Category Archives: Thoughts

Breached Dam

http://blogsensebybarb.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/dam-breached.jpg

Some days this image of a broken dam runs through my head.  Chris and I will work hard to build a good sturdy wall of routine, discipline, and comfort for our kids. But when that wall is holding strong, I tend to neglect the maintenance, forgetting what power lies dormant if that wall bursts.  Until it does.  And when it bursts with 6 kids under 9…

Well, this morning I traded the child-drawn flower on the back of my slipcover for a rip down the front.  I received a valentine heart that read, “I hate math.”   I spent a significant chunk of time de-salting my computer keyboard.  I’ve thrown away yet another pair of poopy underwear owned by a certain 3-year-old who does not seem to be appropriately grossed out by anything.  We’ve been over the wild horse of emotions conversation for the ????  time.  And it looks like a tornado has come down our chimney to swirl juice and crayons, banana peels and little cut up pieces of paper all into one colorful abstract piece of art.

The real problem isn’t an isolated bad moment or two or five, it is the continual force of sin naturally following the path of least resistance.  It never relents for repairs or rest.  As John Owen said, “Be killing sin, or it will be killing you.”  In my little day dream  then, I imagine that I can just jump into the chaos and put it all to rights, after all I kind of like fighting sometimes.  But it only takes one step into the rushing water to realize that I will be drowned.  These forces are far too strong for me.

They are not too strong for the one who can make walls with water, cause storms to cease, and turn children of wrath into children of mercy.  So this afternoon calls for grace.  For grace that hems us in, repairs our breached walls, and ends in obedient worship to the immeasurably kind Christ who killed sin for me and my little rushing waterfalls of chaos kids.

When Opportunity Knocks

opportunity

I was recently asked a question along these lines:

What do you do with your family/kids to teach Christ and who He is and who He is for them?

Parts of my Response:

In general, our family worship time looks like singing a hymn, reading or telling a bible story, and then praying together.  But the material we’ve used has varied a ton, mostly based on age.

Good resources are helpful and family worship is essential, but when Chris and I talked about it, we both agreed that the times we’ve really seen light bulbs go off and application sink in is in the midst of discipline. We try to view our kids’ sin as an opportunity to teach the gospel. When their misery is potent, they are most ripe to understand the comfort of Christ for them in particular. I also think the many “opportunities” I have every day to ask their forgiveness of me for my sin against them and for them to see me repent to the Lord has been very helpful.  Basically, it seems to take lots of talking, asking heart probing questions, modeling, prayer, and patience while we wait for the Spirit to open their eyes and ears. Simple; but not at all easy.

God is Not Mocked

Our women’s doctrine study is working through the book, “Easy Chairs, Hard Words: Conversations on the Liberties of God.”  It’s a unique treatise of the doctrines of grace in that it is set in a fictional setting as a conversation between a young man with questions and an older pastor.  Instead of working through the usual TULIP acronym, the conversation starts where it seems it might more naturally begin in the mind of a sincere evangelical unfamiliar with historical orthodoxy.  On the logical heels of the “free-will” philosophy (by that I mean the idea that man possesses the ability to choose Christ from his natural state) the question deserves to be begged, “Can a christian, who has secured his own salvation by his one good choice, in turn, by a bad choice (either in mind or action), lose that same salvation?”  The question naturally leads to either watering down holiness to an attainable level or dreading the condemnation that an honest look at the heart quickly reveals is the only possible outcome.

And yet, the student of the Scripture sees that Jesus does not lose any of his sheep and that our God is faithful to complete the good work he began in our hearts.  And so there are sparks of hope for the fearful and soothing truths for the broken sinner in plain sight which keep him in the fight of faith.  But what if he backed up further to ask a different question altogether.  He could ask, “How can it be that the stone dead heart of a willful sinner has the desire to make the wisest of all decisions to lay down his self-believed autonomy in order to submit his life to a savior and Lord?”

Across the scope of the Scriptures, he would find that it cannot be so.  And here would he begin to find not only a little hope to hold on to, but swim in an ocean of  self-forgetfulness, assurance, and worship of the God who has turned his heart from stone to flesh .  He could pour out adoration and thanksgiving to Him who has set on him the desire to be holy, saved, and owned and secured the fulfillment of that desire with His own Son’s blood.

