MidSummer Musings

In winter I get up at night
And dress by yellow candle-light.
In summer, quite the other way,
I have to go to bed by day.
I have to go to bed and see
The birds still hopping on the tree,
Or hear the grown-up people’s feet
Still going past me in the street.
And does it not seem hard to you,
When all the sky is clear and blue,
And I should like so much to play,
To have to go to bed by day?

—“Bed in Summer,” Robert Louis Stevenson

What child (grown up children too) cannot relate to this child who has “to go to bed by day?” My kids and I get a kick out of Stevenson’s empathetic poem.  It is almost as if he is taking the children’s side.  I think he is.

I’ve been taking the children’s side too this summer. Long days, late nights, and an unhurried pace awakens the imagination for both parent and child. We are not machines, after all. We are taking our time- our time for relationships, for observation, for ideas, for play.

We’ve traveled and will travel some more. In June we went to FL to spend some quality time with Mimi and Poppy, splashing in the ocean, riding horses, and fishing in the canal. We then went to Dallas with Daddy to the Southern Baptist Convention. The kids went to day camps while Mommy and Daddy went to the conference. I will go to New York this week for a few days with a team from our church. We will take a family day trip to Jackson Falls for a hike and to see some waterfalls later this month. Finally, before we get back to our formal studies we will take a trip to see Nana and Poppa and uncles, aunts, and cousins in SC. The summer is jam packed, but joyful.

With the sweltering heat we’ve had, the pool is our landing place. We try to go in the morning or evening to avoid the midday intensity. I lie in the shade with a book while the kids swim and play- it’s a win-win!

Our garden is in full bloom producing an abundant harvest! Well, except for our cucumbers.  They are a pitiful sight. Travis is a master gardener (in my humble opinion). The kids and I are learning a lot from him. When the green bean plants began to sprout, he realized that they were “runners,” so he rigged up a trellis with stakes and string so that they would not run a muck through the garden. We have had so many delicious meals right from our backyard! Omelets, stir fry, steamed veggies, fried okra, salads, and more…

“Odd as I am sure it will appear to some, I can think of no better form of personal involvement in the cure of the environment than that of gardening. A person who is growing a garden, if he is growing it organically, is improving a piece of the world. He is producing something to eat, which makes him somewhat independent of the grocery business, but he is also enlarging, for himself, the meaning of food and the pleasure of eating.” ~Wendell Berry

Summer reading is in full swing too! We finished reading aloud Little Dog, Lost, and what a delight it was. It was the perfect book for the ages of my children- a misunderstood neighbor, a cause, and a dog and boy made this a great read for us. We are reading The Penderwicks now, which I’ve already read and could not wait to read to my kids. It is the perfect summer read- four sisters, a cottage, rabbits, a boy, a bull, and a summer adventure. It is the first in the series, and we plan to read them all (not this summer, though). 🙂

Here is a simple Oven Fries recipe that complement many summer meals:

Simply Delicious Oven Fries

Ingredients:

3 pounds Russet potatoes, cut in wedges
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Seasoning Salt
Pepper
Garlic Powder

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Place potatoes on 2 cookie sheets, spread evenly
  3. Drizzle olive oil over potatoes liberally
  4. Sprinkle Kosher salt and seasoning salt (even amounts…I eyeball it)
  5. Sprinkle 1 tsp. of pepper (or so, I eyeball it too…depends on your taste)…I use less pepper
  6. Sprinkle 1/2 tsp of garlic powder
  7. Toss potatoes several times (add more oil if necessary)
  8. Bake in oven for 20-30 min. (Toss potatoes with metal spatula every 10 min. or so)
  9. They are done when they brown on the edges and get a nice amber glow.
  10. Eat and enjoy!

We have had a few evening bike rides, but let me tell ya…we still come in sweating, begging for water and popsicles. I love our neighborhood- perfect for walks, runs, and rides. 🙂

I love how my kids are at the ages now where they can play a board game together. They actually administer the game- recalling the rules, determining who goes first, and keep score (or money for monopoly). Brother sometimes plays by the rules… 😉

Something came to my mind this morning as I looked out of my office window. Everything God has designed in creation has a determined way of life. A hawk flew across our backyard, and God reminded me that it is doing as it was designed to do- hunt, feed, nest, and find shelter. The Holy Spirit gently impressed upon my heart that I am designed for a purpose as well- to love, lead, share, nurture, and rest. All are made to worship- even the birds. So, here in the middle of summer- in the heat of the sweltering sun, we find our way of life by design. In work, in play, in relationship, in conversation, in observation- we remind ourselves that we are unlike the birds- we are human- we reflect the glory of God in a different way. And in this way, and in every season, we both marvel and wonder at the feast laid before us- in the presence of the One whose image we bear.

