On Being Thankful

Less than a week before Thanksgiving last year, my husband drove me to the emergency room, where we quickly learned that I was miscarrying our longed-for fifth baby. We hadn’t told anyone yet that we were expecting, enjoying the secret for ourselves and wanting to wait and surprise our children and extended families on Christmas morning. Instead I was in agonizing pain for more than a week as I miscarried at home, my heart shattered and my faith rocked to the core. How could I trust Someone who would let this happen? My body had incredibly carried a set of triplets followed by a nine plus pound baby without a hitch; how could it be that this baby wasn’t safe in my womb? Why didn’t God protect him or her? Why did He create that precious life, only to stop knitting it together and allow it to die without ever being born?

That Thanksgiving as I lost my child down the shower drain and wept until I had no tears left to cry, I struggled to find a reason to be thankful. Yes, I had a loving husband and four wonderful children, but what guarantee did I have that I wouldn’t lose them as well? For months afterward, I wrestled with the Almighty. I experienced anxiety and depression like I’ve never known before or since. I felt that I had lost more than a baby; I had lost my trust in my Father. Fear wrapped itself around my heart and squeezed until I couldn’t escape.

In a beautiful display of God’s infinite mercy and love, I had just finished reading Katie Davis Majors’ Daring to Hope when the miscarriage began. Katie writes about the overwhelming struggles she and loved ones around her have experienced and the heart-wrenching search for faith and hope in the midst of it all. Suddenly I was in that place too, lying in the living room night after night, crying out to God, not even having the words to express the turmoil I was in, knowing only that I was desperate for assurance of His goodness and His care. I realized then that if I didn’t have the God I had always known and loved, I had nothing.

On the first day of the month I introduce a new hymn to my children and we read about its origin together. In keeping with the thankful theme of November, this month’s hymn is “Now Thank We All Our God,” written by a Lutheran pastor in Saxony. Martin Rinkart was just beginning his ministry when the Thirty Years’ War started in Germany. His hometown was completely overrun by innumerable refugees and the Swedish army. The people trapped within the city gates were starving, sick, and dying. The faithful pastors were run ragged trying to tend to everyone, and they began to die too. Eventually the only pastor remaining in the city was Martin Rinkart. And while he served the people under circumstances most of us cannot even imagine, his wife also passed away. Yet these are the words he penned in the midst of all he was suffering:

Now thank we all our God,

With heart and hands and voices,

Who wondrous things has done,

In whom this world rejoices;

Who, from our mothers’ arms,

Hath blessed us on our way

With countless gifts of love, 

And still is ours today.

O may this bounteous God

Through all our life be near us,

With ever joyful hearts

And blessed peace to cheer us;

And keep us in His grace,

And guide us when perplexed, 

And free us from all ills

In this world and the next.

All praise and thanks to God

The Father now be given,

The Son, and Him who reigns

With them in highest heaven,

The one eternal God, 

Whom earth and heav’n adore;

For thus it was, is now, 

And shall be evermore.

How could someone who experienced such great loss endure with a thankful heart? It makes no sense to our human minds to not only thank God when times are good but to praise Him in the midst of sorrow. Thankfulness, for Martin, did not flow from the security of his circumstances or the abundance of blessings he could reach out and touch. It flowed from the security of knowing that God is who He says He is, and from the abundance of blessings that cannot be altered, no matter our situation.

Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsie were imprisoned at the concentration camp Ravensbruck during the second world war. When they arrived after their long, miserable journey to the huge barracks crammed with rickety, stinking bunks, they quickly found that even in sleep they would have no rest, as the barracks was crawling with nasty, biting fleas. Wasn’t it enough that they’d been betrayed by those they risked their lives to serve? That their family had been torn apart, tortured, humiliated, and killed? That the sisters were exiled to a place whose very name inspired fear and dread in the hearts of those who heard it? Were they not even to be allowed to sleep at the end of their horrifying days?

