Family: a Microcosm of the Church

Lately, Claire and Wesley have been at each other’s throats a bit, which I’m sure is par for the course when you’re five and three-year-old siblings. Sure, they have shining moments where they play well together, share easily, and even handle their own conflict. But usually, well…they don’t.

I don’t know why it still surprises me when they don’t get along. Like it or not (for the record, I don’t like it), sin is a real thing and it shows up in all the relationships, perhaps most honestly in the young sibling relationship. This is one of the beauties-wrapped-in-a-burden of little children. Their inability to save face at any given moment is the very thing that gives us a shot at addressing the real issue.

Sometimes, I don’t handle it well. I’m short-sighted, only caring that they cut it out already because I don’t want to have to listen to the bickering. So I basically demand that they stop and threaten to take away all the things and send them all away from each other.

But, every once in a while, I get it right and actually do my job as a parent, which is to say that I slow down, recognizing the moment and task before me is the only important one, the only one I really have, God’s to-do list for the day which trumps my own, and that it’s ripe with potential. Because formation isn’t just what we teach, but also how.

We talk about what the problem is, how we can solve it, what each person’s responsibility is this time, say our apologies etc. Then we rehearse why God made families. It’s not something we think about often, but of all the ways God could have organized people, He went with the family. It must be a good idea!

I’m sure there are other reasons, but the kids can tell you that God made families so that…

  1. Everyone is cared for. 
  2. We can learn to love like Jesus (which is to say when we don’t feel like it).

First, God made families for provision and protection, so that everyone would have what they need— from the basics of survival, like food and shelter and protection from outside dangers to the finer things of thriving, like affection and belonging and purpose. This is why it’s so tragic and dangerous when someone is without a family.

And it’s also why the Bible makes such a big deal out of caring for orphans and widows. Because they were the ones outside society’s safety net. The ones most vulnerable to danger and poverty, most susceptible to falling through the cracks, lacking any means to even care for themselves.

It’s the responsibility of those inside families to care for those outside them. This is a responsibility of God’s big, beautiful family called the Church. The family is the Domestic Church, after all.

But, of course, the second reason God made families is the focus of sibling squabbles. God made families so that we can learn to love even when we don’t want to. In a word— sanctification.

I’m convinced God’s most basic context for sanctification is the family. I fear we drastically overlook or underestimate it as such! Either we bypass each other, only concerned with our own personal agendas, or we just go our separate ways, never spending enough time together for things to get too messy. Family can be the hardest and most painful of relationships and that’s exactly the point.

We need a deeper awareness of the bajillions of opportunities we have to practice love— like accommodating each others’ tendencies with gentleness and respect, compensating for each others’ shortcomings with kindness and mercy, asking for and receiving forgiveness, bearing one another’s pain with compassion, putting another first with humility, and the list goes on. Because we don’t choose our families, (and because we live with them!), they provide us potential unlike anything else to grow in grace. (Again, because the family is a microcosm of the Church, you could substitute the word “church” for “family” and it would all still be true.)

You must have a community to be sanctified, so don’t forget to include your very own family.

Guys, this is all so hard! And, for me, a constant learning curve. But we’re going to keep at it, the kids and me. It’s holy, worth-it work, and God’s grace is sufficient.

The Five Things I’m Not Giving Up for Lent

It’s Ash Wednesday!!! Are you as excited about the beginning of Lent as I am? 🤓

Ok, simmering.

And, in what is perhaps the most hilarious juxtaposition and obvious example of faith and culture butting heads, today is also Valentine’s Day. 🤣 But I’m sure someone else has that post covered.

So what’s all the Ash Wednesday fuss about anyway? What’s with all the ashes and the crosses and the foreheads and all the repentance and the remembering that we are dust and to dust we will return?

When I did middle school youth ministry, (Was that seriously my real life?) I was on staff with a pastor who taught me that Ash Wednesday is about “living your life in light of your death.” He used the Tim McGraw song, “Live Like You Were Dying” as an illustration. If you don’t know the song, take five minutes to listen. (Or at least read the lyrics.)

