Friday, August 17, 2018

Road Trippin'

I just finished up 10 days of driving and living within the confines of my minivan with my 4 boys + husband. Big, scruffy, hungry boys. Boys who I’m sure are messier and dirtier and stinkier than I raised them to be. What ever happened? Clothes and underwear and toothpaste and headphones and books and games and hats and wrappers and cups and Kleenexes everywhere. Everywhere. Our van smells like Subway meets Chipotle + 8 stinky feet. We shared the seats in the van for 50 hours, shared one hotel room for too many days, shared the ransacked food in the cooler jammed between the back seats. 

But worst of all, we shared the same toilet. If ever I was to wonder where my parenting went bad, I need only to look at the shared toilet. Were they raised in a barn? Hit the water, not the seat my boys! In fact, just because you CAN stand up to pee doesn't mean you SHOULD. Have a seat. On the throne. It's better for all of us. 

And best of all, we shared the same moments. These moments created memories that span the miles of 7 states and 1 province, and back again. These moments created a lot of laughter, a little frustration, and sporadic times of quiet. As I write this we are making our way across Michigan, heading home, and my boys are discussing the pros and cons of various movies present and past, and of course, talking about all the restaurants we DIDN’T eat at (cue second mortgage here). 

I learned some things about my boys...

One of them actually does NOT like his name. (What???? Bite tongue and swallow hard and...apologize? Nope. Smile knowing deep down that it really isn't that bad).
One of them would eat at Pizza Ranch every day if he could, although on any other given day he doesn't like cheese. (Pizza Ranch, we learned, is a pizza buffet. Great for most teenaged boys. Tuck that piece of advice away).
One of them stills loves to play Pokemon on his DS. (Hours of silent entertainment in the back).
One of them said out of the blue, "I think it would have been awkward to have 3 boys and 1 girl", sparking a quick reply of another: "I think she would have been a “homie”. She would have been just like us." ("Awkward"?? That's an interesting word choice...")

But there is something about family, something about being together even after being apart. There is something about growing up together that binds us together, that anchors us, that secures us and protects us. It provides room for the tension of love and laughter alongside frustration and disappointment. It creates space for honesty and compassion. It allows for uniqueness and creativity, for truth and character, for freedom and grace. Most of all, it paves the way so there is always a way back.

And that something is actually someone: Jesus.  Keep Jesus in your family. 
Even when it's a hard conversation - have it. 
Even if it's an awkward conversation - have it. 

Family is worth it. Your family is worth it. Your boys are worth it.

Our 10 day road trip was probably the last of it's kind for our family. Which is why we did it. Because we love our boys and value our time together and know that the sacrifices of time and energy (and money...) are worth it even if the toilet is disgusting and I can't possibly eat one more slice of pizza.

All in all, we did alright. 
Especially for being a family that hasn't even been in the same country let alone the same minivan for most of the past year. This is how I know God is real. Lord have mercy, we all survived.

But we not only survived. I believe we all came out a little stronger.

Yup - that's a little Poker game going' on.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Happy Mother's Day to Me

It's Mother's Day, after church, in the kitchen, and I'm making lunch.

My 15 year old son emerges from the basement after playing a round of Fortnight with his buddies. He looks at me across the kitchen and smiles. He walks towards me, bends low and puts his long arms around me, embracing me in a long bear hug.

Knowing that he has not yet wished me "Happy Mother's Day", that I had to pull him out of bed this morning and that he was the reason we were late for church (again!), I think, "This is it!"; he has just clued in that it is Mother's Day and he is going to love on me for being his Mom! His embrace lasts long enough that I get lost in an ocean of thoughts...

...remembering so desperately thinking he was a girl before he was born (to the point that I too emphatically yelled, "What??" when the doctor told me he was a boy...true story), to being so thankful for the man he is becoming,...

...remembering holding him tightly as a baby in my arms to feeling how tightly he is holding me now in his,

...seeing the similarities flash too quickly through my mind of the baby he was to the boy he is and the man he is becoming - in his features, in his mannerisms, in his laughter, and in his passion.

