Spring-Cleaning our Hearts

I love me a clean house!

I admittedly confess my house is clean enough, but not the kind of clean my mom taught me. Those were the good ol’ clean days! Ahhh. We would empty all the cupboards regularly and wipe the shelves, sides, and doors. We also washed everything we’d taken out before filling the cupboards back up. Every Saturday morning, mom would open the balcony and the bedroom windows to let the fresh air crisp everything out. Floors were mopped and every surface polished. The house felt bright and the air smelled lemony. As a little girl, it seemed like it sparkled, and I pretended to be the princess of the palace. Cleaning was expected, but not the purging. We never de-junked. Then we moved, after 10 years. Imagine how difficult the job was after all those years of accumulation?!

Our homes aren’t the only things that need a good deep spring cleaning. Just like we only polished and let the air in on Saturdays, we often just make superfluous confessions in daily prayer, but seldom purge. I am reminded of this every time we share in The Lord’s Supper. Communion is a time for quiet reflection and allowing God to call to mind all that resides in our hearts that is far deeper than just beneath the surface. Why don’t I make this effort more often?

Our hearts don’t particularly look forward to the dreaded task, but repentance isn’t optional. Let’s make an effort to regularly bring our hearts to God for deep-purge cleansing.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

John 1:9

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right[a] spirit within me.

Psalm 51:10

Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

Hebrews 10:22

with love, Damaris

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Are you Fun?

Why don’t you laugh as much as my friendโ€™s mom? I was stunned. Next, I was hurt. But really, I was disappointed in myself. On a very rare occasion, my kids had been in the car with another mom. When the kids came back, they were retelling me all the fun they had on the car ride. Walter’s mom laughed when they told funny stories.

There were many demands with six little ones. The oldest was 9, and he wasn’t very in tune with serving his siblings. This left me with a mission- all day – to get the work done. I was obviously wearing the seriousness of the stress of mothering and the busyness. I moved from one task to another so quickly, that anything requiring more than 30 seconds of my time had to be stopped. I interrupted because I had to move on. My mantra was moving on, moving on, which I often said out loud. The lists did get shorter, but my temper did too, and my face grew longer. Usually wearing a stern face, the last thought on my mind was to add fun and laughter to my day!

My girl’s question was a convicting reminder that my countenance affects my kids. They need clean clothes, nutritious meals, and orderly surroundings, but they also need my joy. I’ve often thought since then, what would my girl say now? Am I more lighthearted? Do I listen to the children’s “knock, knock” jokes and laugh? Is our atmosphere fun? Can we sing sillies, and dance deliriously? Our days are short, and I want to fill their lives with joy.

A joyful heart is good medicine.

Proverbs 7:22

with love, Damaris


A Case for Lent

Should Christians observe Lent?

Having been raised in the Baptist tradition, the observance of Lent was not practiced. I knew that some people ate no meat and ate fish on Fridays because when I went to the market with my mom during this time there were signs for sales on fish all over the indoor stalls. Talks with the neighbors revolved around innovative fish recipes, and street vendors sold crisp, fried fish dumplings (much like a savory donut hole) – so good! These practices were foreign to me, and it never occurred to me that Lent could be an observance I could benefit from.

I grew up calling it the Holy Week, but truthfully not much about the week of Easter was ‘set-apart’. And naturally in my own family that was even more the case as parenting brought the busy school spring season. We didn’t prepare special meals, have special readings with the children, or sing special hymns during the week (only on Easter Sunday). It wasn’t long until, in the days after Easter was celebrated, I was left thinking I’d missed something. As I pondered this, I was utterly disappointed that the most precious day of observance to a believer had come and gone with only my cursory attention.

Lent is a purposeful preparation of our hearts for the celebration of the most pivotal moment in all of human history – and the most intimately revolutionary moment in each of our lives if we are believers in Christ. This spiritual preparation of the believer ultimately culminates in a joyous celebration of Easter, Resurrection Day!

Daily discipline is a key part of this preparation as it spurs and strengthens our faith and is intended to point us toward Jesus. If the observance of Lent, however, as only a short-term exercise that does not encourage us to intimacy with Christ the rest of the year, it will be an empty tradition. Lent itself isn’t the issue. Lent doesn’t inherently add spirituality to our lives. Grace isn’t gained by any spiritual discipline that we may commit to. Fasting, prayer, baptism, repentance, communion are not a means to God’s love. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8) Participating in the practice of Lent is not about the tradition for tradition’s sake, or obeying an edict to remain in God’s good favor. Mindlessly repeating a practice is superfluous and will harm, rather than profit, our souls. Furthermore, it’s certainly not a way of penance, or self-punishment because of our sins:“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

Last year, my friend Jen commented that she was about to start Lent, and I asked if I could do it with her. She suggested 10 minutes of quiet daily prayer. Those daily minutes to ponder on Jesus’ death, His suffering, and His burial drew me into the events like it never had before. Approaching God daily for the purpose of preparing my heart for Gethsemane, Golgotha, and ultimately Resurrection Day heightened my awareness and joy. By meditating upon the depths of Christ’s sacrifice, His glorious resurrection was beautiful and solemn.