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Rhythms- Summer

We tend to live and breathe within the margins of fast and busy. Like a walk/jog couch to 5K, we gun it from deadlines, school programs, sporting games, exams, performances, parties, graduations, weddings, and everything else until the dust settles and then summer. Coconut-scented sunblock wafts through the warm breezy air and we remember how to slow down. Well, for the weekend anyway. Because there is still work and other responsibilities, but all the extras will wait until the next season of “busy.”

If we are not careful, we can rush past the extended margin of rest to fill up the calendar, clutter closet, or our distracted mind. It is not that we do nothing, with idle hands and slothful living. It is that we leave space for prayer, reflection, assessment, relationships, creativity, learning, and fun. We still work, we still gather the summer fruit. But we also allow space for change. We silence the noise of life so we can hear and listen. We stop and take notice of how God is speaking into our life and through His Word. We give ourselves permission to not answer every demand immediately. That email can wait. No, really, it can. The checklist can be pared down to a reasonable limit. The kids can be productive while they are out of school with chores, good books, play, and spending time with extended family and friends. Summer means to savor. To relish the time we have today, because as Laura tells us in Little House in the Big Woods, “This is now.” She was glad that the cozy house, and Pa and Ma and the firelight and the music, were now. They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now. It can never be a long time ago.”

What we give to ourselves and to our families when we allow for summer is “now.” I easily go back to summers with my family at the beach, on our patio, by the pool, or in the backyard with toes trampling through that South Florida St. Augustine grass. My own kids run outside at dusk every night to catch lightning bugs in glass jars and releasing them with a 5-4-3-2-1 countdown. Strawberry picking, planting vegetables and herbs, swimming, visiting grandparents, grilling out with friends, and simply being together are ways we savor the “now” of summer. And these, hopefully, will be the things we will remember. Summer is a “time to keep” as Solomon would say. Not every time or season will allow for this, but there is a time for everything. Let’s make time for summer “for now the winter is past.”

Rhythms- Daily Bread

To nourish is to awaken, to fill the hungry with good things. For the Lord satisfies our hearts with food and gladness. We bother ourselves, though, at least in the privileged West with overconsumption, fad diets, and product snobbery that we hunger and thirst still, but not for the one thing needful.

 

If we put as much effort on our souls, (which will last) as we do our bodies, which are decaying (and nothing of earth will glorify them), perhaps we will find the glory that we are seeking. “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” What does it mean to fear the Lord except to come to Him as both a beggar and His child? And when we come to him we eat what is good and delight ourselves in the richest of fare. Nothing of earth can compare. Everything else leaves us wanting.

 

Image result for breaking bread and wine

 

 

The Bread of Life, whose life was broken and poured out says, “Take and eat.” An invitation to His table. And so we break the bread and drink the wine in remembrance of the Lamb that was slain. We taste and see the goodness of the Lord, satisfied in His presence. It is in this way that we are filled when we come to the Good Shepherd and say, “I shall not want.”

 

We pray “Our Father.” We begin here, for in Christ we are His children. He is of heaven, we are of earth, and yet we pray for heaven and earth to meet- for His Kingdom and will to be done. Until then, we ask for this day our daily bread. And we keep asking and receiving. Day after day. Manna from heaven falls, and we are nourished by the Word of God, for man does not live on bread alone. May are stomachs not be full and our souls starved.

 

Rhythms- Sabbath

There is a point to pause and ponder. There must be. It is the way to be human- to mirror the divine. For He too rested from all His work that he had done in creation. To keep creating without rest, without reflection to say “it is good” is to ignore the way of the infinite, for God knew when to say “it is finished.”

Instead of Sabbath we rebuild Babel- an ever reaching, towering monument of self and achievement.  Look what I have done! Look how far I’ve come! See what I am building? Look at me! Fill every waking second like sand in a jar of rocks with all the things to build Babel with, and there is little to no room left for Sabbath.

It is when we get quiet that we can hear and acknowledge that what we are building may be a dangerous delusion. That instead of getting closer to God in all the bustle we are actually running further away. For in order to know God, we must first be still. We must cease the efforts, the vanity of waking early and lying down late as if all the world depends upon what we can accomplish or fit in between sunrise and sunset.

