The Sparrow’s Home

 

The nest is tiny and delicately woven. The materials are simple and humble—field grass. It sits on the nature shelf in our dining room, a perfect little cup that once held the cream-and-speckled promise of life.

Even now, it holds a promise.

“Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God.” (Psalm 84:3)

We squish our way along a muddy track through the woods—the girls and I. We’re looking in the trees for flashes of colour and trills of song. Signs of spring though it’s early yet. We spy some black-capped chickadees and some large, loud crows. Winter birds. Still, they are more interesting than the sparrows that frequent our yard at home.

We barely notice the sparrows anymore. They are common and nondescript.

There are no birds of note to be found anywhere quite yet, I think to myself. I’m not interested in crows and sparrows.

But God is.

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When we return home again, I spy the little grass nest on the dining room shelf, a gift from a friend. And it reminds me just how much He loves the sparrow. Psalm 84:3 is a promise for the year and for my lifetime.

Because even the overlooked and insignificant are seen and welcome in the most holy of places—the place where heaven meets earth.

Because I’m invited to make my home at the altar too, close to the Father’s heart—yes, even me, a common sparrow.

Because His Presence is life and I want our lives to be infused with His. He also wants our lives to be infused with His. My heart and my desire is to raise my little ones in His shadow, and He makes room for me there.

He desires to be with us. It’s a beautiful truth that changes everything. We don’t have to chase Him. He’s not playing hard to get. We don’t have to try to be anything other than who He has created us to be.

We’re invited to simply come and dwell with Him.

When I see this tiny grass nest, I am reminded. The little brown bird trilling its song is seen by the Father. It is heard. It is loved.

I, too, am seen and heard and loved.

I, too, have a place close to His heart.

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There’s something you need to know…

There is an incredible truth that has become so real recently. Something I struggled to grasp for years. Something that I caught hold of at times, but that other times eluded me. Something that has finally made it from my head to my heart for good.

This changed my life, you guys. Are you ready for it?

It’s simply this: God is for us.

I was thinking back on it yesterday and then I saw the words come across my Instagram feed this morning, and I knew I needed to give voice to some thoughts, even if the words aren’t flowing as beautifully as I’d like today.

So here goes…

God is not standing there with His arms crossed, disappointed and waiting to angrily berate us when we can’t “do all the things.”

Did you know that? I mean really know that?

God is not waiting for you to mess up so He can beat you over the head with a Bible.

And grace? Grace is not saying a prayer once in order to secure a place in heaven … and then wearily and hopelessly slogging through a list of things to accomplish for the rest of your days in an effort to maintain that place. If you’re doing that, you’re missing the point. (I spent many a year saved but somehow missing the point, just so you know. Some of us aren’t as quick on the uptake, and that’s okay.)

Grace is not only for salvation; it’s divine enablement each and every day of your life.

The Cross is just as much for today as it was for the day you were saved.

Yes, you will fall. Yes, you will sin. Yes, you will need to repent—over and over (and over and over) again. So do it. Then get up and move on. Stop living in the past. Stop living in condemnation. You are forgiven. You are free.

There is grace for you.

God is not against you.

“If God is for us, who can ever be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

“The Lord will fight for you, you need only be still” (Exodus 14:14).

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God” (Isaiah 41:10).

Here’s what especially blows me away…

God loves us so much that He WANTS us to succeed. He tenderly dusts us off when we fall. He cheers us on with each step we take. His incredible Spirit is working in us and through us, enabling us to run the race—and victoriously taking us from glory to glory.

Go read 2 Peter 1:3, Hebrews 13:20-21 and 2 Corinthians 3:18 for a minute. I’ll wait.

Okay, are you back? Now let me reiterate that last part: The Holy Spirit is working in us and through us, enabling us to run the race—and victoriously taking us from glory to glory.

Typically, I’m a wallower. When I mess up, I feel so awful that I stay there. But y’all, we don’t have to live in defeat. (This had me dancing around my kitchen, in case you were wondering.) This fills me with such gratitude, such awe, such confidence, and such HOPE!

