Oh No, Not Me

Have you ever heard someone talk about how God provided for them in a moment of deep need? Food filled the empty cupboards. Cash appeared just in time. Healing happened at the last moment. Strength came in the face of discouragement.

How amazing to hear those stories! We marvel at the faithfulness of God and praise Him alongside someone else who has experienced His goodness as a tangible part of their daily life. But when God gives us the opportunity to have our own stories of faith through job loss, health challenges, financial difficulties or a change in our circumstances that affects our ability to provide for ourselves, we shrink back a little and say, “Oh no not me, Lord. My faith doesn’t need strengthening, thank You very much. I’m fine just as I am. I already know You are good and trustworthy and true. I’ll just take Your Word for it.”

And yet, when we stand on the precipice of something entirely other than what we are comfortable with and have a plan for, we don’t need to be afraid. When circumstances take a turn and the very things we once put our hope in are no longer there, the Holy Spirit is inviting us into something deeper and infinitely more profound and life-changing than to remain as a bystander to someone else’s life of faith.

It’s never easy, because when you’re on a faith journey you know it deep down in your bones in a way you’ve never known it before. It is “next-level” walking with Jesus. You can feel yourself sliding out of your comfort zone; you live and breathe each moment with a heightened awareness that there is no way you can do this on your own.

The tidy answers are elusive and there literally is just enough light for the step you are on.

You’re throwing yourself at the mercy of the Lord, asking Him to make a way when there seems to be no way, praying for wisdom and watching Him work out the details before your very eyes!

I saw this quote from author and Pastor Timothy Keller that so perfectly expressed the difference between where you were and where you are now. He said “it is one thing to believe in God, but it is quite another thing to trust God”.

Yes!

If you’re having trouble trusting Him in your circumstances, cry out to Him!

Let God use this faith journey, this season of need, this moment of uncertainty, to do His work in your life. Let Him grow you in this time so that when you look back you can say with the Psalmist, “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” (Psalm 27:13 NIV)

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A branch in the morning light

What We Really Long For

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Me in my brother’s hockey equipment

I come from a hockey family.

Growing up, the boys played shinny at the Rec on weeknights while I “figure skated” with my friends. Saturday night at 6, it was Hockey Night in Canada with my dad and my endless questions: “Who were the Leafs playing tonight? What’s icing? Who’s LaPointe? Why is he on every team? How come there’s no goalie in the net?” He graciously answered each one, giving me my first hockey primer.

As a young girl I fell asleep watching the stars out the window of the backseat on the way home from countless practices and games. We spent evenings and weekends at rink after rink, burning our tongues on cheap hot chocolate and freezing our rear ends off cheering on my big brother and the team. He was a zippy little forward who made his little sister so proud! There are pockets of memories filled with shouts of “c’mon ref!” and that arena smell – cigarette smoke and Zamboni exhaust mixed with freshly-flooded ice and old hockey equipment. The winters of my childhood were spent running around the bowels of the home arena while the game went on, begging my parents for candy and red and blue Slush Puppies from the concession. I had uncles who made it to the juniors and cousins who are still hoping to.

When I heard the news from Humboldt, my heart broke. I went to Bible School in Saskatchewan and have connections to the people in that community, knowing they grew up with a deep love of the game.

At the vigil on Sunday night, I was overwhelmed by Pastor Sean Brandow’s clear presentation of Jesus. It was amazing to see him speak so candidly about the need we all have deep inside, and the question he asked at the end of his message stuck with me.

“What will you do with one breath? Each breath that you have left, what are you going to do with it? Will you seek the God who has walked and who has died to show His love and His concern and His care for you? Or will you get bitter and angry and frustrated? Come to the God of comfort.”

Comfort.

Isn’t that what we really long for, even in the day-to-day? Underneath all our efforts to make life just a bit easier, we hunger for true rest to be our lasting reality.

But where can we go to find it?

We search all over for a way to alleviate our suffering, and instead find a God who Himself suffered so that we could find comfort forever.

Easter Sunday has long passed, and yet, here we linger.

In Luke 24 the angel asks the women at the tomb – “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here – He is RISEN.”

This is the crux of our faith: if Jesus is not risen, our faith loses its power.

A dead man cannot forgive or save. A dead man cannot heal and bring new life.