Betsie, ever mindful of an eternal outlook, urged Corrie to be thankful in all things – even to the point of specifically thanking God for the fleas. Reluctantly, Corrie agreed to do so. As the weeks went on, the faithful sisters were astonished that their whispered Bible study times in the evenings, translated from one language to another by the multilingual prisoners, wasn’t found out. They added a second Bible study time to their daily routine, scores of women joining them to hear the precious words of life, and still they weren’t discovered. Finally, they overheard some guards speaking to each other about their barracks and realized that they owed their incredible ministry opportunities to the presence of those insufferable fleas. The guards didn’t want to chance becoming infested, and so stayed on the perimeter of the building rather than come inside.

Corrie and Betsie could give heartfelt thanks not in spite of the hated fleas, but because of them.

After months of despair and anxiety, during which I questioned all I had ever known to be true about our God, I finally released all semblance of control and whispered, “As You will, Lord. I and all I have are Yours.” I had wrestled with God, had spared Him no questions, no anger, no fear, and I had come to the conclusion that He is, indeed, faithful. That He weeps with those who weep. That He is near to the brokenhearted. That He comforts those who mourn, and He raises up those bowed low. That He is who He says He is, and we can trust Him to be good always. To be for us always. To take everything that is terrible and wrong in our lives and to somehow bring forth beauty from the ashes. And that is why Katie Davis Majors could find peace and continue to hope. It’s why Martin Rinkart could sing. It’s why Corrie and Betsie could rejoice in the fleas biting them. It’s why I am thankful this year, and every day, even in the midst of circumstances I cannot understand.

Right now my arms should be holding a sweet-smelling baby, but they aren’t. The same can be said for several of my friends, some of whom lost their darling children during childbirth or as infants or toddlers. Among the people I hold dear is a friend who, barring a miracle, is dying. Several who are struggling in their marriages, some facing major issues in their work lives, others battling debilitating depression. I know more than one parent whose children are suffering from health problems and families where greed and selfishness and arrogance have destroyed relationships. Even so, we can rest assured that God is good, that He has good for us, that He is worthy of our praise. And so we thank Him, not because our imperfect world satisfies us, but because He does.

I hope you are able to join me this year in open-hearted thanks to the One who loves us more than we could ever hope to understand. And if you’re in a time of suffering, take all your worries and cares to Him. He does not hide from those who seek Him, and He will bear your burdens.

– Katie

On Becoming

One day last week I spent a couple of hours lounging on the back deck of a friend’s house, sipping ice water from a mason jar and watching our children play all over her back yard. Over the course of the afternoon we chatted about many things, the majority of our conversation related to raising children. We talked about different movements in the homeschooling community, about our own experiences growing up, about our desires for our children in their relationships with one another. It was the kind of mom talk I really enjoy, open-hearted and filled with a longing to know and follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in our roles as mothers. Yet even as we spoke with conviction and passion, we knew that we often fall short in the day-to-day stuff that our kids see. At one point, my friend said, “Sometimes I think about sending them to school for just one year so I can get myself worked out, then bring them back home when these areas of my own life have been dealt with.”

Oh, how I can relate to that! How many times have my own plans for self improvement been thwarted by the seemingly endless cares and concerns of all the people who depend on me? But the truth is that none of us will ever arrive at the end of our growth. We are always still becoming who the Lord would have us be. And as mothers who spend nearly every hour with our children, that stretching and changing happens in front of the all-seeing minds and hearts that are our responsibility and privilege to train, no matter how much easier it seems it would be to hide away for a while and come back to them once we’re “done.”

When you walk into my house, the first thing to greet you is a large sign on the wall that says, “Come and see.” My husband and I made the sign not long after buying this house, wanting to express our deep desire that all who enter our home find Jesus here. Not due to anything good in us, but because of the One who knows us intimately, yet chooses to love us and draw us close to Himself anyway.

I love that phrase. Jesus used it in the first chapter of John, when two of John the Baptist’s disciples heard Him speak and wanted to know where He was staying. They wanted to know where to find Him again. He responded with an invitation to join Him there, saying “Come and see.” And they followed.

The very next day Jesus called Philip to follow Him, and when He did, Philip found Nathaniel and told him that he had found the Messiah. Nathaniel scoffed at anything of value coming from Nazareth, but Philip didn’t try to convince him. He issued the same invitation, “Come and see.” Meet Him yourself. Watch. Listen. You’ll know Him, I promise.

