Thanksgiving and the Pilgrims’ Five Kernels of Corn

What can moldy bread, an over-crowded ship, puking passengers, and five kernels of corn teach us about Thanksgiving?

A lot.

Several years ago I picked up William Bradford’s first hand account of life in Plymouth. I couldn’t wait to read about the first Thanksgiving and expected the great Thanksgiving feast to be the theme of the book.

Instead, I read chapter after chapter of trials and tribulations as the pilgrims journeyed to the “New World” and began their new lives.

The plymouth pilgrims faced many trials. At one point the daily rations were down to five kernels of corn. But even then, they chose gratitude...

photo credit

follow me over to Little Natural Cottage to read the rest

Glory and Beauty: the Purposes of Christian Modesty

Does the topic of modesty ever make you squirm?

Me too.

There are so many opinions on what’s modest and what’s not. Often I’m left wondering if there’s anything in my fairly conservative closet that meets all the rules.

Modesty is so much more than a list of "dos" and "don'ts". Modesty is an issue of the heart and its purpose is glory and beauty.

The discussion of modesty brings up a common temptation because “It’s much easier, and more fun, to apply the Scriptures to others and not ourselves.” -Eric Sauder (photo credit)

So when we arrived at church and I saw the sermon text, my heart sank a bit

 I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.” (1 Tim. 2:8-10)

As the sermon started, my heart stopped squirming. The sermon was inspiring, convicting, and encouraging. Instead of giving a list of rules, it offered a glimpse of the beautiful glory of Biblical modesty.

The purpose of Christian modesty

Buried in a detailed passage about the proper priest’s clothes comes a beautiful description that highlights the purpose of their clothing: “And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty.” (Ex. 28:2)

The purpose of modesty echoes that. Modesty is for glory and beauty.

We are daughters of the King. Our clothing should reflect His glory. Wives are “the glory of their husbands” (1 Cor. 11). Our clothing should reflect that glory.

And it should be beautiful. Have you ever noticed how often the Bible mentions a woman’s beauty? Sarah was beautiful, Rebekah was beautiful, Rachel was beautiful. So were Abigail, Esther, the beloved in the Song of Solomon, and many more.

Did you know that the word “adorn” means “to make beautiful”?

Beauty is a good thing in the hands of a woman who wants to please Jesus.

Modesty and beauty are not mutually exclusive at all. Sarah, who is held up as a model for Christian women (Heb. 11:11, 1 Pet. 3:5-6), was so beautiful that two kings got in trouble over her beauty. (Gen. 12:10-20 & Gen. 20)

Beauty is not sinful. But we are to “make ourselves beautiful” with modesty and good works.

Glory and Beauty are the purposes of Christian modesty

Modesty: for glory and for beauty  (photo credit)

The missing modesty rules

So beauty and glory are the purposes of Christian modesty, but what about the rules part?

You can read the Bible cover to cover without finding a spelled-out list.

Sometimes I just wish God would have made it simple. The Bible is so long. Couldn’t He just have devoted one little chapter to the dos and don’ts of Christian modesty: Wear this. Don’t wear that. Make sure your shirt is at least this high, this long, and this thick. Make sure your pants or skirts are at least knee length (or calf length or ankle length).

He didn’t.

You have to search the Scriptures for clues, and pray, and seek for wisdom.

That doesn’t mean God doesn’t give us any guidance at all. He does. There are some things that are pretty clearly supposed to be enjoyed within the sanctity of marriage, and not displayed for the world to see. (Prov. 5:15-20)

But God didn’t give us a simple checklist for a reason. He wants us to seek His wisdom in humility, not to just cross things off a list and think that makes us modest.

Because modesty is much, much more than just a wardrobe issue. It’s a heart issue. Modesty is about a heart that wants Jesus to be glorified. And you can’t get that through just following a checklist.

Embracing Christian Modesty

Modesty may not rank in a top ten list of favorite topics, but the Bible addresses it and so should we. Not as a mindless checklist of rules, but as a way to dress beautifully for the glory of Jesus.

