month of peace // glow

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Christmastime smells different to me. It’s in the air (yes, even Southern Californian air.) I can feel the change and I’m not referring to constant LEXUS car commercials, frenzied mall shopping, or holiday tunes in mid-October.

No,

From the last day of November until fireworks usher in the New Year, our family finds itself truly living in the glow of the season. I like to believe that it is just as wonderful as I imagine it in my mind, and it certainly is, but this is only because I actively set aside the normal and embrace the magical. The light-filled month of December is our true homage to life-giving truth and love. Feeling the warmth of the Christ-child and His birth. Knowing that all of life can be a bit muddled but inside our hearts and home, there is space. Rest.

My girls (and I) pack away the more vigorous aspects of homeschool – notebooks and science experiments are placed on a shelf and replaced with the finer things in life. There are moments that I wonder why we don’t park in this space for an entire year but I then reflect on the value of this season. How it deserves to be placed a bit higher. Reverence. Time allotted to breath, peacefully reflect and quietly learn.

If this all sounds a bit emotionally and nostalgically charged, it’s because it is. This month has become sacred in our house – the girls know that it won’t be filled with calendars and daily routines. No assignment lists or checked boxes. As a creature who thrives on rhythm and order, December is the time when I breath a sigh of relief and allow time to run away from me. No grand expectations or requirements. I want this month to be rife with tranquility and (as we have been working toward a new family culture) the last few years definitely have granted us rest and warmed souls. While the world outside speaks of stress and anxiousness – booked evenings and overspending, I relish in this time with my girls and husband. We intentionally keep our days clear and allow them to organically fill. It takes work but it is a worthy investment. When the moments of wonder come and overtake us with awe, we are ready. We don’t miss it.

Tangibly speaking, we transform our normal routines and clean house. We fill our home with books which reflect the season. We slowly rise and linger more at the table, speaking of the weather (although often it changes to the weather somewhere else, as SoCal weather is pretty basic during December) and eating really, really rich and heartwarming food. It certainly isn’t a strict time of moderation, but rather savoring very good things – because we have time to appreciate them, without rushing. A fire is constantly roaring, whether outside or in and allows hours of inviting friends in, cooking and baking. Long walks through our neighborhood, although often treaded, take on completely invigorating scenery. I take a term-long break from my normal schoolwork, forsaking the studies towards my masters degree for a 6 week term in paper crafts, baking cookies and glitter glue. Writing a letter that has been due. Sitting longer and not feeding the urge to jump up and do do do. Basking in the good and hard memories of years past – allowing room for the Lord to heal and bring about renewal.

All of these things are possible. If only we hand over our busy inclinations and remain.

So, I wait. I bake pumpkin bread and cook a turkey and feel extremely thankful. I enjoy the month of November because it’s more time the Lord has granted me with my girls, my friends and my husband.

But I wait. And I wait.

Because the season of peace is almost upon us.

***

Dear reader,

If this all seems rather whimsical, it really isn’t……It’s simply a call to give the best part of you to the season of Christmas, rather than allow the commercialization of December to eat your alive. I encourage you to carve out days, weeks and moments this upcoming season to dedicate to filling your soul with promises from the Lord and His truth, goodness and salvation. It’s not as intensive as it may seem. It’s a gift the Lord offers each of us.

Bring a basket into your living room and fill it to the brim with books that bring families together such as this advent, these short stories, or my personal favorite Christmas book (which can be read all year long.) Read whenever it comes to you, without regard to time (well, I mean, you have to feed your children and stuff.)

Wrap yourself in a blanket and sit with your kids. Light a candle, turn on a beautiful Pandora station (Christmas hymns station is our go to) and play a game or two. Bake. Play cards with your kids and light a fire. Make something simple for your neighbors and give yourself time to walk over to their homes and actually talk with them. Take all the opportunities to serve at your church and in your community (and easy way to serve others that I’m sure your church is doing also.) The season is hard for many people – give your time and resources to others. Come home and talk with your children about it. Create a culture of giving and inviting. Sing Christmas hymns over bacon and cinnamon rolls. Watch a movie as a family. Work on forgiveness, even when it takes time and is especially painful. Call someone who you struggle with – someone who doesn’t deserve it.

Sit and bask in your tree, advent, Bible. Allow the season to slowly wash over you and keep the Lord locked in your vision and in your heart. Give Him this season in the small ways and He will hand it back to you in the largest way possible.

Be still and know. Submerge in the glow, peace and comfort of Christ.