When we pause in our day, in the week, on holiday, and in the intentional moments of quietude, we both consider all the work that has been done from the Sabbath before until now, and we rest. And we remember grace- the very thing that brought us here- our coming, eternal Sabbath.

Let us not be fooled in an advancing technological age, with high speed connections and multi-framed, interfaced screens. Our cleverness will never overcome our need for a Savior. Perhaps there is an enemy seeking to fool us that it will, and so we try, and we run still, further away.

May the believer lay down the shovel at Babel and build a Kingdom that will never end. May she remember that unless the Lord builds, she labors in vain. Unless He watches, she stays up in vain. There is no anxiousness in Sabbath. There is only peace and contentment with the work accomplished. When a season of toil is through, be it a week or a few, let Sabbath rest occupy the mind, body, and soul of all who desire the way of the infinite- the Creator and Lord of the Sabbath. And then we can say, “It is good.”

Psalm 127

A Song of Ascents. Of Solomon.

127 Unless the Lord builds the house,
    those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
    and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
    for he gives to his beloved sleep.

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
    the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
    are the children[a] of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
    who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
    when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.[b]

The Responsibility Is Ours

I recently read Ben Sasse’s book The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming of Age Crisis and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self Reliance, and it left me with a stronger sense of personal responsibility for raising sturdy adults, because after all, our children are headed that way- adulthood- sooner than later.

Image result for the vanishing american adult

Here is an excerpt from the book:

“I believe our entire nation is in the midst of a collective coming-of-age crisis without parallel in our history. We are living in an America of perpetual adolescence. Our kids simply don’t know what an adult is anymore – or how to become one. Many don’t even see a reason to try. Perhaps more problematic, the older generations have forgotten that we need to plan to teach them. It’s our fault more than it is theirs.”

There is an outcry from every direction, whether it be towards the government, our schools, social media, or even each other, pointing fingers, yet are we taking responsibility for what is ours? Because the breakdown in the family will inevitably lead to a breakdown in society. We look to the government or schools to raise our kids when the responsibility to raise them is ours. And if the systems that we place our trust in fail, we flail our arms up and rage against those very same systems.

Instead of casting blame, let’s take responsibility. Instead of passing the buck, let’s shoulder our own weight. Instead of running away from the problem, let’s work towards a solution. The government or schools cannot replace the family, and when all of the systems fail we have no one to blame but ourselves. Because no one wants to do the hard work of raising a wired generation- overly connected yet desperately disconnected. We busy our kids in activities from one thing to another, rushing, frantic, jittery, and restless. And we wonder why they never grew up.

My kids are young. They have yet to “grow up.” I pray for them and will continue to pray for them even when they are grown. What I know is that the responsibility is my husband’s and mine to raise them with help from grandparents and the church. We do not expect their character will be formed automatically or that the culture will shape them for the better. It will not. We have to take responsibility for what is ours. And this generation behind us is our responsibility to nurture and raise.

If we let the government govern, teachers teach, entertainers entertain, and we as parents PARENT, then maybe we will see a generation less restless, wired, depressed, and disconnected. Maybe we will see a generation flourish instead of flounder. Maybe we will see families strengthened in society when we recognize that the responsibility was ours all along.

The Home, a Lighthouse

Mother Teresa said, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.”

The problem is that in our hurried, fast-paced culture the home often takes a back seat to work, sports, other activities and peer relationships that we become servants to the calendar leaving little thought as to who we are as a family and what it means to be together.

There is an alarming rise in mental illness among teenagers today- increased suicide rate, and increased depression as well as anxiety.  With so much trouble, fear, uncertainty, hate and grief on the outside, where is that safe place for our families to land?

Image result for lighthouse

A lighthouse serves two purposes.  One being that a lighthouse navigates ships to the shore and second a lighthouse warns of rough seas or dangerous weather.  It both guides and warns, and some consider it “the traffic signal of the seas.” It’s light is necessary over dark waters.

“Lighthouses don’t fire cannons to call attention to their shining- they just shine.” D.L Moody

There is a lot of boasting, posting, instagramming, hashtagging, tweeting, etc. out there today bringing with it a lot of noise and distraction from the real work of cultivating life (because it takes work and intentionality to illuminate light in the darkness).

Jesus said, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

The home is a lighthouse, except we don’t steer ships, we steer souls.

If we pause, take notice of the souls within our homes, put down our phones and be intentional in building relationships instead of platforms, valuing truth, goodness, and beauty over lesser trivial and transient things- then our homes will be like lighthouses ready to shine.We simply need to turn the light ON!