And just as tears begin to prick the sides of my closed eyelids, and my heart is feeling full, as I soak in this growing boy with all I have, he breathes in deeply, lets out a breath of relaxation and contentment, and his stature falls deeper and harder and heavier onto mine, and he says to me...

"What's for lunch?"

I sigh, pull back, look him straight in the face. I search his eyes to find out what he is thinking, for a clue of something...anything...and I see nothing but pure 15 year old boy trust and love and freedom.

"Grilled cheese. Would you like me to make you a grilled cheese for lunch?"

"Sure, Mom, if that fits the ticket."

It sure does, my boy. It sure does.

And I silently wish myself a Happy Mother's Day because I am truly happy to be a mother, on this day and all the others.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Priority Post

A couple of weekends ago, I attended the Priscilla Shirer Live event in Mississauga. Great teaching, fabulous worship, and a whole lot of fun spent with women I love.

Throughout Priscilla's exposition on Mark 1, she landed on a 'Supernatural Priority' point. During that portion, Priscilla (yes, we are on a first name basis) shared with us a story that Jill Briscoe had shared with her a number of years ago. It was about balancing life and priorities. I will summarize it here quickly from my notes:
  • suppose you have 10 clear plastic boxes sitting in front of you
  • each box represents a different responsibility, job, relationship, that you have
  • most people think that to balance all of these - to have a balanced life with everything that needs to get done, the things that fill our lives - that the boxes should each have the same amount in them -- life is balanced if all of these boxes have an equal amount put into them
  • that is pretty near impossible! (my thought)
  • I need to ask God which boxes are to be my priority IN THIS SEASON; which 2 or 3 boxes can I focus on and do well to fill IN THIS SEASON…it doesn’t mean forever, it doesn’t mean not ever, but for RIGHT NOW
  • and the key is??? to prioritize time with God to determine which boxes are the important ones, and then LET THE OTHER BOXES BE DEPLETED…for this season (WOW. Depleted??)
  • “Having the courage to say No and let them be depleted for this season leaves margin which makes room for a wonderful YES to the boxes that God has really called you to” - also room for crises and the unexpected
  • “There are great Yeses when we have the courage to say No”.

This can be so hard - to let the things we thought were important fall away because AT THIS TIME they just aren't. They will be again, no doubt, especially if they are gifts and talents and passions that God has given you. 

You gotta know and believe that God will bring those back to the forefront IN THEIR SEASON - 
and it will be great when that happens!

The journal prompt question on the page of my notetaking booklet was actually “How is God calling you right now?”. I believe that it was not random that I ended up writing this point on this page. It prompted me to think about all the things that fill my life, the responsibilities and people that fill my days. Do I have my priorities straight, have I been focusing on the right things, the God directed things? It’s tough, it really is. 

One thing that I have learned to do is to ask God to not only help me prioritize what I should be doing, but to lessen the passion, the desire, for the things that, in my humanness, I think are important, but are not to be my “box of choice” IN THIS SEASON.
  • Pray that God would lessen the desires that are from Him but are not for now, and ask Him to remove the selfish, human desires that are totally just from me and are really, for never.
Some of you may know that I like to write (because you are reading this...thank you!). I have this small blog where I infrequently write about things of life and ministry and family. I believe that God has gifted me to write and I enjoy doing it. I enjoy being in ministry with my husband and family and I have SO MANY things that I’d love to see happen, to dive in to, to dig deeper into. I love doing these things! **They even bring me life and enjoyment!** But I know, when I look at my boxes God has placed in front of me, that writing and serving as my heart desires is not for right now. 

Right now, IN THIS SEASON, I know that God is calling me to teach and to parent and to serve in small ways because this is what my family needs. It’s even what I have decided I must need as it must be preparing me for the future. I know (at least I really, really hope) that God will give me time and opportunity to write and minister in a wider fashion at some point, but I have found peace in knowing that if I’m going to do a good job at the boxes God has prioritized in front of me right now, then I have to let those other boxes be depleted...for now. 

I am trusting that my courageous NO has opened up some wonderful YESES.

