The storm swept in with no warning, descending upon us with a crash. What was a pink glow only moments before was now a thrashing gale from the west, soaking sheets of rain in the wind. The apple tree, bent double beneath its harvest, barely held up under the onslaught.
Just yesterday I was walking in the crisp fall air – it's 40 degrees or below in the mornings now – observing the barren fields shorn close by Farmer Bob. The corn is in a pile of silage now, munched by dewy-eyed calves in the barn basement. The hay is stacked in neat rows like cinnamon rolls awaiting their frosting. And frosting they will have, probably a snow on Halloween.
As I walked, I thought: It changes so fast. Like the storm upon us in an instant, the days and seasons blend together and summer becomes fall becomes winter, or hard becomes joy becomes new challenge, and in the constant transition of it all we can forget that it all will come to right again.
Fall is beautiful in northern Michigan but it's extremely short. Living here almost inevitably leads to “weather anxiety”: a constant pressure to outpace winter, to be outside as much as possible when the weather is good, to see as much of a season as you can because three of them have to split six months and one of them lasts six months too long. When I lifted my eyes to the hills I was reminded: Seasons change, but seasons also return. Fall will end, but fall is guaranteed to come again. And again. And again. It is short and beautiful, but it is also forever.
It takes one storm to rip the leaves from the trees and leave us with a smattering of yellow tamaracks and evergreens. November comes and everything is brown. But something good is happening even then; something necessary:
In the spare times, like November,
when skeletal trees
reach praising to the sky,
we may call it ugly
and wish for summer.
Or we may welcome the bareness
and see the growth in brown and gray,
without which the earth would exhaust itself.
Winter must be had
for seeds to sleep before they bear.
In the Spare Times, PDM
Stripped naked and sleeping, the trees are sparse. We complain, we say we hate it, we lament winter, we call it names; but what if we remembered: Seasons change, and seasons return?
No season is forever, but we are called to live well in the one we're in.
We are in a “figuring it out” season. Stewarding growing children and a growing ministry, learning to shepherd babies and shepherd souls and shepherd actual, real-life goats (not a pseudonym for difficult saints, though that would work too…).
This season feels clunky; I feel clunky. I have a lot of systems but even my systems can't withstand the constant change, the workload, the adjusting required of us. The tendency is to cry, “Is this forever?!" but I've found it seldom is; it's a season. Seasons change, and older, stabler seasons return, and all will be made right again.
And this is the hope in all the seasons, when war is raging and rumors of wars are flying; we remember: all is being made right, and will be made right, and there is no fear in Love. He has not left us, the season will turn again; and His purpose stands the test of time. Justice will be done. Peace will come, if not here then there, and the world will turn on its axis to face the Son in His rising. All will be made right.
We may call it ugly
and wish for summer
or we may welcome the bareness
and see the growth.
Blackwing Pencils: I was slow to come to these because I don't really like pencils, but they've grown on me.
Zondervan Academic Numbers & Leviticus Commentaries: Jay Sklar has written not just a new Leviticus commentary, but also one on Numbers! If you'd like something that is a bit more demanding but also approachable, these are a great resource.
These EWAT latte mugs: this is my go-to mug for fall, because it's big enough for a homemade pumpkin spice latte (I use Torani pumpkin spice sauce). Stamped with the Every Woman a Theologian logo, hand thrown clay. *Please note shipping delays due to warehouse construction! And yes - candles are being restocked!
The Yoto Mini: I'm not sure I mentioned these? We are super fans! I researched them a lot before buying each girl a Yoto for her birthday. They are audiobook players that have no screen… so the girls can each listen at their leisure, carry it with them, and share the Yoto “cards” which play the books or stories of choice. You can also load podcasts or music onto the players. They are about $70, but worth it in my opinion!
I've adjusted my reading list for the rest of the year to focus on classics (aside from my research reading, which is theology). I compiled a variety of lists: homeschool classics lists, classical school recommendations, and college level recs. This list was good too. As some of you know, I read War and Peace earlier this year and just finished The Tenant of Wildfell Hall… I just started Beowulf and Emma, which I have read before but want to read again!
Question: How do you handle your responsibilities when sick, or when kids are sick?