Controlling Loose Lips

Like the small rudder that turns a massive ship, the tongue wields incredible power.

With our tongue we can hurt or heal, kill or make alive. With it we can gossip or encourage, tear down or build up.

Controlling the tongue is one of the hardest things to do. It's also one of the most important because "Loose lips sink ships."

Loose Lips Sink Ships

Bad news travels fast. Whether it’s a broken engagement, lost job, pending divorce, or wayward child, curiosity keeps the news cycling.

Keeping tongues silent when they ought to be is hard. Human tendency is to speculate and gossip and try to satisfy curiosity. Learning how to keep confidence takes wisdom.

Lately I’ve been thinking about “loose lips” a lot. Bad news seems to come in waves. The weight of others burdens can feel crushing at times. Sometimes I just want to spill it all. Talking about the problems around me helps me sort through them.

That’s the time to keep this beautiful reminder from Leah in mind, “Have you prayed about it as much as you’ve talked about it?”

When the answer is “No”, it’s time to shut up and pray.

Only rarely does talking about someone else’s problem help the issue. Often it’s nothing more than gossip that can sink ships. Or at least friendships.

Just think what a beautiful testimony it would be if all Christian women took the sad stories we’re entrusted with and brought them before the cross. If we just shut up more often and prayed.

Loose lips sink ships. The tongue is a powerful weapon for good or gossip. Let's use it for good!

When a Ship Needs Sinking

Sometimes a ship needs sinking though. Sometimes sin needs to be confronted. Sometimes a simple misunderstanding just needs to be cleared up.

But the temptation is to go about it in the wrong way. Instead of taking steps to address the issue, it’s easy to let the problem simmer and talk about it with everyone but the person involved.

When there’s actual sin involved, God’s laid out a pattern to follow to address it (Matt. 18:15).

When it’s simply misunderstandings that pile on top of each other, the best choice is to either forgive and forget or to humbly and honestly address it.

Not too long ago, I let misunderstandings pile up with a friend. When I started complaining about it to Joshua, he said what he usually says in that situation, “Darling, have you talked to her about it?”

And, like usual, my answer was, “No!”

Trouble was, I really, really didn’t want to confront her about it. I was afraid she’d be upset.

Guess what. When I finally broached the subject (after much prayer and trembling), the first thing she said was, “Really? I’ve been wanting to talk to you about this for so long, but didn’t know if you’d want to talk about it.”

Half an hour later we were laughing. We both wanted the exact same thing all along. We had simply misjudged each other for way too long.

Sadly, not all confrontations end quite so happily. But if an issue needs to be addressed, it’s almost always wisest to address it. Humbly. With the person involved.

Controlling Loose Lips

Our tongues are powerful tools. When tongues are properly tamed they can break the cycle of gossip, uplift needs in prayer, resolve misunderstandings, and encourage those around us.

Like the Proverbs 31 woman, the law of the tamed tongue is “a law of kindness.”

Celebrate the Lord’s Day

Life in the Little House on the Prairie held a sweet charm for me as a girl. I wished I could live out on the prairie with Mary and Laura in a little log cabin, pick wild berries along the creek bed, and run through unending prairie … until Laura described their Sundays.

Sundays were miserable, confining, and seemed to drag on for an eternity.

Thankfully, celebrating the Lord’s Day does not require intense boredom and stiff shoes. God could have sung the world into existence in a moment. He could have chosen to create it slowly over the course of millions of years.

Instead, he chose to speak it into existence over the course of a week as a pattern for us, His image-bearers.

The Lord's Day: a day of worship, rest, and gladness

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Unlike many ancient cultures, where all but the wealthiest worked every single day, God commanded us to work faithfully for six days. And then, for our sake, He blessed the seventh day as a day of rest. Of celebration. Of worship. Of refreshment. Of fellowship.

With the glorious resurrection of Jesus from the dead, the day has switched. Now we celebrate at the beginning of the week, to commemorate the most important event in history: the defeat of death.

