Bloom

I couldn’t believe my eyes.

In fact, I could have sworn that I yanked them all out at the end of the season two years ago.

And yet, there it was: a small purple, white and yellow pansy peeking out through dry dirt littered with the fallen leaves of a Saskatoon bush, blooming in the late October sun as if it was a midsummer’s afternoon.

In the past few months our backyard has seen desert-like conditions with heat and drought, followed not long after by a huge dump of snow and weeks of chilly temperatures, that has since melted and warmed into a gorgeous stretch of actual fall weather.

After all of that, the hardy little pansy popped its pretty head up out of the ground and started to blossom, right beside a big ugly thistle and our dried up pumpkin vine, the fruit of which had been stolen by our local squirrel before it even had much of a chance to grow.

Bloom where you’re planted.

Be faithful to God in the the driest, hottest seasons where you’re feeling unimportant and invisible.

In those very moments your heart begins to wilt, send your roots down deep into the Word and learn what it means to have the attitude of Christ:

“Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death
even death on a cross!”
Philippians 2:6-8 (NIV)

I’ve been reading through the books of Psalms and Isaiah this summer, attempting to savour each bit. It’s really. slow. going. Being a wife and mom of four young children is a full time job. Add in my career and other ministry involvements and it’s life overflowing! In years past I’ve gone with a quick devotional approach to reading my Bible, but I’ve recently been challenged to tap the brakes and take more time to understand the context of what I am reading and learn what it reveals about who God is.

There has been a long season in my life where I have been desperately seeking the truth about who God says I am instead of the lies I had been believing. Now I am finding more freedom and the desire to ask yet another question entirely: not “who am I?”, but “who is I AM?”.

Who is this amazing God who would lay aside His glory and sacrifice His life for the sake of those He loves so completely?

Is He really the same yesterday, today and forever? (Hebrews 13:8)

And how does knowing Him more deeply impact my day-to-day demands and moments of completely mundane tasks that bring no joy to me in my natural state?

I am captivated by the beauty of the world God has made. Even a simple tree across the street, standing strong and tall in both the blazing hot sun of the summer and the wickedly frigid winds of the winter brings my heart such awe and amazement that I can’t help but worship the Lord. I could spend all day in that moment, heart lifted by a glimpse of a bird taking flight, but I am snapped back to reality when I hear a little voice saying “uh-oh Mama” from the washroom (and all the parents cringe!). Somehow, walking around my living room straightening cushions, folding toddler t-shirts and bringing the trash to the curb just in time for the garbage truck just don’t have the same “wow, Lord, You’re awesome” factor.

And yet, these are the practical things right in front of me. And I am finding that they are the very things God is using to transform my heart.

This past week I’ve had to consciously make the choice to turn my work into worship. I’ve been picking up socks in prayer, tying little shoes with thanksgiving and teaching scissor skills with a song in my heart. Every time I return a toy to its home, every time I throw away a piece of trash left behind by my children, every time I behold the aftermath of imagination and creativity strewn about the living room, I am choosing prayer and praise: prayer for the person it reminds me of and praise for the gift of life in Christ.

Believe it or not, this simple act of worship is fuelling new growth in my cold, frustrated heart, and I am finding fresh gratitude and hope. Beauty is blossoming in the most unlikely of places because my eyes are constantly on the One who loves unconditionally and without end.

Against all odds, like the extraordinary little pansy flourishing in my otherwise-dead backyard, I’m just gonna go ahead and bloom where I’m planted too.

hardy pansy

Can you believe it?! This little pansy is amazing to me.

Making Space

We’re about to fall headlong into one of the busiest times of the year. Yes, I am talking about Christmas, even before the pie crumbs of Thanksgiving have really had time to settle and Halloween is still lurking.

I like to work ahead. By this time of the year, I’ve already been thinking about what we’ll do in December, how gifts might work and whether or not I need to start making things early. Life is already busy, and it just gets busier and busier as we head into November and December.

I absolutely adore all things Christmas, but I’ve found that the heart of the season can sometimes get lost in the heavy workload, flurry of activities and temporary demands. My schedule is often overwhelmed with holiday plans and my newsfeed is overrun with events and content even before November begins!

Let’s be honest for a moment. Most of us are knee deep in some sort of mess that we’re expected to tidy up just in time for the guests to arrive. We manage to find some cheer for an hour or two and then it’s right back to the grind we’ve made for ourselves, with all its harsh realities. When we’re working at capacity, we may find ourselves falling into a bit of a Scrooge attitude, grumbling under our breath about all the things we’ve still got to do before the deadline.