Does that take some adjusting? Sure it does. Does it mean that I struggle with my purpose and my place in our church? You bet. Does it mean that my work and my family are without problems? Absolutely not.  Does it mean that I don't fight jealousy when I see others spending time doing the things that I’d like to be doing? Nope, I have to constantly repent of that one. 

There are struggles, challenges and joys within each of these boxes, and I have to repeatedly ask for wisdom and discernment along the way.  But because I am focusing on a few, I have the energy to give to them from my best and not from my own depleted soul. I am loving where God has me, and I am trusting that the God-given boxes that are for another season will be waiting for me. I have to believe that they are even being prepared for me, and I for them.

It takes trust to let go of the things we desire; I don't really want to let these things go, but I'd certainly like to give them to God. He is in charge of each of those boxes. I also need to trust Him with each of the God-given desires and passion that are important and good but not for right now. I know that when the time is right, the opportunities will return, and God will open up my time and provide me with a renewed passion and desire to see these things flourish.

There is both challenge and struggle, but also profound joy and abundant grace when we can find THIS sort of balance...the balance of the God directed life, the balance of the God prioritized life.

May all of this be yours in Christ Jesus.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Quick Sips of Silence

This morning my house is silent. "Enjoy the quiet this morning," my husband says as he walks out to his breakfast meeting, "it might be the last for a while".

Enjoy the quiet. Enjoy the silence.

I love having a quiet house to myself, but this summer that has evaded me. We have had kids going here and there, travelling the province and the world. We have had friends moving out and friends moving in. We have had special family to visit, travel visas to attain, outside doors to paint, beautiful weddings to enjoy, fantastic conferences to attend, encouraging gatherings to meet at, plenty of parties to throw. I refuse to call my summer busy because that seems too negative. My summer has been full...gloriously full.

But my summer has been anything but silent.
However, my summer has been anything but devoid of God.

I sat here this morning wondering about the silence that now shrouds me. What am I to do with this silence? What do I think? Should I do something in this silence? I still have a couple of rooms to clean, tidy and organize. I could start to organize and pull out work for my students who I will see in just over one week. I could start to paint the garage doors that have been half started for weeks. I could watch TV. I could read a book. I could text an encouraging verse to a friend. I could fill it a thousand different ways. What do I do with this silence? (Apparently, I write a blog post...)

And I wonder if I am afraid of silence because it's been a while. Am I afraid of what I might think, of what I might feel, or maybe even of what God might say to me? I let my mind wander back over my summer, over the two months we have each year that are laden with expectation and anticipation of anything but routine and school. I know that there have been snippets of time where I was able to drink deep of the loud silent presence of God. I also know that there were times when I was too busy, too caught up in all that was around me, to remember that God was there, breathing life and being into my soul. I know that there were times when Truth and Grace and Love pervaded the very air around me. I know that even in the fullness of my summer, I also experienced the fullness of my God because this past summer, they were one in the same. I experienced the very full presence of God in my very full, beautiful summer.

And I loved every minute of it.

This is new for me. Usually I fight for some silent space, some solitude where I can breathe deep and relax into voice of God. As "mostly" an introvert, I like and need some of that space, I absolutely do. And I can come close to crashing if I don't get it. But this summer God has allowed me to take quick sips of His silence because that is what life allowed me to do. Do I love and long to drink deep? Absolutely. Do I think that is important and vital to a deepening relationship? You bet. But I also know that as life changes and challenges our time and energy and focus, God provides all we need to make it survive it.

But not just survive it...He gives us what we need to thrive in it.

We just gotta let Him. 
We just gotta accept it from Him. 

Because in it He has something new to teach us about about Himself, about ourselves, and there is a deep richness in that acceptance which will settle our souls and humble our hearts.

Silence is golden. I still believe that. But I am thankful that this summer my prayers have been fuelled by a passionate fire for His truth in the midst of the fullness of life. There is a new desire for Christ in my everyday, and this summer of fullness has taught me to believe that and live in that.

Tomorrow two of my kids come home from camp, Monday I begin to set up my classroom, next Saturday the other two return from camp, and then Tuesday school starts. And the two months we have each year that are laden with expectation and anticipation of anything but routine and school come to an end.

