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.

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

COVID-19

That Which Defiles

Never have I experienced hate from a complete stranger like I did yesterday. Let me explain:

I was on a field trip with my two homeschooling children. We did all the right things: kept our distance from people, wore our masks, and respected the rules.

While walking from room to room, sometimes we had to pass other people. This is life. It just so happened that as my child was rounding the corner to use the bathroom and I tried to follow him, an older gentleman ahead of us suddenly backed up into me. We collided and he stumbled forward.

At this point all the manners I have been taught from childhood on took hold and I reached out to help the man and ask if he was all right. He had bumped into the side wall and was shaking slightly, but he held out his hand and looked at me with angry eyes. Then he began to shout, “Stay away from me! Back off! Get away!”

At first I hesitated, confused at his overreaction. But then it dawned on me: He was not seeing me as a person, but as a potential COVID-19 carrier.

I was near him, so he was angry.

I backed up before he could physically push me away and he shook his fist as I turned to leave.

And it really struck me that this was not the only situation like this. In fact, there was another lady that was at the same field trip that day who had a kid come up to her and ask her a question, but the mother of that child cut her off, saying in a loud voice: “DISTANCE!”

Or my cousin who was at IKEA when she saw a lady tip her cart and the contents spilled out. As she approach to help, the lady also yelled at her to get back.

These are just three situations that I have personally heard about, but I guarantee that there are many more.

Are we really that dense… That we’ve come to believe that THIS is “loving”?

People think THIS is beneficial?

We are getting it preached at us day in and day out. To care for people, one must:

– keep their distance from others

-refrain from gathering

-cover their face and nose

-lock up the weak and elderly

Where’s the call from our leaders about helping each other out? Where’s the mandate about showing kindness? And for those like to say “Christians are SO judgemental!” …Are they not the very ones judging by mere appearances when they see a face without a mask and assume the worst? That the person must be lazy, ignorant or selfish?

Not all people can easily wear them! You or I might be able to, but not everyone can! In fact, I would have no problem with wearing a mask and keeping my distance, if it weren’t for these things changing people so much!

It is. It’s changing us.

I used to chat and laugh with total strangers as I shopped. Now we all avoid eye contact and hurry about with our heads down.

All to control something we CAN’T.

Do you hear that? We cannot control sickness!! Maybe it is time we stop trying to play God.

Maybe it’s time to realize that while there are steps we can take to try to keep our health care systems from becoming overwhelmed, sickness is an unfortunate part of life.

We cannot control viruses. They will run their course, and we need to do our best, yes, to wash and stay home while sick. But for the love of God, we need to stop this insanity!!

We are a ‘civilized society’, and yet we have gone back to yelling at total strangers “Unclean! Unclean!”

Interestingly enough, I’ve never heard anyone condone the treatment of lepers in Bible times. These men and women were outcasts of society. They went about deformed and socially ostracized. They also got told to “Stay Back!!” They had to socially distance every single day of their lives.

Yet, to the horror of the Pharisees, there was one person who did not fear the disease they carried: Jesus.

He didn’t see a disease, he saw a PERSON.

“A man with leprosy came to Jesus and begged him on his knees, ‘If you are willing, you can make me clean.’ Jesus was filled with compassion. He reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’ Immediately the leprosy left him and he was clean.” (Mark 1:40-42)

Not only did Jesus see an ‘unclean’ person, he did the unthinkable… he TOUCHED that person.

Can you imagine what would happen if Jesus lived today? Oh horror of horrors!

“He’s spreading COVID! He must hate people!!”

That’s what the Pharisees of today would say. Don’t believe me? Read it for yourself:

“The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus 2 and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders…) 5 So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?”

6 He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:“‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
7 They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’

8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”

9 And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ 11 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is devoted to God—12 then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

14 Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this.15 Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.”

What Jesus was saying here is that the word of God should ALWAYS take precedence over our human rules. Therefore, if obeying my government means loving people, I should most definitely obey the rules. BUT if the rules get in the way of loving people, I am to lay aside the rules and follow God first.

