I’m particularly drawn to instructions. I long for someone to tell me what to do when in order to achieve my desired outcome. Whether it be how to put a savory, yet nutritious meal on the table in less than an hour cooking time, or the best way to maximize my time as a work-at-home mom, I’m especially drawn to the how-to’s in the areas I feel weak.
I think many people are this way, and our spiritual life is no different. It only takes a quick stroll down the self-help book aisle to see what we all crave: something more than what we have now. It’s easy to feel depleted and defeated emotionally, relationally, and spiritually.
As a Christian, the pressure’s on to be a beacon of light to the lost world around me, yet sometimes I can’t seem to shake the feeling I should be doing or experiencing something I’m not. Scripture tells us that Christ came to earth to provide a living hope (1 Peter 1:3). It’s one thing to read these words on a paper and say, “Amen.” It’s quite another to experience this living hope in our everyday lives.
Maybe you feel this dissonance as well?
You and I are on a voyage. A journey toward this living hope and abundant life our Creator and Savior has promised. However, our travels can often feel more like we’re aimlessly tossing in a storming sea of hopelessness. You may desire to better navigate the trip ahead. You may find yourself looking for a way out of the chaos, for a ladder that will lead to the lifeboat that promises rescue from the storm. Or, maybe you’ve given up altogether, and all you have left is a weak cry for help from the bottom of the boat.
You may have heard from others: “Keep your chin up. Don’t lose hope!” It’s easy to see hope as a verb — something we need to do. An action we need to take. Though there are actions we can and should take when our soul is in despair, trying to conjure up the strength to be hopeful is not helpful.
Hope is a noun, not a verb. It’s not something we do to escape the storm. Hope is what we hold fast to, as we endure each wave.
Hope is a treasured possession, not an action.
Hope is a guiding light, not a ladder to climb.
Hope is a steadfast anchor, not a search for more.
Hope is a harbor of promise, not a way of escape.
Our hope is found in the Gospel of Christ alone. This good news of Jesus is not a one-time experience; it’s a moment-by-moment need.
PRAY THIS WITH ME: God, we are desperate to experience the hope of Christ in our everyday. We look forward in anticipation to all You have planned for us through Your Word. Open our eyes to see the truths the Bible holds about our gospel-hope. Soften our hearts to receive them. Enable our souls and minds to follow you in obedience as we respond to all You will speak to us.
This is an excerpt from Everyday Hope, an easy to use, four-week study. Designed for women who are pressed for time, yet crave depth from their Bible study, Everyday Hope offers a relevant and lasting approach for reading and understanding Scripture. In as few as 15 minutes a day, explore hope that fills the Scriptures and the same hope God intends to fill your life. Everyday Hope, will help you discover how to hold fast to His promises amidst feelings of hopelessness. Purchase your copy today at your favorite retail bookstore. Also available online at these online stores.
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It sounded like a great idea at first. We could purchase the $1 scavenger hunt map, find the interesting memorabilia displayed in the two small museums, and become experts of the history of Winter Garden, Florida. It would be a chance for family bonding and count as an educational outing for our homeschool year.
It wasn’t that simple.
The twelve treasures were located in small boxes both inside and outside the historic buildings across the downtown. Each required reading a few paragraphs of historical information, answering a question based on the reading, and stamping the map with unique labels. I mapped the locations with the gps coordinates provided and dragged the family on a wild goose chase around the city. Although my inlaws had some knowledge of Winter Garden’s history, many of the locations were almost impossible to find or missing key elements like the stamp for our map. What should have been a fifteen to twenty minute search around a museum, turned into a couple hour process.
As I waited for the waitress at the local pizza shop to find the treasure box hiding behind the menus on the hostess stand, it hit me that I was holding the maps. I had been writing in the difficult answers. And there was not a child to be found. They had found a sidewalk bench and were waiting somewhat patiently for me to finish the work.
To complete the task, we headed back to the main museum to turn in our maps in exchange for a unique Winter Garden Historical Society patch. The museum guide congratulated my three children on a job well done as he took the maps with my work written all over them.
My work had earned their reward.
As I stood outside on that gorgeous December day, I was struck with the visual illustration I had unintentionally acted out with my family.
