Faith

Holding on to What we Know

“Only, let us live up to what we have already attained.” Philippians 3:16

Forgetting the Past 

My grandmother was always very proud of her birthplace in Saskatchewan. Though many have mocked its flat and boring landscape, she used to say that it was one of the most beautiful places in the world because there was nothing to block her view of the sunrise. She grew up in a Low-German speaking home. When the children went to school, they learned some English, but still always spoke their native language among their family because it was the only language their mother could speak. Eventually, many of the children grew up and moved further away from home, spreading out to different provinces across Canada. Time went on and they began to have families of their own. My grandmother recalls that one of her sisters spoke only English after she moved away, and as the years went by, she forgot how to speak Low German. She couldn’t even call her own mother and have a conversation, because they couldn’t speak the same language!

“I couldn’t understand how that could be,” I remember my mom saying, “Her first and main language was German until adulthood!” 

When we don’t use the information we know, eventually the mind forgets.

This was both intriguing and shocking to me. I hadn’t even known that it was possible to forget information that you had used daily for so many years! Yet, the same is true for our spiritual walk, is it not? In the book of Philippians, Paul reminds believers to “live up to what you have already attained.” 

He’s saying: “You’ve already done the hard work of learning these lessons – now keep living them out! Don’t forget what you already know. Listen to God’s voice, and abide in him daily. Keep on being kind and generous; remember humility. When God teaches you to fast and pray, keep on doing it! If you don’t, you’ll forget – you’ll lose these precious teachings.”

A Most Important Lesson

As a young mother I still remember one of the most important pieces of advice that was given to me by an older woman. I admired this woman a lot, both for the way she managed her home and how she lived out her faith. I recall asking her where she ever found time to do devotions and have any extra “me-time” in her busy day. 

I’ll never forget her answer.

With a knowing smile, she looked at me and shared her secret, “Being with God, is my ‘me-time’.”

What a profound thought! Spending time with Jesus had become to her a much more rewarding “break” than any bubble bath, novel, or time spent mindlessly scrolling through her phone. It is a secret I’ve kept with me for many years and the more time I spend with Jesus, the more I’ve found it to be true. Spending time at the feet of Jesus is truly the greatest treasure.

Living up to what we Know

Through the many struggles we faced in 2020, so many times I let down my guard. It was so easy to do! All my usual support groups were shut down, online, or postponed. Churches were closed. There was no one to keep me accountable, no one to challenge my faith. Who would care if I missed my morning time with God, or if I skipped an online church service here and there? Who would notice if I read news articles and worried, instead of taking my thoughts to God in prayer?

No one.

And so, many times I found myself starting to let go. I would begin my morning devotions, only to pick up my phone and distract myself, forgetting the sweet feeling of peace in God’s presence. Instead of trying to grow in Jesus, I compared myself to others around me. I began blaming my shortcomings on stress, or the lack of encouragement I felt. The further I travelled down this road, the further discouraged I was becoming.

Finally, one morning, after spending an hour scrolling through depressing news articles and the comments about them, I opened my bible and cried out to God: “Father, I am feeling so lost and depressed. Why do you feel so far away from me in this dark time?” 

The Holy Spirit so gently reminded me that it was always thanksgiving and worship that had brought me into the joy of his presence before. 

Nothing had changed, except my approach.

I was coming into his presence complaining about my life and the problems around me, totally forgetting that I was entering the very throne room of God! Sometimes I hadn’t even tried to meet with him at all, instead, I embraced the distractions around me.

 I had forgotten what I had known to be true for years: Wisdom and peace is only found sitting at the feet of Jesus. God’s perspective is only gained by standing in his council.

How easy it is to tell ourselves: “I just need a break” and then we let ourselves slip into complacency. The soul does not need a rest from God’s council. In fact, sitting at the feet of Jesus is our rest. 

Be Still and Know

There are so many scriptures reminding us of these truths. God obviously knew we would need them spoken to us over and over again so we would not forget.

“Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted among the earth.”   Psalm 46:10

This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: Only in returning to me and Resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. but you would have none of it.”  Isaiah 30:15 NLT

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”   Matthew 11:20-30

In this painful time of trouble, don’t forget the peace you’ve found in him when times were good. Remember the comfort you’ve received in his presence! Put down the distractions and come, for he is willing to meet you as you are. Let us bring our pain before him, and let him heal it. Where we’ve stumbled and fallen in the fog of these past months, let us return to him and allow him pick us up and lead us once again. The important thing isn’t to know all the answers. 

