Why We Celebrate Lent {Shhh! We’re not Catholic!}

 

Lent 6

It is February 18th today and already, again, Lent is upon us. Every year it sneaks up on me even though I know it is always 40 days before Easter. Last year it came and went without any celebration. I just didn’t have it in me. I was exhausted. I was nursing all the time and trying to stay up with school. The kids were branching out into extracurricular activities and friends and our time was being sucked out from beneath our house feet.

And the kids felt it. Maybe not until it was closer to Easter but, they felt the lack of liturgical fluidity that links Lent to Easter. And they asked about it. And they whined that I “forgot”. So when I was checking the date last night I was sucker-punched again as I realized it was the next day and that, again, I still hadn’t planned for it. But after realizing how much this meant to my kids, I resolved, however imperfectly, to acknowledge and celebrate today.

And the Lord, in His infinite mercy and goodness, helped me along. One of my best friends handed me a 2015 Lenten Devotions guide that she received free through a community service event a few weeks ago. I fished it out under a pile of books and flipped to the first day’s devotion while making breakfast.

Mathew 4: 1-4

The story of Christ and his temptation after 40 days in the wilderness.

At breakfast we read the verses. We read the devotional. We discussed all the rich links.

Why is Lent 40 days before Easter?

What is the link between Jesus 40 days in the Wilderness and Israel’s 40 years in the wilderness?

Why are we to sacrifice for Lent?

What does our sacrifice have to do with Jesus and his 40 days? And with his ultimate sacrifice?

How or what do we sacrifice?

But my favorite discussion came from the little conversations surrounding the quandary of what to give up. We talked about keeping our sacrifice between ourselves and God. (The last thing I want to be is the Lent police picking out how my kids are failing one more time or in correcting them with a more appropriate sacrifice.) We talked about failure and how that is actually a positive thing. Failing at Lent is a perfect practical application for us about how trying to “be good” on our own will always fail. Only one will not fail. Only one has not failed. That one – Jesus – is why his 40 days resisting temptation really means something and why his ultimate sacrifice covers everything. This allows Lent to truly become a walk to the cross as we practice living for Him but, in our failure, rejoice in the Resurrection on Easter morning.

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So, how do we do Lent as a family?

First, we discuss the meaning of Lent, why it comes before Easter, and what sacrifice means.

Next, everyone picks something they would like to sacrifice for the next forty days leading up to Easter. Note – this can be something tangible like giving up desserts or coffee, or it can be something intangible like giving up anger in exchange for self-control towards siblings. And for littles we let them pick regardless of if it seems sacrificial enough for us or not.

Then we take our sacrifices to the fire. Just as we, as Christians, are refined in the fire of the Holy Spirit in order to make us more holy, we offer these sacrifices to be burned out of us in a physical representation of fire. A candle flame is a tangible symbol of this. Each child is allowed to relinquish their sacrifice to the death of the flames.

Afterwards, we take the ashes and make the sign of the cross on our foreheads. This is a great reminder of our promise to God especially as we go out into the word. We are set apart as a people. Others notice. What better way for your child to evangelize as another child asks them why they have soot on their forehead? This is a perfect opportunity for you, as a parent, to also role play with your older teens on how you explain their budding faith.

And – my kids favorite part! – then we color the Lent Countdown Calendar to Easter! What a fun way (that doesn’t involve candy) to countdown to, what should be, the most celebrated holiday of the year for us, as Christians.

 

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lent 5

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So just because you may be reading this post after Lent has already begun – maybe way after – don’t let that stop you from participating with your kids this year. Start where you are today. Your kids won’t mind coloring in extra spaces on their calendar. In fact, you may discover next year that you, too, have started a new family tradition that makes your family’s faith walk much richer.

 

 

♥ Considering Love

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♥ Updated and reposted February 2014. ♥

As Valentine’s Day approaches we immediately set out to “do” something for our significant others. And, within reason, there is nothing wrong with this quaint tradition. We all long to give to those we love. Some say it with flowers, some with chocolate, some with jewelry.

