Five Minute Friday: Glue

I’ve recently stumbled across Lisa-Jo Baker. Her thoughts on motherhood are honest and refreshing and pretty much every blog post makes me weep or laugh out loud (or both). She’s been a breath of fresh air in my chaos as of late. And she does this thing Five Minute Friday, where you write about the topic she gives for 5 minutes: unfiltered, unedited, uninterrupted.

Writing is something I often long to do but usually my brain feels used up and I just stare at a blank screen or take a nap or clean something. But since it’s the thing God so often uses to help me process what He’s teaching me, often no writing means I’m a little bit of a crazy person.

So I’m going to try this Five Minute Friday thing, because, well, why not?

Are you a writer? Wanna try it with me? Tell me if you do??

The word today is GLUE. Ready, set, go.

I have the glue poured into a bowl. Fabric squares ready, we’re going to do this thing I remember from elementary school and it’s going to be great and surely she’ll want to bring her homemade Easter basket to school for show-and-tell.

I picture the little treats and Target dollar-aisle toys waiting for her on Easter morning. The basket ready to be filled with colorful plastic eggs, because last year I threw two-dozen hard boiled eggs in the garbage.

We don’t care about the Easter bunny, but some things are just fun to do anyway, right?

So the glue. It’s in the bowl, waiting to be dipped and brushed, ready to seal the bright colors of fabric scraps onto a plastic ice cream pail.

I want to let her do it, but I watch in horror as it drips everywhere. As it blobs and goops and the fabric bubbles over globs of glue.

I grab the brush from her hand. What are you doing??

I regret it instantly. But hold the brush tight, wanting it to look nice. Wanting her to pay attention. She slinks a little in her chair. I see her shoulders hunch like mine so often do. My heart is heavy as I think of the weight I’ve just heaped upon her shoulders. Weight of perfection. Weight of not-good-enough. Weight of, “Look at me, mom! Will this please you? Will I please you?”

It’s just glue.

Will it be able to hold us together, this messy mom and daughter with so much pain and broken and hurt past? With so much still to come?

I think it’s grace. Grace is the glue.

the shepherd season

It’s April. These were January’s thoughts.

But, well, I didn’t write them in January, and that doesn’t mean I don’t need to process them.

Can you make New Year’s Resolutions in April? Are there resolution rules?

They’re not really New Year’s resolutions per se. Just resolutions. Resolutions made loosely, because I’m sinful and prone to wander and deeply aware that no amount of resolve will make me “all better.”

And soon it will be my 29th birthday. So maybe instead of 2014 resolutions, they’re 29 resolutions.

See, I’ve been pondering Moses. I like Moses. God spoke to him “face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” (Exodus 33:11) Moses gives us a picture of Jesus while also pointing to a desperate need for Jesus.

So, Moses. D.A. Carson on Exodus 2:11-25:

IN THE MOST CRUCIAL EVENTS IN REDEMPTIVE HISTORY, God takes considerable pains to ensure that no one can properly conclude that these events have been brought about by human resolve or wit. They have been brought about by God himself – on his timing, according to his plan, by his means, for his glory – yet in interaction with his people. All of this falls out of Exodus 2:11-25.

The account is brief. It does not tell us how Moses’ mother managed to instill in him a profound sense of identity with his own people before he was brought up in the royal household. Perhaps he enjoyed ongoing contact with his birth mother; perhaps as a young man he delved into his past, and thoroughly investigated the status and subjugation of his own people. We are introduced to Moses when he has already so identified with the enslaved Israelites that he is prepared to murder a brutal Egyptian slave overlord. When he discovers that the murder he committed has become public knowledge, he must flee for his life.

Yet one cannot help reflecting on the place of this episode in the plotline that leads to Moses’ leadership of the Exodus some decades later. By God’s own judicial action, many Egyptians would then die. So why doesn’t God use Moses now, while he is still a young man, full of zeal and eagerness to serve and emancipate his people?

