Nothing in my hands I bring.

October 23rd, 2012

“We are never more safe, never have more reason to expect the Lord’s help, than when we are most sensible that we can do nothing without him.  This way of being saved entirely by grace, from first to last, is contrary to our natural wills: it mortifies self, leaving it nothing to boast of.”  ~John Newton, Letters


Not the labors of my hands
Can fulfil thy law’s demands;

The labors of my hands.

Get up half an hour earlier because Daniel will be working with his dad and grandpa all day.  Katie and Verity are still dry; take them to their potties right away.  Have Peter fill the humidifiers.  Need to eat.  Make sure to fit in phonics flashcards with the little boys and catch up on our history reading.  Sit down and breathe in the sweet scent of clean heads.


Ask John Michael to do his “cleaning the glass” chore before the therapist gets here.  Ask Laura to write baby bath on the grocery list before I forget again.  Have Joshua scrub up some sweet potatoes and put them into the oven to eat with our supper.


Need to make that phone call before office hours are over.  Must choose photos for Katie’s twelve month post-placement report.  Take a few more “Photos of our Family and Home” for Tommy’s country.


Jot a note to ask Daniel for a complete inventory of what’s in our two refrigerators and five freezers so I can finish reorganizing the meal planning and freezer cooking.  Must fold and put away the little girls’ laundry and lay out tomorrow’s clothes.  Answer a few more emails before the lapse of time grows to downright insulting lengths.  Need to keep my eyes open a little longer to be a sounding board for a teenager.  

Plan and prepare for three birthday parties this month.  


Plan and prepare for a couple of field trips.  Have leisure time on field trips; take plenty of photos.  


[“Bamboo,” says Verity.]


[She loves water so much it’s mind-boggling that she never got to play in it before she came home.]


Plan and prepare for company for supper again this week.  Just two therapy sessions this week.  Compensate for one of our household helpers being on vacation.  Do all this and much, much more…with washing machine broken down, slow cooker broken down, and sick children.  Verity cries every time someone coughs, sneezes, or blows their nose.  I am left sweating and exhausted every time I work with Katie to transition her to her new adaptive toilet seat.


The labors of my hands.  What if I was The Supreme Mistress of Organization and never forgot a detail?  What if I was always ahead?  What if I never ran out of energy?  What if I could somehow make every aspect of our lives run flawlessly at all times?  What if we adopted a dozen children with special needs from horrific conditions and I sacrificed all my time to care for them until the day of my death?   

Would that be enough to impress God and satisfy His holy demands on my life?  


Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,

Tears.  They flow for the harsh brokenness and pain that we as humans inflict on one another.  But not enough tears.  Not enough tears over the offense of my own sinfulness.  Never enough to reflect the staggering tragedy of a people in rebellion against the God who made them and sustains them.   

But what if my heart remained soft and broken every moment of every day?  What if I never grew weary or distracted or impatient or downcast?  What if my zeal for Him always burned white hot?  What if I begged Him continually for mercy and forgiveness?   

Would that be enough to pay for my sin?  


All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and thou alone.

Being a good wife, being a good mother, doing good deeds, thinking good thoughts, maybe just having good intentions?

Is my goodness good enough?  Sporadic, pitifully insufficient, fatally flawed human goodness?  Can I offer that up to a God who defines what is pure and good and true and holy and just and right?


Nothing in my hands I bring,
Simply to thy cross I cling;

Full?  No, ma’am.  My hands aren’t full.  I am empty, exhausted of resources, drained dry.  Destitute.  Anything more, and it would be too easy.  Or at least too possible.  I wouldn’t be desperate for Him if I was satisfied without Him. 


Naked, come to thee for dress,
Helpless, look to thee for grace;

So needy of a God who will free me from the clutched remnants of my stiff, proud, pathetic, soiled rags of righteousness.  So needy of the protective covering only He can give me, the royal clothing that marks me as His child.

So desperately needy of all the grace He has to give me.  All of it.  I am empty-handed and free to receive what He so freely gives. 


Foul, I to the Fountain fly;
Wash me, Saviour, or I die. 

Rock of Ages, cleft for me
Let me hide myself in Thee.





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24 Responses to “Nothing in my hands I bring.”

  1. Psalm127Mommy says:

    Amen, my friend.  How I understand.  My prayers are with you, thank you for this reminder….only He is enough.

  2. Milena says:

    I will comment on just some of the photos of this post… What a relief to see that there are more families than our who have more children than three share a rather small bedroom. We have to, since our house is small, but I often feel like we are strange…. Seeing your beautiful and peaceful girls’ room lift a (albeit small but still) burden off my chest. Thank you. 

  3. Maureen says:

    Oh Amen & Amen! I needed that word and reminder this morning. {{{hugs}}} Hope you all are feeling better.

  4. Rebecca K says:

    I truly loved this post. Your house is truly beautiful and peaceful. I LOVE the quilts on the girls’ bed and the window valance, did you make those? I am a first time mommy who struggles with trying to get “everything” done from working full-time, to maintaining house, to give one-on-one time to my daughter….this weekend I had a moment where I felt like a failure, that I couldn’t do this. Your blog post today and your pictures totally reaffirmed me – I needed it. And when the lovely candles I ordered from Becky come in, I will think of you and your amazing family each and every time I smell their amazing scent. 

  5. Jane says:

    Just beautiful.  Thank you for that post.

  6. Warriorbride says:

    What a beautiful post, Susanna, and so true. But, as I have said before and will say again, you are an amazing woman!  I love you and miss you, dear one! 

