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Posts Tagged ‘Bible Reading’

I went out grudgingly.

Would have rather stayed in to clean the bathrooms.

Do some scrapbooking.

Get a batch of muffins in the oven.

All the important things I wanted to do today.

But the fractiousness of little boys after a week of April showers forced me out.

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Out into the garden.

Warmth and sunshine washing over.

The almost green of our snow-flattened grass.

And birdsong.

Birdsong, and I’m Mary Lennox, chasing a robin over a garden gate.

Birdsong, and I’m Jane Eyre with her rooks, exploring Thornfield Hall on her very first morn.

Birdsong, and time is lost,

and I’m myself fifteen years past, discovering a walled garden of my very own.

Scotland.

Pussy willows and crocuses.

Blackbirds and brick.

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Birdsong today, and the magic of viewing the world

upside-down

from a swing.

And it’s springtime,

and doesn’t your heart ache with the glory of it?

Of life,

new beginnings,

winter’s end?

And I’m thankful,

wildly thankful in a way I could never express,

for the possibility of all things,

me included,

being turned upside down,

made new.

And I wonder at the sun’s warmth,

and that He calls Himself that,

our Sun and our Shield.

Our Shield,

for don’t we need protecting

from many things,

even ourselves?

Our Sun,

for don’t we revel in the light and the heat?

Don’t we thrive?

Get life?

Doesn’t He give us life

eternally?

Spring.

It has come upon us.

Find a tree stump.

A picnic table.

A bench.

Wait for birdsong.

And just breathe.

Be still and know that I am God.

Psalm 46:10

Listen…

Avonlea xo

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Finding beauty in the everyday 

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It’s been six months, but I’m still talking. Still telling what happened–what she did–with as much excitement as if I’d just stepped off the train.

January, Little Bear just a month old, still waking often, still calling me from shallow sleep to hold him, back-bent and weary, as I rock, rock, try to keep my head from nodding as I feed him off to sleep.

January, and I’m still recovering from his birth, still tender and swollen, still feeling lost as I try to wade my way through the emotions that come with newborns and returning to the country that was home for eight long years.

January, and in spite of craving sleep like an addict, I feel anxious to do some shopping for the belated Christmas we’d be sharing with my family back in the States.

I couldn’t drive, but there are trains there, and I decided catch one, just me and Little Bear, to Inverness, where we used to live and where one can find such delights as Primark, Debenhams, and Marks & Spencers.

I was set to do the return trip in a day, but the night before, I spoke to a friend from our old church. A trendy grandmother with a soft young voice, smiling eyes, and a penchant for the color blue. She convinced me—without much effort—that Little Bear and I should stay the night. Have two days in town instead of one.

The trip began disastrously. I spent half the time trying to ignore the stressful cries of a newborn, and the other half in the dressing room feeding and changing his nappy. I would have had to go home empty-handed, frustrated, in tears.

But instead came my friend with her car to meet me and whisk me and Little Bear off to her home for a hot dinner (she held the baby while I ate!), endless cups of tea (she said I must keep my strength up!), and a heart-to-heart conversation in a soft chair (I sat while she bathed the baby!). And that’s only the beginning. I haven’t yet mentioned the fruit and water bottles in my room in the event I needed a late night snack, the electric blanket that had been turned on to keep my bed warm and waiting, or the new home décor magazines that were set out in case I wanted to take a look.

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I laid my head on my crisp white pillow that night with a smile on my face and peace in my heart.

Just a night in that house and I felt rejuvenated. Encouraged. Loved.

Ministered to in every way.

And I could say my friend is just like that. Just the sort of person to convince you she liked sleeping on the floor and that you really should have her bed. And perhaps that’s a little bit true. But if you’ve seen her Bible then you’ll know it’s also a little bit more than that. Book marks sticking out like porcupine quills. Notes added to the margins in her tiny, dancing hand. She spends a great deal of time with that book, I gather. Probably a great deal of time on her knees, too.

And somehow, in a way that surpasses all comprehension, spending time with that book has the power to transform us. Help us stop thinking of our own needs and see the needs of others. Help us see what a teary-eyed, bone-weary Mama needs more than anything else.

