Swings, Slides, and Following Jesus

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My parents taught me about God and His love any time of the day and night: while we hiked high up into the back woods behind our home to overlook the lower Fraser Valley to the heights of Mt Baker south of the Canadian border; while we drove to school each weekday morning; when we drove friends back to their homes after a youth group event; sitting around the table asking questions at dinnertime; and as they tucked us in for bed at night, when even more questions arose! Discipleship moments happen all throughout the day. We ask God to open our eyes and make us aware of the moments when the Holy Spirit is leading us to speak about Him to others. We want to always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks us about the hope we have in Jesus.

This week, Deeply Rooted Magazine featured a short article I wrote about discipleship at the playground! I hope you can head over to their website to read more!

One day, my kids and I were at our local playground. Three other neighborhood kids were there. I asked one of our little friends about her family and church. A young eight-year-old boy named Abraham overheard us and wanted to know what we were discussing. He sat on the bench beside us and listened to our conversation. He asked questions like, “What is a cross?” and “What is Heaven?” which followed with many more questions.

Read the rest at Deeply Rooted Magazine!

How the Gospel Affects Our Mothering Ways + Our Friendships

The first time I noticed it, we were pregnant with our first born. People innocently asked, “What do you hope it is, a boy or a girl?” We had suffered from a miscarriage a few months before and I would answer simply, “We’re happy with either!” People would say, “Come on, what are you actually wanting?” I remember feeling slightly frustrated with this comment. I just wanted a baby! It didn’t matter whether it was a boy or a girl. I wanted a baby, a baby that would be born and live and whom we could cherish in our arms. I wanted the child God had given us - the very one who was growing inside me!

Then the question would come, “Are you going to find out or are you going to wait?” Well, eventually you find out whether at 20 weeks or 40 weeks. And suddenly, people’s opinions started flying out from the woodwork, aiming straight for my heart. I was grieved that others couldn’t just rejoice with us in our decisions for our family. Some did - usually the ones whose decisions were the same as ours. But if they were different, it was like I couldn’t run for cover fast enough.

That’s when I realized there was a war going on, and it wasn’t just the “Mommy Wars” between people’s preferences, but it was a deeper, spiritual war under the guise of Motherhood. There were giants to conquer and idols to overthrow but I couldn’t overthrow them for my friends and their hearts. I could only ask God to overthrow my own and trust that in His timing, He would work on their hearts too. I prayed and processed a lot during those years as God worked on me, as I learned to find my rest and security in Him as a mom with young children. This was a new learning curve in so many ways. I had to learn what it truly meant to bear with others, check the motivations, fears and insecurities that rose up in my own heart and to learn what it meant to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn, but in a whole new way.

There were times friends would share about their mothering ways, and I would feel insecurity creep into my heart because it was very different than my own. With God’s help, I learned to choose to rejoice with her in her mothering ways while learning to be confident in my own mothering ways, whether or not my friends rejoiced with me in my own personal preferences.

We read in Philippians 2:3-8…

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

God was teaching me humility and what it looked like to honor someone above myself. The Lord was teaching me to be others-centered and to humble myself to ask, “How can I serve this person in what I say? How can I rejoice with them right now?”

The gospel reminds us of the humility of Christ and His obedience to the point of death. It takes a daily dying to our “selves” to put others above us and rejoice with them. It doesn’t take anything away from our confidence in our own ways of doing life to honor someone else, listen, empathize, rejoice, mourn. I think we are sometimes afraid of that though. I think we are afraid that by rejoicing with someone else, that somehow it diminishes the value in what we are doing or our personal preferences. The gospel, however, produces fruit in our lives and others’ lives as we live it out.

When we can listen to one another and honor one another over and above ourselves and really pay attention, we are in essence emptying ourselves out to make space for another. Rejoicing with another believer in their rejoicing, or mourning with another in their mourning, is exactly what Christ would do if he was here in the flesh, and which he does do in Heaven as he intercedes for us before the Father. When I grieve, I know that Christ is grieving with me. When I rejoice, He is rejoicing with me. As His body of believers, we can be that physical manifestation of rejoicing and mourning with each other, sharing the gift of empathy and encouragement as we journey through this life together on Earth.

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As my husband and I figured out what was best for our family in so many practical ways, God challenged the idols of my own heart with the gospel. Fighting against those feelings of insecurity, if my mothering ways were different than someone else's, was hard work! Keeping Christ at the center of our home took intentionality. Rejoicing in others' mothering ways while remaining confident about my own ways, was something that required grace, the Lord's help and power, and submitting my heart to the obedience of God's Word. The Gospel needed to be at the center of my mothering ways.

