A Mighty Fortress

Grateful for our hymn this month focusing our hearts on God being our mighty fortress. Martin Luther's words ring just as true for us as they did in 1529 in the midst of the great reformation. 
This hymn is a paraphrase of Psalm 46, an oft quoted psalm with portions frequently emblazoned on tote bags and travel mugs and inspirational posters. 
You know what always strikes me about it? In the midst of the "earth giving way," "mountains being moved into the heart of the sea," "the nations raging," the Psalmist THEN reminds us that the Lord of Hosts is with us. What should we do? Be still. Know He is God. 
Being still and knowing isn't just something we do looking over a peaceful landscape or a seashore. We are commanded to be still when the whole earth and the nations seem to be crumbling apart and "threatening to undo us," as Luther stated. 
Now. Right now. We need to be still and know. He is our refuge and strength, a very present help …

Tell them the truer truth: passing on a sturdy faith

I remember the feeling of being huddled in our basement during a tornado warning when my big kids were preschoolers. My husband was at work, they were afraid, I was nervous - tornadoes and lightning (along with spiders...) are high up on my list of biggest fears.

Everything in me wanted to look into their wide eyes and confidently assure them, "Nothing bad will happen! We are safe! God will protect us!" The words were on the tip of my tongue. I wanted to say them. I wanted to believe them. I wanted to see them relax in the reassurance that we were invincible.

Except that it's not true, and I couldn't say it. I've seen too many people wrestle with ramifications of this bad childhood theology that was drilled deeply into their view of the world from a young age.

Because the truth is that this world is utterly broken. Creation groans. People sin. Tornadoes strike. Diseases rage. People die. Bad things do happen - all the time. I don't want them to face these re…

Seek first.

Seek first.
These are strange times we are living in. I find myself reaching for my phone to check headlines much more frequently. I scan Facebook looking for reports from friends about the state of the grocery stores. Sometimes in this digital age, information feels like protection, like control. If I know more of what's going on I will know what to do, I will have control.
It's a mirage.
In our thirst for control and stability we grasp for it, but it was never there to begin with. No matter how much toilet paper we have stockpiled or the amount of hand sanitizer and Lysol we use, we do not have control. Everything earthly we put our trust in can be gone in a moment. Our lives are finite and we find ourselves numbering our days.
Anxiety creeps in. Fear creeps in.
"Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?"

What I wish people knew about our homeschool

Many times when people comment to me that they could never do homeschooling, the comment is being made on the heels of an unexpected break from school (extreme cold snap, multiple snow days... a pandemic) when the students are sent home with packets of work to complete at home. I don't know how to fully explain how much not like homeschooling that is.

I think there is a general misunderstanding of our homeschool life that I would love to clarify. And when I say "homeschool," I'm going to limit my comments to our experience of homeschooling here at Stephens Academy. Every single family is different, kids are different, there are about a million different curriculum options and methods and variables. But here are some things I wish people knew about us.

Homeschooling is not doing "school at home."
We don't do worksheets. Ever. Math is the closest you will get to finding my kids working out of a textbook. If you had a live feed into our home, on any given …

Grappling with mysteries

This morning I started the day pouring my coffee and packing my husband's lunch while listening to Leviticus on audio. There is so much 🤷‍♀️ in Leviticus - and actually in so many things we read in Scripture. And you know what? It is GOOD- because our God is bigger than we can comprehend, devastatingly holy, a consuming fire, perfectly righteous. 
I sat down and dug into Romans 11 and this struck me so much this morning. In Romans 11 Paul is wading into deep and confusing waters about God's plan for Israel and the Gentiles. He calls it a "mystery." And verse 32 is a doozy- "God consigned all to disobedience, that He may have mercy on all." What does that MEAN?? 
Then in the very next verse he writes this stunningly beautiful hymn of praise - this confusing, bigger-than-our-comprehension truth should drive us to worship our God who is beyond our understanding.
"Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are His judg…

Adorning the gospel

We pulled out the Christmas tree today- it’s time for the annual work of decking the halls.

If I’m honest, it feels like a hassle sometimes. Dragging a fake tree up from the basement and finding burned out lightbulbs and covering it with shiny objects our toddler can’t touch... why????
But it’s worth it. And not just for the beauty of ol’ tannenbaum or to have a nice place to put the presents.  Celebrating Christmas is worth it because the incarnation is such astonishingly good news!
Jesus really did come. He really did become human. He really did walk among us and die for us so His Spirit could live in us! And that news is worth at least putting some effort into marking the season with beauty.
This week my mom and I were talking about what it means to adorn the gospel. To hold the gospel up to the light, so to speak, and let it sparkle. Jesus coming to save us is remarkable news and my fake evergreen definitely doesn’t make it more so- but my effort (done in the right spirit with the rig…

Kingdom amnesia

In Matthew 20, we find an ironic juxtaposition of Jesus' call and our ever-present desire for our own greatness.
And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them,“See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to deathand deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.” (20:17-19) In the very next verse, look at what happens.
Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something.And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.”Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” (20:20-22) It's ironic to say…

He weeps with us

This week in my reading through the Bible, I arrived at John 11 - the story of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha. This has become a treasured passage for me over the years as I walk through seasons of loss and grief and confusion.  Some observations: Jesus said Lazarus' sickness "is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it." (11:4) - which echoes of 9:3 when Jesus said the man was born blind not because of sin, but so that "the works of God might be displayed in him."11:5-6 - "Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. SO, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was." (Isn't that "so" intriguing??)Martha and Mary both independently say the exact same thing to Jesus, word for word. "If you had been here, my brother would not have died." (11:21, 11:32)The Jews who are there echo this statement in 11:37 - "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man…

Pushcart rides and the walk of faith

This is one of those pictures that captures such a poignant moment in time, far beyond what you see in the image. Three years ago, my husband and I were at a pumpkin farm with our family. And we were having fun. He was pushing me as fast as he could around the pushcart track and it was ridiculous and it made me laugh and still does.

This also was a momentous day. We went to that pumpkin farm specifically to meet two children who needed a forever family.

It had started that July. We had seen their picture. They were far outside of our “age range” we had told the county we would consider taking, and there were two (not the one we thought we could handle), but we had prayed and both had felt stirred to look into their case.

I pulled up the email thread this morning - 49 emails back and forth with our worker over three months. So. Much. Waiting. We were waiting for information and for next steps with the county - and the kids were waiting. These kids who had experienced loss after loss.

At th…

Sometimes you need to put the baby down.

Recently in a Facebook group I am a part of, I saw a young mom ask for help. She said she was battling with laziness and needed encouragement and truth to be spoken into her life. She could no longer use holding her sleeping baby as an excuse and needed to get some things done.
Cue the “just hold your baby. They don’t stay little” comments.
It’s true. They grow up fast.
But can I gingerly tread out on this social media thin ice and say something with a hesitant catch in my voice?
Yes hold your baby. There is a time to hold your baby. But sometimes we need to do the dishes or cook our families dinner or do some laundry. We do fellow moms no favors by making one another feel guilty for NOT holding our babies 24 hours a day.  I say this as a bio and foster mom of eight tiny babies over the years. Eight sweet and precious little ones who needed to be held to bond and learn to attach and feel safe.
Holding that wee babe is holy work. And so is serving my family and making our home a haven…