Musings: April 2019

A worn banister sits at the center of a colonial-era farmhouse in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. There, the winter of 1777-78 brought deep suffering, privation, and grueling labor in freezing cold with the goal of building adequate housing for the Colonial Army–two thousand small cabins. Once his men were settled, George Washington took up residence–along with twenty-five of his aides, servants, and slaves–in a nearby farmhouse that became his home and his headquarters for the duration of that six-month stint of military maneuvers.

As the docent shared the historic details, I wondered about all the hands that had touched that banister on their way up and down the stairs. Hands, black and white, slave and free, male and female, would have grazed or gripped that sturdy piece of wood in the run of their day, completely oblivious to the historic significance of their presence in that home or of that period. Like them, we have no idea how significant our actions may be when seen in the rear view mirror of history.

A break from the routine is one of the greatest gifts of vacation time, and it was encouraging to drive south toward daffodils, green grass, and trees in full blossom.  We laughed together and listened to The Chronicles of Narnia as we traveled, and Tucker was a good dog. We enjoyed catching up with friends and quiet evenings with books in our laps.

And then it was good to come home for a celebration of Good Friday and Easter Sunday with our church family.

Parenting and Poetry

In May, I will celebrate 29 years with my unreasonably patient husband. If I do the math, factoring in the ages of our children, the years before kids, the gardens planted, and the gray hair in the mirror, I know this makes perfect sense. And all this goodness has come to someone who had neither the good sense nor the optimism to pray for it.

The rhythms of married life have come quite easily to us, and we’re grateful. There was very little seismic adjustment at the outset, and even though I am not the easiest person in the world to live with, apparently my faults are commensurate with my husband’s capacity for forbearance.

Parenting, however, has been a different story.
Not that God didn’t give us four great kids.
He did.
But there’s nothing like pouring yourself out in four different directions 24/7/365 to show up all your selfishness and theological inconsistencies.

It’s easy to feel isolated in this inadequacy, to feel as if you are the worst mother in the country and in the top ten for worst in the world. If you feel that way and you enjoy reading poetry, you’ll find a friend in Rachel Donahue, because she wrote Real Poems for Real Moms: from a Mother in the Trenches to Another in the small spaces between the real challenges of her own mothering life.

Who else but a mother in the trenches could come up with a seven-part haiku series on the rigors of diaper changing? With feverish relevance, Rachel writes about the multitude of topics that trigger mum guilt, and, fortunately, she also knows about grace, the only known solvent for stubbornness and fear.

Dyed-in-the-wool poetry geeks will recognize overtones of Browning, Frost, Hopkins, and others tucked into tongue in cheek renderings and more somber reflections because the truth is that motherhood is a fleeting season. We rejoice and lament by turns, and somehow, in the days of mundane faithfulness we are amazed to find ourselves growing in grace and being transformed from the inside out by the miracle of our love for our children.

April Reading and Writing

A Melody Above the Noise of Your Grief–
A counselor challenged Aubrey Sampson and her husband to lean into the invitation suffering offers, to stop trying to “handle it,” fix it, understand it, or explain it away and, in the presence of the deep loss, to allow, “the unanswerable to remain unanswered while still declaring that suffering will not have the final say.” (11) I had been eagerly awaiting Aubrey’s thoughts on lament, and I was not disappointed!

Why It’s Great to Be a Woman–
Elisabeth Elliot famously said, “The fact that I am a woman does not make me a different kind of Christian, but the fact that I am a Christian makes me a different kind of woman.” Now, Abigail Dodds has added her own calm voice of reason to the conversation about just exactly what it means to be a Christian AND to be a woman. “How we feel about being a woman doesn’t have any bearing on what we are. We may feel like we don’t fit the mold, but God calls us to live in a way that shatters the world’s expectations.” (61)

Knowing God in the Midst of Our Pain

Published nearly four years after Elisabeth Elliot’s death, Suffering Is Never for Nothing has been adapted from a six-part series Elisabeth taught and which was recorded on CD at a small conference. Readers familiar with Elliot’s message will recognize her voice in the printed page as she asserts that it has been through “the deepest suffering that God has taught [her] the deepest lessons.” (1) “And let’s never forget,” she continues, “that if we don’t ever want to suffer, we must be very careful never to love anything or anybody.” (9) Beginning with lessons drawn from the life of Job, Elisabeth Elliot challenges believers to rejoice in the possibility of presenting our “whys?” to God, and to be ready to receive God’s answer in the form of His presence there with us in our misery–the answer we need more than any other we might have sought.

