planted 50 crowns in. It looks like dirt currently. Hopefully this is a case of The Best Is Yet to Come. Next to that is Eliza’s Spot. It’s a stump and stump table that she put together.
She makes sure we stay hydrated and brings yummy lemonade and a basket of snacks for us.
I’m so often struck these days how gardening and parenting are the same. Especially gardening out in a big wild garden like the one we’ve taken over. It takes so much more faith and hope and work than container gardening–just like parenting. There’s nothing contained about parenting. It’s a wild mess of hope and time and effort and failure and screaming undeserved successes.
Like this pumpkin patch above. Last year my pumpkin plants seemed to do wonderfully. Big blooms everywhere, large healthy plants. But lo and behold, two measly pumpkins. Compare that to the rather anemic looking cucumber plant that just kept giving the cukes all summer long. As in life, things are not always as they seem. On the very far end of the garden, we will plant sweet corn. I’m waiting just a tidge longer before I plant. I need to till up the area again and then I’ll go for it.
One thing I’ve learned is that in order to protect tiny pepper plants like this, you must have paths.
If they come off the path, things get hurt. Isn’t that what I’m teaching them all day, in every situation? Stay on the path. Follow the signs. Love the commands. Love the One who gives them.
Gardening makes me happy. It gives me rich food for thought and good work for my hands and treasured relationships to grow with my family and friends. It’s no wonder the Lord used the metaphor over and over. Teach me your ways, O Lord!
The aspect of The Things That Aren’t As They Seem just hits me over and over. It’s that beauty can be gnarly reclaimed dead stuff. It’s that alive things can be full of death, like thistles. It’s that where we see no growth, incredible roots are growing and preparing to bear fruit. It’s that sin can look shockingly like a strawberry patch and that fruit can be hidden for a time, like the potatoes growing underground.
But every plant and person is known by their fruit. You can only pretend for a time, until someone gets close enough to know the truth. When I reach out to inspect the “strawberry patch” and instead get a hand full of nettles, the truth is evident and my hand burns. When I think a plant is anemic and the stem looks broken and possibly dead, all it takes is close inspection to realize that it may be weak, but there are tiny buds on the ends. We will always bear the fruit of who we really are. Stinging nettles or nourishing food. Words of death or words of life. Hate or love. We produce what we are. And we’ve been bought, redeemed, named, called, made new, so let us bear fruit in keeping with our blood bought repentance.
I don’t know what will come up out of this ground. But I know we’ve claimed it and made it ours. We’ve planted in hope. We’ve labored in love. We can’t be put off by failure. This year’s errors will be next year’s victories. There’s endless more work to do, yet here we are, the very people to do it. Thanks for taking the tour of Our Garden and enduring a little pontificating on the side.
Today I was reminded how my calendar is actually a mirage. It doesn’t tell the truth about the future. It looks like it’s going to be something in particular, but it won’t be what says. It never is.
I keep checking all the days, looking ahead to next week and next month and envisioning what it will be like and what work needs to happen to get there. It’s not wrong–it’s a good thing to do. If I don’t plan for it, it’s guaranteed not to happen. But if I do plan for it, it’s 50/50 humanly speaking. It may or may not come to fruition.
I don’t have control over throw up and fevers, over seizures or headaches. I can’t prevent a car accident or a traffic jam. I don’t make hail fall from the sky or storms blow shingles off of a roof. I have no say over flat tires or dead car batteries. I can’t ground an airplane or make one lift up off the ground. I actually have no real control over the actions of others whatsoever, no matter how influential I may be.
“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 4:13-14 ESV)
Everything I do can only be done one way: in faith. Faith that whether the little guy throws up in the car again or not, God’s got a plan. Faith that whether the storm kills all of Spring’s new growth, God’s got a plan. Faith that whether we end up in the hospital or on a road trip, God’s got a plan.
There are people whose plans do seem to all work out. They’ve got a calendar and a schedule and it just works. It’s easy to wish for that. But when I think honestly about the disruption of my plans, I know deep down, it’s grace. My sin is exposed and my reliance on Him increased through thwarted plans and unmet expectations.