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Six fingernails. Only six. That’s how many I had time to cut that day, into short, blunt squares. The other four were left long and ladylike for a few days longer, until I noticed, and remembered that I’d been interrupted, called away from my task to see to the needs of one of my wee men.

And that’s how life’s been since the arrival of Little Bear, my fourth son. A sprinkle of time here, a sprinkle there, and not much more, for all the little extra things I love.

Those non-essentials that relax me and that I really enjoy, but that somehow don’t seem as pressing as cleaning up the raspberries someone smashed all over the kitchen floor, or icing a bleeding lip, or stopping someone from over-cuddling the baby.

Those non-essentials

like exfoliating with Dead Sea salt scrub.

Or watching a new version of Jane Eyre.

Or reading my Bible.

You know, extra, non-essential things like that.

And where can I possibly fit them into to my hectic life, when there isn’t even time for the essentials?

Like sleeping.

Or taking a trip to the bathroom.

Or drinking enough water.

How can I possibly find the time?

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Four months, we’ve been back from our visit to Scotland. Four months, which is the same length of time we spent back there. And I meant to keep you abreast of it all, every visit, every city, every castle that we saw.

But the arrival of Little Bear, and traversing up and down the country, and the jumble that went on inside my own head made it difficult. But there are things, there are moments, I remember. And I’ll tell them, I’ll tell them to you, if you’ll stay with me and you’ll wait.

Because they’re worth the telling.

Like what I spotted in the new mud room at my friend Katie’s.

When we lived in Scotland I’d set aside time nearly every week to visit with Katie and a few other treasured friends at one or other of our houses.  And they were sanity for me, those times, as I sat across from their smiling faces, corralling crumbs from my oat biscuit into a pile on the table top while I sipped my tea and we talked about life—children, husbands, our walk with God.

And I was there again at Katie’s house this winter. Sat at her table. Heard her laugh. Sipped my milky tea.

And yes, saw the new mudroom, with its tidy place for Wellington boots, jackets, mittens, and hats. And it was all quite something, but it wasn’t that which made me smile. Pause.

In a corner beneath a window, where the sun could lay a beam of light, sat a chair. A chair, and a little shelf in the wall just the size for a Bible, and a picture frame on the wall with this:

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness;  and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.  For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

2 Peter 1:5-8

A place made in her home just for this. Just for reading God’s word, and speaking and listening to Him.

A place for making every effort.

Not a casual squeezing it in every few weeks when there’s a sprinkle of time, but a place. A purposeful seeking after Him. Every effort.

Because reading my Bible, knowing God, is not a non-essential after all. Not if I want to be like Christ.  Not if I want to be for my family a refreshing stream, instead of the dried up desert that I so often feel.

His delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.

Psalm 1:2-3

I don’t have time aplenty. Not the luxurious hours to read and ponder that I once did. But if I’m to make the most of the time with my family, if I’m to help lead them in the everlasting way, then I must find the time to be in God’s Word, and find even a simple line of truth and goodness on which to meditate throughout my busy day.

Finding time will be a challenge. But my soul is dry, and I feel it. I feel it, and it shows. I feel it, and it’s worse, even, than only six short fingernails.

Make every effort.

I’ll start today.

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How do you make time to be in the word? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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I dig my heals into the mattress, feel the sheets wrinkle up beneath my feet like an elephant’s skin as I push myself up to sitting. My legs are cold, so I tug at the quilt my grandmother made me–all polyester and purple and pink, though I have it flipped round so I can only see the back–and the white, nobbly chenille bedspread we bought at a market in Portugal.

I’m tempted to lie still, bask in the white light that’s pouring into my bedroom, let myself drift in and out of dreams. After all, silence is a thing that a mother learns not to waste. Silence is not a thing to waste, I remind myself, and so I reach for it–my black leather Bible–breathe in the sweet smell of the leather. Run my thumb across the gold lettering, faded from those years I read it every day. Those days I underlined verses, scribbled margin notes, added stickers–a shiny pink heart and an ice cream cone. Those days when silence and aloneness were not a foreign thing. Not like now.

