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

 

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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.

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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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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.

 

 

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How Do You Prepare Him Room?

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I’m feeling the stress of Advent creep into my bones.

This weekend we had our big Christmas at the Cabin weekend with my side of the family and friends. Such a good time. So full of wonderful Christmas memories for the children. So good to visit and not have a baby attached to me that I need constant supervision over. Christmas carols, food, late conversations into the night, Nerts games by day. All is well. We come home and unpack in a reasonable time and fix a light dinner then realize the Christmas Encounters church program is in less than half an hour. Little girls need to be in dresses, hair needs brushed, boy needs jeans, kids need shoes and winter coats.

We’re almost there. No time to redo my messy braid but I do manage to throw on a red Christmasy-ish shirt and ribbon. Girls are beautiful with a special strand each of mom’s pearls. Dad says all are ready and we rush toward the van. Then I realize that boy is still not in jeans. He is in van with coat and shoes but also pj pants covered in food from the past two days. I rush him back inside as he whines that he has no jeans. I yell. I am not pleasant. We hurry into jeans that I find for him and rush back to car.

Still on time, I think. We pull into parking lot and I realize, with a pit in my stomach, that my camera is sitting on boy’s bed back home. I’m feeling really frustrated. I wanted a picture of their song. I wanted a picture of the girls in front of the Church Christmas tree looking beautiful. I wanted this Christmas memory captured. I seek out hubby to take over kids and run back home. I hear an emphatic NO and I know he’s right, but I feel panicky. We rush in to find seats in the crowded auditorium.

We sing. The opening song is beautiful. Mary Did You Know. This was the song my mother requested we learn this Christmas. My kids know the words and are excited to hear it. It is a beautiful accapella rendition except one of the main singer’s microphones aren’t on and you can barely hear him compared to the sound of the others on stage and I see the worship leader straining a smile as he keeps singing and pretends it’s not happening and I know he has a pit in his stomach too because this isn’t how the night was suppose to go.

I start to slow and say a quick pray for God to change my heart. What I want to do is tell my boy that it was his fault that my camera is not here to capture this moment. What I do instead is bite my tongue and hug him him and rub his back during the song. My heart is pierced with how broken I am. I am so glad I did not let ugly sin words stain this night and break my boy’s spirit.

Soon my littlest girl is squirming in my lap and making noises that are disruptive. I realize that with her I wouldn’t have been able to hold a camera and take pictures anyway. I remover her after hearing the kids sing and we traverse to the bathroom and then hang out in the foyer. I meet another large family mother with two littles crawling around her and we commiserate together. I tell her my story and she tells me hers. She didn’t want to come but her son really wanted to go. She capitulated at the last moment and dropped everything, very literally, with her mixer still sitting in potatoes and milk and no supper in anyone’s belly except for a rushed grabbed cookie. She realized that if she was going to make the decision to go it had to be now regardless of circumstances. And here she was in the middle of that act of love sitting on the floor in the foyer with littles that wouldn’t sit still and be quiet missing the whole thing.

I returned to my seat for the last two songs thinking about this woman and her story while singing the chorus of O Come Let Us Adore Him. The last song was a raucous rendition of Joy to the World. As I was swaying the baby and enjoying the music a line jumped out at me.

Let every heart prepare Him room…”

How do we even do that? Prepare Him room? What does that even mean?

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I think of our tradition of keeping Advent. Of meeting nightly and reading scripture and singing songs to remember. Surely this is good. Surely this is what that means. Or so I have always thought. Yet every Advent season I walk away feeling slightly still empty. Sure there were good memories, beautiful pictures. Yet there is always something that I can’t put my finger on that seems missing or off kilter. I always thought of Advent as a time to draw nearer to the Lord. And I always chalked up my not feeling nearer due to this season of life with littles. Surely one day when everyone was bigger and could sit still and not fidget, when everyone really got what Christmas was about, surely then Advent would fill up my soul and satisfy that yearly holiday longing.

But as I listen to Joy to the World and think of that line again I begin to wonder if my thinking is what’s off kilter.

Let every heart prepare Him room…”

I think of Mary in that dirty stable. I think of her in real pain from labor. I think of the messiness of birth with no sanitary hospital staff to whisk it away. I think of being up all night with a crying, fussy child who won’t latch on properly. I think of being bone-tired and no matter what not abdicating responsibilities. I think of raising a toddler who won’t sit still while wise men come in a formal display of gifts. I think of the frustration of how this ceremony feels less than ceremonial with a toddler’s antics. Did Jesus hide shy-like behind his mother’s skirt or did he interrupt wise speakers by poking at the fancy feather on the turban?

Mary was in no different season of life than I. She knew this was the Holy Child. The Savior. Did she so very often ask her Father above why this experience didn’t feel very “holy” at all? Or did she understand in a way that we too often don’t that He chose this vehicle of human experience exactly because it’s not holy. Because in our brokenness He meets us.

Maybe preparing for Him is recognizing those moments when life interrupts and instead of trying to fix it we allow Him in during that very unholy moment in order to sanctify us. Maybe we need to stop waiting for a feeling to show up and instead focus on moving over a little in our hearts. We make room in our own brokenness to prepare room for Him to show up. Is it as simple as that?

