Category Archives: motherhood

Seeing Through

Soul and sight are inextricably tied together. When my soul is rested and sated with my Savior, my eyes are full of light. They scan the physical topography of my life for the spiritual realities to which they were meant to point. 

On my best days, my eyes join my soul in looking for life from the Life-Giver who stands behind and underneath the realities of my life. Interruptions to my plans for the day can be seen as course corrections from a well-intended heavenly father. My children’s meltdowns can be seen as windows into their needs rather than weights to slow me down. 

Unfortunately, the inverse is also true. When my soul grows weary, my eyes tend to follow suit. They both give up on the hard work of looking through and begin looking at. 

Angry tears were welling in my eyes in carpool line. I felt put-upon and inconvenienced by circumstances that were out of my control. If I am honest, I felt angry with God. Angry that the days had not panned out in the ways I had carefully planned. Angry that choppy relationships seemed to be adding to an already-stormy season. Angry at the failures and foibles of others that reveal my own failures and foibles. After weeks of hard conversations and weighty circumstances, I found myself looking at circumstances and people rather than looking through them.

Seeing Through

My eyes and soul, that tired pair, had lost the ability to have a farther, deeper focus. They had stopped looking underneath and through circumstances and people and had settled for looking at them. Such sight is sure to end in disappointment and frustration, for our souls are made for a focal point far beyond this globe. Souls stilled by the gospel and lives anchored into His sure promises are able to look underneath and through circumstances back to the Savior.

Underneath that moment of disobedience is a boy who desperately needs to hear the gospel is true, not just in general, but specifically for him (see 1 John 1:9)

Underneath what feel like demands are deep needs and deep fears that are begging to be directed to a devoted Savior (Proverbs 20:5)

Underneath that angry social media post is a human heart swollen with a story needing to be heard (see James 1:19)

Underneath secondary causes is a loving Savior who is committed to my wholeness and sanctification as well as theirs (see Romans 8:28). 

Underneath the destruction of my paper-thin plans, there remains the immovable purposes of a good God. 

Seen Through

God, through His Spirt, His Word, and His people, invites me to see through because I have been seen through and yet loved. 

God has seen through my sad attempts at self-sufficiency, loving me enough to expose my utter insufficiency (see John 15:4). 

God has seen through my thick, complex walls of protection and has initiated to love the little girl who hides behind them (see Isaiah 25:12). 

God has seen through my attempts to boast in human knowledge and is slowly training me to let my only boast be understanding and knowing him (see Jeremiah 9:23-24). 

God has seen through my frantic need to have illusion of control and continually beckons me to trust Him as the blessed controller of all things (see 1 Timothy 6:15).

The reality is that I need to continually be seen through so that I might see through. I wish it were a one-and-done reality; however, God has seems to prefer an ongoing, relational dynamic with His children. 

When my eyes begin to look at rather than seeing through, my soul needs a fresh check-in with the Gentle Physician. When my focus becomes shortened, I need time to refocus on the One who sees me completely yet loves me fully. This will be my reality until that glorious day when my eyes can fully see the One whom fully sees me (see 1 John 3:2 & 1 Corinthians 13:12). 

Dandelion Days

The closest thing we get to even the appearance of snow balls during San Diego winters are dandelion globes. I always smile when I see them growing, because they bring back childhood memories of playfully scattering their seeds. However, of late, I have a new reason to smile when I see them on my morning walks.

Recently, I slowly savored Elisabeth Elliot’s A Pathway Through Suffering. Each chapter began with a botanical example from Lilias Trotter. While I found them all to be challenging and beautiful, one in particular has stayed with me upon completion of the book.

“The seed vessel hopes for nothing again. It seeks only the opportunity of shedding itself; its purpose is fulfilled when the wind shakes forth the last seed, and the flower stalk is beaten low by autumn storms. It not only spends, but is ‘spent out’ at last.”

Trotter, a gifted writer and observer of nature, has painted seed dispersal in beautiful terms; yet, death to self is less poetic and more painful in actual practice.

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Lately, it has helped me to imagine my life as a field and each day its own individual dandelion globe (technically called blowballs or clocks).  The entire purpose of such a globe is to release its scores of individual seed fruits (technically called achenes). Thus, for the dandelion, losing its last threads of its self is technically winning. In dying to itself, it is fulfilling the very mission for which it so intricately exists: to scatter and shed abroad its seeds of life. Its death means the new life of countless more dandelion plants who, in time, will return the favor!