I know that true Bible-believing Christians are not willfully seeking to rob God of his glory (that would a contradiction).  The tension is usually pushed aside into the category of mystery or unimportant confusion.   But it is important.  God deserves the maximum amount of glory and he initiates real freedom.  In nearly all our prayers, we ask for perseverance and for his name to be glorified.  Why would we make such bold petitions of one who does not give it?  Consider the following words from Augustine (writing in 426 A.D. lest you think this is some new notion).  The dead guys are usually better at telling it like it is.  Pretty sobering words.

But why is that perseverance asked for from God if it is not given by God? Is that, too, a mocking petition, when that is asked from Him which it is known that He does not give, but, though He gives it not, is in man’s power; just as that giving of thanks is a mockery, if thanks are given to God for that which He did not give nor do? But what I have said there, I say also here again: “Be not deceived,” says the apostle, “God is not mocked.” O man, God is a witness not only of your words, but also of your thoughts. If you ask anything in truth and faith of one who is so rich, believe that you receive from Him from whom you ask, what you ask. Abstain from honouring Him with your lips and extolling yourself over Him in your heart, by believing that you have from yourself what you are pretending to beseech from Him.   -Augustin, Bishop of Hippo

A Blog About My Blog

ducksinarow

I’m on an organizing push around my house.  Call it nesting if you like, but I’ve always liked things to have homes.  Are there really people out there who don’t?  I know not all of us are always organized or sometimes we are too overwhelmed to get there; but really who doesn’t like the finished product?  So along with closets, toys, schedules, and meals, I thought I’d add a little organization to my blog.  It’s still a “get to” not a “have to”; but without some planning in my life, I’d never” get to” do anything but the things that I “have to,” (which actually through sanctification are becoming the things that I “get to” do.  Oh dear. )

I’m thinking something like:

Monday: Tips, Tricks, or Treats

Wednesday: Encouragements, Meditations, or Thought Ramblings

Friday: Assorted Content- Q and A (feel free to send me your questions!),  Guest Posts,  General Silliness, Anything Else that Sounds Fun to Pass On

As with all of my organizing attempts, I’m sure this will be tweaked and there will always be that one thing that doesn’t fit neatly in the box with the other like items, but it’s a start.  I love to write, to organize my thoughts, and I’m especially blessed whenever along the way, I can be used as a stepping stone to see the Savior.  Thanks for reading!

How I Do It

I was humbled to be asked by someone I respect very much how I do my life homeschooling 6 kids.  If you’ve wondered, here was my response…

Hi …,

Thanks for the encouraging words.  It’s very humbling to be asked how I do it.  My first response was going to be something like:  I don’t do it.  I suck at my life and I’m really discouraged too.  But that was a bad moment and wouldn’t have been the whole truth.  I do get pretty overwhelmed on a regular basis.  Most of my blog posts are me trying to speak truth to myself rather than listening to my circumstances or fickle emotions.  It’s hard to think about how to explain my day to day life without going into minutia, but a few noteworthy thoughts came to mind.

  1. There is no one solution that will suddenly make life into the ideal that I can imagine in my head (I’ve only started to come to terms with this idea recently).  I’ve spent a lot of time trying a new technique, a new routine, a new curriculum, and while there are definitely benefits to better methods the principal of dying to myself, giving freely, loving my kids when they are needy and naughty is just going to be hard, always.
  2.  Grace is real.  Jesus already did all those hard things for me.  A good day is a day I repent early and often both to the Lord and to my kiddos.   His forgiveness is efficacious.  If I really understand it I must and want to extend it.
  3. I have to constantly remind myself that I’m the leader.  If things are getting wild and out of control, it’s my job to lead the troops to peace.  That looks like entrusting their consciences to the Holy Spirit, reasoning with them from the Scripture, and setting the example with my own actions.
  4. Shepherding kid’s hearts takes time.  I have had to slow way down, both from a lot of activities and from my expectations of how they will change and grow.  Chris and I remind each other a lot to “take the long view,” meaning that we need to faithfully teach them the ways of the Lord, to discipline them, to keep giving them our love and ourselves freely over and over and over, trusting that in the Lord’s time he will use us as means to bring about fruit in their lives.

Again, these are all my own daily reminders.   I was overwhelmed when I had 2 preschoolers and I’m still overwhelmed with number 7 on the way.  But I can honestly testify to the Lord’s sustaining hand.  We’re still fighting the fight of faith and when I look back 5 years I can see that we’ve been pulled along in the right direction, more sure of our need for a Savior and more sure of the forgiveness of our Savior.

