Every so often I lead my kids in singing the Tallis Canon as a bedtime prayer:
All praise to Thee my God this night
For all the blessings of the light!
Keep me, oh keep me, King of Kings
Beneath Thine own almighty wings.
The other night after singing, my youngest asked, “Does God have wings?” Ah . . . what a beautiful question. And I’m deeply thankful for Scripture’s answer (that I got to explain as we cuddled).
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. . . .
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
(Psalm 91:1, 4)
A bird, from a mighty eagle to a meek chickadee, will nestle its young under its wings — covering them from dangerous weather, hiding them from threatening predators, warming them in a shelter of love. This is the picture painted by the psalmist. God loves us like this. Continue reading
Posted in Cultivating a Vibrant Faith, Nurturing a Thriving Family
Tagged bedtime, cherish your family, family, Father, God, God's love, hymn, kids, Love, mother, motherhood, parenthood, prayer, songs, trust
Like a brilliant golden thread, joy weaves in and out of our lives. It weaves through the bright days—the orange and yellow moments. The poppy-red delights. The verdant, green, fresh-growth days.
It weaves through the gray days—the blah-blah, mundane moments.
And it even weaves through the dark. Through indigo grief. Through rusted, worn-out umber seasons. Through thunderous, slate gray periods of anger or bitterness. Through jet black discouragement, heavy-weighted with a sense of hopelessness.
A shock of brilliant joy dances through it all. Woven in and out.
Because, for the Christian, joy has a name.
And he has other names too.
“I am the bread of life” (John 6:35).
“I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6).
“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me . . . rivers of living water will flow within them” (John 7:37-38).
“I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25).
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).
We can choose joy in our life when we purposefully cultivate habits of worship, of gratitude, of intimacy with God. But we cannot manufacture joy. It’s more than a feeling or a state of mind. Continue reading
Posted in Cultivating a Vibrant Faith
Tagged Bible, contentment, delight, depression, discouragement, Flourishing Faith, God's faithfulness, God's presence, happiness, hope, joy, longing, Restore Your Joy, satisfaction, Scripture, trust
The path God calls each of us to is distinct. We each go through unique seasons, particular experiences. And in our own life journey, God leads us, guides us, and shapes us in different ways. God reveals himself to us through his Word, through blessings, through tough circumstances.
How has God been uniquely speaking to you lately? Convicting you? Shaping your heart? Inviting you to action or to contemplation? What has God been revealing to you about himself or about the Christian life?
These questions and realities are all part of our calling–for as we engage with God, we discover his unique interaction with each of us in our lives.
Over the past several years I’ve had the privilege of inviting others to this space to share some of their own reflections on how God is shaping them, leading them, challenging them, or centering them in him. Just look at this list below! Continue reading
Posted in Cultivating a Vibrant Faith, Resources & Links
Tagged Calling, God, God's leading, God's presence, God's will, meet my friend . . ., story, testimony, trust, vocation
I love the fresh feel of this day: a blank page, a new year, a symbolic fresh slate. Of course, it is just a normal 24-hours like any other 24-hour cycle. Yet we join to acknowledge it is “New Year’s Day.”
Looking ahead into a fresh year can be hopeful and exciting. So many goals to pursue and dreams to reach for! Like a great big shiny platter overflowing with inspiration and determination, 2013 gets served up to us to relish with joy.
Yet in all the joy, determination, and goal-setting (which I “get” as an obsessive goal-setter myself), I must play Debbie Downer for a second. Because, if you’re like me, you’ve come to know that our hope isn’t some fairy-tale world of goodnesses. Because, if you’re like me, you may start to wonder on a day like today, “What heartache or tragedy or trial will befall me in 2013 . . . that I cannot even imagine now?” Not pessimism but realism forces these questions, because heartache or stress often blind-sides us. That’s part of the horror of tragedies — those who suffer often have had no time to prepare, no notion of what was coming.
Jesus offers us a big dose of this “downer” realism when he tells his followers, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). (That’s not the most seeker-sensitive message, Jesus, we may want to whisper. That’s not the most strategic slogan to brand your Way!) But there’s no hokey, slick, sparkley-toothed salesmanship around here — no “just trust Jesus more to get a problem-free life” garbage. Jesus will have none of it. That’s simply not the gospel.
As we look forward into 2013, squinting to glimpse what may take shape, we face two realities. The first: What we cannot control. Continue reading
Posted in Cultivating a Vibrant Faith
Tagged disciple, discipleship, faith, goals, growth, new year's resolutions, pain, peace, resolutions, spiritual formation, tragedy, trust
I’m blessed to know author Jennifer Grant and am so happy to introduce you to her. Jennifer’s insights about family life and parenthood will bless you. So keep on reading!
Jennifer, can you tell my readers a bit about yourself?
I’m a writer and the mother of four children: daughters ages 10 and 12 and sons who are 14 and 16. As long as I can remember, I’ve loved to write. I was the kid who read incessantly (from The Great Brain books to Beverly Cleary to Narnia), wrote stories, and created paper dolls with complicated backstories. I studied creative writing in both college and graduate school and have been a professional writer for about twenty years. Since becoming a mom, I’ve written primarily about parenting and family. For more than a decade, I wrote columns and stories for newspapers including the Chicago Tribune. I’m the author of two books: Love You More: The Divine Surprise of Adopting My Daughter (published August 2011) and MOMumental: Adventures in the Messy Art of Raising a Family (published May 2012).
It’s summer time! So this month we’re focusing on the theme of “family.” Quick: What’s been one of the highlights of your family’s time together this summer?
