Resurrection Sunday 2021

We all roundly agreed that this was the most special Easter celebration any of us could remember.

The girls woke up early to go searching for their “baskets” (which are large buckets because functionality is key around here.) We excitedly got ready for church because we knew it was going to be an amazing morning – Polly was being baptized, I was helping with “coffee hour” after the service, there was an egg hunt for the kiddos and, of course, we felt the general joy that accompanies the most important day for Christians.

We spent the morning and early afternoon at church, with loved ones – laughing (because Polly didn’t take favorbly to the communion wine), crying (because baptism!), smiling (because watching children run around on a sugar high is hilarious), and shouting our goodbyes when everyone went their separate ways to celebrate further with loved ones. Many of us agreed that next year, we will all have one large church feast – so we don’t have to leave one another that day.

The rest of the day we spent with our dear friends, where they cooked a delicious lamb dinner. We sang a new (to me) hymn, prayed and thanked the Lord for the bounty He has supplied us with, and we ate, laughed some more, and cut into the lamb cake.

We found ourselves enjoying 70 degree weather and it was so darn perfect I almost felt like crying (it was a long winter.) Once we were home for the evening, it was too lovely to stay inside, so Sean mowed the lawn while the girls and I sat with the dog on the porch.

Everyone went to bed extremely happy and we have talked about it all day today.

He is Risen. He is King. He has a plan. He is good.

Our family lives in gratefulness for each of these things and is feeling specifically grateful for such a wonderful day of rejoicing.

what is good about tomorrow?

As a child, I vividly remember thinking it was so odd that it was called “Good Friday.” There seemed to be nothing good about it – it was the day that Jesus died. The Jesus I had been taught about my whole life, that I loved, sometimes feared, but always thought of as loving, kind, and gentle. So, to celebrate his death as “good” always seemed off to me, even when my parents went to great lengths to explain to me the “why”, just as I do with our own children.

I think it takes a bit of aging to truly understand what is so good about Good Friday. It takes years of sinfulness to realize that you are the miserable offender that makes Good Friday so important. It takes living in darkness to need the light so desperately. Once you have sunk to the bottom and seen how mucked up your soul is without salvation, you begin to understand the beautiful goodness of what tomorrow symbolizes. It’s the epitome of good. It’s the only good in this world and there is nothing we have done to deserve it.

One of my most very favorite stories in the entire Bible is the story found in Luke 29:39-43. Jesus has been hung on the cross and he is placed between two criminals who are also under Roman punishment. I think that this portion of scripture can often be overlooked in the grand story of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, but it should never be forgotten. After all, Isaiah 55:11, reminds us that His words will not return void, which means that each printed word found in the scriptures is for a specific purpose.

There’s a reason that the story of the two criminals is shared.

Even as a young person (but especially as an adult, with many years and mistakes under my belt) I deeply feel the generosity and grace that Jesus showered down while hanging on the cross. He was not only feeling the deep, long, searing pain having a crown of thorns shoved on his head and his body completely marred, but he was also feeling the weight of all the sins of the world. His death was so much more immense than any one human has ever felt. And even still…

The first criminal basically dared him to take himself down – to save himself and the others hanging! He said what every other doubting Roman or Jew at the time was thinking, which makes me believe he must honestly not have believed that Jesus was the Son of God because I shudder to think of someone speaking with such gall if they knew Him to be just that. He was all but begging for physical salvation, not understanding that Jesus was dying so that we have soul salvation – one that will save us not from just death on this earth but from eternal separation from Him.

