A Glimpse of What’s to Come

This is the final in a weekly blog series leading up to Thanksgiving. Join the conversation at #3WeeksofThanks.

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We’re on the doorstep of the Thanksgiving weekend and if your life is anything like mine, you’ve probably had a few things pop up recently that were unexpected and unwelcome. They may be innocuous but inconvenient, or they may be devastating and difficult to recover from.

And sometimes they’re somewhere in between.

As Christians, we understand that we are living in the tension of what is and what is yet to come. We know that one day, all evil will come to an end and Jesus will reign. I came across this powerful picture of the future in Isaiah 60:19-20 (NIV) —

“The sun will no more be your light by day,
    nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you,
for the Lord will be your everlasting light,
    and your God will be your glory.

Your sun will never set again,
    and your moon will wane no more;
the Lord will be your everlasting light,
    and your days of sorrow will end.”

When Jesus came, we caught a glimpse of what God’s Kingdom will be like. He is the one who binds up the brokenhearted, sets the captives free, comforts those who mourn, and gives beauty instead of ashes, joy instead of mourning, praise instead of the spirit of despair (Isaiah 61:1-3, Luke 4:18). How amazing to know that God’s plan moves forward despite attempts to thwart Him!

I’ve been reminded recently that God is the God of the ages. He is eternal and His plans will stand, no matter what our current circumstances may look like. Our days of sorrow will end one day because of Jesus, but for now we as Christians share in His sufferings so that one day, we will share in His glory. I read through Romans 8:16-21 this week and its truth pierced my heart.

“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.” (NIV)

Difficult days tempt us to believe that there is no hope and that our circumstances are all there is to this life. Even on a holiday weekend where warm feelings of gratitude ought to overwhelm, we find ourselves holding things that deeply grieve our hearts and make it tough to see the forest for the trees.

In these moments, let us choose joy. Let us choose gratitude. Let us choose to saturate ourselves in the truth of God’s word! Our days of sorrow will end. Jesus has come to bind up the brokenhearted and set the captives free. Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us!

Happy Thanksgiving! We are blessed beyond measure. Yes, with homes and food and community and loved ones, but even more than that – we are blessed with a Heavenly Father who loves us and pursues us, never leaving us where He finds us, but rather constantly restoring and reconciling us to Himself.

Praise His Holy name!

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A Heart of Thanksgiving

This is the third in a weekly blog series leading up to Thanksgiving. Join the conversation at #3WeeksofThanks.

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Want a healthier heart? Count your blessings.

How about a better night’s sleep? Write them down in your gratitude journal before bed.

If you want to be more optimistic, make new friends and get more exercise, make a point of expressing your thanks many times a day.

Research shows us that gratitude is good for our hearts, helps us sleep better, builds our relationships and improves our physical health. There are so many benefits of counting our blessings every single day! We begin to feel more alive when we take a moment to actually remember all the good things we’ve been given. But what about when things aren’t going too well?

How do you cultivate a heart of thanksgiving when you’re wrapped up in the whirlwind of stressful day-to-day demands?

How do you cultivate a heart of thanksgiving in a season of loss and grief?

When you’re alone or disconnected? In poor health or experiencing scarcity?

When the stories in the news point to tragedy, evil and seemingly impending doom?

If we’re completely honest, our personal set of circumstances and the global state of affairs can make us feel unsettled. Then October rolls around and we are reminded to feel thankful for the safety of our homes, the satisfaction of our full bellies and the health of our loved ones, but it’s often only because we know it could be much worse. We see lives falling apart around us and feel thankful that we have been spared that kind of suffering, so far. We consider our own difficulties and wonder if things really will be alright after all.

That opportunity to choose to be thankful in the middle of difficulty is good for us. It leads us to the understanding that our thanksgiving needs to be anchored in something much greater than our circumstances or the changing times we live in. We’re not thankful because of what we have or don’t have – we’re thankful because God is good, all the time, and He will always keep His promises.

As Christians, we understand God’s Word to be His revelation of who He is and the primary way we get to know Him. Creation reveals Him as Creator, Jesus reveals God as Father, His Word reveals His character, and when we put our faith in Christ and become filled with the Holy Spirit, He is revealed through His very presence in our lives.

That’s how to begin to cultivate a heart of thanksgiving, no matter what we’re facing.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the story Jesus told about the Wise and the Foolish Builders in Matthew 7:24-29 (NIV) —

“ ‘Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.’

