The Way He Should Go

February 27th, 2020

“Train up a child in the way he should go. Even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” ~Proverbs 22:6 (maybe in the 1994 NIV?)

We sang the proverb along with Steve Green’s “Hide ’em in your heart” album.

I heard the same proverb referenced by all sorts. The self-confident parent, sure they were doing it right. The despairing parent, wondering where they’d gone wrong. The parenting guru, assuring Christian parents that if they followed his patent-pending discipline program they’d be guaranteed their children wouldn’t stray.

What I didn’t frequent hear was what “the way they should go” consists of.

If I had to hazard a guess, based on the context of the conversations I’d heard, I’d guess “the way they should go” was all about moral behavior.

Today, I don’t hear that proverb so frequently.

I wonder if, in part, the fruit of the last generation’s claim on that promise has soured it.

Far too many parents are reaping tears when they felt they had been promised otherwise. They had raised their children according to a good moral standard. They’d raised them to obey. And now those children are chasing all sorts of things their parents taught them to avoid.

I thought of the proverb after a little exchange I had with Tirzah Mae this morning.

Tirzah Mae: “Did you know that Jesus has a heavenly home?”
Me: “Is that so? Can you tell me about Jesus’ heavenly home?”
Tirzah Mae: “Um, no. I don’t really know anything about it, I just heard about it somewhere.”
Me: “Would you like to learn more about it?”
Tirzah Mae nods in assent.
“Where do you think we could find out more?”

And so we were off to John 14 for a little Bible study that touched on the Trinity, heaven, and the exclusivity of Christ.

And that’s what reminded me of Proverbs 22:6. Thomas asks “How will we know the way?” and Jesus answers “I am the way.”

As parents, we have a high call to train up our children. But what way are we training them in? Am I training my children in instantaneous obedience to me? (I wish I could figure that one out!) Am I training them in Judeo-Christian morality? Maybe I’m training them to be nice?

All of those have a place, I think, but I don’t think any of those are what Proverbs 22 refers to when it says to “train up a child in the way he should go.”

Instead of simply training in instantaneous obedience or good moral values or a nebulous sense of kindness, I am called to train my child in Christ. I am called to point my children again and again and again to Christ. Christ as their only hope of righteousness. Christ as their only means of accessing God. Christ as the one who loved them first and enables them to love others. Christ as the way.

And I can have confidence, not that I have somehow guaranteed that my child will never stray (as if that was in my power), but that I have done what I was called to. I will have trained my children in the way they should go, and when Christ calls them to himself, he will keep them to the end.

Don’t Try to Anticipate

February 19th, 2020

Have you been searching through pregnancy blogs for lists of “lifesaver products”? You’ve been reading up on the “must-haves” for newborns too? And don’t even get started on the lists of things to pack in your hospital bag.

Poll your mom friends on Facebook and they’ll each have a different product they absolutely couldn’t have done pregnancy without.

It’s only if they’re moms of many that you’ll start to be able to understand the truth – there’s no way you’ll be able to anticipate which product is going to be your life saver for this particular pregnancy/delivery/baby.

I couldn’t have done it without my lace-up tennies in my pregnancies with Tirzah Mae and Louis. My feet swelled so terribly and got so painful, I needed the extra support. I only wore tennis shoes while hiking during my pregnancy with Beth-Ellen (and I did a decent amount since we traveled to Yellowstone and to the Rockies with Daniel’s family and mine during our second trimester.) This pregnancy? I don’t think I’ve worn tennis shoes even once.

I developed carpal tunnel during my pregnancy with Louis and needed braces. Wearing them each night (and sometimes during the day) made the days bearable. Almost as soon as the pregnancy test was positive with the baby we lost, I needed braces again – and the pain went away as soon as we miscarried. I had no need for braces with Beth-Ellen, and haven’t needed them in this pregnancy either.

I got a ginormous pillow in my third trimester with Beth-Ellen, when my belly made sleep difficult. This time around, I pulled it out in the first trimester, because my hips were doing something weird and I just couldn’t get comfortable. I slept fine all the way through with both Tirzah Mae and Louis.