His plans aren’t like mine. Everyone of His comes to pass. Mine wither and fade like the grass–which is part of His plan.
So, I’m going to keep making plans. And pray for the faith to watch them go up in smoke.
“This God—his way is perfect;
the word of the LORD proves true;
he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.
‘For who is God, but the LORD?
And who is a rock, except our God?'” (2 Samuel 22:31-32 ESV)
What a day for a birthday! We are so happy to celebrate our Evangeline Joy. Five is awesome. Five on Vanga is mega-awesome.
Here are the top ten your four-year-old year, Vangeline!
1) You are taking your place with the big kids. Trying to keep up with three older siblings who’ve just edged you out in life experience and size can be a challenge, but this year you’ve been stepping up to the plate and finding your place.
2) You’ve been enjoying Sunday School and the occasional time in a preschool class at church on Tuesdays. This is new and this is progress! You couldn’t ask for better teachers and helpers; such a gift. It makes me glad to see you enjoying these things.
3) Music and choreography are a delight to you. You and Elianna spend many an hour memorizing songs with accompanying dances and actions. You’ve got future-VBS-song-leader written all over you.
4) You love the kitchen. Everyday I hear a stool being dragged across the floor to where the action is, so that you can really get your hands into things and help.
5) Speaking of helping, you love to help: help wipe down the counter and chairs, help stir, help pour, help set the table, help get napkins, help get Dad’s Bible, help play with Titus, help get breakfast going, help put clothes away. I LOVE helpers.
6) Since the older three kids are in school three days/week, you and Titus and I have had more time together this past year. You’ve patiently sat through many doctor appointments and gone along for loads of errands. You’re company is a joy.
7) And with added time alone with you and Titus, it’s fun to see you two have your own relationship. You don’t see him as anything but your little brother–sometimes adorable, sometimes annoying.
8) You like to keep track of things. You keep track of the days and follow the calendar on the wall in your room. You keep track of your room and toys and want things clean.
9) You’ve become more of an outdoors girl. You’re almost always at the ready to head out for an adventure with a sibling or a neighbor friend.
10) You’ve been asking lots of questions this year. Questions like, “Is that a true thing? Where is Jesus? Am I a sinner? Am I a believer?” These are very good questions.
It’s a privilege to get to help you answer these questions and to guide you into knowing Jesus, who is the Truth, and who tells us the truth about ourselves. It’s unspeakably precious to be entrusted with teaching you from the Bible and to get to offer you the incredible words of life we find there. My prayer for you is that you would know the Truth and that the message of the Bible and the Person found there would be the One True Thing by which you live your life. May you love the Good News. May you partake of it and share it with a world in need.
You are loved with an everlasting love, Evangeline.
About a year ago, I was spending a lot of time making peace with a sad ending. I was asking what a sad ending means and wondering how anyone comes through the devastation of one.
The Lord was faithful to answer that question. In a word, he answered it with: resurrection. When a sad ending feels like the final chapter, our hope of resurrection tells us otherwise. It constantly reminds us that there is hope on the other side of the grave. We look back at our resurrected Jesus, at our once dead, risen King and we look forward to His life in us and His life in our loved ones after death has had its way.
Now, a year later, a different question has been nagging me. What does a happy ending mean? What if death is postponed, what if that fear that we carried around in our chest like someone was tightening a noose on our heart, intent on taking us to the brink, has subsided.
What does it mean when we’ve begged God to make something untrue, and by some measures, that has happened? Is this the moment when we claim victory and sermonize on the power of prayer to do just exactly what we wanted it to? Do we march triumphant, laughing at the death that we’ve defied? What does it mean that Titus survived that awful seizure and time on life support? What does it mean that he’s doing better than we expected and is progressing forward rather than regressing?
