Practicing Affirmation

Image from Dual Design

The book Practicing Affirmation by Sam Crabtree is a very practical guide to Gospel centered affirmation. The title might make you believe that this is some sort of how-to manual or self-help guide but it is more about showing how Jesus affirms us and how we should affirm others in the church, our homes and beyond. There is a very useful list in the back to to help brainstorm ways to affirm others if you are having a hard time doing so and can’t break that mold. I am cynical and critical by nature and affirmation is not always the first thing on my mind. I’ve started trying to implement the rule of thumb that Sam Crabtree shared from John Piper about C.J. Mahaney’s ministry that states “three for one”. Three affirmations to every criticism and well when I do do it, I can see immediate change. Thankful for this book that can help me practically affirm and encourage others when I’m not so good at it by nature.

I will be coming back to this as I need to really flesh out affirmation in my life. Have you read this book or are interested? I’d love to talk with you about it.

purchase the book through Crossway:

This book was a complimentary copy from Crossway.

Going to the Farm

Some weeks feel endless. Most weeks feel endless, lately. There are many reasons. One is that I have a personal family goal of slowliving and I want an atmosphere that is long been forgotten in homes. One of peace and rest. I believe Thoreau said “It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?”

“It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?”

and I agree. I want the atmosphere of Family and the Home to be one that is a respite to busy lives and much-ness. Unfortunately, it’s been quite the opposite lately. Kenny works two jobs, pretty much, with unpredictable schedules and I take free-lance work as well and add in activities and co-op and various other things like a house full of sick people and a trip to the E.R. for a daredevil gash to the face (Alice), the weeks can fill before there is a moment to breathe. I am learning to say “I just can’t”, It’s hard for a person that craves interaction with others but I feel so much better when I do because I actually can’t, I need to give it to God.  And what are we truly busy about anyway? Nothing much, really. When the schedules fight for our slow time like little daggers to our calendar, what good is it? I get overwhelmed easily these days and busy-ness is not something I could even want to fight for. In those moments this extrovert wants to become a recluse to society. And yet, there are things we want to mark time for that I don’t consider busy-ness. Like the fact that we hardly have had any family vacations, or can pull together enough extra finances to do so. But there are simple things I am learning to carve time for and it’s nice to do them in a place of perspective. So we went to the Farm to see sheep shearing, it was good intentional family time.

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Let us tend to our flock like the Greatest Shepherd tends to his.

The Lamb

William Blake
Little Lamb, who made thee
Does thou know who made thee
Gave thee life & bid thee feed.
By the stream & o’er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing woolly bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice.
Making all the vales rejoice:
Little Lamb who made thee
Does thou know who made theeLittle Lamb I’ll tell thee,
Little Lamb I’ll tell thee;
He is called by thy name,
For he calls himself a Lamb:
He is meek & he is mild,
He became a little child
I a child & thou a lamb,
We are called by His name,
Little Lamb God bless thee,
Little Lamb God bless thee.

Women of the Word

There are many books I am reading right now, I won’t go into the whole list, it makes me anxious just thinking about it. I have more books than time or mental capacity some days. Some books stay with you for quite a long time though and hopefully forever. I used to think fiction was the only type of book that had staying power. I remember vividly beautiful words from Narnia that never left. As I grow older and I read more religious non-fiction in hopes of gleaning wisdom I realize there are certain truths written by wiser people than myself that have that staying power.

Two books right now that I am reading/ or have read, Praying with Paul  by D.A. Carson and Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin have been added high on that internal list of books I will recommend to others. I am so glad that I was able to read both of them simultaneously, God is teaching me a lot about Prayer and delighting in the Word recently and it’s been a very harmonious pairing. I’ll talk more about that Praying with Paul in a different post.

I started reading a review copy of Women of the Word independently and by happy fate our church began a Women’s Bible study of the Minor Prophets, using Women of the Word as a spine to further our understanding of how to study the Minor Prophets. So, I was excited that I was already ahead in my reading and have loved learning with other women through this book.

To be honest, I don’t think I understood how to read the Bible and hadn’t grown in the process of doing so, well, since ever. I suppose I wasn’t reading it properly. Maybe I should say “thoroughly” instead, because some might not enjoy the use of proper. I did do bible study, I would usually do a book or guided study of scripture and then I would just have some type of bible reading plan as well. It was a food fight in the hopes that something would stick. The habit is being slowly worn down as well. Jen Wilkin outlines some misguided approaches early on and I identified with a lot of them. I think it was a form of rule following for me, to read the word rather than taking pleasure in the scriptures and even though there were small pleasures to be had when something stood out I was not as intentional about seeking it out. Truly, I didn’t understand what it meant to be Bible Literate. I am happy to be making small steps toward Bible Literacy because I do love seeing those red strings that intertwine throughout all of the Bible and point us to Christ. This book has helped immensely. I want that “Delight” that the Psalmist speaks of in Psalm 1.

