In the Shelter of the Most High

So many have voiced a readiness for 2021, an anticipation of the end of a horrible year. 2020 has been difficult. I've struggled and cried more this year than any other on record and those around me are wrought with pain and sadness too--but there is much about 'the year we all stayed home' that I will miss and hope continues into the new year. 

My dear husband worked from home. We saw him more and ate with him more and sang with him more and prayed with him more--it doesn't get any sweeter than that. I had a baby in April, our sweet Jacob Luke, and though he isn't as known to our extended family as we'd hoped for, having a quiet year at home with a newborn was just what I needed. 

So, as 2020 ends, I praise God for all the changes and blessings that came to us by way of difficulty. Psalm 91 has been a battle-cry passage of sorts this year. I've pondered these words over and over again in my heart, especially when I ache for "normal" or long for the difficulties of my life to cease:
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only look with your eyes
and see the recompense of the wicked.

Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—
the Most High, who is my refuge—
no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague come near your tent.

For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the adder;
the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.

“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my name.
When he calls to me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”

The poetry of the Psalms brings me such consolation. Words like shelter, fortress, "bear you up," deliver(ance), refuge, shield and buckler, dwelling place, salvation, etc.--these aren't just beautiful words or ideas, these are precious promises from our Almighty God!

Some folks project life will be different in 2021 or suspect that "when Covid goes away" all will be well. I am pretty sure not much is gonna change (i.e. the world and its culture is not going to get significantly better with the pandemic or president gone) and that we are called to much more than just surviving. Christian, we are called to believe and dwell in the shelter of the Most High! We are called to be joyful and to thrive. Filled to overflowing and still quite busy with kingdom work.

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.  Galatians 6:9

For me, this continues to mean leaning in to hard things, remaining steadfast against opposition, difficulty, and adversity. It's patience and perseverance, despite pain and pandemic. It's a broken life but a joyful heart. I don't do this well in my own strength--my life is very messy. I wrestle daily with anger and frustration, sleep deprivation and disappointment. My hip has started to hurt too, but that's another issue. I fumble quite a bit and faithfulness isn't necessarily a strong suit--but I when the words of Psalm 91 are fresh in my mind and I'm reminded of my shelter and shield and buckler, I do find that the motivation to remain faithful to God and to his church comes over me like a flood. And the commands of Scripture to be joyful have recently impressed upon me an urgency to repent and believe.

I pray the same for you, friend and family, that you too would remember the precious promises of God--he is still on his throne and has even purposed the pain, the financial ruin, the chaos, even the untimeliness of death to come to us so that we would perhaps turn to him and trust in his name. I know this is hard for us to hear sometimes, I get it, but either we are who we say we are or we are fools. We either believe in the sovereignty of a good God, and the resurrection of his Savior, or we are hopeless and most to be pitied. Our faith is in vain. Our gospel tells us the truth of our own sin and sorrow, the utter depravity of the world, and then enlivens us to rest in the hope of eternal peace in Christ. To him be the glory.

I love what Oswald Chambers said today (December 31st) in his "Utmost for His Highest" devotional: 
As we go forth into the coming year, let it not be in the haste of impetuous, unremembering delight, nor with the flight of impulsive thoughtlessness, but with the patient power of knowing that the God of Israel will go before us. Our yesterdays present irreparable things to us; it is true that we have lost opportunities which will never return, but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future. Let the past sleep, but let it sleep on the bosom of Christ. Leave the Irreparable Past in His hands, and step out into the Irresistible Future with Him.
And my grandfather, William S. Pollard, penned these words many years ago, before I knew him:

"The magnitude of hope." What is a heart to do with all the darkness? The darkness of sin both within and without? Of sickness and pain? Of death? Oh, dear friend, we will all spin and writhe in frustration and or in our suffering until we find our rest in something outside of ourselves. There is a deep well of hope found in no other name, but in the magnificent name of Jesus. He is the "Shelter of the Most High" God--He is the refuge that truly protects and provides, that truly saves. He is salvation from ourselves and from the world that is broken before us. He may not alleviate our circumstances or fix our pain, but let us not "think to highly of ourselves" and suppose we deserve anything different than his holy will. And he is near to the brokenhearted and those who are suffering. Just know that your suffering is not in vain. He is good and He is king!

Okay, sorry to get to preaching, but anytime I sit to process how life is going here with "pen and paper" I'm reminded of these things, especially as a new year dawns. As for a family update, though, we are plugging along, still fixing up an old house and raising a bunch of hooligans. 