So I’m going to hop off this mom guilt-train of not “feeling” spiritual enough and just prepare Him room by allowing Him into my mess this Christmas. Won’t you join me?

Prepare Him Room

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.

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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.

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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!

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♥ Dedicated to River and his beautiful new heart! ♥

An unexpected surprise…


Here we are again!

Bun number seven in the oven warming. As if my life wasn’t blessed enough {wink, wink}, we are adding joy to our numbers. Expected to be here mid June of next year, already the kids are spending every evening meal fighting and voting over names.  So far, Rauga (from Bay Blade) is top pick for boys and Dora is top pick for girls. Ummmm….no?

Names aside, the kids are super excited. Our dinner converstion the week before (I am NOT making this up):

Them: “Mommy, when are we going to have another baby?”

Me: “Why?”

Them: “Because Eli isn’t anyone’s big brother and he needs to be a big brother too.”

Me: “We are NOT having another baby just so Eli can be a big brother!”

Guess the jokes on me!

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.

 

Breaking Words

I need to break.

This blogging has got my mind tied up. I think about it too much. It seems like such a good thing…these words I write here. And they are…good words. But He is only concerned with heart motivations. What motivates me?

Audience.

No, I don’t need a huge audience. I’m not trying to “grow” my blog. But I noticed a subtle change of shifting thoughts. As my posts ruminate in mind words I’m thinking of others reactions. This space has gone from a sweet capturing of my littles to a me space. A space where I promote my own thinking.

This has been a place I’ve been running from for a while now. For almost nine months I’ve heard His voice quietly beckoning me awayaway from here and back to my littles…back to my household…back to life. My first gut reaction was to delete. Delete the blog. Delete the internet from our life. But that is not dealing with my heart any more than staying is. Blogging is not wrong. Yes, it may be a bit narcissistic but there is good here in this world. There are lives touched and information shared and it is a good thing. Technology is not bad.

I think of the verse ~

Everything is permissible ~ but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible ~ but not everything is constructive.” ~ I Corinthians 10:23

I think on Jenny’s very poignant post and the listening she did. She heard:

It’s not the blogging…It’s the browsing

It’s not the writing…It’s the wandering

It’s not the time spent…It’s the time wasted

She listened and her blog A Minute Captured is a beautiful thing because of it. So then I thought maybe I could blog just a little bit…put up some boundaries. So I scaled back. My posts were fewer. And that time back did help. Things started coming together around the house. I was thinking again. Not about what others think but about what I should be doing for my household.

But still I heard His voice. Scaling back is not what He is calling me to. And isn’t that what it’s about? Listening to Him? For Jenny it was about writing and ridding of unnecessary distractions. For Elizabeth it was about her gift and not burying that talent. But for me? My season of life has me raising six littles who have very tender receptive hearts that need lots of mommy. I have a household full of toddlers who are right in the midst of training and need structure and routine. I have a house that is in utter chaos and needs habits laid down. I have work to do right here.

I love this space and all the information that is here for the having. I really don’t want to give it up. There are some who are called to share and help others learn. There are some who are called to take up the fight and politically or socially start grassroots uprisings. But it is not for me to share. It is not for me to uprise. This is not my season. My place is here…now…as mother.

This blog has been such a beautiful outlet for me to share my favorite hobby of photography and it is not a door forever shut. I will be back. There will be a season where it will be my turn to share. But I need to turn my camera inward. My babies are looking at their scrapbooks I’ve done for them. And I realize my art is there. It is art with meaning by the only audience who matters. My kids care that I scrapbook. They care that I take pictures of things that are important to them and me. They want to see them finished. They want to see their life chronicled in a way that will matter when they are older and start forgetting. I can always reread a blog and remember. But for them, they need the heft of that real book in their  hand to turn pages and smile as they remember and ask questions about what they don’t. And those are the stories I need to tell. The real that needs to be passed down.

My blog will stay put for now. I will be utilizing my Homeschool Free Resources page often as I continue this homeschooling journey. I will continue to answer any comments that happen to come my way. I will be visiting other blogs during scheduled free time to read of other wise words who should be here right now. I will continue to learn and grow. I will be back one day as a seasoned homeschool momma with loads to share.

But for now I am going home to my babies. For now it is simply necessary to let this blog go in order to focus on my necessaries.

The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.  ~Proverbs 14:1

~ MY STORIES ~

Many people have said to me ‘What a pity you had such a big family to raise. Think of the novels and the short stories and the poems you never had time to write because of that.’ And I looked at my children and I said, “These are my poems. These are my short stories.” ~ Olga Masters

The Perfect Gift ~ An ER Visit

Because my husband is the best he surprised me with a little gift…even though we weren’t to get each other anything. This year it was quiet, understated and just right! A few good things to curl up with…

Did I mention that the real gift this  year is this ~

Because who can beat a Victorian claw foot tub and a porch swing?

Well, maybe this can.

It is 12:57 am and my husband is at the emergency room with a little boy of ours. Pneuminia? Croop? Whooping Cough? Fluid in the lungs? Can’t tell but it’s getting worse by the hour. So a Christmas Eve vist to the ER it is. Did I mention how incredible my husband is?

The true gift of Christmas ~ 

One self-sacrificing daddy who loves to an unimaginable depth.