Everything is outlined very clearly as Jen Wilkin walks us through the 5 P’s she uses to study the word; purpose, perspective, patience, process, prayer. I really liked having a guide to lead me through all these steps. How much will your bible study change if you are identifying your purpose to study the word and digging for the truths while praying diligently that it will transform you and being patient through that process? Every “P” mentioned in Women in the Word has been helpful for me to see the larger picture. Jen Wilkin says this in regard to perspective but I think you can connect it to all of the P’s:

“It is not surprising that the Bible compares the acquisition of wisdom to the finding of gold, silver, and hidden treasure; all three require digging to obtain. And digging is hard work, especially when it must be done with respect to historical and cultural context. We live in a time when the Bible is largely regarded as a book for our own edification, through which the Holy Spirit will simply reveal truth to those willing to give it a few minutes’ attention a day. The intellectual muscles that our faith ancestors once used for digging have grown atrophied in the modern mind. Not many of us are willing to do the hard work of digging, preferring to inhabit a modern-day understanding of the Bible with no regard for its original audience or purpose, tailoring our modern reading to suit our own ends. Because we lack a sense of how small we are in the grand scheme of history, we are quick to circumvent the sound practice of “calling in the archaeologists” to help us dig responsibly when we read and study.

The digging and drawing out the treasures, the “Exegesis” is my personal desire when I study the word. I don’t want to make so much of myself that I forget that there is a much larger story and I should desire to see it and be a part of it and I must enter into that process and prayerfully consider it and be patient that God will use it. I want to not only be a reader of the word but I want to be literate in it.

I definitely think that women that have a strong theological background or not and desire the knowledge that comes from diligent study might really benefit from Women of the Word. The Process chapter alone highlights steps of comprehending, interpreting and applying the word that have already drastically changed my studying. I am now studying Romans and doing so more methodically than I ever have. I am writing in my Bible, making a ton of notes and outlines and I am chasing after those beautiful cross references. Basically, just dwelling awhile with the Word and the process is just tiny piece of the puzzle.

I don’t believe that Women’s Bible study needs to be flowery, low on gospel and high on feelings and full of anecdote after anecdote. I shudder at many items geared toward Women of Faith. Bible Literacy is attainable even in my daily circumstances. I think we can delight in the Word as it is written when we see that the Bible is for everyone and it applies to me as well, where I am, in the pile of unfolded laundry and whiny kids.

This book was a complimentary copy from Crossway.

What speaking the truth in love is not.

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. -Ephesians 4:11-14

People watching and specifically trend watching is something I do when not even noticing and now we live in a world of immediate pulpits for our opinions i.e. Social Media, the Internet, so it is so much easier these days to see sin trends because there they are blinking at us from a computer screen. Of course I know that this is again preaching to myself because I see my own trends of sin and disobedience in this as well.  Writing this post took prayer and study of the Word and listening to others on the matter and I feel like it may just stabbing a tank with a spoon (it’s a heavy topic, for myself as well) but I hope I can benefit from the writing of it.

So what does speaking the truth in love mean?

If you look at the specific phrase “Rather, speaking the truth in love” from the scripture, you can draw out the two virtues; truth and love. Truth in this verse in the greek is alētheuō (Strong’s G226) meaning to to deal faithfully or truly with anyone or “I say, speak truth, I do truth”It comes from the the root word alēthēs (Strong’s G227) which means primarily, “unconcealed, manifest”Truth in this context is used here: Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. John 3 :33 and here: At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. 1 John 2:8 We could say that the Truth discussed is a divine truth and as we are transformed and daily transforming that true light lovingly shines light in dark places.

What speaking the truth in love is not.

 I don’t believe that the examples Christ and the Disciples set for us show speaking the truth to be anything but simply about primary Biblical Truths. We shouldn’t make bad theology slathered in warm fuzzies a thing or even good theology spoken unlovingly or any permeations of either. “Truth” is the Truth of Jesus Christ, not the truth of our own hearts, feelings, emotions, opinions, and that Truth is shined upon the Truth of the reality our sin and our need for Grace. I understand that we live in a culture where we feel we must be heard, forums for public speech have never been so near us as a few key swipes on our digital devices.  Speaking our minds on an issues or voicing feelings are not innately bad things but we do need to understand that there is a distinction between “Biblical Truth” and “personal truth”, and honestly the heart is just a big fat liar, it can’t be trusted. What we shout from the rooftops of personal value systems is not as important than the Gospel.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick;  who can understand it? –Jeremiah 17:9