Support hose were lifesavers for pregnancies 1 through 3. This time around, despite a bit of swelling in my legs, the support hose don’t seem super necessary – but I’ve taken to wearing compression shorts religiously, even to bed.

My hymnal was a sanity-saver for hospitalization #1. I sang it through cover to cover during my eight days of bedrest and the subsequent 26 days with Tirzah Mae in the NICU. Remembering, I brought it along when I was hospitalized with Louis – and barely opened it. On bedrest with Louis and as I prepped for my second unplanned c-section, it was the robes I’d brought from home that kept me grounded. I’m not sure I used anything I’d packed in my hospital bag for Beth-Ellen – not the clothing or the essential oils or the tennis ball thingamajigger or the popsicles.

Newborn Tirzah Mae lived in mama’s Moby wrap. Newborn Louis actually (sometimes) slept in the bassinet insert for our Pack’n’Play. Newborn Beth-Ellen used a swaddle. The elastic binder they gave me after Louis made such a difference in my ability to walk post c-section. It didn’t help the terrible abdominal pain I had after Beth-Ellen. I could not for the life of me understand the mesh panties and peri bottle after the first two – but I totally got it after Beth-Ellen. I spent obscene amounts of time hooked to a hospital grade breast pump with Tirzah Mae and Louis – and never pumped once with Beth-Ellen. It took five years of nearly continuous breastfeeding for me to first need lanolin. I’ve never, despite a super-abundant supply, needed breast pads to deal with leaks. Pantyliners on the other hand? Definitely a sanity saver.

Which is why it’s no good trying to anticipate what you’ll need for your pregnancy, your delivery, or your new baby. You are different with each pregnancy, your delivery is different, your baby is different.

Anticipate that you won’t have everything you want, that you’ll experience surprises, that you’ll have to adapt on the fly. Anticipate that you’ll spend some money figuring out what the fix is for that unexpected problem. Anticipate that you’ll be searching Amazon or sending your husband to the store to find some elusive product you never would have imagined needing.

Most of all, anticipate that God’s grace will meet you when you find yourself back in the hospital after you thought you were all clear – or when your daughter jumps into your lap and now you can’t move without excruciating pain “down there” – or when all your dreams seem dashed – or when you simply don’t know how to soothe that fussy baby. You can’t anticipate what the problem will be or what product will be your “life-saver”, but you can trust that God will be there amidst the unexpected – and that he will carry you through.

The Paradox of Christ

February 7th, 2020

“Above all, he is unselfish. Perhaps nothing strikes us more than this. Although he clearly believed himself to be divine, he did not put on airs or stand on his dignity. He was never pompous. There was no touch of self-importance in Jesus. He was humble.

It is this paradox that is so amazing, this combination of the self-centeredness of his teaching and the unself-centeredness of his behavior. In thought he put himself first, in deed last. He exhibited both the greatest self-esteem and the greatest self-sacrifice. He knew himself to be the Lord of all, but he became their servant. He said that he would one day come to judge the world, but he washed the feet of his friends.”

~John Stott, Basic Christianity

Nothing struck me quite so strongly as I read Stott’s Basic Christianity as the bolded sentence above. As someone who has believed since she was a young child, I have never really considered the “self-centeredness” of Jesus’ teaching. Of course he was self-centered – he’s God. He ought to be talking about himself. But if he weren’t God, were simply styling himself as God, he would be quite pompous.

Yet his actions aren’t pompous at all. He cares for the poor and needy, embraces outcasts, visits sinners in their homes. He served.

“…Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

~Philippians 2:5-11 (ESV)

This is the paradox of our faith – the God who is so High stooped down so low. He is indeed exactly what every person needs and does not shy away from proclaiming it: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me.” “I am the bread of life.” “I am the living water.” “I am the Good Shepherd.” “I am…” “I am…” “I am…” But, despite being God’s gift to man, he did not act as though he were.

Wow.

Picture Book Highlights (Author COL-CON)

February 3rd, 2020

The kids and I read right around 50 children’s picture books in January (in addition to some nonfiction, some board books, and listening to Cherry Jones narrate Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House in the Big Woods and Farmer Boy.) These are some of the highlights from this month’s reading. We’re going to plug along with authors CON and on in February – but we’re also excited to continue our Laura journey with Little House on the Prairie and maybe On the Banks of Plum Creek as part of Barbara’s final Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge.

