Friday, August 25, 2017

On Bread, The Gospel, Domesticity, and What Have You

My Bread Dilemma

Have you ever wanted to do something for years and years but just... didn't? Learn a new skill, try a new food, start a new business, etc.?

For years I have wanted to learn how to bake bread.

And not just loaves of bread, but all kinds of bread and bread-ish things, including tortillas, biscuits, pizza dough. It's actually one of many domestic skills that I have wanted to take the time to learn, but have not.

Something has been stopping me from even attempting to bake bread and I could never pinpoint what the root of it was until recently.  Was it laziness? A fear of failing at trying something new? The fear of "wasting" money on tons of flopped bread? Well, yes, all of the above, but the root of the problem was much bigger than those things.

The truth was that I could never justify setting aside time to devote to learning such "domestic" skill without there being any "real" use for it.  In other words, I have no plans to open a bakery any time soon, so what value could bread baking really have beyond our own simple enjoyment?  Was our enjoyment of homemade bread worth spending all of that valuable time learning? I knew that I wanted my girls to know how to bake as well, but why did I want them to know this? Was it for sentimental reasons? Because it would make me happy? Well, I want to spend what little time that I have helping to set a good example for my kids.  I want my kids to live lives that will change the world for the better.  How is this skill going to help them do that?

How is this skill going to change the world?

The Game-Changers: My Bible and a Podcast 

This year is the first year that I have ever actively set aside time to read my Bible all the way through.  I joined a 2-year plan on YouVersion and just started reading.  Not to my surprise, the simple act of reading the word every day changed me.  As I continued to read, the Holy Spirit convicted me of how I had been spending my time all I wanted to do thereafter was surround myself with all that is good, true, and beautiful.

Enter What Have You, a podcast by sisters Rachel Jankovic and Rebekah Merkle, daughters of authors Doug Wilson and Nancy Wilson, sisters to author Nate (N.D.) Wilson. Both Rachel and Rebekah are authors as well.  I've since read their books and have loved them all. What I admire most about this family is that they obediently use everything they have been given by God to bring glory to God.  I have been so encouraged by each of them this year in more ways than I can count, but the podcast, in particular, has been an enormous blessing in my life this year.

I believe I found this podcast in March.  Amazingly enough, I can't remember how I found their podcast! Though I had been reading books on education by their father and following his posts online for years, I didn't realize the connection until after I listened to the podcast. Strange, right?

Throughout each episode of What Have You, they spend time talking about several different of domestic topics, usually just what they've been up to lately, often including bread baking.  Then they'll spend time discussing a deeper theological topic, usually pertaining to sin struggles that Christian women might face.  As I listened to more episodes, I could tell that these two women had a much stronger, clearer understanding of domesticity than I had.  They had a biblical perspective on the domestic, which I had always assumed I had but as I would soon discover, I did not.

I quickly began to notice the differences between their worldview and mine.  We are all Christians, but the difference was that these two women had a worldview that was entirely Christian.  Their worldview was scripture based. They know the scriptures well and they apply God's word to everything, especially when it comes to sin.  Then there was me.  I knew only some scriptures well and applied them vaguely to only some parts of my life.  And sin? I was aware that I was probably sinning multiple times a day but had no idea how often or what those sins might be. I just knew that I was a sinner. If I noticed a particular sin I felt guilty and depressed and knew that Jesus had paid for that sin, but had no idea what I was to do about this guilt. The more I compared worldviews with Rachel and Bekah, it wasn't hard to see the many inconsistencies in my life.  I started to notice a lot of areas in my life that were not consistent with what I said I believed.

So the Lord, through my Bible reading and through this simple podcast did something rather remarkable.

Months ago, shortly after I had discovered this podcast, there was one day where it suddenly hit me that I had been assigning value to a humanistic worldview of life and work, but my goals in life were inherently Christian.  Obviously, these two concepts are demonstrably incompatible. This was the root of my problems with domesticity. The culture had shaped much of my worldview without me even knowing it, because I was not consistently in fellowship with Him, because I valued fellowship with the world over my time with Him.  By assigning any value the world's way of thinking (in regard to domesticity), my perception of my duties at home was severely twisted.

