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.
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)
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 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,
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