Remember and Rejoice: Thanksgiving Meditations from the Book of Deuteronomy

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This post was originally published four years ago on November 19, 2018. That was the first Thanksgiving after my PopPop passed away. This year, Thanksgiving 2022 will be the first Thanksgiving after losing my Grandma. I had forgotten the context of this article when reviewing it this year, so when I read it today the concluding thoughts really hit home. Maybe it will (again?) be a blessing to some of you, as well. 

I’ve had the pleasure recently of reading through Deuteronomy as I follow my Bible reading plan.

Deuteronomy? Pleasure? you may ask. Well, yes.

While it’s sometimes hard to slog through the books of the Old Testament, there are gems to be found, and I discovered that Deuteronomy had some relevant passages for this season of Thanksgiving.

In fact, the many references to “rejoicing” in the book surprised me! Sprinkled throughout much of the book are commands regarding the feasts that Israel was to celebrate–and celebrate with gusto!

remember rejoice thanksgiving celebrate

It’s not my intention to give a detailed overview of the feasts mentioned here, but rather I hope to express the elements of God-centered celebration that I have found helpful as we head into the holiday season.

In America, we have only one feast-day that harkens back to agricultural times: Thanksgiving. And while “giving thanks” isn’t really mentioned in Deuteronomy concerning the Jewish feasts, the purpose of these celebrations is clear: to remember and bless the Lord for His provision.

So whether it’s First Fruits (celebrated in late spring) or the Feast of Ingathering or Tabernacles (celebrated in the fall), the heart of each is expressed in Deuteronomy 8:10, “When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you.”

When you enter the land for the first time, bless the Lord. When you reap its goodness each year, bless the Lord.

We moderns find ourselves a bit far-removed from this kind of dependence upon the land. Not that we don’t eat its produce, but we rarely experience an actual harvest without going out of our way to do so.

I found myself reading about the Offering of First Fruits within a few days of harvesting our first ever (and completely volunteer) pumpkin patch. Nevermind the different time of year and different crops they would have had in Israel (olives, figs, etc), this passage resonated with me.

Here’s what Deuteronomy 26 says about First Fruits:

The Israelites were to bring their offering before the Lord and announce, after recounting the history of God’s provision for their people, “Now behold, I have brought the first of the produce of the ground which You, O LORD have given me.” And then they were instructed to “set it down before the LORD your God, and worship before the LORD you God; and you and the Levite and the alien who is among you shall rejoice in all the good which the LORD your God has given you and your household.

Now, when I read about the Israelites giving the first of their produce to the Lord, I can’t help but think of that one, solitary, beautiful, orange pumpkin we picked. Sure, we picked 14 green ones. But that first, ripe orb was our delight! And that pumpkin, and no other, would, in another time and place, be offered to the Lord. It would be His, not ours.

This vivid picture of the pride of our harvest belonging to the Lord began to expand in my mind. Not just fruits of the land. Fruit of the womb, also. The first born son would be the Lord’s (Exodus 34:19-20).

Just like that first pumpkin is the Lord’s and is intended to remind me that all of our pumpkins are His, so too my first child is the Lord’s–and by extension any further children are.

“The earth is the LORD’s and all it contains.”

I’m beginning to get it.

Deuteronomy 26:16 continues: “This day the LORD your God commands you to do these statutes and ordinances [immediate context is the feast of first fruits]. You shall therefore be careful to do them with all your heart and all your soul.”

What did the statutes and ordinances in this passage involve?

Remembering God’s goodness and covenant
Bringing the first of your produce
Worshiping before God
Rejoicing (with the Levite and alien!) in all the good which the LORD your God has given you and your household–there is a community giving thanks!
Sharing with the Levite, stranger, orphan, and widow–there is a community being cared for!
“I have not eaten it while mourning”–just in case you missed it, rejoicing is emphasized here by negatively stating its opposite.
Praying for God’s future blessing on His people “Look down and bless”

The Israelites were to do all of these things with all of their heart and all of their soul! “Soul” in the bible usually denotes your whole being, including your body. So, everything within us (heart) and all that we are (soul) ought to go into this remembering, rejoicing, worshiping, sharing, blessing…

Is this not the essence of thanksgiving?!?

The Feast of Ingathering (Deuteronomy 16:13-15) has similar instructions:

You shall celebrate the Feast of Booths seven days after you have gathered in from your threshing floor and your wine vat; and you shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter and your male and female servants and the Levite and the stranger and the orphan and the widow who are in your towns. Seven days you shall celebrate a feast to the Lord your God in the place which the Lord chooses, because the Lord your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful.

So much rejoicing! Again, this is a feast not only remembering past blessings (the things gathered in) but also awaiting with expectant joy the future provision of the Lord.

I can’t help but think of the Passover, which also looked back at past deliverance and forward to the Messiah. And of the Lord’s Supper, by which we remember and “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” It seems the pattern of biblical celebration looks both backward and forward. It’s a pattern of remembering and rejoicing!

celebrate thanksgiving remember rejoice

All of this imagery and idealism is wonderful, but what if I’m heading into Thanksgiving with a nasty cold and way too many servings of responsibility and stress on my plate? And what if this is the first major holiday without a dearly loved family member?