It’s to remember what you already know.

“A bruised reed he will not break, a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth.”    Isaiah 42:3-4

COVID-19 · Faith · Family

The Day of Small Things

A Sudden Change

         “‘Mommy! Mommy!’ Her chubby two-year-old hand stretched out towards the familiar church building as we passed it by. ‘Church?’ she asked hopefully.

         ‘Not today honey, maybe next time,’ I soothed from the front seat.

         It had been weeks since she’d been to her favorite weekly outing and she was beginning to cry every time we passed the place that she had come to know and love. It was absolutely heartbreaking for me to see, but I reminded myself that it was only temporary. 

         ‘Soon we will go back,’ I kept telling her. Yet as the weeks turned into months, we kept passing the vacant building which was once bustling with activity and she began asking less and less.

          ‘No church,’ was always the reply. 

         And then one day she stopped asking. As hard as the tears were to hear, the most heartbreaking thing of all was that she had forgotten. My daughter no longer remembers church.”

A young mother I know shared this situation with me a few months ago and it has run through my mind many times. After almost a year now of closures, how is the next generation going to view faith and community? How are they going to view God? Are they going to realize the importance of gathering, of spurring one another on?

A Different Sort of Church

            As we adjust to life in all the ups and downs of 2020, one of the greatest challenges we’ve had to face is no longer being able to gather in the ways that we used to.

             Maybe the scene above feels all too familiar for you. Or maybe, for your family, it was a welcome change to be able to watch kids church, sporting your comfiest pjs at the breakfast table, avoiding the usual chaos and rush of Sunday mornings. Whatever the case, we all have to admit that online church is just not the same

            We all miss something about meeting together… whether it is seeing your child make it through kid’s church without your number being called for the very first time, seeing the parking lot packed from end to end with each weekly activity, visiting with friends in the café, listening to an uninterrupted sermon, or missing LIVE worship (let’s face it, worship on a screen is just not the same). As the heartbroken mother above shared about her little girl’s fading desire for church, she brought up some very real and valid concerns many of us parents are facing: Is my child growing up without experiencing the church? Who will teach them about Jesus? Am I enough for them in this season?

            Where do I even start? 

            The church’s strength has always been in working together, becoming the “village” our children need to develop a love and understanding of God and others. But what about when we are apart? Can we still be the body of Christ and raise the next generation to become passionate followers of Jesus? 

We Are the Church

As a mother of five myself, I have to say that this year has been one of the most difficult and stretching years of my entire life. Not only have I had to deal with my own confusing emotions, I have to help my kids navigate these same thoughts and feelings as well. As a routine person, not being about to make concrete plans for the next week, never mind the year – has made me feel like I will lose my mind. Add distance learning to the mix (HELLLOO CHAOS!!) and my capacity for anything else is at zero…

And I’m doing this mostly alone. 

We all are.

Never before have we felt so isolated and far apart when we need each other more than ever before. We hear words like: “we’re all in this together” but it’s really difficult to feel “together” at all. But… we are still the church. We are meant to shine now, more than ever before. We believe this. How do we live it out?

Don’t Despise the Small Things

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin…” Zechariah 4:10 (NLT) 

            When the Israelites began rebuilding the temple after the exile, it was a pitiful sight at first. Those who remembered the former glory and beauty of their place of worship must’ve felt complete despair at the sight. The task before them was enormous. Their workers were so few.

 Which makes it so incredible when God encouraged them with these words: “Do not despise the day of small things.”

I would dare to say that God is speaking a similar word to parents today. He sees the tears, the struggle and the stress. He sees the overwhelm and the loneliness. He sees the despair of having nothing on the calendar to look forward to. And he’s calling us to remember the small things. God’s not expecting us to rise up in impossible and grand ways. He’s looking for the little things and rejoicing at each act of worship, no matter how small.

Maybe its picking up your little one and telling them once again about the powerful wonders that God performed for his people in slavery. Or about the many miracles Jesus did on earth.

Maybe it’s turning on worship music and dancing around the kitchen, just to lighten the mood.

Maybe it’s taking an afternoon with your kids to make cookies and cards, then going on a drive together to drop them off for someone who is struggling with sickness or loneliness.

Or maybe it’s simply the broken moments. The moments where you fall on your knees, exhausted and at your wits end, begging for God to help you through another day.

Don’t despise these moments, however small. Let the Father, who sees the small things, speak to you. The small beginnings are important, they are valuable and he rejoices over each effort to come to him.

