Musings — September 2017

The geese have already begun their practice maneuvers over our heads on this country hill. They’re getting ready to go, so at least one goofy son will have asked the annual joke question:

“Why is one side of the longer than the other?”
Pause and grin.
The answer?
“One side of the is longer than the other because it has more geese.”
And I laugh every year because that joke parallels my own habit of peering into a simple matter and making it more complicated than it needs to be.

I’m still reading Jeremiah these days, and it occurs to me that he must have looked overhead and observed the patterns of migratory birds as well:

“Even the stork in the heavens
Knows her appointed times;
And the turtledove, the swift, and the swallow
Observe the time of their coming.
But My people do not know the judgment of the Lord.”   Jeremiah 8:7

For birds of the air, obedience to the call of God is a matter of instinct. They know the time has come to move, and so they do it. I’m envious at times of their place in what Mary Oliver has called “the family of things.” But then, when I hear their wild call as they begin their flight to a southern home, I’m reminded to be thankful for the gift of choice.

On My Mind

This fall I’m working on a concept I read about on Philip Yancey’s blog. He’s quoting Charles Chu in urging readers to construct “a fortress of habits.” In his case it’s a matter of being disciplined in his reading, but my fortress of habits is needed around the practice of healthy eating and exercise. I want to be like those geese flying overhead: to just keep doing the right thing over and over and over . . . without thinking about it too much (remember the joke?) or making excuses to give myself an out. After all, if I think about obedience too long, I might be tempted to fall into the habits of disobedience Jeremiah lamented in the nation of Israel as he watched the birds fly overhead.

On the Blog

Readers at Living Our Days are three weeks into a book discussion group around Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry. It’s not too late to join us, and I know you’ll find the participants’ comments to be insightful. They’ve certainly been enhancing my own reading of the story! If you enjoy asking questions about the faith and diving into a cast of quirky but lovable characters, you’ll enjoy our low-pressure meandering journey through Jayber’s story.

 

In keeping with my resolve to keep my reading life down to a dull roar, I’ve reviewed only three books in September:

*** 1 ***

Table Mentoring  is a challenge to share this following life alongside another, and author Sue Moore Donaldson has Scriptural backing:

“God comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, He brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.”  ~I Corinthians 1:3,4

Fair warning: This book has changed the way I pray about mentoring, and with its helpful collection of printables for use in a mentoring relationship, I’m finding myself eager to use them and believing what Sue has said:

“If you know one promise in God’s Word, you are ready to mentor that one promise.  Ask God for someone to share it with today.”

*** 2 ***

Shauna Shanks had every reason to give up on her marriage. Her husband had been unfaithful, he had zero interest in reconciling with her, and her hope was wearing thin. A Fierce Love is a record of her resolve to fight for her marriage and to live by the principles of I Corinthians 13 in a posture of grace and restraint. Shauna clung to the truth that God had already set a high value upon her, and this guarded her heart from dwelling on negative thoughts and helped to pull her out of depression and despair.

“The Bible instructs us to take our thoughts captive.  We act as though we have no control over our thoughts . . . as if once they pop into our heads, we have to let them live there.
Take them captive.  They will kill you.”

*** 3 ***

In Peace in the ProcessKristin Hill Taylor shares her astonishment at the great gift of insight adoption brought to her understanding of the Christian life. Understanding the depth of God’s choosing love and leaning into this faith gave Kristin peace in the process of becoming a mum and leaving a much-loved career to stay home with her first child. The Taylors went on to adopt two more babies, each story unique and each child a gift from God.

By sharing the details of each adoption and including the diverse stories of a number of friends who also adopted, Kristin prepares readers who are considering adoption for the twists and turns of the process that sent her to Daniel’s Old Testament anthem to God’s sovereignty:

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
For wisdom and might are His.
And He changes the times and the seasons;
He removes kings and raises up kings;
He gives wisdom to the wise
And knowledge to those who have understanding.
 He reveals deep and secret things;
He knows what is in the darkness,
And light dwells with Him.  (Daniel 2:20-23)

On the Hill

The garden is still producing green beans, tomatoes, and enough other things that I’m almost afraid to go look. Best of all are the sunflowers which I always plant with abandon. The last time I checked, the pumpkins were turning orange, and I haven’t even begun to harvest the beets and squash.  Joy!