The Winter Wren by Brock Cole

"The Winter Wren"

We’ve read a couple of other whimsical folk-type tales by Brock Cole, but this was my favorite. In it, a boy goes off to wake up Spring, who is sleeping in Winter’s castle. Cole’s illustrations are just delightful and this story very fun.

Rachael Cole

Books by Rachel Cole

I was unfamiliar with Rachael Cole, but fell in love with her City Moon, in which a young child and his mother take a walk through the city at night, watching for the moon. The spare text does a good job of getting inside a child’s mind – and reflects the interactions between mother and child well.

Cole’s second book, Mousie, I will Read to You, illustrates the progression of a child’s reading and the wonder of introducing books to the next generation in a non-didactic way that both parents and children can enjoy (if myself and my children are any indication, that is.) This book lover teared up at the end – but don’t worry, this isn’t sentimental pablum. It’s just delightful.

So far, these are the only picture books Cole has written – but I’ll definitely be watching for more from her.

The Deer Watch by Pat Lowery Collins, illustrated by David Slonim

"The Deer Watch"

A boy wakes up early to get a chance to see deer with his father. Slonim’s thick oil (acrylic?) paintings give wonderful expression to the joy of experiencing nature at dawn. While we certainty don’t experience any scarcity of deer sightings her on the plains like the narrator does on the coasts, the experience of waiting silently for a reticent animal to show itself is certainly common to nature lovers everywhere.

So Close by Natalia Colombo

"So Close"

A couple of animals live next to each other, pass every day on their way to work and home from work. But then one day, someone ventures a “Hello” – and their whole lives change. A very simple, sweet book.

See You Soon Moon by Donna Conrad, illustrated by Don Carter

"See You Soon Moon"

A little boy packs up his belongings to go to visit his grandma. He says goodbye to what he leaves behind – but, to his surprise, the moon follows him all the way to Grandma’s house! My children enjoyed Carter’s thick paint on poster-board illustrations – they kept asking if they were birthday cakes (since they strongly resemble the cut-out cakes I make for the kids for their birthdays.)

The Most Important Gift of All by David Conway, illustrated by Karin Littlewood

"The Most Important Gift of All"

A little girl wants to give her baby brother a gift (like all the relatives are), but her grandma tells her that love is the most important gift of all. So the little girl sets off through the savannah to try to find love. A lovely story with lovely illustrations.

What I Spent/What We Ate (2020.01.12)

January 14th, 2020
What I Spent:

Monday, January 6

Sam’s Club $18.23

Sam's Club trip (2020.01.06)

Walmart $51.55

Walmart Trip (2020.01.06)

Thursday, January 9

ALDI $43.90

Aldi Trip (2020.01.09)

Saturday, January 11

Daniel ran by Walmart to pick up an extra gallon of 1% milk for $3.32

Sunday, January 12
Since I haven’t gotten back into a bread-making groove, we dropped by Panera and picked up a loaf of oatmeal bread for with our soup – but I’m counting that in our “dining and entertainment” budget instead of grocery because I feel like it :-)


That’s $117, which is comfortably under my current budget of $123 per week.


What We Ate:

Monday, January 6

Roast Pork, Fried Apples, and Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Roast Pork, Fried Apples, Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Tuesday, January 7

Orange Chicken with stir-fry vegetables over rice, pineapple chunks

Orange chicken with stir-fry vegetables over rice, pineapple chunks

Wednesday, January 8

Pork, Green Chili, and Bean Enchiladas with Corn and Lettuce Salad

Pork, Green Chili, and Bean Enchiladas, Corn, Lettuce Salad

Thursday, January 9

Barbecue Beef over Rice, Broccoli, and Berry Gelatin Salad

Barbecue Beef over Rice, Broccoli, Berry Gelatin Salad

Friday, January 10

We had a long day at the end of a long week and I didn’t feel like cooking. So I didn’t. We ordered pizza instead.