I recently heard this conversation; “I told them what I was feeling on the matter and they didn’t like it. I was just speaking the truth in love, it’s truth to me, well, and I thought it was loving because it may have seemed harsh but it would have been unloving to say nothing at all, in my opinion. Is it my fault that they were offended by my opinions?”. There is no Love here, it was just a moral truth on the speaker’s part. Love as a guise to spouting one’s opinion is faked kindness and veiled self-righteosuness. When I wrote this post: Be Wary of the Flags you Fly, I was speaking a lot about opinions we hold onto as titles in our lives, I hope this is a step further.

As a fellow believer I want to hear about the things that are important to you, I want to listen to your heart but I also want to say “Let’s examine what we speak of most”. If we only speak of politics, personal choices of food, dress, health, parenting, entertainment and all the personal opinions about how the world is going to hell in a handbasket and so on into oblivion what truth are we speaking about? It isn’t the truth of Life. Let’s stop making all this talk of death things our primary discourse. What I mean is that all those opinions, all those things that create those opinions, they all die. THEY ALL DIE. Isn’t it time to examine our Facebook feeds and our mouth feeds to see if we speak of death things mostly or of Life things.  I don’t want the take-away of this post to be that you should never express opinions on anything or talk about only Christ. That isn’t my intention, You may know I am very opinionated person but I do believe that the distinction have to be made between what is Truth, Gospel Truth, and what just “truth” to you and you cannot equate the two.

My opinion and my emotions are not Biblical Truth.

Regardless about how you feel on a subject, your opinion unless lined up with scripture fully is not truth. It may be “truth” to you on some level, but it is not “biblical truth”. Being raised in churches with high emotional content, with most things done in a way to impact emotions firstly and then add Jesus in, I remember a lot of opinions and feelings about God, about life, about everything under the sun and I believed a lot of those opinions and conjecture to be Biblical Truth. The fact that it wasn’t and simply put it scarred me deeply. I was wary for many, many years with spiritual people starting sentences with “I feel…”, to the point I would avoid these conversations completely. As an adult and reformed and studying the word I don’t believe emotions are unwelcome in the church but instead of our manipulated emotions or opinions moving us toward truth like I had seen in the past, we should be moved emotionally by truth in the scriptures, firstly. I am moved by the truth of what God has done and promised to me not by my emotions. So when I say our opinions and emotions are not truth, I do mean it, I mean that if it is not scripture, it is not Biblical Truth. And you are probably reading this and going “yah, right” because you have been on the other end of my emotions and bad advice at one point or another and I am truly sorry.

Biblical Truth is not complaining from my moral perspective.

Moralism is one of the greatest enemies of Biblical Truth.

The legalist is usually a moral person. In fact, the majority of moral people in the Western world are legalists because their so-called Judeo-Christian morality, inherited from their forefathers, does not grow out of a humble, contrite reliance on the blood-bought, Spirit-wrought, merciful enabling of God. On the contrary, for the legalist, morality serves the same function that immorality does for the antinomian or the progressive–namely, as the expression or self-reliance and self-assertion. The reason some Pharisees tithed and fasted was the same reason some university students take off their clothes and lie around naked in the parks in Munich and Amsterdam. -John Piper

Moralism or Legalism is a problem in the church and for anyone that has been on the other end of moral judgement knows that there is something that is off-message here. Moralism says that we can make ourselves holy, we can make ourselves right in the eyes of God but most importantly to the Moralist, really to the eyes of Man. Look holy, walk holy, eat holy things, wear holy clothes, this is what makes us perfect, this is what makes us more like God. There is no room for Grace, Repentance or the Love of Christ, no room for Biblical Truth. Diedrich Bonhoeffer calls it “Cheap Grace”, ‘Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate’. I think we have to ask ourselves if our value systems, our morals trump Biblical Truth in our lives and are we careful what we speak to others if this is the case?

I remember a very unfortunate conversation I had as a college student, I think about it every know and then remorsefully. I was spending the night with a new friend, a girl that had been visiting my church and was searching for truth. She would ask questions and I would try to answer them in my very naive, very un-scriptured way. I was speaking personal opinions as Truth. I couldn’t back up what I said with scripture because I didn’t know it and I didn’t know how to, to be honest. Some very sensitive questions I answered like a whiplash based on my American Moral Value System and now I know how wrong I was and how much my words lacked Love and Grace. I left her confused and with more questions than before. I spoke from my Morals because Moralism was my religion and Grace was just a pretty word we sung at church.