The second criminal (and I wish I was able to truly watch his reaction) responded back with a swift rebuke, “this man has done nothing wrong” and then says, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

And this is the part that breaks my heart every single time I read or hear this scripture:

Jesus replies, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Our Savior suffered an agonizing death. For you. For YOU. This fairytale idea that we can all live good lives of moral “good-enoughness” and somehow weasel our way into the favor of the maker of heaven and earth is so far removed from reality, but it is often what people seem to believe. The whitewashing of the crucifixion and resurrection has allowed its holiness to be substituted for bunnies and eggs and baskets but the truth is this…

Thousands of years ago, a man hung on a cross with nails pounded into his hands and feet. He had all the sins that had been, that was, and that would ever be, put on him by the Heavenly Father. He was alone and broken and breathed His last. Every iniquity was felt by His spirit and He felt the weight of your sin and mine. Specifically.

He died for us. And he died for that criminal. He died so we wouldn’t have to.

Even though we are the ones that should be hanging right next to Him.

All of humanity was given a chance. The work and promise and beautiful redemption plan played out in the form of a young man giving His life between two hardened criminals.

I can’t think of anything that could possibly be more good.

The 2nd Tuesday of Passiontide

(in the Christian liturgical calendar, Passiontide denotes the last two weeks of Lent, beginning on Passion Sunday and ending on Holy Saturday)

I went to bed last night thinking on many things and when I do this, it’s easy for my mind to wander and become unsettled. I’m not alone in this, I know. For me, it’s less of an anxious feeling and more of a concerned, concentrated meandering – attempting to sort out all that is going on in the world and where we may be headed. In doing this, I somewhat convince myself that I can protect our family, specifically our daughters, from what might be coming. Of course, this is futile and I know it. I control very little. Heck, I made biscuits this morning and even at the precise oven temperature, I burned the bottoms. I can’t even control that which I meticulously prepare.

With this looming in my mind, I thought it was rather providential that our morning reading was the following Epistle.

“The Lord God hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back. I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting. For the Lord GOD will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed. He is near that justifieth me; who will contend with me? let us stand together: who is mine adversary? let him come near to me. Behold, the Lord GOD will help me; who is he that shall condemn me? Lo, they all shall wax old as a garment; the moth shall eat them up. Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? Let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God. Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow.”

Isaiah 5:5-11 NKJV

God is always so perfect in His timing. A scripture that was added to a prayer book hundreds and hundreds of years ago, was precisely what I needed to hear on this Tuesday morning. Hallelujah!

brief when lengthy is desired.

Those who thought that the insane news cycle and cultural plunge would end with 2020 is sitting at home *very* frustrated right now. 2021 will prove just as ridiculously confusing. I would venture to say that 2021 will be even more disconcerting than the year of the corona.

I’m only writing this because it’s heavy on my heart and top of my mind, and yet I’m finding it hard to find extra time to sit and write all my thoughts down. I want to, but this season in life is proving very full (as I’ve mentioned before) and so I can only manage snippets (for now.)

Until I’m able to share my thoughts long-form, the small things will have to do……

Beverly Cleary died on Friday. She’s one of my girls favorite authors and her books mean a lot to our family. I loved this sweet reflection written several years ago.

We celebrated Palm Sunday yesterday with our church family. The day before we had a “work-day” at the parish where we weeded flower beds, children wiped windows, and the alter was decorated with palm branches. I’ll say it again, finding a small church family that is devoted to one another, the liturgy, and the word of the Lord has been the biggest gain of the past year, and arguably of our lives. It’s absolutely invaluable, especially in these times. More on this later.

All of our seedlings are planted for our 2021 vegetable and herb garden. I can’t believe it’s been an entire year since the last time we did this. We are hoping to yield twice the amount of produce as last year and share it with our neighbors and church family.

***

I really believe the next year will bring about difficult times. It won’t be without joy, but I believe unique challenges are coming, especially for those who adhere to a Christian ethic, and I’m praying about this. Praying about how to fortify our family further. Praying for my husband as he leads us. Praying for our church and other faithful churches. Praying about how to be used in this. Praying what to share here.

