Musings: Hello, 2019!

At the beginning of a new year and the winding down of the old, I love to look back on where I’ve been. With a brand new coating of frosty white on the surface of my garden, it’s hard to imagine that just three months ago I was harvesting cucumbers and green beans by the basket full and treating my grandson to brim full cups of tiny orange tomatoes that went “squirt” between his teeth. Nevertheless, here we are. A few of the things I thought I’d accomplish are completely untouched, but this is no surprise to God, and there have been plenty of surprises this year, unforeseen at the outset.

For instance, a box arrived in the mail just days before Christmas containing five beautiful (to me!) cookbooks that include family pictures and every recipe I could think of that our family has enjoyed together.  Here’s a line from the dedication page:

This book is dedicated to the Morin family, past, present, and future:
To the original six who sat around a dining room table and loved food and each other; to the much-loved Morins who have married into the chaos; and to Morins who will gather around future tables in places and times we can only imagine.

The time spent in 2018 typing recipes, driving a lawn mower, vacuuming up dog fur, canning green beans, and sweeping up the grandgirl’s cheerios from the dining room floor may just have been the most important things I accomplished in 2018.

2018 By the Numbers

In the Garden

Growing vegetables in the garden and then canning the overflow has been a constant in my life for nearly thirty years.  Even with an empty-ing nest, there are still plenty of reasons to keep preserving the harvest and remembering to be thankful for the work and for the gift of it all. My basement shelves are full of glistening jars to enjoy and to share:

Green Beans . . . 41 quarts
Salsa . . . 15 pints
Pickles . . . 15 quarts
Relish . . . 14 pints
Spaghetti Sauce . . . 36 quarts
Tomatoes . . . 21 quarts

On the Blog

This is the first time I’ve ever looked at “Top Posts” at year end, but having finally figured out how to do that in 2018, I am surprised by what I see. The most-read blog posts here in these parts weren’t the ones I shared with big sites for the eyes of another more skilled editor. They were all book reviews.  Furthermore, each one was based on the story of a woman and her calling, an unexpected and sometimes gritty story of God’s grace and a woman’s availability. Here’s the list in reverse order:

 Number 5 — Birthing Hope by Rachel Marie StoneBirthing Hope, Motherhood, Incarnation

Motherhood has been the single most influential event in my own story, and Rachel Marie Stone suggests a physiological reason for the alterations that come with motherhood. Apparently, a woman’s body acquires cells from every pregnancy. Each baby she carries leaves behind a few cells that join with hers, so when we take the plunge into motherhood, we do not surface unchanged. Birth is the metaphor that runs throughout Birthing Hope: Giving Fear to the Light as it binds memoir to meditation and bears witness to the journey that has left its mark on the author. When Stone and her husband packed up baggage and boys and relocated to Malawi, they had not an inkling of what it would cost them to serve university students in one of the poorest countries in the world.

Number 4–Holy in the Moment by Ginger Harrington

Love God. Embrace Truth. Enjoy Life.Holy in the Moment: Simple Ways to Love God and Enjoy Your Life, part memoir and part manifesto, is Ginger’s record of God’s faithfulness and a gift to readers in search of homely wisdom for living in sync with the promises of God. Fear and weakness forced Ginger to open her heart to the strength that comes only through prayer and to make one holy choice:

 

“Not every moment is good, but [she would] believe God is good in every moment.”

Number 3–Mrs Oswald Chambers by Michelle Ule

Biddy Chambers: A Sacramental Life

Published in 1927, My Utmost for His Highest has sold more than 13 million copies and has never been out of print. Over the course of its 90+ year history, it has been translated into 40 different languages, and Oswald Chambers’s unique and timeless wisdom is quoted far and wide.

However, until recently, little thought has been given to the fact that My Utmost was not published until ten years after Chambers’s death, and that it was his wife, Gertrude “Biddy” Hobbs Chambers who took on the mammoth task of compiling and editing nearly twenty years’ worth of sermons and lessons. Michelle Ule has traced this process in telling the story of the woman behind the great man:  Mrs. Oswald Chambers: The Woman behind the World’s Bestselling Devotional

Number 2–Blessed Are the Unsatisfied by Amy Simpson

8 Blessings of the Unsatisfied LifeAmy Simpson noticed early on that the tidy claims of Christianity were not lining up with the reality she was living at home. Suffering from the impact of her mother’s serious and debilitating mental illness, her family was certainly not strolling toward heaven with all their needs met and a smile on their faces. At this point, standard issue story-telling practices beg for an ending tied with a bow:  college, marriage, a successful career, and a loving family of her own–all a straight arrow toward deep satisfaction. However, in Blessed Are the Unsatisfied: Finding Spiritual Freedom in an Imperfect World, the reader is caught up in paradox, for even though many of Amy’s personal and professional goals have been met, she confesses that she still lives “with a kind of unsatisfaction that will not be lifted in this life.”

