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Lessons in Definition

A lot has happened since last I wrote here, so first let me fill you in.  We moved to Switzerland!  I could go into all the details of how we got here, but for now know that a long time dream to move our family of six abroad came to fruition in what was undoubtedly the hardest and most exciting process we’ve ever been through (and are still going through). I may have a few more posts like this one as I digest all that God is teaching me.

Blindspots.  They’re those things we don’t see because we can’t see them, they’re hiding, we don’t even know we should be looking for them.   Picture that place between the field of view in your side mirror and your rearview mirror, you know the reason your drivers ed instructor told you to a head check before changing lanes.   And then we change positions, do the head check, and suddenly the hidden car comes into view.  I guess you could say it surprises us because we’re shocked we couldn’t see it before.  But that’s exactly what this refining, sanctifying, growing us more into His likeness stuff is like, isn’t it?  God gently, and maybe sometimes abruptly, pulling us into a different position so we can more clearly see the sin that so easily entangles us.  Not to squash us under guilt and condemnation, but as His adopted children, to show us His glorious strength in our weakness, to show us more of the abundant life, characterised by freedom, that He intends for us.

Let’s call our move to Switzerland a rather large “head” or should I say “heart check”.  I’m certain God has a whole slew of things to grow me up in during our time here, but one of the most obvious right now has been about self definition.  Whether we realize it or not, we all define ourselves by, or get our self worth from certain things.  I think most of us as Christians know that our definition, our self worth, should come from Christ alone.  We’re good at the Sunday school answer, but in truth we still struggle don’t we? This world is full of lies and false promises.  For women, there are countless things that lure us into thinking they will make us valuable, from the opinions of others to career success, the list goes on and I think each of us are prone to believing different ones for different reasons.  It all boils down to definition doesn’t it?  I am Sarah, that’s my name, but if I were a word in a dictionary, what would follow, or what would I like to follow?  We like to think of ourselves as unique, but at the same time just like everyone else.  We have an ideal image of ourselves that we aspire to, but where does this ideal image come from?  Perhaps, and I’m just throwing it out there, we are self-obsessed?  I certainly think the messages we hear in current culture would have us be, but that’s another topic.

So back to our move, let me count blessings to lead into my point.  I don’t have to cook here.  Yes, you heard right, I don’t HAVE to cook.  As part of Travis’s position, we get to eat at the cafeteria for nearly every meal if we so choose (He works for  an international boarding school).  I am thankful for this break, even when the meals aren’t our favorite, it’s wonderful to have the option.  Next blessing, no mortgage.  We are renting out our house in the US and living in staff/faculty housing here in Switzerland as part of the job, it’s an apartment on the forth floor. A great opportunity to beef up our savings! Next up, we don’t have a car… yet.  We are getting lots of exercise in our little Alpine village and learning to slow down a bit because we have to, plus we’re getting a break from the car bickering, all good things right?!

But now we can insert definition crisis.  As a full time homemaker/mother/wife for the past 9.5 years, there are certain ways I have always, unknowingly, defined myself, made myself feel good about my role and calling, measures I have used to decide I’m doing a pretty good job.  A big one is cooking for our family.  No matter how many times I really didn’t feel like doing it, it has always felt like a labor of love to plan and prepare meals  for my people.  To get the “mmms!” and “more please” does wonders to boost my self esteem, definition confirmation so to speak.  Owning a home also felt like a big extension of being a homemaker.  From the decorations and furniture to the veggie and flower garden and the way my front porch looked.  Being away from these things has pulled me into a position to see that I, in many ways, defined myself by striving to do these things well.  And the car.  As crazy as it may seem, the freedom to go where I wanted when I wanted for what I needed gave me this sense of empowerment in my roles and relationships.  Well hello there blind spot, so good to finally see you!

So who is this woman Sarah, who doesn’t cook very often anymore because she doesn’t have to, who doesn’t have a house with a yard and gardens to care for, who doesn’t have a car at her disposal to conquer the world in a day?  And He whispers, “the very same Sarah I love and died for, the one whose life I  bought at the ultimate price and that I will continue to use for my glory and love for her blessing until her last breath”.  And I am left in awe and adoration…

The seven year old me, who lay on my twin bed in my blue bedroom  experiencing the overwhelming joy of being adopted into God’s family because of His great love for me through Jesus, she wasn’t cooking gourmet meals or owning houses or driving cars.  And the 80 year old me (if I get to live that long), hunched over in my favorite chair with the same simple daily routines, she probably won’t be doing those things either.  But who I am, my value as God’s daughter, will never diminish.  Because my value and use by the One who made me is not based on what I do, my roles and successes, but based on who HE is and the work He is doing in and through my life for HIS glory.  And this will keep happening at all the various stages, during all the peaks and valleys, trials and joys, of my life.  And my value to my children as their mother, and to Travis as his wife, does it diminish when I’m laid up sick  with the flu and can’t do all the doing I usually do?  Of course not!

