Finding the Beauty in Tension and Delay

I once heard a story about a company that allows you to rent a grandma.
I was intrigued and turned up the volume to learn more. I learned that you can rent a grandma of your own ethnicity who can teach you about your roots. She will teach you your traditions and will teach you how to cook your ethnic foods.
As I smiled to myself and thought about the silliness of the idea of renting a grandma to try to fill a space that can only be truly filled by someone who has known you from birth, who knows your good and your bad and yet loves you anyway, my mind drifted off to what I might wish to pay someone to accomplish for me.
Cleaning my home. Birthdays. Decorating my home. Planning a vacation.
The more I dreamed about not having to do any of those things anymore, however, the more it occurred to me that perhaps hiring someone to plan a birthday party or to do all the planning for a vacation so that I do not have to give any thought to it is not really all that different from paying someone to be a grandma.
Both are about avoiding a process that might be a bit messy and difficult, as well as trying to achieve a result that will be more perfect than what I am able to accomplish on my own.
Yet if I search my own memories of childhood, or if I ask my own kids what they love and remember most, it is that very same messy process and not-so-perfect ending that bring the most smiles and laughter. Perhaps, if I truly want a beautiful party or an inviting home, the only way to really get that is for my family to journey through the process together.
Later, as I watched my girls with their finger paints, I couldn’t help but wonder if these ideas in my head about process and journey are perhaps true for more than just the activities in my life.
Perhaps they are true for life itself.
When faced with the ugliness that can be found in this life, in this world, I often echo John’s words: E’en so, Lord Jesus, quickly come.
I wonder why there has been so much delay between our salvation and our redemption.
I sat at the piano and played through a bit of Bach.
As I played, the music reminded me that time is good. That delay can bring out beauty. That tension makes the release infinitely more beautiful than could be had otherwise.
Music challenges the belief that the longer something takes, the worse it will be…Music, in a very concentrated way, tells us that something can take time AND be good. Music takes time to be what it is, and as such can be glorious. It can remind us that it is not a failing of the created world that it reaches its fulfillment only through time. This is part of the way God made things. The created world takes time to be what it is. ~ Jeremy Begbie in Resounding Truth
I need this reminder.
I want to look for the purpose in this time we have here, especially in these hard days. I want to see the beauty in the way God created our world to need time in order to become as He intends.
I want to enjoy God’s glorious ending (beginning?) when God will make his dwelling among us, when there will be no more tears, when we will forever enjoy the beauty of the new heaven and new earth.

Listen and revel in the way the music takes us through the delay, the messiness, and the tension of time on into a glorious ending.
To hear my blog post read aloud or to hear the music video, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

