Arise

Dear Friend,

It’s so sunny here today.  Bright green tendrils of the pea plants we seeded are trying to climb the cord for the blinds, and I remembered to tie a scarf around the doorbell chimes so the bliss of naptime won't be interrupted by a box of diapers being delivered.  I feel so much lighter this month.  So much calmer and better able to roll with the punches.  March was rough here.  Maybe it is for everyone, with the gloomy, grey-brown of winter that seems to drag on and on.  But this year my car was totaled in a rear ending, and our baby got RSV and pneumonia, which made for scary trips to the ER, purchasing a nebulizer, and generally a lot of stress.  It was a long ten days til he turned the corner, and recovering from the mental/physical toll of that time took another couple weeks.  These are times I feel God reminding me to trust Him.  Watching my listless baby in the car as the streetlights fly past, his burning little hands and bluish lips— I realize am NOT in control.  And I know me, I need those reality checks.  As much as I wish them away. 

I don’t know if my better mood is more because of the weather or the smily guy who is now talking to himself on the baby monitor, or because of the extra time I’ve had with God during lent.  Between lenten devotions, digging out all my dog-eared lenten piano music, lent church services and reading some new lent/Easter books we intentionally bought for Isabel this year, I’ve had more Jesus in my mind and in my heart.  On my lips and in my eyes as the world comes awake in spring.  Easter on the flowering ground and in the greening trees.  

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Yet it’s the same risen Lord whether I’m up or down, depleted or renewed.  Because He lives, I live.  On the hard days and the best days, I see Jesus.  Because He lives our joy is real, and even those dark days have meaning.  They draw me to a Savior who gives us perspective.  And isn’t that perspective huge?  For me it helps remembering these children are His, a trust from Him to shepherd for just a little while.  He holds our times in His hands and because He rose, we rise each day of grace to do our best for Him.  Some days my best looks better than others.  Some days it’s showered, some days not.  :) Some days I snap at my husband, make excuses and idols, and forget to pray.  The days I am the worst, when I’m most disappointed in myself, I’m most grateful for my Savior.  He did what we cannot and gave his perfect life in exchange for mine.  He rose to restore a broken relationship with God, He conquered sin and death.  

For if we have been united with him in a death like his we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like His.  For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— for one who has died has been set free from sin.  [….] The death he died, he died to sin once and for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

 Romans 6:5-7, 10

In Christ we died to sin too, and now are called to live for God, not for ourselves.  Our sinful nature need not control my behavior any more, a transformation has taken place!  Baptism symbolizes that transformation, and though many of us cried through just a liiiiittle water just sprinkled on our infant heads, historically the mode of baptism in the early church was immersion.  What a picture!  You are ‘buried’ in the water, completely submerged, the ‘old you’ disappearing beneath the surface, and a new risen self breaks the surface, transformed!   A soul washed clean in Jesus.  Woohoo!  How are baptisms such quiet celebrations in Lutheran churches?  They’re just so great!  Am I the only one who thinks there should be some cheering, some dancing?  Clapping?  Confetti?  :) 

Someday we will rise to life eternal, through faith, but for now God wills we keep on keepin’ on.  Rising each morning to glorify Him here.  As nature itself gets decked out for Easter, I’m catching up on sleep (yes, its glorious!) and renewing a commitment to live the new life I was raised with Christ to enjoy. 

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Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin.  Instead give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead but now you have new life. […] For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law but under grace.  Romans 6:13a, 14 

I came across this prayer while researching some spring preschool activities to do at home.  Maybe it was included because preschoolers have a way of eliciting extra prayers from their parents...  Whatever the reason it was too good not to share.  Attributed to St. Patrick in 433, perhaps you’ve seen it before.  I’ve seen snippets of it in greeting cards or on a canvas at a friend's house, a morning prayer for God to guide you, and that Christ may be in all things we do.  Not a bad way to start off, hmm?  I printed a copy of this excerpt and taped it by the coffee pot.  You know that’s where things usually start at my house.  :)  Happy Easter!  He is Risen!

I arise today through

God’s strength to pilot me,

God’s might to sustain me,

God’s wisdom to guide me,

God’s eye to look before me,

God’s ear to hear me,

God’s word to speak for me,

God’s hand to protect me,

God’s way to lie before me,

God’s hosts to guard me

From snares of devils,

From the temptings of evil desires,

From the evil inclination of my will,

From everyone who plots against me,

far and near.

Christ shield me today.

Christ with me,

Christ before me, Christ after me,

Christ within me,

Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ on my right, Christ on my left,

Christ where I lie, Christ where I sit,

Christ where I arise.

Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,

Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,

Christ in every eye that sees me,

Christ in every ear that hears me.

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Seven Ways my Children are Missionaries to Me

Becoming a parent is such a huge blessing. While children can try every last nerve, they can also make your heart swell in the very same moment. Something I didn't necessary anticipate was how much the relationship that I have with my children would parallel my relationship with God. It's like my children are little missionaries-- whether they know it or not! They remind me of what my Heavenly Father has done for me. They are an example of what my faith should look like. And so much more! So I have come up with a little listy-list to show you examples of what I mean.

