I sat on the stone tile floor yesterday for the third time with a child guilty of crimes brought before me by a sibling equally as guilty of being a tattletale. As I tell my kids, there’s no getting around being touched by another’s sin. It’s just gonna happen so you better get good at forgiving one another because your skin-to-sin contact is inevitable.
I sat there as his dark eyes pooled with tears and he explained why he had hit his brother, interrupted by sniffles of regret I listened giving him a second to breath and think through his reactive tendencies.
Some days are so full of training.
Here I am in the middle of searching out justice for my boys, quietly praying for God’s wisdom and a covering of patience to rightly administer the proper correction. All the while secretly noticing how dusty and dirt covered the stairs are and how the laundry is stretching it’s sleeves into the hallway near me like a thief trying to steal my joy. The washer has stopped spinning and needs to be shifted to the right and I’ve still not gotten around to painting the wainscoting staring me in the face a mere two feet in front of my nose.
In all my thoughts of “to-dos” I hear in my heart, Be about the Father’s business.
My soul clutches tightly to the words and cradles them, agreeing with the Holy Spirit’s timely antidote to this moment. I regain my focus on the child in front of me and no longer keep tabs on the laundry, the dust or the faded paint. I see the Father’s business and I get to being about it, offering a simple loaf and fish, truth and punishment to those involved.
All day I hear those words, be about the Father’s business. When math concepts are hard to learn and hard to teach I find the heart of God in just being a companion to the brows pinched in frustration beside me.
A breath of free space in my day to write some words that birth themselves through my daily steps are interrupted by unthawed beef I forgot to remove from the freezer that morning. With dinner prep hour quickly approaching and encroaching a rare moment meant for me, be about the Father’s business, is whispered again in my ear and this time it reminds me not to grumble at a lack of time for myself.
Ground beef sizzles in the iron pan as potatoes soften in boiling water next to it. Six beautiful people will round the table tonight, empty bellies and grateful hearts looking to me for the warmth of another meal. I hear the porch door open and see the numbers on the stove clock match the sound of work boots being stamped off and untied in the front room. Immediately wanting to unload my day and duties onto him for a quick bit of relief, it plays again in my heart to be about the Father’s business, serve Him by serving him. So Instead I listen to the stories from his 10 hours apart from us and find it did me well to give rather than take.
In the moment it would be easy to be about my business, to be about serving my desires, my ideas, voicing my frustrations and my needs, pushing aside the actual job God destined me for; The Father's business.
And the business of God is a beautiful thing, a deeply rich and purpose-filled kind of work. It’s His business that says, take the time to teach, I’ll be sure to give you rest. It’s His business that whispers, do not let your worry about tomorrow stop up your ears from hearing the details of another’s today, I hold your tomorrow in my right hand and I’ll not let it crush you. It’s the business of the Father that says, I’ve come to lighten your load, so do your work as unto the Lord, but not out of breath, endurance is my gift to you.
The business of God doesn’t focus so much on my comfort as it does the care of others. It doesn’t put first my needs but asks me to bend to my knees for theirs. It’s never about my rituals, my standards or my desires but rather teaches me to arch all my rigid ways to sway in service to others. God's business asks me to look first to those requesting care requiring only that I request His strength in the process.
So wherever you are today, whatever your task may be, be about the Father’s business.
The fat hands of a three year old all covered with dirt from the garden hold up a nectarine, “can I have this?”
He’s been helping his daddy set posts for our biggest yet vegetable crop to arrive this fall, good Lord willing.
I say yes to the fruit and he immediately plops himself, soil covered jeans and all, on my lap. We sit in silence listening only to his hungry slurps followed by eager swallows. You’d think the boy was starving at how he carelessly devours the fruit. No words just chewing, eyes fixed straight ahead, small but chunky hands cupping his beloved snack, dirty nails and juice dripping from his chin.
I stare at him because he’s not a baby anymore and there’s no baby replacing him to stare at. I calculated recently; the first 8 years of our marriage I was pregnant every year for at least a month. I likely have spent weeks by and large staring at each baby over those 8 years. This one a bit longer. (not counting the lengthy moments with the first born). He’s still small enough in my heart to lose my gaze upon, so I do.
His teeth scrape the pit and he spits out the pieces accidentally consumed into my hand. One more slurp and he finally speaks, “God’s with us always?” First words in the past ten minutes and I now know why he was fixated so. His thoughts are a mixture of what he’s heard talked about in our home and what he hopes to be true in his little heart.
“Yes, buddy God is with us always.”
“He’ll never leave us, even at the store?” He further questions. I chuckle at this. Has he been reading the news? Or have I voiced concern over my once weekly outing? Maybe it’s the face mask I hang next to my car keys that’s got him wondering about God’s watchful eye on Thursday’s grocery run. I nod and reassure him, “yes, even at the store, God is with us.”