When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.”

The rain will fall, the streams will rise. Giving thanks in the middle of it all takes supernatural power! In this season, let’s move beyond breathing a sigh of relief that we aren’t worse off and begin to understand what it means to build our lives on a solid foundation that won’t crumble under the weight of changing circumstances and the negative news cycle. Let’s discover true thanksgiving that fills our hearts with gratitude no matter what we’ve faced in the past, what we’re staring down in the present or what may come in the future, so that we can say with Paul in Philippians:

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:12-13 NIV)

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The Ordinary Becomes Extraordinary

This is the second in a weekly blog series leading up to Thanksgiving. Join the conversation at #3WeeksofThanks.

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We live near a natural area that comes alive with brilliant colour in the fall. Early summer’s green grasses give way to a brown, dry landscape throughout the drier months of July and August. As the weeks go by, it becomes entirely monochromatic and unremarkable, until about mid-September.

And then fall comes blazing in.

A few groves of taller trees shine in a yellow hue, but it’s the low-lying brush and grasses that are centre stage. In the nooks and crannies during these weeks of the year, the weeds and small shrubs showcase a marbling of orange, red and purple on the hillside, singing out a beautiful melody to the One who made them.

A few streets away, the tall elms are sending their golden leaves swirling to the ground in the fall afternoon winds. Clouds that threaten a few cold rain showers move across the sky full of sunlight, much paler now than a month ago, but it still holds warmth, bringing a welcome break from the brisk breeze. I truly cannot get enough! Every year I am astounded by its beauty.

The Thanksgiving Tree is up on the wall now, and our handprint leaves remind us of the tangible blessings we have in front of us. One of the other practices I am attempting throughout this season is a daily gratitude journal. Most nights before bed, I think about the ten things I am most thankful for that day and write them on a list.

An altar of sorts.

Several times throughout the Old Testament, at significant moments, God instructs His people to build a raised structure as a place of sacrifice, to mark what He had done at that particular location, for Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Samuel, Saul, David, Elijah and others. Altars were meant for worship, communion with God, and to recall the covenant He made with His people. To turn their hearts towards Him and remember His amazing promises again.

We too need those moments of remembering because in them, a reorienting occurs. As we spend time considering who God is, what He has done in the past, how He has kept His promises through all the generations before us through Jesus Christ’s work on the cross and His resurrection bringing victory over death, and even what He is doing now in our lives through the Holy Spirit, we are changed. Our stone hearts become flesh again, and we turn from our self-centred focus on getting our own way to surrendering to the way of the One who will always do what He says He will do.

Because of Christ’s once-and-for-all sacrifice, the methods of worship have changed, but the heart behind it is the same. We may no longer offer blood sacrifices on a stone altar for the forgiveness of our sins, but when we come to Christ and confess our sins, we receive that forgiveness and brand new life. We walk forward in the truth that we are filled with the Holy Spirit and are being transformed by His power.

These ordinary places of communion with God – these modern-day altars – call us to remember Whom we worship. The glorious colours of fall on the hillside. The daily list of ten things I’m thankful for today. The moments that seem so ordinary – these are the places we turn our hearts toward God and remember who He is and what He has done. We remember Who we were created for.

And we find our hearts full of thanksgiving.

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When You’re Not Feeling Thankful

This is the first in a weekly blog series leading up to Thanksgiving. Join the conversation at #3WeeksofThanks.

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Today is the first day of #3WeeksofThanks.

Full disclosure: I’m not feeling particularly thankful.

We’ve been short on sleep and long on conflict at our house this week, and that makes for a tired family. Just as I predicted, Thanksgiving isn’t really at the top of our minds. It’s still four weekends away, but here we are, intentionally entering into a season of being reminded of God’s faithfulness in the smallest, most frustrating and even most sorrow-laden areas of our lives.

It occurred to me yesterday that I am a work in progress, and I am so glad God is not done with me yet. The older I get, the more I come to the realization that He loves me enough not to leave me in my selfishness and pride. He’s pulling out the sandpaper and smoothing those rough edges for His glory. Though it is uncomfortable and downright painful at times, in the end I know He is working in me for my good, because He loves me.

As I’m looking at the theme of thanksgiving and the faithfulness of God throughout His Word, I’m struck by just how many times the Israelites forget who God is and turn away from Him to worship something else.