L.I.F.E

L- Love We love because Christ first loved us- His love for us motivates and helps us to love others. Spell love T.I.M.E. What do you like to do together? Learn to enjoy being together- meals around the table talking with each other, family nights, date nights, community or sporting events, etc. When we go our separate ways in the day we know we are loved and accepted here when we return together in our safe harbor of home.

I- Influence Proverbs 24:3-4- “By wisdom a house is built and by knowledge its rooms are filled with beautiful treasures.” Much like building a physical house, we must build our homes with the right tools. We build our homes with truth and wisdom upon the foundation of God’s Word. We influence our homes by incorporating the 5 senses.  Ask, what will my children remember of home when they grow up? What sights, smells, tastes, sounds and feelings will they recall? Read aloud together, go on walks or hike together, play worship music around the house, or light candles at dinner time. Make home a special place to be remembered.

F- Faith Ephesians 2:8 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this is not your own doing it is the gift of God so that no one can boast.”  The greatest gift we can give our families is the gift of knowing who Jesus is and the grace that he offers. The writer of Hebrews says that “Without faith it is impossible to please God because whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek Him.” Join a local, gospel believing church and get your family involved. Make family prayer and Bible reading a priority.

E- Engagement A lighthouse does not shine for itself- it shines for others to see the light. We too, shine not to draw attention to ourselves, but to the light that shines within us, and that is the light of Christ. Seek to show hospitality.  Invite others into your lighthouse so they can be encouraged by the light. Get involved in your community. Serve together as a family- go on mission together locally, and perhaps beyond that.

Jesus came to us so that we would have abundant life. The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy- the enemy, Satan, wants to steal, kill, and destroy the home by breaking down marriages, depressing our kids, drawing us away from one another into our devices. When we draw near to the Light of the World, then his light will shine through us and we will learn to cultivate life in our homes and out into the community in which we live.

Walking When the Way is Hard

It’s February.  Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, which means six more weeks of winter, and well that just makes February that much harder. I don’t know what it is about this month, but motivation is about as low as the temperature outside. It was a cloudy 25 degree Monday morning today filled with flurries and frowns. I told my kids that the weather nor our moods will change the fact that we have to get dressed, eat breakfast, and get out the door in time for our co-op. We made it out the door, dragging our feet to the cold van, reluctant to leave the warmth of beds and blankets.

Here’s the thing. Even when the way is hard, we still must walk. We often begin the day with Psalm 118:24- “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” If every day is the Lord’s, then so are the February days. Life is filled with Februarys- cloudy, cold, ordinary days with little reprieve. And yet sometimes it is in the Februarys that we grow and discover more of who God is and who He is making us to be. We have to let this happen, though. We must have faith that even when the way is hard, God is still working in and through our lives. And we walk the way in the strength of His Spirit.

The Word helps us. Also, knowing our own limitations and God’s power helps us to walk in humility before the Father. Paul had a thorn, Jacob had a limp, Moses stuttered, Jeremiah was depressed, David was pursued, and Elijah felt alone. There are countless people in Scripture who felt their limitations and yet they continued to walk in the center of God’s will. “But I don’t want to!” is a common complaint voiced from my kids, to which I say, “Well, I didn’t ask if you wanted to do this, but I’m telling you that you will.” And then I’ll say a borrowed phrase, “Not what I want to do but what I ought to do.” Is it easy? No. Is it fun? No. But this is where growth takes place. This is how our maturity is formed. In the Februarys. In the mundane routine and rhythm of life. We will be as dreary as our perspective is, so we must find ways to walk in the midst of it with joy.

3 Simple Ways to Walk When the Way is Hard

  1. Plan for out-of-the-ordinary, happy moments. 

Valentine’s Day fun, a movie, visit friends, a family fun night, etc. Being intentional with the calendar in February for fun can make a drab month a fantastic one!

2. Take a day off. 

If you can, give yourself permission to go off the script. It may be a day just for mom, or for the whole family, but taking a day to do life differently may be just what is needed to jazz up a bland week.

3. Spend extended time in God’s Word and in prayer.

Sometimes we feel the well is dry and we need a re-filling from God. Carving out a Saturday morning, or getting up early to spend uninterrupted time with the Lord can prove beneficial for spiritual renewal.

There are many other things we can do or change to help us walk when the way is hard, but these were just a few. Don’t grow weary doing good for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. There may be things we need to give up, like sin. But we must never give up doing the good things, especially with all the bad going on around us in our world today. God is always working- in the exciting days when all is high and up, and in the days that are mundane like February days. This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!