This is where the rubber meets the road, isn’t it? There are things to begrudge and mourn. A lack of health, a lack of peace, and an empty chair at the table.

For an Israelite to swear, “I did not eat it while mourning” they would have had to push pause on, well, life. Because life is hard and we experience loss and disappointment often. Even in times of abundance.

I don’t have a remote with a quick-and-easy-fix button to literally pause pain so that rejoicing is effortless. But I can remember the Lord’s goodness and provision–past and present, in times of abundance and in times of need.

And I can rejoice. Because I know the One who will “guide the future as He has the past.”

As I went for a walk today (for the first time in what seems like forever) I had to deal with my grumbling attitude that had become my more-often-than-not companion in the past few days. The sunshine and fresh air helped to remind me that the world is still a beautiful place and God is still on His throne–even if I don’t get everything done, even if I’m carrying around my own personal storm cloud.

And as it turned out, being sick forced me to push pause today. I took a nap. In the quiet of a walk, in the quiet of my couch, in the midst of a busy, noisy, frenetic season, the Lord calmed my heart and reminded me of His care and provision.

Perhaps I can leave that storm cloud behind. Remember the Lord. Rejoice in His provision. And share that with those around me this Thanksgiving.

How about you?


Here are a few hymns that refreshed my soul on my walk today as the Lord brought them to mind. Looking to the Lord as a good, sovereign Provider is necessary if we’re to give Him thanks, isn’t it? I hope these songs will bless you as they have blessed me.

God Moves in a Mysterious Way (with added chorus in the video):

Be Still My Soul:

And, finally, one that actually gives thanks, rejoicing: For the Beauty of the Earth

Looking for more posts on Thanksgiving? Here you go:

The Poverty of Pragmatic Gratitude and the Riches of True Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving: A Holiday Made for Unsettling Times

Homeschool Morning Time Plans 2022/2023

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This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I may make a commission at no additional charge to you.

I have done some form of Morning Time with my boys for something like ten years. It looks a little different now that they are 13 and 11 this year instead of 3 and 1, when I likely started with a song, a scripture, and a calendar at the kitchen table. For one thing, my youngest is no longer restrained in a high chair (though there were a few years where he would be upside down on the couch or literally climbing onto my shoulders as I read aloud that I might have wished for that high chair again!).

This Morning Time Box has seen a lot of action over the years!

Latin

This year we are continuing our study of Latin with Visual Latin 1. We did the first 20 lessons last year and the plan is to finish Level 1 by Christmas so that we can start Visual Latin 2 next semester. I made it through the first 20 lessons last year without doing the worksheets myself (thanks to many hours of college-level Spanish), but this year I have printed off lessons 21-30 so that I can get in the same translation practice that my boys are doing. The grammar is a bit more complicated now, so it’s easier for me to keep track of it if I’m doing the work, too. And as an added bonus, I can very easily check the boys’ work without having to pull up the answer key pdf every time.

On lighter days in Visual Latin, we’ll sprinkle in some reading from Lingua Latina and perhaps also from Familia Mala (“Bad Family”…this book doesn’t shy away from the fact that the Roman myths are a hot mess).

Read Alouds

Just finished at the start of the year:

Cue drum roll… We have finally finished reading The Story of the World Volume 4: Modern Times by Susan Wise Bauer. It’s crazy to think we’re done with the whole series. I think we’ve actually read Volumes One and Two twice. This series goes down as one of our family all-time favorites. My kids would ask me even on the weekend: “Read Story of the World while we play Legos?” This has been a great adventure through chronological world history.

We also recently finished The Fallacy Detective. This was a big hit with my boys–a fun read with often-entertaining examples and exercises. I’ve tried to make a point to my sons that being able to identify logical fallacies is fun and useful, but 1) it isn’t to be used to tear others down, and 2) fallacies make up a small, small fraction of the study of logic–we have yet to begin to cover all of what logic actually is. We’ll take a break this year before heading into formal logic when my oldest is in 8th grade. The Fallacy Detective has certainly whet their appetite for it.

New reads this year:

I pre-read The Ology a few years ago but it’s finally making it into our rotation this year. I think it would have been great to read sooner, but I think it will still be a good, simple treatment of theology for us to enjoy and discuss this year.

In our home, we love books by H. E. (Henrietta Elizabeth) Marshall, having enjoyed Our Island Story (British history), This Country of Ours (US history), and Scotland’s Story in the boys’ independent elementary studies. This year I decided we could start reading her book English Literature for Boys and Girls together. I’m eager to read it myself, and sometimes the best way to make that fit in my schedule is to read it aloud. 🙂 The boys are excited to hear again from a beloved author, and I’m excited for us to venture into the world of British Lit–more deeply than I ever did in school!

Other Riches

I’m in the process of starting a co-op with some local families, so we’ll be covering hymns, Scripture memory, folk songs, poems, artist study, composer study, and nature study in community this year!

There’s also a book club time and my boys (who are both in the “older kids” group) will be studying Shakespeare, one play each semester. This fall, it’ll be The Tempest.

I’ll try to work our co-op selections into our daily Morning Time. But as the kids are getting older and our Latin studies require a daily commitment, this will be more sporadic than regular (has our Morning Time ever been more than sporadic? Hmmm…). One of the reasons for the co-op, after all, is because it is hard to make space for all of these beautiful things!