Perhaps defining ourselves by all our doing is hiding from and preventing the real joy of  being defined by our being.  What if realising this truth is discovering the fuel for the doing He has for us rather than the doing we’ve decided for ourselves?

I am Sarah, a sinner pursued and saved by the Maker of all that is, by His grace and for His glory.  I am nothing without Jesus, and with Him I am completely new and whole and filled, I have been defined and marked for eternity!  There is nothing I can do or not do to add to or take away from that fact.

 

 

By Faith Not by Sight

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The phone call came on one of those days when I woke up behind schedule. Combines were running hard, The Farmer was running early, his lunch still in the recesses of my brain… we would figure out a way to get it to him later. Some days just seem to scream, “Why can’t you handle your life” and this was one of them.

I had just sat down to try to find a little peace to eat my lunch while my toddler slept; the lunch aftermath awaiting me in the kitchen and my older girls playing outside. It had been a morning that didn’t make me feel on top of the world as a mother. The machine wasn’t moving very smoothly if you know what I mean, which can easily bring my focus off of God’s true purpose for my days and onto my unrealistic expectations instead.

Timely then to get “The” (frankly) unexpected phone call that a Birth Mother in Florida had chosen us to be the forever family for her sweet thing, due in about two, weeks give or a take a few days…

Finish the rest of the story at I take Joy.

Made for Beauty

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Genesis 2: 5  Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, 6 but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground. 7 Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

8 Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. 9 The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it…

18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” …

21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

 

When I read the creation account—and specifically when God made Adam and Eve, I find the order of events to be very significant…

There was only dirt—no plants—and God formed Adam out of the dust. That’s where Adam’s life began. Then God created Eden—a lush garden—to be Adam’s new home. After moving Adam into Eden, God then created Eve.  Eve’s life began in the beautiful garden. It seems so providential— part of God’s perfect design—  that He would give women our beginning in Eden instead of in the dust. Perhaps this is symbolic of the unique way in which he designed us women to be bearers of beauty to the world.

It seems that from the beginning, God created women with an inherent inclination for beauty. We are the ones who gather others to feast around the table, who value creating an inviting and festive atmosphere, we decorate, create centerpieces and place settings, cultivate lush gardens, light candles, and are the civilizers of society…

Read the rest at Mom Heart.

Why Beauty Matters

I watched this one hour documentary last week on Why Beauty Matters. It is a philosophical look at art and beauty. It is excellent so I wanted to share. If you have an hour to spare, check it out:

 

If you watch it, I would love to hear your thoughts!
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Unfurling…

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It has taken spring a little longer to find its way here in the great white North! But these last few days we have been blessed by the appearance of green grass and budding leaves- ponds that ripple with ducks landing and spring breezes.

It is almost as if it has taken us by surprise and we are breathing sighs of relief to feel the heat of the sun and the new life unfolding all around the farm. As if nature had been forced to lie dormant for so long that it had secrets it had been keeping. Plans that had been quietly unfurling that would one day, all of a sudden take form and shape and surprise us all with their lavish transformations.

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When my mama, the kids and I were out enjoying the spectacle, anticipating all that is still to come I wondered, what are the secret plans God has been forming in my heart, in my life, that I might not even be aware of? What surprises are waiting for me to unfurl, to notice, and to be awestruck by?

This… the change of season, it brings new things and I lean in a little closer to hear God’s heart beat for me, to catch a glimpse of the spectacle that he is crafting; the growth that he is instigating. By his grace may I slow enough to enter his current, embrace what he is doing in me this season?

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For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.

Isaiah 43:19

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The light of the cross

As I sat, the stillness of the house felt like a welcomed stranger. The early morning light had yet to break as I relished some holy moments.

Winter had been long with its white skies and white fields, without the rows of barren trees punctuating black I wasn’t sure where the fields ended and the sky began; the days folding into one another.

Would the sun show its face soon? join me at Mom Heart today…

Lenten Reflections

I’m sorry to our few faithful followers that I’ve been absent around here the past couple of months! We have had just about every type of virus that is common in these winter months and with that, a lot of sleepless nights and I have been so, so tired! I also started a Life Coaching Certification course right after Christmas so I’ve had weekly homework assignments and appointments to attend to. I hope to share some of what I’m learning with you soon.