A 19 year old girl sitting in the windowsill of an upstairs apartment. Pregnant and alone waiting for her boyfriend to arrive from a night of gambling. She’s too young to party, but old enough to be called Mama. Too nauseated to protest and too scared to close her eyes and rest. So she waits in that sill overhanging the main drag watching bars close and staggering college students tumble out onto the forgotten street. All night she waits anxiously humming the hymns she knows by heart,
“Just a closer walk with thee
Grant it, Jesus, is my plea
Daily walking close to thee
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be...”
I wonder at the question now, is God always with us? Even when we’re on a road everyone said not to travel by, is God with us there? In the dark places where sin can’t hide and everyone knows it, is God with us in those places? Or when the window we look out from is built into a house of sin and shame, God’s there too?
Yes and yes.
Jesus took pains to walk roads dusty with sin in search of the sheep once known and now lost. His caring eye peers through the glass of windows where young broken hearts sit waiting for a better tomorrow, wondering how they ended up on this side of darkness. His gaze is fixed on His children like mine is to the boy with the handful of sticky fruit.
We’re never too old for God to hold us in His sight. There’s no age limit on God’s constant loving gaze, no emotional maturity or independence to reach where He suddenly stops watching over us. He’s always with us, He will never leave us, His gaze is as sure as the sun will rise.
So no matter what window you’re looking out of, and let’s be honest we’re all looking out from the sill of windows right now, know you are lovingly gazed upon and desperately sought after by God.
How often do I miss what’s right in front of me? Too often, I imagine.
I grip my hand to the plow daily and love what I do and the people who motivate me to keep doing it. But I miss things, I miss important things. There’s an ever present pressing to keep going, keep sowing, keep tending, keep rocking and singing and humming and loving. So I do; I cradle and hum, stir and read, caress and sooth, sweep and wipe.
But I sometimes miss what’s happening in all this. I forget the big picture, the wide angle view I've tucked deep within and find myself tilling the ground up rough and fast, eager for harvest, forgetful of tender shoots longing for the sun. Sometimes when I can’t see the end result, I forget there is one. Ohhh, I’m preaching to myself here, I certainly am.
Slow down girl, Don’t skip over the blossoms visible and fragile being tossed by the breeze, slow down.
Slow down girl, don’t be discouraged when you can’t see finished fruit, the harvest isn’t ready, the fruit isn’t ripe, slow down.
Slow down girl, and remember tea time is like balm to the broken hearted and shortbread cookies, her companion, slow down.
Slow down girl, quiet your mind in the midst of the commotion and seek the Kingdom, don’t let your eyes dart from here to there, slow down.
Slow down girl, laugh long and sink heavily into that chair, there’s nowhere else you need to be, slow down.
Slow down girl, and remember how you’ll never forget the way fresh sheets smelled when your own Mama washed and tucked your bed in tight. Pillows fluffed and all. Slow down.
There’s things to be accomplished, for sure. And I think every mom out there can say they’ll never get it all done. So just slow yourself right down and live in this moment, participate in this moment. Even if your moment is hard and messy, loud or maybe too quiet, frustrating or straight up rug pulled out beneath you; whatever moment you’re in, slow it and let it steep because the God who created you and your children is alive in your moments too. He’s destined to never fail and plans good for your future, so rest your rushing thoughts onto His broken for YOU shoulders, and slow it all down.
Morning by morning we wake and do. Still even in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, we must continue with one foot in front of the other just as I’m sure you are too. Cleaning bedrooms and making beds, reading books and finishing up lessons. And of course riding bikes now that the sun shines a bit warmer and longer each day.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
How in my weakness am I able to show God's great strength? Can I shed joyous light on my shortcomings and lead the reader to see how good and gracious my God truly is? My hope is that yes, you’ll see what God can make of a bruised and broken heart even when it’s been fitted to a shape not His own and slow baked to imperfection. He is that good and tender and loving. He’ll crack the mold and warm the clay between His palms just to reshape the heart.
I’m an unlikely candidate for so many of the things I do each day. An unlikely homeschooling mom, with the echo of whispers from long ago that on some busy afternoons make me question if I should do it again tomorrow or throw in the towel.
“A slow learner”, “dyslexic”, and possibly "mentally retarded." I had plenty of red marks coloring my finished work and on my last day of public school in the sixth grade, a final meeting with all of my teachers pushed my brave mom into home teaching me from then on. Satan said, “stupid and unable”. God said, “I see purpose and will prove this wrong.”
True I had quite a few teachers not living up to their calling and things could have been quite different had they been willing, but I'm glad for God's wide view of my life, knowing good would come from the words misspoken and labels haphazardly adhered to my young mind.
I must lean into His strength as I proceed with schooling my children year after year and rely on His mercy that they flourish and take hold of the work set before them.
Over a dozen years ago I sat in a therapists office for the third week to finally be diagnosed with depression, anxiety and ADHD. Panic attacks that led to hyperventilation weren’t uncommon for me as were stacks of unfinished work at my desk that I just couldn’t seem to lift. All the symptoms fit and I agreed I must just be different.