Today, I’m choosing to obey my government by following the rules because, mostly, they ARE loving.

I’m choosing to love people by trying to keep them safe, to wear masks in public buildings and to keep my germs to myself. I choose to obey and stay within the current restrictions for gatherings. I choose to stay home when I am feeling unusually sick.

However, I also choose to love them, even if it looks like taking my mask off so a deaf person can read my lips, or picking up groceries another has spilled or helping an elderly man who has fallen. I choose to smile and say hi to those around me and treat them with decency… Whether they wear masks or no masks, or vote liberal or conservative!

In this way, I recognize that a virus can not and will not defile me. I choose to SEE people, to love them, and to not fear being near them.

No, COVID-19 will not defile you. But fear and bitterness will.

Compassion · Humanity

In Matters of Sameness

If Satan has toeholds that allow him to claw and climb from the underworld to this one, they lie in our failure to see ourselves in others.”

– Lisa Wingate

The beginning of prejudice, hatred and grudges are nothing more than the notion that we are somehow different from one another – and, presumptively, somehow better.

We are no different than the person we cast a evil eye on, of that I am becoming certain. It grieves me that there is more disunity and discord in our “tolerant” world than ever before. And I would dare say, that if our “tolerance” is causing this this present condition, we’d do well to think long and hard if we are actually tolerant at all.

Is tolerance just tolerating the people who look and think and act like we are accustomed to? To contend only with the people who adhere to the beliefs and values that our current society deems acceptable? Tolerance, as defined in the dictionary is “a willingness to endure or tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behaviour that one does not necessarily agree with.” So, in fact, tolerating people of other beliefs or backgrounds when you never disagreed with them in the first place isn’t tolerance at all.

We are similar, you and I.

Though I am a stubborn Canadian woman, who does, in fact, apologize over everything because it is our perception of polite. I’m a homeschooling mother of five kids with fair skin and curly thick hair that isn’t blonde nor brown, but a dull shade in between; a middle class woman, who believes the Christian faith with all my heart. You might be halfway across the world, single, atheist, with smooth dark hair and think such apologies are ridiculous, and abhor the thought of children being taught primarily in their own home.

Our similarities still run deep, I believe this to the core of my being, for I have yet to meet a person who doesn’t long to be accepted, to be loved.

We all are very much the same. We all yearn to have purpose; to make a difference in the world. We all worship, one thing or another. We all get passionate over the causes that move us.

We all make mistakes. We all have fears, regrets and embarrassing moments. We all dream about the future and complain about the weather.

And all of us simply wish to be heard and understood.

What if, we committed to doing this for others? Hearing them? Seeing them? Accepting them for who they are, even if they have no desire at all to change; even going as far as forgiving them for their differences that may offend us?

What if, we saw ourselves in the face of our enemies?

We might just learn to forgive. We might love a little deeper.

We might even change the world.

Faith · Prayer

Without a Thought

One of the most unsettling stories in the Bible, comes from the chapters 38 and 39 in the book of Isaiah.

In this historical account, King Hezekiah becomes very sick… to the point of death. In walks the great prophet Isaiah. He has no fancy message, no hopeful encouragement, he just states the word of the Lord: “Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”

I don’t know about you, but with Isaiah’s perfect track record, I would of wept in complete despair. For when the Lord speaks to Isaiah, those words are concrete.

He’s a prophet of God, tested and true.

I think it’s important here to note that a word from the Lord is true and final – however, God has given us a secret weapon that can change everything: Intercession.

He does this so that when we get a prophetic word, we do not need to sit in despair. We can DO something! We can turn to him and pray! In this sense, prophetic words are rarely concrete. In the hands of a prophet, God’s words are to be shared with others. But for the receiver of the words, they are to be brought to heartfelt prayer!!

Hezekiah does exactly this. He breaks down and prays; weeping and begging God to let him live, to not cut him down in the prime of his life. God hears him and listens.

Do we get this?!?