Then the call comes to remember. Again and again, the people are reminded of what God has done in the past, and who they really belong to. Psalm 77:11 (NIV) says, “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.”

He loves them enough not to leave them in their sin. And He draws them back to Himself, although the cost is high.

Often I find that when I’m not feeling thankful, it’s not because I am not thankful — it’s because I have forgotten who God is and what He has done in the past, not only for me and our family, but for humans throughout history. Looking through His Word at the events of the Old Testament, leading into the life of Jesus, His death and resurrection, then the pouring out of the Holy Spirit and the progress of the early church, I am reminded that the same God who set those events in motion is the same God who meets me where I am in this moment of the day when I need Him most.

He draws me back to Himself, and I can say with the Psalmist: “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.” Only then does it seem possible to live out the words of Colossians 3:15 (NIV) in even the intense and difficult moments of today:

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

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The Sun is Back

At last, the sun is peeking through the clouds.

For the past few days we’ve had cold, rainy weather, reminding us of the changing season. We pulled out rain boots, winter jackets and toques so the kids would be warm enough at recess, and the memory of strong summer sunshine began to fade. Until today. The skies have begun to clear and the promise of a warm late summer day seems possible, if not probable. The beauty of the brilliant light is streaming in the large front window, illuminating the crowd of little people toys lined up on the coffee table.

Doesn’t take much to forget, does it?

That’s the thing about the daily grind of life. It tends to cloud our view and we exist under its pall, moving from one moment to the next, getting the to-do list done and just trying to get through the busy day before us.

About seven years ago, I grew tired at how I was always surprised by the sudden arrival of Thanksgiving. When it breezes in on the second weekend of October, it really feels like the worst possible time! The school year is in full swing, we’re neck-deep in navigating our new schedule and cold and flu season is making its grand entrance.

Suddenly, it was time to pause and be thankful over a meal with family and friends. It was a welcome break from the crazy, but I began to wonder: can there be more to this than sweet potato casserole and slices of perfect turkey?

I wanted to create something hands-on for our family to engage in before Turkey Sunday to help us connect the concept of thanksgiving to our real lives. Burlap and twine went up on the wall in the living room and I carefully cut out some paper leaves. Sitting at the table with my young children, we thought of things we were thankful for. As we wrote them on the leaves, we thanked the Lord for each one, and then carefully hung the leaves on our Thanksgiving Tree.

I’ve kept all those old leaves, and every year they go on the tree. We always make more by tracing our handprints on red, yellow, orange and brown construction paper, filling them in with things we are thankful for now, in this season of our life together.

Our tree is full – along with our hearts.

It has become the sunshine that peeks through the clouds of our routine, reminding us that we have a great God who is faithful in all things and everything we have and are is because of Him.

It’s easy to forget what we really have right in front of us, and even more than that, the One who sustains us with His grace and love. My hope is that as we enter into the Thanksgiving season, we’ll move beyond a pre-meal prayer of “God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for this food” into a heart full of gratitude for who He is!

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If you’re looking for a way to make Thanksgiving more than turkey and stuffing this year, join me for a short weekly blog series called Three Weeks of Thanks (#3WeeksofThanks) on Thursdays, starting September 19th.

sunrise in september

A stunning sunrise today: the morning sun always breaks through the clouds.

Enough

When you’re doing the thing you believe God has brought before you to do, it’s rarely a comfortable experience.

I remember sitting on our couch in the living room of our small home about five years ago. I was expecting our third child, preparing myself for the changes that were coming. I knew we’d be outnumbered but I wasn’t worried about that. My tears fell for an entirely different reason. Would we have “enough”? Would our income be able to keep up with another child entering our home?

“I need to know we’re going to have enough!” I heard myself say through the emotion that overwhelmed me.

“What is ‘enough’?” my husband replied. “How much do we really, actually, need?”

That conversation has never left my mind and heart. I see now that at the time I didn’t fully trust God as my provider, not just financially, but in many areas of my life.

The deepening of our faith in Jesus always requires a choice: trust in Him, or trust in me.

Over the past five years, we’ve added another little one to our family, and I have been amazed over and over again at how God has provided just what we need at just the right time. And He continues to do so! Even more than our physical needs, I am seeing that He really is the Bread of Life (John 6:35)!