Want some inspiration for Morning Time in your home? Over the summer, I enjoyed reading Pam Barnhill and Heather Tully’s new book Gather. It’s a beautiful compilation of thoughts, practices, and examples from their own homeschools, and it’s chock full of lovely photos of other homeschool families (of all sizes!) who enjoy learning together. It’s like one of those “day in the life” blog posts, only there’s a book’s worth of it and you can actually hold it in your hands. Tangible book lovers, rejoice!

What about you? Do you do Morning Time? Or something like it at another time of day? What are your plans for this school year?

“Goodbye, Instagram” … Two Years Later

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I wanted to hop on here to commemorate the day that I ditched Instagram. And to reflect, once again, on what life is like without it–this time two years later instead of just two months.

I had my reasons for saying goodbye to the ‘gram:

  1. The instant/constant nature of the beast
  2. The time-sink
  3. Low return on investment for blog traffic
  4. Seeing a friend’s reasons for leaving gave me permission to hop off, too

You can read explanations of each of those points in my original post here.

[Aside: I’ve realized in further reflection that the politicization of everything is another reason I got off. But the explanation of that point would require an entire blog post in itself. I’ll save that for another day. Maybe.]

Lately I’ve felt a little twinge of nostalgia for those square pictures. I remember the reasons I was on there for about two years before I quit…

  1. I wanted to drive some traffic to my blog
  2. It was fun to see beautiful pictures of books, kids, planners, educational quotes, etc
  3. It was fun to share those sometimes random, precious, and/or entertaining moments with others
  4. It was easier to write an encouraging or thoughtful caption than to write and edit a blog post–so I was at least getting some ideas and inspiration out there more often
quit instagram two years later social media

So, does the potential for good outweigh the bad? Will I be giving it another go?

No.

Definitely not.

Those feelings of nostalgia aren’t necessarily bad, but they are misplaced. I want my emotional energy to be primarily directed to the people in my family, my church, my broader local community. I don’t need to build up more nostalgia for a social media platform. I need to invest in building up emotional ties where they really matter.

“Where your treasure is there your heart will be also.” Jesus is talking about the love of money vs. the love of God, but I think the principle applies just as well to how we spend our time and attention. What we care about we invest in, and what we invest in we care about.

The nostalgia isn’t a reason for getting back on. It’s yet another reason for staying away.

All of my original reasons for quitting Instagram are still valid. And in the two years I’ve been off, I am finding that I’m growing in several areas:

  1. Contentment–It’s easier to enjoy the sometimes random, precious, and entertaining moments for what they are if I’m not wrestling with an urge to make them public. Not to mention, it’s a lot harder to compare yourself to air-brushed standards of parenting, beauty, organization, you-name-it if you aren’t looking at them. With that surface-level of discontentment stripped away, I’ve found deeper layers of it that needed to be dealt with. And I’m growing.
  2. Focus–There are plenty of things vying for my attention. Having one less of them does, in fact, make a difference.
  3. Detaching from social media in general–I’m still on Facebook, but not very often. I’m still on Scholé Sistership, but it has a limited Christian homeschool mom focus, few pictures, and is a uniquely edifying community.
  4. Growing in self-control–I mentioned last time using the Freedom app to help limit time on social platforms. I don’t use the app any more. Practicing self-control (by the grace of God) and growing in renewed affections for doing what needs to be done have me in a place where I don’t need the training wheels anymore.
  5. Growing in strength of will–Making decisions is easier when I’ve eliminated an entire category of potential decisions to make. I strengthen my will every time I exercise it in choosing to do the next right thing rather than scrolling a platform where “the next thing” is up to an algorithm. We train ourselves into habits, but our habits can also train us.

Even with some nostalgia, even though I still appreciate seeing new baby pics and other updates from friends on Facebook, I’m just less and less interested in social media in general. I’ve considered ditching it altogether. Maybe someday I will. I sure won’t be signing up for the Metaverse when it drops. No, thank you.

Please don’t mistake this for an anti-technology post. Here’s the deal. Technology is a blessing but it comes with risks, too. We each have to run our own cost-benefit analysis. Your particular situation may cause you to answer the social media question differently than I do. And that’s fine. Coming up with one rule for everyone isn’t the point.

The point is to wisely evaluate how we spend our time and attention, especially when it comes to apps that are designed to suck as much of both of them out of us as possible.

If you’ve been itching to get off of a social media platform and wonder if it’ll be alright, wonder if you can manage, wonder if it’s possible to live in the 21st century without it, let this post be a bit of encouragement to do what you need to do.

Yes, it will be ok.

There is life after Instagram. Real life. And it’s good. Don’t let peer pressure (or those “your friends will miss you” pre-programmed scripts) keep you from making a decision you know is right for you.

Two years later I’m still glad I ditched the ‘gram. No regrets, my friends. No regrets.

For more, see my original post [Real] Life After Instagram.

Resting on God

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I’m in the midst of a rather busy season. We still have three weeks left in our homeschool year, but summer, with its mowing, gardening, and adventuring, is already in full swing.

As the work picks up outside, mess and clutter build up inside, too. New projects create new piles, and sometimes it’s hard to walk through the house without tripping over something.