I tend to want to hold on to my time, my energy, my plan for the day, and my wishes and wants. After all, everything in my flesh agrees with everything the world and the Enemy of my soul feed me in every radio wave, internet connection and whispered lie. Hold on to your life. Protect your own. Treat your self. After all, who else will?

Yet, each day,  I am offered various experiences intended to help me die to myself that others might live.

To throw the baseball when all I want to do is text a friend. To absorb an angry email, offer the frustration up to Jesus, and to respond in gentleness and humility. To stop what I am focused on to listen to my husband process his day. To cook a meal even though I would rather read a book or take a walk.

Tiny deaths, but chances to practice dying to myself that others might receive life just the same.

For some reason, imagining another little seed parachuting off to plant life somewhere has helped me to see these tiny deaths to self as tiny victories rather than terrible inconveniences.

Death to self as one great, heroic act feels overwhelming and impossible to my self-centered soul. However, faithful daily dying to self that leads to a lifetime of self laid down for the sake of and by the power of a Savior’s love feels far more do-able to me.

Faithful daily dying leads to faithful final breath. May we let the light breezes or gale force winds of our days help us to let go of our lives, seed by seed. May we be able to confidently say with Paul, we are…

…always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. 2 Corinthians 4: 10-12. 

An Antidote for Control

Three trips to Home Depot. Two trips to Ikea. One trip to Big Lots. Over the past few days, my handy husband and I have been in all-out task mode attempting to speedily make desk spaces for our children. The obvious felt need to make conducive learning spaces for each of our boys covered a less overt deeper need in my soul: something I could control.

My desire to order and shape what feels chaotic is not in and of itself a bad thing. On the contrary, such desires to order the private and public places in which God has placed us stem from the desired end for which we were created: to image and glorify God. After all, God spoke order and structure into the unordered world created by His words. He set boundaries for the seas, telling them where to stop. He separated the light from the dark, creating the earth’s sun to rule the day and the moon the night (along with the countless other suns and moons of our galaxy and those in the countless other galaxies beyond our own).

In the Garden of Eden, the Father gave his first human creations the compliment of joining him in his ordering work. He invited them to tend to the garden and name the plants and animals of the freshly-minted world. In the gospel of Christ, our Triune God gave us the means to begin to live ordered spiritual lives that begin with right-standing with God. The Holy Spirit continues His ongoing work of integration (making whole) in a world deeply influenced by an enemy who is constantly disintegrating (pulling apart). Much to our surprise, He does this primarily through indwelling and reshaping the hearts and minds of believers in Christ. 

The desire to order our private worlds is not wrong; however, sometimes this desire becomes inordinate and idolatrous. While the desks turned out beautifully, they were not able to deliver the peace and reassurance that I was subconsciously demanding of them. Lest you think me alone in being crazy enough to think that inanimate objects of my own making could satisfy soul needs within me, the prophet Isaiah repeatedly spoke of similar trends.

The desks were more an attempt to control a world that feels increasingly out of control. On top of the pressure cooker that is pandemic living, we have friends who are losing loved ones and relational and financial stressors of our own. There are far more questions whirling around in my head and heart than there are anchored answers. With mounting fears, comes the growing need for control, as fear and control create quite a feedback loop. When we are afraid, we grasp for control. In our grasping for control, we stir up more fear.

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What the desks could not deliver, the Word of God did, offering an antidote for my need to control. While reading one of my favorite Psalms, the Spirit opened my eyes to fresh insights.

“Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God” (Psalm 31:5). 

David, who penned this psalm, often had very little control over his circumstances. Though he had been anointed to be the future king of Israel, he spent many years being hounded and harmed by the presiding and precarious King Saul. In the midst of circumstances he could not control, he committed his circumstances and his very life to the blessed controller of all things. The Hebrew word pagad, translated commit above, can also be translated to appoint, to point in charge, and to give oversight. Thus, David appointed God to be in charge of the things that he knew he could not control. Rather than grasping for control, he gave it over to the One who could far better create, sustain, and restore all things.

When we face fearful circumstances without and conundrums within, we have a similar choice: to commit or to control.

Thankfully, we have one who did this fully and completely even in the gravest circumstances that led from a cross to a grave. The One who perfectly ordered and arranged all things took on himself all that was dis-ordered about ourselves and our world. And while he suffered in doing so, he actually quotes from this Hebrew Psalm, crying out, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46).