In June, we drove from Chicago to Sanibel Island, Florida. Now that my oldest is a driver, the six of us aren’t all strapped into one car as often as we once were. Although the kids moaned a bit beforehand that we weren’t flying, we all truly enjoyed the long car trip. We sang songs, confided in each other, played silly games, and practiced our best Southern drawls as we drove down to Florida. All of that time together afforded me the chance to gain a renewed sense of who each of my kids is and the people they are growing to be. I’m also aware that my oldest chid, Theo, will be going to college in two years. That reality helps me to savor our time together in a new way. It’s been a sweet summer.
You’ve written a book called MOMumental exploring the tough realities and delightful joys of family life. What do you most hope readers will get out of your book?
I hope that when people finish the book, they will feel refreshed and less likely to be drawn in by inflammatory headlines and news stories that aim to make us feel “less than” as parents. I hope they’ll come away from MOMumental with the knowledge that there’s no one “right” way to raise kids. We all bring specific gifts, histories, weaknesses, and personalities to raising our children. Most of all, I hope they’ll focus more on connecting authentically with their kids after reading MOMumental. A few readers have written to me and said that they feel like the book gave them permission to enjoy their kids. I love hearing that!
As Christian moms, we have so many ideals and goals – and sometimes the reality of parenting can get tiring and discouraging. What encouragement can you share with moms who feel burnt out, frustrated, or stressed?
Posted in Interviews & Conversations, Nurturing a Thriving Family, Resources & Links
Tagged adoption, creativity, family, family fun, fun, God's grace, God's sovereignty, grace, meet my friend . . ., motherhood, parenting, play, trust
Dynamic: marked by usually continuous and productive activity or change.
Static: showing little change.
What kind of faith do you desire? What kind of person do you want to be? What kind of life is God leading you into?
A static life is safer. No hope is needed — keep plodding along each day, just as before. Minimal expectations are required — of course expect the big stuff (like heaven or Jesus coming back), but other risky steps of trust or gutsy expectations have no place in a static life. Hardly any sacrifice is needed either; you can follow your dreams, live by your plan, and keep things as under control as is humanly possible.
A dynamic life and faith, on the other hand, is both rich and scary. Continue reading
I’m thrilled to introduce you to Amy Julia Becker as we round out our month’s discussion on trust. Amy Julia’s book A Good and Perfect Gift was praised as one of the top 10 religion books in 2011 by Publisher’s Weekly and she’s recently been on the national scene discussing her family’s story (Time, New York Times Motherlode blog, the Huffington Post, Parents magazine, to name a few!). Keep reading — and share this post with friends who may find encouragement in Amy Julia’s words.
Amy Julia, thanks for stopping by! Tell my readers a bit about yourself.
Thanks for having me! I am a mother: Penny is 6 and has Down syndrome, William is 3, and Marilee just turned one. I’m also a writer, and as a result of my kids, I mostly write about faith, family, and disability.
This month on my blog we’re talking about trust and what it means to intentionally trust God in our everyday life. Your book A Good and Perfect Gift explores trust on a variety of levels. So before we get into the topic of trust, can you tell my readers a bit about your book?
A Good and Perfect Gift is a memoir about the first two years of our daughter Penny’s life, from the initial moments of shock and sadness that she had been diagnosed with Down syndrome to the love and joy we experienced as we got to know her. It’s really a spiritual journey of how I came to receive Penny as a good gift from God.
When you first stepped into the journey of having a newborn daughter with Down Syndrome, you write about how you were faced with the reality that your daughter may not ever meet some of the expectations or hopes you’d originally had for her. Can you share a bit about that? And for any of us in each of our own situations, do you think trust means surrendering expectations? Continue reading
Posted in Cultivating a Vibrant Faith, Interviews & Conversations, Nurturing a Thriving Family, Resources & Links
Tagged acceptance, disability, disappointment, discouragement, Down syndrome, expectations, gratitude, honesty, joy, meet my friend . . ., parenting, prayer, trust
When we choose to practice trust, it’s not about a confidence that our circumstances will magically become pleasant or our troubles will go away. God certainly answers prayers and, many times, “comes through” for us to rescue us from trouble or make wrong things right. But a quick browse through the Bible also reveals that God’s people aren’t guaranteed a life of problem-free bliss!
Trust challenges us to focus not on our circumstances but on the God behind the scenes — to tune our hearts to his song, to let his grand Other-ness put our current worries or hurt of pain into perspective.
God is sovereign. He is still at work, behind the scenes, even in those times when circumstances may lead us to feel we’ve been abandoned. We haven’t been. His power is greater than any human foe or seemingly disastrous circumstance. His love is stronger than any hateful word or hurtful situation. Continue reading
“Do not worry . . .”
Are these words of comfort . . . or command? Or some strange combination of both? Jesus challenged his followers “Do not worry about your life . . .” as he described God’s profound and generous provision for his people. (Read the full passage here.)
This wasn’t some flippant “Don’t worry about it!” like people often say today — because there’s no real comfort in closing one’s eyes to a scary reality and pretending it isn’t there! Continue reading
I think the first Bible verse I ever really “meditated on” was Proverbs 3:5-6. Of course I didn’t call it meditating or even think of it that way. (I was only 11 years old, after all!) But I learned it as a song at the Christian summer camp I attended and it immediately took root in my heart. It’s a simple, lilting tune — the only lyrics are the words of the passage. I can still hum it even now, twenty-some years later.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart / and lean not on your own understanding / In all your ways acknowledge him / And he will make your path straight.
So this is where we begin our discussion of trust. With this passage that is both simple and complex, both comforting and stunningly challenging.
The comfort comes at the end: the promise that God will make our path straight. But consider these words:
• Trust . . . with all your heart. (You mean I can’t hold a bit of my heart aside to occupy with worry, a desire to control, or my doubt that God will really see me through?) Continue reading