Love,

Danielle

Babies Come Out One Way or Another

Warning: This post will probably be of little interest to some maybe even gross (I’ve lost my ability to assess that category from a normal perspective).  But some of you may find it helpful and it’s on my mind, so take it or leave it.

I’m actually considering (gulp) going without an epidural, on purpose this time.  Last time the anesthesiologist was delayed; and by the time she arrived I couldn’t hold still long enough for her to stick a needle in my spine.  She only needed “3 minutes,” that’s when Chris looked at my face and the 3 sterile kits I’d already knocked on the floor, and asserted for me that it was not going to happen.  To make matters worse, Jack turned out to be sunny-side-up, which increased the length and intensity of my labor significantly.  I really thought I was going to die.  The nurse was nice enough to lie and told me that everyone says that.

After it was all over, and I was still alive, the little twist I didn’t anticipate was that I only took a few Motrin afterward and felt back to normal very quickly.  My blood pressure didn’t plummet and I ate a cheeseburger while I was still in the delivery room.  I’ve been induced, had a spontaneous preemie, a c-section, a vbac, and gone completely without drugs (though unanticipated).  In my limited, yet diverse experiences, I have to say the recovery was by far the best with the drug free labor.  All this history to explain why I’ve been peeking around on the web to learn if there really are any helpful tips to coping with the curse besides the blessed gift of the epidural.

While I have run across a few helpful tidbits, I’m mostly impressed by the passionate defensiveness of Mommy’s right to her birth plan.  To be honest, it gives me the giggles.  I picture women pulling up to the hospital drive-thru with their order, “I’ll take a 2 hour latent phase with a Popsicle, an epidural while contractions are slightly painful but 5 minutes apart, I’d like some soothing music just before it’s time to push, oh and no tearing because I’ve been massaging for 5 weeks, and last I’d like to keep my placenta for the scrapbook.”

Obviously I’m exaggerating (and amusing myself).  I really don’t have a problem with planning ahead and imagining an ideal.  The problem I see, from personal experience, is that unprioritized ideals can quickly become idols.  And idols will rob you of joy and purpose.  Unlike McDonald’s, if you’re order doesn’t come out how you wanted, you can’t take it back.  The joy of having the baby is not primarily to have a wonderful birthing experience.  It is the privilege of raising another human being to glorify God and enjoy him forever.  As surely as that baby will come out, that baby will depend on you for life, authority, love, and learning until death parts you.  It seems to me that planning for the greater task at hand would be a better use of our time and energy and in the end a far more fruitful endeavor.

Better Heroes

I know that Lincoln is all the rage right now.  Personally I’m on the fence, admittedly because I haven’t taken much time to study him beyond the government version of history.  Either way, he opened the door to big government (yuck), but was, whether he intended to be or not,used by the Lord to end slavery in the South (praise God).  Why do I bother to write about him at all?  I’m growing weary of Christians trying to set him up as one of our heroes of the faith.

I happened on this article Learning from Lincoln’s Flawed Marriage .  Read it…  Done?  Ok, do you feel like “Yes!  I’m so glad he put up with his wife for the sake of America!”  It seems to be a blind spot that some would compromise Ephesians 5 for his sake, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies.”  So Lincoln abdicates his responsibilities to his wife (there’s more to being a husband than not getting divorced), and to keep up his hero status, we’re  asked to spin that into his great strength?!

Perhaps she might not have been so tempestuous had her husband made her lovely with his love.  Or perhaps she was the kind of woman that made him want to live on the corner of his roof.  I don’t know.  You could analyze from the outside all you like and never really know if in his heart he was resolutely committed to her sanctification or if he had given up and shut down in every way but legally.  The Judge alone will know.

I just cannot understand the current need to carte blanche promote Abraham Lincoln.  There are better dead friends to have: William Wilberforce, Augustine, Athanasius, King David, John Calvin, Paul, John Newton, J.C. Ryle, just to name a few.   All these men are sinners, but their weakness can show us the grace of God and do not need to be twisted into their strength.

If it’s a hero you’re looking for, there is one who is both King and Husband, who died and now lives, who will not just learn from the pain that his adulterous bride causes him, but will sacrifice everything for her.  He laid down his crown, honor, and life.  He will see to it that she is without blemish.  She will not end in an immodest rage while he is off seeking his honor elsewhere, but will shine holy and radiant through his work.  He will be the one to bestow all glory and honor upon.