No matter what battles we face, no matter what weaknesses we struggle with, no matter how far we’ve fallen, God is FOR us. Let that sink in for a moment. The God who created the entire universe is for YOU!

When we grab hold of this truth, our lives will turn upside-down.

Walk confidently in His love today!

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P.S. Here’s a song. Because it’s on repeat around here at the moment and because it’s good:

Stepping Out

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Her eyes are closed but she’s still awake. I’m cradling her in my arms, although she’s far too big to fit comfortably anymore. She’ll be three in May, this little one. Wide awake, yet she doesn’t slit her eyes even the slightest to see where we’re going.

My feet creak heavy on the stairs and she’s heavy in my arms. But she keeps her eyes tightly shut, content simply to know that I’m carrying her.

That she’s safe.

A friend posted this verse a couple of weeks ago: “The steps of the godly are directed by the Lord. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will not fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand” (Psalm 37:23-25, NLT).

I’ve been thinking about Abraham lately—how he had faith to obey the Lord, to pick up and leave everything he knew, even though he didn’t know where he was going. Sometimes, God calls us out of what we know and into the unfamiliar.

And when He does? We can rest confident that He is holding us by the hand. We might make mistakes. We might stumble. We might miss a step or five. But God never misses a single step. He is steady, faithful and unchanging.

In seasons of transitions, that steadies my heart.

I can close my eyes and breathe deep, content simply to know that He’s holding me.

Carrying me safe.

When the Best Laid Plans Go Awry

The air was filled with sunshine and gunshots.

A white pick-up pulled up beside us and a ranger rolled down the window. “The park is closed for the annual deer hunt,” he informed us. “You can drive up Decew Road and hike over on the left-hand side, but this whole side of the park is closed.”

I was disappointed. My friend and I had been planning our hike at Short Hills Provincial Park for weeks. It was a kid-free outing. An escape and a chance to catch up after a busy few weeks. But now, the park was closed.

Following the ranger’s directions, we made our way to Decew Street. There were no trails that we could see. Not anywhere. But there was an old grist mill. Morningstar Mill, the sign read. I pulled into the parking lot.

“Can we stop and look around for a minute?” I asked my friend. The place intrigued me.

“Sure,” she agreed.

I grabbed my camera and jumped out of the car. The grounds were beautiful. There was a fully restored 1872 grist mill, a blacksmith shop, an old house, and a few other buildings.

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And in the back corner, there was a wooden gate.

We creaked open the gate and found ourselves on the Bruce Trail. This was what we had been looking for. The narrow path wound past Decew Falls and followed the creek to the edge of the escarpment. The views were breath-taking.  We could see farm and city, and in the distance, Lake Ontario.

As we hiked, I couldn’t help but think of all the times in my life when plans changed. Often, I have things laid out to perfection in my mind. But life’s greatest blessings have come from plans gone awry. New careers. A sweet baby girl. Precious friendships. A renewed sense of purpose.

Deeper faith.

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart,” the Bible says. “But the purposes of the Lord will prevail.” In Jeremiah 29:11, the Lord assures us that His plans are to prosper us and not to harm us, to give us a hope and a future.

Sometimes, God puts us on a different path—a better path—because He has different, better things in store for us.

The trail climbed a steep hill beside a hydro dam. At the top, a beautiful, man-made lake spread out before us. Canada geese flapped low overhead, honking loudly as they settled in the water. A long-tailed duck dove deep, then re-appeared. Swans swam in tandem, stark white against the water.

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We followed the edge of the lake, stopping to examine purple wildflowers and fresh-cut beaver trees. There was so much beauty here—beauty that we had almost missed.

I breathed in autumn and exhaled contentment. Like so much of life, this wasn’t the plan.

But it was perfect anyway.

The Promise of a New Beginning

It is November, but the day is warm. My mom has taken the girls for the afternoon, and I am free to wander the world at leisure. Alone. These quiet hours spent walking through woods and meadows refresh and recharge me.