Canada · COVID-19 · Faith · Family

Good Surprises

“Oh great,” I thought, “More bad news to pass on to my already discouraged family.”

 It was a couple weeks into November 2020. I waited most of the day, dreading the thought of telling them that more restrictions were being made… once again. Upon hearing the news of schools being shut down again, my son burst into tears of frustration: “It’s like the month of bad surprises!” 

The thing is, he wasn’t wrong.

There were so many disappointments and we were all having an extremely difficult time navigating all of it. Our grandmother had died. Our family of seven had all gotten COVID-19. Schools were closed. Life was once again grinding to a halt. We were all stuck at home all the time. And this had just been the past month! Hadn’t we tried again and again to “make the best of it?” 

There was just nothing to look forward to anymore.

So many thoughts ran through my mind. I was tempted to wallow in my grief, but I’d been in that pit of depression before, a place so dark that life seems to fade into a black and white blur. It is in this desperate place that I called out to God: “Father, I need a plan to lift my family out of this. Please, give me the gift of creativity; ideas to bring joy to our family. I need something that will brighten our cold, dark winter nights, so that next few months aren’t just filled with disappointments for my kids.”

What about a month of good surprises?

The idea took root and began to grow.

Yes! That was it! We could, within the walls of our own home, create an atmosphere of anticipation each day of the month, with a new surprise to look forward to every evening. Sort of like a twist on the typical advent calendar, it would be a bit of work on my part, but, with proper planning I knew we could pull it off!

Now I was excited. As fast as I could, I grabbed my day planner and made a rough sketch of the month:

There were games nights, worship nights, and nights to “get out” and drive around, looking at Christmas lights or simply blessing others. There were activities for me (like ice cream sundae night) and some purely for the kids (games in the dark and “make up our own recipes” …as I shudder… SO. MUCH. SUGAR.)

By the time I had finished filling in the calendar, I was grinning from ear to ear. It was, in many ways, so simple – but I knew it would brighten our evenings. Here’s a list of a few of the “good surprises” our family enjoyed at home:

25 Good Surprises

1. We had a create our own recipes competition. Everyone in the family grabbed ingredients to make a small portion of their own creative treat! The evening ended with us rating each other’s creation on a scale of 1 – 10. First of all, my oldest son created the funniest recipe. He called it “Dr. D” – I’ll leave the ingredients to your imagination. (And not to brag or anything… but I won 😁)

2. Grabbing bags of popcorn, we got in the van for a tour of Christmas lights. Complete with Christmas dubstep music. It was a blast! Except for vacuuming up the popcorn from the backseats later on… not so fun.

3. One night we pulled out old home videos and watched them together. We had many laughs and my heart nearly burst when I watched the cute videos from their toddler years. So adorable! 🥰 Then each person wrote a note to a grandparent, thanking them for some of the fun memories we’ve had with them. (This ended up being one of my favourite evenings!)

4. Family games in the dark night. There’s nothing like running full speed into the wall as you get chased in the dark. These nights are sure to get everyone excited. If you’re like our family and like some added intensity, put on a soundtrack from Lord of the Rings and bingo, you’ll have kids so terrified that no one will want to venture into the basement. “Sardines” and “No Bears Out Tonight” are our favorite!

5. Skating on our backyard rink has been a highlight this winter. Our family is seven total, so we don’t make an even split for a team… almost makes me wish we had just one more… 😉Thawing our feet in the hot tub afterwards completed the fun.

6. We skipped a few days of school to go sledding at a hill nearby. Sometimes it was just us, but sometimes we met up with friends. The fresh air did us well.

7. Family worship night! Dad grabs a guitar, Isaiah a drum, Bella plays the piano and we sang our hearts out. There’s nothing quite like worship to lift a discouraged soul.

8. Christmas Coloring contest. Print out a Christmas picture to color and everyone colors their absolute best! Then we each pick our top two favourites and the one with the most votes win (Dad won this one!)

9. Family card or board game night. (Our current favorites are Dixit, Wizard, Jenga and Settlers of Catan)

10. A day in the wilderness with friends. Okay, this one creeped me out a bit. We were in the bush, in the middle of nowhere, off trail and our kids were running every where. It was a bit terrifying for me at first and I prayed they wouldn’t get lost. However, once we settled in and made a fire in a ravine I settled down. The kids took their sleds down random hills. Of course, we brought hot chocolate and hand warmers. The adults chatted and snuggled in our blankets around the fire. Snacks were passed around. The peace and stillness of the forest was amazing.