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,
2 Timothy 1:8-9
His work is my reward!
The task was insurmountable. Generations of humans had tried and failed. The work was complete and perfect. He “redeemed the curse of the law” and tasted the sting of death. He was victorious.
Instead of a scavenger hunt map, I turn in His record of righteousness and instead of a patch, I receive rescue from my sin and everlasting life.
As Charles Wesley so beautifully put it hundreds of years ago…
And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
May my daily duties and tasks be done today with the realization that I am walking in victory through Jesus. May the amazement of His unconditional love for me be the motivation to love and serve others in my path today! How can it be?
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She barely braked as she sped through the stop sign.
I could smell the cigarette smoke wafting out of her slightly opened window as she zoomed down the road.
I was immediately offended as I huffed under my breath, “Way to slow down for a pedestrian, lady!”
It shocked me because most members of our small community would have stopped at the stop sign, waved me across the intersection, and then proceeded on their way.
Her disregard left me insulted.
It didn’t take many steps down the sidewalk, however to feel a conviction in my soul. How many times do I ignore others in my path on a daily basis?
I’m too busy with my to-do list to notice their need for help. I’m too consumed with my own problems and trials that I forget that others are struggling nearby.
So I stopped and prayed for her.
Prayer is probably one of my weakest spiritual disciplines.
I’m not sure why, but I can consistently read and study God’s word and forget to ever talk to Him about it.
I can offer a listening ear and counsel to a friend, but disregard the opportunity to pray with her.
I rattle off gospel facts and theological truths to my children, but often hurry back to my household duties without approaching the throne of grace with them.
This video caused me to pause.
Prayer is a beautiful thing. It is a gift earned through Jesus’ death and resurrection for me. Even as a broken, prideful human being, I can approach my Father freely. How can I take it so flippantly?
I spiritually speed through the stop sign of prayer moving on to the “more important” things of my day. I ask the Lord to forgive me for my disregard for communing with Him and am overwhelmed that unlike my offense at the speeding driver, He offers mercy after my wayward heart once again fails Him.
At the start of a new year, I know that this area of prayer needs my attention. My desire for 2018 is to echo the words of David in Psalm 63….
You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.
I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your right hand upholds me.
The online world can be a beautiful place. Over the years, I have encountered women with a deep passion for the gospel, a desire for growth in scriptural understanding, and an embrace of the high calling of motherhood. Emily Jensen is one of those women. Her online ministry, both in writing and her podcast, have often encouraged and challenged my heart. That’s why I was thrilled when she agreed to write a special post for the new year here at Dishes & Doctrine. I know you will be blessed with her thoughts for 2018…..
On my bookshelf sits a deep-emerald green textural prayer journal, waiting to be filled with my hopes for 2018. Next to it, you’ll find a growing pile of books I plan to read, which will hopefully incite life-changes that actually last. And although I haven’t gotten around to it yet, the white walls of our mudroom are empty and ready for some printables with goals for every member of the family so we can track the great things we’ll do in the new year. With the turning of a simple calendar day, it feels like the white snow in our yard lets out a big breath and fills the air with the magical aroma of change. Like Lucy walking through the wardrobe into Narnia, greeting a new world that feels more exciting than scary, we tentatively explore the possibilities and hope again for the promise of new.
Particularly, I like to think that new means I’m suddenly going to be good at all the things. Instead of picking a very small-sampling of life areas to consider changing, I imagine this year will make me a new and better wife, mom, cook, gym member, church member and neighbor. But the thing about newness is that it’s not magic, it’s not produced by flipping a calendar page, and it’s not a direct result of our own savvy efforts. Newness ultimately belongs to God, and we get a chance to image him as we enter into the new good things he is doing. So as we consider the fresh feeling of 2018, let’s remember these truths about newness.