  7. Jen says:

    Oh, how I relate!!!!!  I really understand!  The business of our days are incomprehensible to others.  I am thankful, the Lord sustains!  I am in awe at the … have someone list the detailed contents of refrigerators … looking forward to a time I can delegate!  :)

  8. Deanna Rabe says:

    I love your beautiful heart…..
    Thank you for sharing this post.
    So thankful, am I, for God’s Grace….

  9. Debbie says:

    If you ever have the time could you post a clothed Katie on the potty picture ? I am trying to figure out how that thing works exactly. Or if there is a website that demonstrates it a link to tha would be fine. Keep up the good work and I will pray for you right now to be able to do what is required of you . Debbie

  10. What?? In 32 years of working with special needs………..I have never seen a potty like this!! Is there a link (the company that sels it) to it so I can see how in the world sweet Katie sits in that?? Oh my!! (((HUGS)))

  11. Susanna says:

    Hey dear Elizabeth and Debbie! Yep, no problem about posting some more detailed pics of the potty–was going to include that in the big Q & A which I still have not worked on one jot. I see it up close and personal-like many times every day, tee hee hee, so tomorrow I’ll take the camera along and snap some shots of the potty and a modest Katie. Eliz, here’s the link: I think I googled something like “pediatric adaptive toilet seat,” and we chose this out of many options.

    Katie’s beginning to catch on after nearly two weeks, but still isn’t all the way there yet. It’s expensive, but God provided, it is already such a huge help I can’t believe I didn’t think of it earlier, it’s hygienic and extremely sturdy, we will most likely be using it for years, and we could possibly use it for Tommy (it came with a deflector).

  12. We’ve always used a Rifton commode. We can’t spare a toilet for those who “sit” a while (wink)! Thank You Susanna for the link, cool stuff!

  13. Katie says:

    Oh Susanna.  These words spoke straight to my heart:  “I wouldn’t be desperate for Him if I was satisfied without Him.”.

     I have burdens on my heart right now that I cannot share freely, only privately, burdens that I have carried for years and years, prayed and cried at night and begged God to make it okay, to take these burdens away and end our struggles.  It is all coming to a head right now and it is painful and terrifying.  And then I think… you’re right!  I was sixteen when this began – in a crisis of faith.  What would have happened to my faith had I not NEEDED God so much?  And then I think to where I was this time last year… in a dark place, because of these same burdens, searching out reason, looking for Him and starting to become convinced He had abandoned me… and then I saw that first picture of Katie, and within days God called me to a new purpose, one that meant I could not give up.  I let myself need Him again and healed.  And after a while things became comfortable again, and I tried to remember to never stop giving thanks for every moment, but life brought me to my knees again.  And all this time I’ve known that He had all of us in His hand, that His will would be done in our lives… sometimes I just try to climb back in the driver’s seat.  Lately everything has been telling me – your words, Adeye’s words, life, God speaks to me in so many ways… to give it all back to Him.  So I did.  And it’s going to be okay and so am I.  

    Thank you so much for letting Him speak through you. 

  14. Kristi says:

    This may be the most beautiful and transparent post I’ve read here. Thank you.

  15. Rachel M says:

    Praise God, thank you.

  16. Anna T says:

    Beautifully written Susanna, continued prayers for you and your precious family.  Love the pictures of the woods, what a neat place, if you don’t mind sharing, where were you?  YEA for potty training and saying more words Miss Verity!  Love the picture of (John Michael?) as a knight!  ((Hugs)), prayers and love!! Anna

  17. sabrina says:

    Beautiful post, Susanna. When we approach Him out of our weakness and poverty…we can truly begin to be filled by Him. When we can still do it in our own power we just keep doing it on our own.

    My pride would still love to be the woman who has it all together and can do everything well, but I’m so grateful that the Lord had other plans for me. 

  18. Susanna says:

    Hello dear Anna! Thank you so much for your friendship and prayers!

    We buy one family membership each year, and this year’s membership was Longwood Gardens. It is a truly lovely place, with many charming and whimsical places for children to discover and explore. My photographs don’t come close to doing it justice! We’ve spent a day there at least once each season so far this year, and plan to go a few more times before our membership expires and we choose a different membership for 2013.

    It’s been a few years since we’ve done the PA Trail of History, and we’re studying Early America with a new group of children…

  19. Susanna says:

    Jen, yes, what a gift to have the help of all the older ones! It makes up for the red-eye (teenager) shift that is also in your future! I remember feeling that awestruck feeling years ago at an older friend who could go shopping or on a date with her husband and leave several young adult children in charge at home. :)

  20. Susanna says:

    I miss you too, dear Joy! It’s so good to hear from you!

  21. Susanna says:

    Rebecca K, thank you for your lovely comment! The quilts were recent and inexpensive K-Mart finds and suited the need perfectly. Back before life got busy and we had more space for sewing projects, I made the valances and attached curtains out of gifted quilt squares and a piece of vintage linen found in a favorite thrift store. SO satisfying to be creative, isn’t it?

  22. Susanna says:

    Milena, you are certainly not alone! We know so many larger families who get the fun of being creative with space! We are so used to the cozy living space that it rarely registers with us. I love it that our whole house can be cleaned in a relatively short time. :)

  23. Wendy says:

    What a beautiful post that spoke to my Pharisee heart!  I so struggle with the sin of trying to be self-sufficient.  Thank you for the wonderful reminder and for pointing to the One who is truly sufficient!

  24. Laurie Smith says:

    Oh, I sooo needed to read this tonight….. as I sit here in Ukraine, in tears, figuring out that “nothing in my hands I bring”….

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