Christian Hospitality

Hospitality is part of my inheritance from my mom.  She modeled for us the ability to welcome and attract people to an orderly (albeit lively) family home rather than to an immaculate professional house.  It was so natural to me growing up that until I started my own hospitable endeavors did I realize how uncomfortable it can be to make people feel so at ease.

The first thing I had to learn was that hospitality starts with the people who are already here.  The cleanliness of our house ebbs and flows.  Usually, an orderly, clean house is to be fought for (and yes, I mean literally sweat rolling fought for).  But there are days when  the cleanliness standard takes a back seat to other priorities.  With that in mind, I think a heart of hospitality looks like  unashamedly welcoming people into our  home wherever we are in that flow.

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1 hour before the Christmas Tea

For example, if you were to show up unannounced to my house during the above picture,  a hospitable heart would (let’s be honest, after a little gulp of pride), have said “Come on in! There’s a piece of pizza left.  Oh, and best  leave your shoes on- there is some pop-tart squished into the floor that I haven’t gotten to quite yet.  What would you like to drink?”  (I may also have handed you a broom).  My conscience would have been clear knowing the flow of the day.  An apology would have been for my benefit not yours.  But a hearty, “Welcome to our life!” would hopefully have communicated, “I’m so happy to see you that I’m not even thinking about what you’re thinking about me.”

The second thing I had to learn was that the state of my house does not by itself communicate anything good or bad.  My house could be messy because I don’t care what you think of me or what you think at all.  Or, my house could be clean because my only aim is to field as much praise for myself as possible.  I may want to burden everyone who walks through my door with refreshing me.

The state of my heart, however, communicates much.   Humble hospitality thinks hard about other’s comfort, for both body and soul.  Hospitality is offering, after all, a “hospital” to the weary.  When my heart is fixed on refreshing weary pilgrims, my house and presence will reflect that in the atmosphere and in the conversation.  I will work hard to offer a peaceful atmosphere and thoughtful questions.   Hospitality need not be complicated or extravagant; but to be explicitly Christian it must spill over from a Gospel obeying heart that loves God and loves my neighbor.

Ready for the Tea. Thanks to pizza delivery, cartoons, and a husband who walks up the stairs from work straight to sweeping the floor. Did I mention, hospitality is a family endevor?

Ready for the Tea. Thanks to pizza delivery, cartoons, and a husband who walks up the stairs from work straight to sweeping the floor.  Did I mention, hospitality is a family endeavor?

Sweet Sovereignty

The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of your hands. – Psalm 138:8

You know those times when a verse just leaps off the page and hits you between the eyeballs?   This morning was one of those times and it’s still throbbing.  I remember struggling to understand and to come to grips with God’s sovereignty in full, but I can scarcely remember why.  The sweetness and comfort it has afforded me have rubbed off the sharp corners and swelled my heart to three times it’s size.  In this one verse I am comforted in at least 4 ways:

1. The purposes of the Lord are NEVER thwarted.  He will accomplish all his holy will.  Fighting this is vanity and madness.

2. He has a purpose for me; and He will be the one to carry it out.  I need not guess and fret.

3. My love is fickle and fleeting.  His love is steadfast and forever.  He will do the keeping and the finishing of my soul.

4. I am the work of his hands.   I can pray for myself on the basis of his own glory; and he will glorify himself.

The Best Story

The Lord has made a wonderfully bizarre world full of fodder for great stories, both true and invented.  We love stories at our house.  We read them, tell them, act them out, and make them up.  To find out an amazing story is true is  far better than finding out that one you were told was true was indeed made up (in fact some might even call that a “lie”).   I know a lot of Christians who grew up with the works-based Santa without the gospel being compromised in their homes.  The Santa fable is a mole-hill.  But, the incarnation is a mountain; and might I just suggest asking yourself not if Santa is permissible, but is he really the best Christians can offer?

“The Christmas Story is real, and it’s not been called the Greatest Story On Earth for nothing. The principle is not that we can’t tell our kids wonderful stories. We can even tell them the Santa story or the Father Christmas story if we like, as long as they know what’s real and what’s not real. We should never leave them confused about when we are making up stories and when we are telling them the gospel truth. Gospel stories are full of wonder, and we never have to break the news to our kids that they aren’t true.” -Nancy Wilson