I might like to have my plans accomplished and tied up with a bow, but that doesn’t happen very often. I might like to have my whole house cleaned and organized at one time–even just the first floor all at one time!–but that feels like a distant dream and not a soon-to-be-had reality.

So when I sat at my desk to pray this morning after sleepily popping a couple pans of baked oatmeal into the oven, I gave thanks for all I could. And then I pulled out the Valley of Vision and read a prayer, one that happened to speak to me ever so sweetly even as it prompted me to speak to God. I would reproduce it here for you, but I want to respect copyrights, so I’ll link to it instead. The prayer is titled Resting on God. I hope you’ll find it an encouragement like I did.

As I roll up my sleeves and get busy with the day’s work, I’m going to try to keep these truths at the forefront of my mind. Join me?

The mind of man plans his way,
But the Lord directs his steps.

Proverbs 16:9

The counsel of the LORD stands forever, The plans of His heart from generation to generation.

Psalm 33:11

My soul, wait in silence for God only,
For my hope is from Him.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
My stronghold; I shall not be shaken.
On God my salvation and my glory rest;
The rock of my strength, my refuge is in God.
Trust in Him at all times, O people;
Pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us. 

Psalm 62:5-8

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Jesus in Matthew 11:28-29

Encouraging Resources for Christian Moms

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This spring has been full of life: with garden work, schooling, spring cleaning, taxes, and adventures. I just wanted to hop on here today to share some of the wonderful things that I’ve been enjoying (mostly in my earbuds) lately. I’m on a bit of biblical womanhood kick, and whatever the world may bemoan about that subject, I’m incredibly refreshed by reminders of what God has both called me to and given me grace for in this life as a woman made in His image.

The Simplified Organization Podcast by Mystie Winckler (also available as YouTube videos). Mystie interviews Christian moms to get their best tips for parenting and home management to the glory of God. There’s a great variety of topics and tips. The practical and the spiritual don’t have to be kept in separate categories. 🙂 That’s what I love so much about this podcast (and other resources from Mystie)–not just life hacks, but real help toward godly faithfulness in both our homes and our hearts.

Fruitful Homemaker Podcast This is hosted by Emily Drew, a young mom (and fellow Arkansan!) who interviews older women in the faith. I love that she’s seeking to bring the Titus 2 wisdom of truly older women forward for today’s younger women to hear! Some notable guests include Martha Peace, Nancy Wilson, and Abigail Dodds.

Women Encouraged Podcast, Good Theology: As Mothers – with Nana Dolce This particular episode came recommended by a sweet new mom at my church. It’s a great encouragement to think carefully about what we believe and how that affects the relationships in our home–especially our lives lived out before our kids.

Dwell Podcast: Pouring from a Full Pitcher and The Difference between Peace and Self-Care These two episodes were a breath of fresh air from moms who (two out of three of them) have raised all their children and can now share a great deal of perspective on the long, hard seasons of motherhood and homeschooling.

Let Me Be a Woman by Elisabeth Elliot. This is an old classic–one I read in my early twenties and then lent to a friend…never to be seen again. I finally repurchased the book last year, and reading it the last month or so has been such a breath of fresh air in the midst the smoggy mess made by our culture’s current state of confusion.

Speaking of the current state of things, since finishing Let Me Be a Woman, I’ve begun listening to That Hideous Strength by C. S. Lewis. This third book of Lewis’ Space Trilogy confronts totalitarian scientism and many of the themes addressed in The Abolition of Man. It may seem like a strange addition to a list of “encouragement for moms,” but I’ve found it to be great food for thought. Elisabeth Elliot tells about being a woman. Lewis shows it. His character Jane wrestles through it, and Lewis, as the author, lets her be a woman. I’m not done with the book, but I’m finding it quite instructive and freeing, as I tend to have some of the same modern-woman hang-ups as Jane.

What encouragement have you found lately, mama? Not just to get through the long days of noise and messes, but what has been encouraging you to thrive in you role as a wife and mother? What resources help you lift up your eyes (Psalm 121)?

Dear Grandma

My grandma, my last living grandparent and the last living great-grandparent to my children, passed away in mid January. I wrote this letter for her, much like I wrote a letter for my PopPop when he passed a few years ago. My parents printed the letter out and set it on a table during a reception in memory of my grandma last month. Her friends said I described her quite well.

January 17, 2022

Dear Grandma,

You gave me my first spanking, and I’m sure I deserved it.

You gave me your auburn red hair. And maybe some of your stubbornness, too.

When I was probably four, you gave me a t-shirt that proclaimed to the world “I’ve got the meanest Grandma in town!”

You excelled at tough love in the best way possible. You took good care of me and didn’t hesitate to correct me. You have been a constant in my life, always rooting for me, always making things fun. And always (perhaps hopelessly) trying to teach me some old-school “classy” manners.

I’m pretty amazed at all your years of living. You lived them fully! You coached basketball, you were one of the first women to graduate from Florida State University, you cracked codes with high-level clearance in the US Navy, you sold real estate, you raised two boys in Rhode Island, France, Hawaii, Virginia, and Texas (I’m sure I’m missing some stops along the way). You survived cancer and replaced how many knees? And celebrated 67 years of marriage before PopPop went on ahead of you.