Biblical Truth is Biblical Truth but We Cannot Forget Love.

I read somewhere once that Speaking the truth in love is not saying true things nicely. I agree with that statement. If we agree that speaking truth in love means “biblical truth”  but that also when speaking Biblical Truths we can’t just shout true things in people’s faces and expect anything from that.

The Way of Love If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. -1 Corinthians 13:1 ESV

We can look at the Woman at the Well for a beautiful illustration:

… Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again,  but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true. … – John 4

Christ lovingly shines that Gospel Light mentioned above in 1 John 2:8 on her sin and speaks divine truth to her.

We know that sharing the Gospel can be hard when we are learning to do it and Biblical Discipline within believers can sometimes be tougher and more uncomfortable than we’d want but the motivations of heart are very important. The motivation that comes from a heart that desires to add members to it’s family because we know Truth is so needed for hurting, broken people and to Love on them with the Love of Christ is beautiful. And that Agape, Brotherly Love that we feel for each member of the body that will help build each other up within that family is also just as beautiful. “that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” – 1 Cor 12:25 and 26.

The world looks much different than in decades past, we have the internet and smartphones and a flood of social networking sites and apps that we can hide behind. A million ways to connect and we must choose to do them wisely. Whether we are speaking directly or indirectly we must be careful about speaking non-gospel truths with the same authority we speak of the Gospel and when we do share Gospel truth our motivations should always be out of Love and not to prove ourselves right. John Piper says that Truth shapes Love and I agree. How can we show the truth of a Loving God to others if we don’t show Love ourselves.

“Truth without love is imperious self-righteousness. Love without truth is cowardly self-indulgence.” -Tim Keller

But I want to encourage us to speak Truth more and to do it in Love. We don’t need to follow the trends of society, our fruit should be different, look different. The Gospel is primary and should be the primary thing we speak of and always in Love.

Church Membership is not an option for the believer.

Let us rejoice and exult
    and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
    and his Bride has made herself ready;
 it was granted her to clothe herself
    with fine linen, bright and pure”— Revelation 19:7-9 (ESV)

There are many reasons why you should join a church, I will speak to some of those and my own experience in this post. Know that this is meant to encourage casual attendees and those that have not made that commitment yet to take the step toward church membership. I don’t want to disparage believers that aren’t church members but call them to action in an encouraging way.

I have heard many arguments against church membership;  I love Jesus but I don’t like (or even hate) the church, I don’t want to make a commitment to any one church, I don’t feel connected anywhere, etc. I am with you, I know the reasons and have been there too. I have thought a lot of these things too and in fact in my past brokenness I was ready to swear off all church ties for doing church “at home”. Thank God my husband said that was not an option for our family and was more faithful in this area than I was at the time.  I want to compel you as you read this that although there may be many reasons not to join a church according to some, the reasons to join are far better and not just better, exceedingly so.

Firstly,  It is an obvious mandate from the Word to join a church. The scripture says it time and again in scripture, Acts 2, Hebrews 10:19-25. I don’t believe that church membership can be refuted from the Bible. What this means that for the regular attendee, casual attendee, the church hopper, the “I can’t find the right church” shopper, that for all of us, it is a commandment that we should enter in joyfully.

The fact that a believer would not join a church for one reason or another is a rather modern concept.

The idea of experiencing salvation
without belonging to a local church
is foreign to the New Testament. -John MacArthur

I know that finding a church is hard, It can feel like dating, and I don’t remember the sliding doors method of dating to be enjoyable at all. But don’t date the church, no church is perfect, and like no potential spouse is perfect. If we are to have unreasonable expectations for the church body then we never will be happy in a local church body. I am not saying it is wrong to have core beliefs and values that line up with a church, we all have when finding a church. What I am saying is that there will be things that are not that important when searching for a church family.

In my own experience, I believed at one point that I needed a church that was filled with people like me to be ministered by it. Not in looks so much but whether we had the same type of background, socioeconomic status, likes or dislikes, geographic location, stage of life etc. I can tell you that all of those things don’t matter when God is doing the adopting and bringing all peoples together. I have benefitted from so much love, acceptance and friendship from women who are so different than me. I know that God brought us to where we are now so that we could grow in biblical wisdom but also just to be smothered in love from a wonderful church body.

Church membership is not an option for the believer.

Secondly, church membership is a commitment to family. John Piper says:

The blood-bought church of Christ is the new, supernatural family. Single people, married people, old and young, rich and poor, every ethnicity find brothers and sisters here. Marriage is temporary. Parenting is temporary. But the church — the new family — is eternal.

God wanted us to join in together as a family. A family on mission, a family that loves one another and loves others around us.