Saturday, January 11

Great Grams’ Spaghetti, Lettuce Salad, and leftover Berry Gelatin Salad

Great Grams' Spaghetti, Lettuce Salad, Berry Gelatin Salad

Sunday, January 12

Lunch: West Virginia Soup with Buttered Oatmeal Bread (from Panera) and Cheddar Cheese Slices

West Virginia Soup with Buttered Bread and Cheddar Cheese Slices

(not pictured)
Supper: Buffalo Chicken Macaroni and Cheese with Frozen Vegetables (I don’t remember what kind) and grapes


This represents the first week of my new winter menu cycle – and I managed to get several recipes of Orange Chicken, a pan of enchiladas, a recipe of Great Grams’ Spaghetti, and a recipe of West Virginia Soup in the freezer, which should make things easier for the next time around (and maybe will mean I’ll have time to write up the recipes for here on the blog – well, a woman can hope!)

Tending my little farm

January 10th, 2020

Five years ago, as a newly minted mother of a 4-month-old baby, I read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy and reflected on the chapter “Springtime.”

Laura writes

“There was no time to lose, no time to waste in rest or play. The life of the earth comes up with a rush in the springtime. All the wild seeds of weed and thistle, the sprouts of vine and bush and tree are trying to take the fields. Farmers must fight them with harrow and plow and hoe; they must plant the good seeds quickly.

Almanzo was a little soldier in this great battle.”

I wrote:

“This year… this passage reminds me of [the] springtime of our lives and the great trust that parents are given of sowing seed and cultivating little hearts. It’s easy to be complacent, to assume that children will learn what we want them to learn, that they’ll establish good habits, that there’ll be plenty of time to teach them tomorrow. But the best time to plant a seed and kill a weed is springtime. And the best time to communicate the gospel and establish good habits is early in life.

Which is why I am resolving to be a little soldier in this great battle – and to establish my own habits now, while Tirzah Mae is tiny. Now is the perfect time to get into the habit of speaking the gospel to my daughter, the perfect time to steep us both in Scripture songs, the perfect time to live a visibly Christian life around my home.

Because the life of the earth comes up with a rush in the springtime. And I want the life that grows in my daughter to be a good planting.”

Yesterday, I listened to Cherry Jones read this same chapter as we work our way through the audio versions of the classic “Little House” books on our way to and from various activities.

I reflected again on the metaphor of springtime and our young children. Now the mother of four (on the outside – plus one on the inside, one in heaven, and two reintegrated into their biological families), I see even more how tireless the springtime work must be – and how important.

This is springtime. Evil ideologies vie for my children’s minds as we peruse the picture books (in order by author last name) from the library. Corporate interests try to imprint their names and logos into my children’s imaginations, try to get my children to beg for their products, ensuring customers for life. My children’s sin natures spur them to do whatever they want, following the desires of their wicked hearts. Voices from all over encourage my children to follow their hearts.

Weeds, threatening to choke the good seed of the gospel. Weeds, desirous to take over any structure or order I might impose upon my children’s lives.

But this is springtime, and I would rather be fishing, like the naughty boy in Almanzo’s story – I would rather dump my seed in one corner of the field and head off to Facebook or Feedly or whatever my latest amusement might be. Yet I know what happens to that naughty boy’s field. It is overtaken by weeds.

So I must dry the dishwater off my hands and deal with the children who are bickering in the living room. I must drag myself off the couch to deal with the disobedient child (instead of endlessly repeating myself with escalating threats.) I must be a little soldier in this great battle.

God, grant me grace to tend my little farm well.

The Gravity of the Story

December 15th, 2019

“Every family needs to get a lamb – a young lamb, a perfect little boy lamb, a lamb without any problems. Keep the lamb as a part of the family.”

The three-year-olds eagerly reached out their hands to stroke the beautiful oh-so-soft stuffed lamb mat I’d brought in for our lesson. We all imagined having a lamb come to live with us.

“After two weeks, you are to kill the lamb.”

Every eye turned from the lamb to me in horror.

I’d written “Oh boy! How sad!” in my lesson – but the looks on their faces said far more. This was not sad, this was devastating. I started to wonder if parents would be coming to me, wondering what I’d done to tramautize their children so.

