Marking Milestones

And now, summer.

A change in rhythm, a welcome break from the beautiful things that fill our calendar through fall, winter and spring with more space to breathe deep the sweetness of the season, more time to explore new places, more freedom to linger a little longer.

In the coming weeks, we’ll reach another milestone in raising our family: our youngest will join his three older sisters as a school-aged kid with a whole new world to discover. For more than a decade I’ve carried and cared for our babies, toddlers and preschoolers and it has been worth all the blood, sweat and tears so far. Perusing older posts with the stories of life with four kids under the age of six, I’m in awe of how the Lord has provided what I have needed in the moments I needed it most! I found these words I wrote four years ago when the pressure of raising small children was at its peak:

The other day, the older kids were fighting and spilled blueberry applesauce all over the carpet. After cleaning it up, they trotted outside as friends again (nothing like a shared chore to encourage sibling bonding), where one promptly did a trick on the swings and ended up with a possible fracture. I heard the shrieking from inside the house where at the very same time the baby was having a meltdown while I was cleaning up a potty accident from our three year old who was ill. 

While we’re in the thick of a challenging season, we don’t even know that the whole time He is carrying us! It’s only when we find ourselves in between the waves and we have a minute to breathe that we realize we’re still afloat.

In a world that values filters and highlight reels, I’m thankful for authentic reminders of God’s goodness to me in times past. As we mark this family milestone with a celebration of our youngest, I’m praying that I won’t forget these lessons I’ve learned in these early years. We have a long way to go before they’re grown, and I may have no idea what challenges lie ahead, but I know the Lord and I’m confident that He will hold me fast throughout the journey.

Image: Bob Richards/Stocksnap

No Night

As the younger three kids rip around the house before 8am deep in a game of hide and seek, I open the fridge to grab the milk for breakfast and discover an inspirational dollar store magnet stuck between the doors. I pull it out and pop it on the front, taking note of its message. 

“Love grows here”, it says. When it fell to the ground and broke long ago I couldn’t bring myself to throw it away. It still fit together, though a few little pieces were missing, so I pulled out some clear tape and secured it before putting it back on the fridge. I like it better now; it feels more authentic to me.

Sometimes I wonder what kind of memories my kids will have of growing up in our home. Everyone experiences the same things differently, don’t they? Each one has a different personality, way of seeing the world, needs, wants, goals and dreams. With four young humans in our care, my prayer and patience muscles get a daily workout and my heart has grown many sizes beyond what I thought possible. Parenting can feel like one giant guessing game where you don’t quite know if you were right until years later. Praise the Lord that He is gracious, working and moving in the areas I simply can’t see or anticipate. Love definitely lives here, imperfect, but still secure in the One who made us and put us together in the first place.

We are in the stretch of the year now where night never comes; we just move from twilight to twilight throughout the wee hours of the day until the fiery, life-giving sun peeks over the edge of the city for another long, warm, slow journey across the sky. Late into the evening now, its light is never quite gone. Just as it dips below the horizon and the edge of the day disappears in the west, the hint of dawn begins to creep along the eastern horizon, stars winking across the inky blue zenith before they fade with the gradual return of the light.

So much beauty while we rest and rejuvenate for a brand new day, a reminder that the grace of God never stops even while life is bumping along at a grand pace and we’re running to keep up.

Love grows here, friends. Even when we can’t see it. Even when we don’t understand. Even when things go sideways and we can’t imagine how it’s all going to turn out.

And even when we’re in a season of no night – no true darkness – just light around the edges of each day marked by the warmth of the sun, God’s love holds us fast. We know without a shadow of a doubt that He is our light and our salvation; we have nothing to fear when trouble comes.

Psalm 27 reminds us:

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?
When the wicked advance against me
to devour me,
it is my enemies and my foes
who will stumble and fall.
Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then I will be confident.

One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple.
For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
and set me high upon a rock.

Then my head will be exalted
above the enemies who surround me;
at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make music to the Lord.

Hear my voice when I call, Lord;
be merciful to me and answer me.
My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”
Your face, Lord, I will seek.
Do not hide your face from me,
do not turn your servant away in anger;
you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
God my Savior.
Though my father and mother forsake me,
the Lord will receive me.
Teach me your way, Lord;
lead me in a straight path
because of my oppressors.
Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
for false witnesses rise up against me,
spouting malicious accusations.

I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.

Love grows here

A Little Cup of Soil

I am never more amazed than when, after planting a seed, watering and waiting, a little green sprout pushes its way up toward the light.

It wasn’t looking so good for this particular little cup of soil though. The other three had just the right amount of water and light, but this one was drowning. My seven year old ran up to me with the mud sloshing around in the cup, tears in her eyes.