The memory of a teacher can inspire us to do good to others, to be kind in every situation, to share what we have with those in need. But a dead man cannot bring the true transformation required to find an eternal hope and a future free from pain and grief. It’s a deeply rooted change of who we are that shifts our allegiance from ourselves to Someone far greater. Someone who is worthy of our worship and brings a rebirth into a living hope and inheritance that will never perish, spoil or fade (1 Peter 1:3-4).

Without a living God there is no internal change and without that internal change, this hope to be a better person, the longing to be whole, and our desire for greater significance all become a frustrating and futile effort. We may be doing the right things but our hearts still struggle with bitterness, selfishness and pride that ultimately leads us down a path of ruin.

We need a way for the change to stay.

We need more than “Jesus the example”. We need the real Jesus – the One who walked through suffering, took our sin, conquered death and lives in victory.

We need the Risen Jesus.

The final verse Pastor Sean shared at the vigil was Romans 15:13 –

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Our hearts are broken for Humboldt. Time cannot heal this wound – only Jesus can. And because of His wounds, we can find healing for ours.

The Little Coffee Tree

Every so often, I try my hand at a little parable of sorts. This one was inspired by my very first glimpse of a real coffee bush.

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coffee bushes

I shot this at the Maui Tropical Plantation in 2009.

Once upon a time in a land far away, there was a coffee tree.  Day in and day out, it stood against the elements.  Each season, without fail, it faithfully grew its coffee cherries.  And as it stood firmly in its soil, doing what it was made to do, it never knew that thousands of miles away, people were gratefully drinking in its offerings.

It just kept on growing.

(Makes me wonder if we could ever possibly realize the impact we have by being faithful  to what we’re growing, right here and right now.)

How Could He?

We sat on the soft couch in the early spring sunshine, huddled around a storybook Bible for kids.

“How could he?” she cried. Our five year old was hearing, really hearing for the first time, that God looked away from Jesus for a moment while He was on the cross.

“His own son! How could He look away from His own son?” Her bottom lip quivered and her brow sunk low. I could see tears forming behind her glasses. “Why, Mama, why did He do that?” She covered her face.

I put my arm around her. “It is very sad, isn’t it?” I said. I tried to explain how Jesus took our sin on Him, and that God couldn’t look at sin, so He had to look away. “But why did He do that?” she wailed.

She wasn’t asking for the theological explanation.

She was asking why it had to happen like this – why even the Father left Jesus utterly alone.

At our house, Easter always brings out the toughest questions about why Jesus had to die and how He could take away all of our sins. It’s this strange mix of egg hunts and execution, bunnies and burial cloths. And then, the great exhale of wonderful relief when we learn that Jesus, who was once dead, has come back to life again.

We live in this tension between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

We suffer the fallen nature of the world and the effects of sin while we await the glorious fulfillment of His promise of eternal life.

In the between time, we work to stay faithful to Him and build His kingdom in a world with a kingdom of its own, the kind that shouts you are a dangerous fool if you believe in anything other than the tangible and material, if you stand for something other than yourself, if you entrust your life to Someone instead of your emotions and feelings.

“In this world you will have trouble – but take heart, I have overcome the world!” – Jesus (John 16)

Jesus, as we remember Your sacrifice and victory this Easter weekend, let us be strengthened by the Holy Spirit to worship You in the face of doubt and questions. Let those questions and struggles remind us that while we don’t know everything, You do. And that is precisely why we bow in worship -You are God, Your love is unchanging, and You will never forsake us.

Jesus Storybook Bible

Image: “The Jesus Storybook Bible”, Sally Lloyd-Jones/Jago

On Palm Branches and Dashed Hopes

palm leaf

As we were pulling up to church one Palm Sunday a few years ago, we realized we forgot something.  Time was tight, so I dropped the kids off with my husband and took the baby with me to run back and get it.  I thought I might be able to make it back in time.

But I missed it.

My favourite part of Palm Sunday:  the Kids Palm March.

On the Sunday before Easter, the kids get to wave Palm branches and march around the church during the first few worship songs.  When they get to the front, the branches are placed in a glass vase of water sitting under a wooden cross draped with purple fabric.

Amid the frustration of running back home, the disappointment of returning too late, and the general isolation of being a mom of a little one who is too noisy and busy for the service and too sniffly to play in the nursery, I felt sad.