At this house, we’ve never been much of a giver of traditional Valentine’s gifts. Don’t get me wrong, I love flowers and chocolate…especially chocolate…but it has never seemed prudent to spend our money on temporary things that don’t last.  Some years we dine out, other years – when tight on money – we don’t. Some years we buy cards, some years we make, some years we go without due to a season of busyness. We do try to make it special for the kids with activities and a small gift and much love through food and feast, sugar and sweets.

This will mark the 18th year our marriage has celebrated this special season. Our marriage is better than it ever has been and keeps getting sweeter every year. As I was reading in bed I came across this marvelous passage that struck me as utter truth and reminded me of why our marriage has sustained its sweetness.

I think that as the years go by, the same love would enrich any marriage as the love which builds and enriches a community of celibate monks; and that is the love which is pledged to lay down its own wants and preferences for the sake of the other. The marriage that was built on natural affection, and had nothing of such love would, in the end, sour, however promising its beginning, I think…if their love has not that Christ-like quality of humble service, then neither is it built to last for ever.      ~Peregrine’s conversation with Clare in The Dove and Hawk Trilogy (Boldface my emphasis)

We have learned on our walk together that serving the other is when love truly grows. As I aim to meet my husband’s needs (an ironed chef coat without asking, making the bed, picking up the house before he gets home, making sure I always have something I can make him to eat after he gets in late at night) without worrying what I will get in return, it is that precise moment through the humbling of those acts of servitude that my needs are fulfilled. I give out so that love may increase. And as he seeks to serve me (doing a load of dishes without being asked, making us breakfast whenever he is home, working three jobs to support our family’s vision) without seeking a need in return, he is blessed with his needs fulfilled. It is this beautiful ebb and flow created through our perfect Father and perfected through Jesus Christ.

Some days the yoke of Christ does NOT feel easy and light. But it is precisely those days when I need to stop and ask myself if my heart is truly serving the needs of my family. It is easy in this world of technology and information to become self absorbed. The moment I step away into myself, even an inch, love slips away and is replaced with selfishness and wanting to gratify my needs. It is only when I turn back to serving others and laying down my life (my wants, desires, needs) to lift up their’s, it is only then that love returns and the peaceful yoke settles around my neck like a breath of fresh air.

So on this day of love, may we remember an oft heard verse but read it with fresh eyes…the eyes of a willing servant.

Love is patient (even when you’re right), love is kind (even if you’ve been wronged). It does not envy (even if there is righteous cause to be jealous), it does not boast (for it understands that there will be low days too), it is not proud (for that is the perfect foothold for the enemy). It is not rude (even if they deserve the comment), it is not self-seeking (no matter how many needs you have that are not being fulfilled), it is not easily angered (even when you have every right to be angry), it keeps no record of wrongs (even if those wrongs are grounds for divorce). Love does not delight with evil (even though your friends want you to join in with the complaining of your spouse) but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres (even when the relationship seems dead and lifeless for love is a choice, not a feeling).”  ~I Corinthians 13:4-7 (amplified interpretation all mine)

So, if any of you out there are saying to yourself that is impossible, you don’t understand, shouldn’t marriage be about give and take, fifty-fifty split? May I just offer you this small token of advice. Put down the Love Dare book. Look at your significant other and forget EVERY SINGLE one of your needs. Look at his (or her) needs only and find how to serve. I promise you the impossible will happen. God’s grace will grow love where you never thought possible, will spark desire where you never knew it was missing. Miracles will happen…jealousies will subside…hearts will soften…forgotten prayers will be answered!

Happy Valentine’s Day, my precious kids whom constantly teach me how to love!

Happy Valentine’s Day, my best friend, soul mate, and most cherished companion!

♥ Happy Valentine’s Day, World! ♥

♥ XOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXO ♥

The Weeping of Motherhood

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Jeremiah 31: 8-9

See, I will bring them from the land of the north and gather them from the ends of the earth. Among them will be the blind and the lame, expectant mothers and women in labor; a great throng will return. They will come with weeping; they will pray as I bring them back. I will lead them beside streams of water on a level path where they will not stumble, because I am Israel’s father…”

Here is the Word of the Lord pressed upon me. These 2 verses have been ruminating over and over again in my head ever since I read them a few weeks ago.