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.  Do not be slothful in zeal, fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.  Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Romans 12:10-13  (ESV)

When you make a commitment to church membership, you make a commitment to a local body of believers. You are saying this is my family, we will live life together. I can’t imagine anyone not wanting to have fellow believers to come beside you and love you and serve with you.

Our church happens to be an excellent picture of the family of the church. When I have been in low places and living hard life they have reached out to me in the sweetest and most gospel-filled ways. God is blessing my family because of our church. One thing I have desired for years was to have believing older women in my life to whisper sweetly “Everything will be ok, I’ve been there and God is Sovereign”. I have that now and it is such a wonderful thing, but also women of all ages loving me in tender ways.

Thirdly, A family benefits one another. I was tempted to say you shouldn’t join a church just because of the benefits but maybe that isn’t quite true, maybe the benefits are part of the deal and because the benefits are all God-things we should. One benefit is that a local church has shepherds lead us on this faith journey (Acts 20). I have discovered in my own experience that not having that kind of spiritual guidance and “flock tending” can be dangerous. It is good to have Elders teaching us sound word and leading us as it pertains to that word. What isn’t good, in my opinion, is to never have your faith and your words probed by other believers. For me many times there has been a loving question asked in response to something I may have said regarding my faith and it has made me examine my thinking and whether or not it was biblical. If you are shouting your beliefs into a mirror then you agree with yourself and are never challenged. Pastors, Elders and your church family are not going to mirror your sin, they aren’t going to say “Yes, you are right always and they is nothing you ever should be challenged on”. To make a comparison the church is more like light-refining prisms. It is good to be challenged on your faith on your beliefs.

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

This also brings up the fact that church discipline is essential and beneficial to the body. Matthew 18:15-17 The church is a place where we are continuously transforming and being led in the word, corrected if need be, but in love and with grace and mercy. We are mutually edified by one another in the church if we choose to be committed to one another.

But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

The benefits of a church family, a local body, are desirable and should be essential for the believer.

Living out a commitment to a local church involves many responsibilities: exemplifying a godly lifestyle in the community, exercising one’s spiritual gifts in diligent service, contributing financially to the work of the ministry, giving and receiving admonishment with meekness and in love, and faithfully participating in corporate worship. Much is expected, but much is at stake. For only when every believer is faithful to this kind of commitment is the church able to live up to her calling as Christ’s representative here on earth. To put it simply, membership matters. John MacArthur

There can be consequences from not joining a church, I think I outlined some of them as we went along but know that obedience, commitment, benefits all should compel us toward being a member in a local body. Christ loves the church, when we say we hate the church, what are we really saying? “Christ, your church that you love, that are humans and sinners that you died for, that church, they aren’t good enough for me.” We should not be so pretentious about church. Our expectations are usually unreasonable. Our pains are valid, they truly are, but how better would it be to allow the church to help heal the pain of our “church” experiences. We should also love what Christ loves, in order to be Christ-like. If you aren’t a member of a local body as a believer is it not act of disobedience?

The body of Christ is his Bride, we don’t really have the option to say “no” to being the bride of Christ if we are believers. We need the church family just as God knew we would and instructed us to be in it. Our desire should be obedience.

Plans and Priorities 2015

I’m slowly getting back into blogging this year after a whirlwind of a holiday season and one post last week and one this week kicks it off. I have been a bit busy organizing the new Charlotte Mason Living site and IG, and am really excited about all the wonderful Charlotte Mason ladies participating and contributing. Please check it out if you home school. Like I mentioned last week I was going to review my plans and priorities from last year and discuss my progress and then set my plans and priorities for 2015.

Over all, I think it was a really good thing to set plans and priorities last year, I was able to accomplish a lot of what I set just by naming the desire to do it and working toward it slowly. It’s not about checking everything off the list, it is more about the process. We all know resolutions most times can be pointless but if we write down the things we want and think of practical steps to get us there, the elephant doesn’t seem so big. I do like to cross things out, still. No, really, it is nice to check things off the list, I sometimes put things I have already finished on lists at home just so I can cross them out, we all know that accomplished feeling. There is reward in even working toward a goal. Well, we all know that I am a procrastinator at by nature but not wanting to be as I get older my inner self starter is emerging. Thank God, truly, because I think we can only live like uninterested college students for so long.

So, like I mentioned in my last post I have my plans and priorites set into three categories; Faith, Art, and Family.  I post all these here every year for accountability to myself and from others, so please ask me how these things are going and share your priorites as well. The key word for us this year is Resolute. It’s not about resolutions but about the resolve to do what we set out to do.

