In My First Years of Motherhood…

With still many a lesson on the horizon, I am sharing a few little things I’ve learned so far in my first years of motherhood:

-My mom actually DOES know a few things. You know when you’re a teenager and you think, even secretly, that your mom just doesn’t get it? Wrong. She actually gets it more than you realize and one day you’ll be asking her all about it.

-My body is incredibly resilient. And frankly, completely amazing. It may look different than it used to but it has proven time and time again that beauty, strength and endurance come in many forms.

-My capacity is limited. I didn’t want to accept this in the beginning and even now I struggle to speak up when I am feeling overwhelmed, but the Lord knows me so well that He sends me people who patiently and persistently press me to let them bless me with their presence and practical help. What a gift!

-My life is not my own. Every day I have ample opportunity to embody the sacrificial love of Jesus in a million little ways. I can choose to let the requirements and demands of raising a family fill me with resentment or I can choose to follow in Jesus’ footsteps and willingly lay down my life for the sake of another. I’m asking the Lord to help me choose wisely.

-My identity is not in my family. Although I desperately love my husband and children and would not trade this life for anything, I am beginning to understand that my worth and value does not lie in my success or failure in my role as wife and mother. My true worth and value can only be found in Jesus and that brings such freedom in all my roles in life.

Happy Mother’s Day. I know that this is a difficult time of year for many people, as various painful circumstances bring shape and colour to our experiences. May you know God’s deep comfort, incomparable care and limitless compassion through this weekend and beyond.

You are loved, whether you feel loved or not. Tell your weary heart that truth today.

Jeremiah 31:3 (NIV)

The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying:
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.

trees and light jer 31 3

 

 

Lessons from a Blue Hydrangea

Sometimes the most ordinary things bring us to an extraordinary realization that moves our hearts.

Fresh Easter flowers have become a tradition for me. I usually opt for white tulips, Easter lilies or daffodils, but this year I was on the hunt for something else. I had noticed someone else’s gorgeous blue hydrangea in the spring sunshine one afternoon on the weekend before Easter and immediately I knew I wanted one for our table.

A few days before Easter, I brought one home, pulled off the plastic and set it in the centre of our old dining room table. It was huge. The blooms burst forth and my heart sang! But within two days, it looked tired and sad.

I tend to become an overenthusiastic plant parent, loving each and every plant I’ve ever had to death with my daily watering and pruning, so this time I decided to do a bit of reading up on how to care for a potted hydrangea.

Turns out, blue hydrangeas have a few demands: bright but not direct sunlight, warm but not too warm, and soil that’s not dried out.

On Maundy Thursday, Blue looked like she was about to give up the ghost. I was annoyed that Easter was yet to come and this plant was about to die before her big moment on the Easter dinner table! So I moved her to the back where the air was cooler and gave her a nice drink of water, just hoping she would survive until Good Friday.

She rallied.

It happened again on Saturday morning. So I repeated my remedy and she rallied again.

Easter dinner came and went and Blue brought the beauty of God’s amazing creation to our little home.

Here’s the thing I can’t get over – this blue hydrangea continually finds itself on the brink of death. I bring it to a cool place and give it a drink, and soon her blooms are full.

How many times have I felt parched and dry, wilting and waning, wondering how my heart will ever be revived again? And then, by the power of His Spirit through the truth of His Word I am reminded that Jesus is the Living Water!

Drink deep today, friends. Drink deep. Let the truth of God’s Word speak to your heart and be thirsty no more. Let Easter be more than just a story we hear in the springtime and quickly move on to home renovations and summer plans.

I need the bigger story that Easter promises. I need to know that when I go to Jesus, I can trust that He really is the Living Water my heart so desperately needs because He IS God and he has been raised to life again. The power of sin has been broken and death has been conquered.

1 Corinthians 15:55-57 (NIV) —

“Where, O death, is your victory?

    Where, O death, is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

In the words of my dad, “Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!”

Blue

Still looking great after a week in my care. Amazing.

Mama, You Love Jesus?

As we move into Holy Week, starting this weekend with Palm Sunday right through to next weekend with Good Friday and Easter Sunday morning, I am sharing something I wrote a few Good Fridays ago. I am thankful that I captured this memory; it still touches me even though we’re moving into a different season with our kids. If you are in a time of your life right now where Easter feels like just another thing to get through, I pray that as you “pass by Jesus on the cross”, He makes an impact on you right where you are. 