A wonderful book has been written this year by the ladies of the popular podcast "Risen Motherhood". The book, by the same name, is a beautiful keepsake for mothers starting in their motherhood journey. It is a call to keep the Gospel at the center of our mothering ways. I recently bought this for one of my dear friends in Canada. As I looked through it and read bits and pieces, I realized I still need these truths preached to me as my kids are now in the "middle years" of childhood and pre-teen stage! I'm planning on getting a copy for myself, as well for all the new moms at our church plant!

If we can keep the Gospel at the center of so many practical motherhood issues, we will not only be blessed ourselves, but we will be a blessing to our friends and acquaintances who may do things a little different than us, and the gospel will continue to be adorned in our lives.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Romans 12:14-18 ESV

Wildflowers Magazine - Fanny Crosby

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Growing up, our family went to church services twice on Sunday. One on Sunday morning and once in the evening. The evening service started at 6:30pm and often included either a hymn sing, a missionary presentation, short sermon, or perhaps a visiting choir performance. My grandparents came from a culture and time when music was woven into the fabric of their daily lives and worship. Almost everyone could sing and harmonize. Everyone knew all 8 stanzas to every hymn and the voices blended upward into a unified chorus of passionate proclamation. I remember hearing one story of a group of Mennonites who were fleeing Eastern Europe in the early twentieth century. The group was waiting on a train platform. Fearful and tired, they began to sing the hymns of the faith. These hymns gave great depth of comfort as men, women, and children sang songs that spurred on their faith and gave them hope. We are called to speak and sing truth to one another, at all times and in all ways, giving glory to our Father in Heaven.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
-Colossians 3:16

I would sit in church on Sundays in the second or third row, on the right hand side of the sanctuary. I clearly remember holding my hymnal and flipping through the pages, studying the words, the names of authors, and finding hymns based on certain topics. It all intrigued me very much. Songs like Be Thou My Vision, Fairest Lord Jesus and The Old Rugged Cross became oases of living water.

Countless hymns settled into my heart, and laid a foundation of sacred music that shaped and formed me. One of the names that appeared frequently was the name of Fanny Crosby. Others were Isaac Watts, William Kirkpatrick, Frances Havergal, Augustus Toplady, Robert Lowry, Charles Wesley, and John Newton.

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When praying about who to write about for the summer issue of Wildflowers Magazine, I decided to read about and research Frances Jane Crosby, otherwise known as Fanny Crosby. There are many things that stand out to me from her life.

The first is that she had a loving mother who had to raise her on her own as her father died shortly after she was born. With a supportive family, her mother received help from Fanny’s grandmother in raising her. There were many people who helped to educate her, especially since she was blind and at that time, there weren’t many educational opportunities for the blind. Her mother and grandmother, and others who came into her life nurtured her in God’s Word and in a warm and loving home. From Fanny’s mother’s example, I see a commitment to training her child to follow God. Fanny’s story wouldn’t be the same without her mother, Mercy, and grandmother, Eunice, teaching her diligently to know God in His Word.

The second thing that stands out from her life is that she was eager to serve the Lord. As a child, she asked the Lord if there was some work that he had for her to do. It seemed she always had faith like a child. Surely, God used her weakness as her greatest strength, and through it Fanny depended on the Lord. Although she was well known as the Blind Poetess throughout evangelical Christianity at that time, she regularly went to prisons and shelters to tell small audiences about Jesus, the Son of God. One could walk into a gathering of the “undesirables” of life and see a little, old woman, wearing a black dress and holding a black book, speaking about God’s love, grace, and forgiveness. She quietly served, taught and loved those who were not lovable, and she showed them the depths of God’s love for each of them.

It will be amazing to see one day, the masses of people who were brought to Jesus through her humble hymns.

My husband and I are part of a collaborative music group called Gateway Hymns. While reading and researching about Fanny Crosby, I thought how wonderful it would be to record some of her hymns as part of this written biography. So with some friends, we recorded this short album, The Songs of Fanny Crosby. (There are only three on the album, but she probably wrote over 9,000 throughout her lifetime!) You can download this collection at www.gatewayhymns.bandcamp.com, The Songs of Fanny Crosby.

To read a little about Fanny’s life, you can check out the summer issue of Wildflowers Magazine!