There was a visit to my parents house a few years ago that I’ll never forget. You and I sat next to each other at the dinner table, as we often did. Everyone else had gotten up, but you and I sat there and swapped boy mom stories. You raised two boys, and I’m raising my two boys. We understood each other. And from that time on, I realized I didn’t just have a Grandma, I had a friend.

I don’t know how many people get to see both their grandparents live to the age of 95. It was a surprise to lose PopPop. He left so suddenly. And yet I had cried when we drove away from your house the Christmas before he died. I knew somehow it would be the last of its kind. And it was perfect.

PopPop’s passing was sudden. This is different. You know your time is up. You knew it at Christmas, and we all seemed to know it, too. It was a perfect last Christmas with you. We were all together as a family, and we visited PopPop at the National Cemetery with you. And again I had that tearful, sinking feeling as we drove home.

What a gift to have had you in my life for so long. I have been truly blessed to know you as my Grandma and as my friend.

You’ve always been tough when you needed to be tough, but you’ve also always been a devoted, faithful source of love. And probably one of the greatest examples of fun and grit mixed into one person.

I love you, Grandma. And I will miss you.

December 2021

Why It’s Hard to Write about Sin

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As I’ve considered how to write this series of posts on sin, guilt, and shame, I’ve come up against a bit of a problem, especially around the topic of sin. You see, I can’t write about sin as though it is something out there, separate from me.

It would be pretty easy (and would feel pretty good, wouldn’t it?) to point to the problems in others or in the world-at-large if I didn’t also suffer from the same malady. But the reality is that I do suffer from it. And as soon as I begin to wax eloquent on the topic through my writing, the Lord provides an opportunity to practice what I’m preaching.

You believe others ought to fight the sin that is within them. Have you noticed this particular area in your life that you’ve been ignoring? This particular instance of selfishness? Your latest indulgence? The pride that creeps in even as you write against sinful pride?

Sometimes such words are the gentle nudge of my loving heavenly Father, brimming with parental affection: Dear daughter, flee from these things. And look to My provision for you in Jesus.

Other times they are an attack of the accuser, laced with poison and deceit: You can’t write about sin. You’re filth yourself. A hypocrite. A self-righteous prig. A joke. Stop thinking you have any right to tell others what to do.

The Lord’s conviction compels me both to deal with my sin as the Spirit brings it to light and to not shrink back from speaking Truth, especially in the midst of a culture that glories in sin and shuns true righteousness. God’s desire is my repentance and joy in Christ, empowering me then to live in further obedience.

The accuser seeks to stop the work of God in me by keeping me weighed down with sin, continuing in despair rather than finding repentance, and using any opportunity to keep me from doing whatever it is that the Lord is calling me to do.

And so the task is laid before me: to be killing sin in me even as I write about it here to you.

The writing about it is, in fact, part of how the Lord is working on me. Perhaps that’s part of the reason that the going gets tough and the writing gets sparse. It’s uncomfortable. Submitting to the Lord’s discipline, the Spirit’s scrutinizing work on my heart, is hard. And I’m often tired. A little lazy. A bit too easily–or is it eagerly?–distracted.

Hebrews 4:13 reminds me: “…there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” I may cringe at the invitation to to see what’s in my heart. But that doesn’t keep the Lord from seeing it. It’s all open before Him.

And as a Christian, as one who has trusted in Christ’s death and resurrection on my behalf, I have a great comfort and assurance in the verses that follow:

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:14-16

It would “be nice” if I could talk about sin from a position of real accomplishment, like I’m some kind of expert on the subject. Then I might feel qualified to write about it. But did you read the words from Hebrews? Jesus is the only One in that position, the only One truly qualified by virtue of the fact that He, being fully God and fully man, has been tempted in all things, yet without sin.

What you get here, my friends, is a fellow sinner attempting to relay the Truth handed down by the One whose words on the subject actually matter, actually carry weight, actually give life. As this series continues, keep that at the forefront of your minds.

Soon we’ll dive in to what sin is. But for now, as you may have guessed, I’m working up the courage both write about it and to submit myself to the Lord’s work on my heart through that process.

Thanks for joining me in this process. May the Lord be at work in us all for His glory. And may we not shrink from that work but instead draw near to the throne of grace with confidence, finding mercy and help in our need. As we move on to discuss sin more deeply, we’ll sure need it!

Don’t forget to share your thoughts in the comments below–I’d truly love to hear from you!

Other articles in this series:
Sorting through Our Sin, Guilt, and Shame
Girl, You’ve Got a Problem

Lately {February 2022}

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I’ve posted a few articles in the past few months, but I haven’t posted a personal update of any kind in a long while. Life has been full, so it seems like a good time!

Injuries

Back in August my husband broke his neck and my oldest son broke his arm (both by falling off of a backyard zipline). That began a new (unusually slow in some ways, unusually busy in others) season for us that lasted right up until Christmas, when Nathaniel was finally released from his neck brace. Woo-hoo!

Family picture with the neck brace.
And now without! Yes, same day for these pictures. This was the first time he played with taking the brace off for a picture.

We thought we were jumping into “normal” again when January rolled around. No injuries! No extra doctor’s appointments! The medical bills are almost behind us!

Loss

We had a steady first two weeks, and then my Grandma was put on hospice. We traveled to see her before she passed. We made it to town in time, but not to the hospital. Still, I was thankful to be there with my family, my parents and my brother. It was good to say “good bye” to Grandma together.