All the pink-lettering in this post cannot possibly have escaped your attention.  Or maybe it did, but this mum of four sons and one grandson has had precious little use for the color pink in the past 23 years, but things are about to change around these parts.

Rosanna newborn

 

Welcome to the family, little Rosanna Marie Morin, born on September 12 and weighing in at 8 lbs. and 3 oz. Her gorgeous dark hair is covered by the hat, but I promise to share more pictures soon.

(I’d be happy to share more pictures.
It’s no trouble at all . . . honest!)

 

This one with her dad (my oldest son) and her big brother is my favorite.

 

Thanks to all for reading and for your encouraging comments throughout the month. You’ve made this a safe and welcoming place for me and for others, and I am grateful for your positive input and your interest in the stories of how God meets us in the process of Living Our Days.

 

Photo in featured image by Ethan Weil on Unsplash

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Musings – March 2017

We’ve known for quite a while, so . . . what a relief to finally be able to share with the world the wonderful news that our second grandchild will make his/her appearance in September!  For this blessed grandmother (“Bam”), this also means that I get extra time for painting and baking and reading stories with big brother while my daughter-in-law goes to her doctor appointments.

Capture
This picture was taken before the blueberry stains had found his chin or the molasses had streaked a brown smear over his eyebrows.

After that headline, all other news in this monthly recap will pale, but it’s been a busy and productive month in other ways as well . . .

On the Nightstand

While I’m sure that Krista Tippett and I would not agree, point for point, on a few matters theological, I devoured Becoming Wise for its respectful and listening tone, elegant sentences, and broad scope of voices.  Since I won’t be reviewing it on the blog, I’ll tempt you with a few quotes:

“As love crosses the chasms between us, it likewise brings them into relief.  Stand hospitably before those who offend and harm and drive us crazy.”

“Western Christianity lost some of the cleansing power of mystery when it became a bedfellow with empire and later, again in its headlock with science.”

“Hope, like every virtue, is a choice that becomes a practice that becomes spiritual muscle memory.  It’s a renewable resource for moving through life as it is, not as we wish it to be.”

I’m also working my way (slowly) through Nancy Guthrie’s Seeing Jesus.  Each evening I receive a reminder from its pages that the Old Testament and the New Testament deliver one glorious message, and that this message needs to be at the foundation of all my writing and teaching.  And by the way, Nancy’s podcast, Help Me Teach the Bible, is currently one of my favorites.

On the Blog

It’s always a privilege and an adventure to be invited into another writing space, and this month one of my posts appeared at (in)courage, the online community that is the vision of DaySpring (the Christian subsidiary of Hallmark Cards, Inc.).  The (in) means that we are in Christ, connected, and in community with each other, and that was certainly my experience as I interacted with readers on the topic of hospitality and friendship.  I’d love it if you joined the conversation over there.  If you are looking for a community that offers life-giving tools to equip you right in the midst of the chaos, you’ll want to subscribe.

Another community that is less well-known, but vibrant and growing is Ruby Magazine.  They shared one of my reviews in their March issue — A Glorious Dark by A.J. Swoboda, a book about believing which confronts the loss and defeat of Friday and the awkward silence of Saturday with Sunday morning resurrection truth.

Earlier this month, we wrapped up a ten-week long on-line book discussion group that featured C.S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces.  Not only did we survive the process, but we also enjoyed the weekly sharing of insights and great input from people who approached the book from all kinds of perspectives.  If you love Lewis’s fiction, you’ll be challenged and inspired by his last (and, in his opinion, his best!) book.