We have four beautiful children that God has called me to mother. When I had my first baby, I really felt like maybe I just wasn’t good at this mothering thing. It was an uphill climb. But now that our youngest is out of the baby stage, I can see God’s grace carrying me thus far, gently teaching me how to nurture each one of our unique children. I can see Him carefully removing my need to prove myself competent and capable and replacing it with a soft heart for the most vulnerable among us. And I can see that these are the works of His hand in my life, not because I tried harder to be a better mom. I made the choice to trust Him instead of me.

This is not an easy road! But I am relieved that I am not who I once was. And it’s all because of His never-ending, all-encompassing love poured out into my heart for His glory and eternal purposes.

It’s never comfortable to fully immerse yourself in the life that God has called you to live. It requires stepping away from the life that you think you need to embrace the life you truly need.

Matthew 11:28-30 is proving to be true for me every day:

“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.”

September is a second new year of sorts. It brings with it many options to fill up our plates with busyness. But maybe what we really need is more space in our schedule to pour ourselves into the very people that are in front of us and more time in our day to rest and recharge in the Word of God.

Maybe what we truly need is not more, but less. Only then will we find that He really is enough.

through the trees

A peaceful place in the trees.

When I’m Feeling Behind

I’ve gotta admit, I’m feeling a little behind on some things this week.

How is it Wednesday already? I’m thinking, okay week, you can stop now so I can catch up! Alas, time marches on, and so we must continue rolling from day into night and back into day again.

Sometimes things just don’t get done the way we were hoping.

When it comes to productivity, I’m a huge fan of lists. Sometimes I even add things to the list after I’ve done them just so I can cross them off! But the most helpful tip I’ve employed so far is the “top three things” method. You pick the top three things that need to happen today and make sure those get done, and then anything over and above that is a bonus.

When I was a mama of a newborn, the top three things often included keeping the baby alive and relatively happy, taking a nap and doing one thing that I enjoyed. Now that my kiddos are all out of the baby stage, the top three things often include keeping the kids alive, making sure my toddler naps, and doing at least one thing I enjoy. (And of course, time with the Lord!)

That last thing, the one where I do something I enjoy? That’s for my sanity.

Maybe that’s why most of my #summergoals may have to wait until next year! I’m still in the thick of raising tiny humans who are slowly becoming medium-sized humans, and I’ll tell you, it’s busy. And it’s tempting to forget what season of life I am in, and try to be in someone else’s season of life along with them.

You know what I’m talking about! The ol’ FOMO (fear of missing out, in case you’re old like me and were about to look that up on the Google) creeps in when you peruse your social media feed and you wonder, “just what in the world am I actually doing with my life?! Am I even making a difference like that person is? What about forging ahead in my personal goals like that friend? And look at all the things this other person has going on. What do I really have going for me anyway?”

I’m learning to close the news feed and instead, open up my camera roll. I often snap photos of things that make me smile or fill my heart with a sense of peace, and I’ve discovered that it is one of the most concrete reminders of this amazing life I already have! As I scroll through the different images of my own life that I am actually living right now, the majority of which will never see the light of social-media-day, I begin to see that God is bringing me wonderful gifts every single day that remind me of His goodness.

Somehow, that gives me perspective for my daily to-do list, for those top three things that need to get done.

And I am grateful.

Suzy Hazelwood to do list

Image: Suzy Hazelwood

Made to Praise

It’s a simple song I learned when I was a child. I’ve sung it countless times as a lullaby to all my babies, and they each know it by heart.

Even my just-barely-two year old. He was singing it to himself in his sweet toddler-speak this morning as he played:

“I love you Lord, and I lift my voice
To worship you, oh my soul rejoice!
Take joy my King in what you hear
May it be a sweet sweet sound in your ear.”

He moved on to another familiar song:

“Jesus, Jesus how I trust Him
How I proved Him o’er and o’er
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus
O, for grace to trust Him more.”

It does this mama heart so good to hear the sweet voices of her children lifting up the One who created them.

As that thought occurred to me, another followed closely behind: If I love to hear my children praise the Lord, how much more does our worship bring joy to God the Father’s heart?

Worship is not just song; it’s an entire life centred around Jesus Christ, loving as He loved and serving as He served. And praising Him, out loud and in our hearts, is an essential part of that well-spent life.