So if you are a looker and lover of solitude like I am, you know that any moments you get are a gift. So accept that gift from a God who knows you more and loves you deeper than anyone possibly could.

And maybe, just maybe, silence can actually come in the chaos. Drink deep of the fullness of silence amidst the fullness of life in the moments God gifts you, whether big or small.

God, grant me quick sips of your grace and truth. Help me to thrive, not just survive in the space you have placed me, silent or not.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Two or Three Gathered Today

Today, I gathered.

I gathered together with a bunch of women at my house. Some came bringing babies slung to their chests, many came with a brood toddlers and plethora of diaper bags, while still others came with energetic young boys and girls who played hard. Some even came without kids just so they could also gather together.

I was reminded of the promise of Jesus in Matthew 18:20,

"Where two or three are gathered in My name, I am there among them."

What a sweet promise that is! A promise that is felt, a promise that is held, and a promise that is Truth. Each of these women gathered together today to be together, but the common bond that pulled us all together was the Truth of that promise...Jesus, by His Holy Spirit, was among us.

"Gathered" is literally translated "to come together, to meet" and specifically in this verse, gathering at a place is inferred in the Greek. So today we came together, we met at a place, and we ate delicious food and drank hot coffee and savoured sweet conversation that propelled us into new and deeper relationships. All the while, He was present because He promised to be. The very presence of the very God who promised to be with us, was with us as we gathered. How often we forget that truth! That whenever we get together in the name of Jesus, He is present.

Wouldn't it be great to embrace this truth in our everyday lives? Would we act differently, think differently, speak differently, if we truly embraced this truth? We need to remember that each and every time we gather - we come together - Christ is there in our midst. He listens, He encourages, He consoles, He strengthens, He invites, He bonds, He embraces...because He promised He would. He promised He would be among us. The Greek translation for "among" is literally "in, or within".

So when we gather, Christ promises to be within us.

Sometimes, like the context for this verse, we need to gather together for the benefit and good of our friends. But sometimes we need to gather together for the benefit and good of ourselves too. Gathering combats loneliness. Gathering creates community. And in community we can challenge and restore and encourage and love. And in community I can be challenged, restored, encouraged and loved.

Gathering together is good for our Soul. It is good for the body of Christ. It is good for His Church. Because it speaks Truth into our lives when we need it most and it helps us listen and hear the voice of God that is within us. It intersects our lives with others, even if just for a few hours. It allows us to breathe deep His Truth and spread wide His Love. It causes us to both give and receive.

I recognize that gathering requires action - a decision to do it and then a commitment to be a part of it. Sometimes it is hard because it forces us out of our comfort zones. Sometimes our expectations are unmet, and we feel alone in a room full of people. Sometimes gathering is painful and hard because the reason we have had to gather is one that brings heartache and sorrow. It is not happy. It is not loving. We do not feel embraced and encouraged. But the truth is, He is still present even in the sorrow and the heartache and the pain. Even when we are feeling lonely in the crowd, He is still present. Because He is ever-present and He has promised to be with us - the be within us. Breathe deep of His promise that He will "never leave you nor forsake you". The Message puts Hebrews 13:5 this way,

"Since God assures us, "I'll never let you down, never walk off and leave you", we can boldly quote, God is there, ready to help. I am fearless, no matter what."

Be fearless no matter what.

When gathering together seems overwhelming, remember that you can be fearless...
                                                             no matter what...
because Christ has promised to be within you when you gather together in His name.

And besides that, it can be a whole lot of fun.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Claim It

Yesterday was a big day for our family. Our oldest son passed his road test and is now an official driver on the roads in Ontario (and elsewhere, I guess...if we ever let him leave the area!!). YAY!!

So I made a little cake to celebrate! "Happy G2 to you! Happy G2 to you!"

This did not come easily, it was not a given, it was a chance for him - and us as his parents - to overcome nerves, to forget what was in the past, to face fear with strength and power. He had failed his first attempt at this so overcoming that fear, going back at it, was huge for him. Failure is difficult for any of us, but this particular failure fractured my son. Facing failure is a life lesson that we all have to keep learning (unfortunately!). And while it presents the enemy with an opportunity to tell us otherwise, we need to remember that:

God does not delight in our failure, but He does delight in how we deal with our failure. 