And then I flip to the index, search for a phrase our pastor said. And I find it.

for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.   – Romans 8:26

And I read it, and I read it again, and I’ve read those words three dozen times before, but somehow this time they strike me. Stay with me through the day.

The day of noise, and being anything but alone–though I can feel alone in a house with no one else over the age of eight. My day of being followed by Mr. Waddlesworth, his arms lifted, his curly head tilted back, big Charlie Brown mouth wide open as he cries crocodile tears because he’d love to be picked up and carried the day long.

My day of struggling through the times tables with the Professor, and the difference between “puppies” and “puppy’s” and reminding him to be a little ray of sunshine and not a little black rain cloud.

My day of helping the General in and out of his daily costumes–felt super hero masks, and pirate belts, and cowboy hats, and asking him if he needs the potty, and then adding his wet clothes to the laundry basket when he’s been too busy saving the world to take a trip to the bathroom.

My day of crumbs and stickiness–on the worktops, on the highchair, on the walls, on the floor. Crumbs and stickiness that never stay away for long.

My day . . . and yet I found, that during those rare seconds of quiet–or at least a quiet thought–that my mind drifted to those words I’d read that morning. Drifted like it never does, and I felt wonder. Peace. Strength.

Because I knew that every time I let myself become aware of the presence of God, that He was there, also thinking of me,

caring for me,

loving me,

as He always does,

though I cannot see Him

and I do not know.

Though I forget He’s there,

and how He cares,

and hardly think of Him in my busy, noisy day,

He is there

on His knees

lifting me.

Though it’s easier at certain times than others to see the miraculous, the eternal, in the everyday, today JUST KNOW that whenever you think of Jesus, He is already right there, thinking of, praying for, loving you.

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I wasn’t ready for it. A restless night of twisted sheets, being forced from bed to soothe a crying baby, and strange dreams of being a gymnast, practicing my skills on the bars, had left my body feeling tired, my mind distracted and dazed. But it came anyway. The start of the day. Breakfast, and packing lunches, and making beds. Changing nappies, and dressing wee ones, and preparing for the school day ahead.

Before my boys came along I worked as a teacher, but this is my first year of official home education. My first year of adding tutor to my already full job description of chef, maid, nurse, chauffeur, activity director, police officer, and kangaroo (for the Admiral, who, at a whopping 24 pounds, still wants to be carried the day long).

And so an hour later I found myself, still dazed and unprepared for a day of living (let alone living well), trying to have a discussion about odds and evens with the Captain, all the while jiggling the Admiral on my knee and trying to ignore the General, who had squeezed onto the dining room chair behind me and in his very high-pitched three-year-old voice was speaking non-stop about wanting some cake (although I’d told him several times over that he had to wait for elevenses).

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I tried giving snacks, introducing different toys, and even (though I try to avoid it in the mornings) putting on the television so I could get on with the lessons.  But still, each soldier in my little army remained intent on being inches from me, if not in direct contact, each asking for something more or different or better from what he already had.

My head seemed to spin faster than I’d spun round those bars in my dream. I longed to crawl back into bed and find the unconsciousness of deep sleep. Or even the still, quiet surroundings of an empty house, where I could potter about, making sense of my jumbled thoughts.

To my right, the living room was strewn with giant colored cardboard bricks and scattered sofa cushions, the abandoned remnants of my attempt to entertain the younger ones. My mind seemed just as disorderly as the house, and as I attempted to turn my focus back to the math lesson, the thought crossed my mind that it would be awfully nice to have a real nanny and maid, so that I could be left to teach the Captain, and do only nice things with the boys (and perhaps sleep in a little on rare occasion). But of course that seemed as likely as my getting around to organizing some kitchen cupboards and planting the bell pepper seeds as I’d hoped to do that day (not to mention the school subjects we had yet to get through). 

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But unrestricted sleeping hours and empty houses are not some of the frequent luxuries of mummies of armies of wee boys, and in the chaos I longed for some little escape, some little treat to bring me comfort, and temporary escape from the swirl of color and noise that surrounded me. 