Here it is:

Faith- The only two things that matter when it comes to my priorities for Faith; Study and Pray, Study and Pray, Study and Pray. Last year I had a long list of priorities when it came to Faith and through listening to those wiser than myself and learning through last year, I know that all things faith really should spring forth from those two things. Here’s a great article on reading the word in 2015: Desiring God.

Family- My role as Wife and Mother is a priority. I am praying that I continue to make my family a priority above other trivial things, social media, etc. I am learning everyday a little bit more about how to maintain a household and care for a family. It is not easy, and even though sometimes there is an illusion of easy or perfection, the truth is that it is the hardest job I have ever had. My number one plan and priority for our Family is that we learn to show Grace and Love like Christ does to us.


Homeschooling is of course a part of our family life and as I pointed out we are Charlotte Mason homeschoolers. Charlotte Mason says that “Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life.”. This is true for anyone not just CM families. We teach and learn and live each and every day.  As part of my plans and priorities I am going to flush that statement out more this year and try to create an atmosphere that breeds good habits, learning well and broadly, and encompasses our family values and faith. Homeschooling for us is not “doing school” at home. It is life. We do Liturgy every morning, We read aloud, We learn about artists and poets and nature. It is a generous education and I am learning so much as we progress too. We really just enjoy the time spent together and it has been a lovely experience for us. I hope to help all these to thrive even more in 2015.

Edited to add Health is very important this year for our family and will pursue it with family, I hope to write more about that later.


Art- This of course is last on my list of priorities but it is not unimportant to our lives. While we continue to work on exciting things for bensonbenson co. and for ourselves, I hope to not let that creative part of me shrivel up. I feel like doing art is like learning a language, it’s a “use it or lose it” sort of thing, in a way, but it is also like “riding a bike”, I guess if I have to use all the cliches. What I mean is that though some things are forgotten, some always remain, I am learning to keep myself focused on art in a way that motivates me to create. I am working on a book cover and some other small projects right now and it has been really great putting to good use my Art background.IMG_1510

A pattern I made for the Book Cover project. Im really loving it.

Pray for me as we start the year, 2014 was a tough year for us and with the grace of God we kicked it’s butt, I pray the same and more for 2015. What are your Plans and Priorities for the year? Share them here and I will definitely ask you about them when I see you.





2014, you’re gone now.

I am very blessed to have an avenue to convey some of my thoughts and feelings through writing with a prayer and a hope that it is used as a gospel lens for myself and anyone that may want to join in. 2014 was a really hard year yet we were abundantly blessed by God despite all the seemingly bad, hardness. He just showed us his sweetness in so many unexpected ways, we can’t help but be thankful and give him all the credit.

I was able to start working more on art and projects and I am so happy to say we have some exciting art things happening in 2015 with Benson Benson. We have a new site up with recent work here:

Thank you anyone who reads these words, I am blessed by you. I will continue to write for myself in 2015 and invite anyone interested to read, comment, pray for me, etc. For obvious reasons last year was a bit of a serious year and if you know me in person, It’s not all work, I love to play. I promise to inject some lightheartedness (like the unrelated image above of my recent thrift haul) back into the blog and talk a lot more about art.

Here are your favorite posts from this blog in 2014:

This is a Post about Depression

From All Tribes and People and Languages

Be Wary of the Flag You Fly

Sorrowful, Yet Always Rejoicing

You may also know that we homeschool and particularly in the Charlotte Mason persuasion. You may also know about my @charlottemasonliving account on Instagram but one cool recent thing is that we now have a site and will be posting Charlotte Mason inspiration in blog form as well by myself and several lovely ladies: Charlotte Mason Living. I am very excited about connecting with Mom’s that educate at home. It has been such a beautiful and centering experience for not just Emma but for myself as well. I am pretty excited for the rest of our home schooling year and for next school year. I can see how God is using our experience to prune Emma and I. I am so thankful that this way of doing education is so in line with how God is revealing that we should lead our own family.

If we have to pick one word for this year for our family to embrace, it would be Resolute. Not only will we make plans and resolve to do them, we will pray that we can be resolute in accomplishing them. We are procrastinators or we can be, we just don’t want to be, so we’re praying for perseverance.

I will talk more about being Resolute in a future post, I am usually far from that but as we grow as a family there are things I want to do, learn, be and I am praying for guidance and perseverance for those things. For me, the subtitle of this blog pretty much sums up the overarching themes for me for 2015; Faith, Art, and Family. I’m excited to outline all of those in my 2015 plans and priorities and to review 2014’s plans and priorities, see what i hit and what I missed.

Either way, I think 2015 will be a happy year, I am trusting God to provide where we have need and that we will cling to him for the ability to do the things he has tasked and gifted us to do.

