Motherhood & Family, Taking Heart

She Sings

FC6B1786-F456-44D8-9276-D900DC76A3D6.jpg

She sings as she suckles. The notes rise and fall and I feel her song on my chest. This moment is a gift, a divine yes.

The last month hasn’t been the easiest. We are walking on while waiting on many fronts. Some are shorter-term needs, others are distant hopes. We are praying for prodigals and struggling saints, for suffering friends and hurting ministries, for the faith of our children and our own sanctification. In my grief and anxiety, I have wondered if he truly sees, if he will really answer. God, help me believe that you answer prayers, I weakly offered just last week.

Now, listening to my baby breathe, I think about how each exhale is a resounding testimony that he indeed hears.

During pregnancy, I prayed almost daily— God, please let this baby live.

After miscarriage, after Jeff dreamt we had another little boy and girl— God, please let this be prophetic.

As newly married— God, would you grow our family?

When we dated— God, please confirm our steps.

As a single woman— God, you know my desires.

Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes, he said. And this is just one trail of petitions.

If I reach for a different thread, I find countless others wrapped up in this very moment. There’s confirmation about where to serve, the home I am sitting in, the faith to follow. There’s the silence right now—the gift of rest as Jeff takes out the big kids, and the notable absence of the voices of shame and condemnation, once constant companions. I have a steady sense of purpose, a will to live, an assurance that I belong to God. This hasn’t always been the case.

There have been plenty of no’s and the answers have not always come as quickly as I hoped. But I pleaded in years past— God, make yourself real to me. Steadily and surely, he has. The gift of our fourth child and the faith I have as I hold her now is but a small sampling of how.

From the lips of my baby he has ordained praise, the gift of unveiling and an invitation to remembrance. Do you really answer prayer? Her song is the gentlest rebuke for my forgetfulness, a soft yet strong word: See here my yeses.

Motherhood & Family

Family Bible Reading

IMG_1924.jpg

My parents gave me this Bible as I started ministry after college. It travelled all over the world with me, sitting open during meet-ups and quiet times. It is highlighted and underlined with remembrances of living words shedding light on my heart. And while it’s been shelved for some years (I switched translations), I pulled it out recently for Bible reading with the kids.

There’s nothing magical about an old Bible, but it is sweet to think that God knew as I read, prayed, fretted over my future with it, I’d one day be using it to speak his words to my own children.

Our family has recently started reading the Bible together daily. We’ve probably only been 50/50 (or 75/25) in terms of consistency, but it’s been really good. So while we’re just getting into the grind of it, I thought I’d share some of my preliminary thoughts for others thinking about cultivating the same discipline.

It doesn’t have to be complicated.

We read one chapter in the OT and one in the NT per reading (right now Psalms and the Gospels). We try to read in the morning over breakfast and at night when the kids are ready for bed. We’re not always consistent, especially at night, but having a simple routine keeps it from feeling too daunting. For us, 5-10 minutes a reading means 10-20 minutes a day. We’re not coming with lesson plans (though we have had good conversations), just listening to God’s Word together and answering questions as they come up.

It’s a great way to serve my children while caring for my soul.

Last month, I talked to a friend, a mom and missionary, who recently sustained an ankle injury. When I asked her how she’d have time to focus on her recovery, she told me PT told her to include her kids in her therapy exercises. Right now, our children love it when we read to them. They love spending focused time with us (sometimes when we’d rather them not!) and will take every moment with us they can get. As much as I may feel too busy or tired, I want to make the most of this time while their hearts are still soft to God’s word and to me. And in this season where alone time is hard to come by, God’s been refreshing my heart through these morning and night bookends.

It’s about tasting and seeing together that God is good.

One way to make readings feel boring for kids is to automatically turn the passages into ways to get them to behave. While there are times for correction and instruction, not every Bible reading should feel this way. More than needing a moral compass, our children need (and want!) to know the living God through his wondrous deeds. When we read together, we are simply opening up the Word of God to discover together how amazing, captivating, powerful, holy, beautiful, and wonderful he is. And truly he is.

It’s not impossible.

I remember reading about families doing family devotions and thinking it was a good idea— in theory. I pictured something that felt formal and forced. I pictured families sitting still, being serious, and basically not looking like ours. (For some context, we have trouble getting the kids to stay seated at the table for meals.) It turns out our readings just look like our family having our usual time together– only instead of focusing our attention on a children’s book, game, or movie, we’re reading the Bible together. Sometimes the kids will roll around in bed, stare off blankly into space, or ask a completely unrelated question. But more often than not, they are listening. And even if they don’t remember everything we read, they are learning through practice that God’s word is worth our time and attention.

Lastly, we need to believe it is worth it it.

Though it’s not impossible, consistent Bible reading does take effort. But it takes more than just determination and grit. When I get to the heart of it, the biggest reason I often choose not to spend time in God’s word is not busyness or lack of discipline, but unbelief. I push it aside because I’m not sure he’ll speak to me. I’m not convinced that he’ll speak what I need to hear or meet me in my need.