I hope to write more about this soon and I wonder how many of you are feeling like this as well. Take heart….God is with us and He is, as He has always been, the victor.

appendix vo. 8 (history edition)

Not surprisingly, history is my favorite subject. I can’t tell you how much I love hearing a good bit of historical trivia or some obscure story regarding a time period I thought I knew well. I can’t tell you how inspired it makes me. Inspired to do what? I can’t really say, but I suppose just inspired to know more.

Here’s a few things I bet you didn’t know (and neither did I!)

  • Did you know that Harriet Tubman was four years old when Thomas Jefferson died and she died when Ronald Reagan was two years old? Our country is so young.
  • Did you know that one of John Tyler’s grandsons is still living?! John Tyler: as in our 10th President?! Read about it here. Insane.
  • Did you know that “Dollhouse Grave Markers” were a thing? I know it will sound creepy or completely bizarre to some, but I think the story of these memorial dollhouses is really sweet. Heartbreaking, actually. The story of Roselind is my favorite – to think that the townspeople still take care of it during the holidays! Sigh. Read all about it here.
  • And finally, I absolutely love this short film. It’s just wonderful how this man has decided to enjoy parts of both the past and the present. Please take six minutes and watch.

And with that, I’m off. We are planting seedlings this weekend in our basement. We are hoping for a great harvest this year – planting almost twice what we did last year! On Monday we begin construction on a portion of our home and I’m excited to share that with you soon.

Have a restful weekend!

Rachel

an appointed time.

“To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born, And a time to die;
A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted;
A time to kill, And a time to heal;
A time to break down, And a time to build up;
A time to weep, And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, And a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to gain, And a time to lose;
A time to keep, And a time to throw away;
A time to tear, And a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, And a time to speak;
A time to love, And a time to hate;
A time of war, And a time of peace.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 NKJV

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about King Solomon’s words in those verses. There is a time for everything pre-ordained and chosen for us and it will come when it is meant to come. We can fight against what Christ has appointed for our life or we can embrace it, not wishing or questioning His will.

I don’t think we are wrong to wonder about other seasons or other paths but how much will we regret our days if we look back and remember the time squandered by desires not meant to come to fruition? How often I think about the times I convinced myself I wanted something different than what was actually occurring. It’s only when I reached the other side of the situation that I realize had things gone my way, everything would be lost.

I can honestly say I am grateful for all the differing seasons which have come my way. Some have been easier than others, but each have softened me in needed ways. My current season is no different.

I am in a time of building up, as I see it.

Each and every day I spend with our three daughters, often going to bed and forgetting so much of what I did, but I know it’s there. I’m a bit of a mason, the way I figure. Each day bricks are being laid – bricks of truth and beauty inside the mind and hearts of Kensington, Frankie, and Polly. My hope is that within and in-between the art projects and read-alouds, bread-baking and math tests, hikes in the wood and history timeline graphing, book discussions and cursive practice, that all of this brick-laying and building up will yield indestructible fortresses surrounding their souls.

Of course, I am fully aware that simply homeschooling or a specific brand of parenting will not save our children from ill-advised choices or general heartache. There are no sure-fire solutions to the pain of humanity or the consequence of sin.

But it is the greatest desire of my heart that this building up, day by day, will create in them something that will not easily tumble. I wish so very ardently that these small moments, which seem so ordinary, will mold together and flourish into a strength built on something solid – on Christ’s truth and gospel. It’s easy to desire but it can be awfully hard in practice. It’s a moment-by-moment testing of a person’s focus and resolve. A resolve to not dream of another appointed time – to rest in the season you have been placed in.

Yes, I believe I am in a season of building up and it is rich and beautiful and filled with the most colorful promises. It’s such a precious time with these girls. A time that will not always be. There will be new seasons and frontiers that I’ll meet – all brought about by the Lord and held in His hands. But for now, this is the time for building up and I will be here doing just that. Quiet, normal, moments.

Brick by brick.

appendix no.7 (book edition)

There were a lot of books in 2020. I mean, this is usually the case in any year, but it intensified in the year of Covid. Books were an escape, a distraction, a tactic for survival, a joy, and a necessity.