11. Facetime call nights with the grandparents or family. I’m getting tired of so much stuff online, but it is always wonderful to see the smiling faces of the people we love.

12. Make and decorate sugar cookies. Yes, kids always add far too much icing… and if you give them anything else to decorate with (smarties, chocolate chips, sprinkles, etc) it gets WAY out of hand.

13. We went on a few outdoor walks, followed by hot chocolate and snacks of course.

14. Winter fireside night in our backyard. We actually started the fire with flint and steel! I felt like a true survivalist. And then I went inside to make hot chocolate with my electric kettle, because it’s too much work to boil water over a fire. LOL!

15. Ice cream sundae night! We had dozens of toppings to choose from and could each choose THREE ONLY because, let’s face it, my kids would’ve put on every topping if allowed. My favourite toppings are caramel, dark chocolate and sea salt!

16. Family movie night with popcorn and Nibs. We have now started doing a movie night each Friday and we take turns picking a movie. IF anyones complains about the choice, they miss their next turn to chose. Finally, no more arguing about what to watch!

17. Family snow ball fight. (Which ended in a real fight! Surprise, surprise.)

18. We played “Wink Murder” and “Mafia” which is quite morbid now that I think of it, but we have a great time guessing the murderer. It’s amazing how convincing some of our kids can be when they are claiming their “innocence”…

19. Decorate a gingerbread house. (More candy… there’s a theme here.)

20. We picked up pizza one night and dropped one off for our parents as well and had a quick front door visit.

21. Random acts of kindness night! We picked up 3 dozen donuts and delivered them to some of our friends/family we missed so we could see their faces for a bit. The kids came home so happy (but it was a lot of driving!)

22. Sleepover by the Christmas tree. Probably the best and worst thing ever. I wouldn’t recommend it if you like your rest. We fell asleep listening to Adventures in Odyssey together around midnight. In the middle of the night the couch felt like I was sleeping on rocks. My back still hurts. And we all woke up at 5am. This will most likely never happen again.

23. On Christmas Day, my husband led us in some Christmas Carols on his guitar and then we read the Christmas Story. Afterwards we ate our traditional family Christmas brunch and opened presents.

24. We had a fancy candle light dinner one night. Complete with a four course meal, the fancy table cloth, and mandatory table manners (yes, with a family that has four boys, table manners is a special event!)

25. I planned a Minute to Win It Game Night. Again lots of work to put together, but it was so much fun! A few of our favourite games include “Mad Dog” and “Dizzy Mummy”. We also laughed pretty hard at “Junk in the Trunk”.

 Yes, it’s a month into 2021 and we’re still mostly at home. However, we’ve been doing our best to be at peace with where we’re at.

Best of all: I have seen the joy returning to our family.

They have something each day to look forward to and for that I pray with a thankful heart: “Jesus, THANK YOU, for the gift of creativity. You know it doesn’t come naturally to me… Thank you for bringing joy back into our home.”

Faith

A Treasure Worth Searching For

Kids love scavenger hunts.

Or rather, the thought of them

It’s a curious thing really, the excitement they seem to have when the search is announced. The eyes that twinkle just thinking of the treasure that is waiting to be found. I chuckle to myself remembering the times I’ve put together these “hunts” and the time I took planning them. How I carefully wrote out each clue that cleverly rhymed on a homemade piece of antique looking paper. Or the money I spent putting together a prize for the end. Little did I know that such hunts require a certain level of maturity.

 Imagine my surprise when after all that work, the joy was so short-lived! Five minutes later, the tears would come because the clues weren’t easy enough. Each hint required time and thought to find the next one. This was supposed to be a part of the fun, but I found out rather quickly that my kids hadn’t been expecting to put any effort into it. They were so eager for the prize that they wanted me to just show them the next place to look! 

They had been expecting an instant treat and this was taking too long.

People value the things they work for.

This is why the child who has been handed everything for free, often takes it for granted. 

My husband paid his own way through college and could often tell who was paying for their own education simply by how hard they worked in class. He witnessed many young adults squandering their chance at a degree, simply because they didn’t have to pay for it. Many would be wasting valuable class time playing games on their laptop as the professor spoke! On the flip side, he noted that the students who really wanted to be there and had paid for it themselves realized the worth of it and tried their very best. 

A few years back, I observed this very principle in my children. My oldest son found it fun to smash into things with his bike. He also loved to drift his bike by slamming on the brakes while he was speeding down the driveway. This wore down the brakes and the tires. Despite our many reminders, he often left his bike out on the driveway or in the rain and rarely remembered to lock it up when he rode it to school.