It simply isn’t God’s way. God wants Moses to learn meekness and humility, to rely on God’s powerful and spectacular intervention, to await God’s timing. He acts in such a way that no one will be able to say that the real hero is Moses, the great visionary. By the time he is eighty, Moses does not want to serve in this way, he is no longer an idealistic, fiery visionary. He is an old man whom God almost cajoles (Ex. 3) and even threatens (Ex. 4:14) into obedience. There is therefore no hero but God, and no glory for anyone other than God.

The italicized words describe what Jordan and I have {affectionately} termed, “the Shepherd Season.”

The Shepherd Season is that time in your life when you don’t get to follow your dreams–
when you aren’t doing something you feel particularly good at–
when your doing a lot of dying and it doesn’t always feel like living–
a time perhaps characterized by diaper changes and undereye circles–
the time when you have to put your head down and do the grunt-work–
where it seems more than ever that God is humbling you and shaping your character.

The shepherd season doesn’t necessarily lend itself to the promise of moving onto bigger and better things, despite what my generation hopes. We are not promised that if we put in the hard work now we will soon be given the life of our dreams. That’s not what I’m saying. Instead, I’m saying that the “in-between” times are actually the times. There is no in-between.

I’m not waiting, I’m living.

If I look at this season as merely a transition, I will miss what God wants to do in my heart now.

Moses grew up as a prince in Egypt, where being a shepherd was considered detestable (Gen. 46:34). And yet there he found himself, day after day wandering after sheep in the wilderness. I wonder how long it took for the resentment to subside. I wonder {if or} when he stopped beating himself up or analyzing where he took a wrong turn. I wonder when humility took root in his heart. I bet he didn’t notice. I’m guessing he didn’t have some supernatural encounter where he realized he was suddenly humble and meek and ready to be used by God. It was just the process of time, the unnoticed work of God in His heart.

That’s sanctification, I think. Not major benchmarks, but faithfulness taking root, day by day, as we remind ourselves of the truth of who we are in Christ and submit to the Spirit’s work in our hearts. Through diaper changes and dirty dishes. Through boring jobs and forgotten dreams. Through mistakes and failures and less than impressive passing moments.

Through the ordinary.

Paul writes to the Thessalonian believers, urging them to continue in brotherly love, saying, “aspire to live quietly and to mind your own affairs” (4:11). My commentary explains, “Be zealous for the honor that comes not through self-assertion or an ostentatious show of personal greatness, but through humble, industrious, and unimpeachable behavior.”

Humble, industrious, unimpeachable behavior.

Kind of makes me think of that gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious (1 Peter 3:4).

Kind of makes me think of the Prince 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.” (Phil. 2:6-8)

Jesus is not simply my example, His record of obedience is mine because I am hidden in Him (Colossians 3:3).

Neither is Moses simply my example, but rather the prophet preceding The Prophet who would intercede for His people once and for all (Deut. 18:15, John 5).

But Moses is also evidence that God is at work in the mess.

And that Prince and Prophet taught that whoever saves His life will lose it, but whoever loses His life for His sake will find it. (Mark 8:35)

I think losing our lives for His sake sometimes looks like the Shepherd Season. It looks like God using all things in ways that we often don’t see or understand (Romans 8:28). It looks like walking in the good works He’s prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10).

It looks like an ordinary life, fueled by grace, because we know that even if we have not what we desire, we have more than we deserve. (I know this is a quote by someone but I’m not sure who. A puritan? Anyone?)

It might look like more than that. But for me, for this season, right now, I think it looks like being a shepherd in the wilderness.

It looks like embracing the ordinary and the hard and the permanent feeling of exhaustion.
It looks like giving up the word overwhelmed.
It looks like embracing new things, and giving some up.
It looks like spending more time serving and learning and praying.
I hope it looks like growing, in discipline and obedience, in faithfulness, in gratitude and contentment, in dependence.

It doesn’t look like mustering up enough resolve to be good enough so God will like me. Quite the opposite, actually.