When things are going well, it’s easy to give Him praise. But when things are going poorly, it can feel nearly impossible to lift our voices, let alone our hands, to the Maker of heaven and earth.

God is sovereign. And He is all good. When we go through difficulties, it feels like He has forgotten us. But Isaiah talks about how God does not forget His people (Isaiah 49:15-16 NIV):

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
    and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
    I will not forget you!
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
    your walls are ever before me.”

Holding God’s sovereignty and His goodness in tension is crucial, especially when our circumstances are beyond our control. And somehow, an audible declaration of praise serves as the reminder we desperately need!

We’re called to praise the Lord as long as we live. Psalm 146 (NIV) begins like this:

Praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord, my soul.
 
I will praise the Lord all my life;
    I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.

Put it on the mirror in the morning. Write it on a sticky note and snap a photo of it so it’s in your camera roll. “I WILL praise the Lord ALL my life; I WILL sing praise to my God as long as I live.” Choose it, no matter what happens in the day.

Why? Because of what it says in the rest of Psalm 146. The plain-as-day warning that follows always makes me sit up and take notice. No beating around the bush here, just a straightforward message to take to heart.

Do not put your trust in princes,
    in human beings, who cannot save.

When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
    on that very day their plans come to nothing.

What a stark image of the reality of human limitations. It pierces my heart! Where am I placing my trust, right now, today, in this moment? Is it in human beings? Am I hanging my hopes on likes and follows, or even opportunities for ministry? What about my job or side projects? Maybe it’s my husband or children. How about my church or my friends?

It’s enough to make me realize where I’ve begun to turn for validation and, essentially, salvation of some kind. And it’s enough to make me return to my first love, the One who loved me first (1 John 4:19 NIV – “We love because He first loved us”).

He is worthy, there is no question. Look at this beautiful picture of God that unfolds before us throughout the remainder of this Psalm.

Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
    whose hope is in the Lord their God.

He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
    the sea, and everything in them—
    he remains faithful forever.

He upholds the cause of the oppressed
    and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,

    the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
    the Lord loves the righteous.

The Lord watches over the foreigner
    and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
    but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

The Lord reigns forever,
    your God, O Zion, for all generations.

Praise the Lord.

God is the Maker of all. And because He is the Maker of all, He is the one who sustains all life! In Him, we find the justice, satisfaction, freedom, vision, encouragement, love, protection and provision that we will never find anywhere else.

We were – all of us – made to praise the Lord. We were made to bring Him glory. When we put our trust in Him, we can be confident that He is who He says He is, and He will do what He has promised to do.

So I’m choosing it today. I’m writing it on my heart.

I WILL praise the Lord ALL my life. I WILL sing praise to God as long as I live. Only He is worthy!

Morning skies

Late summer morning skies reveal His glory!

Home for Summer

Summer brings a new rhythm to our house.

My husband and I have four children aged 8 and under so it requires some creativity and a great deal of patience to have everyone under the same roof 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In fact, as I write this, my four year old is standing beside me holding a Golden Book, “reading” it to me in her version of a British accent.

Do you know how difficult it is to focus on the task at hand with such cuteness in the room?

Not to mention the inevitable bickering, screaming, whining and rainy day cabin fever that makes everyone feel a bit stir crazy. Add in regular bursts of laughter and the sillies and it’s nearly impossible to concentrate.

They’re in holiday mode; my work still needs to get done.

So how do we do it? How do we coexist in the same space, with very different goals? My goals are to be productive and efficient at all my tasks. Their goals are to be on summer vacation.

Worlds collide.

Can I make room for the chaos that comes with welcoming my children into my plans?

Last week I announced that we’re going to have to be very patient with one another as we adjust to our “summer normal”. I talked about giving each other lots of grace.

I think the talk was more for me than it was for them. Even after years of being surrounded by my small children, they still stretch me beyond my limits and I find myself asking the Lord for great patience and courage to parent with kindness, compassion and intention.

I came across this story in Mark 10:13-16 (NIV) —

People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.

Jesus was indignant when He saw how the disciples were treating those children. He told them to let the children come and not to stop them. This was a stark contrast to how children were viewed and treated in the culture of His day. In fact, instead of rebuking them like His disciples did, Jesus brought the children near and blessed them. He told His disciples that God’s Kingdom belongs to those who are like children, and we would do well to have a simple faith like children do.