What if Christians Became the Best Advertisement for Jesus? Scott Sauls invites readers to mind the gap between the life of faith described in the Bible and the one that gets practiced here on the ground in the 21st century. With so much at stake, and so much good that could be done, Sauls describes what it means to abide in an “irresistible Christ” (1) and to live in such a way that we do not contradict his teachings at every turn. I was captivated by this description of an irresistible faith that comes from drawing close to Christ, taking His righteousness, and thinking His thoughts after Him by immersing our brains in Scripture and allowing this to shape our affections and our understanding of suffering and success.

April snow

 

April snow makes the longing for spring more poignant. Finally, the snow is gone and the crocuses and daffodils have made their appearance! Hope for spring is on the move!
What a great gift when our celebration of Easter reminds us of all the ways Christ’s resurrection exceeds our hopes and our hopelessness.

Rejoicing with you in hope,

Michele Morin

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87 thoughts on “Musings: April 2019”

  1. That’s such a huge milestone, Michele! Congrats on your anniversary and al the many accomplishments you’ve made along the way with your husband. I also love the resources you are holding out for us. I’m especially interested in Elisabeth Elliot and Scott Saul’s books. Thanks for sharing and I’ll be pinning, my friend! Have a great week!

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  2. Thanks for these musings, Michele! Love the reflections on the banister and the possible stories of those whose hands touched it and how our own actions may affect history. We’ve listened to The Chronicles of Narnia on trips as well. (We love the Focus on the Family set). Congratulations on your anniversary and all you share about what learning, loving, and living entails. The points on parenting fit with the post I shared today.

    PS The Louder Song is a great read, isn’t it?

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  3. Wouldn’t it be fun to hear the stories those banisters could tell? Glad you got to enjoy a refreshing break, Michele.

    This makes me smile: “apparently my faults are commensurate with my husband’s capacity for forbearance.” 🙂 It’s how I feel about my husband too.

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  4. Congrats on your anniversary!!! Love this line. “But there’s nothing like pouring yourself out in four different directions 24/7/365 to show up all your selfishness and theological inconsistencies.” So true.

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    1. He does know, and he has a purpose in suffering. It’s our great challenge to lean into the unknown when he does not choose to reveal His purposes to us in this life . . .

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  5. I love your monthly musings, and seeing how God always pulls your book reviews into such precious and personal places! So once again, my wish lists always expand after visiting here. I am still letting those journals from Devotedly sink into my heart, there was just so many treasures buried deep in those pages! Congratulations and Happy Anniversary!

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  6. Many things in life make you wonder – but suffering can be one of the hardest to endure (at times) – but seeing God and his hand over the situation is something we need to be pointed to. Thankfully.
    Thank You for sharing
    #Senisal

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  7. Happy anniversary! Marriage and mothering have both shown up my inherent selfishness in big ways. I love your mention of “grace, the only known solvent for stubbornness and fear.” I’ve sure needed heaps of it, but thankfully God’s supply never runs dry.

    Your vacation sounds fun! We’re enjoying that time of year when it seems there’s something new blooming every time we go outside.

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    1. I, for one, need that good solvent poured on my mothering (and all my relationships!) continuously.
      We’re almost to the season of perpetual sprouting. Cold temps here are slowing things down which, for us and our lawn mowing business, is a good thing because I’m not really ready to start that routine yet.

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  8. Chiming in with another “Happy Anniversary, Michele!” You two look deliriously happy in that photo! Your comment about many mothers suffering from Worst-Mom-in-the-World syndrome reminded me: I once asked our youngest son (now an adult) to rate his childhood: 1 for absolutely awful to 10 for fantastic. I hoped for a 6 or 7, but had no confidence the score would be that high. After all, I’d made some pretty stupid mistakes, yelled at my three offspring more than a few times, and chose selfish pursuits occasionally in favor of activities with them. But without a moment’s hesitation, my son enthusiastically replied, “Eleven!” (Our children are capable of monumental forgiveness!)

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    1. Oh, Nancy, you have “gone” where angels fear to tread–or at least where I’m afraid to go. That’s a question on the clip board of my brain, but I haven’t dared to bring it up yet. And yes . . . forgiveness oils the gears of family, and it’s the only reason we’re still chugging along.

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  9. Michele,
    Congrats’ on your anniversary! I, too, know what it’s like to be married to a saint! My first attempts at writing were poems so I still have a love a good poetry and some that celebrates the down in the trenches of Motherhood – Bravo. I need to read Elisabeth Elliot’s book on suffering. I agree that the deepest suffering brings the deepest relationship with our Lord. All good Musings…as always!
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

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  10. Oh, how I love the way you describe our roles and relationships!