I think the reason the Shepherd Season is hard for me is because I’m so used to striving. It’s my default mode: to try and try, harder and harder. To try to prove I’m good enough. I’m looking up at God like a little girl holding up her latest spelling test, begging him to notice: Am I doing a good job??

And I wonder, how can he think I’m doing a good job when it’s all dirty diapers and dirty dishes? Surely I should be doing something more meaningful, more world-changing?

No, this is to counter my efforts to be good enough.

It’s declaring unflinching trust in the God who has appointed every dirty diaper and every dirty dish.
It’s resting in the completed work of His beloved Son knowing that, united to Him, I too am a child with whom He is well-pleased.
It’s recognizing that He is God and I am not.
It’s believing that He will make good on His promise to conform me to the image of His Son.
It’s learning that life works best when it’s according to His will.
And that if I have Christ, I have all I need.

It’s preaching the truth to my weak heart and failing flesh–that God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Ps. 73:26)

It’s that time in my life when I don’t get to follow my dreams–
when I’m not doing something I feel particularly good at–
when I’m doing a lot of dying and it doesn’t always feel like living–

I pray it will become a time sweet and cherished because it’s that time when I get to learn more than ever that His power is made perfect in my weakness. (2 Cor. 12:9)

platitudes about God’s sovereignty

I’ll admit it. I had to look up the word “platitude.” I’ve heard and read it in so many places lately that I finally had to own the fact that I wasn’t sure of its definition. Here it is: 

You’re welcome.

I’ve come across the word over and over again in relation to God’s sovereignty. For example: “We offer false comfort in the form of platitudes about God’s sovereignty.” I think I made that quote up, though it’s likely pretty close to the lines I’ve read in various places. Surely you’re familiar with the concept: someone is grieving and the only thing we can think to say is the expected, “God is sovereign.” And I get why we call it a platitude. In general, it’s likely unhelpful, because what we mean is, “Your pain makes me uncomfortable. I don’t know what to say right now. Stop being all messy and broken. Your grief is clearly evidence that you don’t trust God. Trust God and everything will be all better. Or at least pretend that you trust God so that I don’t have to be so uncomfortable.” Yes, “Trust God!” is probably right up there with “God is sovereign!”

But the more I think of God’s sovereignty designated as a mere platitude, the more grieved I become.

I remember when I first encountered God’s sovereignty in Scripture in an unexpected way. Following a conversation with my then-boyfriend (now-husband), I went to the book of Job. I had never read the book in its entirety, but I had been to Sunday School enough to know the gist of the story: Job is prosperous, God allows Satan to afflict Job with all kinds of loss and turmoil, and Job’s friends prove to be miserable comforters. I’m not sure I knew the end of the story, but that’s where Jordan sent me. How does God respond to Job when he questions God in the midst of his grief? I was certain God responds in compassion. Something like, “It’s understandable you’re so angry, Job. After all, I did take a lot from you. Go ahead and let it out.” And while God is compassionate (a platitude for another day), that was not his response (Job 38):

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:
“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Dress for action like a man;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?…

It goes on. Oh, I’m sorry, Job. I must have forgotten. Did you make the stars and the sea? Do you command the morning? Have you seen where I keep the snow and the hail?

Read about the God who is Sovereign–look at Job 38-41. Isn’t He incredible? His power, his majesty, his sovereignty–there is no doubt that He is worthy of worship. Like Isaiah we ought to fall on our faces before Him crying out, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5). We stand before Him in all His glory and we realize, like Job: “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you?” (Job 40:4)

But all of this makes us uncomfortable, because God in His sovereignty seems so distant, so heartless. His response to Job (essentially, “I am God. You’re not.”) feels so cold. And yet we know that God isn’t cold or distant. God is love. His sovereignty offers no comfort because we don’t know how to reconcile the God of love with the God who is sovereign, especially in the midst of our suffering. And that’s why God’s sovereignty is a platitude. It is no longer thoughtful or helpful, and it certainly doesn’t make the pain go away, because in our minds, it only makes the situation that much more difficult. God purposed this suffering? I don’t like that God.