A square of dark chocolate, perhaps? 

A cup of espresso, topped up with raw sugar and heated milk?

A few minutes to skim the news feed on my Facebook account? 

These are the things I often turn to bring drops of sanity to my busy, noisy day, but yesterday as I contemplated what method of escape I would employ, I thought of a different way. Down the hallway on my bedside table sat my black leather Bible, which I hadn’t yet touched that day. 

And I didn’t have time,  not just then, to pour over it as I would have liked to do. But I did have the time–as long as it would have taken me to slip into the kitchen to devour a square of chocolate–to flip to the Psalms, and the sweet morsels of goodness found there. 

O taste and see that the Lord is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!

– Psalm 34:8

And I wondered as closed my Bible,  felt peace wash over me like a cup a chamomile tea, what I’d been missing.

Although there isn’t anything wrong with coffee, and chocolate, and Facebook news, what had I been missing by reaching for them instead of the Living Water found there in the Psalms, so accessible, so available to me? 

For while our SIN can be easy enough to spot (though at times it’s not), there are deeper, sweeter paths of closeness to the Lord which we can go a lifetime and not discover. And what if those paths, those changes I so long to see in myself, can be reached not only through long segments of time spent in the Word, but through little moments of calling out to God for strength, and reaching for little pieces of His word? 

What change could even one pure morsel of eternal truth make to my day?

After taking the time to read from the Psalms, I went on to finish the school day, plant those pepper seeds, and even clean out my kitchen junk drawer! 

What a difference the reminder of Jesus’ love and presence had made. 

In Him is strength, beauty, refuge, truth, and the nourishment I need to help me view my boys, my home, my life in the light of eternity.

The eternity that continues in the next life,

the eternity in which we live today. 

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Dark mornings don’t call good mothers from bed. Don’t call good daddies, either. Not like beds, which call real loud. Hold us in their warmth and stillness, blankets wrapped around like strong arms that could shield us from every last thing we dread about the day. Entice us with our dream adventures, numb our bodies like a drug.

Yeah, it’s hard to leave that on late winter mornings, hard to meet cold floors with warm balls of feet, trade stillness for the swirl of to-do’s and the demands of little voices that never stop the long day.

And it’s easy to want to stop it coming, stop the start of another day. And too often this winter I’ve done that. I’ve listened to that call, counting times I’d been up in the night to comfort little cries, let myself stay a little  longer, yanked the covers another inch higher, told myself that for today, whispered prayers, half-mixed with dreams and plans, would be enough. Enough to go on. To give me perspective. To put my thoughts just where they ought to be.

But creaking crib and cracking door always break the silence, and it all ends.

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And so I start the day running, running late before I’ve hit the floor. Little things to be done–today like everyday–and so it should be no surprise, and yet I find myself overwhelmed, feeling fragile, incapable, and just a little bit insane. And then it’s not just my feet running, not just my hands trying to get it all done. My mind’s running, too, over what I’ve done wrong to make things turn out this way, and what I must be missing to leave our life feeling so fractured, so unharmonious, so flat.

Grey skies and that blue snow, these thin walls and the bitter cold, they hem us in like prison on those days. It’s a prison, and I’m running so fast, feeling so stressed that I miss three dozen precious little moments of my little men’s lives. Can’t see the beauty all woven through my day. Can’t see those sparkles of light, though I know my little men see and feel all the greyness of my frustrated tears.

And on those days even the words won’t come, though I sit down to write. Words, which have always been with me, forming patterns, rolling round my mouth as I make sense of world. Because on those days there is no sense, and so the words, they just don’t come.

It’s a hard thing, too, in the evenings, dragging myself away from the dreams of Pinterest, the drama of television, the softness of the couch. It’s a hard thing when the wee ones are down and my tea’s not cold, and I can put two sane thoughts together without any little voice to interrupt. It’s hard to leave that stillness, brush my teeth, climb into bed. But it’s worth it. Worth the rest. Worth the energy I’ll have next morning to be the first one up, with time to find some stillness there in the almost light of a new day.