Last pic with my precious Grandma. At Christmas, when we visited PopPop’s grave at the National Cemetery.

Illness

The morning of the last day we planned to be there with family, Nathaniel woke up with a fever. A quick test confirmed he had that contagion that gets posts flagged on Facebook. We got out of dodge as quickly as we could, and thankfully my parents and brother stayed well. The boys and I, however, followed Nathaniel’s lead a few days later. Fevers and coughing and headaches, oh my.

We didn’t have as easy of a time as some, but we didn’t have a serious case, either–nor did we pass it to family. And for all of this, we are thankful for the Lord’s mercies.

Vacation

We had a ski trip planned two weeks from the day we first came down with the C bug. Fatigue and cough still present, we played with canceling, but to no avail.

We went ahead with our trip, and had a great time–but with doctor’s orders restraining Nathaniel from literally risking his neck on the slopes (avoiding trees and jumps in particular), and with some of that lingering fatigue holding us (mostly me) back at altitude, we took it easier than we normally would.

School

We had two solid weeks of school after Christmas break before we took school with us to visit family around Grandma’s passing. Sickness knocked us out for a week. And we got back to it for a week before taking a week of vacation. We’re back at it now. It feels like a very interrupted start to the spring semester, but our daily routine is strong, even if the Monday after a vacation is still the Monday after a vacation. 😉

And the Monday after that is a Monday, as well.

The boys are working independently on their core school work (math, writing, reading living books for various subjects), and the things that I’m teaching/doing with them are things that I’m excited to be learning alongside them (Latin, logic, and history read alouds).

Marxism

This may seem like a strange addition to the list, but the Scholé Sisters are doing a Spring Seminar called Excellent Marxmanship inside Sistership (the online network for Christian classical homeschool moms to discuss all-the-things–free to join, but this course is available at the paid Sophie level). Marxism, which is antithetical to Christianity, has influenced our modern world in many ways, and there’s no better way to see it for what it is than to get it from the source. I listened to The Communist Manifesto (available at librivox.org) back in 2020. That was a great first pass, and this Excellent Marxmanship seminar is giving me a chance to read it again and dig deeper–along with other ladies who are interested in Truth more than knee-jerk reactions. Along with Marx’s Manifesto, they’re reading two other books related to the subject. The background knowledge provided and discussion via comment threads and video chats makes this a high value course! It’s worth the cost of paid membership in Sistership, to be sure. Just make sure you can set aside some time for it.

Even if you can’t join this seminar, it’s valuable to read The Communist Manifesto for yourself. It’s sometimes hard to understand, sometimes (ok, often) infuriating, but well worth being aware of, especially if you are guiding your children through the ideological jungle of our world today.

A good book to pair with Marx would be C. S. Lewis’ The Abolition of Man. I’ve been thinking for a while that these two books, both short and a bit challenging, one diabolical and the other full of truth and insight, are so worth wrestling through in order to understand our world today. Let me know in the comments if you’ve read either of them or plan to!

Food

Prepping food for my family has always been part of my day job, but there have been some seasons, like last fall, where I get into survival mode and I rely way too often on canned refried beans and tortillas to get a quick meal of bean burritos on the table. We still love our bean burritos, but I’m getting creative in the kitchen again. 🙂 It’s funny how when you put just a little extra thought into something, even something as every day as dinner, you can turn the mundane into something creative. And it makes the whole process more enjoyable.

Spring

Every year I appreciate the coming of spring. We encounter trials and dry seasons in life, but God graciously gives us signs of life even during the coldest time of year. The trees started budding as soon as the days started getting longer again (back in January!). We’ve seen a few daffodil blooms in the past two weeks. Sure, I live in the south, so your experience may vary, but the imagery of spring, whenever it does come, is a beautiful reminder of a God who can raise the dead. Of a Father who provides for His children. Of a Savior who died to give us life and who rose again for our justification and our hope. I love finding hints of the gospel of grace in the world that God has made. As we look forward to spring, may you find those traces of His grace around you, as well.

Girl, You’ve Got a Problem (and so do I)

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This article continues the discussion on how we deal with sin, guilt, and shame. Find the first part of this series here.

In our world today (and perhaps in humanity in general) we tend to confuse results with character. We tend to admire the folks who are “making it” and shake our heads at those who don’t. This mode of judgment turns inward on ourselves, too.

Am I failing at what I set out to do? Am I feeling not-awesome? “I’m bad.”

Am I achieving success? Are things going great? “I’m amazing.”

We carry guilt and shame (or else self-justification and pride) over these self-assessments, often ignoring an objective moral standard in favor of our own or society’s ideas about “success” and what we should be, do, or achieve.

Success failure God's standard freedom sin problem

This became shockingly evident to me when I read the results of a Barna poll from 2012. When Christian women were asked to choose what they struggle with the most, they rather staggeringly cited the modern “sins” of disorganization (50%) and inefficiency (42%), with traditional biblical sins like anger, selfishness, envy, and lust ranking much, much lower.

For the majority of respondents, it would seem their self-evaluations are guided more by extra-biblical categories than by scripture.

This focus on failures that undermine our personal success rather than sins as defined by God means our emotional heap of guilt and shame is often clouded, confused, false, or misplaced. And it means our confidence is on rocky ground, as well.

