Our Garden Tour with Lots of Pictures and a Little Philosophizing

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.

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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.

down the hill

down the hill

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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Just beyond the bench is the strawberry patch, fenced in by old dead logs I scavenged in the woods.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Beyond their plots we planted a couple rows of potatoes, marked by sticks, so we don’t forget where they are.

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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.

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She makes sure we stay hydrated and brings yummy lemonade and a basket of snacks for us.

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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.

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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.

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One thing I’ve learned is that in order to protect tiny pepper plants like this, you must have paths.

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These little boots have to learn to stay on the path and only on the path.wpid-gardenpath.jpg

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

The Puff of Plans: My Calendar Lies to Me

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.

Vanishing flowers

Vanishing flowers

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)

Evangeline Joy Is Five!

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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What Does a Happy Ending Mean?

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.

Some Sole Lovin’

We’ve got big news!

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Shoes.

When you hear early on that walking is no sure thing for your little one, you get pretty excited about his first pair of shoes.

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I’ve never seen a pair of shoes that I liked so much. Or cried over.

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I’ve never been so delighted by standing.

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This kid’s got sole.

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Jumbled Up Thoughts on the Gift and Grief of Disability

I’ve been wanting to say something about disability and abortion, in light of the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, but haven’t been able to put it together.

I think my pastor summed up the scattered thoughts I’ve had when he said something to the effect of, “When someone discovers their unborn child is disabled, it’s the one time abortion isn’t just a choice, it’s considered by many, the right thing to do.” That’s not a direct quote–it’s probably not even close–but I think it represents the gist.

Disabled kids are just plain de-valued, both in the womb and out of it. Most pro-choicers view abortion as a necessary tragedy. One helpless life is being sacrificed at the hands of a bigger, stronger person. It’s a horror and I think most people’s consciences are at least pricked by it. But many people view the abortion of a disabled child as a kindness to the person they’re killing. They think it’s better for the disabled person to die than live–that their quality of life wouldn’t be worth the effort.

I don’t have anything new or insightful to say about it except, it’s a big fat lie. Disabled people are made in God’s image. It’s not OK to kill disabled people in the womb or any where else. I call them people. Children. Babies. Human Beings. They are NOT vegetables. Not less important than your dog. Or a whale. Or the environment.

The truth is even cognitively impaired, non-responsive people without voluntary movements or the ability to communicate represent to us people of mystery at the very least. No one can pretend to know the extent of their understanding or love or responsiveness. Why? Because they can’t tell us. (Except this man can: Ghost Boy.)

Disabled people are a gift.

Having a son with an abnormal brain has only convinced me further that every human is made in God’s image. We have more to learn from the disabled among us than could be imagined–especially the cognitively disabled.

So, if disabled people are gift (and they are), if their lives represent something incredibly important for us as the body of Christ, why this nagging grief? Why not just celebration? That’s been knocking around in my head for a while.

I think it’s because we want for our children the same joys that we’ve experienced. We want them to know things in the way we know them. We want to protect them from sin and there is deep grief in realizing that sin has had it’s impact from the moment of conception, in cases of congenital disability. It’s sad. It should be sad. It is not easy or simple to show people the simultaneous sadness and celebration–not because it’s too hard to understand, but because it’s hard to live.

Disability brings with it little and big griefs and little and big joys. Even the happiest times can be tinged with some heartache. Our Titus is doing so well the last 3 months. This has been a time of celebration. And I want to declare, “We will now return to our regularly scheduled programming!” I want to do everything to make life as “normal” as possible. At times, it seems like I’m really succeeding. Until I find myself learning how to remove a button from my son’s stomach and replace it by inserting a deflated balloon through the stomach wall and then inflate it to hold the button secure. Something about that just isn’t normal, no matter how much we get used to it.

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I sat in Titus’s neurologist’s office last week, eager to be told that my baby boy is somehow better, that his problems are mostly gone, that the MRI’s findings were a bad dream. Instead he carefully reminded me, “He’s doing wonderfully, but you’ve got to remember that he does have something really significant going on in his brain. He’s not out of the woods.” Why does that sting so badly, if disability is a gift? Because it’s a loss, that’s why.

How can something be a loss and a gain? How can disabled people be so essential to our understanding of God and love and each other and also be a reminder of the incredible loss that sin has wrought? This truth has been helping me see it:

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:18-25 ESV)

And what if that truth meets with this incredible statement from Joseph after the sin of his brothers sent him on a journey of awful trial after awful trial:

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Genesis 50:20 ESV)

Satan desires evil against us and our children in disability, but God is writing the story and He is planning it for glory. Subjected to futility in hope.

I have to remind myself that there is both gift and grief in disability. I keep falling off either side. Different people emphasize one over the other, and different seasons allow one to take center stage, but both are true, whether the gift feels huge and the grief tiny or vice versa. Making space in conversation and life for both will surely bless any family who’s walking through the happy heartbreak of disability.

Some dear friends have lost their baby to Trisomy 13 after nine months in the womb. Their story will tear you up and hold you together all at once. The only hope in life and death is our risen Savior.