Let me set the scene for the following story: I was bone-tired. Between parenting a four year old and a two year old, we were facing a long and uncertain road with our three month old who was in the middle of treatments for a concerning and very rare genetic condition that had come as a surprise after she was born.

I felt like the billows were rolling in the sea of our life. 

I was hanging on to Jesus with white knuckles and it was bringing me to my knees.

***

Yesterday my oldest daughter asked me, “Mama, you love Jesus?”

With tears in my eyes, I answered, “yes, I do love Jesus.”

And then I wept.

It had been a day already (if you know what I mean), and it was only 10am.  We were sitting at the table with little yogurt cups, some strawberries and a bit of banana bread we had baked together the day before.

For almost the entire hour beforehand, we battled.  And we were all exhausted.

As we ate, I responded to yet another question about Easter, explaining the good news for probably the sixth time this week.  Daily questions about who Jesus is, why He died, why He rose, what it all means… Lord have mercy!  I didn’t know you needed a theology degree to have kids!

That’s when she looked up across the table at me with those big blue eyes and said, “Mama, you love Jesus?”

It broke me.  I nearly couldn’t pull myself back together.  My middle girl said, “Mama, don’t cry!  Are you crying?”

“Yes,” I said. “But not because I am sad.  I am crying because I really do love Jesus very much.”

Easter usually turns out to be a very emotional season for me. It’s where the depth of my need meets the breadth of a love I cannot fathom, and that truth pierces my heart in unexpected moments where I see its transformative power in action.

The day continued on in its ups and downs late into the evening, with a few glimpses of glory.  But most of it was made of moments that made me whisper, “Grace, Jesus.  Your grace.  Only Your grace today.”

The next morning, my body felt broken.  I was up a couple of times in the night, and my eyes were puffy from crying tears of exhaustion.

Church?  People?  No thanks.  Besides, we already did communion with the kids at the table this morning.  Grape juice and homemade white bread.

But it was Good Friday.  Part of my heart wanted to be at church, even though I knew I probably would not be able to sit through the service with the two youngest kids.  So I swallowed my pride over feeling like I needed to look capable and we did it.  And let’s face it, the truth shines through in all its radiance with three energetic kids 4 and under, a mom-ponytail and a baggy sweatshirt because my other jacket still doesn’t quite fit after having our latest cherub-cheeked girlie. I went solo because my husband had to work.

Walking into that church, I already knew I wouldn’t catch much of the Good Friday service.

But somewhere in the middle of cuddling a baby and entertaining a toddler with sniffles in a room on the side of the sanctuary, my heart was lifted by what I heard through the speaker piping in the message from the other room:

“Even those who passed by Jesus up on that cross were impacted by Him.”

Passing Him by.  That’s exactly how it feels sometimes when you’re in the thick of raising tiny humans.

But I say this with certainty:  even if you feel like you’re just passing by Jesus today, with all the things that life and seasons bring, He makes an impact on you.

I tried to take the two youngest into the sanctuary for communion, but the baby started fussing and our toddler chose that moment, that holy moment before communion, to start shouting, “NOOOO! I don’t WANT to whisper!”

So we headed back to the side room.

I may not have been able to get to the church communion table this morning, but He met me at the kitchen table.

In a place I did not expect.

cross and heart

An Easter craft by one of my children a few years ago.

What is Better

“Mom! I need you to put pigtails in my hair!”

My four year old was waiting in the hall for me when I got up yesterday morning. My eyes were barely open, my body was still shaking off the shell of sleep. I needed a minute.

“Okay just let me brush my teeth. Did you look outside?”

“No,” she said, running to the front window.

I could hear her shrieks of joy from the bathroom.

“IT SNOWED! HEY GUYS! IT SNOWED!” she shared the good news with her big sisters.

I see an obstacle; she sees an opportunity.

It’s late March and perfectly normal weather in our city at this time of the year, but these overnight snow dumps still seem to catch me by surprise. Just the day before, we were enjoying the brilliant sunshine as the kids played at the park near our house. Our neighbourhood was buzzing with dog walkers and kids on bikes.

After the snow, all is quiet.

I stepped outside to drop something in the garbage bin and my ears perked up at the sound of birds in the trees. They seemed unfazed by the shallow blanket of white. It’s moisture that our dry ground needs, bringing the hope of a good growing season.

What appears to be a setback may, in fact, turn out to be the very thing that propels us forward.