Face it and learn from it. Go back at it. Go back to God with it. Our future is not determined by our past failures, but by our present victories. Often we don't even try, we don't venture into where God would have us because we are afraid. We are fearful; we are full of fear. Failure makes us feel less than, not good enough, second best at best. We hear and feel the lies of an enemy who seeks to destroy who we are. Battle back. Battle hard. Remember WHOSE you are. Stand firm. Stay strong. Claim the victory that has already been won on your behalf. 

"Be strong and courageous, and do the work.  Don't be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you." (2 Chron 28:20)

There has been a lot of talk about "fear" lately. Fear of world events, fear of weather,  fear of failure, fear of test results, fear of mountains that need to be climbed - or moved - fear because many things seem, well, out of our control.

But that is just it. Things are out of our control.

And that is a good thing. In fact, that is a great thing.

Because, let's be honest, if we could actually control all those things we are fearful of, we would be in a much bigger mess than we could ever imagine. I mean, I can't control the regular cleaning my house or the routine of going grocery shopping or things my kids say and do. How would I ever control something much bigger? Especially when those much bigger situations also include other people, who I certainly can not control.

We can be thankful that Someone bigger than us is in control and therefore we really do not have anything to fear.

In chatting with other women - with some of you - who are are facing fears in big brave ways, it is becoming evident that we need to claim who we are in Christ. Our identity has to come from something - Some One - that is bigger than what we see, who we are married to, who our children are, or where we work (or where we don't...).  Beth Moore, in her "Inheritance" Bible study, talks about a "river of fear" that is essentially flowing through our land of inheritance which is keeping us from living fully in our calling. This river of fear seems too big, too wide, too rough, too deep to cross. We can give it all sorts of excuses, but the truth is, when we are hidden in Christ, walking with him in and through this fear, we already have the victory over it. Yes, we can get over the river and cross over in victory! We can cross that river on the bridge built of love and trust and sacrifice by Jesus Christ himself. Face the fear. Cross the river. Claim the victory.

Now, I know that a whole whack of you are saying, "Easier said than done", and you are about to stop reading. Keep reading. Please. Because I believe God wants you to hear some truth today.

What are these fears that are keeping us from living in the full truth of our calling? This is just a sampling of words I have heard lately: judgement, insecurity, self-doubt, comparison, too hard, too long, I'm tired, I've tried, someone else is already doing that, there are thousands of people better at that, how can I be sure that is actually from God?

My dear Sister, these are lies that bombard our hearts and minds daily. We have to equip ourselves with the heart and mind of God if we are to overcome them.  Thankfully, God has given us the tools to do so. 
He has given us His Word - Learn it. Read it. Memorize it. Say it. Claim it.
He has given us His Spirit - Comfort. Peace. Wisdom. Power. Sound mind.
He has given us each other - Live. Love. Dream. Pray...together.

One of my new prayer habits is praying Scripture. I love that when I don't have the words, God does. When I don't know what words to pray, God's Word gives me the words. For my son I prayed, "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and sound mind"(2 Tim 1:7). I just love that!       

Newsflash!!! Those fearful thoughts you have? They are not from God. 

When we feel fear, it is not from God. God did not give us that spirit. The spirit He gave us is His Holy Spirit - called the Comforter, the Counsellor (John 14:16)- the advocate of peace and wisdom (John 14:26). He has provided for us an avenue to approach the throne of grace with confidence (Heb 4:16) so that we can pray with boldness and strength.

And so that we can do that thing we have been called to do. 

Even if we have to do it scared. Because by doing it scared, we are stomping on the words and lies of the enemy who tells us we can't. We are taking hold of that fear with both fists, giving it a good shake, and saying, "Not on my land, you don't. Not on my God-given land". 

Claim that God's words are greater, that His power is greater, that His Spirit is greater.

"You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world." (1John 4:4)

What is keeping you from living fully in the calling God has for you? What fear is preventing you from fully embracing your true identity in Christ? 