Lent is a way to appreciate more deeply the meaning of the cross and the victory of the resurrection. How can we be purposeful and simple in our efforts to focus ourselves on Him? You may want to participate in some act of kindness – especially something that is small and you could do everyday, use a Lenten devotional to focus our thoughts, or maybe read portions of the gospel accounts of the crucifixion and resurrection each day.

I pray that God will prepare us for a fresh experience and renewed anticipation this coming Easter!

with love, Damaris


Time with God as a Busy Mom

I have struggled so much with when to have, and how much time spend, in my personal Bible study.

Ever since my teen years, I had been able to spend time in Scripture reading through the Bible and journaling almost daily. The journaling helped me to focus and draw out lessons, reminders, and encouragement from that day’s reading. Needless to say, in the last several (small lifetime?) years, I floundered to find the time.

How many days can I go before running out? Will people be able to tell I haven’t been in the Word? How will I fill up if I don’t have time to sit, read, and learn?

Truly, some days are so full of love and messes that I don’t have time to even go to the bathroom! I’m sure you’ve been there! And when I do get to finally steal away to the bathroom, little kid voices continue to talk to me through the door and little kid fingers slide papers under the door for me to see their drawings or check their math! Really?!?

So after feeling discouraged about my lack of time in personal Bible study, God brought to mind all the moments that had actually filled that busy Monday – morning Psalm reading with the kids, memorization of one new catechism, prayer at the breakfast table, the verses highlighted and prayer for forgiveness during the two discipline episodes during morning play, the verses we reminded each other of when we were struggling with working diligently during school…all this before lunch! Somehow I hadn’t noticed, but realizing that Christ had been my portion, sustaining me throughout the morning, gave my soul so much comfort!

Here are some of the ways I have studied Scriptures as a busy mom (one at a time, for a season):

  • A Psalm a day (can you create a tune for it?)

  • A Proverb of the day (there is one Proverb for each day of the month!)

  • Word study (the back of your Bible or online concordance will give long lists of verses under the same word.)

  • Reading one small book of the Bible again and again for a week or a month.

  • Reading a small section of a Bible chapter and using a commentary or an online study guide to dig a little deeper.

Moms bring more joy to their children’s lives when our souls are awake and gulping in His mercy and joy. I have prayed for you and me, that God helps us spread the aroma of Jesus everywhere.

with love, Damaris


Why I Didn't Make New Year's Resolutions

There is something about hanging a new calendar in the kitchen that invigorates me. All the new milestones, and hopes, and possibilities make starting January 1st so exciting. As we welcome the new year with energy and enthusiasm, it has been good for our family to take time to honor God for all that this past year held. Acknowledging how up to this point the Lord has helped us, grounds us and encourages us to breathe and walk through the new 2018. It strengthens our faith to bravely do the next things this next year.

I am usually so overwhelmed by the daunting task of naming all The Ultimate Resolutions – too much pressure! Truthfully, I haven’t given resolutions much thought in the last couple of years for this reason. Last week, however, I read a blog post called How To Stop All Procrastination: Dear You Trying to Do that Hard Thing in the New Year. Wow. That stopped me in my tracks, and I took the time to read it. One of the poignant messages of the post is the beauty of having a word of the month for each month of the year. The idea is to focus on just one good endeavor, a month at a time by writing it down and committing to it daily. Allowing myself to fill out one 3×5 card per month with my “purposes”, restored my hope that I can still achieve goals – just maybe not year-long intimidating ones that I must set by January 1st!