The day switched, but the purpose remains: to worship, fellowship, and rest.

Worship exuberantly with the saints

Sunday isn’t just about “going to church”.

What happens (or should happen) at church is much, much greater than getting a spiritual pep talk. We get to join with saints around the globe and raise joyful voices in worship of our Savior. We get to feast upon the Lord’s table, and be changed a little more into the likeness of Christ. We get to encourage one another to “love and good works” as we celebrate the Lord’s Day.

Rest from your work

God created this day as gift for us. As Jesus said, “the sabbath was created for man, not man for the sabbath!”

Don’t celebrate it with one eye glancing over your shoulder to make sure that everyone around you knows you’re doing it right. What is work to one person might be rest to another. As our pastor explained, if you have a family farm and raise food to sell, resting on Sunday likely means not spending the whole afternoon installing a new irrigation system.

On the other hand, if gardening is your most relaxing hobby, sitting in the warm sun on a Sunday afternoon and pulling weeds could be the most restful way to celebrate the day.

What if your main job is a homemaker? Kids tummies still get empty. Dishes still get used. And their clothes most certainly still get dirty. Sunday is still supposed to be a day of rest for us.

Here are a few simple ways to celebrate the day of rest, even if you have the “job that never ends.”

Sunday isn't just one more day to get stuff done. It's one of God's many gifts to us to celebrate and enjoy.

photo credit

Celebrate the Lord’s Day

Whether you work a full-time job or stay home with your kids all week, Sundays are a gift God has given us. They are days to worship and fellowship, rest and enjoy. So let’s celebrate them!

A Lesson Learned from My “Martha” Project

Anticipation soared as we prepared for the children’s Ancient Egyptian party. We studied Creation through the Middle Kingdom in Egypt during their first term of history. Now it was time for a hands-on look at life in Ancient Egypt.

As one of the history teachers at their weekly classical academy, I’d been brainstorming ideas for weeks. But, the day before the party, the list of things left to prepare continued to grow.

Egyptian Party

There were books to pick up from the library, authentic snacks to gather, “apprentice” stations to prepare, activities to run through, and hours of reading left to be done. Plus, I still needed to finalize our costumes.

The hours ticked by as I hurried through my list. Midnight struck. I took a book on Ancient Egypt to bed and read until I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer.

The next morning we were up bright and early. I rushed everyone to get ready, double-checked supplies, and made it to school just in the nick of time.

Daddy’s white t-shirts, white sheets, ribbon, and eye shadow transformed fifteen adorable students into fifteen adorable ancient Egyptians. Brightly painted collars, headbands & “gold” armbands (that we’d made in previous weeks) completed our costumes.

After “mummifying” apples with their awesome science teacher, the students trooped outside to eat snacks, just like the ancient Egyptians would have.

The weather was perfectly gorgeous, but getting the students to sit still was like trying to keep a toddler’s play area tidied. Their seemingly endless energy fed off one another, as my energy reserves started slipping. To preserve strength, I narrowed in on the projects to get through.

I still wore a smile, but my focus had shifted from blessing the students with a fun-filled “first-hand” look into life in ancient Egypt (and how that knowledge helps put stories from the Bible into their historical context) to just making it through the day without crashing.

The smile was there. The delight and enthusiasm were gone.

Hands-On Ancient Egyptian Activities

Instead of responding to hiccups in my plans with grace, I silently wished can’t they just sit still in a circle for five minutes? 

I lost sight of the fact that they’re still little. We’ll be traveling through ancient Egypt several more times before they graduate. If all they remember from our day is that ancient Egyptians wore white and that learning about them is fun, it’ll be all right.

I forgot and I was frustrated.

As the morning wore on and my weariness grew, the real lesson of the day crystalized: instead of bustling around “distracted with much serving” like Martha, I need to pause “to sit at the feet of Jesus”, like Mary. (Luke 10:38-42)

The busier the day, the more I need to lean on Him. When my strength fails, He has promised to give His, if I’ll just look to Jesus and ask.