Number 1–A Leopard Tamed by Eleanor Vandevoort

A Leopard Tamed, Eleanor Vandevort, Missionary BiographyOver fifty years ago, Eleanor Vandevort came home from South Sudan in the wake of political unrest. Her thirteen years of language acquisition, Bible translation, literacy work, and relationship building were cut short with no certainty as to their effect or ultimate impact. When she set down the account of her struggle and her achievements in A Leopard Tamed, she was a woman ahead of her time, asking questions few in the golden age of U.S. missions were asking and even fewer wanted to entertain.

 

At this point, I want to draw all kinds of conclusions and ask all kinds of questions about this data:

  • What does it say about readers and about our world that two of my top blog posts featured women for whom we have only black and white photos?
  • What can we learn about ministry in general from this evidence that the stories of other women are such compelling reading?

At the very least, this is a call to share YOUR story whenever and wherever God give you the opportunity!
It’s a reminder to me that my most compelling words in 2019 will likely be centered around the record of what God is doing right now in my life to put His glory on display.

So, at the end of a year that has seen its share of great moments:  a fruitful garden, a new kitchen, a growing pair of grandkids that get cuter every day, I want to thank you for your interest in reading about the things the I’ve been reading about.

December at Living Our Days

December always seems to get short changed with all the year end musings, and with so many glorious things to write about in December, I managed to share only three book reviews.

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At the beginning of Advent, I can never resist opening my Bible to the page between the Testaments for a time of remembering the faithful men and women who waited for God to fulfill His promise of a Deliverer.

This year, that pondering time overflowed into a blog post devoted to Simeon’s story. Then, those few verses devoted to Herod’s jealous response to news of a newborn King have always bothered me, like a pebble in the shoe, so I spent some time giving them the attention they deserve and the results landed at Desiring God and Red Letter Christians.

What a unique opportunity Christmas gives us to minister to grieving parents in memory of those babies who fell prey to Herod’s sword. Too, the event reminds us that even Jesus’ entry into this world was tinged with blood, a foreshadowing of His divinely orchestrated purpose in coming to earth in the first place.

 

The new year will begin my fifth year blogging here at Living Our Days. This little writing home has been the gateway to some wonderful friendships and some exciting opportunities to teach and to write in places I would never have expected. Thank you for your faithfulness here in reading and sharing posts you’ve loved with your friends via word of mouth and social media.

And thanks be to God! Let’s join the psalmist in our thanksgiving as 2018 comes to a close:

“You crown the year with your bounty.”  Psalm 65:11

Blessings and Love to You,

Michele Morin


I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase any of the books mentioned within this post, simply click on the title within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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8 Blessings of the Unsatisfied Life

Amy Simpson noticed early on that the tidy claims of Christianity were not lining up with the reality she was living at home. Suffering from the impact of her mother’s serious and debilitating mental illness, her family was certainly not strolling toward heaven with all their needs met and a smile on their faces. In fact, even though they seemed to be “doing the Christian life” according to all the patterns and prerequisites, their family was always just shy of “normal” and the provision they experienced always just short of enough. Unsatisfied with government cheese and feeling deprived on every level, Amy’s childhood was characterized by unmet longings and the dream of a “normal” life.

At this point, standard issue story-telling practices beg for an ending tied with a bow:  college, marriage, a successful career, and a loving family of her own–all a straight arrow toward deep satisfaction. However, in Blessed Are the Unsatisfied: Finding Spiritual Freedom in an Imperfect World, the reader is caught up in paradox, for even though many of Amy’s personal and professional goals have been met, she confesses that she still lives “with a kind of unsatisfaction that will not be lifted in this life.”

If this is (secretly) your experience as well, find companionship with the writer of Ecclesiastes and take hope from these words from the author:

“Jesus doesn’t fulfill all our longings in this life. Instead, he offers us his peace. Jesus does not remove us from the fog of death and the ongoing consequences of human rebellion against God. He does not give us a ‘get out of suffering free’ card.” (4)

The moments of satisfaction we experience on this planet are transient at best. Here, we live in the tension of embracing the blessing of an unsatisfied life in which contentment lives alongside longing, and where we rest and rejoice in the given without succumbing to a Pollyanna-ish form of optimism.