Only God can Truly Do Something New
God was the first and the only one to truly do something brand-spanking-new. Because he has existed for all of time, he is the only source of all new and created things (Psalm 90:2). When we think of our goals and our fresh ideas, it’s important to remember that there is really nothing new under the sun as far as God is concerned (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Our goals and ideas might be different from last year, and we might have added some Pinterest-sourced tips and tricks, but no one is really doing something completely new. We struggle with the same sins, setbacks, and limitations as every other human since the fall (Romans 3:23). In fact, humans are only attributed with inventing new ways to do evil (Romans 1:30). So we don’t exactly have an awesome track record when it comes to doing new things. The only new good works we do come from the God who is in the process of making all things new (Revelation 21:5).
Only God can Produce New Good Fruit
So if true “newness” belongs to God alone, can we be hopeful for new things in our own lives this year? Yes! As long as we remember that the new, good works we walk in and the new good fruit we produce isn’t really a direct result of our own SMART goals. Sure, we can do some behavior modification here and there (actually, I’m embarrassingly bad at that), and we can occasionally keep some rules for a while, but only God can write his law on our hearts, giving us a heart of flesh where it was once stone (Jeremiah 31:33, Ezekiel 36:26). Only his power within us can cause us to will and to work according to his good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). He is the God of new, and he renews us as we fix our minds on his word, standing in awe of the work he’s done on our behalf (Romans 12:2).
The Good News:
We don’t have to have it all figured out this year when it comes to starting something new, because we trust a God who does.
Remember, this is the God who made the heavens and the earth, the animals, the people on the earth, and who created the science that orders it all together.
This is the God who gave a New Covenant when the old one was a hovering cloud of death.
This is the God who promises to renew and restore all things at the return of Christ.
He can certainly handle our sanctification in the new year!
So as we crack open our prayer journals, our stacks of books, our crisp notepads, and our organizational apps, let’s rest knowing that it’s not up to us to make ourselves new. We’ve already been washed as white as snow in Christ, and the best “new” we will ever experience is still yet to come (Isaiah 1:18, Revelation 21:5). Eternity, 2018’s got nothing on you.
About the author:
Emily Jensen is the Co-Founder of Risen Motherhood, and the Co-Host of the weekly podcast. Risen Motherhood is a ministry which encourages and equips moms to apply the gospel in their everyday moments. She lives with her husband and five young children amidst the cornfields of central Iowa. You can find her microblogging @risenmotherhood on Instagram and all podcast archives at RisenMotherhood.com.
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When will it snow, Mommy? Can we watch a Christmas movie and drink hot chocolate tonight? Is that package for me? How many days left until we open presents?
The Christmas season is packed with expectancy. From the moment the first scent of leftover holiday cheer is release from the storage box, everyone in the home looks forward to the culmination of these joyful few weeks. Christmas is coming!
As theologically-minded parents, we have the opportunity to use that feeling of anticipation to teach our children one of the most major themes of Scripture which is the presence of God with man.
In the beginning, the Creator designed a perfect garden, with perfect foliage, perfect animals, and perfect food in which He walked in perfect relationship with Adam and Eve. That communion was tragically broken with their sinful rebellion, but the story didn’t end there. Genesis 3:15 says, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Something was coming to resolve this curse, but it wouldn’t be as immediate as this first family may have suspected.
The entire Old Testament traces the suspense surrounding the wait for a permanent resolution to this sin problem. God instructs his people to build the tabernacle and later the temple as dwelling places for His Presence. God’s relationship with his chosen people came at the price of sacrifice after sacrifice, year after year.
A small child may feel like the days leading up to Christmas are endless. Each seems to drag as she waits patiently for the hope promised to her. In a similar and even more significant way, Israel longed for the arrival of their Rescuer. How long would God wait to fulfill his long-standing promises?
“And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth.”
In His perfect, never early, never late timing, the Father set into motion the answer to His covenant with mankind.
“And the Word [Jesus] became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
God himself would now tabernacle with his Creation. Jesus would be both the High Priest and the Sacrifice necessary to complete the plan set in motion in Genesis. When He returned to Heaven, he would send the Holy Spirit to dwell in the hearts of the redeemed. The Church is now a living temple for the presence of God.
But, we’re still waiting. There’s more to come.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
What a breaktaking description of the end of the story! We live in anticipation for all to be made new. We look around at our broken world and ask, “How long?” but we can wait with hope. Just as a small child confidently knows that there will be gifts under the tree on December 25, we as believers cling to the fulfillment and resolution that is surely coming with Jesus’ return.