“Mom! Everyone else’s sunflower came up but mine! I think I added too much water!” She was heartbroken. I double-checked the tray, and sure enough, three sunflower sprouts were reaching for the sunshine and the fourth was barren.

“Hmm,” I mused. “Let me see what we can do.” I wasn’t so sure it would work. In her excitement for trying her hand at gardening, she dropped the cup right after planting the seeds and then watered it within an inch of its little plant life. 

I carefully poured out some of the standing water, absorbed the rest with a paper towel and gently shook the cup to loosen the solid mass of soil that was left. We set the cup back on the tray in the light, hoping for the best.

Every day, I received the daily plant report: “nothing”.

Then, just a few days later, the story changed. “MOM! It’s coming up!”

Two tiny light green specks appeared in the middle of the black earth, pressing on through obstacles the other plants had never seen! These sunflowers were determined to succeed despite being dropped, losing half their soil and nearly drowning.

This little cup of soil burst with new life the week before Easter and it’s not lost on me. In His mercy, the Lord uses ordinary things to remind me of who He is. In John 11, Jesus meets Martha on the road after her brother Lazarus died, and they have a short conversation about resurrection. She tells Him that if He had been there, her brother would not have died, but even now she knows who He is.

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’

‘Yes, Lord,’ she replied, ‘I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.’ ” (John 11:25-27 NIV)

She has faith in Jesus to do the impossible, and shortly after, He does. Lazarus is raised to life again by a word. Jesus calls him and he walks right out of that grave, still wearing those strips of linen around his hands and feet and face. Jesus says ,“Take off the grave clothes and let him go”. And the Pharisees begin to plot to get rid of Jesus.

He knew what He was doing, and it was all motivated by love. Often, I’ve read Ephesians 2 and have been stopped in my tracks by various phrases in the first ten verses:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:1-10 NIV)

Because of Christ, no longer do we have to wonder if the seeds are going to sprout! He is not just our great example of how to love our neighbour as ourselves; He is our salvation. It is His death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead that gives us true life! 

We can walk through this earthly experience continually laying down our lives with joy, carrying a hope that cannot be deterred by circumstances, knowing that one glad morning we will wake up in the presence of the One who made us, knows us, loves us and gave His life for us so that our fellowship with Him can never be broken.

Hallelujah, what a Saviour! He is Risen!

Little sprouts (image: mine)

Brave Enough

“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?”
March 28, 2019

My own words written three years ago, a lesson I am still learning to put into practice. 

I set aside a couple of weekend mornings each month to write. This particular morning, my coffee was made, the engine of my mind was in first gear, my fingers were itching to tap out my thoughts on a blank sheet, and the old school cartoons were on for the kids.

I sat down beside our youngest for a minute to give him a little side-squeeze and a kiss and he looked up at me with his bright blue eyes and said, “Can you watch with me, Mom?”

So often, I’ve blown right past such an invitation. In fact, my default position on such things is, “I’m just going to do this one thing, okay?” which stretches into several things and before I know it, the moment is gone.

Let’s be honest. Sometimes you just have to say no for all kinds of good reasons. Every day made up of thousands of little choices that reflect the current reality I’m living, and every time a request comes I have to weigh it before making a decision. This morning, I weighed the decision before me and I knew that it would be a mistake to turn this little guy down. We cuddled up together, and before long, like a magnet, the other three kids found their way onto the couch too. Each one, with their own unique and beautiful design, settled down beside us, close enough for hugs and back scratches.

It won’t always be like this, I know. One day these little birdies will fly and I’ll cheer them on from the nest but for today, I’m taking the opportunity to soak up all the snuggles. What makes it possible to continue on, day after day, with all the different needs and wants of each one?

The beautiful grace of Jesus in one tiny three-letter word.

GET.

I don’t have to do these things; I get to do these things, even the hard things. I get to hear about their day, help them navigate their world, give them the tools to carry into adulthood, pray for them, love them, delight in them, cheer them on.

This one simple mindset change can make all the difference between a child who grows up feeling like a burden to the entire world and a child who knows they are deeply loved no matter what.

Years ago when we first had little babies, my mother-in-law said something that marked my heart: “I love having a front-row seat to my kids’ lives!”. Her exuberant joy of cheering on her kids and grandkids in the different ages and stages has impacted how I view this life I’ve been given.

It does not come without great cost, but it is worth more than gold.

“Mom! This is a scary part! Come sit with me!” My 4 year old calls me back to cuddle on the couch for a few more minutes. I return to my own words, written long before this morning’s cuddles on the couch:

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?

Lord, may I always learn to embrace what is better!

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” -Galatians 6:9 (NIV)

Photo by one of the kids

New Year, Same Things

New year…same things.