I wanted to share several books we read that really stuck out to us and were roundly enjoyed. The list could be much longer, but these ones were most special and are highly recommended to you.

  • Kohila by Amy Carmichael: Carmichael is inspiring to all and the story of her impact amongst the people of India is riveting. She stood firmly against unthinkable evil, and soldiered on. When reading about the life of Amy, it’s impossible to not reflect on what more we can be doing with our own lives.
  • Live Not By Lies by Rod Dreher: This is the one book I have been recommending to everyone this year. Much like his last book, “The Benedict Option”, it comes prior to what is predicted and so his words can often be written off as dramatic. It doesn’t change that fact that he is almost always correct in his predictions. It’s a clarion call for those people searching for truth and freedom. Read it.
  • The Book of Common Prayer: I’ve long had this book in our home library. It wasn’t until this year that read deeply from its words and took advantage of the morning and evening prayer readings. An invaluable book to use along side the holy scriptures.
  • Now We Are Six by A.A Milne: We all needed a bit of levity in 2020. Milne’s poetry is brilliant and I won’t let anyone tell me otherwise. My favorite poem of all? “Sneezles.” In fact, the girls are memorizing it for a recitation they are giving with friends in a few weeks. They have hand motions and everything.
  • I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton De Trevino: A beautifully written story from the viewpoint of the famous artist Diego Velasquez’s slave, Juan Pareja. While he is indeed a historical figure, some embellishments and additions were found. The story was one of love, redemption, freedom, and loss. Sidenote: I’ll write about it soon, but this book (and the people found therein) may have something to do with my family ancestry. This was one of our read-alouds this year and was, by far, my girls favorite.
  • When Harry Became Sally by Ryan T. Anderson: If you’ve listened to any amount of news in the last month, you’ve heard about Ryan’s book being literally cancelled by Amazon and the mainstream media. Not surprisingly, these giants have been radio silent about a topic that is infiltrating our culture in this moment. The “transgender craze”, as written about by Ryan and others such as Debarah Soh and Abigail Shrier, is fast growing and concerning. It needs attention, thoughtfulness, compassion, and experts to weigh in. Which is what Ryan had in his book. And still, the progressive powers that be made it almost impossible to purchase. Does this make sense? Of course it does. You can still buy this on B&N and his publishers site for now. Ryan is a personal friend, a thoughtful gentleman, and a compassionate soul. His book is one that reaches across divides to talk about a real-time problem and it shouldn’t have received the treatment it did.
  • Another Gospel by Alisa Childers: Progressive Christianity is shiny and alluring because it accepts everything and truth is personal, not universal. No wonder it has grabbed whole parts of the church in America. But is it backed up by scripture? Sadly, so many doctrines being peddled in your local church are false and we need to have our eyes opened to them and on alert. This books is a great resource of those coming out of a progressive atmosphere, or those wanting to understand what it’s all about.
  • The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer: Tozer is a giant and for good reason. He puts into words what we feel in our hearts but can’t express. This book allows you to think fully about the immense nature of our Lord and how matchless He is. Please read.
  • Pilgrims Progress by John Bunyan: One of the best selling book of all time, and rightfully so. It’s a masterpiece. Please read it. Read it when you are at your lowest, especially. You will emerge with new eyes and a renewed heart.

I could go on and on. I have about 10 more titles at the ready, but I must stop. It’s about 9:30pm and that means bedtime for this old dame. I do hope one of these books jumps out to you and you enjoy it. If so, please come back and share with me. Books are magic, and these ones gave me so much hope in a very interesting year.

Have a peaceful weekend!

Rachel

darkness.

Last evening at church we continued our study on the book of Exodus. While making our way through the end of the plagues, my mind struggled to move past the ninth plague, darkness. These verses, in particular, gave me great pause:

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness to be felt.” So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was pitch darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days, but all the people of Isreal had light where they lived.”