May this week finding you seeking to commit more and control less.

Agape Agony

We all want to receive agape love but grimace when we are asked to give it.

Agape love, by nature, is unconditional and self-emptying. The other varieties of love offer more reciprocity. Storge love, which is parental love, costs much upfront but is paid in dividends later and throughout.  Eros love, which is romantic love, pays upfront and shows its costs more honestly along the way. Phileo love, which is friendship love, typically stays in the middle range of cost and benefit.

Not so agape love. It is costly and quiet. It absorbs an insane amount of costs and takes much under the chin.  It cannot flow out where it has not flowed in, and it can only flow in from One source: the wellspring of life, Jesus Christ who defined agape love.

The older I get, the more in awe of agape love I am becoming and the more it is being asked of me by my Master. It is not getting easier to give. Every time it is required of me, I find myself back at the Cross trying to receive what I am required to give.

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When someone once asked one of my writing heroes Madeline L’Engle if her faith sustained and influenced her writing, she replied that her writing influenced and sustained her faith. I find myself in the same place nearly every week, writing to remind myself of what I believe and massage it into my life and heart.

Agape Agony

Agape sounds so lovely,
But it feels like agony.
A costly, emptying love
Led its author to the tree. 

To love, to pour, to spend
To be left wanting in reply
Tests the strength of love,
Begs a source Most High.  

My attempts are alloyed,
Tainted, stained, impure.
The sacrifices I’ve made
Make me love you more

What I do in fits and starts,
You did always, all the way.
The costs tempting me to run
Are those that made you stay.

I empathize with Peter’s
“We have left all for you.”
Like you are your rewards:
Other through and through.

Loneliness as wage for love,
Less, not more security.
After decades of service,
You are our only surety.

We’ll walk the wilderness,
Trust you in a land unsown.
Our one great reward will be
To still be called your own. 

We will not begrudge you
Bruises, bumps, and storms.
Each complicating curve
Us into your image forms.

The plan that perplexes us
Before you is perfectly plain.
For you will have your bride
Without a blemish or stain. 

Then, now, and tomorrow,
Thrice worthy you will be!
We only ask continually
To have thrice more of thee!

Preemptive Weariness & a Ready Refuge

Is there such a thing as preemptive weariness? If there wasn’t, I am fairly certain that my thought-patterns of late have created such a thing.

Normally back-to-school season is my solace. I love the ordered anticipation, the list-checking, and the label-making that it affords.  I love outfitting my boys with new  (or new to them) lunch bags, book bags, and first day of school clothes. However, this pandemic has been raining on everyone’s back-to-school parades.

I keep find my masked-self roaming school supply aisles in nostalgia and confusion. Should we buy the pencils and order the new lunch boxes?  Do they even need spiral notebooks? The surface-level supply confusion is nothing compared to the storms that rage deeper in my heart throughout the day. Do I have what it takes to challenge my children? What are they missing developmentally and emotionally right now? If can barely keep myself on task, how will I keep three different children in three different grades on track? 

If I feel this weary, I cannot imagine the potential and/or proven weariness of teachers and administrators, single parent families, and those who are treading water already. I  wake up with a weighted heart every morning, mentally tired from playing out potential scenarios before eating my Cheerios. This morning, after the initial wave of preemptive weariness came over me, the Spirit was so gracious to remind me of an old favorite hymn, “Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul.”

“Dear Refuge of my weary soul,
On Thee when sorrows rise,
On Thee when waves of trouble roll,
My fainting hope relies.
To Thee I tell each rising grief
For Thou alone canst heal
Thy Word can bring a sweet relief
For every pain I feel.” 

Anne Steele, the English hymn writer that penned these words, was no stranger to the storms of life. She lost her mother at age three, and then, at the early age of 19, she became an invalid. Some stories say that she was engaged until she lost her fiancee to a drowning accident; however, historical research seems to say otherwise. With or without the loss of a fiancee, Steele’s life sent her regularly running to the refuge of weary souls.  She remained single all her life, working alongside her father doing ministry. Her regular visits to the safety of the Rock of Ages seemed to prime her heart to write prolifically, as she wrote devotional poetry and hymns that have led other souls to her same refuge.

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It is likely that she had Psalm 46 in mind when she wrote these sweet words about her sovereign refuge.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,  though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling”
(Psalm 46:1-3).

