Everything is Meaningless?

Have you read Ecclesiastes recently? It’s unbelievable that something written so many centuries ago can still be so relevant for today. But we serve a living God that has given us a living word. (Heb. 4:12)

No matter the time or place in history, people have questioned the meaning of life. Is life really worth living? Is there a greater purpose? As Christians, we know that the answer is yes, but that doesn’t mean we live everyday filled with meaning, satisfaction, and purpose. We still struggle with jobs that are unfulfilling, tasks that seem futile (picking up toys with a toddler destroying everything as you go…), and the weariness of daily life.

The beginning of Ecclesiastes paints a rather cynical picture—one that is easy to buy into when we look around at the suffering and dissatisfaction in the world.

Is Everything Meaningless? | One Radiant Home

The preacher, the writer of Ecclesiastes, declares that everything is meaningless. Utterly meaningless. All of our work. Meaningless. Life is weary and unsatisfying. Meaningless. Everything has been done. Meaningless. No one remembers. Utterly Meaningless.

After the first chapter, who even wants to keep reading? There’s no escaping the frustration and futility of life. It’s true. We feel it every day. It’s a view that is without hope—if not for the one phrase “under the sun”…

In that small phrase, we get a glimpse of hope. A life lived apart from God will be lost in meaninglessness. Without the implication that there is something “beyond the sun”, something that does give meaning, living life would be pointless. But we know from the rest of God’s word that there is more, praise the Lord! “Under the sun” is only our temporary home.

God has purposefully put in us a desire for more than the emptiness that this world offers. Our dissatisfaction and “chasing after the wind” is meant to send us searching for HIM—the only one who satisfies our desire for meaning and the only one who gives our lives purpose.

That one little phrase in the first chapter of Ecclesiastes gives us hope when we could despair. I’ve only just begun to study Ecclesiastes, but I’m clinging to that phrase knowing that there is more to come. Only looking beyond our lives on Earth, under this sun, will we find a meaningful life “under the SON.”

To paraphrase Philip Graham Ryken in his commentary on Ecclesiastes…While there is nothing new under the sun, we serve a God that is always doing something new. There is a “new covenant” (Luke 22:20), a “new heart” (Eze. 36:26), a “new self” (Eph. 4:24), and a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17). He is “making all things new” (Rev. 21:5). There will be “a new heavens and new earth” (2 Pet. 3:13) in which “We will no longer look this way or of that for something to satisfy us, but our senses will be saturated with the glory of God. Remember that this is not our final existence. We were made for a better world.”

Praying that I would not look for meaning in the things of the world that will not ultimately satisfy, but that I would have an eternal perspective, finding my purpose “under the SON.”

The following are affiliate links, which means I make a small commission if you buy something (at no expense to you). Thanks for supporting my blog!

If you are interested in resources for studying Ecclesiastes, You can check out:

Preaching the Word Commentary: Ecclesiastes by Phillip Graham Ryken – a readable commentary based a sermon series

Why Everything Matters: The Gospel in Ecclesiastes by Phillip Graham Ryken – we haven’t read this, but it looks like a condensed version of the commentary for those that might not have as much time or energy to read through the whole commentary

The Message of the Old Testament: Promises Made by Mark Dever – a great resource for high level overviews of all the books in the Old Testament

Linking this post with: Women with Intention

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Family Reunions

Western NY still feels like home. It has been more than half my life ago that I lived there, but the open country and farms scattered on rolling hills still speak to me like no other land in this country. We have lived in beautiful places—nestled between two majestic mountain ranges in Washington state and in historic Charleston with its charming architecture and ocean views— yet western NY is still the place I love most.

Family Reunions | One Radiant Home

We spent nearly 2 weeks back in NY earlier this month, visiting family and attending reunions. Though family reunions are often stereotyped as torturous events, we enjoy being with our families and look forward to seeing everyone when we can make it. Our days were jam packed with activities (and trips to Wegmans), but the opportunity to see so many of our favorite people in one place made it worth the effort.

Family Reunions | One Radiant Home

My mom’s family reunion goes back several generations. With around 200 people there, it feels like a scavenger hunt trying to figure out how each person is related. The wall-sized family tree chart helps to sort out which branch we are from, but in the end it doesn’t matter much. Many of the family are believers, so I feel closer to them as brothers and sisters in the Lord than as third cousins.