These monthly cards change everything for me! I have written the January word at the top of a 3 x 5 card, then brainstormed all the ways I can apply the word throughout the month. The small-discipline words are verbs (mostly) and I’ll add my own noun. For January, the word is “EMBRACE”. I’ve added “REST”. That’s it – “Embrace Rest”. The body of the card reads:

  1. Spend time resting in prayer daily.

  2. Simplifying dinnertime.

  3. Delegating evening clean-up.

  4. Look for more opportunities to sit with the children to talk, have tea, or read aloud.

  5. Resting is Trusting!

These are the twelve words for the year. One word for each month of 2018:

  • Embrace

  • Engage

  • Be

  • Believe

  • Break

  • Daily

  • Do

  • Let go

  • Learn

  • Live

  • Give

  • Grow

So here’s to a beautiful new year- a clean slate full of anticipations, expectancy and hopes.

with love. Damaris


Winter Wonder

Mid December is snowy and bright with predictable bitter cold nights. We make attempts to combat our drowsiness by playing Christmas music all day and allowing ourselves to fade at 4:33. All the candles in the windows light up, we light the lamps, and we light the oven. It smells like beef stew, and the large emerald Dutch oven’s fullness reminds us of our empty stomachs. Barn chores already done, Eva lights the candles on the long table. This farmhouse’s glowing across the frosted snow offers a welcome and speaks of rest. But this evening, I am not in step with the ambience. My heart is all undone, stretched thin across the many things that need my attention.

While dusk dims the rooms, I feel my heart wax in the frustration of bad piano practices and forgotten laundry baskets. Regretfully, I lash out short answers, scolding remarks, and impatient commands. I can’t blame this on the winter blues – this is my lack. Why is it so much easier when Nathan is home?

In preparation for the busyness that we all know this season brings, I had committed to go through December with complete enjoyment. Making things beautiful and special during the holidays is rewarding far beyond my effort, but now it’s obvious to everyone around that I need to take time for some peace. I know that my body and mind need a little rest. It’s not a bubble bath, a TV show, or calling a friend that can soothe my undone heart and mind. I will take a few, unusual, before-dinner moments to be with God. He will remind me that He came to be my Counselor, my Prince of Peace.

These are some of my treasured verses about God’s peace that I pray encourage you too:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

John 14:27

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

John 16:33

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Matthew 11:28

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Romans15:13

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

Colossians 3:15

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.

2Thessalonians 3:16

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6,7

Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

1Peter 5:7

Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.

Psalm119:165

May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace!

Psalm 29:11

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

Isaiah 26:3

“For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,โ€ says the Lord, who has compassion on you.

Isaiah 54:10

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6

with love. Damaris


A Simplified Advent

The busyness of December can quickly gobble up our anticipation for the amazing arrival of God With Us. Advent readings help us see Jesus’ birth through the eyes of God’s people. We can share in their anticipation, their fear, their yearning and experience a renewal of our own wonder at the gift of the promised Messiah. The longing and expectant hope of the people of Israel that brightens every passage of Scripture brightens our homes, too. While we already know the account of the Messiah’s birth (and have probably each sat through hundreds of Sunday School lessons to ensure it), these readings take us back to the early promises of Jesus’ coming – promises to a people desperate for salvation, walking by faith through mysteries, prophecies, and shadows. Advent’s renewal of hope quickens our faith in God’s promises and our gratitude for His great mercy.

Daily advent readings also help us to not only look forward but also look inward – preparing our hearts to long for Jesus. Setting short times for the daily readings aids in personal reflection and in teaching children a love for the anticipation. By preparing our hearts for advent, we can experience Jesus’ coming afresh and our sense of wonder and amazement is renewed – we will know Him at his arrival and our joy will be full. What Joy? As Christians, know that the waiting and anticipation is not for a baby, but for a savior. The Christmas story may start with a star and manger; but it ends with a cross, a death, and a joyous resurrection!

There are many advent resources for families, and one we’ve thoroughly enjoyed in the past is a Jesse Tree. This December, we are reading a second time through All Is Bright: A devotional journey to color your way to Christmas. It is different in that it includes short readings for the whole month of December and beautiful coloring pages accompany each daily devotional. Perfect for some of the children to color while you read aloud.

Each evening, at the dinner table, Nathan reads these advent Scripture passages:

with love. Nathan and Damaris


Wishing You A Happy Thanksgiving!

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!

Know that the Lord, he is God!

It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,

and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!

For the Lord is good;

his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

Psalm 100

Tomorrow morning, as we sit around the quiet breakfast table feasting on praline baked french toast (skip the corn syrup) and listen to instrumental hymns of praise, we will be thankful. As we remember the Pilgrim’s faithfulness, courage, and sacrifice by reading excerpts of Thanksgiving: A Time To Remember, we will be thankful.

Over the years we have all memorized Psalm 100, and I expect we will say it together again. Finally, we’ll continue to build this tradition of sharing our gratefulness with one another and add our last tags on the Thanksgiving Tree. Amidst the succulent food, enjoying the day off work, family games and talks, we’ll seek to center around recognizing our God’s perfect provision for our family and His lavishing grace. Our desire is that our home and yours be filled with biblical thankfulness this holiday!