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Summer & Stories

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It is summer time in the Pacific Northwest! The unofficial Harris family bucket list is under way and we are thrilled to already have swim lessons, lake swimming, visits to the beach, kayaking, popsicles, slurpees, and naps in the hammock checked off our list! Among other fun summer adventures on the docket, we love to read! In fact, this Mama needs an hour or so of quiet time every day after lunch. While we have somewhat of a schedule in place, it varies from day to day. Sometimes the kids grab a book and take off to a quiet couch, hammock, or their rooms to rest and read. Sometimes we just all cuddle up in the living room and I read aloud. Here are some summer reading ideas that may inspire your own reading adventures:

Biographical Picture Books

We love to read about real life people in history and learn about their lives, which people and places they were connected with, and what world events shaped their lives and stories. With my daughter and sons, we read about ordinary men and women and the unique part they played in history. Some of the ones we are checking out this summer are:

On a Beam of Light: The Story of Albert Einstein

Louisa May’s Battle: How the Civil War Led to Little Women

Joan of Arc

Young Thomas Edison

Ordinary, Extraordinary Jane Austen: The Story of Six Novels, Three Notebooks, a Writing Box, and One Clever Girl

Out of School and Into Nature: The Anna Comstock Story

The Perfect Wizard: Hans Christian Andersen

Rachel Carson and Her Book that Changed the World

Adventure Fiction

There are some stories that settle all around our hearts. Classics that become dear to both parents and children. They are stories that become part of our story and the memories created around the reading of them are cherished stories in and of themselves. One day, some friends came over to our house to drop off a series of books called The Wingfeather Saga written by Andrew Peterson. We had heard of these books but hadn’t gotten around to reading them yet. Our friends were determined that we begin this reading adventure. We are currently on Book 2 in the series and it is a family favorite! So much so, that when we go hiking, I warn the kids to watch out for the Fangs of Dang!

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness

North! Or Be Eaten

The Monster in the Hollows

The Warden of the Wolf King

Early Readers

Among the plethora of early reader books, there is a treasure trove of enjoyable books to practice reading aloud together. These books bring laughter and fun as my 2nd grader and I work through several books in the series!

You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You: Very Short Stories to Read Together

You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You: Very Short Fairy Tales to Read Together

You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You: Very Short Fables to Read Together

You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You: Very Short Mother Goose Tales to Read Together

Chapter Books

My older readers are diving into captivating chapter books, and this stage is delightfully fun too! I love picking out books for my kids to read that I loved as a kid! There are many great book lists to choose from. We are using one from our children’s classical school. Here are just a few treasures we have picked so far this summer!

My Side of the Mountain

The Cricket in Times Square

Five Children and It

A Wrinkle in Time (and the other books in the Time series)

Henry Huggins

Henry and Ribsy

Heidi

The Cat of Bubastes

The Family Under the Bridge

The Witch of Blackbird Pond

Winnie the Pooh

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Books About the Moon & Stars

On the cusp of the 50th anniversary of the Lunar Landing, we are reading and learning more about the moon, the events of the Apollo mission, and how the moon affects tidal waves. There are so many fun books to check from the library to get kids excited about this milestone anniversary in the history of the world.

Moon: A Peak Through Picture Book

The Moon’s Almost Here

Destination Moon

The Moon

Ultimate Explorer Field Guide: Night Sky: Find Adventure! Go Outside! Have Fun! Be a Backyard Stargazer! 

Constellations: A Glow-in-the-Dark Guide to the Night Sky

Starry Skies


Christian Classics & Church History

Reading with our kids about the history of the Church, its strengths, its flaws, its joys, its failures, is important for us. Growing up in a Christian home and with grandparents who fled their country due to persecution for their faith and civil unrest, I learned about my people group, the Anabaptists (aka The Radicals), throughout my growing up years. I was proud to hear the story of my great-great-grandmother who sacrificed her life for the life of her daughter. I wouldn’t be alive today if she had not laid down her life in her place. I learned more about church history in public school as we studied Western Civilization. When I was sixteen years old, our youth group girls had a sleepover and watched the movie, Lady Jane, which further piqued my curiosity about the history of the church. My search for understanding continued through the years. Eventually, I delved further into the study of Church History, trying to understand how we got from Acts 28 to the present day. I want my children to grow up learning about the history of our faith, where it comes from, and help to anchor them in truth.

Dangerous Journey

The Faithful Spy

The Radical Book for Kids


The Bible

I can’t stress enough how important it is to read the Bible with your children. We follow a simple reading plan, Community Bible Reading, that takes the reader through the entire Bible in three years. It is something my husband and I have started this past year and now are implementing with our kids this summer.

The assumption of CBR and The CBR Journal has always been that believers do not have to read the Bible to earn or keep God’s love, but that believers get to read the Bible to enjoy and become more aware of God’s Love.

CBR Reading Plan - Community Bible Reading

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One Final Tip

Many of these books can be found at your local library. If the library doesn’t have them, oftentimes, you can request that they purchase it for the library. Many of these classic chapter books can be found at thrift stores for $2-3 or less. Good times to check out thrift stores are after holidays, at the beginning of summer break and right before school begins. Many schools and families are purging their books at that time.

Happy Summer Reading!