This reunion meets on family-owned property that is complete with a pavilion, BBQ pit, a creek, climbing trees, and an open field for the annual “kids don’t strike out” softball game.  Inside the pavilion are tables and couches and endless food. In addition to the large wall chart, there is table filled with photo albums covering decades of reunion fun. It’s always fun to pull out the 1994 book to show my kids pictures of myself at their age! (I’m the one with my eyes closed. I have school pictures that turned out like that too…)

Family Reunions | One Radiant Home

Family Reunions | One Radiant Home

We drove over an hour each way to get to that reunion on Saturday, and on Sunday we woke up and drove over an hour in another direction to gather with Shawn’s family. This was a smaller reunion, beginning with his paternal grandparents, and including their 4 children and all of the grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

We spent the day at a lovely park pavilion, enjoying the sun, the playground, and the delicious BBQ lunch. Though many of Shawn’s family members still live in NY and PA, his parents and some of his siblings have moved to the West coast in recent years. With our growing families and the cost of travel, we seldom have all of Shawn’s siblings and their kids in one place. There were 5 or 6 new children in the family since the last time we all saw each other!

Seeing all of the kids play together was the highlight of the day for me. When we were all teenagers, I would have imagined that our families would be very different from each other. Though there are some differences, we all desire to raise children that love the Lord. Our families are much more alike than they are different, and the children seemed to sense that about each other.

We continued our visiting into the evening at Grandma’s church, eating, celebrating birthdays, and opening Lego gifts from Grandpa.

The next morning, we made the hour drive again to gather with Shawn’s parents and siblings one last time. Many of our local friends dropped by throughout the day to see all of the kids and catch up with us. For a house with 14 children under 12 running around, it was amazingly peaceful and fun.

Family Reunions | One Radiant Home

That weekend was the busiest time of our trip. The next 3 days we spent at my parents’ house. Though we didn’t do as much driving, we continued to visit with another grandma, aunt, and cousins. The kids spent lots of time climbing trees and chasing sword fighting their teenage aunts and uncles.

I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen so many family members in such a short amount of time. Exhausting for an introvert, but worth it!

Family Reunions | One Radiant Home

Family Reunions | One Radiant Home

Family Reunions | One Radiant Home

Family Reunions | One Radiant Home

Family Reunions | One Radiant Home

Family Reunions | One Radiant Home

Family Reunions | One Radiant Home

Family Reunions | One Radiant Home

I hope my kids remember this trip with fondness and grow up looking forward to family reunions as we do. I’m not sure they will long for the beauty of NY as Shawn and I do, but I do hope they will always feel at home when they are with family!

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A-frame Chicken Coop and a New Flock of Laying Hens

Ever since we had our chickens a few years ago, we knew we wanted to get a new flock when we settled again. As we searched for new houses, we looked for a place with a large space for the kids to play and space for chickens. Fresh eggs are amazing and I find the hens to be endlessly entertaining.

A-Frame Chicken Coop with Old Swingset & Pallet Wood | One Radiant Home

A couple of months ago, we (and by we, I mean Shawn…) built an A-frame chicken coop from and old swing set, salvaged pallet wood, and a few new boards. I helped design the coop (I wanted something pretty!), gave Shawn some inspiration photos, and added a few opinions along the way. Shawn (and our neighbor David…) did all of the building. I was nice to build something that didn’t have to be perfect. There was a general plan in place, but we did some brainstorming and improvising along the way. It still looks great and functions well, even with the loose planning.

A-Frame Chicken Coop with Old Swingset & Pallet Wood | One Radiant Home

 

A-Frame Chicken Coop with Old Swingset & Pallet Wood | One Radiant Home

This coop is massive! It didn’t seem very big when we started, but it is very heavy and not moving anytime soon. The nesting boxes are in the top half of the coop, on a platform. Under the platform, they have some shade and shelter from the wind and rain. There are doors that lift up on each side of the nesting boxes to gather eggs. We added a small hinged door so that we can go in. Above that door is another door that lifts up, so the kids can drop food in without letting the girls out.