Reformation Day // 500 years

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While everyone is passing out Snickers and hot glue-gunning the last detail on their child’s costume, I’m over here celebrating the 500th anniversary of Reformation Day. Before I even truly understood the importance of Luther, his 95 Theses, and Wittenberg, I had been looking for a way out of Halloween. I don’t care for it much. It rubs me the wrong way, and so when I began my journey through Reformed theology, and learned more about Reformation Day, I thought, “This couldn’t be more perfect!” Of course, that’s very self-serving, but hey….it’s a bonus, that’s for sure! Simply put, the fact that Luther turned religiosity on its head, and bravely called out impurities, needless tradition and abuse, from within the Roman Catholic church, is just so maverick. He wasn’t joking around and didn’t give a flying fig what anyone thought. He’s my kind of guy. We need more people who are bold like that. Especially now.

There are many articles/books/posts out there that will educate you on Martin Luther, Reformed theology, the importance of the 95 Theses, the SOLAS, and the differences between Protestantism vs. Catholicism. I won’t endeavor to write anything revolutionary on the topic because, if I’m honest, I’m not yet qualified. While I am certainly a “cradle Christian” and can handily defeat anyone in a game of Bible Trivia, I’m only a few years into my serious research and study of the Word and theology. I have a long way to go, and I’m grateful for that. Instead of penning my own thoughts, I’ll share some edifying resources and fun links. This should help you get into the spirit of celebration.

Happy Reformation Day and Soli Deo Gloria!

A primer on the Reformation 

Indulgences, explained

More background on Luther and the 5 Solas

Something for the kids

A podcast on the inspiring women of the Reformation

The implications of Luther’s theology

The Legacy of Luther (free ebook!)

Thoughts on a purchased salvation

Martin Luther style

My current favorite book on Martin Luther

Overcome // Overcomer

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We live in extraordinary times, don’t we?

As an armchair historian, I’m aware that every period of time is extraordinary in its own right. Nothing is new under the sun, but right now it feels like each day dawns with a new catastrophe. Everything feels unique to this age and insurmountably heavy. Burdensome. Several days ago, a friend was killed in a car accident. That same day I found out a new friend has cancer. One was diagnosed with another terminal disease. I have friends losing their foster children. Friends losing their parents to health problems. Sick children. Financial troubles.  In my own life, I’ve relinquished many hopes and notions of how things should be. There is hurt and severed relationships and memories. I see pain, confusion and sin.

I feel it, you feel it. Our culture is wilting and churning and I’m not up to the task. I like to think I am – with all my answers and social diagnosis’ and explanations and all my solutions.

At the end of the day, I am helpless. You are helpless.

But am I really? No.

To be helpless it to admit defeat and I know better than that. So do you.

As a believer, I know that this world is going to offer destruction, emptiness and suffering….in the form of:

adultry

gossip

racism

bitterness

lonliness

depression

addiction

hatefulness

gluttony

vengefulness

pride…….

But there is that still small voice that meets me, when my head hits the pillow (sometimes in tears):

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Yes. Yes. Yes.

You have overcome everything. That is why I have joy and I wake and can rejoice in all things – in pain and suffering and circumstances that make me cry out because of their injustice. You have your hand on these things and You have overcome. I can not make them work in my mind and I try and try but You overcome and you win and you are the champion of this war-torn, rotting world.

You are the only reason that we wade through the murky water. You are the answer and the deliverance.

You are the overcomer, Lord.

 

day to day // ritual

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Phillipians 4:4

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”

***

Being a stay-at-home mother and a homeschooling educator, I spend most of my time in our home. I also spend most of my time awake. Running up and down stairs, preparing food (SO MUCH FOOD ALL THE TIME), checking homework, diagramming sentences and breaking up quarrels. Reading books out loud, buying books on Audible (the best app in all the world), ordering them from Amazon, reviewing them and reading some more. Reminding children to use manners, say their prayers and stop sassin’.

It’s a good life. A really good life.

In fact, I can’t imagine living any other way. Well, actually I dream daily about owning a huge lot of land with hills and trees and twirling around all over it, similar to Maria in Sound of Music. But where I am right now is where God has me, and I do love it for many reasons, even without a wrap-around porch. I’ve been growing and learning much about contentment lately. It’s a choice and I’m choosing it. My friend and I have been mulling over the concept together and it’s been beneficial for me.

I find that each day is even more enjoyable with a few small daily traditions. Perhaps rituals is a better choice to describe what I mean. These are things that I can do to put a small spark in each day, even though each day has plenty of its own. I’m growing in contentment while also observing lovely things and allowing each day to move slowly and organically, as the Lord leads.

When my days include the following, everything is a bit more lovely.

***

I’m a vintage-collector, so I frequent estate sales. At one particularly large home, I found a treasure trove of books. I’m not sure I can explain just how elated I was. Underneath the stacks and stacks, I found this small devotional. It has become a cornerstone of my days and brings me such simple assurance. If you’re anything like Susanna Wesley, and only have a few moments to spare each day, throw that apron over your head and give those minutes to the Lord. Now go and try to find this book online. It’s worth the price and was certainly worth climbing around in a dusty attic.