edited from the archives

This I Still Declare To Be True

We recently passed the anniversary of the death of my sister-in-law. Nine years. I wrote this essay when she died, yet in the middle of a pandemic, of political and racial unrest, of an election season, of economic downturns, in the middle of friends and family who are suffering, these words still ring true. It’s been a couple of years since I posted this. May these words bless you deeply.
The Word of Life
God’s Words tell us clearly that there is pain, there is heartbreak in this world.  We should not be surprised.
More often than not, God chooses not to save His people, chooses not to spare them sorrow and hardship.  Hebrews 11 gives a long list of those who were killed or lost ones they loved, Jesus’ closest friends died martyr’s deaths, even His earthly father died without His intervention.
I have pondered long and hard this question of what I believe about God in the midst of it wasn’t supposed to be like this.  Here is my conclusion.
Ocean Waves
I know my God, His character, well enough to trust Him when I don’t understand, when I cannot see in the darkness.  I know, from what He has said about Himself and from what I have seen, that He is always good and always love.  I know that, if we only knew the reasons, we would adore Him for what He does.
God promises that we will have trouble in this world.  He also promises that if we are grateful to Him He will give us peace.  He doesn’t promise that He will take the pain away but that we will be at peace, that we will have joy.
Isn’t that a much bigger promise?
No matter what, God is still God.
Will I only praise and thank Him when He does what I like?  Will I only accept from Him what I deem to be good?
When I deeply think through the idea of declaring my circumstance to be bad, it seems incredibly arrogant.
How can I think that I know better than God what is good?  How am I more capable of naming something to be good than the One who is good?
Will I trust that God has a beautiful, amazing plan only when I can see the beauty of it?  Either God is God, and capable of having plans and reasons that I cannot comprehend, or He isn’t God, and I am silly for blaming a myth. There is not really any in-between place for the things with which I do not agree.
…if I go to Jesus, he’s not under my control either.  He lets things happen that I don’t understand. He doesn’t do things according to my plan, or in a way that makes sense to me.  But if Jesus is God, then he’s got to be great enough to have some reasons to let you go through things you can’t understand.  His power is unbounded, but so are his wisdom and love…He can love somebody and still let bad things happen to them, because he is God–because he knows better than they do.  If you have a God great enough and powerful enough to be mad at because he doesn’t stop your suffering, you also have a God who’s great enough and powerful enough to have reasons that you can’t understand.
King’s Cross by Timothy Keller
 God is God, and since he is God, he is worthy of my worship and my service.  I will find rest nowhere else but in his will, and that will is necessarily infinitely, immeasurable, unspeakable beyond my largest notions of what he is up to. ~ Elisabeth Elliot
can trust God, trust in His nature.
Of course he’s not safe.  Who said anything about being safe?  But he’s good.  He’s the king. ~ Mr. Beaver as told to C.S. Lewis in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
 Fiery Furnace
When faced with the fiery furnace, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego told King Nebuchadnezzar that
If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king.  But even if He does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up. ~ Daniel 3
When Job lost all of his children and all that he owned and was himself in great physical pain, he declared
Though he slay me, yet will I hope in Him. ~ Job 13.15
No matter what, I will praise God and offer Him my gratitude, my sacrifice of praise.
God tells us over and over in His word that He has a beautiful purpose for humanity and creation as a whole.
And that he has a beautiful purpose for each of our lives.
Sometimes I doubt this promise, this truth.
And then I look at Jesus, at His cross.
Bearing the Cross
I’ve been clinging to Romans 8.32 through all of this:
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
If God ever had to prove Himself, prove His love for us, prove that He is taking care of us, He has more than proved it all through the cross.
I can trust God, trust in His love.
I’ve also been thinking a lot about Hezekiah.
In II Kings 20, he pleaded with God to “change his story”, to give him more life when God had told him (through Isaiah) that he was going to die.  God did change His mind that time, gave him fifteen more years of life.
And in that fifteen extra years, Hezekiah’s son Manasseh was born.  This son who wouldn’t have been born if Hezekiah hadn’t asked God to change the ending of his story ended up as king and “lead (Israel) astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the LORD had destroyed before the Israelites”. ~ II Kings 21.9
Our desired story ending versus God’s desired story ending.
Perhaps, just perhaps, God really does know best.  Perhaps He does know which story will bring about a beautiful, redeemed, transfigured people.
Light Shines Through
When through the deep waters I call you to go,
The rivers of woe shall not overflow;
For I will be with you, your troubles to bless,
And sanctify to you your deepest distress.
The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.
~ How Firm a Foundation, att. John Keith, 1787 (modernized)
To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

credit for images: Lion photo, painting by Simeon SolomonCross photo

Hungry for the Wrong Thing

This world, this created world, is gift. It is given.
It is given to make God known to man, to make man’s life a communion with God.
We depend on the world to live. We take the world into our bodies and transform it into life.
“It is divine love made food, made life for man. God blesses everything he creates, and, in biblical language, this means that he makes all creation the sign and means of his presence and wisdom, love and revelation: ‘O taste and see that the Lord is good.'” ~ Alexander Schmemann
We were intended to take the world into ourselves and transform it into life, offering that life back to God in praise and gratitude. We were intended to be priests, offering the gift of the world back to God as a eucharist, a communion.
hungry for God
Then man fell and communion was broken. Man ceased to be hungry for God and began to be hungry for creation itself. Man stopped being the priest of the world and became, instead, its slave.
This, then, is the original sin. Not that man disobeyed God but that we no longer hunger for him alone.
Christ hungers
Then Christ came and took this world into his perfect body, transforming it into perfect life, and offered that life back to God as a eucharistic offering.
Christ restored our communion with God, our priesthood of the world.
“…in Christ, life – life in all its totality – was returned to man, given again as sacrament and communion, made Eucharist.” ~ Alexander Schmemann
Christ is our bread
Now we, the Church, come together and take the bread and the wine. We offer to God the food we must eat in order to live as a way of offering our whole selves, our life, our world.
We enter into the kingdom of God as we partake of the Eucharist. We enter, however briefly, into the world to come, our world perfected. Our very world is right now perfected in Christ, even as we are still waiting.
The bread and wine, therefore, that is given to be transformed into life, that is given to be offered back to God, that is given to bring us into communion with him,
this very food of the new heavens and the new earth is Christ himself.
Christ is our life
“He is our bread – because from the very beginning all our hunger was a hunger for him and all our bread was but a symbol of him, a symbol that had to become reality.” ~ Alexander Schmemann
Christ came and lived a perfect life, taking the world into himself as food and transforming it into his life, his life as perfect communion with God.
Now he shares his glorified and perfected life with us, saying, “Take, eat.”
To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

The ideas contained within this post come primarily from For the Life of the World by Alexander Schmemann