The Weary World Rejoices, Advent.

It’s cold outside, It feels like winter, somewhat, as wintery as the South gets sometimes. We, as a nation have just celebrated the Day of Thanks this past week and personally, for the Benson family, we completed another wonderful year of Emma in the Nutcracker. It was beautiful as always. I am very thankful for experiences I get to share with my family and every new day. So as we go in to our Christmas Season and try to keep thankfulness on our hearts there are ways we can give ourselves reminders of not only thankfulness but so much more.

My favorite thing about Christmas is lovely Advent. I am sure many of you have heard of the Jesse Trees or Advent wreaths or Lighting the Candles. So what is Advent?

“the Advent season focuses on expectation and think that it serves as an anticipation of Christ’s birth in the season leading up to Christmas. This is part of the story, but there’s more to Advent.” Justin Holcomb

Advent is that, it is a waiting and expecting for the coming King. We, a weary world needs a savior king and we are waiting for him. The good news he has come and he is coming. It is the already, not yet of it all and it is truly a beautiful sound to our ears, the song of hope that has cried out to us since before we ever heard it, or our fathers and their fathers heard it.

We indeed are weary, we all know it. I don’t know one person that I think “oh they’ll be ok” without the sustaining power of a savior king. The problem is we are all not “ok”. We get up, start our daily labor, we toil and hurt and bleed and cry, we go to rest worn to our bare bones and we get up and do it all again, it’s enough to make me scream some days. It may feel hopeless and it truly, truly is…without a light bringer to give us hope and peace it always will be.

Im not being a downer or depressing when I say we cannot do it alone but the truth of the matter is we can’t. We live in a broken world with broken people which have broken desires and lives and we expect that we can be good enough and that we can shake heaven and earth with our own hands. There is so much grace in knowing I am not good enough. It is contrary to worldly advice but I am saying there is so much comfort and peace when you can surrender it all and say “not without you, can I accomplish anything”. Recent events in the world may have us down and feel very discouraging but know that brokenness is not to be unexpected in out world but there is so much hope, a remedy to brokenness…

There is so much hope in the surrendering of ourselves and saying yes, I am broken and there is nothing that can fix this brokenness. There is such good news though. The Christ child has already come and our broken Hallelujahs should be brimming from our lips in praise, not just in Advent but in every season and every day and every minute of that day. Let me stop a second to take that in and remind myself of that truth that I don’t always heed. The news gets even better too, we don’t have to wait for the baby Jesus anymore, or for the man that was Christ, he has ALREADY come and rescued us but we still wait… we wait with anticipation for him to come again and make all things unbroken, new again.  Sally Lloyd Jones is one of my favorite writers, she writes children’s books and in the Jesus StoryBook Bible she says so heartbreakingly poetic how he will make all the bad things come undone. It’s that “already..not yet” thing I mentioned.

‘One day- but NOT YET- Jesus is coming back again. Not as a baby this time, but as King of the whole world. And then he will mend his broken world. There will be no more tears, or sickness, or dying. Even the tress will sing for joy!

While we wait, God wants us to remember: sin, sickness, tears, death- they won’t last. They will come to an end. But joy, life, and you- those are FOREVER.

‘The night is nearly over; the day is almost here” Romans 13:12’

It is such a beautiful story. Advent is a beautiful way for your family to celebrate and give thanks and praise for things that last forever.

Today is the first day of Advent and here are a few resources, its not too late to start today being thankful for a broken world becoming unbroken:

The Dawning of Indestructible Joy from John Piper (free pdf available for download)-We are going to do this as part of our family worship time.

Unwrapping the Greatest gift-We will do this each morning during advent along with our Jesse Tree and our fun door calendar.

Counting the Days, Lighting the Candles: A Christmas Advent Devotional

Let me know how your Advent-ing is going this year and what you are doing, excited to begin our Advent Journey today.

True Thanksgiving, True Joy

The one day we designate for Thanksgiving each year is soon upon us and of course that means we can just go thankless the other 364 days of the year. I am just kidding but seriously there is something to be said for continuing the tradition of thankfulness all throughout the year.

Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ -Ephesians 5:20

It’s a nice thought to say,” let’s be thankful all the year”, but I truly mean it. When sorrow waits at your gates or lives in your home we can combat it by remembering the sweet grace and mercy given to us as we count our blessings ,count it all joy. I wrote that post that I just linked before a very recent sorrow and it still rings true before, during and after. As always I am preaching to myself. When complaining flows from ours mouths like dark water meaning our hearts are sick and broken, true thanksgiving can battle broken hearts, because the source is of joy is immense and forever.