Do we have the eyes to see? Do we have the ears to hear? Children view the world in a remarkable way; they are a gift.

This summer, I have another opportunity to learn from my kids, while also teaching them and building a unique relationship with each one.

But if I am consumed with my own narrow plans and goals, I will miss the opportunity altogether.

Being a mom isn’t easy, but the messages of culture aren’t making it any easier. Our culture communicates that “the kids are alright”. In other words, children turn out okay no matter what we do, so we are free to invest the best of ourselves in other places. God’s truth about kids is that they are precious treasures to be welcomed and learned from.

It happens every single time. Whenever I take all four kids to the grocery store, strangers ask “are they ALL yours?” or mention how I have my hands full. We are often the recipients of stares and even glares. Other parents often extend grace, but most of the time the air is thick with huffs of impatience.

Our entire culture is designed to make the kids “someone else’s problem”. We face enormous pressure to put them in daycare, then preschool. When they get to school age, we are told we are depriving them if we don’t enrol them in at least two extracurriculars, which take up most evenings and weekends. In summer, we are encouraged to ship them off to camps and then to grandma’s and then to hire the babysitter so we can accomplish our plans and goals. Mom-memes are filled with jokes about running out of the house as fast as possible when dad gets home or longing for the hour the kids finally go to bed.

It’s funny because it’s true. I really need regular breaks from my kids! I’m a work-from-home/work-away-from-home mama. Sometimes I just need to get. things. done.

But I fear that if we design our entire lives around trying to get away from them, we may give them the impression that we don’t actually want to be around them all that much. And you know what? That’s a really tough impression to get rid of.

When I was a teenager, I read a quote that has stuck with me over the years. It’s a simple prayer that I carry in my heart: “Lord, stamp eternity into my eyes”.

My perspective of parenting needs to be larger than my personal goals and dreams, even in summertime when they’re constantly invading my space.

Back to the living room, on a rainy summer afternoon.

“Mom! Even though Captain Hook has a bigger sword, Peter Pan always wins!” my four year old exclaimed. She held up an illustrated copy of Peter Pan, telling the story by looking at the pictures.

The culture may have a bigger sword, but God’s profound ways and wisdom always wins.

Peter and Hook

Image: a snapshot of Disney’s “Peter Pan” from an old Golden Book

Let It Rain

It has been bone dry here this spring. We’ve had a few snowstorms and a few thundershowers, but we’ve been missing that long, soaking rain that brings health to gardens and hope to farmers.

But it has finally happened. Buckets and buckets of rain coming down, filling every crack in the dry ground, welling up into spontaneous rivers and pooling into surprise lakes.

Sheets of rain blown sideways by the fierce wind.

I’m thankful it’s not snow.

But the parched ground needed this rain. Those with crops and gardens to tend needed this rain. The rest of us – we needed this rain too. We needed the green hills and growth that comes after a rainstorm.

This real-life example of the blessing of rain couldn’t have come at a better time. Earlier this week I was reading Isaiah 40:17-20 and it pierced my heart —

“The poor and needy search for water,
 but there is none;
 their tongues are parched with thirst.
But I the Lord will answer them;
I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.

I will make rivers flow on barren heights,
 and springs within the valleys.
I will turn the desert into pools of water,
 and the parched ground into springs.

I will put in the desert
 the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive.
I will set junipers in the wasteland,
 the fir and the cypress together,

so that people may see and know,
 may consider and understand,
that the hand of the Lord has done this,
 that the Holy One of Israel has created it.”

Have you ever seen rain fall on dry land? The ground drinks the water up in an instant and within minutes it looks as if it the rain never fell in the first place. Imagine how much water it would take to make rivers flow on barren heights, springs grow in the valleys, pools of water fill the desert and turn the parched ground into springs? How much refreshing moisture it would take to make the wasteland teem with tall, strong, fragrant, wonderful life?

Only God can do this.

Only God can take our dry, brittle, dead hearts and flood them with the power of His Spirit, bringing new life where nothing else will grow.

Only God, the God who does not forsake, can answer the call of the spiritually thirsty, bringing refreshment that satisfies forever.

Someone needs to hear this today.

Someone needs to hear that God does not forsake us, even in the wasteland. He brings new life after the rain.

Only He can. Only He will.

raindrops on leaves

Raindrops on leaves