My heart was heavy as I followed my little one around the back of the gym, praise music filling my ears.  My eyes scanned the front and settled on the cloth-draped cross with the large beautiful palm branches sitting beneath it, and strangely, I understood.

Those palm branches held such hope for the people who had waved them by a dusty road into Jerusalem so long ago.

Hope that never came to fruition.

The King of Kings riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, welcomed by crowds expecting a political revolution.

Only days later, the King of Kings, mocked, beaten, left to die on a rough wooden cross.

Here’s what a palm branch looks like the day AFTER it has been waved with great enthusiasm.

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Spent.  Tired.  Shrivelled.

And rightly so.  Palm branches are not meant to last forever.  Our hope was never in a palm branch.

Our hope is in the King of Kings.

And the rest of the story is still coming.

The Winter is Over.

The sound of melting is music to my ears, peppered with little boots splishing and splashing alongside stroller wheels on the sidewalk.

The first walk of Spring is underway. I can hear birds twittering and flittering from tree to tree, preparing for a long season of growth and change.

The winter is over. We breathe a sigh of relief. Yes, we know that more snowflakes will fall before summer arrives, but in the meantime, sun bathes our neighbourhood in warmth and beauty. Even the runoff, meandering down the middle of the road, is sparkling with life and hope.

“Look at the way this one curves back and forth,” I say, pointing to a small stream trickling down the sidewalk in front of us.

“Wow!” they shout, zigging and zagging through it, pants wet to the knees from all the joys of puddle-jumping.

One bends down and fishes three soggy pinecones out of the mud puddle, tossing them happily into the middle of the road. “Here ya go, squirrels!” she shouts. “Some food for you!”

Simple joys.

Thank you Jesus for the beauty of this moment.

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White tulips growing in my living room!

Because He is Good

Today I’m sharing a quick thought on Psalm 100 – a psalm written for giving thanks. 

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“Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.

Know that the LORD is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.

For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.”

Psalm 100 (NIV)

 

If you’ve had a tough week, you may have to choose to shout for joy to the Lord. This psalm is full of not just suggestions – but commands to praise the Lord and give Him thanks, and a call to understand that the Lord is GOD, and we belong to Him. For me, the final verse is the kicker – why should we praise Him? Simply because the Lord is good, and His love endures forever, and His faithfulness continues through all generations. Today, in this moment, that is enough for me.

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My piano

 

I’m Typing With One Hand

Frozen mornings and warm afternoons.

March sunshine is powerful here. It melts away a landscape full of snow and cold, and brings the hope that one day soon it really will be a new season.

These sunny days are a balm for winter-weary souls. We are the hearty, the strong Canadian kind who look forward to snowstorms and can’t wait to play outside. But come March, even we long for the tradition of swatting mosquitoes around the campfire.

I am learning this simple truth: there is beauty in every season.

Winter’s frigid cold brings pastel skies and pale sunshine that makes the air sparkle with diamond dust.

Spring holds the beauty of birdsong and budding trees and flowers.

Summer’s heat grows our gardens and offers us long, warm evenings to play in.

Fall’s glorious colour is a second Spring of sorts, and its crisp air refreshes our senses.

Every year we receive these blessings without fail.

In my life I tend to see the glaring difficulties of the season I am in. And in my haste to focus on the negative, I sometimes miss the little lovely moments that really make this season beautiful. This morning, for the very first time in her seven years of life, our oldest daughter, our early riser, sleepily asked me to “wake her up in ten minutes”.  I got to kiss my husband and we laughed together before he left for work. I have a small silky-headed boy in my arms, gnawing on my shoulder, chattering away, slowly tuckering himself out for a nap. And the middle two girls are currently wrapped up in a world of their imaginings, creating a story out of thin air and random household objects.

I kiss my boy’s chubby little cheek, knowing that before long, he will be right in the middle of all if it, running to keep up with the big kids.

I’m typing with one hand. It is taking me three times as long this way, but I don’t mind.

This is the beauty in my season – all the ordinary moments that are extraordinary to me.

Bluebird sky

A Bluebird Sky in March – my view from the backyard.