It was by listening to these two women chat about seemingly simple things (the domestic) next to discussions on several more complex biblical concepts (theology), I started to realize how comparable these two topics are in their value. I saw how profoundly important something as "simple" as the domestic arts are in comparison to say, discussions on sin, faith, and loyalty. All of it strongly impact the heart and the culture.  This is because God uses all things for the good of those who would love Him.  Everything that is done by a believing Christian matters; right down to the tiniest of details. There is nothing outside of His control, thus, there is nothing that I can do that is not going to matter.

And just like that, my skewed perspective on the domestic things in life completely shifted towards Christ.

It seriously was a huge turn of events for me!

For years I had felt like I had been trekking through thick, muddy creek water and finally stumbled into an ocean full of crystal clear water.  It is so refreshing and so freeing! I had been moving along, slowly, in somewhat of the right direction but really had no idea where I was headed, why I was headed there, and all I knew of how to get there was to just keep trusting God, continuing the trek towards the life that I knew would be pleasing to Him. I kept going, but I was severely discontent all the way.  This false idea of what domesticity actually is still had a huge hold on me, and I had no idea.

This obviously goes beyond baking bread.  This clash of worldviews in my mind flowed directly into all areas of the home life: doing the laundry, dishes, general cleaning, meal planning, cooking, etc.   On the surface, domestic tasks had always been important to my heart, but the lie had permeated my mind that told me that the work lacked any real skill, that it was not worthy of my time, and that it won't amount to anything in the end.  My choosing to remain home with my family I was destined to a life of meaningless work.  I honestly felt as if all of this work was pointless.  The laundry would never be done, dishes would never stop, feeding my family real home cooked meals seemed impossible most nights, clutter ruled the house, and I firmly believed that makeup and nice clothes are just not in the cards for me, at least not until my kids are grown and out of the house. These types of lies constantly sent me into a fit of saying to myself or to my husband, "What's the point of this? Why in the world does God have me here, in this place, doing this? Shouldn't I be out evangelizing somewhere?"

Though I never would have admitted it before, I was treating my work as a brainless and menial job. When you don't value your work, it's easy to put in minimal effort.  I like what Bekah said in the fourth episode of What Have You, she said that it's easy to sink down to the lowest common denominator at home (when there is seemingly no real value to the work).  I was sinking low for a long time.  God used these two women to bring me back up.

Finding the Beauty in Domesticity 

She looks well to the ways of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.

You know when you are hiking up a hill and you are almost ready to peer over a hill to see the view, but you are not quite there yet. Well, I knew that there was real value in domesticity, but I could not see it yet.  I had hoped that one day God would show me the beautiful view that I knew was there. This year, God saw it fit to reveal it to me, and you guys, it is far more beautiful than I ever dreamed it could be!

God has given us all real work to do: loving our husbands and children, pursuing a life of purity, kindness, self-control, and submission so that God's word may not be reviled (Titus 2).  We are to serve as an example of Christ's goodness.  We are to present ourselves as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1).  The more we Christian women derive our strength from the world, we will fail. When we are relying on God as our strength, we will be blessed.  God gave women a fantastic role to fill (Proverbs 31) in this incredible life, and joy comes when we are faithfully obedient to His word.  For years  I would often throw myself into outside work with no problem (Classical Conversations, photography, Norwex, writing, etc.) because I knew it had a purpose (to benefit my family) and I knew God could use that, but when it came to matters of the home, I was completely lost.  I would often wonder how domesticity could possibly be culturally relevant. Thankfully, I now know what it means to live faithfully and how in doing this, everything we are doing in and with our homes (and our community) is culturally relevant because everything we do for God will be used by God for the good of those who will love Him.

God is the one who is really at work here. 