The reason I believe that true thankfulness can battle brokenness and darkness is because it comes from a place of that knows there is nothing that I deserve, you deserve and yet we can have so much despite that. This may be a theological difference of opinion for readers and I but I see ring true in my life and I see it ring true in scripture, so it is not purely anecdotal. Thankfulness, not for things, not for possessions, but for His hand moving in our lives. Yes, we can give thanks for the physical things too but they are temporal and their time is soon coming to a close, there are eternal things, made out of nothing things, made with an astonishing power.  Ann Voskamp says:

And when yet another harvest globe rolls off top, off back of the wagon, and I bend for the stem, for the blessing overflowing, I know but this.

Thanks is never for the things. Thanks is for His touch.

That gifts have no significance in and of themselves. Gifts only have meaning in that they trace the outline of God’s heart.

Ann Voskamp aways has refreshing view on looking at life as a gift:

To thank God in all is to bend the knee in allegiance to God Who alone knows all.

To thank God in all is to give God glory in all. Is this not our chief end?

When I only give thanks for some things, aren’t I likely to miss giving God glory in mostthings?

Murmuring thanks isn’t to deny that an event isn’t a tragedy and neither does it deny that there’s a cracking fissure straight across the heart.

Giving thanks is only this: making the canyon of pain into a megaphone to proclaim the ultimate goodness of God.

Our thanks to God is our witness to the goodness of God when Satan and all the world would sneer at us to recant.

I lay my hand on the rain-filmed windowpane and I see clearer. But this is not easy: That which I refuse to thank Christ for, I refuse to believe Christ can redeem.

The grey sky’s drumming steady on the truck’s tin roof.

I wish my words recently could be as poetic because I am at a word loss these days. I struggle to articulate what’s going on deeply but I know that whatever God is doing in this season is changing me for more joy, for more thankfulness. Not a once-a-year, lip service, thankfulness but a thankfulness that stems from true joy planted in the heart of the believer.

 The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me;

to one who orders his way rightly

I will show the salvation of God!” -Psalm 50:23

Life is not a “things” race yet we as broken humans want to make is so. The most joyful people in life have the simplest of pleasures and I wonder if sometimes we are too over stimulated, over coddled, over praised to know what those simple joys pleasures look like, we don’t recognize them anymore.

“You say, ‘If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.’ You make a mistake.
If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.”

[Charles Haddon Spurgeon]

Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers, always seems to say the words I need to hear. I want to, from a genuine heart, take joy in all I have been given and to be satisfied in him. Let us look to the Lord and say “I am satisfied in You’. My heart like the deer that pants, pants for and thanks God for the many blessings that sustain us.

One look at our social media streams speak a much different picture and I can say I have participated in the loud protestations, be it on Facebook or in real life, that do not make way for joy and satisfaction. We feel our complaints are important at the moment and then they seem fleeting in the passing of time. As we learn to take joy and be satisfied in Christ and know life is what pours from our lips instead of complaining, comparing, jealousy, anger, we can remember there is a comfort that comes from Him.

One of my favorite songs is below, I listen to this song in my lowest lows and even in my best of times to remember what he is delivering me through. Listen to it, I’ve shared it many times before, but listen to the words:

Let my sighs give way to songs that sing about your faithfulness
Let my pain reveal your glory as my only real rest
Let my losses show me all I truly have is you

Listen to it and from a heart of true thanksgiving remember it every day of your life. True Thanksgiving, True Joy.



Liz Vice

I wanted to share an album that I mentioned in my Sorrowful, Yet Always Rejoicing post that has been a balm of comfort to me lately. Our friend and Associate Pastor at our church introduced our worship band to her music and I pretty much have only listened to this album since. The Album is called There’s a Light and it comes from singer/filmmaker Liz Vice. I’ll just say a few words in praise and then it’s back to mom business the rest of the day, while listening to this album of course.

Liz Vice hails from Portland, land of the weird and is a part of the Deeper Well Gospel Collective which I am very interested in by association being familiar with Josh White and La Liberte previously. She has a great story, you should read more about her story, I think it is beautiful and am intrigued to find out more as she continues to blow my mind with her music.

She reminds me of Roberta Flack mixed with some obvious Gospel influences and I feel I can hear some modern blue eyed soul artists mixed in the lot, so obviously I love it. There is something so personal and cozy to me about the album There’s a Light, almost as if that light was a stirring, comforting fire in my home’s fireplace. We all know the light that Liz Vice speaks of is not her own but it calls to someone bigger and greater and that does truly warm my soul. I won’t make this a lengthy post except for saying that I love this album and since it’s free on Noisetrade you should go download it now.