There is a devilish temptation to give glory to God for seeing the wisdom of our perfect plan. How godly we can look when we give glory to God for answering our prayers, even if the prayers say, “My will be done,” rather than, “Thy will be done.” The truth is, many of my prayers have been selfish and nothing more than a desperate mom’s clinging to a life that doesn’t belong to her. I know I have to be careful how I say this. It isn’t wrong to pray for God to heal your child, or ask for our loved one to live and not die. It’s right and good. But do we end with, “Not my will, but yours, God.” Are our hands lifted and open?
And is it right to claim Titus’s progression as an answer to our prayers? Isn’t it self-aggrandizing to assume that I understand the reason God has granted Titus to be where he’s at right now? What I can know for sure is that Titus is where He is because of the kind providence of God. It’s not that my prayers don’t matter, but praying simply to get what I want, is not the point of prayer. If prayer doesn’t align my will with his, what is it, but wishing upon a star?
One thing I’ve learned is that God’s will isn’t simple. He is not indebted to give His children yeses to their prayers. He told his own perfect Son, no.
Sometimes we have really special things planned for our kids. We plan vacations or get togethers with friends and they often don’t know about it until the plans are underway. Then, on occasion, they will ask for the very thing we’ve already planned. They’ll ask to get together with someone and it just so happens that we are planning on heading to their house later that day. It was part of the plan before they asked. They might think that we’re going because they asked, but we’re not, it was in the plan.
That’s how I feel about Titus. God has a plan. Our job is to submit to his will and allow him to bend us in ways we’ve never been bent before. Does God answer prayer? Yes. But claiming to understand how or why certain prayers get answered is risky when those prayers are not part of God’s revealed Biblical will. There are some prayers that I know God will answer with YES! When I confess my sins, repent and ask him for forgiveness, he ALWAYS says yes. When I ask for patience or self-control He always provides opportunities and the Spirit’s help to follow through with it. But it’s harder to correlate his answers to prayers outside of His revealed will for us. And when we do presume that He has answered our prayers for circumstantial good things on the basis of our asking (not necessarily in accordance with His will), it can also lead to a puffed up, inflated self-importance–the kind of view that believes our will has the power to bend his will, when it is exactly the opposite. Prayer is about bending our will to His.
Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Wouldn’t it be good to give glory to God for healing Titus, whether we know for sure if he did or not? I’m not so sure. It doesn’t glorify him or honor him to misinterpret or presume upon the storyline. Titus’s brain is still the same. He’s developing, yet disabled. He’s doing better than we expected and all of the praise for that goes to God.
Without glorifying our prayers, we can glorify Him by trusting His sovereign, wise plan when He takes and when He gives. We glorify Him with faith that He will give us the exact number of hardships that are good for us. We glorify Him by continuing to pour out our hearts and ask without hesitation in accordance with His will. We glorify Him with faith that He loves our son more than we do. And with faith that He loves us, too.
Have you talked to someone who believes that God has answered their prayers favorably regarding an earthly circumstance and is triumphant about it? Have you been pressured to just believe that God would give healing? Have you been made to feel like God’s answers to your prayers hinged on the amount of faith you could muster (not faith in God, mind you, but faith in a favorable outcome)? Is He glorified by pride about our faith?
A happy ending doesn’t mean I get credit for earning a yes from God.
Another thing it doesn’t mean is that all the sad chapters are over. It would be silly to call Titus’s story a happy ending when he’s nineteen months old. But it’s tempting to do so. How badly we want to be done with the pain! I can’t claim a happy ending for any of my children.. or myself.. or anyone! We can be thankful for the kind providence of what he’s granting us right now, without clutching at tomorrow. This life doesn’t end happily for anyone, because it ends in death for everyone. Death is our enemy.
It is on the other side of our enemy, death, that we get our happy ending. Knowing this means we can say, “Where is your victory Death?” We can mock death, “Where is your sting?” We can live in peace and contentment, because our ultimate destination is happy forever.
So what does a happy ending mean? For a Christian, it means the same thing that a sad ending means. The story isn’t over. This life isn’t our ending. We bank it all on the resurrection hope that we have because of Jesus Christ’s bloody death on a cross. He swallowed death on that cross and we will be raised with him. The perishable putting on the imperishable; the mortal, immortality.