A-Frame Chicken Coop with Old Swingset & Pallet Wood | One Radiant Home

 

A-Frame Chicken Coop with Old Swingset & Pallet Wood | One Radiant Home

 

A-Frame Chicken Coop with Old Swingset & Pallet Wood | One Radiant Home

We decided not to start with chicks this time. We have a busy Spring with some unexpected projects and it seemed good to get some slightly older hens that needed a little bit less care. These chickens are 6-7 weeks old. They have most of their feathers and are able to tolerate the cooler temperatures outdoors.

A-Frame Chicken Coop with Old Swingset & Pallet Wood | One Radiant Home

I have spent a lot of time in the chicken coop over the past few days. We really want the chickens to be comfortable with the kids. If they are handled often at this age, they should become very friendly. In 3 days, I have made great progress. The first day they huddled in the corner screaming (they still have their baby peeping sound). I had to catch all 15 of them two evenings in a row to “tuck” them into bed. They weren’t quite sure where to go and they ran away screaming both nights.

Yesterday several of them wandered around me freely without being scared and they found their way to bed. Today, one of the Buff Orphingtons became very friendly. She’s the first to warm up, but has stopped running away when I pick her up. She also ate out of my hand, which the others are still too cautious to try.

A-Frame Chicken Coop with Old Swingset & Pallet Wood | One Radiant Home

It seems crazy to sit in the coop for an hour, trying to get the chickens to like me…but I know they will be much more enjoyable if they are friendly. And honestly, I’ve enjoyed sitting in the coop. It’s quiet, outside in the sun, away from technology…it’s a really nice spot to sit and think. Plus, the baby chicken antics are pretty funny sometimes.

Now to wait for the eggs…

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3 Things I Learned from Reading When I Don’t Desire God

I just finished reading When I don’t Desire God by John Piper.

I avoided this book for a long time because of the title. Of course I desire God! This book must be for people “in the depths of despair,” as Anne Shirley would say.

I avoided Desperate by Sally Clarkson for the same reason. Silly, but true.

# Things I Learned from Reading When I Don't Desire God | One Radiant Home

When I Don’t Desire God is for everyone. It’s about fighting to see Jesus everyday. It’s about seeing the glory of Jesus Christ and his worth, even on the mundane days. And it’s about seeing the daily fight for joy as a gift.

There are 3 ideas that I spent time reflecting on while reading this book (and probably more, but these are the 3 that stand out)…

First, Piper explains the reason we need to fight for joy (chapter 3). He says, “The fight for joy is first and always a fight to see. Seeing the glory of Jesus Christ in the gospel awakens joy. And joy in Christ magnifies his worth.” We need to see Christ’s glory in the gospel. “Not just the facts, but the beauty of the facts.”

That’s why this book is for everyone. As believers, this is our daily fight—to see the glory of Jesus Christ in everything.

Second, I learned some more specific ways to pray from the Psalms. Piper spends a couple of chapters on prayer. After reading Praying the Bible by Don Whitney and making it a habit to pray from the Psalms, I appreciated the detailed list of themes we can pray from the Psalms to help in the fight for joy. Pray for strategic wisdom, for a deeper sense of assured hope, for strength and endurance, and a whole list of other ideas.

Third, I learned more about how physical realities, including art and music, help us to see glimpses of God’s glory. Since I’m always interested in exploring how creative pursuits relate to the glory of God, this chapter stuck with me. He says, “art and music have the potential to awaken minds and hearts to aspects of God’s glory that were not perceived before.” Though only echoes of God’s glory, great art and music can implore us to look higher, to see the glory of God in the heavens, and to see Him.

“We should make direct use of the world to see and savor the glory of God, wherever he has displayed it. This includes the efforts of man, by his design and art, to represent something of God’s glory. Even those who do not believe in God often sense that there is more to see in what they see. Even the unbelieving artist may unwittingly assist us in seeing and savoring God in the world he has made.”

There is certainly more to learn from this book. These are just the 3 things that had the biggest impact on me at this time. Don’t let the title put you off—this is one of Piper’s most concise and practical books, written for the average Christian, and full of wisdom from a man who has spent his life fighting for joy in God. His aim is to encourage Christians that say Christ is supremely valuable to experience the unsurpassed worth of Jesus. “Christ is supremely glorious and supremely valuable. Therefore he is worth the fight.”