The celebration of Jesus’ birth is a chance for our families to wonder at the greatest Gift ever given and prepare for the final chapter of God’s story yet to come!
Immanuel, God is with us!
“Turn off your phone tomorrow. Spend time with your family. It’s your day off, take advantage of the chance to rest,” she said.
My dear friend seemed to look right through my “I’m fine” mask as she diagnosed my exhausted state. It’s been this way for months now. The racing schedule, the too-short nights, the never-ending needs leave me craving rest. I thought I was hiding it well, until that conversation a few nights ago. My throat tightened as the suppressed emotions made a hasty appearance.
“I am tired,” I admitted and her hug caused the tears to come. She had noticed for a while, and firmly reminded me again to unplug – to rest. As I drove home, I thought about the other sweet friend who has sent me several encouraging cards and texts lately, the anonymous gift that was left at the church for me, and the letter of gratefulness from a church member to our whole family for the time we invest in them. Maybe our burnout isn’t so invisible.
We did turn off our phones and tablets that Monday. We enjoyed a day free from texts and email notifications. We sang kids’ songs in the van as we headed to pick up church supplies and stuffed ourselves at our favorite Chinese buffet. It was a tiny step forward in the refueling process.
As I put away the groceries that evening though, I was frustrated. Why did I still feel so tired? I had taken my friend’s advice. We had unplugged for at least twelve hours! Why was my heart still heavy with the burdens of the upcoming week? Why did I dread the next homeschooling day looming on the horizon? Wasn’t I supposed to feel light and refreshed after our family day?
I think I’m learning a difficult truth.
Rest is work.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
More specifically, rest is a gospel work.
Yes, my weekly calendar is packed with both expected and unexpected duties. Children alone can turn my well-laid plans on their heads in a moment. I desire to serve my husband well. I want to meet the needs of my church family in a timely manner. I want to be a productive member of my community.
I fear, though, that even if all of those responsibilities were miraculously fulfilled, I would still suffer from a unsettled heart. My lack of rest doesn’t ultimately stem from a busy life, but from a misplaced hope.
I have forgotten my neediness. I have been deceived by pride. I have convinced myself of my own strength when I have none.
So, how do I come to Jesus with my unrest? How do I burden myself with His easy yoke, not my bulky one? John Bunyan describes this passage in Matthew like this:
“This coming to Christ is a running to him, a flying to him from the wrath to come. When all refuge fails, and a man is made to see that there is nothing left in him but sin, death, and damnation, unless he flies to Christ for life; then he flies, and not until then. There is a sense of absolute need of Jesus Christ:……….He who truly comes, must forsake all, cast all behind his back and cling to Christ alone.”
I haven’t been flying to Christ. I have been trudging to the cross, all the while convincing myself that I don’t really need to be there. I have forgotten that that good news of Jesus is only good news when I am convinced of the bad news. My uneasy, tired existence ultimately reflects the root of sinful self-dependence incurable by even the longest night’s sleep. No wonder I have been exhausted lately.
Maybe you’re overly tired too. I know a nap and a kid-free day seems like the best solution, but it may only be a short term one. Perhaps we can dig a little deeper together by confessing our tendency for self-reliance and disregard for the work Christ has already finished for us. I am convinced that it is possible to live a life of rest even on the craziest of weeks. It will take work, but not the human effort kind. The more we work to admit our weakness, the more the Spirit will work in our souls offering His incomparable rest.
“It is the grace of the new covenant, the grace of all graces, which comforts the soul when it is disturbed. The same love that brings you everlasting life will also give you daily bread.”
Rest well, my friends.
“Parenting is not about you.”
I can still hear Paul David Tripp’s words ringing in my ears. A handful of us had gathered to watch a livestream of his parenting event. It was a like a balm to my weary heart. Tears sprang to my eyes as I reminded that my job as mommy is not controller or commander of my children’s hearts, but ambassador of God’ authority in their little lives. When I make parenting all about me, my reputation, and my comfort, it is “neither Christian nor parenting and I am simply left with a punished rebel.” A weight lifted off of my shoulders as I remembered that it is the Holy Spirit’s job to break, change, and mold my child’s heart.