“…for SOLEMN THANKSGIVING and PRAISE: That at one Time and with one Voice, the good People may express the grateful Feelings of their Hearts, and consecrate themselves to the Service of their Divine Benefactor; …”

First Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1777

with love. Nathan and Damaris


A Slow-Down Ritual

The flavors of Saturday mornings are pure and simple. The aroma of coffee brewing beckons, and that’s just the beginning. Sliced juicy strawberries in the summer or aromatic oranges in the winter, sweet smells fill the kitchen. Always to the tunes of Celtic music.

I enjoy eating Saturday’s morning meal without ever getting out of my pajamas. It also happens to be the only breakfast in the week that we can eat together without a rush. Since we don’t do school in the summers, Nathan is gone to work before we’re up and going (we pack his breakfast and lunch). Of course, you already know that Sunday mornings are pretty fast paced around here (you can read about it). So Saturday mornings are reserved for a little lingering, a silky scramble of many eggs and bacon sizzling on the skillet.

The aroma of spice and vanilla inspires me to revel in the comforting slow home, and make some joyful noise in the kitchen. Sometimes I call upstairs for a helper, and sometimes I just surprise them! Everybody likes to wake up to the music of eggs cracking, batter hissing at the griddle, and of course that heavenly smell of frying bacon! Major disclosure: If Nathan is going to cook up a meal, Saturday morning is the best! His delicious French doughnuts can’t be but devoured in two bites, although I think he’d prefer us to take our time and savor the luscious crumbs.

Teetering stacks of steaming pancakes, thick slabs of French toast, maple drenched golden waffles, and Dutch babies all puffed up are some of the deliciousness enjoyed with a couple cups of coffee and frothed cream. We serve all the sleepy-heads. We cut soft pats of sweet butter. We spread, drizzle, and fuss about how much maple syrup a couple of the children used! Sure we’re fond of our maple syrup, but allowing it to cascade until the pool reaches the rim of your breakfast plate may be too much!

We relish at the table and talk about our day – long mornings when we must slow down. After we eat, while we sit with empty plates, Nathan reads and speaks God’s Truth into our minds and hearts.

I have been tempted many a times over the years to give it up – to trade the slow for the simple, the traditional for the convenient. But I refuse to let go! I am the happiest when my people are gathered, and they’re being filled with my love.

This is our way, and I plan to hold on to it for a long, long time.

What do you enjoy on Saturday mornings?

with love. Damaris


Yours For The Taking

The last time we were at the grocery store (I seem to say that a lot. hmmm, I wonder why…), a shopper took a quick count of the little people in and around my heaping buggy and commented something like: “Wow! You must be really busy!” I smiled, satisfied, and thought, “Yes, I’m busy, but isn’t everybody ‘busy’? The whole world has found things to be busy with, haven’t they – working, shopping, hobby-ing, jogging/cycling/spinning/yoga-ing.

Wouldn’t you agree that we all find plenty to do with our time? Everybody’s days get filled, and mine are no different. Since all of us have days filled to the brim, finding time to spend with God isn’t easy.

The clothes need to go in the dryer, before the colors run. The children are waiting for their math lesson to be graded. The girls’ poem needs to be memorized for…tomorrow. The Bible story never got read during nap time. Who will call the dentist for an appointment? The boys’ clothes have required organizing, and now a couple drawers won’t even shut. grrrr.

I have always struggled with trying to make time for quiet prayer and reading, but I am convinced the struggle is worth it! One passage encourages me the most to keep making time – it is the Israelites wandering in the desert missing the food they used to eat in Egypt. {Exodus 16}

Jehovah Jireh (God the Provider) is full of mercy! Not giving them what they deserved, He made white honey-bread that dropped from heaven. He created for them heavenly goodness that would provide for their perceived lack – God was sending them grace. A new grace that they didn’t recognize, so they called out, “What is it?” – literally what manna means. This grace was what God was giving them to be satisfied. This daily blessing was enough.

Not only was God pouring provision down on them, but this miracle was simply theirs for the taking! All the Israelites had to do was stoop and gather the manna each morning. This account from Exodus tells us that he who gathered much had no excess, and he who gathered little had no lack. God gave to each a measure according to their need – enough. In the same way, God gives to us the daily heavenly blessing that satisfies. He made us and He takes care of us. His persistence in pursuing us is lavishing grace.

All that we have to do is come and gather. The one who seeks God enjoys His blessing, strength, and grace – daily grace.

Come gather it! Every day.

with love, Damaris