The Lord is calling back His people. He longs for us to return to Him. He is forever calling our names and pursuing us. I know this. I grew up with this knowledge. I’ve responded to this knowledge. But what has been pulling at my heart is the who of this. We know He calls all of us. He wishes not one of us to perish. Yet this call in Jeremiah is a specific call. He names those He is calling. The blind. The lame. Expectant mothers. Women in labor. Of course He will restore the blind to see again and make the lame to walk again but what I find interesting is the call to mothers in particular.

They will come with weeping.

They will pray as I bring them back.

How many times as mothers have we been in this place? He knew. As newly conceived life flourished inside us, we embraced the weakness of ourselves allowing our bodies to change out of our control. We were the vessels of new life but to have this greatest honor means completely sacrificing ourselves to yield to another. That means pain, uncomfortableness, refining.

So many times during this season of motherhood we find ourselves sick, tired, praying, and weeping for things out of our control. Most of the time we are not coming to our Father with thought-out prayers of specific requests. Most of the time our prayers just bubble up out of the deep of us. Prayers that we can’t even put words to. Repeated utterances that sound more like desperate pleas than lofty words. But He hears. And these prayers are precious to Him as He knows SO specifically what this thing called motherhood has in store for us.

He has heard our weeping. He has heard our prayers. 

♥ The weeping of the expectant mother, head hung over the toilet as she calls out in guttural prayers for the sickness to subside.

♥ The weeping of the expectant mother as her bones shift to open up for the carrying of this child.

♥ The weeping of the expectant mother as her tired body that is not her own wakes again in the night for one more trip to the bathroom, acid reflux, shortness of breath, aching hips, insomnia that turns into overtired fears playing out in a brain loop.

♥ The weeping of the expectant mother as she hears doctors words spelling out her worst fears for this little one growing inside of her that she has come to love with a consuming love never having met yet.

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He has heard our weeping. He has heard our prayers.

♥ The weeping of the woman in labor as contractions move from bearable to a level of pain she wasn’t prepared to feel.

♥ The weeping of the woman in labor as she cries out, trying to push away this pain she can’t escape.

♥ The weeping of the woman in labor who enters that quiet place of surrender, breathing into the dying in order to bring forth the living.

♥ The weeping of the woman in labor, body opening up, splitting, cracking like fire as life pushes out harsh and real.

River - kiss

He has heard our weeping. He has heard our prayers.

♥ The weeping of the new mother who lies exhausted, body broken, breathing in the sweet smell of new life.

♥ The weeping of the new mother who struggles to sustain life through breasts that hurt, helping a new one to latch when it seems impossible.

♥ The weeping of the new mother struggling to stay awake to hold and feed this precious being who won’t stop crying.

♥ The weeping of the new mother whose sleep-deprived body still has to function with daytime responsibilities that prevent her from “sleeping when the baby sleeps”.

♥ The weeping of a new mother holding the tiny newborn hand of her baby after surgery, heart desperately praying for no post-operative complications.

B&W family - River

He has heard our weeping. He has heard our prayers.

♥ The weeping of the seasoned mother as she yells, again, at her child and has to ask forgiveness.

♥ The weeping of the seasoned mother as she struggles to keep it together getting out the door in the morning, child wearing non-matching shoes, hair still not brushed,  already running 10 minutes late.

♥ The weeping of the seasoned mother whose sleep-deprived body stays up all night rocking and soothing sick children then getting up in the morning to still make breakfast and wash all the built-up laundry.

♥ The weeping of the seasoned mother whose heart breaks as her child struggles to make friends, or has just lost a friend, or is awkward socially, or is getting bullied at school.

♥ The weeping of the seasoned mother who realizes that her child sees through her own hypocrisy.

♥ The weeping of the seasoned mother who has to watch her children walk through the consequences of their own mistakes knowing she is powerless to save them.

♥ The weeping of the seasoned mother whose nest is empty and she feels the loss just as the weight of allowing these children to take on their own adult responsibilities settles upon her shoulders.

