COVID-19 · Faith · Real Love

Better than Being Right

Have you ever been stuck in the middle of two arguments?

It’s a horrible place to be.

It’s a place I’ve been abiding for the past six months. Maybe even the past year.

And I’m so tired. So, SO tired of trying to get everyone to see eye to eye.

If one would look over my blog for the past year, they would have a hard time labeling where I stand on the “hot topics”.

I mean, I’m vaccinated and think that vaccinations are helping. But I absolutely hate the forced vax-passes and realize that these vaccines aren’t perfect, and they definitely aren’t as effective or long lasting as everyone first hoped. Yet, I wish more people would be open to them, I wish people would ask their doctor the hard questions – instead of turning to social media – and share with their health care provider the fears they have.

I hate lock downs and masks. But I see why they’re sometimes necessary.

I am pro-life. But I had a teenage pregnancy and I sympathize deeply with women who feel alone with no other options. I don’t want to stand in front of clinics and yell at them. I want to take them in, love them, and tell them the four things they desperately need to hear: you are safe, you are loved, you are cared for and you are not alone.

I don’t believe that climate change is a global emergency. But I recycle, I reuse what I can, I hate wasting, and never litter. I will wash one hundred dishes by hand before I use paper plates. Our kids live on hand-me-downs. And once their clothes are too ratty I use them as my rags instead of buying fancy Norwex ones. I use reusable feminine products. Every home we’ve owned, every street we’ve lived down, I try my best to improve by picking up garbage until the ditches and grass look clean and healthy.

I hate the way the government mindlessly blows our hard-earned tax dollars. I can’t believe there’s zero accountability for mindlessly spending billions in other people’s money… But I still pay taxes.

But can you bare with me for just a second while I express my frustration?

I am tired of being in the middle of strong opinionated people, refusing to bend their beliefs.

And I am downright exhausted of both sides bending facts whatever way they please, sometimes in the utmost arrogance. With their fixed mindset, unable to even be reasoned with or show any hint of trying to listen or trying to understand. People are thinking the absolute worst of each other. As if they alone know the truth. And the other side is the enemy. The brainwashed, evil-hearted enemy.

I’m tired of getting stuck in the middle of it.

Like, I’m burnt out, tired.

It’s easy to argue our point when we just know we are right. Boy, is it ever easy. Over the past year I have been completely baffled at times. Never in my lifetime have so many common people spewed out so much knowledge.

They know what’s best for everyone.

They know all the statistics.

They’ve followed all the news stories and Facebook posts and they just know that the post they read or the video they watched was true.

And all this “knowledge” is getting thrown back and forth like poison darts, while underneath the surface, something absolutely heartbreaking is happening: People are withering.

As I was meditating on the verses in 1 Corinthians 8:1-3, I found myself deeply yearning for people to see the truth that it held. Sadly, most of our world has lost sight of it. Are you ready for it?

Love is better than being right.

Being right just puffs up our pride. It doesn’t help anyone. It doesn’t change anyone. It doesn’t save lives or convince people to do anything that they don’t want to do. All being right does is grow our own ego, which is more likely to push others away than to bring them in.

But love.

Love builds up. It humbly puts aside the arguments and takes a deep look at the person in front of us. It cares enough to set aside what we think we know, so that we can truly listen to and understand the people around us.

Love doesn’t ask: “How can I show this person where they are wrong?”

It wonders, “How can I help this person where they are at?”

This doesn’t mean that we won’t ever help others by using our knowledge, but it does mean that we sometimes need to set aside what we know, in order to love the people we don’t agree with.

In our world, it feels as if I’m literally watching the love of most grow cold. It’s a scary thing. Family members are refusing to see one another because they know they are right. People who once lived and served side by side, are now ripping each other to shreds on social media.

“Those who think they know something do not yet know what they ought to know…”

1 Corinthians 8:2

Let me ask you something: When was the last time you truly listened to “the other side”- and I’m not just talking about Covid debates here, but on all matters where one might disagree?

When was the last time you took an honest look at your own heart when you’re arguing your point? Are you constantly trying to find facts to prove yourself? Are you aware of the people around you, if you are hurting them with your words? Do you care? Are you open to the fact that the “other side” might not be the evil person you are making them out to be, rather, they may have a very good reason to believe what they do?

Maybe you are 100% right, but you’ve had the wrong attitude… are you willing to set aside your own knowledge in order to love and build up those around you? A person who feels loved and cared for is FAR more likely to listen to what you have to say.