On our way home, Adam and I discussed the parallels between parenting and ministry in the local church context. The shepherding, ministry, and counsel that occurs on a regular basis can so easily overwhelm our hearts. It’s only when we realize that church is not about us and that it’s success is on the Spirit’s shoulders not ours, that true freedom is possible.
Ultimately, all of life is NOT about me. God must have needed to drive this point home to my heart this past weekend, because I also had the opportunity to read the brand new book by Sharon Hodde Miller, Free of Me: Why Life is Better when it’s NOT ABOUT YOU. Sharon, a “serial people-pleaser,” found herself bound by a self-focus and self-absorption that had seeped into virtually every area of her life. I was immediately convicted as she described our tendency to make life about ourselves when it’s not! We are trapped in the idolatry of self-image and can only be set free by a “reprogramming” of our hearts and minds.
I love how she addresses very specific areas of our daily lives. Self-focus can rear its ugly head in our relationships, calling, appearance, and even our approach to God Himself. I was especially encouraged by the Interlude where Sharon wisely reminds us that any change in our lives will not be automatically permanent and requires the power of the Holy Spirit.
“The human soul is a lot like that [out of tune musical instruments]. It drifts. Without deliberate retuning, it goes out of tune with the gospel…..Salvation unbends our souls and points us toward God and others, but left unchecked, our souls will always drift back to the inward position.”
The last half of the book focuses on four ways to be “free of me.” These are practical habits to implement into our lives to effectively live with an outward focus. She reminds us that in Christ we can find balance between self-sacrifice and the healing we so desperately need. The Spirit enables us to obey God’s call while still experiencing the incredible joy He offers His children.
I was left challenged, convicted, and encouraged by the words in this book. We all too often are handicapped by a constant over-awareness of self, and true freedom is only found in our Savior.
I would love for you to read it too! Grab a copy over at Amazon (it’s available now!) or leave a comment below for a chance to win a copy. Details below:
*Let me know a book you’ve been reading lately for your comment to count towards the giveaway! I will pick a winner on Sunday, 10/8/17.
Congratulations, Suzette! You have won the book! Look in your email inbox for the details!
This past summer, I finished up the first half of a study in the book on Exodus, and while I plan to finish the second half eventually, I felt compelled to skip to the last book of the Bible, Revelation. Because so many controversies and questions surround those final chapters of Scripture, I was hesitant to dig in. What if I didn’t understand the apocalyptic language? Would it be a waste of my time? Maybe I should just stick to more approachable books!
I couldn’t shake the fact that it would be a great time to study the coming judgment with Egypt’s plagues fresh in my mind so I began by listening to the audio version on my phone as I cooked and cleaned around house. I found myself stopping in the middle of my chores, captivated by the descriptive picture John paints about the future of our world. I was thrilled to find that my husband owned a copy of Dr. James Hamilton’s commentary on Revelation. I could use it to clarify some of the verses that still stumped me.
At the time I am writing this, I am a bit more than half way through the book and have been struck over and over again by beautiful gospel themes that have brought a new purpose to my living. I am convinced that every busy mom needs to study Revelation.
1. Revelation offers a bigger perspective on mundane concerns.
Meal prep, laundry, kindergarten reading homework – a mom’s day-to-day life is full to the brim with the mundane. Repetitive tasks can make the most resilient of mothers want to lose her mind. Worries about money, educational choices, and car repairs run through our distracted minds all day long. Revelation offers a bigger view. It’s impossible to read about trumpets, seven headed dragons, and eternal rejoicing without seeing that God is coordinating something much greater than my little daily problems.
2. Revelation reminds us that the mundane matters.
God is the master story weaver. Nothing escapes His attention or care. This is true even when we label our lives as “boring” or “unimportant.” Think of it this way. Our call as humans is to be image bearers of our God. This has been true ever since the Garden of Eden. While we fail often at reflecting His glory, goodness, and love, the daily responsibilities we accomplish bring organization to an otherwise chaotic world. In that, we are bearing God’s image just as he created order out of nothing in the beginning.
