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