Getting to Know the Lewis's

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This past year has been what I have named, “The Year of CS Lewis”. I will explain further on, how I came to commit myself to reading the works of CS lewis throughout this past year. For now, I will share my journey of coming to this point of getting to know the Lewis’s.

I don’t remember the first time I heard of CS Lewis. I’m sure it was when I was a child. Perhaps it was when I was in my elementary school years and I’d go hang out in my dad’s church office. We had free reign in his office! Paper, pens, playing with the phone and all the buttons, hiding under his desk, using the stapler, and flipping through his rolodex to find phone numbers! Ha! And sometimes, there would be mint Tic Tacs! At some point in my younger years, I began to be curious what all the books on his shelves were about. There were whole volumes dedicated to single books in the Bible called “commentaries”, and books on all sorts of topics. That was when I realized there was so much to learn and so much to know about the Bible. It intrigued me. Perhaps it was then that I noticed a book by CS Lewis, or heard one of his quotes in a sermon. There were three moments in time that were pivotal in my introduction to CS Lewis.

The first time I remember hearing about The Chronicles of Narnia was when I was in 6th grade. My public school class was given three options of books to read and we had to choose one. I can’t remember exactly what choices were given, except for one. When I saw the title, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, I most emphatically chose to avoid that one. A witch? No thank you. I’m not reading that one. I didn’t know what this story was about and my parents probably didn’t either. I am second-generation Canadian. My grandparents were from Russia, and when their families moved to Canada, the goal was survival, making a new life in a time when there was much uncertainty due to war, immigration, making ends meet, and starting families. Their language was German and their culture was Mennonite. (My parents grew up with a mixture of German and English spoken in their homes.) Learning the best of English literature was not a priority, and the furthest thing from their minds. Most of my relatives at that time probably didn’t even know English until the younger children began going to public schools where they could easily learn and assimilate to their new country and culture.

My elementary years carried on and into junior high school, and then onto senior high. In all those years, I never heard of Narnia again, until I went to Bible College several years later. I remember the exact night I heard of this enchanted place, the passion in the words being spoken about this great story of a great Lion, Aslan. I had a wonderful group of Christian friends, brothers and sisters that I would hang out with. One night, several of these friends were talking about their love of and passion for Narnia. Their eyes lit up and these young men couldn’t stop talking about Narnia. I was inspired. Perhaps, I thought, I should read the Chronicles of Narnia! And so, eventually, I bought a cheap paperback edition and began reading through the series, slowly progressing through the years and enjoying every bit of every story with all my heart. It was after I was married that I decided I needed to finish this children’s series before our baby was born. So I spent the last month before she arrived reading and devouring the final couple books!

The third introduction I had to CS Lewis was when we had three children and my husband and I decided to start reading the Chronicles to our children. It was hilarious to see our oldest two children open the closet door and hesitate, thinking that if they walked through the coats, would they end up in Narnia? We did start reading, but it was short lived and the children weren’t ready quite yet. So we waited. When we got to seminary, we began again, but this time from the chronological beginning, The Magician’s Nephew. The kids were ready and I spent the next year reading aloud to them the entire series. It was a joy to share with my kids these stories I had grown to love.

And so, there you have it. I read the Chronicles of Narnia through twice, and love them!

It was last summer. I was talking with one of the teachers at our kids’ new school and she was telling me about one of the books her older class would be reading that year. It was another CS Lewis book. I realized then that, besides the Chronicles of Narnia, I had not read any of his other books. Such an influential Christian author of the twentieth century, a man whom I had heard quoted all my life, through Bible college, etc, and I hadn’t read any of his other works? How did I even make it through Bible college without having read any of his works? I decided then and there that I would take a year to become more acquainted with the works of Lewis. I began with the suggestion from this friend, his final novel ever written, Till We Have Faces.

I would love to give a book review/reflection on each of the works I have read of his this year, but that may have to wait for another time. For now, I would like to share which of his books I have indeed read this year. I began with his fiction and am now discovering the person of CS Lewis as well as a biography of his dear wife, Joy. Here is a brief list of the Lewis books I have read thus far… a year later:

Till We Have Faces

Out of the Silent Planet

Perelandra

That Hideous Strength

The Four Loves

Mere Christianity

Surprised by Joy, the Shape of my Early Life

And God Came In (biography of Joy Davidman) by Lyle W. Dorsett

There are many more of his works that I hope to read in this ongoing effort to dive into the wisdom, personality, and testimony of CS Lewis. I am fascinated by the way God brought both “Jack” and Joy to Himself, as well as to each other in marriage and love, and the ways their lives influenced each other and complimented each other. This is one reason why I love to read and write biographies… to see the work of God in and through a person’s life and how its influence reaches into the lives of tens, hundreds, thousands throughout the years and generations.

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