God hears him AND listens!!!

God gave the word, which was final: Death.

But then he saw his beloved child, weeping in despair, pleading for more time to serve him and God relents.

If this message doesn’t wake us up to prayer, I don’t know what will. Our prayers have the power to change our outcome.

How often do we do this? How little we take advantage of this precious gift!

King Hezekiah is healed! How I wish the story ended here!

After King Hezekiah gets better, the king of Babylon sends an envoy with gifts to celebrate Hezekiah’s recovery. Hezekiah shows them everything in his kingdom, all his possessions. We aren’t given a reason for this, but one would assume he did so out of pride. Then the prophet Isaiah asks about the envoy and specifically, what the king all showed them.

“Everything” is Hezekiah’s reply.

And Isaiah utters another prophecy: “Hear the word of the Lord Almighty: The time will surely come when everything in your palace… will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the Lord Almighty. And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood born to you, will be taken away and become eunuchs in the palace of the King of Babylon.”

And we collectively hold our breath, awaiting another impassioned prayer by the king who changed his own outcome. Surely, after seeing the Lord change what was to come over his own life, he will cry out on his knees for the future generations!

Here’s Hezekiah’s response: “ The word of the Lord you have spoken here is good.” For he thought, “there will be peace and security in my lifetime.”

My children… taken into captivity!!

The word of the Lord is “GOOD”?!?
Shackles on these precious ones…

“The word of the Lord is GOOD?!?”

If this is not the most disturbing display of selfishness, I don’t know what is!

Where is the desperation? Where is the man who reminded God of his promises? Who reminded God of his righteousness? Where is the repentance? Where is the humility that he had claimed he would live out for the rest of his days?

Silence.

Reminding me of my generation:

Hours pined away on social media and screens. We know how damaging these things are for our children. We know it already! Yet… “It’s the easy thing to do.”

“I can’t adult today.”

Five minute devotional books sold by the dozen because we “don’t have the time for long devotions” while we laughingly post on Facebook about our five hour Netflix binge and ask “Is there anything else to watch?!?”

Our generation, splurging on frivolous and unnecessary things: expensive outings, over priced coffees, beauty care and home decoré… all while adamantly claiming: “we barely make enough to scrape by.”

Trust me, North Americans, we simply do not know what these words mean!

Our government spending outrageously, knowingly, unsustainably. Obviously with no care at all for the future generations, because “We want to live prosperously NOW!”

“We deserve better.”

Without a thought for future generations. What a hauntingly disturbing response from a selfish generation in the midst of a pandemic.

Who knows what lies ahead? Who has the wisdom to discern the times?

I think we would do well to remember King Hezekiah. Do we only care about the here, the now? We may not have the future told to us, but we most definitely can get on our knees and change the course of it.

What are we waiting for?

Authenticity · Faith

Jekyll or Hyde?

“Jekyll and Hyde,” he called me.

That I’m like two different people living in one me. The funny thing is that I agree wholeheartedly. I know what he’s talking about.

One side: sweet, caring, and nice.

The other: filled with anger, rejection, and fear.

One side: accepted & loved.

The other: rejected & condemned.

Aren’t we all, really? Jekyll one day. Hyde the next. Trying to stay Jekyll.

Failing miserably.

But the good news? Jesus loves me as Mr. Hyde.

He loves my rejected side. Though people love me when I’m good and hate me when I’m not – Jesus takes me at all times.

He loves both “me’s”.

He has shown me that from day one. Through anger, shame, fear and deepest pain. Through embarrassing panic attacks to awkward moments. Even in full out rebellion.

Though we often turn our faces away from the “Hyde’s” of this world, God doesn’t shrink back. He reaches out his hand and calls them home. Though people reject “Hyde” (he’s horrible and socially awkward and often inappropriate) – God does not.

He tells us this through stories:

Remember the prostitutes? Rahab and Mary Magdeline to name a few…

Remember the government tax thieves? Zacchaeus and Matthew… probably more.