But we do have a God who purposes suffering. He purposed the suffering of His very own Son to make wretched sinners His beloved sons and daughters. The God who suffers is the God who loves. There is no other way.

You know that other “platitude,” Romans 8:28: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose”?

Because of the God who Suffers, we are connected to the God who is Sovereign.

For those who love God–those who have received the gift of faith in Christ–those of us who are connected to the God who is Sovereign because of the Christ who Suffered.

all things–not some things, not just the big things, all things–every moment of suffering, every changed diaper, every shattered dream, every unexpected encounter, every ordinary moment, every mistake, every screw up, and every intentional moment of obedience.

work together for good–Good! The Sovereign God of the universe orchestrates all things for Good. No moment is just for the hell of it. Every moment accomplishes our good and God’s glory. Only a Sovereign, Powerful, Glorious God who holds the world in the palm of His hand and loves us relentlessly can orchestrate every moment–all things–for our good.

And so, “I’m God, you’re not.” is the best news ever.

God’s sovereignty is good news!

Oh, that it could never again be a mere platitude to us, but would be the sweet news our souls would rejoice to hear. 

After my second miscarriage, I really wrestled with this. I wrote about it quite a bit here, referencing J.I. Packer’s Knowing God {more than} a few times. During that painful time, and while walking fearfully through a subsequent pregnancy, God’s sovereignty moved from a “mere platitude” to my only source of comfort. When we see how big God is, we are free to stop trying to figure everything out and instead rest in the fact that He’s got this. He’s not surprised or shaken. He’s not scrambling to react. He’s got the whole world in His hands.

As Pastor Tullian Tchividjian said at the 2014 Liberate conference, “It sets us free to know we’re small.” 

When we suffer, we are tempted to lash out. Why, Lord? How could you do this to me? And when we’re met with, “God is sovereign!” we’re annoyed. We’d rather wallow in our indignation that this should never have happened to us. But the truth is, we’re deeply arrogant: we deserve far worse. And yet instead of getting what we deserve, we get Jesus.

Here is Job’s response, perhaps it ought to be ours:

“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
(Job 42:2-6)

Perhaps we ought to pray for faith that we could declare alongside Paul:

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
(Phil. 3:8-11)

In the words of my husband: Faith is believing in God’s definition of good. When we are anchored in the Sovereignty and Goodness of the God who suffers on our behalf, we dig in our fingernails and hold on for dear life because we don’t know why and it hurts and we wish it could be different but we know that He is working All. Things. for our good. And He is good. And so we repent and rest and we’re quiet and trust, for there is our salvation. (Isaiah 30:15)

It doesn’t mean we don’t feel sadness or grief. It doesn’t mean we don’t pound our fists on God’s chest and scream and cry and ask why. But as we do, He holds us close. He knows suffering. He knows our suffering. He is not indifferent. Not only does he grieve the effects of sin in our hearts and sin in our fallen world, but He experienced them too.

He weeps with us even when He knows He will raise the dead. (John 11:35)

But He also whispers hope in between our quiet sobs:

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

They will be comforted because the Sovereign God of the universe has already written the end of the story. And because of the God who Suffers, the end of the story is Good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

God is Sovereign.

I pray that truth becomes rich and meaningful and uttered out of a deep reverence and trust, no longer considered a mere platitude.

He’s got the whole world in His hands.

11 things I learned in February

1. Jordan should be responsible for all selfies. Case and point:

2. Costco shopping just got a lot easier. (Despite how non-thrilled Adrienne looks here, she was pretty disappointed at Target this morning when Max couldn’t sit next to her. Now if only it would stop being a million degrees below zero I could actually leave his carseat in the car.)

3. When all else fails, put Adrienne in the crib with Max. They both think it’s the greatest thing of all time. (Until Adrienne tries to climb out and steps on his head. But that’s beside the point.)