One day, after almost hitting his bike while backing out of the garage, I told him that if this bike would break before he out grew it, he would be buying his own. 

The very next day, he left it on the driveway and my husband drove over it. Oh, the tears that came! We heard all his complaints: “It was just not fair. It was all Dad’s fault! He would never make enough money in his life to buy another one!” 

I remember questioning myself, wondering if I was perhaps being a bit too hard on the boy. After all, he was only ten! 

It was difficult lesson for sure, but what happened next was worth the struggle. My son started saving up for his new bike. He asked for jobs around the house. He asked to mow the lawn. He worked hard in the garden, ever so slowly saving his money, and by the end of summer he had enough! He proudly bought his very own bike.

The best part? Never once did I have to remind him to lock it up, or put it back in its place in the shed. He had learnt to care for his bike because he now realised the value of it.

A treasure worth searching for?

 “My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding – indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”                   Proverbs 2:1-5

As I think back to the many scavenger hunts and the lessons I’ve learned about hard work bringing value to the things I receive in life, I wonder if this is partly the key to some of our struggles with dry devotions. We so often try to fit God into a five-minute timeslot through reading a devotional written by someone else who took the time and effort to look for us! We want the quick, no-work-needed benefit of a “verse of the day” or a “one-minute devo” but we never take the time to actually seek out God and his wisdom for ourselves.

 We want to be handed an instantaneous word on a platter – and then we are disappointed when it doesn’t touch us in the way we thought it would! But Jesus never promised us a path of minimal effort, instead he spoke plainly:

 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”                                                   Matthew 7:7-8

As I think about this, I smile, for in his wisdom, God didn’t just hand us these treasures. He knew that the only way we would learn to truly value his wisdom was if we had to search for it. And indeed, the most precious moments I’ve had in God’s word are when I’ve spent time calling out to him and searching desperatelyfor his wisdom. Those moments where I needed to hear from God and no ‘second-hand’ word would do! 

I needed the source

Oh, the JOY that’s mine when it happens! God speaks and reveals his word to my heart, a word that is meant just for me in that moment. 

Nothing can replace that joy.

 No quick verse or devotional can compare with a personal word, given straight from the source. My friends, this is a treasure worth searching for! 

Are we willing to put in the effort? 

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”                                                                                Matthew 13:44-46

Authenticity · Blogging · Faith

The Things I Won’t Write

I love quiet, dark mornings when the house is silent and my family sleeps in late. It is my resting place, my time to do what I love: read & write.

I start off with devotions, sitting in the council of my Heavenly Father, who I once only read about, but now have grown to know and love. I journal my thoughts and some scripture that touched me, then say a few prayers.

Afterwards I write other things. Sometimes I send personal notes and encouraging messages to people around me. Other times I write another page or chapter of my book.

Or today, a blog post.

2021, as every year for me, starts a chapter of something new. It’s not looking much different in terms of freedom or peace than 2020 did, but I always appreciate new beginnings for myself. I love the chance to start fresh.

I honestly considered shutting down my blog this year, especially since it had lately taken on such a political tone, but I thought about it more and can’t get myself to delete it. I have learned to appreciate the people in the blogging world. WordPress has become a sort of haven among some very dark social media and I truly do love the people.

I have met so many writers here. Some with similar stories to mine. Some very different. I have met people halfway across the world that felt like sisters. I have even met people close by who I now know in person.

It is a wonderful thing, to have friends that appreciate words as much as I do.

But today, as I look forward to 2021, I am committing to one thing for this blog: I will not be another voice that brings such depression as to only focus on the restrictions, the turmoil, and the negative world around me. I am not going to speak of that thing which seems to consume us all. I just don’t want to be that place anymore. We get enough of the doom and gloom by reading our daily news and the argumentative comments that follow.

In 2021, I want to be an uplifting voice, however small that voice may be.

So if you need a more cheerful place than the news and the constant noise of all the different opinions – please, stick around. I’m sure this world isn’t getting any better, but there are still so many good people in it and I’m not waving my white flag just yet.

Authenticity · COVID-19 · Faith

Preparing for 2021

I admit I’ve been quieter this past month. It seems like all I think to write about is that “thing” we all seem stuck on, and quite simply, I’m just tired of talking about “it”.

But we’re approaching 2021, so I believe an update on my life is fitting.