It’s no wonder women-focused memes often try to pick us up out of our pit of despair by telling us we’re beautiful and amazing and enough. That we can do it. Just follow this five step plan.

But these memes operate in the same muddied realm as our misguided guilt and shame.

To really be free from the disorienting weight we carry, we need clarity not congratulations, true relief not trite reassurance.

Heaping praise on ourselves usually just creates further shame and dissonance when we inevitably fail again.

Clarity comes when we look to a higher court of opinion than the flighty world around us or our fickle heart within us.

We feel weighed down with guilt, shame, and anxiety. Then someone tries to talk to us about our sin, our moral failings. What?! “I’m beating myself up enough already, thankyouverymuch.” In the moment, it feels better to talk about our struggles in non-moral/non-sinful terms. We assume that to go in that direction is an attack on our person, a hindrance to our well-being and self-esteem.

But what we don’t realize is that the world and our own hearts are harsh and inconsistent taskmasters. And our heavenly Father, who calls us to a higher standard, also grants us mercy and compassion. And in Jesus, we see that our God, who “will not break a bruised reed,” calls the weary to come to Him for rest and to find that His “yoke is easy and [His] burden is light.” (See Isaiah 42:3, Matthew 12:20, and Matthew 11:28-30.)

You see, our God is specific enough about actual sin, actual spiritual and moral failing, that we can know right from wrong–what pleases Him and what doesn’t. His commands have much more to do with love and faithfulness than with getting results or being productive. God’s call to righteousness is very different from the world’s call to awesomeness. The world focuses on outcomes, but God is most concerned with the substance of our daily living.

By submitting to what God’s word says is right, we can see real sin and guilt more accurately and deal with it promptly, freeing our conscience from a lot of weight and confusion–and freeing us to pursue faithfulness while trusting the outcomes to God.

If we allow our general feelings of success and failure to rule, either fearing others’ or our own scrutinizing judgment rather than fearing God, we will find an ever-present cycle of self-exaltation and self-condemnation. A crazy cycle that doesn’t bring the peace that God intends when He calls us to humble ourselves, confessing and turning from sin, and resting with confidence in the righteous Savior Jesus.

Other posts in this series:

Sorting through Our Sin, Guilt, and Shame

Sorting through Our Sin, Guilt, and Shame–an Introduction and Invitation

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Ever felt weighed down with guilt and shame? Ever decided it was all your fault because you’re just the worst? Ever decided it was all a lie because you’re just too awesome to be down on yourself like that?

It’s easy to respond to the weight on our conscience with either total self-condemnation or total self-justification. But neither tends to help us see clearly. Both tend to muddy our vision. Both tend to miss the bigger picture.

sin guilt shame
Photo by Jou00e3o Cabral on Pexels.com

I’m working on a project that confronts our tendencies around sin, guilt, and shame. As I share some of those thoughts on this blog, I’d love to hear what you think. Here’s your first opportunity.

Self-condemnation and self-justification are two very natural responses to our experience of guilt and shame. And the guilt and shame that we feel may or may not be in response to sin. If we’re Christians, we know we’re to fight sin. But we may get wounded in the battle. The lines may get hard to see. The truth may be hard to feel.

Our battle with guilt and shame and the fight against sin are actually two sides of the same coin. It’s been well-said that “we must be killing sin or it will be killing us.” Sin brings consequences–to our selves, to our relationships, and especially our relationship with our Creator.

But perhaps an overlooked way sin kills is that it can heap guilt and shame on us without remedy. The enemy of our souls loves for Christians to be weighed down with sin…or with guilt over things that aren’t sin, so that we are tempted to despair and also so that we are paying attention to a decoy instead of the real enemy. Let’s explore this for a bit.

I hope I don’t have to convince you that feeling guilty over doing wrong is right. Feeling shame over unfaithfulness to God and others whom we may have betrayed makes sense.

But feeling guilty over not measuring up to a vague or non-moral standard isn’t necessarily right, and it may actually be wrong, weighing us down when we are meant to have joy and be free.

Feeling shame over merely personally embarrassing and non-moral situations, or as a habit developed under an abuser, is not right–or at least it isn’t right to hold on to it. There is a kind of shame that we don’t have to carry.

In any of these last two cases, if we are concerned with our perceived and misplaced guilt and shame, we may be blind to our actual sin, or we may launch headlong into some sinful response as a way of coping or grasping for control. By falling for the decoy, we can’t see our sin very well because we’re looking in the wrong direction. By falling for the decoy, we may use our misguided feelings as justification for actual sin in the future.

Again, Our battle with guilt and shame and the fight against sin are two sides of the same coin.

But if we have guilt and shame over non-sinful things, how do we deal with them? We know that we’re to go to the cross with our sin. But what do we do with our misguided feelings and merely human frailty?