The most-read post at Living Our Days in the month of March may possibly have been my most-read post of all time (and someday I’m sure I’ll figure out enough about the backside of my blog to actually make that comparison with confidence . . .).  Start Where I Am.  Use What I Have.  is my commentary on change and the following life; on children leaving and grandchildren arriving; and on my cranky relationship with technology and mud season.

Just for Joy

It’s not every day that I get into my car and drive away from this country hill with no husband and no children, but that’s what happened on the next-to-the-last Friday of March, and the welcome I received on the other end made me wonder what all my angst was about.  The women of North Uxbridge Baptist Church in Massachusetts invited me to teach at their spring conference.  We met over the Word of God three times that day, and the smiles and nods of that group of godly learners, the sound of all those voices lifted in worship, and the warm fellowship over coffee, around the table at lunchtime, and between sessions mirrored the welcome that God extends to all of us in the Gospel.

It occurred to me on the four-hour drive home that, although I cannot see your nods and smiles, you, my faithful readers, extend that same welcome to me here each time you visit, and so, I thank you for your continual encouragement in this tiny gathering place.  

Grace and peace to you, and may your celebration of Christ’s resurrection be filled with joy.

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As usual, I’m joining the What I’m Into party over at Leigh Kramer’s place.

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Staying Strong in the Seasons of Life

Because we started our family later than some, my husband and I are well into our fifties and are still up to our fetlocks in parenting.  Because our oldest son and his wife started their family earlier than some, we are also beginning the season of grandparenting.  Since I’m a bit over-the-top in the whole planning and structure realm, I guess I thought that we’d get a break in between these two seasons to re-tool, become wise, and maybe . . . finish our house.

Sarah Geringer reminds me that God’s timing is perfect, and in her devotional Newness of Life, she invites me to examine my life in terms of thresholds with a determination to view each season with confidence and anticipation of all that God will do —  even when the seasons overlap in ways that I did not foresee!  She is writing from a season of pre-teen children with its financial pressures, time constraints, and quiet doubts.  Set against the backdrop of Ecclesiastes 3, her own story and the words of tired King Solomon make it clear that God is at work in orchestrating the big picture:  birth and death, planting and harvesting, tearing down and building up, grieving and dancing.  And, thankfully, He is also present in the seasons that, to us, seem to be less momentous:  the scattering and gathering, keeping and throwing away, silence and speaking.

I have had a tendency, in the past, to view the momentous words of Scripture from a distance.  After all, when does a homeschooling mother of four who lives on a country hill with spotty Internet service ever encounter a season that tips on a balance of war and peace?  How about on a Sunday morning in a house with one bathroom and six people who need showers?  It turns out that this life of mothering and sock sorting is a great test case for the long view that says there is “a time for every activity under heaven.”  The truth of the gospel is also present in those long ago Old Testament lines of poetry, for each threshold of life is one more occasion in which to witness the newness of life that Jesus ushered in, that we might have life “to the full.”

Listen to the implications:

“In your seasons of birth and death, Jesus remembers you.
In your seasons of planting and harvesting, Jesus bears fruit through you.
In your seasons of killing and healing, Jesus transforms you.
In your seasons of tearing down and building up, Jesus is your cornerstone . . .
In your seasons of war and peace, Jesus empowers you.”

Hildegard von Bingen famously said, “I am a feather on the breath of God.”

When the unpredictability of life is viewed from this angle, there is beauty and a keen anticipation of what God will do next.  In times of transition, our response is key.

What will you do with the newness of this particular season of your life?

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This book was provided by the author in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Great news!

Sarah has released her new devotional The Fruitful Life, just in time for this Lenten season.  Click here to read more about it or to pick up your copy!

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.

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Start Where I Am. Use What I Have.

When my thrifty mother-in-law made mincemeat, she would start with the venison roast from a deer who may have had the audacity to nibble on her tulip leaves.  From there, she would improvise, adding whatever needed using up on that particular day:  a batch of jam that didn’t “set up” just right or an over-abundance of applesauce.  Somehow, the mincemeat always simmered fragrant and delicious.