Some exciting news: I’ve been asked to help out the families in our church by contributing regularly to the family ministry blog in the New Year.

Our church is going through some very difficult times, as are many, and I believe supporting families in this way is incredibly important now. Especially since we haven’t been allowed to meet in person much of 2020. As a result, most of my efforts in writing these days are being poured into future blog posts on the topics of parenting, families, leading our children, bringing them to Jesus, having joy in our homes, etc.

I also lead a moms group of nine incredible women.

However, I’ll admit, emotionally I just feel drained with this.

How is one to support and encourage these young women over a Zoom call, when all they need is a morning out with other women and someone else to hold their baby for just a couple minutes?

How do you comfort someone from afar when they just need a hug and to be prayed over?

How do you assure these precious women that they can keep going and raise children in these uncertain times?

It’s so very difficult.

Are my long distance messages and those few words over video chats doing anything? Is it worth the effort? So as I approach the New Year I’m crying out to God for an olive branch; a small sign to see that this year of separation, of long distance relationships and of far too many Zoom calls is coming to an end.

I hate Zoom.

I wish I were bold enough to say that I would never use it again. But, then, I realize that God has used even Zoom in this troubling time.

A sad piece of news to end the year: My only remaining grandmother is now in the hospital.

And my heart mourns that I haven’t seen her for almost a year. A few months ago we started having weekly phone calls which I SO enjoyed. Our last call was rushed and I promised to call her soon.

Now she is isolated and I have no way to reach her; to tell her that I am praying for her. A full year of “protecting” her by staying away. Of keeping her “safe” in isolation.

It wasn’t right.

No one deserves to suffer alone.

It is with a cautious approach that I state these things. But if I were to be truly honest with those around me, I would say it simply: I disagree that we are protecting seniors in all this. I think it’s wrong that we are not giving them the choice whether they want to keep on seeing their loved ones in their final years on earth.

They should have that choice.

However pro choice seems to only apply to woman who want to end another’s life instead of sacrificing nine months of theirs. And the irony hits me that we’ve all had to put a “nine month” pause on in 2020 for the sake of “life” – A much more inconvenient and painful pause than any pregnancy, I may add.

Where are the “pro-choicers” now?

But my voice seems to be unheard, unacknowledged, and ignored. I have felt for years that care homes are no place for our beloved parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, friends.

They deserve to live with family.

I feel this as strongly as I feel orphans need a home and not an orphanage: A place to belong and be loved. A place to be apart of something bigger. To contribute and to be given much in return.

This year has opened my eyes up to this more than ever before. So much so, that I’m looking at my future path with a very different set of eyes: What do I need to do now, so that I can be in a place to care for the elderly in years to come?

What skills do I need to learn? Should I pursue a nursing degree? Are there legalities that would prevent me from doing this? What other obstacles may I face as I consider these things?

And so, I turn my face to my Father, and say:

“Lord, in 2021, may your will be done. In me. In your church. In the world. Our systems may fail us, many hearts may grow cold even as others are being purified through the trials, but my eyes will stay trained on you – the One who holds it all together. May your kingdom come. May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

God holds it all together… and because of that I have hope.

No, I don’t believe 2021 will hold all the relief from 2020 that so many are dreaming of. As a matter of fact, I think it may be an even harder year.

BUT if God is allowing this, I know it’s for a good reason.

Hearts are being revealed as they are: Innocence is all the more sweet. Kindness shines a bit brighter. Friendships are all the more precious in such dark times.

Humanity is so fragile that a simple virus could cause such calamity.

Many voices are screaming to be heard. People are watching the world events carefully, wondering what this is all coming to. Some think the world is forever changed. Others seem naively hopeful that by summer life will be back to normal. The “tolerant” are more intolerant than ever before, ready and more than willing to destroy anyone who thinks differently then they.

Evil seems more evil. Good seems more pure. The words of the book of Daniel come to mind: “…many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.”

2020.

What an altogether horrible and beautiful time to be alive.

Faith

Taking It For Granted

2020 has been hard.

At times I have been in deep despair. Other times I’ve felt supernatural joy and peace that goes way beyond the bizarre circumstances around me.

If this year has taught me anything, it’s that previously I’ve taken so many things for granted. In the past, December always felt so busy and at times – chaotic. Much to my shame, the gatherings, christmas concerts, and banquets had often become a source of complaints throughout the month.

This December is different. It’s quiet. It’s restful. (Sometimes too quiet; often boringly restful.)

And I miss the things I used to grumble about.