Let me say that again: what we perceive to be holding us back may actually be the catalyst for the deeper, lasting change we desperately need.

Can we make room for it? Are we brave enough to let ourselves be interrupted by what is better?

If our pace is so harried that even one small deviation from our plan causes us to come unglued, maybe that is exactly what we need – to be unglued from our throne.

I was reading the story of Mary and Martha yesterday (Luke 10:38-42 NIV) —

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

“Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Martha had a heart to serve the guest of honour in her home with great care and attention to detail, but all the preparations had become a distraction to her. She became so frustrated that by Mary that she actually asked Jesus to tell Mary to help her! Can you even imagine?

And yet, something about that sounds so familiar to me.

My heart is full of distractions that bring frustration when someone isn’t going along with my plans. My prayers are full of requests for God to change other people to make my path easier.

Jesus had something important to share with Martha. He knew her heart. He knew she was worried and upset – she didn’t even have to tell Him that part. He reminded her that only one thing was truly necessary – to sit at His feet and listen to what He said. Jesus told Martha that Mary had chosen what is better, and He wasn’t about to tell her to be more productive.

Hmm. Could it be that there’s a game changer in there for me today?

Lord, search my heart. In the middle of all my grand plans, teach me to understand and choose what is better. Show me what it means to just sit at Your feet and listen to what You say.

spring snow on grass

Spring snow on the grass

 

The Season is Changing

Anyone else stumbling around in a post-time change fog this week?

Yikes.

I read once that it takes three weeks to fully adjust to a new schedule, so hopefully by the end of the month we’ll be caught up on the sleep we’ve missed!

Give me all the daylight, though. Every day we’re getting closer to 10pm sunsets and 5am sunrises, and the twilight hours that fill the hours in between. We’ll be making up for the winter darkness.

I smelled mud the other day and I remembered spring. It took me by surprise. I was in a parking lot and the heavy, earthy scent drifted past, bringing with it a sudden swell of hope! Same with the sound of water trickling through the downspout as the snow melts off the roof.

Ordinary evidence that the season is changing, and with it, the things we spend our time and energy on.

It’s the Lenten season. I recently read a Lent devotional that seemed to pit personal times of worship against serving the least of these in our community, as if the former is selfish and the latter is spiritual. It seemed to say that reading our Bibles and spending time in prayer is meant to somehow impress God with our efforts to be holy, when our energies would be better spent serving those among us who are truly in need.

It broke my heart.

When we put our faith in Christ, the Bible teaches that we become Christ’s righteousness before God. When God looks at us, He doesn’t see our vain efforts to impress, He sees Jesus.

2 Corinthians 5:17-21 says,

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

So why should we view the Lenten season as some sort of exercise in spiritual pride, bent on giving us brownie points with God? If that’s what Lent is for you, I strongly recommend you rethink this season.

That last verse gets me every single time: God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. When we understand exactly what Jesus did for us, we no longer see these seasons of examining our hearts and engaging in repentance and renewal as an effort to impress Him with how spiritual we are. We fall down in worship, fully surrendering our proud hearts and recognizing that there is no other Person who can bring us back in to a right relationship with a Holy Creator to whom we owe the very breath in our lungs.

I will say, though, that these times of worship must bring about lasting change in our hearts! And out of that change comes minds that are transformed by the truth of God’s Word, hearts that are open to the Holy Spirit, eyes that are searching for opportunities to put Christ’s love in action, and hands that are ready to serve Him by serving others.

I think the author of the Lent devotional is right in pointing out that inaction is a grave mistake that we would do well to pay attention to. But I am sad when I see worship and service pitted against each other.

In the weeks leading up to Easter I’ve begun to read the Gospels of Luke and John, once again re-living the life of Christ and praying that God will move in my heart through the story spread out on the pages. My heart has been stunned and amazed and encouraged by Jesus! And most often, I am finding that service of the least of these consists of pouring practical love on the very people that are right in front of me.

frozen bunny tracks

I found these frozen animal tracks one morning.

When You Simply Can’t

I distinctly remember feeling like I had no idea how I was going to make it through the day.

Numerous interruptions in my sleep over an extended period of time left me feeling irritable and frustrated. It’s not that I couldn’t sleep; it’s that my sweet babies needed me night and day and I. was. tired.

I know the desperate feeling of burnout.