Our mundane duties also have a future purpose. Courtney Reissig explains it this way in her book, Glory in the Ordinary.
“Our work is preparing us to rule and reign with Christ in a new earth, where the curse is gone, and we will work for God’s glory, always.”
I might scrub the dirty skillet little harder or complain a bit less about the smelly trash when I think about the eternal objective of my work. What I practice now will be used forever!
It’s not just our work that matters, however. He is using the interactions, struggles, and joys I experience each day to further the reach of His kingdom. In other words, my story is combined with your story to complete His story.
3. Revelation gives us a renewed sense of Jesus’ glory and power.
A thousand things demand our attention during a twenty-four hour period. It can be hard to know which task or person should receive the focus of our limited time and energy. I reach the end of most days exhausted and uninspired, and I’m sure you can relate. Before long, our obedience is fueled by guilt and duty, and we find ourselves mindlessly plugging away with no passion or excitement. We turn to our phones or computers for comfort and encouragement, but instead find comparison and conflict.
Revelation begins with a description of Jesus in chapter 1. John says He was clothed in a long robe with a golden sash around his chest. He had white hair and eyes like fire. His feet were like “burnished bronze” and his voice roared like many waters. Can you imagine seeing your Savior like this? John immediately fell at Jesus’ feet at the sight of His glory. His power is overwhelming and His love is immeasurable, yet the next words recorded are, “Fear not!”
Because of Jesus’ sacrifice at the cross, we do not have to fear the judgment of a holy God. Because Jesus overcame our slavery to sin, we can obey the call to faithful living in these last days. James Hamilton describes this passage,
“The incomparable glory of the risen Christ motivates John’s audience to heed what John has been commissioned to write. The matchless splendor of Heaven’s King attracts the attention and compels the obedience of the churches John addresses. The risen Christ in glory summons forth obedience from his churches.”
The book of Revelation causes us to wake up from the apathy of mindless Christianity. It renews our hope in an ultimate victory against Satan and his followers. It comforts us in the midst of deep suffering, and gives a greater calling to pursue.
We can rejoice and obey on even the most difficult days of motherhood because of the words proclaimed in Revelation 11:15:
“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”
It was a whirlwind thirty-six hours.
My friend, Katie, and I drove from the Pennsylvania mountains to the quaint towns of New England to visit a mutual friend for the day. Typical of most close friendships, we never ran out of words the entire time. We ate pizza and salads and smoothies, giggled at the massage chairs during our pedicures, and shared the deeper struggles of our hearts as mamas and wives late into the night.
We couldn’t visit New Hampshire without experiencing some of the history of our country. We spent several hours exploring Strawbery Banke, an outdoor living museum of centuries-old homes and gardens. It was like stepping back into the 1700’s as we peeked into bedrooms and outhouses. We wondered what it would have been like to cook over an open fire in the kitchen. We were shocked to see a co-sleeping bassinet with very little difference to today’s cribs. We imagined the lives of these first citizens of our nation.
Near the end of our visit we entered a home built in the early 18th century. From the outside it looked like the other refurbished homes we had already explored. On the inside, however, it was completely different. The museum had purposely left it almost completely untouched.
Peeling layers of paint, a half a dozen wallpaper patterns, and exposed beams told a fascinating story. The smell of age made it difficult to fully breathe. We gripped the shaky stair rail and spent only a few moments in the creaky upstairs before we slowly made our descent.
The lack of renovations gave an intriguing narrative of this home. Births and deaths. Laughter and tears. Arguments and harmony. Beautiful upgrades and bad design choices. Hope and fear. The walls had seen it all.
I sensed a vulnerability in this home absent in the other renewed structures around it and yet it was my favorite of all that we explored that day.
I haven’t been able to shake the parallel between that old house and my tendency to shine myself up in order to impress. Even my “vulnerability” can be carefully curated to give the impression of openness, while holding back the ugliest parts of my heart.
Can I say something blunt? I think true openness is virtually impossible online. It is too easy to pick and choose the sins we confess. It is too easy to filter our mess. We love to #keepitreal while downplaying the damaging effects of our brokenness.