***

Candles have been and will be my downfall. I have them lit, each and every day, and they warm my soul. This is a current favorite and while costly, absolutely ushers in the feeling of Fall. I’m able to be reminded of the beautiful seasons the Lord provides. There was a time I questioned our budget line-item for candles. But smell is and always has been so important to me. It’s a nostalgic trigger and almost always a pleasant one. It’s equally important my children have the chance at that too. Perhaps that’s weird but I’m sticking with it. I feel justified when we are out and smell something and my daughters share memories tied to their childhood, based on a scent. Both good and bad. Just think about your favorite smells and allow your mind to venture down memory lane (and take a gander at this interesting article, too.)

***

Music is a non-negotiable part of our homeschool day. It’s always on (music was my way of releasing the need for the news to constantly serve as background noise). If you have an Amazon Prime account (you simply must), head over to the music section and enjoy the abundant selection of free music, at your fingertips! Our favorite “Prime albums” are: “100 Must Have BACH Masterpieces”, “Classical For Learning”, Tiersen: Pour Amelie Piano Music” and “Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue, An American in Paris”. There are loads more, but these are our favorites. Along with this, this and this soundtrack.

***

I listen to The World And Everything In It and The Briefing daily. They are my source for daily news, from a Biblical perspective. I also receive this monthly magazine. These are both invaluable, inspirational and continually resources which bring me back to the foundation – God is in control. I am not. This is a good thing. I check no other news sources in the morning until I have checked these.

***

I hope several of my “rituals” might bring you renewed joy and bring gladness.

 

short thought // long marathon

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Hebrews 12:1

“Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”

Joshua 1:8

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”

***

I’ve heard it said that the Christian journey is similar to a marathon. The older I become, the more I accept this as a very accurate analogy. You begin excited and ready to implement your training. It’s new and (of course) difficult but your ambitious. Halfway in (mile 12 or so), you feel fatigue but find encouragement from small truth-tellers (those handing out water and oranges). Enough to sustain you. You catch second-winds occasionally and are motivated by others at the same pace.

However, you inevitably approach the dreaded “wall” around mile 20. Your legs cramp; you can’t do it. You’re weary and exhaustion has taken over, and while the end is somewhat in site, you have much farther to go – over six miles to be exact.

I’ve begun to realize that while I’m not at the end of my life (Lord willing) I’m no longer at the beginning of my Christian journey, either – wearing rose-colored glasses and being able to find strength through self-help evangelical jargon or sermon podcasts has come to an end.

I’m nearer to mile 20. I’m tired and exhausted and also more experienced and wise than when I began. I have miles to go before I’m complete but I can also see the finish line – where I end, desiring to devote my life to thoughtfulness, faithfulness and courage in the service of the Lord and His Kingdom. Mile 20 can be gruesome – marked with pain and suffering and truth that you had willingly set aside during the earlier miles.

But! Mile 20 is also a sanctifying marker in the race. You are ready for what is coming. You possess abounding faith. You laugh at the days to come because you have been there and you know who owns the clock.

A marathon is a good analogy for the journey which all Christ-believers find themselves on. May we run with diligence, perseverance and undaunted joy.

Rome // America // Victory

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I just finished my second course in my Masters program. During the course I researched the decline of the Roman Empire, and boy if it didn’t ring some bells and set off some alarms.

From Edward Gibbons book, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Gibbon’s observed, “The various modes of worship which prevailed in the Roman world were all considered by the people as equally true; by the philosopher as equally false; and by the magistrate as equally useful.”

I will spare you the numerous thoughts I have about the current state of our nation – I’m sure that you, much like myself, don’t need another voice in your ear. We all have too many. And I think that’s one of the problems. Our society has grown so accustomed to being told what to think, believe, advocate for, stand on and yell about, that we aren’t sure the truth anymore. We’ve descended into a people that argues to argue, hates simply because we disagree and shuts other opinions down because we no longer have the ability to properly frame an argument. Additionally, I truly believe that most people don’t have contextual historical understanding so they are blind leading blind. Like the quote regarding Rome – there are so many things to worship and everyone wants their way to be the truth.

If this sounds very judgemental, I might have apologized in the past, but I’m not certain I’m stating anything other than fact. In my humble assertion, it seems we might all do better to step back, learn a bit more and THEN choose our platforms a bit more carefully. I see many people jumping on bandwagon social movements without any research into the backgrounds of these organizations……wait. I’m going down a rabbit hole.

That was not the intention of this post. I will stop before I hit the “Rachel point of no return” and write for six hours about all of the woes of American culture in 2017.

The real reason I wrote this post is because my heart is heavy each day for our country and the hate, anger and ignorance that seems to be on full display.

My prayer is that before we lock arms with any social justice campaign, politician, church or leader, we first set our eyes on the only victor in this fight.

Jesus Christ. He and He alone are the only way that we will feel vindicated, satisfied, loved, cherished, whole and valued.

He is the only chance for national restoration and peace.