The Hebrew word machaseh, translated refuge above, can also mean a place of safety, hope, and trust. It is derived from the Hebrew verb chasah meaning to run for refuge or  to flee for protection and safety.

However, the word I found most interesting in this verse was matsa which is translated “very present” above. This word literally means to attain or to find. A more literal translation might read, “a much found” refuge or a “well-proven” refuge.

The Psalmists implies that there is a well-worn, often-trod path to this sure refuge in the Lord. It has been sought out, found, and proven countless times. He has been found sufficient, spacious, and steady as a refuge for weary souls.

If preemptive-weariness exists, we can take great solace in the fact that a ready refuge long preexists it.  There was a day when the perfect Son of God wanted to run, as was His custom, into the refuge of the Father. He was not received. He was left refuge-less and ravaged on the cross. He endured this literal mountain-shaking catastrophe so that we would have constant access to the well-proven refuge.

In this season, may our feet better learn the path to the refuge of our weary souls. If this season continues to elongate, may we also elongate the list of God’s proven faithfulness to us and our children.

A Word to Would-Be School Marms

While walking around in my mask on a rare trip to Hobby Lobby for sanity crafts, I saw something that arrested my attention.  A precious little chalkboard plaque that was meant to charm me but paralyzed me, reading, “The future of the world is in my classroom.”

I might have been likely to buy something just like this for a cute beginning of the year present for my children’s new teachers, only this year, for all intents and purposes, I am their teacher.  

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There are moments when I have visions of being the next Mrs. Frizzle who wildly catches the curiosity of my boys and incites them to passion in the lanes of their giftedness. In those moments, the thought of the future of world living in my home/classroom/ restaurant/ spiritual greenhouse fills me with courage and hope. 

But there are many more very different moments when I remember that I often cannot remember why I walked into my kitchen or realize I haven’t fed or walked the dog by dinnertime. In those moments, the cute little plaque paralyzes me. After all, I should not be entrusted with educating the future of the world if I cannot be faithfully entrusted with the future of the week’s meal planning and bill payments. If the fate of our pet turtles and fish from the past are any indication of the future in my hands, things look bleak, friends. Very bleak. 

I don’t think that I am alone in these pendulum mood swings. As such, I feel the need to remind us all that the future is, in fact, fully secured and utterly ordered by the God of the Universe who has proven Himself good, kind, and capable. 

He is at the center, gladly usurping the usurpers of myself and my children who take turns stealing that seat. He who created my boys with full knowledge of their unique foibles and frailties stands outside of time (Psalm 139:13-16). As such, He fully sees and secures their future. He knows the passions that He has planted within them  (Ephesians 2:10). While I am beginning to see tiny threads of their gifts  and driving desires, He sees the finished tapestry (Hebrews 4:13). 

While my year (or dare I say more?) of schooling them will certainly be shaping and significant, it is not central. He is (Colossians 1:17). And His will and ways will no more be thrown off by my mistakes and missteps than a tiny pebble would throw off Mount Everest. 

Neither Saxon nor Singapore Math will secure my children’s future; their Savior has done so. 

While I want to nourish their minds through classic novels, it is far more significant that they  and their mother be nourished by the promises and presence of Christ. Zoom calls may suck the ever-living life out of them, but we are promised the refreshing zephyr of the Holy Spirit who  will refresh and renew us as we go. 

The burden of schooling can feel crushing, especially when everyone is doing at the same time mostly involuntarily. This unique situation leaves ample space for the additional crushing weight of comparison and competition. “She made a cute chart and bought old fashioned desks for her kids, but my kids are sitting upside down on their heads and the dog just ate the chart.” 

Rather than buying an alphabet carpet for the future school room that we don’t have space to make, I need to set myself squarely in the center of the portion that God has allotted for me and for them. 

He who has entrusted me with these particular children in this particular time has already become my portion and my cup. The lines He has drawn up for us are secure (Psalm 16:5-6). 

He knows already the days where they will soar and the days when we will sink. The Lord has made one day as well as the next (Ecclesiastes 7:14).  

While Hobby Lobby’s plaque may not be wrong, it is incomplete. The future of the world is most certainly in my classroom, but their future has been long secured by the One who is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). As such, this future school marm has some planning to do in the presence of Christ. Godspeed, fellow mommas!  

Grace at the Edges

I don’t like edges. When we were small, our wild and zany grandmother and her equally brave and brazen sister took all the grandchildren to Niagra Falls. While I loved eating milkshakes for breakfast and being spoiled rotten, I remember cowering in fear at the edges of the falls. My younger sister and cousins were hanging on the railing, in awe, while I sat four feet back shaking with nerves.

