Everyone is Growing Up

My holiday joy was mingled with the grief that comes from the unmistakeable reality of the passage of time.

Everyone is growing up.

Maybe it was the fact that for the first time ever my sister and I shared cooking duties for the entire holiday dinner on our own, or the realization that our home has become “The Christmas House” in my family, or that it seems entirely possible that we are finally growing out of the “my kids are sick all Christmas break from sharing little kid germs” phase of life.

Or maybe it was the big wedding.

My oldest niece got married at the end of December and I am now 100 years old. How did this sweet little baby I cuddled and rocked to sleep just last night, the one who made me an auntie in my teens, become this stunning bride before me?

I couldn’t look at her mama (my sister) during the ceremony. I cried for an entire day afterward. I really am happy for this new chapter in her life, and we all just love her new husband, but I am definitely having feelings about this whole growing up thing.

And she’s not even my child.

My parents entered a new decade of life last year and I didn’t think it would really make a difference for me, but it has. They’re gradually moving into their later years and I’m thinking about it more than I thought I would.

Birthday season has blown into our home with a vengeance. Of the four kids, three of them have winter birthdays within six weeks of each other. As we celebrate their next milestones and cheer them on in their growth and development, I can see the next stage on the horizon and I don’t know how I feel about that today.

We know change so well, don’t we? We can’t even fathom a life where things stay the same forever. Morning and night, day after day, month after month, we are living through the slow change of aging and seasons. I see it in the mirror, I witness it in my children, I experience it in the gradual lengthening of the daylight hours. We can count on it – and we do. Winter will end and spring will come. Summer follows, then fall brings its brilliance. Back to winter and we begin again.

Children become adults who become parents then grandparents. And the cycle continues.

An inescapable reality.

The other day I was reading a devotional that focussed on God’s immutability. He is the Unchanging One. It gave me pause for a moment. I realized that we as humans, we only know change. We understand change. We live through it and thrive because of it. And frankly, the concept immutability is so foreign to the human experience that I wonder if we truly appreciate just how incredible it really is. Like the constant north star, we catch a glimpse of it when we encounter God.

He Himself says he is unchanging (Malachi 3). He does not change like shifting shadows (James 3). He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13). He laid the foundations of the world (Hebrews 1; John 1). He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end (Revelation 1).

What a remarkable truth to bring to bear in our lives! How does God’s immutability affect my current state of mind? My world is constantly changing and I am continually grieving losses while celebrating gains, knowing that through it all He never changes. His character, His will, His covenant promises – these will never be broken or removed. I have finally found Someone I can count on to be who He says He is, to do what He says He will do, to prove faithful generation after generation.

We may welcome it or we may lament it, but change is constant. Thankfully we are deeply loved by One who never changes, One on whom we can depend regardless of how our billows are rolling in this season.

Maybe you are in the throes of something that feels like too great a change to bear. Set your feet on the solid rock of Christ!

“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.” – Matthew 7:24 (NIV)

“For the Lord is good and His love endures forever, His faithfulness continues to all generations.” – Psalm 100:5 (NIV)

Thank you Lord that You are the solid foundation beneath my feet, and that You are good! Your love endures forever, Your faithfulness continues in my life even today with all its changes. As I navigate this part of my journey, I praise You for Your unchanging nature!

stars Arto Marttinen

Image by Arto Marttinen

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.

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 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