Name it. Face it. 
Cross the river. Claim the victory.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Christmas and Aleppo

My heart is breaking these days. Breaking for Mamas and kiddos and grandparents and fathers and others that I don't even know. People. Humans.

Their pictures are all over the internet and on our TVs. Lovers of people. Believers in good. Holders of dreams. Makers of homes and houses and communities and a life that deserves so much more.

These precious people of Aleppo.

I. Can't. Even.

I am sitting here typing on my computer, watching TV, being warmed by my fireplace, the glow of the Christmas tree in the corner, my children playing outside and in, with each other, with things. We have so much. I am torn gut-raw this Christmas.

I. Can't. Even.

There are six wrapped gifts under our tree, one for each of us. Honestly, there are more upstairs in their hiding places, away from the eyes and tries of my kids. But I'm having a hard time moving them from their secret place to under our Christmas tree. This Mama is having a hard time wrapping gifts to put under a tree when Mamas across the world are having a hard time wrapping their precious little ones just to save their lives. This Mama is dodging people and traffic, while other Mamas are dodging bullets and missiles. Little has rocked my world like the current events in Aleppo.

I love gift giving. I actually even (usually) love shopping for Christmas presents. One of my favourite things to do each Christmas is go shopping and get it all done at once, enjoying the festive atmosphere of the mall. Weird for many of you, I realize, but seriously, I have always loved doing that. This year was different. I got my day to go shopping. Had my list. Had my plan in my head. I was looking forward to buying some special things, drinking over priced coffee from a red cup, and eating whatever I wanted to at the food court. And I did all those things, but there was something missing. There was a sadness, a regret, a deep sorrow that I couldn't shake.

Aleppo. Mamas and Papas in Aleppo are going to wake up on December 25th to atrocities and horror, and we are going to wake up to lovingly and lovely wrapped gifts, or maybe a breakfast with family, or maybe a dinner with loved ones with laughter and singing and sharing and...peace.

That's it. The whole juxtaposition of our world and their world. Peace vs. violence.  Calm vs. chaos. Our greatest concern seems to be whether or not we will have a white Christmas (which I'm pretty sure we are safe in assuming yes to!). I know that our world, our community, is not immune to the pain of sorrow and sadness, of loss and regret and striving to make ends meet. I know that there are people that I rub shoulders with each week that are facing a much different Christmas. My heart break for those across the world does not lessen the reality of those suffering within my community. It is all real. It is all sad. It is all needing to be made right.

So, do I take all the gifts back? Do I not do Christmas this year because Mamas across the world are suffering? I don't think that is the answer. I don't have an answer. But I do have an idea.

God sent Jesus to be our Messiah, our Saviour, to be our Prince of Peace. Our world welcomed peace when Baby Jesus arrived, and now that is the peace we have to offer. So that is my prayer this season.

I am praying that God's peace would be on display. That His peace would win over the violence and chaos. That His peace would settle in and on the hearts of humans everywhere. Including my own.

My idea...As I wrap gifts this year, I will pray for Mamas in Aleppo and other places in our great big world, where Mamas are wrapping precious little ones, where Mamas are protecting and persevering and praying for peace.

Each gift that gets wrapped under my tree represents a prayer for a Mama in Aleppo.
Each gift that gets opened from under my tree represents a prayer for a child in Aleppo.

Another idea...Give. There are many great organizations on the ground already in Aleppo and the surrounding area.

Or check out this list here:

Sign a petition here:

This Christmas our theme at church is Simply Christmas. We have been challenged to Spend Less, Give More, and Love All. This truth has really hit home this year.

Simply Christmas. Simply Love. Simply Give. Simply Pray.

My heart hurts as I watch the atrocities around the world. Sure I am thankful for all I do have, for all the blessings that come with being born and raised in our part of the world. But my heart is open to simply love and share the peace that came as a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. That is the gift that I simply give to the Mamas and kiddos of Aleppo. It's all I have, but it has to be enough, I am praying that it is enough, because I am believing that He is enough.

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
~Isaiah 9:6