But I continued on:

“But this was part of God’s great plan. God decided that the lamb could die instead of the firstborn child. After the lamb was dead, the people were supposed to paint the lamb’s blood on the doors of their houses.

All the people who believed God got a lamb. After two weeks, they killed the lamb and painted its blood on their doorposts.

That night, God sent the angel of death over all of Egypt. If the angel of death saw blood on the door, he passed over that house. But if a house didn’t have blood on the door, the firstborn child died.”

The horror remained, the kids silent in the face of such a terrible thing.

I started keening, only a fraction of what I’m sure was happening across Egypt that night. “All over Egypt, the people who didn’t believe God and didn’t kill a lamb started to wail. Every family’s firstborn child was dead – all except for the ones who had been saved by the blood of the lamb.”

“That’s so sad!” a little boy whispered, almost distraught.

And I recounted how Pharoah at last told the Israelites to go. I retold how God led the people of Israel with a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire.

Their faces brightened.

They tensed as I told them how Pharaoh changed his mind and began the chase.

And their faces showed their elation when God opened the Red Sea so the children of Israel could pass through and then smashed it closed over the Egyptian army.

As for me, I was still struck with the gravity of the Lamb. The story I’ve told so many times I forget the horror. A perfect young lamb, a spotless baby come to live with a human family. One of our own, our companion, dwelling among us. Dead.

All this, so that the firstborn needn’t die.

The first lamb, and the lamb of each Passover thereafter, was chosen by its family – destined by its perfection among the flock to be a sacrifice.

The final Lamb, the one to whom each little lamb points, chose willingly, of his own accord. He made his first sacrifice, to become flesh. He made a second, to dwell among us. And finally, he sacrificed what remained, emptied himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross. Bearing the curse of all mankind, he did so to save the ones he sacrificed to make his brothers.

What a grave and terrible and sobering thought.

What a wonderful and terrible and awesome reality.

Do you feel the world is broken?

October 26th, 2019

It was sometime after Easter (which is shorthand for sometime after our miscarriage) when the church choir got up to sing a special piece.

Tears sprung into my eyes at the very first line:

“Do you feel the world is broken?”

My heart answered back with the choir: “We do”

And in the darkness and difficulty of the past six months, that line has come to mind many a time.

I hear stories of domestic abuse. I listen to the squabbling of “friends” online. I see drug abuse. I ache against the terrible realities of our foster care system, with so many problems, so many hard decisions. A friend’s baby develops an unknown, most likely life-threatening condition. Car accidents land people in the hospital. Uncertainty abounds.

“Do you feel the world is broken?” my soul whispers as I read and as I live. “We do,” I answer back.

And as I ache under the brokenness of this world, the cry rises up within my soul: “Come quickly, Lord Jesus.”

And, tears still coursing down my cheeks, I sing the rest of the song.

Do you feel the world is broken? We do
Do you feel the shadows deepen? We do
But do you know that all the dark won’t stop the light from getting through? We do
Do you wish that you could see it all made new? We do

Is all creation groaning? It is
Is a new creation coming? It is
Is the glory of the Lord to be the light within our midst? It is
Is it good that we remind ourselves of this? It is

Is anyone worthy?
Is anyone whole?
Is anyone able to break the seal and open the scroll?
The Lion of Judah who conquered the grave
He is David’s root and the Lamb who died to ransom the slave
Is He worthy? Is He worthy?
Of all blessing and honor and glory
Is He worthy of this?
He is

Does the Father truly love us? He does
Does the Spirit move among us? He does
And does Jesus, our Messiah hold forever those He loves? He does
Does our God intend to dwell again with us? He does

Is anyone worthy?
Is anyone whole?
Is anyone able to break the seal and open the scroll?
The Lion of Judah who conquered the grave
He is David’s root and the Lamb who died to ransom the slave
From every people and tribe
Every nation and tongue
He has made us a kingdom and priests to God
To reign with the Son
Is He worthy?Is He worthy?
Of all blessing and honor and glory
Is He worthy? Is He worthy?
Is He worthy of this?
He is!
Is He worthy? Is He worthy?
He is! He is!