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It seems old habits die hard, as I am still not my best at edges. I don’t like change. Where others feel adventure, I feel anxiety. Where others teem with excitement and hope at new wineskins and ventures, I shrink back, clinging to old wineskins. They may be shot, but they are known. They may be haggard, but they are comfortable. I just don’t like the ends and the beginnings; I much prefer the solid middle to the bumpy borders. Given the choice, I would live my life without edges.

Thankfully, I have a Father who pushes me gently out of old wineskins, off the solid ground of the known and into the unknown.  I have known the stubborn love of the Father with His long-view to my sanctification that forces me to overcome short-term discomfort, inviting me to venture out of the stability of the boat and onto the wavy water. Yet, of late, I have seen it anew and afresh through parenting my own children.

For years we have been praying and wrestling about schooling decisions, always approaching education on year-by-year, child-by-child basis. This past year, we sensed the Lord calling us to switch schools from a place that has been a precious haven to our boys for the past 6 years. While we feel convinced that this is His best for our boys, they are terrified to leave the known, a small, intimate Christian school for the unknown, a larger charter school with 4 times the students.

For months, bedtimes have been tearful, honest times of sharing fears, hopes and nerves.  It seems my big boys, like me, have an aversion to edges, especially big ones.  In my flesh, I want to appease them, to let them be comfortable; but my love for the Lord and desire to obey His call, coupled with my desire to see them stretched and grown in grace and maturity, keeps me gently leading them to the edges.

I know that in six months, they will look back and see God’s gracious provision of courage and friendships and will have solid ground to stand on. I know that they will be able to look back on this major transition at the next major life transition and remember the Lord’s faithfulness and steadiness in a sea of change. But they don’t know that yet. All they know is the discomfort of the edges.

I think of God’s people being led out of Egypt, purposely doubled back to stare at imposing sea.  It must have seemed like they had been led to the edge of annihilation rather than to the edge of liberation. Yet, at those edges, God met them mightily. The  parting of the Red Sea would become a memorial to God’s faithfulness, recounted in the Psalms over and over when God’s people found themselves at yet another edge.

When we find ourselves at edges, at the outskirts of various seasons or stages, we would do well to remember another set of edges.

Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways, and how small a whisper do we hear of him! But the thunder of his power who can understand?” Job 26:14

What we have known and experienced of God up to the present are only the mere edges, the outskirts, the fringes, the beginnings of His power, His presence, His promises. He has so much to reveal, so much more to expose and strengthen in and to us. He will continue to call us to move toward the middle of His power; He loves us too much to let us linger on the outskirts, to let us stay splashing in the surf. He would have us continue to move toward Him.

To get past the edges of His ways, we must cross many edges. To move toward the middle, toward being more and more conformed to His image, we will cross countless borders of change.

Thankfully, our Father holds our hands and leads us across the liminal places. I find great rest in my troubled soul when I think of the Father walking my nervous boys over rough edges and into more experiences of His grace.

May God’s grace meet you at your edges.

 

 

 

To My Teenage Son

A baker’s dozen. One more than 12. 6 + 7.

Thirteen used to sound like any other number to me. Until recently. My oldest son turns thirteen in five days, and I swear I was just thirteen weeks pregnant with him.

More than I have been preparing for a COVID-friendly celebration for him, I have been preparing my heart for what feels like a huge milestone in his life. When he turned twelve last year, I realized that, assuming he took the college route, we were already two-thirds done with his years in our home. But this year, my heart has been even more ponderous approaching my son’s next trip around the sun.

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As I was reading David Brooks’s The Second Mountain, specifically the sections on calling, a few lines burrowed into my soul.

“There comes a time in many careers when people face a choice between helping a small number of people a lot of helping a large number of people a little.”

“Emerson underlies one of the key elements of the commitment decision. At the beginning it involves choice – choosing this or that vocation. But  99.9 percent of the time it means choosing what one already chosen….It’s saying yes to the thing you’ve already said yes to.”

When I was processing what we could purchase to make our son’s upcoming birthday feel set apart and special, I was struggling. I ended up sitting up all night and wrestling with the Lord. You see, for the past few years, my mind and heart have been rightly preoccupied with my responsibilities as a women’s ministry director. I love my job. I love what I do. I feel I was born to do it (it helps that I get paid well to do what I would want to do anyway!). Yet, I sensed the Lord asking me to give my child a very costly gift for his thirteenth birthday: more of my focused time, space, and attention.