How about that key change, eh?!

Live like you were dying. Yes because, in fact, we all are actually already dying. We live most of our days in denial of this, so Ash Wednesday exists to help us face the music. Not only will we all die someday, but Christian, you are already dead! We have died to self and sin (and have to do so everyday!) so that we might live abundant, full life in Christ.

It’s like when I played college tennis. I used to get so nervous before every match. I’ll never forget the day my mom asked me, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” To me, losing wasn’t the worst thing, it was that I might looks stupid in front of spectators. So my mom advised me to go out there, and on the first play of the match, to swing, miss and fall down. Just embarrass yourself big time, she said. Because with the worst thing that could happen out of the way, I could get on with the playing of the game that I enjoyed so much.

If death is the worst thing that can happen to us, then get it out of the way so that we can get on with the living. This is at the heart of Ash Wednesday. 

Missionary and martyr Jim Elliot said it like this: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

But, Ash Wednesday is less of a carpe diem, check things off the bucket list, I-want-to-sky-dive-before-I-die mentality and more of seek ye first the kingdom, eternal perspective, die to self before you literally die, on-my-deathbed-I-want-this-to-have-been-true-about-me mentality.

So, I made a list. The other day, I pretended I was dying (perhaps a bit morbid 😳), and in my journal, I jotted down the ways I want to live now before it’s too late. Some of my list is a bit too personal for the world wide web, but here are five:

  1. Prayer. I want to pray with passion and without ceasing. It haunts me that I might get to the end of my life and wish I had spent more time communing with God or interceding for people and situations I care about. I’m praying for some people in my life to come to know Jesus. But if they never do, it will not be because I wasn’t on my face for them every day.
  2. Integrity. I want my life to prove what my mouth says I value.
  3. Generosity. I want to live from God’s abundance, freely giving of my time, money, talents, kind words, etc. God’s resources never run out.
  4. Formation. I want to have done the hard work of forming my children well and towards God (and, in the process, myself too!)
  5. Relationship. I want to put people over projects, progress, and perfection.

In short, I don’t want to waste my one wild and precious life on that which just doesn’t matter.

This Ash Wednesday (today!), I’m thinking about how I can better live my life in light of my death. I want to live for that which will last beyond even death. And as for what I’m giving up this Lent? Well that’s easy— everything else.

Why I Need Luke’s Apron and You (Probably) Do Too!

I’ve never written a blog like this before. (And my mom did not put me up to it. She won’t even know I wrote it until she sees in on the inter-webs.) But I always write about what I believe in, and this blog is no exception.

I believe in Luke’s Apron.

Awhile back, my mom started typing up meal plans— recipes with detailed instructions and all the compiled groceries lists to accompany them— for my big brother, Luke, and his teenage son. (I know. My name is Leah and I have a brother named Luke. It’s ridiculous. And, believe it or not, a coincident. 😆) He wanted to eat healthier and at home more often. When I found out about it, of course I wanted in. And when some of our friends found out, they wanted in too. Luke’s Apron was born!

There’s a slew of reasons to need Luke’s Apron. Here are a few of mine:

I need a meal plan, but I hate creating it. 

Having a meal plan is survival. It minimizes the dinner-time stress, prevents me from wasting food that we buy and then don’t eat, and saves money because we rarely eat out. But I’m soooooooooooo not good at it. Creating the thing every.single.week is such a joy-sucker for me.

My mom, on the other hand, is both good at it and enjoys it. She actually creates most of the recipes based on her understanding of how food works and what flavors go well together. (What the heck is that like?! 🤷🏻‍♀️) Also, I think it provides her a nice challenge. And anyone who knows my mom knows she lives and dies by a good challenge! (And she ALWAYS succeeds, which I’m both thankful for and find entirely annoying. 🙄)

I value eating well, but I am also on a budget!