That is our desire for everyone who enters our home, and certainly for our own children. Watch, little ones. Listen. He is here. He is at work.

Last week, after the afternoon of listening to and sharing with my friend, my family and I got to attend a super fun backyard “housewarming concert” put on by the founder and director of UTR Media, who just happened to be moving to our town. One of the incredibly talented musicians who shared his gifts with us that night was Matthew Clark, who sang, among other things, his song “Kumalo.” (You can listen to it here.) I loved the song from the first moment I heard it, and my children and I have been singing it ever since.

Kumalo, Kumalo, I am not a good man,

Not a good man;

What can I say?

Only that the Lord has shown me grace,

Only that the Lord has shown me grace.

Reach your hands out, hands out,

Even though you know where they’ve been.

The Lord has made them gloves now, gloves now;

They are hiding Jesus’ hands,

So reach out His hands in your hands.


Let them see you, see you,

In every place you fear to be seen.

They will find His mercy, mercy,

And say, “Surely if the Lord can save you,

He can set me free from all my sin.”


‘Cause I am the older son,

Angry at my brother’s welcome.

And I am the younger son,

Happy to be wallowing in filth again.

And I still fight to believe

That the truest thing

Is that I’m rising with the Son from the river

When the Father calls, “Beloved, I am well pleased.”

What a beautiful image! God uses even our shortcomings to display His great mercy and grace to those around us. Is that not encouraging?

Sometimes it does seem like it would be simpler to get away from our children just long enough to “fix” all of our faults so we can raise them perfectly. But even if we could do so, that robs them of the privilege to walk with us as we grow and become more like Jesus. The testimony to His goodness and forgiveness and grace that we live before our children every day means so much more than anything else we could ever teach them. When we fail, may they see our humility. When we are weak, may they see His strength. As we grow, may they look with wonder upon the Potter ever molding us more and more into His own image.

I want my life to be an open invitation for my children to come and see all that God has done and is doing in me day by day. It’s messy, learning to live with each other, but sometimes in the midst of that mess I can see glimpses of something truly glorious and holy. Those are the moments I want my kids to hold on to. I know I can trust our loving Father with my imperfect mothering. In His hands it becomes something incredibly precious, far beyond what I could imagine.

– Katie

Living an Interruptible Life

100_1681.JPGThe first time I ever thought about the idea of an interruptible life was when a woman I barely knew, a dentist from our Sunday school class in a new state, gave up her free evening to come to my house and rock my sick babies. My triplet daughters were just five months old, sick for the first time, and my husband was in the middle of major exams in pharmacy school. I had three infants crying and vomiting and staining their clothes with diarrhea, desperate to be comforted, but I couldn’t comfort them all, care for them all, and continue cleaning up the frequent messes alone. I’d already tried to do that for more than two days and I was exhausted. The acquaintance from church had once told me to feel free to call her if I ever needed anything, and my poor babies’ tears finally convinced me to do so. I threw out my pride and asked if she would please come over to just sit in the rocking chair and cuddle my sick little ones. She immediately said yes, and before long my miserable girls were all being held and comforted. Two soon fell asleep and were laid down, and she continued to rock the third baby (whose misery was compounded by colic) while I scrubbed carpet and threw a load of laundry in the washer and prepared bottles for the next round.

I sat on the step leading into our living room then and just breathed deeply as I watched her, this woman who was giving up precious free time with her own daughter so she could bless me. Suddenly Leviticus 23:22 came to mind: “‘When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger: I am the Lord your God.'” This kind woman, mostly a stranger to me, had chosen to leave the edges of her time available to give away freely, and I was gleaning great blessings because of it.

I have never forgotten that night. For several years, in pharmacy school out of state with three, then four babies to provide for, there was little left at the corners of our family’s “fields.” Little time, money, energy. And yet I longed to offer what I could, and what I had to offer was my home. A new acquaintance, married to an alcoholic and mother of four small children, could come to our house for a slight reprieve to drink tea while her children played with mine. A friend going through great personal hardships could come over to cuddle babies (sweet smelling babies are good for the soul, and we had plenty to go around). A stay-at-home mother who needed to go to a doctor’s appointment knew she could bring her children to my house to be cared for while she was gone. All of these were small bits of offerings, but they were all I had to give, so I gave them freely and cheerfully.