4. This was my favorite book in elementary school. I can actually picture the carpet in my second grade classroom where I sat when my teacher read it for the first time. I bought it to read to Hadley’s Kindergarden class for “I love to read” month. It reminded me of some important things: a) I used to have an imagination. b) I love books. c) My {mini-me} daughter has an imagination and a love for books. d) We should be friends.

5. I hate crafts, but when I embrace imperfection, I actually enjoy art projects. We are slowly filling our home with {imperfect} things we made.

6. I still love palm trees. I think I saw my first palm tree on a trip to Florida with my friend Evan as a freshman in high school. I am fairly certain I took a picture by every palm tree we saw. I’m also fairly certain they wanted to throw my camera out the window by the time the trip was done.

7. These smiles are the best. {Even if they’re loud.}

8. I want to be Sally Lloyd-Jones when I grow up.

9. Curious George solves a lot of problems. Judge away. Some days, you just do what you have to.

10. Packing with a 2-year-old present is futile.

11. After my last post, where I pondered the balance between resting and striving, my husband quoted someone (I think Michael Horton) saying, “God doesn’t need our good works, our neighbors do.” It was so good and profound and the explanation I was looking for! So the lesson is, when I’m pondering something, I should just ask my husband. :)

{I stumbled upon Emily Freeman’s blog recently and posted this as part of her “What We Learned” link-up.}


weekend reading 2/8/14

It’s been awhile since I’ve shared some links. Lately I’ve been catching up on my blog reader which means lots of quality reading to pass your way. Enjoy!

For all of us who think we’re not perfectionists. Perfectionism. Something I’m thinking about lots lately. More on that from me another day.

On marriage for companionship, not just sanctification.

Hurry! When our busyness is really laziness. Guilty.

Is Jesus merely useful to you — or is He ultimately beautiful to you? Consider embarking on this Scripture memory journey with me?

Karma. The functional belief we all hold on some level.

God Threw a Stone. I always love Pastor Tchivdjian’s thoughts on grace.

I think this series looks great. Though I haven’t read past this post yet.

An Imperfect Mom is Still a Good Mom. Speaking of perfectionism…

On God’s goodness, even at 3am.

pondering lately

It’s fitting that my last post was about New Year’s Resolutions. That’s the last time I’ve looked at this blog, and it’s {kind of} what I’ve been thinking about since.

Yes, it’s February 7th.
No, I haven’t started anything revolutionary.
Because I needed a plan first.
And it’s not Monday.

So. I’ve been pondering. How can this year not look like last?

How can I be less:
{you get the idea}?

How can I be more:

Unfortunately, I am deeply aware that no plan or number of Mondays is going to fix my problems. Even all the Vitamin B12 and exercise in the world can leave me snapping at my kids and harboring resentment. I’m starting from a faulty premise to just make a list. I don’t get to conjure up the fruit of the Spirit. Maybe I can try really hard for awhile, but eventually I will burnout in anger and frustration.

Only God changes hearts.

What’s the line between God’s work and my work? It’s not His, then Mine. It’s His all the way. There actually is not a line, I think.

So I can rest in the finished work of Christ on the cross. I can fix my eyes on Jesus and trust Him to do a work in me that only He is capable of.

But I still have to walk, right?
To put on love?

“Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you’ve been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-3)

I want to walk in a manner worthy of my calling! Not because I am worthy, but because I know I’m notThis has been the sweet truth whispered to my heart as of late:

You are not worthy.

(Yes, I said sweet.)

I am not worthy, and yet He loves me!

Oh, glorious truth, that nothing within me makes me worthy! I have nothing to maintain! No facade to keep erect, no faking, no trying so hard I collapse in a pile of failure. I am loved! And so I can live as though I’m loved.

I can walk worthy of my calling as I live out of God’s great love for me in Christ.

This isn’t new or profound, and yet somehow, it always is.

I think I’ve been stuck on this pendulum: First, I try really, really hard. Then I realize I can’t try hard enough and maybe even scold myself a bit and stop trying. Then I’m frustrated by my perceived lack of growth so I try really hard again.

Is it possible to be simultaneously “trying” while “resting”?
I wonder.