There is abundant JOY in motherhood but that joy comes from walking through the storms of life. My dear cousin quoted something very wise on facebook recently.

I’ve watched her walk the storm as a mother. She’s brave. She’s exhausted. She’s in love. She can’t imagine her life without this new person in it. And I’ve seen her strength. I see His hand in that as He calms her through this storm. And I weep with her.

We are asked, as mothers and flawed people, to push through the labor pains of life. This struggle refines us. We are made stronger…better…from it. And He uses these pains that cause us weeping to draw us in. To remind us that He is there if we just turn to Him. That He will lead us gently through it if we allow Him to pick up and carry our burdens.

I understand God more since becoming a mother. His saying no for our own good. His anger and jealousy and protectiveness. And His amazing grace that loves unconditionally no matter what I’ve done. I could never turn my back on one of my children no matter what they’ve done. And I see this in my Savior. In His gift of life for me. In His relentless pursuit of me even when I stubbornly walk away.

One of my favorite verses as a mother is Isaiah 40:11.

He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.

He gently leads those that have young. Everyday as I struggle to stay awake, stay sane, not blow up at my kids I think on this. Everyday, if I allow it, He will gently lead me in this struggle of motherhood. He has a special soft spot for mothers. He called us out specifically as Jeremiah reminds us. He will never leave or forsake us.

I am comforted by this and physically reminded of it during those kairos moments when I lay staring at my beautiful, sleeping child. When I watch my oldest develop a love of coffee just like his dad. When I watch my daughter curling up with a good book. When I see my little one looking under rocks for rollie pollies. When my daughter smiles up at me from under her long lashes. When I am handed a bouquet of weeds wildflowers from the lawn. When I am rocking a sweet newborn and kissing that soft, velvet head and soaking in that sweet baby vanilla smell.

Our weeping and praying go hand in hand with motherhood. If we listen to His call He will be faithful to lead us through this season that will be more rewarding than anything we could ever hope to accomplish!

River - feet long
♥ Dedicated to River and his beautiful new heart! ♥

Green Pastures {and the gift of waiting}

Spring 2013 015

I’m laying here in bed trying desperately to rest. This 7th pregnancy has been hard, sure, but I figured I was one tough mom and could push my way through it like all the rest. I have a household to run, homeschool to finish, a garden that needs put in. I’m only extra tired because of the other six precious I am mothering.

Besides I am already the mom who lives the slow life, right? I just gave a Mops talk on it. I practice it. My family is not involved in too many activities. I am a “free range” mamma who gives her kids lots of time to just be a kid and use imaginations and allows play to grow brains and hearts. I make room for lots of white space in my life so that it can naturally be filled with those I most love to be with.

But I heard it this past week. He whispered to me through His word…

s l o w      d o w n

We’ve all heard it…Psalm 23. Yet one part I had to re-read about 10 times.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.”

I couldn’t shake these words, especially the word “make”.  Why not offer us green pastures? Why does He make me lie down? I think of sheep and their wondering ways. I think of my littles and forcing them to take naps that they need. And I think of my own stubbornness as a mother. Always working, never resting. Equating my activity with measurable productivity. Hadn’t I just warned other moms about making this same mistake?

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Spring 2013 003

So, of course, I totally took that same day to lay aside chores and to-do lists and sit in the newly green spring grass with my kids as they played. Right? Wrong. I did think about it as I pushed a reel-mower (our electric motor is on the fritz) and desperately tried to get this beautiful green jungle cut before the rain came in. I thought about nature sketching with my kids and sitting and reading while they played. It did sound nice but I still had things to do before this baby gets here.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.”

As I went two days later to my 37 week doctor appointment, these words were still swirling in my head. Then I got the news. My blood pressure is up. WAY up. My swelling is abnormal and that is why my fingers feel like they are arthritic. Before I knew it I was having blood drawn and having to collect urine samples for 24 hours and am now on bed rest.

No more chores.

No more walking.

No more gardening.

No more doing.

Only sitting or laying with feet elevated unless I have to use the restroom or eat.