We’ve cultivated some beautiful rhythms over the past year that I’m not quite ready to replace. I love the small signs that we are, in fact, in an entirely new year, with decorations safely tucked away and some small progress made in our organizational plans around the house. The calendar hanging in the kitchen has a new theme. I’m writing ’22 in my journal. And we’re receiving invitations to make plans in the months to come.

But some things have remained the same, thankfully.

Maybe it’s my current stage of life, maybe it’s because the majority of our family celebrates birthdays in winter and it always has me feeling all kinds of ways about how fast life goes and all the constant changes each new year brings, but I love the little ways the Lord reminds me that His love never changes and His hope endures, even when everything else around me rides a roller coaster.

It has me asking, at what point does something become a tradition? For the third year in a row, I’ve brought home the same kind of short, wide plastic pot of spring bulbs from the grocery store. I’ve had great success plunking said pot on top of my piano and neglecting it until the hyacinth, tulips, daffodils, irises and other beauties sprout up like sci-fi monstrosities overnight. The first year I was amazed by this $15 burst of beauty. The second year, I tried it again, thinking Year 1’s experience was a fluke. And again, over the course of mere days these little green stalks sprouted up to reveal the most lovely of colours and shapes. So this year, I’ve been watching and waiting to see the daily growth of this little pot of delight! Less than 24 hours after taking its place on the piano, once-invisible yellow tulips peeked through their pale green stalks and by the evening, reached up and opened their petals like rays of warm sunshine. Since then, dark purple irises with golden flecks have peeked out and the daffodil is wide-eyed.

An Easter garden in January, right in my living room! What a gift to have a glimpse of warmth long before the ground finally awakens for the growing season, revealing the hope that the grip of winter will one day melt away into a season of bounty.

Experience teaches us where to look for God’s goodness. At first we may be surprised by it — like tulips suddenly bursting forth from stalks that seemed empty. But then, it happens again. And again. And yet again. And we train our hearts to watch and see what God is going to do in this difficult season of wintery waiting. Every single time we have made it through a difficult, painful or confusing season, we look back and see what the Gardener has been doing. Our stories become reminders of His goodness and faithfulness! The barren soil of our lives is tilled under, weeds, roots and rocks are removed, nutrients are added and God grows stunning things.

What a comfort to know that although we may not be able to change much of what is going on around us, we can fix our eyes on the One who makes all things beautiful in His time. We have the promise of life in Christ!

Two Scriptures have been resounding in my heart this week. The first one is from the Old Testament:

I know that my redeemer lives,
    and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
Job 19:25 (NIV)

And the second is from the New Testament:

Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
2 Corinthians 1:22-23 (NIV)

No matter what we are facing today, this week, this month or in the year ahead, we can be filled with true hope! Jesus is the real deal — He breathes life into the dust of our hearts and grows gorgeous things in places we never expected. 

Be patient and train your heart to hope in Christ. Keep your eyes wide open to the beauty He is cultivating in your life. And always remember that our Redeemer lives, and that in the end, He will stand on the earth. 

Praise the Lord that He always does what He says He will do!

 

Day 1, Day 4 and Day 5 of my mixed bulbs.

Advent 2021

The First Sunday of Advent is nearly upon us. 

Although I didn’t grow up with this tradition, I’ve embraced it in adulthood and it has become one of my favourite ways to prepare my heart for the celebration of Christmas, sharpening my focus on Christ in a season that leans toward a frantic pace. I love it all — trimming the tree, carols and treats, Christmas lights in our PJs, TV specials and movies, presents and laughter — but I need the quiet longing of Advent to anchor my hope in the One who embodies it, bring the peace that passes all understanding, fill my heart with unshakeable joy, wrap me up in unconditional love.

Nearly ten years ago I created a feature for my radio show called “Advent in Action”, with small ways to bring the themes of Advent to life in my ordinary day, keep Christ at the centre and share hope, peace, joy and love. As I revisit that list this week, I’m reading this passage from John 1:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

(John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

John 1:1-18 (NIV)

May this Advent season stir up a genuine longing for Jesus, the Light of the World.

Advent in Action

The Skies Proclaim

This fall has been remarkably pleasant, with many beautiful days for hikes and walks through colourful hillsides and parks. Snow flurries made their annual Thanksgiving weekend appearance though, serving as a reminder that winter has not forgotten us. As surely as the squirrels hide peanuts in my planters, cold weather is on its way. Seems like every year the second weekend in October is a turning point where we go from brilliant warm fall sunshine to “the north wind doth blow and we shall have snow”.