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Top 10 Books I Read in 2015

The beginning of January is one of my favorite times for blog reading. I love the end of the year reflections and I always look forward to reading “best books I read this year” blog posts. Shawn and I both did a lot of reading year, so we thought it would be fun to share our favorite books of the year. This is my list and you can find his favorite books in a separate post.

10 Best Books I Read in 2015 | One Radiant Home

(This post contains affiliate links.)

You may remember my post from earlier this year with some thoughts about how I had to train my brain to read again after enduring the brain fog that comes with multiple pregnancies and a house full of small children. It was a struggle at first, but totally worth the effort. At the beginning of the year, I made a list and set some reading goals so that I could get back in to the habit of reading deeply. My goal was to read about 1 book per week (more than I expected to read, but I wanted to push myself) and I ending up reading about 40 books this year.

There were some weeks when I found I wasn’t reading at all. When there were lags in my reading, it wasn’t because I didn’t have time. I just didn’t have another book ready. I learned that I need to plan ahead, order books or get to the library early, and have a few options ready to go for when I finish my current book. I also read several books at a time. Reading a heavy theological book before bed isn’t ideal, so it helps to have a variety of genres ready to read at different times of the day.

At the beginning of the year, I made a list of books that sounded interesting and included a variety of topics such as theology, business, homeschooling & parenting, and some classic literature. I used that as a starting point, but didn’t necessarily read everything on the list. Throughout the year, some new titles grabbed my attention and I added them to the list. I also saw some books on a great Kindle sale that and I stumbled upon reviews of other intriguing books. The list helped me to read on a variety of topics and gave me ideas when I was ready to start something new. I plan to rollover some of the books from last years’ list on to my 2016 list. I’ll also drop some that no longer interest me and try to add a few more. I’m also hoping to write monthly updates and reviews, because it’s extremely hard to share all of my thoughts about the things I read in one wrap-up post!

So, without any more explanation and in no particular order…here are the top 10 books I read in 2015:

1. Praying the Bible by Donald Whitney – If you’ve ever struggled with boredom or a wandering mind during prayer (that should be almost everybody!), then this little book is a must-read. You can read it in an hour and it might just change the way you pray! I wrote a whole post about this book a few months ago with more details about the book and the prayer method.

2. Notes From A Blue Bike by Tsh Oxenreider – I’ve been following Tsh’s blog, The Art of Simple, for many years. When I saw the digital version of her book was on sale for $.99, (when I checked, it was still just $1.99!) I bought it and started reading. I expected it to be good, but her story was so compelling that I could not put it down. I read it in a couple of days and then read it again to digest the content more slowly, and again this week while I was thinking about it again.

Tsh spent many years living overseas and missed the simplicity and slowness of life in other countries. When she and her family moved back to the US they felt out of place in our fast-paced culture, and found themselves longing for the life they had left. They made a plan to enjoy life more fully by slowing down and making some lifestyle changes that are contrary to the typical American way of life. Her story is woven in between chapters that address intentional living in different areas of their lives like food, travel, work, and school. I enjoyed the story of their lives, but also really connected with the goals and choices they have made for their family. She presents their choices and reasons with grace, leaving room for families to make their own decisions and to make changes when their first ideas don’t go according to plan.

Tsh’s book affirmed that the choices we have made to enjoy our family time at home, seek out good food, prioritize exploration, and make time for creativity, are good for our family even though we often feel out of place. We don’t have to be lost in the never-ending cycle of busyness that seems to overtake so many families. We can make choices that allow us to live our lives more fully, and those choices can change with the different seasons of life that we go through. I felt encouraged to keep doing what we’re doing and to stop and evaluate some other areas of life where we could be more intentional, all without feeling like I was a failure if I didn’t make the same choices that the Oxenreider’s made for their family. I highly recommend this one!

3. Ida Scudder by Janet & Geoff Benge – Ida Scudder is the most amazing missionary I had never heard of. We read several of the missionary books from this series this year as part of our homeschool curriculum. In all of my years in church and homeschool study, I don’t remember ever reading about her. I was hooked within minutes as the author described Ida’s family heritage of medical missions in India. Her grandparents raised 10 children as medical missionaries in India. Seven of their sons (including Ida’s father) received medical degrees and returned to India (the other son planned to, but died tragically while completing his schooling), and their two daughters both married men that served as Indian missionaries. Ida grew up surrounded by aunts, uncles, and cousins all serving on the mission field as a family. Ida went on to pioneer medical training for women in India by opening a women’s medical college and later a hospital. Her story was truly inspiring.