When I make mincemeat, I follow a recipe – to the letter. But it is likely that if any of my daughters-in-law find a need for that particular pie filling, they will just buy a jar off the shelf.
(Or I will give them one of mine!)

I’m well aware that generational change is a given, but having BOTH a graduation AND a wedding on my spring calendar this year brings it to center stage.  Good and exciting things happen quickly once our kids hit the double digits, so I’m braced and on board.  Change is on the menu whether I like it or not.

I’m choosing to like it.

However, here just below the 45th parallel, where the sun rises in its own good time, spring is still weeks away.

The majestic evergreens and the kindness of low  bushes that turn a deep red after they drop their leaves are all that rescue my mid-winter landscape from a panorama of sepia and gray.  Last night, Venus and the waxing crescent moon were veiled in mist, and the damp cold that is seeping into my bones today tells me that change is on the way.  And I welcome it.

If it’s got to be winter anyway, then let it be cold.  Let the ground stay hard, and let the sky send a fresh, clean blanket of white every few days to relieve the monotony of all that has expired.  Better to walk on frozen ground or across the crunch of snow than to sink into the mud of mid-winter acedia.  Better to bring my mittens, my shovel, and my small resiliency to a beautiful world than to mourn the slow and uncertain advent of spring.

In this season of slow sunrise and early dark when the daffodils snooze and the robins make angry phone calls to their travel agents, I will make fish chowder and fill up the empty spaces around my table with people who need the full feeling that comes from a hearty welcome.  After all, no matter how earnest my intentions, I cannot make less than six quarts of anything.  (And I can’t shake the idea that if Jesus had walked the frozen fields of New England instead of the dusty roads of Galilee, He would have worked His way with a metaphor around an abundant kettle of steaming chowder.)

With sons coming and going, who knows how many bowls I will need to put on the table?  This ever-changing count provides a concrete measure, a confirmation of the vague sensation I carry that someone, somewhere has thrown a lever, releasing a huge gush of life from this busy and crowded home.

This season of change includes Driver’s Ed — Round 4. This time, I’m certain that the boy behind the wheel was napping in his crib just yesterday, while I weeded green beans and scribbled in a journal.  Today, I handed him my cell phone (which he immediately silenced) and told him to call me when he needed to be picked up.

My first cellphone had a tiny antenna on it.  It rang infrequently, but when it did, I usually missed the call anyway, because, buried in my purse, it sounded like a distant chainsaw in the woods.

I still keep my phone in my purse, despite the “fervent counsel” (i.e. nagging) of my children.
Them:  “Where were you?”
Me:  “In the garden.”
Them:  “Why didn’t you take your phone with you?”
Me:  (momentary silence while I try to adjust my wording and tone to be kinder than I am feeling)  “Because I carried a baby monitor around in the garden for ten years.”

Is it a sign of progress that, now, when I hear a distant chain saw in the woods, I run for my cell phone?

A more urgent question:  Am I willing to “outgrow” my crankiness and claustrophobia about technology in order to connect with the important people in my life?

Facebook updates me on the steady advance of the cancer that is tunneling its way through one more friend.  Closer to home, dementia is stealing the self-hood and the memories of yet another precious personality whose creativity and warm laughter are forever lost to this world – while she wanders a locked-down ward and curls up on the wrong bed for her afternoon nap.

Thanks be to God that the offset of all this lament comes in celebration of the full-body smile of my adorable grandson who has absolutely no idea how much joy he adds to the world just by inhabiting his own tiny skin,.  And while it is true that it is the voice of the Lord that “strips the forest bare,” it is also true that when “winter is past [and] the rain over and gone, the flowers appear on the earth . . . and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.  The fig tree ripens is figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance,” (Song of Solomon 2:11-13).  I will bring what I am learning about patience from this cycling of the seasons to my navigation of a life of perpetual change.

I will start where I am with my full days and my inconsistencies and my pitiful mixed motives.

I will use what I have, putting it all in the pot to simmer, and somehow, by the grace of God, I believe that it will be enough.

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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.