It’s no fun to feel like you’re at the mercy of your emotions. Many of us have grown up in a culture where emotions were something to be suppressed with a quick, “Suck it up, buttercup. Pull up those bootstraps and get a move on! Let’s make it happen!”

But what happens when you simply can’t?

Is there space for rest and healing?

I opened up my social media pages the other day to a loud debate. One side was frustrated with the constant barrage of instagram images that encourage us to only focus on our feelings and listen to our hearts, the other side bristled at the thought of ignoring our emotions out of sheer duty. Both sides used Scripture to support their point of view. Each was convinced that the other side was missing something important.

It kinda got me thinking, I guess.

Genesis 1 teaches that God looked at all He created and saw that it was good. We are good creations made in God’s image, with great worth and value. Genesis 3 teaches that humans were completely changed by the Fall, when sin entered the world through the disobedience of Adam and Eve.

Good creations who have become completely fallen with no hope of redeeming themselves, except through the absolutely free gift that came through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus. His death and resurrection made a way for us to be restored and returned to the One who made us in the first place.

When you put your faith in Christ, you are no longer under sin but under grace! And you have an eternal hope that cannot fade away.

So what does all this mean for us on those days when we feel like we’re worth absolutely nothing and can’t stand the sight of ourselves in the mirror?

We are loved. We know this, because the entire Bible is filled with truth after truth about the love of a Father for His children. We are made perfect in Christ. We know this, too, because we read more truth about how while we were still sinners, working against God, Christ died for us to bring forgiveness, redemption and new life. We experience God’s grace when we put our faith in Christ, and from that moment on we are changed and renewed, transformed into people who are forgiven and accepted into the family of God forever. We allow the Holy Spirit to bear His fruit in our lives, growing not only our relationship with God, but even with those around us.

And this is all wonderful objective truth that we hold onto, as we dig into His Word and discover more about who God is.

The problem is, we are forgetful.

We easily forget the truths many of us have been taught from birth. We forget because we live in a fallen world, and although we are redeemed, we still fight against sin.

We are bombarded by messages of putting ourselves first, all the while knowing that God deserves first place in our lives. We are encouraged to “put on our own oxygen masks” so we can better take care of our families. We hear that we can’t “pour from an empty cup”, so we look for ways to fill ourselves so we don’t feel depleted.

But what kind of oxygen are we breathing? What are we filling our cup with?

Maybe the conversation should be less about whether or not it’s godly to get some sleep, enjoy a cup of coffee and plan a girls night when we’re feeling low, and more about the basic truth about who we are in Christ. What we believe about that crucial bit of theology forms how we live our daily lives and learn to love God, ourselves and those He has placed in our circle of influence.

I am the mother of four small children. It has been no easy task making sacrifices day after day after day for the past eight years so I can care for my family in the way I understand God has called me to care for them. I have been through deep valleys, struggling at times to see my worth and value even in the middle of this very important job of raising tiny humans and loving my husband. I also work in a ministry position where I have the absolute privilege of speaking truth and hope into the lives of thousands of people every weekday on my radio show and to our social media followers. And I have days where I wonder if I am making a difference at all. I lead worship and am involved in my beautiful community of faith, full of people who know me and us and are journeying together through some of the most faith-forming years of my adult life. And still, I wonder at times, would anyone miss us if we had to move?

Let’s be honest. We all struggle to varying degrees with feelings of inadequacy and unimportance. And our constant movement toward self-care is an acknowledgement of our human limits as we attempt to stay afloat in circumstances that are at best, trying, and at worst, a walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

It is biblical to take time to rest and recuperate and reconnect with the One who created us with deep love and care in the first place.

It is called Sabbath.

And we forget to take it and enjoy it as the gift that it is.

We forget because we are human. We forget because this world is fallen. We forget because sin tempts us and lies to us and we cannot see clearly.

God is working in each one of us to draw us closer to Him every single day. We open the Word and we drink in His message of love and truth. We look at this beautiful world, and we see carefully crafted, picturesque places that thrill us completely. We see one another and we know His love and grace through relationship and connection.

It’s wise to take a break. And it’s wise to have regular habits in place so you don’t end up in survival mode in the first place! Please take that mental health day. Sleep. Exercise and eat healthy food. Talk with your doctor. Visit a counsellor. Walk your journey in the company of those who deeply love you! We need each other. We need rest and balance. We need enjoyment and refreshment! These are beautiful gifts from the Giver of Life!