A: I am definitely on reduced capacity, and I do cut back work tasks to the bare minimum. I keep up on the house tasks, though, because having a chaotic household does not help me rest… and I don't want to deal with it when I'm well! The systems of cleaning, laundry and basic pick up after meals helps it stay at least a little orderly for when I'm well again.
Question: How to tell if you are being too picky about preaching/doctrine?
A: The big question here is, “Am I being a critical thinker, or do I have a critical spirit?” A critical thinker weighs the different viewpoints, compares to Scripture (in all its interpretations), knows the difference between core and tertiary doctrine, and celebrates the unity of the church around the core. A critical spirit looks for problems, is hard to please, and has very little grace for difference of practice. It's possible to have personal preferences and still be gracious. More on this here.
Question: What are some of your favorite Scriptures to pray?
A: I have so many, mostly from Psalms! One of the roles of the Spirit is to bring to mind truth, to tell us what we need when we need it. I find He brings to mind exactly what Scripture to pray for each situation. A few favorites:
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
(1 John 3:1)
The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.
Question: Thoughts on this “real end times” talk?
A: With the fighting in Israel and Gaza, the Ukraine war, and China moving ships to the Middle East, there has been a lot of fear and “prophecy” online regarding the end times. But for believers in Christ there is nothing to fear. The end times have been predicted again and again and again – and as significant as these actions feel (and are, for those impacted), the call of this moment is not to determine whether or not this is “the end” but whether or not you are living rightly before God today. If it was the end, how would you live? To the glory of God and for the good of His people, I hope. So live that way now. Live on mission. Take your faith seriously. Share Jesus with others. Be FOR the awakening of souls to Christ's work, and be surprised by the joy of living fully in His love.
If you're afraid of the end times, I recommend doing my verse by verse Revelation bible study. I wrote this study for the express purpose of removing fear of the “end” from the lives of believers, and the feedback we receive is consistently in the affirmative. If you're ready to see Revelation as the beautiful hope it is, this is the study for you. Ebook and print both available, print copies are delayed to ship for a week due to construction.
At Home with Phylicia
Moving from Verity Conference straight into renovation has posed a challenge to our schedule, but I needed the push to change some things. I have been struggling to fit all our school into the two hours between 10 am and 12 pm, with time to make lunch, before I start work at 1 pm. Bumping up our chore time to 8-9 AM instead of 9-10 AM is my current strategy, plus the following changes:
Breakfast Time: Our kids have to stay in bed until 7:30 AM (they can read or play, but must stay in until the alarm goes off). While they all can and do make their own breakfast, we were finding that no set breakfast time is leading to some “desert wandering” without finishing food… so 7:30 AM is now our firm breakfast, followed by chores.
Homeschool Changes: For the last three years we have started school at 10 AM. It may be that the demands of 3rd and 1st grade together have pushed our limits or having to coach Ivan while also schooling – whatever the case, we need more time. I'm backing up our planned start time to 9 AM, with a morning-time split: we do the “fun” parts of morning basket first (timeline, MadLibs, states & capitals, flashcards), then we get a snack, after which is read-aloud time. This way they are less fidgety and have a distraction during our read alouds (which last 40-60 minutes).
Timed Subjects: The first part of our school time is “morning basket” which is communal: memory work, literature, Bible, time tables, etc. The second part is our themed “deep dive”: Tuesday is history/geography, Wednesday is science, Thursday is Latin/English, Friday is art and review. The third part is individual lessons, and these are timed. While I do reading and spelling with one child, the other works on typing. Then they move on to 15 mins of piano and/or tin whistle. After lunch, they will do 20 minutes of math with Josh. The timer method works well for their focus and to prevent overwhelm.
Back to our Trusty Schedule! I have been so pleased with how well our cleaning and laundry schedule sustained us through two weeks of sickness, the conference and the renovation. For context, I do a load of laundry a day, start to finish (less when sick, but I still did three) and clean one “zone” of the house. I suggest choosing the zone you clean each day based on how busy that day is; e.g. don't pick the biggest zone on the busiest day. I do bathrooms on Tuesdays and main floor on Thursdays. Because we do this every week, it never gets too overwhelming or requires and intense deep clean.