Eleven-Year-Old Eliza

Eleven years ago today, on MLK Jr. Day, Eliza was born early in the morning after a fairly quick overnight labor. The cord was tight around her little neck, but her face was pink and perfect.

Here are the top ten of her tenth year:

Flower press

Flower press

1) You enjoy beauty and have an eye for it. Whether pressing flowers or making cards or drawing pictures or even cleaning your room, you have an eye for knowing when things look pleasing and right.

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UGSC

2) While you don’t have a passion for soccer, you do enjoy it and the perks that come with it, like spending time with the team, snack time and giggling with friends. I’m glad that you persevere, despite often being one of the smallest on the team.

Music camp

Music camp

3) Music is always a part of life for you and you got to try your hand at handbells at music camp. Bonus that you got to do it with this sweet friend. You two had more fun than should be allowed!

mini fall fairy gardens

mini fall fairy gardens

4) One of your biggest projects from being 10 was your garden. It was a lot of work, a lot of time, a lot of joy, and thankfully, gave a lot of reward in food and sunflowers. Also, making these little fairy gardens was a great way to spend a warm fall afternoon.

big sister, baby brother

big sister, baby brother

5) It’s a special privilege and responsibility to be the oldest and it’s a blessing to see you in the role. As a ten year old, you’ve grown in love and care for your sibs–especially for this littlest brother. I love the kindness you spread in our family!

first day of school at school

first day of school at school

6) You’ve transitioned to three days a week at school beautifully and I’m so happy for you. You seem to be fully engaged in all the activities and learning that happens there and it’s great fun to watch. I still love having you home too.

Dancing in the Christmas program

Dancing in the Christmas program

7) Speaking of school, you joined the Hallelujah Dance team and got to perform this dance in costume, native to the Karen. You move gracefully and soak up all the details that go with the dance.

slip n slide

slip n slide

8) You definitely have a bent for adventure and laughter with a streak of the competitive spirit in there! You like to invent games and competitions and laugh your way through them.

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9) You’re never far from a good book. It can be a challenge to keep enough new material in front of you, but thankfully you like to re-read your favorite books over again. You even started a Bible club with your brother and sister, taking some time together in the very best book.

the North Shore

the North Shore

10) You have a love for God’s world and a taste for new experiences in it. We spend a lot of time going back to the favorite, well-worn places and the favorite well-worn people, together as a family. And you love that–I think we all love it best. But I see a desire for more in you–a desire to know more of God’s world, the different people and places. There is a desire to serve God and share him in places we’ve never been. My prayer is that God would grant this to you. That He would make a level path for your feet. That He would equip you to do every good work that He’s already prepared for you in advance. May you say with all your heart, “The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.” (Psalm 16:5, 6) May you share that inheritance, the gift of God’s Son, with many people for the glory of God with joy.

It is such a happiness and pleasure to to call you daughter.

Seth Turns Nine!

Today is Seth’s 9th birthday. He is a blast to celebrate. And 9 is a great age.

Here are the top ten of his year 8!

Get set!

Get set!

1) You’re ready for action. Spirited and competitive, you were born ready! When you’re engaged in something the passion is never lacking. It sure makes life fun to be around a passionate kid.

big brother

big brother

2) You’re a caring big brother to your little brother. God has given you a lot of love for your brother and he’s given your brother a lot of love for you! You boys have a special bond.

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UGSC

3) You’re still loving soccer. You’ve had to learn in defeat and victory this year. At soccer camp, your team won the “World Cup,” but in the school rec league, your team lost every game but one. You’re unquenchably optimistic, even when all the chips are down. I’m just plain proud of you. wpid-sethfriends.jpg

4) As you grow, so do your friendships. God’s given such an incredible gift of people to you, Seth. You’re learning how to be a friend and I hope you discover more and more the virtue of loyalty and commitment.

slip n slide

slip n slide

5) You’re up for adventures and challenges, whether a crazy rigged slip n slide in the back yard or exploring new places along the North Shore or learning to ripstick or trying a new food, you’ll give most things the ol’ college try.

1st day of homeschool 2014

1st day of homeschool 2014

6) You continue to enjoy a good book. This year you (along with the rest of us) have been immersed and taken with Andrew Peterson’s The Wingfeather Saga. We read the series out loud as a family and you’ve re-read it a number of times since. The books are never far from your bed.

boy v. leaves

boy v. leaves

7) You’ve got ideas about what you want to do and you’re willing to do what it takes to make it happen. Like raking a lot of leaves and having piles to jump in and hide in and whatever else. I like your get-er done, action-minded way.