Remember the murderer(s)? Moses (and others)!

Or the adulterous murderer? David.

Or the liars? Isaac, Jacob.

Remember them. And then remember those who slammed stakes through his feet and hands?

“Father, forgive them.” He says.

To top it off, Jesus shares the ultimate story of his love through the parable of the prodigal son. A story of a son who squandered his inheritance, rejecting everything his father had raised him to be.

But the Father.

He waited with open arms for “Hyde” to return.

God loves us. ALL of us.

And he is ever working until I’m all better. Until I’m whole.

Until I’m just one person:

His child.

Faith

On Failure and Getting Back Up

I often feel like a total dirtbag.

It usually is because I say/write/do something careless and then I realize it too late.

Once the words have been said.

Once the text has been sent.

Once the mistake has been made.

A few such things have happened this past week.

A week ago it was Father’s Day. I knew this, as we had already celebrated twice, but that particular morning it didn’t cross my mind at all. My husband was preparing food to BBQ, which he does quite well. I mean it tastes amazing... But it often lacks in the health department.

And without thinking twice I decide: This is the day that I am going to bring up my concerns about how unhealthy I feel and blame it on him.

Really, I am just stressed about my weight as I have gained 15 pounds since COVID-19 happened. And it’s easier to blame others than to look in the mirror.

Stupid.

On a good day, it is a stupid thing to say. But it wasn’t just a good day, it was Father’s Day. And not only was he making DELICIOUS food on Father’s Day, he was joyfully making food. No complaints, it is what he loves to do.

But I chose to tear him down and five minutes into my rant, it dawns on me: Just shut up already.

So I close my mouth. And then in the 10 seconds of awkward silence, I realize – with horror – that today is a day to celebrate the man I was just criticizing.

I apologize immediately. I call the kids to the table to bless him, and say what they love about the man I was just tearing down.

I tell him what I appreciate about him: He never criticizes me.

The rest of the morning I feel terrible. I want to crawl into a hole and stay there. I want to cover up my face and hide away. I consider having my tongue surgically removed. I wonder if there’s anyone out there who can be as two-faced as me.

Because friends, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened.

How does one move on from feeling low? How does one reconcile themselves to the fact that to the core of their being, they are not what they want to be, what they mean to be, what they claim to be?

I’ll tell you how I get back up: Jesus.

Jesus.

It’s why he needed to die on the cross. Because of me. Because of my hurtful words, my careless tongue.

This is what faith in Jesus is all about. Knowing our true state, that we are not good enough and running to a Father who loves us anyways. As we repent, as we turn to him, an incredible thing happens.

He covers us up. He covers our sin with his blood.

I can come out of my hole, because he entered that hole of shame for me! My life becomes “hidden” in Christ.

But in the same way, I must never claim anything good inside myself as “who I am”. For I know very well who I am apart from Christ: Just a shameful girl, hiding in a hole.

I am tired of messing up. Tired of sin. Tired of my words getting me into trouble.

“Who will rescue me from this body, that brings death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Romans 7:24-26

Faith

A Hard Life Sucks… But it Makes You Real

I’ve shared many of my past struggles on this blog before:

My rebellion in my teens: drinking, parties, being abused by men twice my age and my teenage pregnancy. The responses of those around me, some of which were hurtful and some unbelievably supportive. Finally, getting touched by God’s love in an unforgettable way, turning my life around – leaving the parties, drunkenness and empty friendships behind.

My son being born and becoming deathly ill. Him being hospitalized the first year of his life; the financial struggles, the highs and lows of this season and the support and miracles we experienced.

My struggles with having five kids so close together, the havoc it reaped on my body and emotional state… the depression, and anxiety that followed.

The church we helped start and suddenly got removed from, though we did our best and fought for reconciliation. All our closest friends, who were dear to us like family, that betrayed us and shunned us as if we had died. The panic attacks that followed this.

The loneliness I’ve felt for much of my adult life.

And some things I have not shared… not because I’m ashamed to, but because there are some things that aren’t just my story to tell and so it’s not my place to publicly write about or share them.