Art credits: Prayer by László Mednyánszky; Communion by John Snyder; Last Supper by Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret

This is of First Importance

I am a homeschooling mother of four beautiful, amazing, intense girls.
Amazing girls
Intense Girls
This is not a homeschooling or parenting blog.
Except for every once in a great while when it is.
I usually prefer to write about topics other than homeschooling and parenting because I don’t often get a chance to step out of those roles and explore other worlds. Parenting and homeschooling can be fairly consuming, yet there are so many other pieces of me that need to be stewarded well.
Yet right now, in this season, I am aware of so many of you who are going to have your own children at home much more than usual this fall and are, perhaps, feeling a little at sea.
Feeling Lost
Some of you are homeschooling for the first time, some are distance learning with your school, some of your schooling will be done in some kind of hybrid mode, and still others of you are sending your children in-person full-time yet have a sneaking suspicion that there is a decent chance your kids will be back home with you before Thanksgiving.
For those of you who are living through this time of oh-so-strange schooling, may I offer one thought based on my own years of homeschooling? (For those of you who are not in this situation, feel free to skip this post and tune in for my regular programming next week!)
Remember what is of first importance.
First Importance
It is all too easy to get caught up in finishing the math and the grammar, in making sure the spelling and history are done correctly, and forget that our main mission is not filling up brains but shepherding hearts.
The multiplication problem, the misspelled word snatch at our attention and tend to take over our day, while truth, beauty, and goodness get pushed to the side.
Yet I would argue that truth, beauty, and goodness matter more. Much more.
truth, goodness, beauty
If my daughters become literal rocket scientists yet also develop into shallow, selfish creatures who treat others and creation with disdain, I will not view my parenting as a success.
How do you keep the loud and urgent from taking over the slow and important?
I feel certain there are many ways one could be sure to keep your family centered around what is most important, but one way I choose to do it in our home is through a practice I call Morning Time.
It doesn’t have to be Morning Time, of course. It could be Afternoon Tea Time or Evening Calm Down Time. Morning is just what works best for our family in this season.
For us, Morning Time is the way in which we take a moment at the beginning of our day to focus ourselves on truth, goodness, and beauty. It is the way in which we center ourselves around what matters most. It is the way we fix our eyes on Jesus and aim ourselves toward our ultimate goal of becoming like him.
What is Morning Time in a practical sense? There are as many ways of doing Morning Time as there are families who practice this habit, but if it is helpful to you, here is what we do.
I keep a basket with all of our Morning Time supplies by our couch. After breakfast, getting ready for the day, and morning chores, I pull it out and gather my girls.
I gather them by playing a “call to worship,” a hymn or worship song that changes each month. They all know that they are to be in the living room by the time the song ends. Theoretically, this gently gives them time to finish up whatever they are doing and get themselves ready for our school time. This sometimes happens successfully…and sometimes does not.
What follows is our ideal. Please do not imagine that I or my girls do any of what follows perfectly. Sometimes we do a hurried version or even skip Morning Time altogether. Sometimes one girl has a meltdown and I have to send her to her room. Sometimes all the girls, including me, have meltdowns and I have to send us all to our rooms to regroup. It is a rare day when all of this goes perfectly.
truth, goodness, beauty
Some parts of our time together happen every day; others happen in a loop.
Every day we read a short piece of Scripture. Last year we went through Proverbs a couple of times, this year we are reading pieces of Psalms from the Common Book of Prayer. Every day we also do our Scripture memory work.
After reading Scripture and memorizing Scripture, we do one item from our loop, whatever happens to be next in line. The items in our loop this year are missionary stories, a children’s theology book (when this comes up in our loop, I also use it to help my girls practice listening to God and meditating on his Word), art, music, and poetry.
Once we finish our loop item, we sing a hymn together. We are slowly working our way through a hymn book that I have, staying on one hymn for a month. Lastly we pray the Lord’s Prayer together, and I bless them with The Lord be with you. I have taught them to answer, And also with you.
And that’s it.
It usually only lasts about thirty minutes, but this short time during our day serves to remind all of us (me, especially, most days!) that while math, reading, and science are important parts of God’s creation, given to us to explore, it is of first importance to keep our whole selves centered around God.
Morning Time is one of the main ways I whet my girls’ appetites for what is true, good, and beautiful. It is one of the main ways I teach them to love God with their whole selves. It is one of the main ways I center our family around Jesus and make our home into a small piece of God’s kingdom on earth.
I pray that you can find the best way for your family to do the same.

Art Credits: St. Peter’s Rescue from the Lake of Galilee by Herbert Boeckl; Fairy Tales by Jessie Willcox Smith; The Fairy Tale by Walther Firle