I want to be different, but I don’t want to be obsessed with being different. I want to be obsessed with Jesus. But the more obsessed I become with Jesus, the more unrest I feel over my persistent sin. The more I long to make strides toward a life of obedience. The more convinced I am that sacrificial obedience holds the secret to experiencing true joy.

I read a helpful article by Rod Rosenbladt from an old issue of Modern Reformation (shared by my husband). He writes:

“[Many Christians] tend to think that their standing before God–now that they are Christians–is based on their own obedience and their own righteousness. They have forgotten the fundamental fact that the gospel is “outside of us.” It was “outside of us” when we turned to Christ for salvation and it is “outside of us,” now, as we progress in our sanctification…Christ’s death was outside of me and for me. It is not primarily something that changes me. After one has been declared righteous by grace through faith, this grace will begin to change us (sanctification). Nevertheless, its changing us is certainly not what justifies us…

Any righteousness that we have, even in the Christian life, is a gift to us…

Anybody who is in Christ is sanctified, because Christ’s holiness is imputed to the Christian believer…But, some may ask, why should we be called to holiness if we are already perfect in Christ? That question has been asked before, and Paul’s answer in Romans 6 is because we are saved unto good works, not unto licentiousness. Good works are done out of thankfulness of heart by the believer who has been saved, not by one who is trying to be saved by following the law.

As I walk through life resting in what Christ has done, is it okay to still try really hard?

I want to try because I’m deeply grateful.
Grateful that He would save a wretch like me.
Grateful that, though I am unworthy, He loves me nonetheless!
Grateful that my “progress” doesn’t actually depend on me. Because He is faithful! And He’s promised to do it! And so I can trust Him for the grace and the growth.

But then I shouldn’t be surprised when I fail in my “trying.” Instead, I can just hold fast to Jesus. Fingernails in, clinging hard. Trusting Him to show off His sufficient grace in my mess and weakness.

I want to stand up as a trophy of His grace and scream from the rooftops, “If He can save me, He can save anyone!” He makes all things new! That truth is new and fresh and real and I can taste it as I write it, sitting here wanting to laugh and weep in the middle of Caribou Coffee.

I feel leery to write about it. There are bloggers on both sides of the pendulum: blogs about how to try really hard, and blogs that stick to straight theology. Surely one leads to the other. Trying must flow out of our resting and bring us back to it again and again. Some have figured out how to write with that balance. Greater yet, some have learned to live in it. I’m not sure I have. But I want to try.

I can’t believe I just said I want to find the “balance.” (See #7)

I guess we’ll call that growth.

on New Year’s Resolutions 2014

I’m thinking about resolutions again, and remembered my post from last year. It was helpful for me to think about again, so I thought I’d repost it (below).

Something I’ve pondered over the course of this year is the concept of our God being a God of second chances. I take issue with that. God does not give us a second (or third or fourth) chance to prove we are worthy of his love and approval. No, he lavishes his grace upon us, “not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy” (Titus 3), and “because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2).

Here’s to another year of basking in His glorious grace!

(Reprinted from 1/1/13)

As January 1st has been fast approaching, I’ve been mulling over the idea of resolutions, wondering if there is something Biblical about all this talk of fresh starts. I think it is written into our souls. We are born broken and sinful, desperate for approval, fully aware that something is missing, yet we cling to gifts, unable to desire the Giver. We long to be made new. And God in His infinite grace delivers:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV)

The idea of a fresh start makes me want to weep – but not at the new year ahead of me, though it is drenched in hope and possibility – I weep at the reality of grace – knowing that I failed yesterday, that I have failed today, and that I will fail tomorrow, and yet in Christ, I am a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come! And still even more new is coming:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 

(Revelation 21:3-5 ESV)

I’m a bit cynical of New Year’s resolutions. Partially because we all know that they’ll be forgotten come February, or – if we’re a little more disciplined – April. And partially because among Christian circles, New Year’s resolutions are filled with Scripture taken from its precious context, touted as little inspirational sayings that will give us the resolve to make all our dreams come true. Take one sermon I heard years ago (not from my church, just to be clear) where the preacher took Isaiah 40:3 (“A voice cries: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.’”) and made it about setting goals. (Again, just to be clear: it’s not about setting goals.)