BUT though I have suffered many, many times and sometimes even begged God to take my life, one thing is abundantly clear to me: There was a reason for everything.

God allowed these things to happen to me so that he could answer my prayers from all those years ago, when I first began walking with him. Do you know my biggest prayer as a pregnant teen was?

“God, make me like Jesus.”

And as I was praying one day, 15 years ago, he gave me a picture of his hand coming down from heaven. His finger touched my forehead and he marked me – with a cross. He drew a cross, in the middle of my forehead!

You bet, I was excited. Yet, I had no idea what that picture meant! I just knew that God had done something very significant. But, I had no clue what.

I do now.

The cross means pain. It’s the symbol of the finished work of Jesus.

“It is finished.”

I was just beginning my life… and he already saw my end. And what he was saying to me was: “You’re gonna get the answer to your prayer. But it’s going to come through a lot of trials and pain.

Every trial left a scar. Some physical, but I found the invisible ones were the most painful. Deep bleeding where nobody else could see. But every scar has a lesson. And every lesson has made me just a little more like Jesus.

So what did my teenage rebellion and the grace that I was shown teach me? Do you remember the story in the Bible of a sinful woman? Where is she wet Jesus’s feet with her tears and dried them with her hair? “Her sins, which are many, have been forgiven – for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.

It taught me to LOVE MUCH. For I experienced the UNBELIEVABLE love and grace of the Jesus – while I was at my worst!

My love for God became real.

What did I learn through watching my son suffer? That God is good, even in the worst situation imaginable. I learnt to trust him, even when I could not understand. I learnt to worship him through the pain and that pain actually brings about the deepest form of connection to God in worship. I learnt that he cared about the smallest requests I had. He heard my every prayer. And I learnt that he still does miracles.

What did I learn through motherhood? Oh, more lessons than I can name here! Humility. Gentleness. That I actually don’t have all of life’s answers. That peaceful love shapes a child’s heart better than requiring “good behaviour”. That I actually need a whole lot of grace myself, probably even more than I give out each day. That children will never do what you expect them to. And that they give the sweetest kisses and the deepest love. That I need to be more like them.

Through depression I learnt empathy. The power of listening. That silence can be the most loving thing to do.

Through rejection I learnt mercy and wisdom. I understood betrayal, and felt like Jesus knew this pain too. I learnt how to forgive… and how to let people go.

You know what I’ve learnt through the “good times” in my life. Where I have no problems and everything seems easy?

NOTHING.

Ok… Other than the fact that money doesn’t bring happiness and there’s only so many good shows on Netflix before it gets old!

So you see, the pain has a point.

I can see why James 1:2-4 says: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Yeah. Those hardships all sucked. I certainly didn’t find them pure joy as I lived them. But it made me exactly who I was praying to be.

I still have a long way to go. Just saying that makes me cringe… I have a lot of trials ahead of me. But I’m convinced that I’ll get through them and come out on the other side with a scar.

Just like Jesus.

Faith

And What is Good?

With all the heaviness what’s going on in the world today, I was reminded of the verse that has many times turned my attitude around and I wanted to share it for whoever may need encouragement today:

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21

And what is good?

Thankfulness: Seeing what we have and being grateful, rather than seeing what’s lacking and grumbling.

Relationships: People over things. Family over making money. Spending face to face time, instead of wasting life away on screens.

Forgiveness: Choosing to walk away – to let it go – over choosing anger, hate, and bitterness. Over holding on to the hurtful past or mulling over painful memories.

Listening: To individual voices who are trying to yell among a resounding gong of voices trying to be heard. Be the ear in a world full of mouths.

Kindness: Above being “right”.

Humility: Is always the better way.

And above all LOVE. Which is more important than faith, tongues and knowledge!! (1 Corinthians 13).

Dear friends, “Do not be overcome by evil.

And surely now more than ever before, it feels like we are being overcome!!!

BUT overcome evil with good.”