In the meantime, I wanted to share a few resources related to Lent. I grew up in a non-denominatal Christian home which did not usually lend itself to embracing the traditions of old. Today— as an adult— I tend to like churches that are figuring out how to reach and relate to people here and now. The idea of contextualizing the gospel to unique cultures is a concept I love which is rooted in Scripture. Paul was known to quote the poets and philosophers of his day—  interpreting such sayings in a way that illuminated the gospel. John used the language of the Greeks and wrote his gospel to and for them using terms that would make sense to them. Likewise, Matthew wrote his gospel to Jews, showing how Jesus fulfilled the Scriptures, Mark wrote to Christians in Rome with an emphasis and aim of encouraging them the midst of persecution, and Luke wrote telling Gentiles that Jesus came to seek and save them— the lost. So, churches that think about modern/relevant (I hesitate to use the word relevant because it often gets associated with “watered-down”) ways to relate the unchanging gospel—  excite me.

But in our modern culture I also see the value of tradition. Not as something to hold onto or over people like a law. We live under the covenant of grace and traditions in my opinion fall under the category of liberties. I agree with the theologian who said “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” The benefit I see in celebrating church traditions— like Lent— is that they offer us an opportunity, reminder—  or call, to reorient our lives heavenward. Traditions cause us to slow down and recognize that all of life is sacred and an act of worship. I think traditions also help create strong family identities and memories for our children. Kids often need to see or experience a thing to understand and remember it… to learn, so celebrating traditions together both instructs and unifies.

So… where does Lent come from? The following is a passage from Family Celebrations by Ann Hibbard:

Since the early days of the church, this (the six weeks before Holy Week known as Lent) has been a season of self-examination, sorrow for sin, and commitment to Christ. The beginning of Lent can be seen in the early church’s practice of fasting before the Paschal feast, the celebration of Christ’s death and resurrection on Easter Sunday. Easter became a time for baptizing new belivers, based on the Scriptre “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:4). Fasting preceded baptism as a means of spiritual preparation.

When Constantine declared Christianity a legal religion (AD 313), Christianity became very popular. Persecution, which has sifted out the “nominal Christians,” was no longer a threat. But now those who converted did not need to be so committed. It was at this time that Lent was lengthened to the six weeks. The purpose was to strengthen the commitment of those in the church… and prepare those who would be baptized into the church on Easter. It seems fitting that we too prepare for this celebration by examining our walk with Christ. Are there bad habits in our lives that we need to forsake? Are there good habits, like prayer and Bible study, that we should establish? This season reminds us to look at these things… and to reexamine our commitment to Him. … Lent provides a perfect opportunity for teaching our children about Jesus’ death for us.

To teach our own kids and those in our small group about Lent, we let each of them plant a seed in a little pot. We explained to them that planting the seed is symbolic of death— the death of Christ and the dying of self and our old nature. Then during Lent the seed (hopefully!) grows and comes to life, which is symbolic of the resurrection of Christ and the spiritual reality of His resurrection life that is alive in us. I came across some other great ways to celebrate Lent with kids here and here.

For personal reading I love Bread And Wine: Readings For Lent And Easter and Death on a Friday Afternoon: Meditations on the Last Words of Jesus from the Cross. Also, you can sign up for free emails from the Henri Nouwen Society and with that they send weekly Lenten devotional readings.

Do you celebrate Lent? What are some of your traditions or favorite reads for celebrating with your family? I’d love to hear!

The day’s mantra…

 

The day greets me fast as I am awakened by Si singing “mama, mama.” I roll over half an eye open to find it’s 6:30. Not bad, I think to myself, and then roll over hoping he will last a little longer to give this mama a little time to come to.

It’s 7 by the time I am out of bed and I slip upstairs to get him, asking God for His good grace today.

The sun is painting pink, the foreshadowing of a bright day?

The house begins to stir and we are off and running. It wont be until a few hours later that I’ll get to sit for a moment to take the word in, to sit and be still and link to the life- line.

The sky has opened up bright and it’s as if winter’s grip is willing to loosen a little and I am grateful after the gray, blowing days that have felt harder to conquer.

There are already potential disappointments today, things hoped for that won’t happen.

They need to be laid down. There is a strong sense that the day’s plan at any moment may morph into something unexpected.

My longings and agenda’s need to be put aside so that first things, better things can happen.

I am going to need to sit with Jesus if we are to redeem this day.

I open Jesus calling and the first words are…

“Your awareness of your constant need for me (Jesus) is your greatest strength.”

I’m shaking my head knowing the weakness’ and thankful that it’s actually strength. There is hope that I will have strength today. Strength to live into the things I actually care about and leave the rest, the unknowns behind.