Seeing with “Grandma Eyes”

I wrote this when my first two daughters were just 3 and 1, in Spring 2014. These memories are so close to my heart! And I still wish I had “Grandma Eyes”, but I know that it often takes the passing of the years to bring the important things of life into sharper focus.

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I came across a photo this evening from my trip to Tanzania nearly six years ago.

woman in tanzania

She was waiting for treatment outside an HIV clinic in one of the villages we visited.  I have no idea what happened to her.

In fact, I had forgotten about her until I saw this.

She said it was okay for me to take her picture.  I was grateful.  I never thought that six years later I’d look back on it and wonder if she was still alive.

Six years.

We spend our lives wrapped in the small moments.  Then suddenly something from the past appears to remind us that time waits for no one.

I was thinking about what happens every night at bedtime at our house:

“Mom.  MOM!  MOOOOOOOOMMMMMM!”

I enter the darkness and lean down over her little pink and yellow bed.  “Yes?” I whisper, and kiss her little plump cheek.

“There’s one thing I want you to do for me.”

“What?”

“Ummmm…” (quickly thinking of something) “…can you turn up the story?”

“Sure sweetheart.”  I move the volume button on the iPod dock one notch up so she can hear the story-on-tape a little better.

“Thanks Mama.”

“You’re welcome sweetheart.  Goodnight.”  I lean down for another kiss on her cheek, and stroke her hair.  “Time for sleeping.”

And then a cry from the other room, and a little one who just wants to throw one arm around my neck and rest her sweet head on my shoulder with her pint-sized stuffed Snoopy tucked under the other arm – the perfect position for the night.

Absolutely THE best.  And I slowly set her down with a kiss on her squishy cheek.

And then I stand up from the sides of their beds, and suddenly she’s three and she’s one and here we go into month 4 of another year.  My half-birthday has come and gone, and we’re nearing Easter celebrations.

Wasn’t it just Christmastime?

I’ve often said I wish I could see these moments with “Grandma Eyes” – with the wisdom and perspective of all those wonderful women who have gone before me.  The ones who know better than anyone that they sure do grow up fast, so don’t sweat the small stuff (and there is ALOT more small stuff than you realize, young mama!).

I look again at the woman above.

Time is short.

We must make the most of the moments, because the milestones come faster than we realize.

Oh Lord Jesus, help me savour the sweetness instead of sighing with heaviness.  Give me even just a glimpse of life through Grandma Eyes!

Do I Really Have Time to Think About This?

With the passing of Billy Graham, my mind has turned to the idea of legacy. His is one of evangelism, and will continue on in part because of his ministry organization. He will always be remembered for his passion to point people to Jesus.

I have no intention of dying anytime soon – most of us don’t. But when I go, what will I leave behind? What will be my legacy? What am I building with this life I have been given? Not really the kind of question I have much time to think about these days, especially with a young family and all the little things that pop up each day. So I’ll tuck it away in the back of my mind for a quiet moment, when I really have time to think about it.

Except, it doesn’t work like that.

Most people in my stage of life aren’t really thinking much about legacy because we are pretty tired. When you’re raising tiny humans and dealing with the day to day stuff, it’s easy to let grind carry you away into a place of exhaustion, longing to escape into a book or show for a little while.

And let me just tell you, I am ALL for taking a break! I know I need that self-care in this crazy season of life. But I don’t want to wake up one day and realize that I’ve been building a legacy all along – just not the one I’d been hoping for.

So what am I really building here? Is this something that will last into eternity? Am I passing on my faith in Christ in a way that makes a difference to my family?

I know – heavy questions for a Tuesday. But questions worth wrestling with.

The truth is, I want Jesus to be my legacy. I want my family to see Him in the little things I do each day. In the way I handle conflict. In the things I choose to spend my time on. I want them to see me running to Him when I’m overwhelmed and throw my hands up in the air in praise when I have a reason to celebrate.

Let them see more of You and less of me, Jesus. Let your beauty draw them near in a way that captivates their hearts. Let Your love bring healing and forgiveness when I make mistakes and let Your grace fill in the gaps left by my grave imperfections.

Thank You Jesus, for this gift of life. May I never waste it. May it always be pointing back to You, the Giver.

cross fence

My parents’ fence. Quite appropriate, if you ask me. They are passing their faith on to the next generation, and the one after that too. For that, I am grateful!