His compassions never fail. They are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness.

~ Lamentations 3:22-23

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Because though I’ve heard it, I still need it. I need it every day. Need to hear the voice of Him that made me, hear just whose I am, and what I am, and why. I need truth. Love. Strength. Light.

And so early to bed (and then to rise) is a worthy goal. Because good mothers need rest. Good daddies need it, too. And more than that we need to pause a minute (or a few), and reach out to take the hand of the One who walks right with us (though we sometimes forget it) through every hour of our day.

“I like breakfast-time better than any other moment in the day,” said Mr. Irwine.  “No dust has settled on one’s mind then, and it presents a clear mirror to the rays of things.”

~ George Eliot

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There was a long list of bad this Christmas.

Like the enormous branch out back that fell and crushed my poor lilac bush. The ice storm came (that was before the arctic vortex and heaps of snow), and I guess that big old tree got a little too burdened down. Couldn’t take the stress. Couldn’t take the weight. So down it came.

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The rest of our Christmas, well it was mostly the same. A little too much heaviness to bear.

Plenty of decorating and buying and wrapping and baking and carol playing and even praying beforehand, all meant to create the perfect day, but sometimes all the planning in the world will still leave you with a mess.

Sometimes you plan but get it all so wrong.

Sometimes you plan but it’s out of your control.

That ice again, lovely as it was, had it’s wicked way.

Treacherous driving conditions.

Night out with the girls for a chance to laugh and de-stress? Canceled.

Many thousands without heat or power. 

Christmas Eve service at church? Canceled, too.

Mum hosting Christmas dinner? Nope. With two days to plan, it’s going to be me.

But there was more . . .

A mix-up of the name-drawing.

A gift for everyone under the tree? Well, not quite.  

Keys locked in a running car.

Tired children put to bed on time? Think again.

A tummy bug moving slowly through the house till we all had our turn.

All of us there round the Christmas table, feeling right as rain? No, not that either.

Sometimes you plan but get it all so wrong.

Sometimes you plan but it’s out of your control.

Yet all this, all this we could have easily born with a nervous laugh and with making due. All this we could have born if only a frazzled mix of folks from different parts of the country, different parts of the globe, hadn’t all been tossed together, till from our botched arrangements surfaced pain, sadness, regret from weeks, months, years past.

Like my lilac bushes, it seems we, too, can be frail.

Tender.

Like the flowers. Like the grass.

Tender,

so that when love and fear come together,

like with family and with friends,

we feel an aching in our hearts

and a burden just too much to bear.

Too much to bear alone.

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And it all seemed such a sham. The presents and the tree. The music. All the talk of joy and peace.

Because sometimes you plan but it’s out of your control.

And sometimes you plan, but there’s something deeper, something realer, that you missed.

All our shattered plans for Christmas or for life, they can really shake our souls, leave us wondering how to hope.

How to hope, or why.

Leave us wondering if the New Year will bring us more of just the same. And if you’re anything like me then you’re tempted to whisk out a sheet of paper and start making lists, ask yourself what went wrong, and start planning so the future will be better.

As if we could fix ourselves, fix our families, with a list.

The only thing is, sometimes you plan but get it all so wrong.

Sometimes you plan but it’s out of your control.

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New Year’s resolutions? Yes, I’ve got them. Organized drawers, eating kale, and the like.

But this year what I’m planning is complete surrender.

Submission like I’ve never known.

All I have, all I am, all I dream, brought to the feet of the only One who will never get it wrong and never let me down.

Because what my family, what my world, what I am missing is more of Jesus.

And because it’s only is His will that we can ever truly be free.

I’m taking His list. Making it mine. Turning my life right upside down.

And I’m starting with the Word.

Because not only is the Word with God, but the Word IS God. (John 1:1).

And it’s living, and it’s active, and it knows me, too (Hebrews 4:12).

I’m going to see what I’ve been missing.

I’m going to learn to love and live

like Him.

This is January.

The first day of the rest of my life.

Join me as I discover.

You won’t look back.

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your soul.

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