Maybe the deeper question is this: Are we open to loving others above being right?

“We know that ‘we all possess knowledge.’ But knowledge puffs up, while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God.”

1 Corinthians 8:1-3

Can I give you a challenge today? It’s an extremely difficult one, but one of the most important and rewarding things you could do. I did it myself a few weeks ago and I can tell you it brought so much peace and unity to that relationship.

Find someone who has been difficult for you to love this past year. Maybe someone who was once close to you. Perhaps someone who you had a fall out argument with, or maybe you’ve just slowly gone two separate ways and grown apart. Set in your heart that you will talk with them and not argue. Avoid the controversial topics, if at all possible, but even if they arise – for once – just listen.

Just lovingly listen. Ask them how they are doing. Ask them how the relationships in their lives are going. Ask thing if they have felt unheard or uncared for this past year. Just listen to their heart, and then pray out loud for them, if they are comfortable with it.

I believe that if every single believer would do this to just one person in their life, the world could change over night. Because something deeply beautiful happens the we feel heard, loved, safe, and cared for: Our wounds begin to heal and our walls fall down.

Faith

A Cry for Mercy

“Oh Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save? Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted.” Hababkkuk 1:1-4

These days I am mostly unable to write. I am mostly unable to speak. I just watch in deep sadness the events around me, inside the church and the world outside.

Christians are more hated in Canada than ever before. My people, who I love and know, are being labelled anti-science, anti-vaccination, covidiots. Somehow the church has been linked to a political side and that side is hated. Somehow, all the good my people have done is forgotten. And indeed, many have stopped doing any good at all.

It is like an endless nightmare, onslaught of waves. One wave strikes, then another, then another. Each gasp for air growing shorter in between.

Restrictions. Never ending restrictions: I can not attend church. I can’t have people over – not even one – household members only allowed inside or outside at my residence. I cover my face wherever I go. Anger is mounting. Covid cases are multiplying. People are dying. The lonely are locked in, watching life go by through a screen.

This is not the country I’ve known. This is not a world I recognize.

And I think to myself, surely, this is just happening in the world, surely, my church, my people, will be at peace.

But I look, and there’s just as much arguing and strife. My church has split – a painful thing, that should not happen. All the people are scattered. People are forced to chose a side. I’ve seen lifelong friendships shattered. Mothers stand against their daughters. Fathers refusing to speak to their sons. Siblings refusing to speak, refusing to reach out to each other. Cursing wildly at each other while discussing meaningless political stances and divisive theology.

This should not be. Where do I turn? I am so so tired.

But still, I wait, holding on to hope.

“Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath, remember mercy.” Habakkuk 3:2

About Me · Faith · Family

An Up and Down Sort of Week

After months and months of the cold Manitoba winter and the heaviness of Covid restrictions, I have to say, I see a light at the end of the tunnel and feel fresh hope that hasn’t been there for a very long time.

I mean, it’s almost spring.

This week, the sun has been out, the birds are chirping and I’ve gotten to reconnect with many people who are very dear to my heart. As the current rules are still quite strict, it has been tricky navigating it all, but I think I have found a semblance of balance and sanity.

A couple days ago our provincial government proposed a few changes to the current restrictions. They say this is the biggest jump in freedoms since our circuit breaker lockdown started back in November. Here’s the list of those that would affect me (there’s a huge list of other proposals that make little to no difference in my current stage of life):

  • Only two designated households allowed to meet, both have to choose each other exclusively.
  • Only groups of ten (plus those living at the household) allowed outside on private residence.
  • Churches open at 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is less.
  • Businesses, retail, restaurants open at 50% capacity.
  • Sports, swimming pools, libraries, recreation, day camps, gyms, etc. allowed to open in varying capacity.
  • Masks mandatory in all public buildings.

Seeing as one of our only ways to legally see people right now is outdoors, we’ve been having a LOT of outdoor hot tub nights and winter firesides, which I have to say is an entirely new concept to me. I live in Canada; firesides are for summer. However, as long as the wind isn’t strong and the temperatures are close to zero Celsius, I actually have to admit that it has all been quite lovely. This is being said by someone who despises winter. I wish I could live some place warm, by the ocean, but my family is here… So I put up with winter.

I like winter firesides.