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(Once I remembered to look up, the day ended joyfully, full of fun–and funny–memories.) 

Loved by an Almighty God

Loved by an Almighty God
A few years ago, my lovely sisters and sisters-in-law visited our tiny duplex in Alabama for the weekend. One of the benefits of crowding ten people into a 650 square foot home was the incentive to spend more time outside. One gorgeous evening, Joshua offered to lay the kiddos down while we girls went on a walk.

After meandering down to the square and visiting the quaint college library, we headed home. The bright city lights warded off the growing darkness around us. We were almost home when a car slowed down and the driver rolled down the window.

Picking up the pace, we braced ourselves for rude comments or cat calls.

Instead, the elderly gentleman called out in a kind voice, “I just want you girls to know that Jesus loves you.” Then he rolled the window back up and continued down the road.*

The memory still brings a smile to my lips.

So take courage, for “you are loved by an Almighty God.” **

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* I’m pretty sure that only in the south do completely random strangers stop traffic for pleasantries. Once, a grandpa held up cars at a stop sign while encouraging me to “Enjoy the kids, they grow up before you know it! I sure miss mine.” I assured him I would, and then he drove off while I continued our walk to the park. The drivers behind him didn’t seem the least bit annoyed.

**the lovely reminder that Darlene Schacht uses to close her blog posts.

photo credit

My Perfect Kids (Ahem!)

Today was one of those days. The kind that felt an awful lot like being on a see-saw.

One moment, the children were dripping sweetness like a ripe, juicy peach. They said “please” and “thanks”, shared their toys happily, and sweet echoes of “Yes ma’am” echoed around the room when I asked them to do something.  I felt like giving myself a pat on the back for how well we were doing on this parenting adventure.

The next moment, loud shrieks of “MAMA! Guess what _________ did!” and “Stop it right NOW!” jarred my proud thoughts and brought me back to reality with a screech.

One moment they were dripping sweetness. The next annoyed shouts filled the air. My kids aren't perfect, just like I'm not perfect.

Grace in my imperfect reality

  • The reality that I’m a sinful mother who needs grace every moment of every day.
  • The reality that, even at their most perfect, my children are sinful creatures who need grace every moment of every day too.
  • The reality that all my best methods and well-thought out plans are naught if the Lord doesn’t build our house.
  • The reality that even though I love this season of life (most of the time), it’s a picture of imperfection.
  • The reality that God’s mercies are not just new for me every morning, they’re new for my children.
  • The reality that few things drive you to your knees like parenting.
  • The reality that the seeds I plant now may not bear fruit for years or decades, for good or ill.
  • The reality that I can’t be a joyful mother of children unless my joy is rooted in Something deeper than happy children and a semblance of order.

My kids are a work in grace, just like me. Each delightful, annoying, stretching, imperfect moment can be another step in our sanctification.

And so I lift my eyes from my not-at-all perfect self and not-at-all perfect children, and rejoice in the reality that Jesus came to redeem messy families like mine and use them to build His church.

Sometimes God Says “No”

“God always answers prayer, Amy. Sometimes He says ‘Yes’, sometimes ‘No’, and sometimes ‘Wait.'”

These were the words of wisdom Amy Carmichael’s mother shared with her when she found Amy in her room heart-broken. Amy had prayed that God would change her brown eyes to blue. When she awoke next morning and looked in the mirror, she was devastated to find He hadn’t.

Though Amy didn’t know why God said “No” then, many years later she found out: blue eyes would have made her missionary work in India as an adult nearly impossible.

God always answers prayers, but sometimes He says "No!" to our heart's desire. But when God says "No!" it's because He has a better "Yes!"...

Thanks Crystal for the lovely photos! 

This story came to mind as I stood listening outside the girls’ bedroom. They were happily playing house with little Meg as Rose’s “Mom”. An hour or so before, they had waltzed downstairs decked out as queen and princess.