As I have continued to wrestle with this costly gift, the Lord has been so good to remind me that He always gets my yes. When Mother Theresa felt called as a young girl to become a nun, she nervously told her mother who loved her and depended upon her care. She had no need to be nervous, for she knew that her mother could never say no to Jesus. That line grabbed my gaze and has become a prayer of mine ever since. I want to never say no to Jesus. Even when His call feels uncomfortable, unnatural, or illogical.

While Jesus gets my first yes, my husband and children get my next yeses. I said yes to my husband on a crisp April night (on April Fool’s Day…not advisable, by the way). But I keep saying quiet yeses to him and our marriage. God made me a mother early in my marriage, when I was a hair past 24. Motherhood has not always been an easy yes, but it has been one of my very best yeses.  Saying yes to the brood of boys the Lord has given us has meant a navy of no’s.

Don’t get me wrong. I am no martyr. I know I have a self to steward. I have grown in my capacity to say yes to things that are in my gift set and even to some that are well outside of it. But those other yeses always follow behind my guiding yeses to Jesus, to my husband, and to our boys. Prayerfully, there will be decades to come where I can say some of the yeses that I have had to decline (sometimes with a good attitude,  though often with a poor one). I want to run another marathon, though I barely walk the dog these days. I want to disciple more women, though these days my life is full of boys. But right now, my fellas need my yeses. The days are flying by, and there is much work to be done, laughter to be had, tears to be shed, and prayers to be prayed.

You are my Yeses

My guiding yeses are decided
Before a question is asked.
My soul is already crowded
With roles I’ve been tasked.

There are myriad mantles
Sold and offered in this life
My most noble mantles are
Daughter, mother, and wife.

As your worlds grow larger,
I’m fighting to change pace.
Your needs, though less noisy,
Can be heard with ample space.

I cannot say no to Jesus,
He gets my yes and amen.
He determines my calling:
Who, what, where, and when.

 

Crossing the Line

After having dreamed of freedom for nearly 30 years, Harriet Tubman took victorious steps into the free state of Pennsylvania. I cannot imagine the relief, the joy, the satisfaction that must have flooded her tired body after having conducted through various danger-laden stations of the Underground Railroad. She had left her husband, a free negro who had threatened to tell her Master if she sought to run away. She had left it all for the promise of freedom, staying true to her personal vow liberty or death.

Our boys listened intently (a rare thing for our morning “motions” as Phin calls our devotions) as we read about Harriet Tubman this morning.  To be honest, the story fell upon my ears in a fresh way.

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She had made it to Pennsylvania. She had, by the grace of God and the help of so many now nameless and unknown abolitionists, crossed the line into safety.

What did she do with her freedom? She took her free self back over that line into danger, she crossed the line many times bringing over 300 other passengers to enjoy freedom.

The image of Harriet Tubman’s tired feet stepping from a place of safety and privilege and a hard-fought-for-freedom back into risk and uncertainty has been haunting my soul all day.

It would have been completely understandable for her to have said, “I have had my fair share of suffering; I have been hit on the head with a two-pound weight sacrificing myself so a runaway slave wouldn’t be caught; I have struggled with headaches everyday since; I had to leave my husband and my family. I get to rest now.”

It would have been admirable for her to build a house close to the border and cheer other passengers on as they reached safety, welcoming them to free ground.  Do all you possibly can from a place of safety to further the abolitionist agenda. If I am honest, that would probably be my natural inclination.

But she left a place of privilege, laid down her newly worn right to freedom and personally with great risk to herself, ushered others to freedom.

It makes for an amazing story. It reads well for a morning devotion. But it makes for quite uncomfortable application.

If I read Galatians 5:13 correctly, I am convicted that Harriet’s bold and brazen act of crossing the line is not meant to be the exception, but the rule of Christian living.

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

I am reminded of Numbers 32 when the Ruebenites, Gadites and half-tribe of Manasseh receive the land they requested east of the Jordan River with one important provision.

We will build sheepfolds here for our livestock, and cities for our little ones, but we will take up arms, ready to go before the people of Israel, until we have brought them to their place….We will not return to our homes until each of the people of Israel has gained his inheritance.”  Numbers 32:16-18.