In dying for our sin, Jesus didn’t leave us alone or unaided in our experience of guilt and shame. He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He bore not only our sin but our shame on the cross. Do you think this was only a transaction for sin? His death certainly was a sacrifice for sin, but consider what Jesus endured in that process:

The accusation of blasphemy by the Jews (false accusations of guilt)

The humiliation and mockery by the Romans (a shameful experience)

Being stripped naked in public (a shameful experience)

Becoming weak so that a man was asked to carry His cross for Him (physical weakness and inability)

The insults of the convicts (false accusations of likely both guilt and shame)

The disciples’ disappointment that Jesus, who they thought would become King, was now being crucified as a criminal (the shame of disappointing others, though Jesus knew exactly what He was doing)

Being abandoned by almost all of His followers…and then by God the Father (the shame of abandonment and loneliness)

Suffering crucifixion (brutal and lethal public shame meant to intimidate onlookers)

Jesus died for our actual sins. But He also identified with our weaknesses and experienced guilt and shame that was not rightly His own. To be sure, He experienced these things without being defiled or deterred by them, without giving in to them or being brought to despair. But He did experience agony in the garden in anticipation of all of these things. He sweat drops of blood. He knows anxiety, too.

Dear sisters, the cross calls us to deal with our sin. To lay it down. To turn from it. The kindness of God leads to repentance, and that kindness is most definitively shown in the love of God demonstrated at the cross. Repentance isn’t a word that ought to conjure up mental images of an angry preacher. It ought to bring to our mind the sweet wooing of a lover: “Turn from all those things that won’t satisfy you and come away with Me.”

But the cross and kindness of God calls us to turn away not just from obvious sin, but from all the weight we carry, whether for sin or not. Repentance means primarily “a change of mind” or a “turning”. If we are carrying false guilt and misguided shame, we can bring those to the Savior as well.

Turn from being your own judge on these things. Recognize that Jesus knows what it means to bear guilt and shame that doesn’t belong to you. All your feelings of failure, whether they are based on sin or not, or some mixed up experience of sin-and-not-sin that you can’t pick apart–bring all of it to Jesus. He’s a great high priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses. Not just our moral failures–our weaknesses, our humanness. He knows. He understands. And He calls us to come.

This whole big, beautiful Creation was subjected to futility after the fall in the garden of Eden. No wonder we may feel like we fail even in instances where there isn’t an obvious sin to point to (or at least when one’s not on our radar).

I think it’s important to recognize that some of our feelings of failure are just part of the fall in general.

He has set eternity in our hearts, but death cuts our lives short. And we feel it. We feel that we won’t have time to accomplish all that we desire. And so on a given day, especially in a modern world that so preaches and values productivity, we feel the pain of not getting things done. Interruptions and weakness and distraction rob us of our ability to be “awesome” and do what we set out to do. And we feel that failure in much the same way as we feel moral shame. And so, interestingly, women report on surveys that they see their biggest struggles with sin are in their lack of productivity or organization. (More on this in a later post.)

We often have a lot on our plates, and yes, we ought to manage things well. But let’s be clear about what is sin and what isn’t. Is it a sin to be lazy? Yes. But is it a sin to not get everything done that we imagined we would? No. Emphatic: NO.

Not getting all-the-things done or being as organized as a magazine cover may result from several things: maybe life is just hectic right now—you’re caring for a baby or aging parent or juggling some combination of work, school, or family that makes it inherently hard to keep up; maybe your expectations are unrealistic and you need to reevaluate what you’re capable of in this season; maybe your schedule is unrealistic and you need to cut some commitments and activities from your calendar; or maybe you have actually been lazy, binge watching shows and socializing with friends instead of doing the dishes, your homework, or your taxes; maybe you’ve been scrolling social media instead of changing that nasty diaper that you first smelled an hour ago.

Sin may be (and likely is) a part of the equation. But our feelings tend to lump it all together into one big heap of guilt and shame over the result: “I’m so lazy/unproductive. Look at the mess! I can’t keep up with the house, I can’t figure out how to calm the baby. I’m a failure at everything.” This is what it looks like to heap on guilt and shame without biblical discernment and without remedy.

Instead, what if we recognize the situation for what it is: “Sigh…I really shouldn’t have zoned out on social media while the baby was crying. Lord Jesus, forgive me. That was wrong. And it didn’t help me get the house picked up either. Lord, please give me the strength to get up and make the best of this. The baby may not calm down quickly, and I can’t get the house perfect today, but I can decide to do the right thing right now and do what I can. Help me to be faithful.”

Part of my goal in this long-term project is to help us sort out the difference between actual sin and false guilt and shame, to help us respond to the nitty-gritty struggle within us in a biblically appropriate way so that we live lives consistent with God’s truth, empowered by His Spirit.

That’s a big goal far beyond the reach of this first article, but here’s a takeaway for today: the remedy for our consciences, weighed down with guilt and shame, whether real or imaginary, is the same in either case. “Cast all your cares on Jesus, because He cares for you.”

I’m not all-knowing. I may not ever figure out where exactly the line is between my every actual sin and my mere failings and not-awesome shortcomings. And that’s ok. Jesus knows and He has dealt with it. Come to Him.

As noted above, this article is the tip of the iceberg. It’s nowhere near a comprehensive treatment of this subject! I hope you’ll follow along as I seek to define terms, develop ideas, and dig into the scriptures in future articles.

Please comment with your thoughts, questions, challenges, and suggestions. 🙂 Your feedback will help as I develop this project going forward. I’d really love to hear from you! How do you grapple with guilt and shame? When it’s justified? When it isn’t? When you can’t tell the difference?

Other posts in this series:

Girl, You’ve Got a Problem