This year was still quite full of schooling children, growing children, a precious Corona baby, and lots and lots of Zoom. We are starting a second homeschool term this week which continues to be a great blessing to us all. Greyson (11) is studying the Civil War along with the inventors of the period. He continues to bless us with a growing love and aptitude for piano. Despite Corona restrictions in our area, he played a good 4th season of baseball. He put a solid summer mowing Poppy's lawn and is growing in his work ethic. He was gifted a real wood-carving set for Christmas and looks forward to whittling gifts and things for others. We are proud of the young man he is becoming. Greyson says he will always remember the new way of connecting with friends and actually "enjoyed all those Zoom meetings." He also wants to learn the art of wood-carving this coming year and looks forward to starting his first project tomorrow (a spoon)!

Benjamin (7) is charming and wild-natured and still climbs everything in sight if allowed. He started 2nd Grade at home this year and is enjoying the great books of our Ambleside Online, just like his big brother. His favorite book this year has been Understood Betsy. Ben also played baseball with LSBA and has had a growing year of piano at home on Zoom. I'm proud of him for "arriving" to chapter books and getting to stay up a little later with his big brother for their reading time. When asked about the year past and the year to come, Benjamin says he "remembers the joy of losing his first tooth" and wants to get better at "building Lego mechs and playing baseball."

Anna Rebekah (5), stays very close to Daddy these days. She still makes her way to our bed at about 4 a.m. and sneaks in on Dad's side, as not to wake and anger Mommy (we've had a lot of children in our bed this year, I'm sensitive about this, you see). She still writes us notes and leaves us treasures around the house. Having Daddy working from home has made for extra sweetness between the two of them--gardening, walking the orchard, berry picking and morel hunting. She has been a life-saving help to Mommy with the baby and has proven to be a very capable sous-chef. Anna says her favorite part of 2020 was the Easter-egg hunt at home and the "one up in the light that we almost didn't find" and that she wants to try out ballet in 2021!

Jacob Luke (9 months) is sweet and cuddly (all.night.long) so much so that this month we've started to gently sleep train the kid. Momma can't handle the sleeplessness anymore, so pray for us! Otherwise, we're quite smitten and will keep this caboose-kiddo. No, in all seriousness, Jacob Luke may never fully understand how significant his birth and life has been to our family. He was born right at the beginning of the end of 2020, so to speak, and has represented a mercy of God to us all--having a baby is always a blessing and something that can bring a ton of difficulty, and we already were struggling! Jacob's birth has humbled us in a way--I'm not sure if it's because we've been stuck together at home, forced to work it all out, but the circumstances of Covid and newborn life have humbled us and this slower pace has provided opportunities to learn better habits together. I will always praise God for the timing of the birth of our fourth child.

Luke (43) has continued in his new work at an I.T. company, as a director of quality, which has included a little bit of travel despite Covid. He asks us daily to pray that he would be a blessing to his employers and that he would bring value to the company. I'm proud of him and his faithfulness in all circumstances. He models contentment for me, which is my thorn, and I'm always impressed with his (mostly 😝) cool spirit and faithfulness to keep at it all, "as unto the Lord." He has successfully managed his psoriatic arthritis this year with a Ketogenic diet, which has helped him lose about 40 lbs. He has more energy and less pain than this time last year. He has become quite the "Apple Grower" too--not that we have any fruit on our trees yet--but he bit the bug and is a full-on orchardist growing about 20 trees on our 2 acres here and tending to them as faithfully as to our babies. I gifted him a Newtown Pippin apple tree for Christmas--adding one more to the many and inspiring us all to "tend to our flocks" and pay "careful attention to the condition" of all things growing here (Proverbs 27). Luke's resolution is to "be under 200 lb and grow some apples."

I am turning 40 this year. I'm sobered by this reality and know that though it's a normal milestone, it just means another year to grow and trust the Lord and get further to the end of self. I so desperately want to be free from some things that plague me--discontentment and all the vices that spring from there--so I pray the extra fish oil helps, more sleep helps, and God's mercy continues to meet me every day. This year I particularly loved the family Zoom meetings we started, all the special time with my parents, and the growth of our beloved church. I look forward to 'the year I turned 40' and all that that will bring in motherhood, marriage, daughterhood, and sisterhood. "I Need Thee Every Hour" still is an anthem and prayer-- oh, Lord stay nearby.  As for resolutions, not that we make them, lol, but I want to take more time with girlfriends this year, my sister-friends from our beloved church, and I want to learn to play the piano. 

It is with great gratitude to God I write to you this New Year's Eve. May God be glorified in our lives as we live quietly unto him. I pray God's peace and salvation for you--if you are restless perhaps you'd come to Jesus and find true peace and joy. If you know him, I pray you'd rest in your salvation, keep after the business of kingdom work (whatever that looks like for you) and trust him for the coming year. 

Here's to 2021--the year we all embraced with fortitude and joy and contentment, holding tightly those people we hunkered down with in 2020. And maybe a little less Zoom. 

Much love, friends. 


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