  1. I often have to break up fights between siblings. This includes telling someone to say "I'm sorry" and someone else to say "I forgive you" in return. What a great reminder of confessing our sins to our Heavenly Father and of the awesome forgiveness we freely receive in return.
  2. Sometimes I have to apologize to my children for something I have done. After telling them sorry, everything returns to normal almost instantly. They are so quick to forgive -- just like our Heavenly Father is quick to forgive us! 
  3. It never ceases to make me smile when I hear my kids singing while they are playing on their own. Often it includes them belting their favorite songs they learned at Sunday school or school. What an example to be bold and unashamed of our faith -- so much so that we can shout it at the top of our lungs with enthusiasm! 
  4. Do you ever get annoyed by having to ask your child to do the same thing over and over again before they finally do it? It really is a great reminder of how much patience our God has for us! How many times have we sinned against our Father -- over and over even! He so patient -- slow to anger and abounding in love. 
  5. In the frenzy of lunch, sometimes my children are the ones that remind me we have to pray still. What a blessing to have them as a reminder to give thanks! 
  6.  On Sunday my kids are so excited for Sunday school. What great role models for me so that I can be just as excited! We have a great blessing and a great privilege to learn about Jesus as often as we do! 
  7. After a long, trying day with my kids, even if it was the worst of worst days, I still love them. Completely. Our Heavenly Father will always love us, despite our many shortcomings, no matter what. Completely.

Once you start making these connections, they can be kind of hard to miss. I love this because it's a constant, daily (sometimes hourly!) reminder for me. Being reminded of God, his love, and all that he has done for me is a lovely way to carry on my days. 

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Shine Like Stars (and Fireflies)

My garden has a bunch of fireflies that hang out in my plants during the day, and then glitter up at night. Lots of them. It’s very magical, the more lights the better. Those little bugs always remind me of the section in Philippians about shining like stars, fireflies always have. It also reminds me how a group of us shining our lights together can be a beautiful thing. As Christian women, this can be us shining together.

Do we shine together, though? It’s tough. The mom lifestyle of our generation includes a healthy amount of online research to get a handle on all the latest data and theories about raising babies. Popular topics include car seats, sunscreen, diapers, food, screen time, education. The list goes on. We all do this reading because we love our kids and have the best of intentions. As Christians, we understand we should shine like stars. We understand we should be examples to the world around us. It is really easy, though, to take the wisdom of the world and infuse it into our Christian wisdom. It is really easy to decide that the decisions we make in our own families, in our Christian freedom (the areas God has not specifically spelled out), are the best decisions and if people are wise, they will do exactly the same. It is at this point we should really pause and think about what we are doing.

I found my dog's toy laying in yard one night, bug-eyed and squished on every side. I relate to this Mr. Pig toy most days. Don't most mamas?

I found my dog's toy laying in yard one night, bug-eyed and squished on every side. I relate to this Mr. Pig toy most days. Don't most mamas?

This is the point at which mom-shaming often enters the picture, even for Christian mothers. Mom-shaming is really any kind of condescending attitude towards other moms. It’s a bit of adult bullying, passive-aggressive comments, snarky posts on social media, posting pictures of our impossible-to-follow diet foods along with a pat-myself-on-the-back caption, sharing tons and tons of articles about all the ways to get the mom stuff down to perfection (implying we have implemented all these things personally). When we slip into the guilty pleasure of mom-shaming each other – our spiritual immaturity is showing. Isn’t it true that when we are putting others down it is because of insecurities of our own? Whether we are realizing it or not, we feel a little taller when we stomp down on others. Yet, this behavior doesn’t gain us respect with others and it has nothing to with shining like stars. It is a good way to dim our own lights and those of others. Let’s give each other a break.

Jesus spent his time befriending sinners, amazing grace behavior which he credits to our accounts. His friends never had it all together, many of them dealing with big issues. And yet, we turn around and cut each other down over small things like iPad time and gluten in the name of being good shining examples of motherhood. Love and acceptance can be elusive among moms, that shouldn’t be. We all stand in the same grace.

This is what fireflies do all day. They are pretty relaxed.

This is what fireflies do all day. They are pretty relaxed.

Holding each other to motherhood perfection is not what it means to be shining stars. That is, in reality, just a modern-day Pharisee game in new organic packaging. Just as the Pharisees of Jesus’ day loved their own longs lists of rules, we construct additional rules around motherhood, levels of perfection. Even though they may initially be well-intentioned actions aimed at health and goodness, our little ones watch us getting caught up in this self-righteous behavior and then Facebook boasting about it. So stressful, heavy, exhausting. Spiritually exhausting.

To be a shining star is something much more joyful. It is something lighter, happier, and really isn’t about our own shininess or perfection. To be a shining star is something that happens because you hold firmly to the word of life. It is to love the gospel. It is to spend so much time with your Jesus that all the noise of social media motherhood guidance fades away into the lesser priorities to be handled later, if necessary. It is to hold dear the wisdom given by God (not the internets) through his word for life. Real life. Forever life.

While shining like stars, holding to the word, we will begin to see each Christian woman for her beautiful spiritual gifts before her faults because we see her has a sister in Christ through eyes of faith. Words of encouragement in those gifts will come to mind before the sharp criticism - because that is what the Holy Spirit can work into our hearts through God’s Word. He smooths out our sharp edges and fills us with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control. All of those things. To each of us, as a gift. Along with that gift, confidence in ourselves as unique, loved children of God.

…for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose…. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.

- Philippians 2:13,15

It is God who makes us into shining stars, everything we need for that is in his word. We will not find the ability to be a shining star within the collective mothering wisdom of our generation. We will not be stars by just being really good moms. We will not show our children how to be shining stars if we use any source of light other than the amazing sacrifice and love of Jesus. Fall in love with that gospel again and again and your light will shine. Your kids will see, other moms will see. The more lights, the better.

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.

 

- Philippians 2:12-18