Many themes and symbols can be drawn out of the story of the Israelite exodus from the land of Egypt. Thousands of books have been written and thousands of theologians have weighed in on everything from “how much time passed between each plague?” to “which plague corresponded with which Egyptian god?” and the list continues. My intention here is not to crack any codes or make new revelations – that isn’t my area of expertise.

I think I just wanted to write about a world without God. A world of darkness.

At the onset of any theological discussion, one must be transparent about the facts of one’s belief system. I’ve been meaning to write about the concept of “truth” and how it has been completely hijacked in our post-Christian world, but that is for another time. It must be stated, however, that “my” truth will always be the truth found in the divine scripture of the Bible – not any ad-hoc opinions or assertions made out of a desire to circumvent the reality of what Christ said and demands. “My” truth and the “truth” of everyone else should be weighed against His truth and then a conclusion can be made about what *actual* reality is. His word reveals what we must see as sin, truth, love, goodness, and evil. That’s the framework I use. It’s a difficult and often inconvenient truth. I have had to change things about myself. I’ve had to accept things about my sin. I’ve had to give up things. But, truth is truth. There is no “my truth” and “your truth”. There is only one.

Now that you know the scale I weigh things on, I think you’ll see why the ninth plague stuck with me – long into the evening. I woke up around 2 am unable to think of anything else. This was bolstered by the fact that I foolishly watched a documentary I knew was discussing a sensitive topic and much of it was graphic. I’ll never unsee that darkness and it only gave more credence to what I was feeling.

By the time the ninth plague had rolled around, Pharaoh had waffled so much, that I as a reader began to roll my eyes and recall the exhaustion of negotiating with a toddler (by the way, never do that.) Pharaoh would feel the wrath of a plague, beg for relief, seemingly soften toward the requests of Moses and Aaron, acknowledge the power of the Almighty……only to make a swift about-face and invalidate anything he had once said and harden his heart. This happened again and again. Pharaoh’s pride was unparalleled.

Without warning (different than other plagues) darkness blanketed all of Egypt. This wasn’t common darkness brought on by a sandstorm, no. It was impenetrable darkness like they had never experienced. The people stayed in their places for three days – they did not emerge from their beds, find matches lying around the house, or manage to work around this situation. It was as if they were all completely blind – surrounded in a world of pitch-black.

As I was listening to the lesson, I tried to place myself in the position of a mother during the ninth plague. What must she be feeling? Was she cognizant of the meanings of these plagues and where exactly they were coming from? What was the chatter in the cities of Egypt at this time and within the households? Were there some mothers that knew, deep down, that the all-powerful God was indeed real and they were filled with fear because they understood their created deities would not save them? How did they control and calm their children in this incredibly bizarre and frightening moment? I wonder how the fear must have been bubbling within them until the lights came back on.

And as the lesson continued, my mind turned to the why behind the darkness and the link I see to the now.

Our God is a God of all creation – from the onset to the end. He was always and was not created. He was the first and will be the last. All that has been seen, is seen, and will be seen, is His and from Him. There is nothing that can be without Him or exist without his allowing it. It all came from His mighty hand. Creation is His and He owns it. Which made it so fascinating and darn perfect that the God of all creation – who owns the light in the sky – decided to show his might by taking it away. The Egyptians had a god for everything – the river, fertility, funerals, the sun, the soil, falcons, and so on. As silly as it sounds to the modern man, they believed each of these gods was real and played an essential part in their form, function, and success as humans. In this beautifully rich playing out of God’s ultimate domination, He decided to demonstrate something so unnatural – utter darkness – to showcase His supernatural power.

It was a darkness that was felt.

It’s that word – felt – that almost made me sick while I was sitting in my pew. This is simply because I know that feeling. I know how it feels to breathe through my darkness – where there is simply no navigating or moving. Confronting your depravity feels like trying to escape quicksand. It’s heavily glued to you and pulling you further and further into midnight shades of sin.