They had found a land suitable to their way of living, a perfect place for raising livestock, but the rest of the tribes of Israel were still a long way from their places of peace. They vowed that they would not enjoy their own land or settle down fully until their brothers had received their respective lots.  For many years they did so, as seen in Joshua 22: 3-4.

You have not forsaken your brothers these many days, down to this day, but have been careful to keep the charge of the Lord your God. And now the Lord your God has given rest to your brothers, as he promised to them. Therefore, turn and go to your  tents in the land where your possession lies. 

Harriet and the half-tribe of Manasseh challenge me. They remind me that even though I have been graciously transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light and freedom, ther is work to be done.

It is not enough that I sit in church pews and pray for people to come to the Church’s doors. The example of Jesus who left Heaven to come and seek and save the lost bids me follow him out of my comfort zone. He calls me to cross the line back into enemy territory to go find would-be brothers and sisters. He bids me personally point them, spot-by-spot, danger-by-danger, step-by-step toward the One who offers a much deeper freedom than Pennsylvania offered Harriet Tubman.

Oh, that we would be a generation of Harriets, crossing back over many times to lead others to the true freedom found in Christ alone.

 

Right-sizing Summer

Expectations on summer somehow grew to exponential proportions in my momma heart. I did not realize the pressure I felt until tears were welling up in my eyes today.

When I look back on the summers of my childhood, I can taste ice cream cones, smell the chlorine of the pool, and feel the thick layers of neon zinc oxide gathering on my freckled nose. I am sure my mother remembered soggy wet towels and being our sherpa as we lugged supplies to the beach at Avon-by-the-Sea. But I don’t remember those.

The happy memories of summer, along with those memes that circulate to remind us that we only have eighteen juicy summers with our children, are not intended to heap pressure on already haggard momma souls. Nevertheless, they do.

I have the same internal wrestling match seasonally; however, this year the expectations feel more heightened because of the preceding months of a pandemic.  We have already been living the summer life of staying up later, lazy mornings, and dinners outside on the porch for a few months. While we have loved this slower pace, the end of school did not usher in a new season. It led us into more of the same without an idea of what the fall might hold.

We are not summer-camp-every-week people, but we do usually have a few exciting events that punctuate and give shape to our summer season. Those are not happening, which heaps more pressure on me to give shape to our days. Our growing boys are so hungry for friendships, but zoom calls are no longer packing the same punch. We are committed to fighting the good fight against the encroachment of screens, but such a fight is exhausting.

All these realities compounded with the complexity of social distancing and walking in wisdom leave me feeling frail, fragile, and faulty as a momma. I assume I am not alone. When I hit this wall, I need my perspective adjusted and put back into its proper place. I need the Scriptures, not nostalgia, the consumer market, or the newsfeeds of friends, to inform my summer.

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Repentance > Resorts
I need repentance, not a resort. I find myself daydreaming of a vacation on the Mexican peninsula and imagining that having a pool would cure my discontentment and restlessness.  But my issue is not our location, it is my idolatry of rest and comfort and quiet. I have bought the lie that summer exists to make me and my children happy and shiny (both literally and figuratively). I have forgotten that the chief end of man is to enjoy God and glorify him forever.

I have been daydreaming about escaping on the highway and missing opportunities right here at my house to travel the byways into my children’s hearts that are set before me. The little squabbles are opportunities to train my children. The windows of boredom can also be doors into creativity and a cultivated contentment that takes practice. It seems that as much as they need to be trained, my own heart needs to be retrained and refined.

Sanctification does not take a summer break. Motherhood does not offer a sabbatical. But God knows these realities and has promised His steady provision and sustenance even in the summer when our budgets and our patience are simultaneously stretched.

For thus said the Lord  God, the Holy One of Israel, “In repentance and rest you will be saved; in quietness and trust is your strength.” Isaiah 30:15. 

Vivification > Vacation
I need vivification, not vacation. As much as we want a change of location and a change of the monotony of the past few months, my soul needs to re-home itself in the Lord and His ways. While I want to float in a lazy river and read in a hammock, what I need is for my soul to be refreshed by the Word of God.

Reviving the soul. Rejoicing the heart. Enlightening the eyes. While these may sound like an add for a vacation rental, they are promises that come from God Himself.

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. Psalm 19:7-8.  

Rest in the midst of the ordinary; peace in the midst of the pressure; purpose even when a pandemic has life and summer plans on halt. These provisions of the Holy Spirit are helping to right-size our summer.