But let’s not be deceived that a weekend away can sustain us. We need more. We need something real, something that will never fade away. Only Christ can reveal to us a God who does not abandon His beloved children! He is who He says He is, He will do what He says He will do.

And as we continue on in our journey of learning what it means to be human, let’s not abandon truth for the sake of a feel-good cure to a deeper need. The only way to weather the ups and downs of self-worth and identity is to deeply root ourselves in the One who is never shaken – Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 3:16-21 (NIV)

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

tulips

Last year’s tulips

It’s Really Cold

The sun is shining invitingly with no great warmth to offer. For many days we’ve been saddled with temperatures far below seasonal, contending with vehicle trouble, slippery roads and dangerous windchill warnings.

Doing anything in extreme cold presents a fair amount of challenges, especially since it was such a quick switch. Our winter had been unseasonably mild up until the day before the polar vortex blew in.

I open the front curtains, harnessing some of that precious and wonderful sunshine. Most days it warms the room so much that the furnace gets a bit of a break, but on a day where the high is -21 degrees Celsius with a windchill of -30 it’s more for the wonderful dose of vitamin D and the way the light boosts my mood.

In the middle of the frustrations of extreme cold, I’ve been struck by its strange, otherworldly beauty.

Sunrises and sunsets have a soft rose-gold hue. The glowing quarter moon is perfectly clear against the inky black of the cold night sky, the outline of its mysterious dark side now visible from the ground. Millions of stars sparkle in their constellations as billowing clouds and thin curls of chimney smoke rise slowly from all the houses and buildings below. Streetlights illuminate tiny diamonds floating in the air; ice crystals that settle gently on everything they touch, giving trees and roofs and cars and fences a beautiful frosty kiss.

The snow crunches beneath your feet as you walk – the orchestra of snowflakes.

It makes me grateful for the small things that are suddenly big things: thick socks and warm boots on my feet. A jacket that keeps the wind out. The handmade scarf from my mom, the big old “garbage man” leather gloves from my brother, and the Canadian wool hat I picked up on a whim while out shopping a few years ago. The hot cup of coffee I’m sipping out of a clean travel mug while I drive a fairly reliable vehicle around a city where crews work non-stop to clear and sand wintery roads.

A home to return to where I can turn up the furnace, put on my slippers and favourite sweater, and cook a hot meal to enjoy with the ones I love.

There is much to be thankful for, even in the middle of the longest cold snap in decades.

I write this down so that I can remember to choose gratitude the next time I am running late, crouching down in a -40 windchill at the gas station, my frozen fingers clumsily attempting to fill my tires with air.

There is beauty in even this season.

snowflake aaron burden

Image: Aaron Burden

Walking

“It was I who taught Ephraim to walk.”

The tender image of such a father leaped off the page into my heart. I happened to turn to Hosea 11 the other night and my eyes fell to the beginning of the chapter, where God is speaking to His people through the prophet.

It was I who taught Ephraim to walk.

I turned it over in my mind a few times, each time stirring up the precious memories of my own children taking their first steps.

The excitement of the days before they actually walked on their own, knowing they were getting closer and closer to a moment when their life would change forever in the best way.

The encouragement offered as they wobbled from one parent to the other, iron grip on a single finger, unwilling to let go until their feet were steady beneath them.

The patience for fall, after fall, after fall…

And now I understand a little bit more of who God is.

The Hosea passage goes on to talk about how even though God was the one fathering the nation of Israel, they turned away from him. My children are still small, still longing for the comfort of their parents and still hanging on the words we pour into them.

I haven’t known the pain of parenting a wayward child, but I know those who have.

I have witnessed their anguish over the shattering of a most treasured relationship. My heart has grieved and prayed with them as they wait on their knees for their precious one to return home.

All through the Word we see the story of a father’s heart, calling his wayward children back to himself; the very same father who taught his beloved children to walk only to have them turn away, even launching a campaign against him.

And yet, in His perfect love He forgives and restores, making a way for His cherished children to return to the place they truly belong, even though it is a costly way that leads through the death and resurrection of His only Son.

We forget, don’t we? We see God as this vending machine in the sky, or worse, we don’t think of Him at all. And yet, this stunning picture of God as a tender father awaits us in the middle of a book of the Bible that most of us have never looked at for more than a devotional verse here and there.