I wonder how this strength will play out today. How will I tap into it and rise up to all that He has for me today so I don’t miss it.

There it is in John chapter 16:24,

“You haven’t done this before. Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy.”

So I say it out loud over and over, about all of the worry, all of the unknowns, the fighting to stay in the present… “In Jesus name…” “In Jesus name…”

I feel the soul rise to meet the sun, freedom taking hold and I sense the source of strength, not from me, not from my “good” planning and lists, not from my structured rhythms but from the source of all things good, all things real, all things holy.

The day forges on and as I keep the mantra, “In Jesus name.” All things unfold according to His plan and I continue to receive and live abundantly.

My Stained Recliner

Whoever invented micro fiber furniture, boasting its stain resistance, obviously didn’t do any thorough research with a family of small children.  Let’s just say, our rocking recliner is now more of a magnet for messes than it is a repellent of them. But to be fair, we’ve probably allowed far too many snacks to be eaten in it, so I digress.  While I often cringe when I think of all I’ve cleaned off of this recliner, including multiple types of bodily excretions, this worn out, stain ridden chair has some lessons for me.

This past week, my youngest came down with a tummy bug.  She’s already a bit on the needy/snuggly side as it is, so when she’s sick, all she wants is to be in our arms.  And when she looks to me with the droopy eyes of fever, asking me to hold her, of course I swoop her up.  I’m happy to report that she’s feeling all better now, but my lower back is still feeling all the holding of the past few days.  And that’s where the stained recliner comes in.  As I was sitting there, rocking my sweet girl, trying to take the edge off her misery with my love, I couldn’t help but look around at all the messes that were not being tidied, going down the mental check list of all the tasks that needed doing that I just couldn’t do.  And then the whisper came, that this chair, this rocking, this girl is the  best task I can be accomplishing in any given day.  Certainly, there is a time and place for cleaning and creating a place of peace for our families, working together on those tasks.  But sometimes the greatest way we can create peace for the souls we love in our homes is to just sit still.  When Autumn was sick, when she needed me to just sit and comfort and stroke her forehead, something I do in snipets all the time, it made me think about how much my kids would love it if I did this more.  And this compulsion to keep working and doing and accomplishing, I’m learning something about my heart in it.  I think, if I’m really honest, I’m often doing those things to impress others, not with the simple motive of blessing my family.  Thoughts riddled with insecurity, equating my worth with the job I’m doing as the cleaner/organizer of our home, creep into my mind throughout the day.  But what if molding and filling hearts is more important than laundry and crumbs and papers in disarray?  What if cleanliness is really not next to Godliness as the saying goes?  I think my times of just sitting with my children, who long for those special times with me, reminds me that seasons are short, and children are little only for awhile.  But how do we really live for an audience of one?  How do we stop, in self-focus, always worrying about what others think of us?

I don’t doubt that we will always struggle with this in a world that likes to keep us busy, that tells us that moving and doing is the only work worth doing.  But we find some great encouragement straight from God in His Word that fights the world’s prescription.  Let us not forget that when we are still, to just be with and focus on the ones we love, we are following the example of our God, who longs for us to crawl up in His lap, to hear His Words, and to just be.  I’ll leave you with these verses that encourage my heart to enjoy moments of Sabbath in my days.

Luke 10:38-42As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”   “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

This passage always reminds me that none of the other work I have on my to do list is as important as sitting at Jesus’s feet.

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

This verse reminds me that just as Jesus is my place of rest, I need to be a place of rest for my children, not the busy, frantic, “just a minute” mom that I can be.

Psalm 46:10He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” 

This verse reminds me to rest in God’s sovereignty.  Could it be that my stillness bring Him more glory than my busyness?

Matthew 22:36-40  “Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

And this passage, one we’ve all heard many times, is a good reminder of God’s priority for our time.  Giving Him the best of ourselves, and giving our best to others (children/family/friends).

None of these passages us tell us to be lazy, but rather to rest with purpose.  There are many scriptures that warn against laziness, working is good, don’t get me wrong.  I think where we often get it wrong is when we see times of rest and being still as a hindrance to what we see as more important, the doing we have idolized.  Rest serves as a recharging for the work God has given us, it’s needed fuel we often neglect.

Meditate with me on these verses today as we ask God how He might be leading us to slow down for the sake of what’s most important.

DIY Advent Calendar {With Printables}

Follow me over to Mom Heart today— where I’m sharing my instructions and printables for a DIY Advent calendar. There are daily activities and scripture readings (with optional discussion questions) to enjoy with your kids.