The Things I Am Missing:

  • Gatherings with the people I love. Homes packed full with the joyful faces we know; the sound of laughter ringing through the air. Board games, gift exchanges, singing carols and hearing the Christmas story read aloud.
  • I miss sharing food. My favourite meals are when everyone brings a dish and we dig in buffet style, not worrying about who’s germs are on what spoon or how close we are standing to the next person in line. We are focused on what really matters: THE FOOD!
  • I miss Christmas shopping in stores! I miss slowly walking through the beautiful aisles, all lit up with lights and decorated for the season. I miss the Christmas music playing softly (or obnoxiously… haha) and being able to browse for the perfect gift; picking up one item and humming and hawing, before returning it to it’s place and resuming the search.
  • I miss the piano recitals and school concerts; the instruments of the children squeaking and squaking, and slightly out of tune. The smiles of the little performers, dressed in their Christmas best. The beauty of the effort put into the show. Mostly, I miss the hot chocolate and cookies after it all is over – and the lovely conversations among other parents, teachers and friends.

One could go on and on with lists of what we miss, but as I reflected upon these things today I realized: had these things not been taken from me this year, there is a very good chance that I would have been complaining about them.

So I began to think of other things that I still have, which I could someday be missing… is there more that I am taking for granted?

I hope not. But here are the things I hold dearly these days:

  1. Giggles in the morning, of happy children playing together while I lie in my bed.
  2. The sound of the hockey puck slamming against the boards as the kids enjoy the rink outside.
  3. The many family evenings we are having these days – yes, we may miss so many others, but we are together.
  4. The cheerful call my husband gives out: “I’m home!” when he returns from a day of work!
  5. The younger two boys, snuggling in close as I read them yet another chapter.
  6. Fridays and the excitement of “Pizza/Movie Night”.
  7. Waking up to the smell of vanilla/hazelnut coffee.
  8. Going to bed with a full belly.
  9. Evenings spent in the hot tub, staring up at a clear sky of beautiful stars.
  10. Wrapping paper and gifts to put under our homely, but brightly, decorated tree.
  11. Looking through my full cupboards in search of what to make for supper and realizing that there are always plenty of options.
  12. A cozy bed in a warm house.
  13. Pens, paper, journals, craft supplies, laptops, and the ability to create with these tools.
  14. Looking up anything I need to know on google.
  15. Brown packages arriving at my door from Amazon.
  16. Electricity and the internet (although I’m so tired of everything online these days, I DO have to admit… it’s still better than nothing!)
  17. Hearing the doorbell ring and seeing a familiar face at the door coming to drop something off.
  18. The word of God, which encourages me daily.
  19. The Holy Spirit, who guides me so gently, even when I’m grumpy and stubborn.
  20. Jesus, whose birth we celebrate at this time of year – Emmanuel – God with us.

May I not take one of these for granted, even as I wait for the things I miss to be restored.

COVID-19 · Faith · Peace

Code Orange and Peace

Peace.

It was an unexpected feeling as the inevitable restrictions were announced on Friday.

But there it was. I felt peace.

We are now in Code Orange in Manitoba, Canada, which means gatherings are limited to 5 people. Our family size is seven, which means that for the foreseeable future we will not be invited out. Or dining out. Or doing anything… out.

Schools are trying to distance students further apart and distance learning at home has become an option again. Everything is reducing capacity.

Joy.

Unexpected, completely unexplainable joy. That is how I’m feeling in all this.

I can’t explain why I have no fear, other than the fact that I truly believe that God’s got this. I believe that the events I see unfolding before me are for a reason and I TRUST him.

I trust him.

Winter will soon be upon us and winter in Manitoba is LONG. Put us in lockdown and it may be unbearable.

Yet I look around me and I see a family of shining faces that fill my heart. I see cupboards that are full. I have more than I could ever need or want and yet… it’s not this which gives me peace.

My peace is in Jesus.

“Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord, ‘you are my Lord, apart from you I have no good thing.’ ” Psalm 16:1-2

I have NO good thing, apart from God.

How could David truly mean this as he wrote this passage?

He had lots of good things! He was king, for crying out loud.

I have lots of good things! Yet, although I do have many good things, I understand exactly what he means. You see, if my joy, peace and hope, rest in the good things I own, then to be honest, I would not have this peace.

Not at all.

Because every thing I have or own can be taken away. My family could die in an instant. Poverty could strike and we could lose everything we own.

But I have one good thing that cannot be taken from me, no matter what happens: Jesus.