Only waiting.

Waiting to see if this little one inside of me needs to be pulled out right away before catastrophe hits or waiting and resting to make it to that 39th week of induction.

I’ve been given the gift of rest and it feels like torture. I am living that verse right now yet everything in me is still shouting, “But, but, but…”

I am so glad my Heavenly Father makes me rest and gives me Sabbath. He knows that resting is the most “productive” activity I can do right now. So this mother’s day I will desperately try and listen to His wise voice. And when I fail I will remember that my strength is in Him, not in myself and I will lean.

 

 

Happy Mother’s Day!

Letting Go.

I had this vision when we bought this house and I learned it already had a garden going in the back…that it was already landscaped out front and around the sides. A vision of beautiful flowers crowning the privilege of owning our own home. I daydreamed of picking these most gorgeous flowers and adorning my tables and Victorian rooms with their beauty. Spring came and plants came to life. The excitement grew as I learned what was planted where. I pictured in my head these Monet-ish bursts of pastel color clouds beckoning me from a long drive home of grocery shopping.

Then reality set in.

I have three boys who like to bash things, two dogs who like to trample things, and three girls who like to pick things. I mean they really like to pick things. And soon my poor, defenseless flowers started looking bare and sparse. There were vases adorning the table but only in a poor attempt to save some of the almost petal-less flowers from their oh-so-shortened lifespan. And we had to get creative on arrangement style as stems were a rare oddity!

At first I seethed inside. I tried reasonable explanations.

You know, if we pick the buds before they bloom then we will never see the pretty flowers they were to create.”

I tried cajoling.

Baby girl, how ’bout we wait till everything blooms and then we can pick some together…just you and me. 

Finally I resorted to sharp, not-very-loving, mamma-commands.

DON’T PICK THE FLOWERS if you want to live!”

Nothing worked. I fretted and worried and my garden just became more naked. I fumed and tried to ignore the smashed down Lily patches with buds that never came to fruition. And then the Lord started speaking to my heart.

Let go.”

NO! I can’t. It’s not fair. These are MY flowers. I’ve waited 37 years to finally have this house and this garden and MY flowers. It’s not fair. Did I mention their mine? I selfishly pouted.

Let go.”

He nudged gently as He reminded me:

Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.” ~ Matthew 6:19-20

AND

The hot sun rises and the grass withers; the little flower droops and falls, and its beauty fades away. In the same way, the rich will fade away with all of their achievements. ~ James 1:11

AND

As the Scriptures say, “People are like grass; their beauty is like a flower in the field. The grass withers and the flower fades.” ~ 1 Peter 1:24

Is this what I was doing? Was I holding on to this temporary treasure here on earth, desperately trying to make something so fleeting last longer than it was ever intended?  Was I robbing joy from my girls who already knew the secret of living in the moment? This feeling I had in my heart…it felt very familiar, like my old friend jealousy. When you try and control your hand squeezes until the love is squeezed out with it. It was not until I learned to open up that hand, let go of that control that the jealousy left and allowed love to grow in it’s place. I needed to let this go too. Stop squeezing my possessions. It is all temporal. He made this for us to enjoy in the moment. It was never intended to last beyond that.

I heard Him whispering to me how it was Him who made little girls to love flowers so dearly. He put that desire in them to collect these momentary bursts of beauty. “If that is so, Lord,” I prayed, How do I let go?” 

And the answer was so simple. I have a gift of the lens. A photograph that can capture that first perfect bloom before the physical realm fades. So here are my beauties. A perfect shot of loveliness captured in a singular moment of beauty.

I’ve let my garden go.

Now I snap a picture when I first notice blooming (if they get to that stage) and inhale deeply of any fleeting perfume aroma. And when I drive home from grocery shopping to my balding backyard, I am no longer tense with anxiety. I even left a few weeds to grow around the poor, barren flowers adding some beautiful, unexpected wild flowers into the white space of our lives! Slowly this momma is learning.