Something I didn’t believe possible for years to come has already happened. Despite the four-year age gap, Meg and Rose are really good friends.

My thoughts drifted back to my pregnancy with Meg. Rose was already four and I foolishly thought it was just too much of an age gap for sisters to be close until they got older, so I wanted a brother for Will before another girl.

I’m ashamed to admit it, but when the ultrasound revealed a girl, I had a hard time blinking back the tears. Why hadn’t God listened to my prayers? I had such a perfect gender sequence planned out and this was not the right order.

Of course, those silly thoughts melted long ago. I cannot imagine having waited two more years for Meg’s sweet spunky spirit to fill our home, but I still thought it would be at least a decade before she and Rose were close friends.

As their happy giggles broke into my reverie, I realized just how much better God’s plan was than mine. Not only are Rose and Will fast friends, but already the friendship between the two girls is deepening and growing.

God is wiser than I am. (duh!) Sometimes it is hard to choose joy when God doesn’t answer our prayers. But when God says “No”, He really does have a better way.

[The story of Amy Carmichael is from one of our favorite children’s booksCan Brown Eyes be Made Blue?]

[Full disclosure: links to products in this post are my referral links.]

Look to Jesus

After a stressful and taxing week, I had a few quiet minutes in the van alone. I was feeling worn thin with tiring projects and overwhelmed by the chaos of my schedule. I had been snappy with the kids and prideful in my expectations of others.

Alone in the car, I grew more and more depressed. The more I looked at my attitude, the more discouraged I got.

Then the words that my dad wisely shared with me when I was younger and went to him discouraged came to mind. “Stop looking at yourself,” he’d say, “Look to Jesus.”

That simple encouragement, grounded in Hebrews 12:1, is the solution to so many of a believer’s problems.

When you’re wallowing in self-pity or self-despair, look to Jesus. He promised that by beholding Him, we’d be changed to be more like Him.

When pride’s ugly head swells up, look to Jesus. He spoke the world into being, commands the worship of angels, and humbled Himself to be made man and die for us. Any cause for pride dies away at that thought.

When the needs all around you threaten to overwhelm you, look to Jesus. He’ll give His grace to keep on giving or give peace to say “no”.

In all of life’s situations, look to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. By beholding His glory, we’ll be transformed from glory to glory till one day we bow before Him face to face. (Heb. 12:1 & 2 Cor. 3:18)

Linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeWalking Redeemed, & Grace Simplicity

(photo credit)

Mom Guilt

Mom guilt.

I’m not sure if it has been around since Eve rocked Cain and Abel to sleep or if it’s a relatively new phenomenon, but I’d venture a guess that our highly-public, yet singularly-isolated, modern lives have heightened Mom guilt.

Finding freedom from the guilt that plagues us as moms

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Since becoming a mom seven years ago, I’ve felt twangs of guilt over all sorts of things, like…

Some of the guilt I realized pretty quickly was laughable.

Sometimes though, it’s taken me a long time to realize that guilt over non-sinful-methods-that-work-for-our-family and imperfect-planning is silly.

We aren’t called to be Pinterest-perfect mothers. We aren’t called to be perfect homeschool teachers, chefs, or decorators (thank goodness!) We don’t even have to spend every waking moment with our children.

For years, even when the house was running smoothly and the children were playing happily together, I felt like I was failing as a mother if I opened the laptop. When I finally mentioned this guilt to Joshua, he said, “Honey, it’s good for the kids to learn to play together without you having to be involved in every minute detail of every moment of the day.”

So often the standards we set for ourselves, and the guilt we feel when breaking them, have little resemblance to our real standard.

We are called to love our Lord Jesus. We are called to love our children and raise them up in the love and fear of the Lord. It’s a simple, but all-encompassing, command. A command that might play itself out in my home with Twinkies, organic kale, or both.

So enough of this misplaced guilt. We’ll fall plenty of times pursuing the real goal, but God’s grace will always be sufficient for another day.