I spent only a week on a trial medication before ditching it for a deeper truth. The truth that when your eyes are set on The King, the emotions of a broken heart, a broken past and an uncertain future can fade in the light of Him who heals and holds tightly the ones who come open and broken hearted.
The weaknesses that could have kept me from walking out a life of freedom are now used to show who God is and how deeply He cares. Not to say there aren’t people who truly need medication for these kinds of diagnoses, in my story only the shifting of eyes and relinquishing of my will is what brought cure and comfort. A daily shifting I might add.
Satan said, “you’ll never breath easy”. God said, “this will bring me glory.”
I’ve had to learn over the years that God is the only one who deems me qualified to do what He’s asked. No manmade credit can authoritate my calling. My marked up resume has been rewritten by The Author of everything and He has set me in a position to teach my children with confidence and joy, to be helper to a man of integrity and quiet blogger in this space. None of which I’m qualified by experience to do, but all of which God has positioned me to fulfill.
"Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight-in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.“ 2 Corinthians 12: 9-11
What good to the world would I be if only strength I did possess? What compassion could I hand out if never had I woke to the simplest of shortcomings? And what have I to offer if I need not meet God's strength at the start of each day? Thankfulness now envelopes my heart, 35 years from a loving God and I am grateful to wake to my weaknesses that keep me fully in His strength.
Our disadvantages do not disqualify us for all God has placed in our beings to do, our disadvantages leave us fully dependent on God's mercy to allow Him to work through us for the glory due Him.
We are all called to be broken and maimed kingdom builders, with pasts that hurt and futures unknown and with a King who holds us dear, full of mercy and love.
I was flipping through partially written blog posts of mine from earlier this year and found one unfinished piece called, Home. In a strange way it was helpful to re-read at this time. So much has changed for all of us over the last few weeks and home is suddenly being lived in to the max. An uncomfortable max in a lot of ways, I’m sure.
Driving home on a Thursday evening, headlights cutting through the darkness of late February's hold on daylight. Grocery bags packed with breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack seven times over all piled on empty car seats and lining trunk space, anywhere I could quickly stack and jump back into the warmth of my heated vehicle.
I stop at the sign where one back road meets another and enjoy an extra minute of quiet before turning toward my house. Rarely does anyone travel down this road at 8:00pm to push me into signaling and proceeding before I’m ready. I’m free to enjoy stillness, free to pray uninterrupted for just a bit longer.
I sit and breath in my hushed thoughts offering them up to the Lord in vapors of whispered prayer. Home runs deep in my veins and only a minute or two passes before I can hesitate no longer and find my way to it.
Pulling into the U-shaped driveway I scan for children running across the porch or swinging freely in the back yard. There’s no one this time but in a few months when the grass is thick and sun is still hanging low in the sky and popsicles take their place back at the top of my grocery list; there will be children.
For now only the silent stars accompany my walk from van to kitchen door, fingers stretched around as many handles as possible.
It's quiet this time. Children are already tucked in, reading silently to themselves under the heat of sheet and blanket. The dishwasher hums a wet song and the dryer flops the last load of the day 100 times over until the heavy jeans surrender to the machine.
I recall my mom as a realtor telling me, “if you want to sell your home, bake bread before the showing.” She was right. There’s something powerful about the smell of fresh bread that encourages lingering a moment longer, listening a bit closer and hopefully being charmed into staying forever. Sold!
Oh, if gold crusted bread was all it took to make a house a home, wouldn’t that be just too simple? Though homemade bread may be powerful enough to comfort the ache of a homesick soul, there’s so much more to making home a place worth longing for again and again.
Edger Albert Guest wrote a poem about the strength home has on the soul when lived in well. He writes, “it takes a heap ‘o livin’ in a house ‘t make it home.”
So if you think nothing much is happening as you spend day after day under the same roof with the same people, know that little by little you’re turning your house into a home. Each breakfast served, candle lit and pillow dropped into freshly washed pillowcase is leaving an imprint on the ones you live with. Don’t underestimate the permanent strings you’re tying when you turn up the music and dance, or turn down the volume and pray; both will ink love into their memories and joy into their eyes.
There’s something big and unseen happening these unsure days in homes across the world, something more impacting than the moms and the dads of this generation could have created on their own. There’s heaps of living being done in houses now called homes.
My bread recipe:
1/4 cup butter
1 cup milk
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons yeast
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons honey
3-4 cups flour
Heat butter, milk and water to about 115 degrees. In mixer with dough hook (or if you’re brave do it all by hand), stir flour, salt, yeast and honey together. Add hot liquids to dry and combine until dough forms.
Let rise in an oiled bowl for about 40 minutes covered. Place in an oiled bread pan covered with a towel for 10-20 minutes more. Remove covering and bake at 400 for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
"My life passes as swiftly as the evening shadows. I am withering away like grass." Psalm 102:11