I never realized how well my mom fed us growing up until I had to start feeding myself. We not only ate food that tasted good 99 out of 100 times, (she will never sell me on sauerkraut 😝) but she fed us food that fueled and built our bodies well. And she did this long before it was trendy.

She also did it long before she had enough money to do it. I grew up in a family of six— four growing kids, one stay-at-home-mom, and a dad who worked full-time on a pastor’s salary (and for a while, was in school full-time). In other words, we were a big-ish family on one, small-ish salary. My mom wasn’t willing to sacrifice on the quality of food she fed us, so she got creative. At its most basic level, creativity is just problem-solving. (Did I mention my mom thrives in solving a good problem?) She knows how to make great taste and great meals with great love out of seemingly little to start with.

Basically what I’m telling you is that my mom ruined me for food in the best possible way. And now that I feed not only myself but four other people (God—did you know these people you gave me have to eat AT LEAST 21 TIMES PER WEEK!?! 😩), I realize the great intentionality it takes and the HUGE labor of love it is.

With Luke’s Apron, you get healthy and delicious meals. (I’m not exaggerating that Caleb comments almost nightly on how good the food is. 🤤) But you also get meals that don’t break the bank. This is the genius of my mom, born out of those years of necessity and honed in the many years since. She accomplishes this a couple of ways. First, she creates all the meals based on what’s currently on sale at Kroger/Dillons. And also, she makes sure to use ALL PARTS of every ingredient at some point. (Inventory management is the most overlooked part of cooking. The most expensive item in your kitchen is the one you throw away!)

I like to cook, but I need it to be accessible in terms of skill and time.

Let’s face it— some of those cooking shows just aren’t real life. (I’m looking at you, Ina Garten!) Luke’s Apron meals are practical and accessible. You aren’t going to need a personal cheese monger or access to organic cricket protein. (Yes, that’s a real thing.) And, always, there is less cooking later in the week because you are capitalizing on work you did Monday or Tuesday, and also because by Friday, you tired.

Guys, my mom is just good at food. Her personal brand of cooking marries all the best things— real food, simple methods, time and money saving techniques, few ingredients, all without sacrificing flavor. She understands the value of putting good things in your body, and the potential that food has to bless people. For my mom, food has always been one of God’s greatest and most basic gifts. A physical representation of God’s spiritual grace, both our need for it and it’s beauty. (Ok, God, I get it. Twenty-one meals a week may not be enough, actually.)

In short, Luke’s Apron is just good stewardship of all the resources— time, money, food, and even love.

And, if I can be anecdotal for just one minute, (Heck, it’s my blog and I’ll do what I want!) one of my absolute favorite things about Luke’s Apron is that, FOR YEARS, I’ve wondered if I would EVER be like my mom in the kitchen. Now I can be.

Luke’s Apron is real food, practical recipes, and delicious meals on the table by dinner time. At only $5 per month (the cheapest option out there!), I promise you’ll more than save the cost of subscription.

So, wether you want to learn how to cook, eat healthier, save money, or just don’t want to have to think about what’s for dinner, I submit to you (with my highest recommendation!) Luke’s Apron. The product is fantastic, and I can assure you, the creator behind it is just the best.

My mom’s favorite place has always been in the kitchen with her people. When we were young, I can remember her saying that all she wanted was her kids to be in the kitchen with her. I regret that I didn’t take her up on this more often. But true to God’s abundant kindness, all these years later, it isn’t just her kids but a host of other people who are blessed by her presence in the kitchen. She’s creating a food lectionary, bringing whole kitchens together around the same table.

It may not be what you expected, mom, but God’s dream for you was bigger than your own. Because that’s just how good God is.

And mom— if I can be so bold, I think you finally found it. You know, that “thing” we all hope to find. That thing that is both natural in you and blesses the world. That thing that is a passion turned to purpose. Your thing. Turns out, it’s the thing you’ve always done so beautifully without even trying to or knowing it. Enjoy your passion meeting the world’s needs, mom.

And, all the rest of you— sign up for Luke’s Apron here!