Last year I found instructions from Christina Fox on to make a Resurrection Tree. We have made our own modified ornaments the last two years leading up to Easter. As we have made the individual ornaments, we read through most the corresponding Bible stories using Sally Lloyd-Jones’ The Jesus Storybook Bible.  The ornaments trace the covenantal stories of God’s rescue in the Bible- such as the Fall, the Flood, the near sacrifice and rescue of Isaac,the ladder to heaven Jacob saw coming down, Joseph’s cost of many colors, the Passover lamb, David’s crown. The stories of the manger, the woman breaking the perfume bottle before Christ’s death, the bread and wine of the last supper- the commencement of communion, the cross, the  empty tomb are part of this collection.

 My daughter has heard these stories for several years now.  I was thrilled when she saw the ram from Abraham’s story and she said,  “Mom, there has to be thorns around the ram because it was caught in the bushes.” I knew she was listening and remembering the stories when she could remind me of such details. We put our tree together,  tying the simple picture ornaments onto white, spray-painted tree branches and  placed them in a large glass candle holder. The girls love looking at the tree with its symbolic decorations and I like the visible display of each story showing God’s pattern of rescue. I love having it right in the middle of our living room where they can climb up and look at it and talk about the resurrection. It has a spring-like feel and as part of the decorations, we intertwine our faith into our every day life. I’m constantly stressing in a world full of bunnies and Easter eggs and chocolate and bright colors to make sure my kids know what we really celebrate on Easter.  I want my kids to participate in things like Easter egg hunts but I want to make sure that they can grow up distinguishing the differences between perfectly good fun and eternal truth.

I love that the ornaments on the tree focus on what Christ has done for us. I love that they all point to the cross, to the tomb. I love that each one of them shows that Christ alone is the way we have peace and a hope of heaven.  I remember, as a child,  reading and not understanding the story of  Jacob and the ladder. I remember reading the story later on and realizing that God was showing Jacob that the only way to get to heaven is through Him, that He was extending that ladder as a foreshadowing of Christ. I love that each of these ornaments shows a symbol Christ throughout the progression of Bible, that each one points to Christ as our rescuer.

We live in a world where we want to be rescued- from sadness,  from terrorism, from natural disasters, from cancer, from other sicknesses, from financial hardship.  I want to be rescued and safe from these things. While we long to be rescued, but often times were looking in the wrong places and hoping in the wrong things. We are looking at the Easter eggs were looking at the chocolate bunnies and we’re not looking to Christ.

Easter is that fantastic time of year  when we can remember exactly what Christ has done, that he has rescued us. We are reminded clearly that we live in that already/not yet, where we are rescued if we believe in Christ and we have future hope. One day he will come again and take away the sadness, and wipe away tears, get rid of the sickness,  of evil,  and of the things don’t have to be the way that they are right now.

One of my favorite Easter hymns is from the Gettys, See What a Morning. The hymn traces the narrative of Mary in the garden waiting for the gardener to tell her what has been done with Jesus’ body.  She is broken hearted and she is grieving. The story shows the human experience of faith.  I can picture myself as Mary, having come to say goodbye to a beloved friend, with an ache inside,  believing all hope has evaporated. And there in the garden, blinded with tears, she hears a voice saying “Mary” and there is only one voice who says her name like that.  Jesus is alive.  I can feel her ecstatic confusion- not completely understanding and yet wanting to believe the truth in front of her with all her heart. It’s a bit how may we feel today-  not completely comprehending the breadth of the work completed for us on the cross, but wholly  believing it,  putting all of our hope and trust in it because there’s nothing else to hope for that is as wonderful as the future Christ promises us. There’s no other religious story in the world where a God becomes a redeemer,  giving up his life for us to have life.

 My favorite line in See What a Morning is, “death is dead, love has won, Christ has conquered.”

The only way Christ’s death makes sense is if indeed, He rose, if indeed, love has won and the power of death has been snapped apart.  Christ love is greater than Satan’s power. Christ has conquered Satan’s grip. This is our hope on Easter- Christ has conquered and we have been rescued. Thise stories drawn on our resurrection tree, simple enough for a child to understand, show us the greatest  promise in history – God’s faithfulness to rescue and redeem those who believe in Him.


The Happily Ever After Covenant

“Congratulations on making it this far without a murder suicide” read an awesome anniversary card we received. This month was my tenth wedding anniversary. Its not really a long time, but it sounds like a big number to me. I guess it sounds longer than it really feels. And at the same time, life before marriage is blurrier than ever.