So I’m learning to choose now, more than two months in advance, to leave room in my schedule for rest, reflection and worship. It’s counterintuitive because the pace of the season is part of the fun! But Christmas is so much more than parties, presents and perfection. And through the  sacrifices and re-ordering of holiday priorities, I am finding the Lord in the unexpected quiet places.

We need that space to breathe in the true wonder of the season. Not the lights and the sparkle, but the unveiling of the Source of all authentic hope, peace, joy, and love: the Saviour of the world, coming as a baby on a bed of hay.

A baby.

Have you held or beheld a newborn recently? Perfectly formed and perfectly helpless. It’s the most incredible of ways that the God of Heaven could come to earth to bring salvation to a world that rejected Him so brutally.

Instead of filling our schedules with plans upon plans this holiday season, let’s make room for Jesus. Let’s welcome Him fully. Let’s let His deep, deep love overwhelm us and give Him centre stage in our holiday experience this year.

Let’s make space for the One who truly is the greatest gift of all.

holiday lights

Holiday lights

The Pie is Gone

It ain’t over ’til the pie’s all gone… and our pie is gone, bringing the end to another season of Three Weeks of Thanks.

I am enjoying the experiment I began a few years ago, to be more intentional over the Thanksgiving season in actually pausing to examine my heart instead of rushing through turkey and pie.

And yet, I have to be honest – this has been the most difficult year to “find my thankful heart” so to speak. Our family has had some things come up in the past twelve months that have given me cause to feel anything but thankful. I am learning, though, that I have a choice to worship anyway.

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Colossians 3:1-4 (NIV)

When Christ, who is your life, appears.

Is He my life? Or am I staking my hopes on things that crumble like dust beneath their weight?

It’s not an easy shift to make, but even there we find grace.

The Colossians passage gives more insight on what it means to truly find our lives in Christ.

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Colossians 3:5-17 (NIV)

My post-Thanksgiving prayer is simple: Lord, may I continually discover how to find my life in You every moment of this day!

pumpkin pie

A beautiful gift from a friend this Thanksgiving!

When I Remember

This is the third in a weekly series called “Three Weeks of Thanks”. Join the conversation at #3WeeksofThanks.

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The “Thanksgiving Tree” is finally up. It’s just a piece of burlap on the wall, with twine and clothespins that hold cut-outs of leaves and the kids’ hand and footprints. On each one is written what they’re thankful for this year. We put up the “leaves” of years past so we remember how God has been faithful to our family. As time goes on, this inexpensive piece of rough burlap will fill up with the softness of our gratitude toward the One who holds everything together.

It’s a tradition that I’ve really come to love. As we trace our hands and cut out the shapes, think of our list of things to be thankful for and write the words on orange and brown and red construction paper, we’re discovering a way for us to connect what’s going on around us with a heart of gratitude.

This is the sixth year that I’ve chosen to be intentional with my thoughts leading up to Thanksgiving. In the past, I’ve had more of a quick, day-of, “God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for this food” kind of approach, but I’ve come to learn that this season deserves so much more.

I’ve also come to learn that by the middle of September, my plate is nearly overflowing and I’m not sure I even have room to engage that kind of “more”. Can I really adjust my well-organized plans and leave space to quiet my heart before the big weekend is here?

Can I actually make time to discover what true thanks looks like?

It is not easy to pause when life is moving so quickly that I am out of breath before my feet even hit the floor in the morning. It’s not easy to stop when stopping means I have to actually think about the difficult things I’m facing, whether individually or even as a community or world. It’s not easy to sit down and lean into the Lord when I have more “productive” things to do, like plan a menu and craft my best sweet potato casserole ever.

And yet, I long so much for the “more” that I find when I just. slow. down. When I can make the connection between what I am doing and why I am even able to do it in the first place – when I discover the deep love of Jesus and astounding grace of God and the beautiful fellowship of the Holy Spirit, Thanksgiving becomes more than just turkey and to-do’s.

We crossed a bridge over the river in our city a couple of days ago and I couldn’t take my eyes off of the scene that stretched out before me. The cool turquoise water contrasted with the brilliant greens, rich golds, burnt oranges and fiery reds of the trees and bushes that lined riverbank. My heart sang at such a magnificent sight! In a moment we had passed it, but the image remained in my mind.

The One who brings that kind of beauty to life in an ordinary riverbank is the very same One who brings my heart to life when I remember that everything I am and everything I have is because of Him. I was made to worship!

God, help us this Thanksgiving to truly make space in our hearts and lives for Your presence. To breathe in Your breath of life and discover that we really can give thanks to You no matter what we’re facing, because this is Your will for us in Jesus. You know that with a truly thankful heart, we will begin to see what is most important in this life – being wholly devoted to You.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 —

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

leaves in fall

My favourite backyard bush in fall