1st day of school at school

1st day of school at school

8) You went to school for the first time this year. We’re still homeschooling, but also at Christian school part-time. This has been a pretty big change and you’ve handled it well. Trustworthy and focused are two words I’d use to describe you in regard to school.

arms around your sibs

arms around your sibs

9) Your sisters love you Seth. They admire and enjoy you. This picture started out with you stretching your arms around all three of your sisters, then Titus was added in because, well, that’s where he belongs. And you were excited to get your arms around all your sibs.

our boy, never alone. :)

our boy, never alone. :)

10) Your heart has tenderized as an 8 year old Seth. This is an answer to prayer. God is working in you; He’s showing you His great love for you. You have gathered up a lot of knowledge about Him and about His Word. You know the old, old stories. You know His ancient ways, His law, and His sacrifice for sinners. Our prayer is that all your knowledge would flood your heart, so that you don’t just know that He was sacrificed for sinners, but that you know that He died for you. It’s started already, you’ve gotten your feet wet, and our prayer is that Christ would drench you in His love. Seth, you are appointed of God. Chosen and beloved.

We are altogether delighted to call you ours.

A Mom’s Made-Up Holiness at Christmas

For years this very vague version of Christmas has been floating around my mind. In this version, there is no chaos, no hurriedness, no cleaning, no messes, no loud noises, no shopping, no cooking, and especially no illnesses. It’s the “how it should-be”, or at least the “how I imagine it would be if I were much holier” version of Christmas. Unfortunately that doesn’t leave me with much, since those things fill up a pretty hefty part of life for the mother of many.

I think moms with littles can fall prey to wanting Christmas to be exactly what it isn’t and never was: simple and easy.

We think that surely Christmas is about quiet reflection and pondering silently with our coffee in one hand and Bible in the other. That real holiness lies in uninterrupted thoughts and long stretches of time gazing at the Jesse tree. That if we were further along in our sanctification we’d chuck this madness called Christmas and relinquish our duties to shop, prepare food, decorate and celebrate. Surely these extravagant feasts and gifts are a little over the top. We may even feel guilty for participating, as if by making snowman cookies with the kids we cheapen this holy time. We worry about too many presents and decide to do less next year.

Strip Christmas down to its essence, we think. Get rid of all this clutter. Christmas should be easier, we’re sure. But it hasn’t been that way from the beginning. From Mary hopping on a donkey and birthing in a stable, to terrified shepherds and shouting angels, to Herod’s horrible decree, to wise men  bringing their gifts and their worship under a giant star. Christmas is a spectacle.

Yet we want Christ to come to us and bring external peace to our circumstances at Christmas. We want him to make young needy children, less needy; to make time-consuming food preparations quick and hassle-free; to make relational tensions with family disappear; to make getting ready for guests, seamless; to make the trek to relatives’ houses unhurried and simple; to make all this work on our to-do list, not work.

But Christ came to rule in our hearts, not change our circumstances. He came to give us the kind of heart that looks at the to-do list and sees a hundred ways to bless her family and extend that blessing to hundreds more. Through his perfect life, death and resurrection, Christ came to undo our small-minded resentments at our work and replace them with willing hands and thankful hearts. Christ came to change our ideas of simplistic solo holiness and instead he put us in families.

What has God entrusted to you this Christmas? Is it the privilege of hosting family, friends, neighbors or co-workers? Then welcome people in Jesus’ name and show them how extravagant God’s love is. Is it traveling to someone else’s home? Then go willingly in Jesus’ name and be a blessing. Is it making Christmas memories for your immediate family? Then do good to them by celebrating Jesus in ways that minister to every age represented. Is it caring for sick people and missing out on everything you’d hoped for? Then do for the least of these as you would for Christ.

This Christmas Jesus wants from us the same thing He always wants: death to our selfish desires and made-up notions of holiness and absolute joy and loyalty to Him. He’s bought our faithfulness so that we can make the food, set the table and wrap the gifts in the strength He supplies. The Prince of Peace has come and He can make our love multiply a hundredfold in Jesus’ name, even, maybe especially, during the chaos of Christmastime.

Keep On Keepin’ On!

Titus is 16 months old today! He is growing so much. When he stretches out or stands with his own weight on his feet, it can shock me a bit–he really is the size of a 16 month old!

Back when he turned a year, we had (after months of trying unsuccessfully!) worked up to eating baby food twice a day. It was a feat! And the thing that got him interested in baby food was those dissolvable puffs. I would put a little baby food on the puff and he would try it. There were a few times he was even able to feed himself a puff.

wpid-titus16monthpuff.jpg

Well, since his big seizure in mid September, he hasn’t been able or willing to eat anything by mouth. We started trying solids again a while ago, but it’s been no dice. Until last week! And lo and behold, it was those same puffs for the win.

wpid-titus16monthpuff2.jpg

I’ve been putting one between his teeth and he really seems to enjoy crunching down on it. He’s tried a few times to get it in his mouth on his own, and even been successful once!

wpid-titus16monthpuff3.jpg

I’m so thankful that he’s beginning to re-take this step forward. How much of my life is learning and re-learning the same old things? I tend to think it must be annoying to the Lord to have to keep teaching me the same things over, but as I delight in my son’s relearning, I’m reminded that God loves me. He isn’t irritated. He’s a loving Father instructing again and again.

“Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.” (Philippians 3:1 ESV)

16 months old

16 months old