I remember before my wedding thinking that I really had no idea what I was getting into. I knew I loved my husband. But I also knew that there was no way I could fully understand what this love would require, having never been married. Within a short time, both of us commented that we were suddenly so much more aware, in a good way, of what love meant, than at our wedding.
I also remember being terrified. Terrified that I would be unable to keep a promise whose implications I knowingly didn’t understand. Terrified of giving up what I knew for what I didn’t know.

A friend and I were talking recently about being attached and unattached. For some, attachment is the perceived as the highest attainable goal, an ultimate goal in earthly existence. For others, staying carefree and unrestrained is the dream that brings happy, idealistic thoughts. For some, a change in partners or circumstances equals the fulfillment that seems missing. Some people are tolerably content with their circumstances, but wonder what might improve if they had made different choices in the past.
What I have learned about love and marriage and life, so far, is that all of our relationships, or lack thereof, are simply mirrors that reflect our innate need and desire for God. Married or single, we want relationships that make us whole. We want completion and happiness, companionship and understanding, safety and confidence. Singleness seems to drive these wants into glaring focus and so we generally know that these are things that single people desire. But marriage does not fulfill these needs either. Of course, marriage offers some of these things, in varying degrees. But there is no relationship on Earth that can complete every need we possess. And our position in life, married, single, formerly attached, and so on serves as a vehicle to show us where our needs for God are most gaping.
In other words, the point of a relationship or the lack of the relationship is to draw us to God. To drive us closer to Him. To make us depend on Him more. To show us our need for Him and point us to the only One who can truly fulfill our deepest needs.

Sometimes we revel in the joy of our relationships. Sometimes we find our relationships breaking down. Sometimes we long for a person to come alongside us and share our lives. In every circumstance, God is pulling us to Him. He is working all things for good. Even in the hard, the broken, the empty, the boring everyday, He is reminding us that we cannot be everything we need to be. We are needy.

When I think about marriage and my neediness, the image in the mirror I see is the failed wife. I don’t love as I should. I want certain things, demand certain things even. I worry about my own self respect that I gain from a relationship. I don’t flawlessly uphold my covenant to love. I don’t love anyone like I should. But God has loved for me. He has made a covenant and fulfilled His part and my part for me. And that is where marriage and the shortcomings of marriage show me the graciousness and goodness of God.
The times I am most grateful for the state of marriage are when I recognize the covenant God has made for us. I am grateful for marriage to someone who takes a vow seriously. I am thankful for someone who mirrors God by not considering any other options than the promise he made to me.

The point is, our lives are about what God is doing, and what He has already done for us. And each relationship we have or don’t have molds our souls to make us see God more clearly. Our lives, our love, our faith are continual navigations through the unseen. When we do not know how we will continue, Christ has been love for us. Christ has already met our need.
(Photo credit: Sabrina Scolari, Scolari Photography)

being exceptional in an (amy) glass world

DSC_0187Last week’s post was precipitated by the fact that I was feeling a little overwhelmed, grappling with the expectations of working for myself, that I had created for myself. 
That is, specifically, the expectations of being a self-employed business owner -musician, artist, and teacher who must constantly find new business leads, new creative ideas, and new ways of explaining musical concepts to people ages 4-72, in addition to keeping business records, returning phone calls, maintaining a cost effective web/social media presence, and staying organized sane.

This week I have the opposite thoughts going on in my head. The thoughts about the expectations I had about being a stay at home mom and a stay at home mom who worked. Then there’s this insecure female out there blowing up the internet with her bombastic, banal rant against women who only want to stay home.

“You will never have the time, energy, freedom or mobility to be exceptional if you have a husband and kids.” Amy Glass

I worked for one of her kind, not that long ago. The kind of woman who hated men, hated being held back by anything, and had the ambition of an elephant stampede across the Sahara. She loved me until I came back from maternity leave with my first child. Then the dynamics changed. When I finally had to tell her I was having a second child, she asked me if “this one was planned?” and then when I had a minor complication at 33 weeks, her question was, “are you going to have your tubes tied after this one?” I kept a post-it note at my desk with a number on it and every week the number got lower. It was the number of weeks until my maternity leave began and I could be free forever of the hateful environment known as my office.

The day came when I finally got to stay home. And I got to start my own business and open a piano studio, which some would still refuse to call a real job, but I can let you know it is. My expectations as a mom were that I would always be organized. I would never be late or rushed again. The laundry would always be clean and folded. Groceries would float into the house and place themselves on the shelf. Dinner would always be ready at a perfect time and temperature. I would write prolifically. I would increase my daughter’s vocabulary 600% from all the reading and literacy games we would do together. There would beautifully crafted toddler structures gleaned from Pinterest created daily. My daughter would be regularly well behaved perfect. I would finally have the ability to balance what I HAD to do with what I WANTED to do.