New Year’s resolutions tend to be our attempt at the bigger and better life. A renewed resolve to follow our dreams. To step over those who might stand in our way. To fight for success and meaning and purpose. To finally be recognized as the noteworthy people we know we are. It’s up to us: Do! Become! Live!

The Housewife Theologian wrote a beautiful post about resolutions. She looked at the resolve of the Israelites upon receiving the law from Moses at Mount Sinai: “All this we will do.” It does sound rather familiar: This year, Lord. This year, I will do all of the things I know I ought to do. But we know how the story goes. And just as resolutions are soon forgotten, so the Israelites quickly lost their way. But then Aimee writes:

That brings me to the glorious grace of Sunday. The Lord knows our tendency to fall away. Sunday is an amazing gift for the believer. At the first day of every week, we are called together in a covenant renewal ceremony. Only this is not the covenant of works that Moses mediated. Jesus Christ is the mediator of a new covenant. He fully fulfilled the covenant of works on our behalf. He is righteousness. The law points to Christ, the ultimate Prophet, Priest, and King. Through the preaching of the Word and the sacraments, we are evaluated and stripped by the law, and gloriously clothed in Christ! Instead of saying “All this we will do”, we hear “All this Jesus Christ has done”. Hallelujah!

Paul Tripp also wrote a great article on the subject. While we all set goals for the bigger and better life, the humbling reality is this: “We live in the utterly mundane.”

Most of us won’t be written up in history books. Most of us only make three or four momentous decisions in our lives, and several decades after we die, the people we leave behind will struggle to remember the events of our lives. You and I live in little moments, and if God doesn’t rule our little moments and doesn’t work to recreate us in the middle of them, then there is no hope for us, because that’s where you and I live.

(Both articles are really worth reading in their entirety.)

That said, are New Year’s resolutions a complete waste? It’s the question where my thoughts have landed. Is it so bad to mark the new year with new aspirations? To set goals and make plans? I don’t think so?? (Those are intentional question marks.) But here are the conclusions I’ve reached for guiding my own resolution-making this year. And whether they are helpful to you or not, writing them here will at least help me remember them come February:

1. Jesus called me to take up my cross and follow Him. (Luke 9:23)
I was given a gospel for years that told me that Jesus wants me to follow my dreams. But the reality is, in order to follow my “dreams,” a lot of people would have to be trampled. It’s not exactly my “dream” to be a stay-at-home mom. I’ve never thought it would be my life’s ambition to serve my family in the daily mundane. There is no glory here. But Jesus didn’t demonstrate the glorious life in the way we imagine glory. He was about His Father’s glory. And in the process, He gave up His very life. So while I do have a list of things I want to accomplish (my “someday” list), and I’m enjoying reviewing and adding it to it this New Year’s day, (like right now, I’m enjoying a little “me time” while Jordan is on a date with Hadley and Adrienne is napping.) I want to be mindful that my calling is not to follow my dreams – the calling to which I’ve been called is one of humility and gentleness (Eph. 4:1-2). And I can lay down my life for my family in faith, knowing that “whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9:24)

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in 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. (Philippians 2:3-8 ESV)

2. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
It’s easy for me to fall into thinking, “If I would do this [tangible thing], then this [spiritual fruit] would happen.” The one that pretty much sums it up for me is this: “If I would just follow this particular diet, then I would be more loving, joyful, gentle, patient, kind, (you get the idea).” The thing is, it’s likely true. Sugar and caffeine and yeast and whatever other culprits out there likely contribute to my irritability and poor sleep and low energy. A better diet could result in a happier Dahl family. I’m in favor of that. But I want to walk in step with the Spirit, trusting Him to change and equip me, glorifying God that He would extend His grace and allow this fruit to be manifested in me, even if a new diet is the means that He would use. I struggle with these kinds of resolutions because, well, I want to be skinny and energetic and happy. But I also think the beauty that Scripture exalts is holiness, and I want to long for and fight for holiness far above any physical reality.

3. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)
If I achieve everything on my list, I have earned no favor before God. I have all of His favor, extended to me by grace in Christ. I am a beloved child of God. And when resolutions are failed and forgotten, I have all of His favor, extended to me by grace in Christ. I am a beloved child of God. Resolutions are good as long as they fix our eyes on Christ, forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead (Phil 3). But as soon as we begin to think that our righteous acts earn us standing before God, we have lost sight of grace.

4. “The heart of man plans His way, but the Lord establishes His steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)
Even our best-laid plans are subject to the sovereignty of God. And if I could summarize the lesson I think God has been teaching me over. and over. and over again in 2012, it is to dig my nails in and cling with faith to God’s wisdom. He is working. I may not know what He’s doing. His plans may not be my plans. But praise God, His ways are higher than my ways.

Happy New Year.

The One who made us has come to live among us!

This line from Sally Lloyd-Jones’ Christmas book, Song of the Stars has been echoing in my head these past few days. Though there hasn’t been time to do much reading (except children’s books) or writing, the wonder of the incarnation feels fresh and awe-inspiring as we prepare to celebrate Christmas.

Jesus was “pleased with us in flesh to dwell.” Isn’t that something? He came to save us, but first, “he had to be one of us.” (Elyse Fitzpatrick, Found in Him)

So instead of scrambling to finish up blog drafts, I’m going to enjoy some unplugged days with my family. Merry Christmas from the Dahls!

Give heed, my heart, lift up thine eyes!
What is it in yon manner lies?
Who is this child, so young and fair?
The blessed Christ-child lieth there.
Welcome to earth, Thou noble Guest,
Through whom the sinful world is blest!
Thou com’st to share my misery;
What thanks shall I return to Thee?
(Martin Luther, quoted in Found in Him)

weekend reading {for your Monday}

I didn’t get around to posting over the weekend, but here are a few articles I enjoyed this year:

Tullian Tchividjian on grace. 

Trevin Wax has good thoughts on reading the Bible as both a joy and a discipline. Since it’s something I beat the table over quite often, I thought it was a good read.

Just thought this was food for thought – on common grace and upcoming movies.

My sister Taryn wrote this piece about me and the summer we lived and worked together. She’s a poet. Did you catch that she has another blog? Recommended.

Dear 6-year-old,

As I pondered what to write to reflect on your 6th birthday, I wept through my letter to you last year. I could say all the same words this year.

Oh, sweet Hadley, every year marks so much growth and change. I wish I could bottle up these moments–the ones where I only feel like being left alone–because I know one day I will just wish you were here to tell me one of your stories.

And the stories! Have they come alive this year! This year your creativity and imagination jumped off stapled pages with hand-written words and colorful illustrations.

This year your plans came to life in plays and projects and puppet shows.

This year you grew up–went to Kindergarden my baby and came home all big and responsible. Sometimes I have to compete for the role of “Mom” in this house, and as crazy as it makes me, I love the leadership that’s blossoming within you. I pray God will make you soft in your fierceness–that he will make you gentle and humble and ready to serve.

This year was hard for me and you. You, so ready to make plans and do projects; me, bone-tired, grieving, sleeping, quiet. I wonder if one day you will look back on this year and understand. I pray you will look back with grace, maybe preparing for your own baby, and know that I loved you even in the midst of the harsh words and stern glances. Oh how I regret each one. I pray God will cover my many failures with His grace–that He will show Himself to be the perfect Father–that you and I can run to Him together.

I learn so much from you, sweet Hadley Beth. The beauty of simple faith. Child-like wonder and curiosity. Winsome joy. I am terrified for the age when those start to slip away. I pray God would allow His love to grow deep, even now in your six-year-old heart.

You are a gift to me, to this family, to this world.

We love you, birthday girl.

Love, Mom