Our children grew and we began to homeschool, and I discovered, to my great delight, that this flexible lifestyle allows us to continue to live an interruptible life, open to the many opportunities God sends us to bless others. We can adjust our plans easily to allow us to focus on the people around us. When we aren’t tied down to a strict schedule, we are free to open our home to those who need a place to rest, free to pack up and visit those who are sick or struggling, free to be available mentally, emotionally, and physically when God clearly sets people in front of us who need Him.

Educating our children at home may offer us the gift of freedom, but it’s all too easy to enslave ourselves to other pursuits, losing those precious “edges” so that once again we’re left with nothing to give. Sports, music, dance, theater, co-ops and tutorials- there are so many good things that we can be tempted to pursue, and if we aren’t careful, we’ll find ourselves reaping all the way to the very “corners of our fields,” viewing anyone who intrudes upon those pursuits as an interruption to our lives. I find myself evaluating and prioritizing the extras in my family’s life often, trying to make sure that they are not robbing us of being able to give to others.

No doubt you’ve heard it said that “Children are not an interruption to our work; they are our most important work.” I’m thrilled to also teach my children that people in need are not an interruption to our lives; they are the reason that God blesses us with His spiritual gifts.

Our days include reading and writing and math and art and music and field trips and loads of other fun things, but I hope that none of it ever overshadows the pouring out of love onto the people God brings to us who so desperately need Him. Our life is His, and so whoever He chooses to bring into it could never truly be an interruption. Some days can be hard, but I’m grateful that homeschooling allows us this great freedom to love others with not only the edges, but the entirety of our days.

– Katie

A Beautiful Redemption

Today as we were riding in the van, Felicity suddenly piped up with, “I don’t like this sinful world, Mommy. If Adam and Eve just hadn’t sinned, everything would be okay.”

I half smiled to myself, ready to agree and thinking that just about everyone must have  had that thought at one time or another, but Violet spoke up before I could.

“But if they had never sinned, we wouldn’t have the beautiful Easter story.”

Think about that for a moment. If they had never sinned, we wouldn’t have the beautiful Easter story. 

I, too, wish that Adam and Eve had chosen to trust God and follow Him in obedience, that their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren all the way down to the present would have chosen to trust and obey. I wish that there were no sorrows, no pain, no sin to tangle with in my own heart or to help my children root out of theirs. But they didn’t.

And yet God did not cast us aside. In the very same breath, He handed out the consequences of the first man and woman’s tragic choice and then promised a glorious redemption. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us…” Romans 5:8

Trust is the best choice. Holiness was the plan. We look around and see the unintentional echoes of this ancient truth reflected in the constant pressure to pursue perfection in every part of our lives. To make only the right and best choices in our marriage, in our jobs, in our parenting, in our homeschooling, in our relationships with others, in our pursuit of ministry, and so on. But the reality is that on our own, we can’t even reach the shirttail of holiness to hold on to. And even after being washed by the blood of the Lamb, mercifully and undeservedly dressed in His righteousness, we still wrestle against our flesh. Hopefully, we are growing in our understanding and our trust, but we will never be perfect this side of eternity.

We lose patience with our children, speak in anger to a co-worker, react in fear to a situation where we should have stood strong and steady. There are real consequences for these things. Words spoken can never be taken back, money foolishly spent can never be saved, actions can’t be undone and choices can’t be unmade.

We wish we were perfect in all our ways. But we’re not. Yet still God does not cast us aside or despise us for our failures. The truth is that there’s a beautiful reality of consequences + God’s merciful redemption. And when we have a grasp on that, we can walk in the wisdom and freedom of one who understands the gravity of her choices but does not bear the impossible weight of perfection.

When you’re ready to torment yourself with all the ways you’ve failed in the day to day difficulties that come with homeschooling, remember that God’s grace is more than sufficient to redeem any shortcomings this year. Look to Him. That beautiful Easter story of redemption is still being played out every day.

– Katie