Why am I writing this today?

It’s because, dear friends, there are so many Christians today that are afraid. They are anxious about the economy, terrified of either the virus or the restrictions, fearful of the elections happening in the states and they are scared into a corner, feeling helpless and hopeless.

Am I saying that we just need to pretend everything is ok? Of course not! Peace isn’t saying that everything is OK!

Am I saying that we should just ignore what’s going on in the world? No! We are called to watch and pray.

The problem is, there are a whole lot of Christians doing mostly watching (watching the news, social media, conspiracy theory’s, etc..) and not a whole lot of PRAYING.

Because, church, this is our time to SHINE!

When everything is dark, that is when we see the stars the brightest! No one goes outside and stares at the black sky and says look how much darkness is upon us. We see the stars. The beautiful, magnificent stars.

And we praise God, in awe.

Today let’s shine. Speak kindly to a stranger. Encourage someone who is downcast. Love your enemies (ESPECIALLY those who are voting for the OTHER candidate 😁), and PRAY.

So that whatever happens in the world, there will still be little lights, glowing beautifully in the darkness.

Do everything without grumbling or arguing so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold for me to the word of life.”

Philippians 3:14-16

Faith

Three Habits

There are three reoccurring thoughts I’ve had lately that I can’t seem to shake:

1) Mothering is hard and I am sometimes good at it, but often I’m just stuck in instinct mode and forget that I am responsible for my character. It is easy to get upset in an instant instead of taking a breath and responding with wisdom and grace.

2) I wish my kids were growing up in a world where adults acted like adults and that they could actually look up to the “role models” and “leaders” that run our world. Instead they see classless men and women arguing and acting worse than any of their peers. Add my fiery outbursts in the mix and they get the constant message that this behaviour is acceptable, normal even.

3) With much of “normal life” shut down we are forced to listen to a very tiring and repetitive narrative by a negative and fearful media which is grasping at straw to make forest fires. And I, the consumer am fuelling this ridiculous market. It is affecting my mood and my home.

Therefore, I have decided to…

1) Commit more time to prayer, for my own journey as a mother and for our unstable world.

2) Be the role model that I want my kids to have, by intentionally working on character traits like watching what I say, listening before speaking and living peaceably with others.

3) Stop reading or watching any news other than local news.

I’m hoping that these three habits will change my home for the better. We shall see.

Autumn · Faith

Good News

Good news… An oxymoron you say?

COVID-19. First wave. Second wave. Masks. No masks. Crazy cons/republicans. Ridiculous libs/democrats. November Election… Social distancing, physical distancing. Donald Trump catches the virus he downplayed for months while the reporter sharks circle gleefully and mock. Conspiracy? Karma?

Blah. Blah. Blah.

Here’s some news: I. Am. So. Done.

…With the depressing world news that is.

But MY life is definitely full of good news. Which I will share, because we all need something good to read once in a while.

First of all, it’s AUTUMN! The most gorgeous, perfect season that ever existed!!

It’s warm.

It’s cool.

The air smells of sweet, dry leaves. The hot tub is used every evening. There have been many firesides with friends at my side and a cup of hot coffee in hand. I do not know how long this season will last, but I do not ask.

It is enough that I have today.

My son’s birthday is today. My daughter’s birthday is tomorrow. And I LOVE birthdays. We are definitely making them extra special this year.

Dallas is now 9 years old!
Tomorrow she’s 13… we now have TWO teens in the house.

Also our basement was just finished last week and I am positively THRILLED with everything from finally having a pantry, to the cozy rug and beautiful natural woodwork.

Also, in Canada we celebrate thanksgiving next weekend. I LOVE thanksgiving. It happens to be my favourite holiday. Not because of the food (though I love the food) or the gatherings (though I love those too, mainly because of the food 😆)… I simply love it because it is the one holiday we still celebrate just to be grateful for nothing in particular.

Or for everything that we usually take for granted. Like our families. Or our country. Like our homes and the food we have to eat. Or the friends we have. Or our beautiful planet and the God who created it all for us to experience and enjoy.

Gratefulness. Contentment. Thanksgiving.

These are the things that have saved me from spiraling into a very deep pit when times have been hard.

And times have been hard…

But I’ve been through worse. And sometimes we just have to remember what we still have and enjoy it before we become so overcome by the bad that we lose the ability to see the good at all.

The good:

The blessings:

The downright amazing, silly, joyful stuff:

Remember to feed your mind some good news once in a while.

Because life’s too short to get stuck in the bad.