As I groan, I wait in eager expectation for the day when Christ will return to make all things right. He will execute righteous judgment. He will gather his people from all nations. He is worthy. He is!

Cleaning enough to make the next mess

October 17th, 2019

It’s been an age since I got out the paints and let the kids play.

And the dining room wall, our “art wall” for the time being, still wears spring’s butterflies overlaid by “Happy Birthday” posters from papa’s birthday last month.

The butterfly wall

It’s time for a change.

But first, to clean the dining room floor enough that dropped paintbrushes don’t result in painted toys… or a mixed media of cut-up paper, food debris, and days worth of “dust” that materializes with alarming speed on every surface of our home.

I spent a half hour, maybe an hour cleaning up the dining room, taking off the tablecloth, covering the table with butcher paper so we could paint some fall leaves (I cut some leaf shapes from old cereal boxes using the die-cut machine our church has).

Painted leaves

And now I need to clean the table outside so we can eat there, since the dining room table is otherwise occupied.

Don’t even ask about the living room.

The living room (have mercy!)

On Mental Health

October 10th, 2019

I slept four hours last night. Or maybe less. It’s hard to say.

Louis woke me up at two. He wanted a new pull-up since his was wet.

I changed him and got back in bed. I turned on twenty minutes of “waves”, intending to heed my mental health nurse’s advice to get back up and do something boring if I couldn’t fall asleep after twenty minutes. But then the waves turned off and my bed was warm while the rest of the house was cold. I stayed in bed, awake – for four more hours until my light-on-a-timer turned on to tell me it was time to start the day.

It’s one of the many paradoxes of depresssion. All I want to do is sleep, all the time, everywhere. But I can’t fall asleep when I have the opportunity – or I wake up frequently and can’t fall back asleep.

I want to eat but nothing sounds good. Or I have no appetite but want something in my mouth nonetheless. Another of the paradoxes.

I simultaneously don’t care about anything and care far too much. I play worries over and over in my head but don’t feel like I even have the energy to take the first step toward resolving them.

Depression affects every part of me. Physically, emotionally, mentally. It affects what I eat and how I talk. It affects how I keep my home and how I parent.

But, in spite of all this, I am often able to keep silent, to just “do the things” in public. To respond, “Great! – and how are you?” when I’m asked how I am. To laugh off the work that it takes to just survive.

But this year, I hit rock bottom. I couldn’t pretend anymore. I was truly not functioning and I knew it. I was putting my children to bed a little after noon and heading to my room myself and staying there – until my husband put food on the table for supper and coaxed me out to put the kids back to bed for the night.

I didn’t have the strength to ask for help.

I waited until my scheduled prenatal appointment and mentioned it to my doctor. He started me on some medication and referred me to a mental health practice. The practice he’d referred me to turned out to be not taking new patients. I didn’t have the strength or energy to find a counselor on my own.

But, by God’s grace, my husband’s workplace participates in a wellness program administered by one of our local hospitals/healthcare systems. Their prenatal nurse navigator contacted me to ask if I’d like to participate in their prenatal program. Now, I’d declined to participate with Beth-Ellen, figuring that I’d given birth twice in the previous three years and knew the basics. And I still feel that way – I’m kinda a pro at this whole pregnancy thing. But pregnancy combined with severe depression? I hadn’t really done that before and I thought maybe the program could do what I didn’t have energy to do – make me an appointment to see another mental health professional.

But what they did was even better. Apparently, they have a mental health program too – and the Mental Health nurse navigator called me a couple days later to get me enrolled and to talk through what was going on. She encouraged me and helped me to identify and take small steps to get through. We visit by phone once a week.

And then there are the people who have responded to my “Not good.” The friend who asked what she could do and then brought my family lunch and played with my kids for hours so I could take a nap on several different occasions. The other friend who brought dinner. Another couple of ladies who baked us muffins and banana bread, supplying several days worth of “teatime” snacks. The multitudes of other women who have spoken encouragement and prayed for us and given us hugs.

Despite my failure to ask for help, God has provided it abundantly.

On this “World Mental Health Day”, I am thanking God that although depression touches every part of me – God’s mercy touches far beyond.