Twice in the last week, I have made soft boiled eggs and buttered toast. And twice in the last week, I have eaten them stone cold, because promptly when I swiped the last ripple of salted butter over the warm toast, my eight month old managed to spread excrement throughout her diaper and onto her clothing, which requires she have a diaper change, a clothing change, bath, re-diapering, redressing, washing out of soiled clothing, all while said child is uncomfortable and fussing. My coffee is often left cold. I have to clean up 16 messes before I can put cream into the black coffee that helps my brain function (kids or no kids), I answer 42 questions and explain 26 things while I stir honey into the once hot substance. The organization skills and prioritizing ability that I prided myself on is somewhat subpar these days. The laundry is usually clean and yet unfolded. The house is clean, but as soon as I vacuum, there are crumbs on the floor. Buying groceries (after deciding which ingredients are needed for meals,with minimal help from caffeine), hauling them to the car, from the car to the house and then onto the shelves while pushing a 25+ pound infant carrier with a baby and wrangling a walking three year old is a feat that most (male) doctors I’ve come in contact with couldn’t attempt.

And those are just the silly everyday things that I did anyway while I worked in an office. The really interesting parts are when I have to remember how to imagine being a princess, a dragon, a monster, a pirate, a horse so that I can play along with a three year old who is always off on an adventure in my living room. It’s a new challenge to plan the Pinteresting crafts only to be met with three -year old whims of opposition and refusal to participate. Most challenging is probably the near insurmountable task of reading a mind to understand what is happening in a little developing brain, to keep from hurting her feelings, squelching her creativity, to know what will interest her, to keep her curiosity satisfied, while, most importantly, teaching her to obey for her own safety, to be polite, to be kind, to be generous…to be, oh, exceptional!

Playing with and taking hygienic care of and loving others WHILE you try to get something, anything, done is where true exceptionality comes in. It is not exceptional to just work. It is not exceptional to go on a hiking backpack trip through Asia. Virtually anyone can do those things. But putting your work and to do list and life plan on pause or hold until nap time, or bed time, or until later in life, to live for others, ultimately – that is exceptional.

I know stay at home moms who accomplish more than I can fathom, while being dressed, with their hair done. I know working moms who accomplish so little it is pitiable, and their hair is in serious need of help. I know stay at home moms who are pathetic and working moms who are superwomen. I know women who have never wiped a nose or backside other than their own, but who live for others in ways far superior to anything I’ve ever done. I know women who have cheerfully worked jobs and thrown themselves fully into others’ lives because they never conformed to Glass’s “societal conventions” and married or could never hold their own children in their arms for one reason or another.

Being a “stay at home” working mother is far more chaotic and less Pinteresty than I would like. Once, maybe twice, I’ve thought about that steaming cup of coffee that I consumed every morning at a quiet desk while organizing my thoughts and lists for the day. And then, I look over across the floor (where I am sitting with my laptop) and I know I have to teach piano lessons this evening and I would like another cup of coffee, and I have a project to finish for my piano studio and three more on the list, but a little thing with bright eyes comes rolling toward me and a three year old is telling me that the big bad wolf is going to get me and I laugh. Life is so interesting and entertaining and absolutely wonderful with two little people and a job I like doing, even without proper caffeination. And the bonus is that there are no elephant stampedes occurring in my house while the elephants prey on potentially weaker species.

BUT, if there is one thing I can say about the last few months, it is that I have never felt so free to be exceptional in the last eight years. I have never had the time, energy, freedom or mobility to be as exceptional as I wanted to be. I can finally follow my ambitions as aggressively as I care to expend energy. I have no insecure and angry feminist ranting over my head on a daily basis. I am surrounded with people who love and support me. I am free to treat others like HUMANS, not numbers, which is what mothers do. We help humanity survive. Just like doctors. Just like scientists who discover cures. Just like Steve Jobs. (Ok, that example might be subjective for some of you). Mothers, fathers, people, are all here to help others, to live for others. Without people who live for others, there would be no people. That is what Ms. Glass ultimately doesn’t understand. It does not matter if you choose to wipe a backside, or study saliva swabs to find disease cures, we all eventually have to devote some part of our lives to living for others. The real cliché of society’s convention is to give into a feminist’s self-absorbed world rather than to live for someone beyond me. We have lost our way, ignoring that Christ gave His life for others. God gave His son for others.  We are offered salvation because God’s redemption involved sacrifice.

The reality is that all humans are exceptional. Some are strong and some are weak. But we are all made in the image of God. Therefore, we are all exceptional. Only those who do not believe this have to find some skewed standard by which to measure exceptionality.