We are precious children. We were taught to walk by a loving Heavenly Father who has stopped at nothing to call us back home, to bring us out of our sleep and open our eyes to His powerful, life-giving, unending love.

“Come, let us return to the Lord.” Hosea 6:1a (NIV)

little feet stsn

Image: Irene Lasus

The Six Evergreens

There were six trees across the street.

Towering evergreens, standing at attention in dry heat and brittle cold. They easily bore long weeks of soaking rain, violent hailstorms and heavy spring snows. When the hazy days of summer arrived, without a stitch of moisture, they didn’t crack or break. The wind barely bothered them at all unless it was nearly a gale.

A couple of years ago, the second one from the left started changing color. The dark, deep, healthy green faded to a sickly brown. I knew long before they actually cut it down that it would have to go.

Admittedly, I was sad. I loved my view of the six evergreens. In every season, something interesting and beautiful unfolded among their branches, from squirrels to blue jays to little song birds.

The day came. It was done in just a half an hour or so, and with it, the third tree from the right. I am not sure if the arborists found more disease, or if the homeowners just wanted a more balanced look, but since that day the view has changed.

Every time I look at the six evergreens, which are now just four evergreens, I feel the sting of loss. My beautiful wall of trees now has gaps.

This morning I was sitting on the floor playing with my toddler when I looked out the front window and saw something I hadn’t seen before. Through one of the new gaps in my favourite trees I could see another towering row of branches in the distance. These were just the very tops of a few evergreens in front of some very tall poplars. They have no leaves today, but my heart felt a spark of curiosity and the warmth of the hope of spring, when their leaves will begin to bud. My mind leaped to summer, when thousands of leaves will rustle in the wind. And then, to next fall, when those beautiful towering poplars will shine yellow and orange in the brilliance of a gloriously warm September day.

Before the six evergreens were forever changed, I couldn’t see the poplars in the distance. I didn’t even realize they were there.

It’s like that with change, isn’t it? We are marked and impacted by it. We grieve deeply. We spend time remembering the days of the fullness of our most recent experiences, and then, as time passes, we begin to catch a glimpse of something on the other side of what we’ve lost. We start to gain a clearer picture of what’s beyond. The ugly and unwanted gap in the trees becomes a clearing, revealing something completely unexpected, interesting and full of potential.

I still miss the six evergreens across the street. I still wish they were all there. But now that I’m beginning to see what’s beyond, I’m looking forward to my new view.

evergreens across the street winter

The evergreens in winter

The New Year

Yesterday felt different.

Today feels the same.

Isn’t that the way it is with the New Year? January 1st is filled with hopeful plans and anticipation of what the year will behold.  January 2nd is a meeting of expectations and reality. And at times, they don’t match up.

But is that really so bad?

We’ve spent the past week and a half in the sweetest way – with family and friends, giving and receiving, eating and laughing, listening and sharing. In the middle of it all, the demands of regular life have not ceased.

Sharing amazing meals with guests means dirty dishes and tablecloths. Floors that need cleaning. Clothes that need washing.

Little kids playing together means big emotions and conflicts to sort out. Hearts that need tending. Cheeks that need kissing.

Work and play go hand in hand.

The other day, my five year old daughter had a moment in her otherwise great day that was particularly difficult. In her pain she cried out, “This is the worst day of my life! The whole day is the worst day ever!”

Amen. I have been there!

I sat with her and listened to her list of reasons why. Then I asked her if anything good had happened at all. She gave me one or two things she thought would qualify as “kinda good I guess”.

“Isn’t it interesting that there are good things and bad things right beside each other in a day?” I asked her. “That’s sometimes how it is. We have something really great mixed in with something really hard.”

BOOM. I chuckle when I think of it now, but it was a lightning bolt to my heart. I realized in that moment that I needed to hear those words more than she did.

2018 was a really tough year, although right along with it, we’ve seen amazing things and enjoyed many incredible moments. And even now, through this season marked with hope, peace, joy and love, we have been praying for three beautiful families in our life who each have a child facing a big battle with cancer, a friend who lost her mother right before Christmas and other relationships that are utterly broken, seemingly beyond repair.

These things do not leave us when the season changes and the calendar flips to a new month or a new year. But neither does the Lord.

Whatever we’ve been walking through, whatever is following us into the New Year, we know that we are not alone.

Isaiah 41:10 (NIV) –

“So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Thank you Jesus! Amen.

first rose to bloom

Last year’s first rose to bloom