Something about the crisp air, the smell of wood and smoke, the heat radiating off of all the faces I love. Pair it with a cozy blanket and a cup of hot chocolate, it may just become a new hobby of mine. If sitting by a fire can count as a hobby. Maybe it’s because I just miss people so much that I’m willing to put up with the cold. Whatever the case, I have now gotten to visit with my sister’s family, our wonderful neighbors, three seperate groups of friends and our parents.

Suddenly life doesn’t seem so lonely anymore.

On Monday the younger two boys and I were alone for the day and we got to go on a walk. It was so warm, sunny, and peaceful. I even brought my sunglasses. Afterward we came home and enjoyed tea together. Then the boys played outside in their snow castle.

On Tuesday, my youngest boy Emerson turned seven!! I can’t believe how fast the time has gone. I remember there was one point that I felt like I was going to be pregnant or carrying around a carseat for the rest of my life. Now my baby hardly needs my help anymore! We were going to go celebrate by eating at a restaurant with the family for the first time since September… but unfortunately we were not allowed to sit together, as a family of seven, even though we live in the same house hold. Gah!! Moments like that make me wonder if the government is purposely trying to crush our businesses. I don’t seriously believing that of course, but please, tell me why a large family sitting together at a restaurant will increase the chances of Covid spread, more than a lot of smaller families sitting in the same restaurant?? There is no reasoning behind rules such as these. And whether people realize it or not, a lot of these rules discriminate against larger families. It is technically against regulations for our family to be invited anywhere (even an outdoor fireside), however, a family of five can be invited places. So I’ve been battling through some angry feelings toward the government, who seem to think life should totally stop forever. Over the past year, it was – in fact – their job to hire more workers, build more hospitals and equip our already overtasked healthcare system to handle an increase of patients. But, as always, they prefer to blame this virus on the average citizen that for months were doing their absolute best to follow all the rules, while trying to live life.

Manitoba, Canada has now been in CODE RED lockdown for 16 WEEKS now. We were told around thanksgiving that if we were “good” for another 3 to 4 weeks we could celebrate Christmas! Ha! We’ll be lucky if we’re legally allowed to all see our parents by Easter, which we also missed last year (at which point we were told “there’s always next Easter”). It’s blatant lies like this that make me wonder why anyone is fully trusting the government at this point.

Ahem…

Back to the birthday. We ending up making pizza at home, ate at home, watched a movie at home… well, you get the idea. I’m making it sound bad. We actually had a lot of fun together and ended off the evening with cake, a “hide-and-go-seek” in the dark game, followed by worship with the family. My boy was a trooper, he just smiled and said: “Well at least my birthday wasn’t cancelled!” But this mother’s heart hurt, even though I put on a brave face and smile for him.

Wednesday and Thursday were busy with homeschooling, more walks, a discouraging meeting that I would rather not get into, and a fireside (which got moved into our garage because of the cold and wind.)

Friday I hit a low.

A I-don’t-want-to-leave-my-bedroom-all-day kind of low.

It started as it usually does these days: with the announcement that our government is only making small changes and these will be in effect for 6 more weeks.

Six weeks. This means that code red will continue until April, even though my area now has ZERO cases. IT literally can’t get any better here. I cried. It’s just not fair. It’s not right. I feel completely helpless and hopeless that things will ever change. It’s like my free country has become a communist one. I haven’t seen my whole family together since October. The next time we will possibly be allowed to meet is in April… if they decide to lift restrictions… or, at this rate, more likely it will be June or July, outdoors.

It’s just not right.

Yet kids are allowed to go to day camp… some sports are allowed to resume. Work and school is allowed. But no still no church and still no family, the two most important things to me.

As the day went on, I spent the day asking God: “Why?”

Finally, in the afternoon, I felt his gentle spirit impress upon my heart that these trials are actually his mercy. I am not ready for any kind of persecution, especially not the kind that the Bible warns us will happen in the end days. Lots of things have been exposed in my life through this past year. I have a lot of anger, resentment, impatience and sometimes downright hate in my heart. He doesn’t want to leave me in that state! These things need to be exposed through hardship so that I can move forward and actually grow in kindness, gentleness, love, joy, patience and endurance.

Oh, I just wish I wasn’t so slow to learn! I wish I was more patient through it all!

Hurry up and teach me Lord!

So I press on: grateful for the hope of spring, prayerful about the current state of this world and certain of God’s goodness.

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.”

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

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.