the training grounds

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Our church’s summer book club is reading through author Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option.  It isn’t often that I resonate with a book to the point where I reread it.  For whatever reason, this one struck a chord.  I’ve read the book three times and then some.

I couldn’t tell you what it was about.  I’ve never been good at narrating back out loud what I’ve read.  But what I think it was, is that the book put words to what, for me anyway, my life as a stay-at-home mom is all about.  He put words to my visions.

The author speaks of shoring up our families and communities for the coming dark ages.  Western culture is crumbling, and Christianity has become diluted and unpracticed.  What we see now is not what we will see in ten, twenty, thirty years.

In his introduction, Dreher writes, “We are going to have to learn habits of the heart forgotten by believers in the West.”  I cannot get the phrase “habits of the heart” out of my head.  He joined the word ‘habits’, a concept and practice I have undervalued and blown off in my life for way too long, and combined it with the soul-stirring “heart”.

“If a defining characteristic of the modern world is disorder, then the most fundamental act of resistance is to establish order.  If we don’t have internal order, we will be controlled by our human passions and by the powerful outside forces who are in greater control of directing liquid modernity’s deep currents…

“‘The structure of life in the monastery, the things you do every day, is not just pointless repetition,” said Brotherour Augustine Wilmeth, twenty-five, whose red Viking-like beard touches his chest. “It’s to train your heart and your spirit so that when you need it, when you don’t feel strong enough to will yourself to get through a difficult moment, you fall back on your training’…In other words, ordering one’s actions is really about training one’s heart to love and to desire the right things, the things that are real, without having to think about it.  It is acquiring virtue as a habit.”  

The Psalmist writes, “Thy Word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee”.  This isn’t anywhere near about “do more” or “try harder”, which I’m becoming more and more convinced is perhaps an unconscious but stubborn resistance on the part of the soul to hear, love, and believe the Truth.  There is no trying.  Only believing.

We cannot will ourselves into holiness.  We cannot deny ourselves into faithfulness.  We order ourselves in obedience.  A Higher Power fashions my life, and the power isn’t me.  God is disciplining us, as sons in whom He delights.  We submit and devote to His training and guidance, this transformation that changes us to love what He loves.


on writing well

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When I first started writing, I had something to say.

there was steam to blow off and pain to let go.  there were feelings to sift through and thoughts to sort out.  there were memories to record.  there were days to number.

Things are different now.  I don’t have something to say anymore.  I recently wrote to a writer friend and told her I was wondering whether or not to stop writing altogether, not forever, but just for a while, to live some more life before saying anything else.

I’m feeling the need to lay low, keep my head down, and focus.  I don’t know if it’s the stage of life or motherhood I’m in or what.  I think it was Jim Elliot who wrote,”Wherever you are, be all there.”  This is what I want right now.  There’s nowhere else I want to be.

She told me one of the reasons she writes is to partake in The Great Conversation.  She didn’t put it in those capitalized terms, she just said conversation, but I think I understand what she means.  She said that for her, writing is a way of being a friend.

Her simple words put things in a totally new perspective for me.  I might not feel like I have something to say anymore, but writing has never been all about me, as much as I’ve fought against it, and as much as I’ve tried to keep it there.  Writing moves people.

I’m in a different place.  I reached out to people I didn’t even know, and people I didn’t even know reached out to me.  The comments, the likes, the contacts, they all meant something.  It wasn’t much, but it was all we had to offer.  It was everything we had.

It was something more to say.






clover necklaces


“Beck, what would be life-giving for you right now?”

Only a sister asks a question like that.  She’d seen me come out from the kitchen, after hearing the deep sigh at the sight of the dishes and counters I’d already cleaned up three times that day.

The repetitiveness of dishes and kitchen clean-up used to drive me mad.  It can still evoke those dreaded deep sighs, particularly when I’m tired at the end of the day, but it’s no use being mad about it anymore.

I watched my daughter and my sister in the clovers.  The boys rode bikes through the pine trees on one side, played catch in the field on the other.  I watched, overwhelmed by all the beauty, feeling grateful for the gift.

I don’t know what it is.  I’ve never felt like this before.

I can’t stop feeling thankful here.

call to worship


two of my sisters are here for three and a half days. the best part about our visits, and any visit with my family, is all the talking that happens.  i call it The Great Conversation.

me and liz got to talking about our childhood backyard.  she’s working on bringing a pear tree, the peonies, and daffodils into her present yard, for her four girls to enjoy.

“wasn’t it amazing?” I asked her.  the outhouse, the barn, the oak tree, the hills, the mountains, the leaves, the jungle and electrical fence that shocked when you touched it.

i think of all the places God has given us to live, and i am amazed beyond words for all the beauty and space.  for all the world’s brokenness, there’s still the beauty of the earth.


roasted beets and marigolds

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One day a lady walked over to me after church.  She did not introduce herself.  I didn’t know who she was.  I recognized her as the blonde lady who sits in the back, the one who wears fancy suits I’d never wear, and comes to church every week by herself.

She had a question for me.

“Do you have any needs?”

I didn’t know how to answer this question.  The kids were asking about their donuts when I started saying something like, “Um, well, camp just had a work day, so that was good.  There were lots of people here to help get things ready and cleaned up for–”

“No”, she cut me off, “That’s not what I meant.”

Dad takes the kids to the donut line.

“I mean family needs.”

Apparently she’d been hearing this nagging voice in her head telling her to go talk to me.  She’s afraid I’m going to think she’s crazy, and I assure her, in no way shape or form do I think for even a minute she is crazy.  I know those voices.  I hear those voices too.

“It’s more like”, she’s still trying to explain, “It’s more like, I keep hearing; ‘You’ve got something she needs.'”  She’s got something I need.  That’s what the voice was telling her.  That’s why she asked me if I had any needs.  She’s needs to know what she has.

I can already tell by her voices what she is–

A blessing from God.