4. Eight Twenty Eight (When Love Didn’t Give Up) by Larissa & Ian Murphy – I first heard of Ian & Larissa a couple of years ago when a video of their story circulated through Facebook. While they were dating, Ian was involved in a car accident that left him with a traumatic brain injury. By the grace of God, Larissa stayed by Ian’s side and loved him until he could return her love again. They married, and though Ian continues to heal, he will always need Larissa to care for him. Larissa tells a beautiful story and is truly gifted with words. Their book shares their story while giving all glory to God for his grace and love. I read this while I was re-reading This Momentary Marriage by John Piper. The books complement each other well as Ian & Larissa’s story shows how a biblical view of marriage (as laid out by Piper) allows them to live in an imperfect marriage in an imperfect world, that demonstrates God’s love to the world. It is inspirational and thought-provoking. (And when I checked, it was only $.99 for the digital version!)

5. Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon – This is a short and fun little book, subtitled “10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative.” I’ve come across some quotes and ideas from this book through other creative blogs and articles and I was intrigued by the very high reviews. There is so much good advice packed into this little book! I’ve read through it a couple of times now and I plan to work through it again, putting the suggestions into practice as a I go. I’m looking forward to reading his 2nd book Show Your Work.

6. The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith – Myquillyn is another blogger turned author. I’ve been following her blog for a few years as well. On the surface it seems to be all about decorating, but there’s a deeper message, one she repeats over and over—it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful. The Nesting Place is filled beautiful imperfect pictures of her home surrounding her story of over a dozen moves, many imperfect homes, her struggle for contentment, and her joy in teaching women how to make their homes feel beautiful among the imperfections. As we bought a house this year and made plans to live here indefinitely (for the first time in our marriage), I needed this encouragement to make this new place feel like our home.

7. The Pastor’s Wife: Strengthened by Grace for a Life of Love by Gloria Furman – Last year, I read (and loved) Gloria’s book Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full, a funny and encouraging look at mothering many small children while keeping Jesus at the center. In this book about life as a pastor’s wife, Gloria does an excellent job of reminding wives of church leaders that their identity is, first and foremost, in Christ. I appreciated her perspective as a pastor’s wife living in Dubai, surrounded by people from all over the world and from different cultural backgrounds. Not only does that provide some humorous stories for her to tell, it also helps her to share Biblical principles that apply to a global church. I highly recommend this for women whose husbands are in any leadership position in the church!

8. Welcome to the Story: Reading, Loving, and Living God’s Word by Stephen Nichols – The introduction of this book explains that God’s word is all one story—the story that tells of our Creation, our Fall, our Redemption, and our Restoration through Jesus Christ. These four themes provide a framework through which we can understand scripture. If you would like to understand how the details of scripture fit into the big picture, this book is a great place to start. Nichols has a knack for telling stories at just the right time to keep the book engaging. I particularly liked the chapter on creation that emphasized God as an artist, creating beauty to display his glory to the world.

9. Prayer by Tim Keller – I just finished this book, and I’m still digesting all of the content. It’s packed with information. Tim Keller’s thoughtful academic analysis of prayer plus his practical tips from years of experience make a well-rounded and thorough book on the subject. I’d love to read it again, taking more notes as I go. In contrast to the quick and easy Praying the Bible, this book requires time and effort to read. It’s worth the effort, but you’ll want to set aside time in the morning to work through it slowly.

10. Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books by Tony Reike – I read this book at the beginning of the year. It’s a helpful guide covering how to read better, what to read, and why you should read. I loved the practical suggestions on choosing books with discernment, reading widely, prioritizing books, and how to read within a Biblical framework. He covers how reading has changed in our culture and how internet habits cripple reading. When I finished, my first thought was that I wanted all of my children to read this book in high school. And just now, I saw that there is a recommendation in the book from the author of the homeschool curriculum I use calling it a “gracious and principled guide”. I highly recommend reading this before you make any reading goals and lists for the year!

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