Living unsatisfied is acres and acres apart from living dissatisfied, for nothing is ever acceptable to the chronically discontented soul. “Dissatisfaction is an active–sometimes even purposeful–absence, rejection, or refusal of satisfaction in a context where satisfaction is expected. It breeds discontentment, contempt, and a feeling of emptiness. And it is miserable.”  By contrast, an unsatisfied life combines acceptance with anticipation in an “embrace of the God-shaped vacuum in us, . . . a healthy hunger that is content to wait for the feast.” (41)

With this mindset, Amy Simpson shares 8 blessings that accompany the unsatisfied life:

1.  The Blessing of Need

Unsatisfaction is a reminder that we need God. No matter how gifted or “together” I am, my self-sufficiency is insufficient for living Christ-like and for managing the disappointments that come. Moses knew it and tried to warn the nation of Israel:

Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied,then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery…”

2.  The Blessing of Perspective

If I can be satisfied by clicking “Add to Cart,” I will not go looking for answers beyond my next purchase. However, living in an awareness that there is NOTHING (even on Amazon!) that will slake my cravings and fill my emptiness, my ears are open to the voice of God, and my heart is looking for answers in the intangible Truth of Scripture.

3.  The Blessing of God’s Heartbeat

My longing heart is the puzzle piece that will connect with the big picture of God’s family and with humanity at large, a collection of longing people, all with their own disconnected edges. When I stop longing for a better world and miss the needs of others, I’m a corner piece, hanging off the edge of the picture and missing the truth of God’s great love and HIS ache for the disconnected and the hurting.

4.  The Blessing of Focus

If you’ve heard the plaintive refrain of U2’s “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for” and identified with the serial disappointment of chasing after the visible and the temporal, you know the importance of turning our eyes toward the unseen–“for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 

5.  The Blessing of Company

My  husband and I have tried to portray this truth to our kids with the old adage: “People who are all wrapped up in themselves make a pretty small package.” And it’s obvious:  if I’m satisfied with my own company and that of a few safe others, I’ll never venture into the unknown. Living unsatisfied pushes me into community.

6.  The Blessing of Growth

Back in the 90’s my co-workers and I rolled our eyes at employee meetings that were basically pep rallies for the latest Continuous Product Quality Improvement initiative. As annoying as institutional rah-rah-rah can be, the notion of continuous improvement is a line from the playbook of Scripture and the unsatisfied life of the Apostle Paul: “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:14)

7.  The Blessing of Vision

Amy recalls a joint project in which her own predominantly white church partnered with a predominantly African American church with both congregations enjoying “fellowship” staked out on opposite sides of a cafeteria. She remembers thinking that this was unnatural and wrong . . . but inertia won out and she stayed in her seat instead of reaching out and mingling. I want to be unsatisfied with “as is” so that I will keep dreaming about how things could be.

8.  The Blessing of Anticipation

Every once in a while my boys will ask with a sleepy voice, “What’s for breakfast tomorrow, Mum?” I’ve stopped asking them why they want to know, because I remember from past experience:  they want to know what they have to look forward to in the morning, and when you’re a teen boy, food is a pretty big deal. Anticipation is risky, but if I remain immune to the sadness of loss that comes with death or if I fail to enter into the reality of God’s promises, still pending fulfillment, I may fall prey to the short-sighted notion that redemption is limited to what my eyes can detect today and that this temporary world is my real home.

Sustainable Faith Is Expectantly Unsatisfied

The Sermon on the Mount, with its pronouncement of blessing upon the most unlikely of people, lands like an indictment on the ears of those who prefer to thrive on their own terms. Sometimes it’s easier for us to lower our expectations and to live disappointed and without hope than it is for us to embrace an uncomfortable hope. The truth is, however, that the only sustainable Christian life is one in which we give up the chase, embrace delayed gratification, and lean into the blessings of living unsatisfied.

Many thanks to IVP Books for providing a copy of this book for my review which is, of course, freely and honestly given.

Additional Resources

Amy Simpson was featured on one of my favorite podcasts, the February 15 edition of Quick to Listen. Click here to listen as she answers questions about her book and about issues surrounding mental illness and the church’s response.


I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase,  Blessed Are the Unsatisfied: Finding Spiritual Freedom in an Imperfect World simply click on the title here, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox. Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging communities on a regular basis. They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week. I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Every blessing,