This is why we need to be diving into the word of God every day! We need to be in communication with Him through the reading of our Bibles and prayer, we need to constantly, every day be submitting to His authority.  I know that my complete lack of understanding when it came to domesticity was as a direct result of my lack of time in the word.

Whether you are doing the laundry or speaking at a conference or tieing your daughter's shoes or cleaning out a closet or raising up a child, it is all for His glory.  He sees it.  It matters. No matter what we are doing throughout the day, we can do it joyfully in the knowledge that God is using this for good!  Not every day will be perfect. When we sin (and we will, multiple times a day) we need to confess those sins, and continue on in faith, guilt free.  If we are bogged down by sin, we are not trusting in Him and we won't be able to see where we are going. We will sink down into the lowest common denominator. All that is left when we get down that low is to muddle on aimlessly through the depression until we realize that the root of the problem, the true culprit we're dealing with is actually sin, and thankfully, as a Christian, we can be free of that guilt and pain by confessing those sins to the God we believe in.  God will use this for YOUR good, and you will be blessed.  You see? Working in the home is a lot more than simply doing the daily chores. This is an enormous part of your own sanctification.

God didn't design women to just "get by" in life. We are to bring our A-game to every part of life (Proverbs 31). It really is true that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.  Approach your home life with the mentality of making this work profitable.  Look at everything He has given you and turn a profit on it.  In other words, do all unto the glory of God, and nothing but good will come of it.  God will use it all, whether we know how or not. Lives will be changed and Christ will be honored through your obedience.

Always give the best of yourself to your household. Work incredibly hard at everything God has placed before you.  If you know that baking bread and biscuits will bless your family, do it. If making a quilt would bless your family, do it.  If the hallway closet needs to be reorganized to bless your family, do it.  Take the time to truly bless your family.  Make the labor intensive meals.  Take frequent breaks to cuddle with your little ones.  Learn new skills and learn them well, through tons of trial and error.  Nothing is a waste when you are pouring everything you are living out His word.  This is how to live life abundantly.  It is all for His glory, His good purposes. Pour your love to the fullest degree in your home, that love and kindness will flow out to others in the home and out, and that, my sweet friends, is how baking that bread will change the world.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Visualizing The Bible

"Visualizing the Bible" is a visualization of Bible cross-references that was created by Christoph Römhild and Chris Harrison

"The bar graph that runs along the bottom represents all of the chapters in the Bible. Books alternate in color between white and light gray. The length of each bar denotes the number of verses in the chapter. Each of the 63,779 cross references found in the Bible is depicted by a single arc - the color corresponds to the distance between the two chapters, creating a rainbow-like effect."

Additional visualizations can be found on Chris Harrison's website.   :-) 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Happy Monday!

It's Monday! A new work week.  Every week presents hundreds of ways to learn, work, and live for Christ. I am so thankful and blessed to have the opportunity to serve my family this week! 

This week my goal is to CLEAN HOUSE.  This week is my last full "free week" to get all this craziness in order before the school year begins.  We are not officially beginning until the 28th, but our commitments for the school year really begin to pick up next week. 

Next week will be entirely devoted to school plans and to cleaning out the school room.  That will take the full week, I am sure. 

The house suffered quite a bit during the past week as I was sick with a cold and had no energy to do just about anything.  Today was my first day getting back on track.  

Here are a few other things that I've been up to today. 

Developing Habits:

Dishes - Since I took a month long break of this habit, I'm beginning again.  :-) 
Laundry - Right now I am doing laundry every single day until it is "done".   Once I'm caught up, I'll switch to a weekly laundry day. 

Audiobooks Listened to:

Death by Living by N.D. Wilson, completed! 5/5 stars! 

Podcasts Listened to:

Read Aloud Revival, latest episode
Plodcast, latest episode

The Lost Tools of Learning - an essay by Dorothy Sayers, the brilliant 1947 essay that prompted the revival of Classical Christian education today. 
The Question by Leigh Bortins, chapter 4 on reading dialectically. 

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