 

Perfection Through Imperfection {Thankful Christmas Moments}

After reading this amazing post When It Isn’t Perfect, I need to reprioritize. The Bible talks of renewing my mind. When I start thinking one thing then I need to replace it with a truth. Now I’m sure scriptures are thinking much more along the lines of writing the truth of His Word on my heart, but for me I just need to remind myself of truth on a much baser level. This season of life has me really struggling to keep Christmas as the beautiful forefront of my family.

So, instead of seeing all the needles under the tree that I will vacuum up at least twice today (Did I mention our 1 year old pulled the whole tree down the other day and that the garland has been confiscated due to structural issues?), I will choose to see…

A mother-in-love who graciously gifted handmade ornaments that littles could touch for a season.

Instead of the lack of garland (see above), I choose to see…

Vivid imagination that sparks play in a season that will pass by way too quickly.

Instead of my floor that sticks to my feet as I walk through the kitchen and dishes piled high, I choose to see…

Littles playing in flour and helping daddy make imperfect gingerbread cookies.

Instead of worrying about the millions of scraps and toys and clutter on the floor (did I mention I had already vacuumed twice?), I will choose to see…

Children actively creating, making a paper town come to life.

Instead of seeing the marker on the walls that will need to be scrubbed before we move and the stains that need to be purged from the carpet and all the rest of this home’s imperfections, I choose to see…

The beauty of my morning walk by the window that I will greatly miss. Stunning really. Didn’t even have to go outside to take these pictures. Right through my dirty window pane, all finger-printed up, these images glowed through. How breathtaking. There is a lot about this house I won’t miss. This living room window will not be one of them!

Instead of seeing all the muddy boots in the entryway mixed in with shoes in heaps of chaos with a sprinkling of toys thrown in just for fun, I will choose to see…

Fleeting play days that melt quicker than a memory!

I know that one day I will look back on these photos and cry with a longing deep wanting them back and not even blink at the list of worldly mess that threatens to collapse on me today as a young mother. Renewing my mind and repairing my heart today. Belting out some Christmas songs of old and not caring who hears my out of tune voice!

 

Living Liturgically Through Nature

 

Some days you wake up overwhelmed and all you see is the mountain in front of you that seems impossible to climb. Sometimes you just can’t get past the next thing that needs to be done because the list seems endless. Nothing stays clean or orderly and life is messy. But sometimes you wake up on a morning like this and are thankful that the ice in your driveway won’t allow you to make it into church.

The kids will be missing the Walk Through Bethlehem, of which I was really hoping we could attend. I think the experience of them being able to time travel back to the city where Jesus was born and experience what that would be like in a very tactile and real way would be such a valuable experience and memory. Instead we were blessed with snow. And in this season of life we are blessed to live in the country. I knew when the sun peeked out that I just had to take advantage of the light and grab my camera for a morning walk. Full of warm carrot muffins and hot coffee, I headed out breathing deep the chill in the air.

There was no need for a temple house of worship this morning. Sabbath was made for man, not man for sabbath. This morning my worship came in being still.

BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD.” ~ Psalm 46:10

I didn’t have to sing. I didn’t have to read. His creation was my liturgy and I sank deep in it’s beauty. There is the deep sustenance – bread of life – that we are to drink from daily but that never negates the beauty in the fleeting. Sometimes we just need to stop, even when chores beckon, and be a Mary and sit at the feet of His creation. After all, this was for His and our pleasure. How can we enjoy if we don’t stop to even pay attention? Soon cars will spray fumes of gray across the white and sun will melt the soft powder. Crystals that shine brighter than any diamond will fade into the dreary background of life. But here, for this moment only, it is perfect.

As I walked all was silent and I heard the birds trilling praise up towards blue sky. I heard the sound of water softly running in the neighboring river. The only other sound was the crunch of snow beneath my feet. The only sounds of life around me where the fading memories of deer in footprints. Even the grass was silent, heavy with the weight of snow.

Be still and know that I am God. 

This verse whispered over and over in my head and through my heart. Oh thank you for this day. Oh thank you that you gave me eyes to see beyond the ordinary. Thank you that my soul longs to translate this perfection into art to share with others. There is no greater muse than You!!!