    Happy (almost) 29 years! What a beautiful thing that is, friend!

    And that first book you listed looks so good. I’m quite a “fixer” but sometimes I feel God calling me to just “BE” in whatever the hard place is.

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  11. Happy Anniversary, Michele!! It is amazing how quickly the years pass and all the lessons along the way. Thank you for these book recommendations as I always love seeing what you are reading 🙂

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  12. We used to live near and far enough from Valley Forge to make day trips there for some learning, perspective, and fresh air. Your reflection adds to the memories! As usual- more good books than can reasonably fit on my to-read list…they’re going on anyway. 🙂 Happy anniversary to you and your husband!

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  13. The photo of you and your hubby is wonderful, Michele. There is nothing like having children to bring about humility, is there? 🙂 Hope you enjoyed your “southern” vacation in my neck of the woods! Please stop by for a cuppa the next time you are in the area!

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    1. The picture was taken on a day when we were surrounded by the whole family! It’s no chore to look happy when our kids and THEIR kids are in residence!
      And I do love your part of the world! It was nice to get a breath of spring to hold me over until it lands in earnest here.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We just drove back to the Denver airport through snow and freezing fog after a 12-day Colorado stay with our grandson (and his parents)! 🙂 If we must come back home, it’s nice to come back to spring!

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  14. Oh, Michele, this is great! You have an unreasonably patient husband too!!! I thought I was the only one. 🙂 We have so much in common! I love history. Thanks for this post and for linking up at InstaEncouragements!

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  15. Aww, Michele. You continue to amaze me with how many books you can get through in a month. 🙂 I loved your reflections on Rachel Donahue’s book. It sounds like a fun one.

    Hubs and I have been married 23 years and, like you, being a wife has been a much smoother transition than being a mom. I used to think I was a nice person until I had children. 😉

    I loved what you said here: “in the days of mundane faithfulness we are amazed to find ourselves growing in grace and being transformed from the inside out by the miracle of our love for our children.”

    I’m finding this to be true in my own life.

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  16. I do love looking round historic houses (in the UK were really blessed to have so much history on our doorsteps) and wonder at the ordinary people whos have lived and worked in these places. People that the history books often forget, but whos history is facinating to me.

    #abitofeverything

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  17. What joy to take a break from the normal routine and enjoy a vacation. It sounds like it was just what you needed.

    Your words about your marriage and parenting resonate from the standpoint that it’s easy to believe we don’t do it as well as someone else.

    Thank you and here’s to the blessings of May.

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  18. “But there’s nothing like pouring yourself out in four different directions 24/7/365 to show up all your selfishness and theological inconsistencies.” Amen! I didn’t know I was so self-centered until I had that third baby! I’ve spent a lifetime of overcoming it, and still have a ways to go! (My baby is soon to be 26.)

    Congratulations on 29 years! A great accomplishment.

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  19. That sounds like a wonderful trip; we love the Chronicles of Narnia and I just love learning on vacation.

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  20. I find your blog posts so therapeutic and calming to read, even though I’m not religious myself. Very interesting to think about all the hands of people on the bannister. When musing things like that, as a gay dad I always wonder what life was like for gay people back then – probably quite difficult! Another lovely blog post Michelle x
    #ThatFridayLinky

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    1. Jamie, I appreciate that you have an open heart and can read my words with appreciation even though you don’t agree with all of them.
      Thanks for sharing your musings with readers here.

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  21. Michele, I love your opening story about the farmhouse, George Washington, and thinking about how many and “whose” hands touched that banister. And Happy Anniversary to you and your husband! A great milestone reached for sure! Appreciate the reading list. Blessings!

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  22. When I was young and lived in the city of Philadelphia my parents used to take us to Valley Forge for picnics. Of course I had no idea of the historical significance at that age! I just knew it was a nice change from the sidewalks of the city! Happy anniversary and thanks for sharing with us at The Blogger’s Pit Stop!

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    1. Funny how we take the history of our own area for granted. We actually listened to a CD in our car as we drove around Valley Forge area, and it made everything so much clearer.

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    1. It was beautiful, and worn smooth underneath the paint, and was located in the busy epicenter of the house. I could picture someone standing at the bottom and yelling up the stairs that breakfast was ready!

      Liked by 1 person

  23. This is so true: “There’s nothing like pouring yourself out in four different directions 24/7/365 to show up all your selfishness and theological inconsistencies.”

    Thanks so much for sharing at Booknificent Thursday on Mommynificent.com!
    Tina

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