And so, perhaps in a related but altogether different way, I understand what the Egyptians might have been feeling – those who were awakened to the power of our Almighty Lord. The realization that without the light of His gospel, the truth of His Word, and our obedience to His law, darkness will follow and consume us.

If you are living under a rock (tell me how!) you are watching as Western Civilization steadily and willingly drives itself further and further into a dark abyss. This isn’t hyperbole, it’s the truth – God’s truth. Even the skeptic who feels the religious zealot will always find something to prove the “sky is falling” has to be feeling it. I just know you know what I am talking about. I need not spend time listing the ways that our culture is swimming in baseness, immorality, and wickedness. I see it and so do you. Even my firmly Agnostic acquaintances are dizzy from whiplash caused by observing evil circumstance after evil circumstance. Truth be told, it’s not always the headline news that is the most debauched. While still alarming and heartbreaking, it’s often the insidious darkness that has creepily made its way into homes, schools, government, children’s minds, and churches, that alarms me the most.

It’s wild the darkness we are now accepting as completely normal – using specific terms to talk ourselves into a new, convenient lie. Cleverly arranging words like, “identity, appropriation, oppression, spectrum, toxic, hate, representation, non-binary, hate-speech, racist, patriarchy, nuance, sexism, systemic, love, church, gospel” people can construct any existence they see fit.

Further, it is deemed acceptable, good, and to be supported by you.

But the darkness is ever-growing and while we haven’t been completely overtaken, I almost feel like what we are experiencing right now is more dangerous than the black-out in Egypt. People know something is off but they can’t pinpoint it. There’s an unsettling amongst the followers of the Lord because we know this isn’t how He meant for His creation to live. We are swimming in a poisoned pool, trying to keep our head above water. Most sad are those who profess faith in Christ but are slowly being conformed to our raven-colored cultured. They won’t understand the complete darkness until it overtakes them.

In our culture, it is good to be a Christian but one must stay very quiet about it. It is good to be a Christian if it is at no expense of our own and as long as we can maintain normalcy as much as possible. It is good to be a Christian so long as you don’t oppose someone else and their lifestyle, eve if you do so with the loving direction of scripture.

This won’t work, of course. A faith that is constantly silencing itself to affirm darkness will eventually be eaten alive.

The simplest way we can usher away the blindness is to walk in the light, embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, and proclaim it in our comings and our goings. It must be always about us or the alternative will be. It may not happen all at once, but eventually we will woven directly into the fabric of our surroundings, therefore we must assuredly pursue holiness. Through each of us, the gospel must be the bright torch that is extended to our communities, our friends, and our families. We either walk in the light or we will be rendered completely inoperative in the unlit aftermath.

The darkness is here.

Fortunately, so is the Lord and His truth. Walk accordingly.

appendix vo. 6

It’s almost 8pm, which is bedtime for me. When I say “bedtime”, I mean the time of day when I climb into my pajamas and retire – which is code for lay in my bed and read/write. I’ve long been the source of joking amongst my peers for my old-age habits, but I make no apologies. An early bedtime has always served me well and it seems as though my children have followed suit, in a sense. We are sleeping early, and up even earlier – all three of the girls begin their days around 6:30/7am. Early to bed, early to rise…..

I would have written earlier but our internet was on the fritz, as often happens in rural America. Anyhow, here is an abbreviated list of some things that caught my eye this week:

  • I lived ALONE in three different apartments before I was married and am not sure how I would have handled this revelation. A call to the landlord would have been immediate, along with possibly a termination of contract.
  • I would love having the title, “BookMobile Lady.”
  • I can’t tell you how many of these types of things I have lying around our house and stuffed in closets. If you ever come to the farm, ask to see a few. It’s truly amazing the things people are willing to throw away.
  • Von Trapp Family: Movie vs Reality (National Archives)

I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Rachel