Is there someone in your life who regularly sees and shares the ugly, peeling parts of your heart? Is there a safe person who has proven her trustworthiness over time? Do you share your shortcomings to a friend who allows you to vent, but will eventually point your heart back to the truest Friend of all?
The Jesus-following life was not designed to be led in isolation or behind shiny masks. Galatians 6 illustrates the tension and balance between personal accountability and community support.
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.
We are multifaceted people. We process thousands of emotions each day. We carry dozen of burdens as we navigate this broken world. We are formed by stories and scars. We will each be held accountable for our sins and our response to the gospel of Jesus.
However, community is vital to our growth too! We can truly answer the call to bear each others burdens only when we share the ripped wallpaper and broken beams of our heart. Painting a shiny veneer over our true struggles only looks good for a time.
We fulfill our calling to holiness by returning over and over to the accomplishments of Jesus and pointing our friends in that direction too. Vulnerability for vulnerability’s sake is worthless. Openness without gospel-shaped hope is ineffective and will never bring lasting change.
Transparency allows us to look beyond the ugly and see the beautiful tapestry God is weaving with the thread of His grace and we look forward to the day when His ultimate Restoration is finally complete!
On the first Saturday of July, our town will host the annual 4th of July celebration. We have a unique advantage because the parade progresses down Main Street – directly in front of our house. Traditionally, we’ll invite our friends and their lawn chairs over to collect candy and clap along with the Rinky-Dink Dancers from the next town over.
Once the parade is finished, we’ll head to the park across the street to sample deep-fried oreos, maple cotton candy, live local music and handmade crafts. The day will finish with fireworks over the Tioga River which we can watch from our front porch.
There is a certain amount of comfort in the repetition of celebratory events. Another year is passed, yet the people, the love, and the home remain the same.
On the other hand, all the years can run together. Without pictures to see how old the kids were or even how many we currently had, I can’t rehearse specific details of each year. There was the scorching year that the fire trucks stopped every few feet to spray the kids with their giant hoses. I honestly can’t remember if that was 4 or 5 years ago. Maybe it was even more!
The daily monotony in the home can feel very similar. The days run together with another set of PB&J’s made, more teeth brushed, and one more floor swept. The family photos on the wall mark a moment somewhere between the birth of that child and the present. I’m not always sure how much time has passed since that marker in time.
The cycle feels like a hamster wheel or one maybe one of those really bad slow motion dreams. Each day includes a lot of work, but the progress forward is little to none.
My sister recently saw a picture of my youngest and remarked at how old she looked. Until then, I was blinded to the fact that she has indeed grown taller and is losing her toddler features.
A few weeks ago, a friend commented on the polite response of my son when they interacted before church. It blessed my heart and opened my eyes to the slow, barely visible improvements in his behavior.
The most encouraging thought of all – at this time last year, my baby girl was still in diapers!
My own life reflects the growth that can’t be seen on a daily basis. Sanctification is slow, hard, and monotonous. I feel no significant change when I wake up from one day to the next. I struggle with the same besetting sins and am reminded of the same spots of weakness. My spiritual life is more similar to the unhurried growth of an oak tree than the rapid sprouting of our backyard grass. It’s barely visible most days.
“The growth of trees and plants takes place so slowly that it is not easily seen. Daily we notice little change. But, in course of time, we see that a great change has taken place. So it is with grace. Sanctification is a progressive, lifelong work (Prov 4:18). It is an amazing work of God’s grace and it is a work to be prayed for (Rom 8:27).”
(John Owen – The Holy Spirit, 108-109)
As time gradually passes, the Shepherd of my soul stays the same. It is His work, not mine that will ultimately conform me to His Son. I can take comfort in the repetition of habits (confession, prayer, Bible study, etc….) that change me even when I don’t see it immediately. I can change only because He is constant.
We have a little over a month until school starts up again. I plan to use that less structured time for investing in growth in grace even if I can’t see the results until years later. I will be finishing my study of Exodus, taking some unplanned naps, travelling with my family, and enjoying Fourth of July fireworks, of course.
I will also be working behind the scenes on some writing and speaking projects for the Fall. Things may not be extremely active here until those deadlines have passed. But I’d love to keep in contact via Instagram and the Kitchen Table Newsletter.