So I need faith. Faith that God has something to say to my family, that he holds the words of life. Faith that as pressing as everything else seems, we won’t regret stopping to hear from him. Faith that above all else, we need him, his grace, and his truth. And faith that if his Word falls on good soil today, it will bear a harvest, 30, 60, 100-fold in due time.

The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
Psalm 19:7-8 (NIV)

Motherhood & Family

My Soil

IMG_0732.jpg

(from Instagram)

“Can we check on our garden?” I give them the go ahead and they run to fill their cans in the bathroom, watering the kitchen tiles on their way out. They return with strawberries, cilantro, and news of promising zucchini flowers and sunflower stems.

I leave most outdoor activities to Jeff, but I think writing, for me, is what gardening is to him. When I arrange and tend to words and thoughts, I feel I’m doing good work, even if only as an amateur in my backyard. The fact that my work yields handfuls of fruit at a time is okay with me. I enjoy it and am thankful it can be beneficial to others in some measure.

It’s hard though to find energy and time. And a few months ago, I found myself growing impatient at the demands of home and family because I wanted to write more. It occurred to me then that I was in danger of resenting the very soil God wanted me to write out of.

It’s tempting to imagine we’d accomplish more— for God even— if not for the circumstances we’ve been placed in. It’s easy to believe we’d bear more fruit if only. If only the kids weren’t so needy. If only the people I discipled more mature. If only my parents more reasonable. If only schoolwork easier. If only my health were better.

But beloved, Divine Love has ordained for you this season and place to offer worship and obedience you could not offer in any other time or place. And as you abide in Christ, he promises the fruit you bear this season will last (John 15:16).

If it were up to me, I’d probably choose to bear fruit in a climate-controlled, sterile greenhouse. Here I’d serve, live, love, and write without hindrance. But I am bound to my own time and place, affected by the weather and surrounded by dirt. This is the soil I have been placed in to work out my salvation— the vocation of motherhood, the heartache of ministry, the needs of souls, life circumscribed by my limited body.

Here, I have been called to bear the fruit of the Spirit, to serve, to be made more like Jesus. Here, in this season, in this space, with gardening children and slippery kitchen floors.

Motherhood & Family

Wisdom To Number Our Days

7477DCB9-6C39-4219-AAD0-6873FB9AC65D.jpg

(from Instagram)

My heart has been feeling achy these days. Having a newborn has made me realize how our years with her siblings have flown by. It also reminds me how little time they all have left here with us.

Like a dream. Like grass that grows and withers. This is how the psalmist describes our years on earth (Ps.90). So in light of our fleetingness, he asks God to teach us to number our days. This, he writes, is how we gain wisdom.

I have seen lately how my parenting is often downright foolish. I am irritable instead of grateful for the moments God grants me with my children. I respond to them with harshness instead of commending Christ. I waive opportunities to build our relationship in the name of busyness. And when I do these things, I am forgetting that my years, and our years together, are numbered.

Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom- Ps. 90:12.— I need this divine, day-numbering wisdom so badly.

I need this wisdom to look through my children’s behavior and aim to win their hearts. To discipline with their 13, 18, and 30 year-old future selves in mind.

I need this wisdom to build them up with words of grace and not just give orders. To remember the significance of the years between us is growing smaller by the day. One they will one be my peers and hopefully friends.

I need this wisdom to seize every opportunity to make much of Christ. To put down what I’m doing when possible and help my children see the goodness of God while I still can.

I need this wisdom to enjoy my time with them. To stop and thank God for the fleeting, sweet craziness of life with 3 young children and an infant.

Parents, truly, our days may be long, but our years are short. Let’s look to number them rightly — these exhausting, sweet, bitter, good, frustrating days— that God may grant us hearts of wisdom.

Motherhood & Family

Greater Is He

IMG_8443 (1).jpg

(from Instagram)

I felt the fall last night, the pain of childbearing. In the beating my body has taken in birthing and caring for a newborn. In the toil of raising sinful children. In my own hard-heartedness.

***

I’m sick of dealing with sin.

I think that to myself after refereeing another bedtime squabble. Nothing new, but it’s the mundanity of the self-centeredness that gets to me, that pervasive inward curvature of sin. I think about what it would be like to raise children in a pre-Genesis 3 world. I’m tired and mad and tired.

I retreat from their room when the Spirit speaks: Greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world (1 Jn 4:4). A cheery voice calls from across the hall, “Mom, can we pray together?” It is a divine invitation.

I‘m still angry, but what am I going to do? Say, “No!“? So I reenter. First, anything you’re thankful for? Then, more accusatory than I‘m proud of, anything you need to say sorry for?

Their confessions catch me unguarded and convict me. They share specific moments from the day I hadn’t noticed. They give humble insights on their weaknesses. They apologize and forgive. My heart softens. We talk about friendship and family and seeing each other’s sin. I’m asked for verses that will help with a particular struggle with the flesh. We talk about Christ’s forgiveness and the Spirit’s help.

Then we pray.

I pray the gospel over us, over me. It is sheer grace I am able to do so. God himself turned the tide; he spoke, he invited, he softened.

All in spite of me, my sin, and the fall.

***

“Sometimes when I’m in a bad mood, it’s hard to do the right thing,” she says.

Me too, baby. But, praise be to God— greater is he who is in us than he who is in the world.