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Many of the trees have already cloaked the earth with their canopies. Their stark branches scratch the blue sky. In the meadow, the milkweed has burst open, releasing seed clouds into the wind. Late-season raspberries ripen on thorny branches, and the goldenrod is fringed with white.

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A grey squirrel rustles in the leaves, busily gathering nuts—a portent of the days to come. He swears at me as I pass by, angry at the interruption. Further down the path, a fallen nest lies abandoned in the grass. Its owners have no need of it anymore. Their young have long flown away.

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I love the autumn, despite the fact that it precedes the grey days of winter. It is the end of the season, yes. But spring will one day come, and life will flow again. Even in death, there can be beauty and hope.

Every ending holds the promise of a new beginning.

So I savour the moment.

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To the moms whose kids are grown…

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“Older women … are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.” (Titus 2:3-5, NIV)

I feel it acutely. There’s my mom, of course. She is an amazing, godly woman who is filled with the kind of wisdom that can only come from the years behind her. I’m lucky to have her. But other than that? There isn’t too much interaction between generations, much of the time.

Sometimes, I wonder if the lack of older mentors is the reason my generation—the generation of young parents—seems so lost. There are parenting books, of course. Online home management courses. Sermons and podcasts.

But few pour into us on a personal level.

We discuss it amongst each other—how to love our husbands, raise our children and manage our homes.

How to be self-controlled.

Pure.

Kind.

But there is something to be said for the wisdom that comes from long-life experience. Yes, we glean from those alongside us in the trenches, but we also desperately need those who have already fought our same battles and won.

(Or even lost. Because every scar tells a story.)

Last night, I drove 30 minutes down dark country roads to a complete stranger’s house. A friend had invited me. I parked on the street and stumbled up the driveway in the inky blackness, towards windows spilling warm light.

The woman who owned the house welcomed me graciously. Although her children are grown, she opens her home on a regular basis to younger homeschooling moms. Her heart—her beautiful heart—is to pour into the next generation.

Women from all over came—some drove longer distances than I did. She put out carafes of coffee, tea and dainty, floral cups. We packed into her living room to pray and learn together.

And she explained to each new, shy face how the Lord has called her to provide support, encouragement, and to live out Titus 2:3-5.

The Church needs people like this.

Older women, we need you.

We don’t always know how to say it, but we need you to open your lives to us. To open your homes to us. To offer advice. To come alongside us and tell us that we’ll make it through the hard days. To smile with us on the joy-filled days. To teach us what it means to be good wives and mothers.

You see, there’s a lot at stake.

Our families, yes. But according to Titus 2:5, how we manage our families and homes also affects people’s perception of the Word of God.

According to Titus 2:5, the gospel is at stake.

You, who are on the other side, have so much to offer.

And we, who are in the trenches, want to learn.

 

Be Held

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She’s crying in the darkness. Big, raspy, gasping, croupy cries. My husband and I run to the bathroom and turn on the light and the shower. As I hold her, she clings tight and the tears slow a little. The steam helps, but still her chest heaves loud in the night as she gulps in air.

It’s a long, sleepless night. In the wee hours of the morning, the croup seems to worsen, and we decide to pack her up and take her to the hospital. But just as we are about to leave, her breathing steadies a little. Are we safe? The minute she lays down, the rasping and gasping starts all over.

I gather her into my arms in the darkness and hold her—this five-year old girl who seems so tiny tonight. For some reason, only the holding helps. So I hold her close until her breathing evens into sleep. And then, even then, I hold her.

It is morning when I finally close my eyes.

I understand the need to be held. We all need it at times. In the seasons of darkness, of deep-down disappointment, of hurt. Those times when our soul is gasping for air.

But always, in the blackness, there are arms waiting. In the good times, too. Strong, powerful, everlasting arms. Beautiful, scarred hands.

And a still, small Voice that calls us close,

Be held.

As I hold my daughter and listen to her breathe in the stillness, I can feel it in those deep-down places.

I, too, am held.

And there is peace.