As an extra rare Thanksgiving treat this year, even city-dwellers caught a brilliant display of the northern lights. The light pollution here makes it difficult to see much of anything, but over the weekend, what a show! For some, it was their first glimpse of aurora borealis in all their majesty. Growing up in the country, they frequently danced across the winter sky and let me tell you, it never got old. My memory clicks back to a scene: sitting bundled up in lawn chairs with our chins tipped to the sky, watching brushstrokes of green shimmer and sway across the deep blue night filled with diamond constellations. Quiet. Calm. Magnificent. My mind took a snapshot that stays with me even now that those days are long gone.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge. 
They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
    It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
    like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
    and makes its circuit to the other;
    nothing is deprived of its warmth. (Psalm 19:1-6 NIV)

Remarkable how every eye can see the glory of the Lord on display on a night like this. Scientific explanations only deepen my awe of His design. His fingerprints are everywhere.

Last night as I was trying to sleep, I felt the weight of time slipping away. It happens on occasion, where I’m lifted out of the current state of day-to-day affairs to see the larger picture of life, like a sudden display of aurora borealis in the night sky. Look up! it says. And see the glory of the Lord!

I’m always alarmed by how short our time here actually is. My musings must have been prompted by an old movie we watched recently with our gaggle of kids about a man whose daughters break tradition as they grow up and start their own lives. As I watched the story unfold before me, the heavy realization that one day my own children would move on from this place into their own seasons of bittersweet beauty had me feeling some feelings. Kids are likely to do things much differently than their parents and it’s naive to think we’ll be spared of the growing pains coming our way. It’s also quite tempting to imagine that the best of life is behind us now that our kids are basically through the baby and preschooler years when things are simpler (albeit exhausting) and they’re all just so darn cute! But I’m catching glimpses of what’s to come as I watch friends bless their grown kiddos and send them off into the world, and let me tell you, it’s stunning!

These friends are my northern lights, my glimpses of beauty in the unknown, my beacons of hope, yet another fingerprint of the Lord’s gracious hands. They remind me that no matter what life brings our way, God goes before us and walks with us through it all. So today I’m tipping my chin to the sky and drinking in the truth: “For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” (Psalm 100:5)

And then, back into the ups and downs of the day-to-day. As I turn my eyes back to what’s right in front of me, Lord, let me soak in the daily hugs from You — snuggles, laughter, moments of insight and the works of Your hands, right here in our home.

Image: Stocksnap

Three Weeks of Thanks

I stand over the bubbling pot, slowly stirring as September sun streams in the window. The golden yellow tree across the street is at the pinnacle of its glorious but short-lived annual fall display. It takes about a week, but what a week! Just days after full fall colour fills its branches in a final majestic salute to the summer, its leaves are shrivelled and crunchy, fluttering through the air on the stiff autumn breeze. Thin, smooth branches reach up to the crisp blue sky signalling the end of its hard work for this year. Before long, it will rest under the heavy blanket of winter and awaken again with the thaw, ready to repeat its rhythm with enthusiasm.

Today we take the short hike up the big hill to stand on the top and see the brilliant brushstrokes across the landscape. The palette is ever-changing emerald to gold, ruby, burgundy, fire, copper and every shade of nature. The kids sit under the poplars and sketch the bark and branches full of brilliant leaves preparing to let go for another season.

I’m learning a lesson from the trees this year: there is beauty in letting go.

Have you ever seen a tree that holds onto last year’s leaves? Every single one is eventually replaced by the new growth of spring. The resplendence of fall reveals this season’s work, not last season’s decomposition. But last season’s decomposition played a part. The leaves that fall this year will feed the ground for next year’s growth.

Remarkable. Every process of nature reveal the glory of God and His wisdom, a living book to read and learn from.

Instead of just filling up on turkey and pie on the second weekend of October and moving on with our lives, I wanted to create an intentional season of thanksgiving in our home. Years ago when we began this tradition, I had no idea just how much it would challenge and shape my experience during what tends to be a whirlwind of a season.

It has become my annual reminder to cultivate a heart of thanksgiving regardless of circumstances. If I wait until everything is going smoothly, I fear I will be waiting a very long time. Our family’s rhythm has quickened from the wide open schedule of the summer to the more structured pace of the fall, adjusting to a new school year, facing cold and flu season, handing regular life demands. And this year again, more pandemic challenges. Throw politics in the mix and it’s explosive. Thanksgiving falls at a less-than-ideal time of the year.

And yet, we must pause. Perhaps it actually is the best time. We need to stop in the middle of the crazy and give God the glory. To remind ourselves of His faithfulness from generation to generation. To discover the beauty of His goodness in even the smallest blessing and the greatest challenge. To acknowledge that our perspective is limited but His wisdom knows no bounds. To accept what comes from His hand as His mercy and goodness and find ourselves quieted by His love in all circumstances.

We will let go of what has been and embrace the season we are in, preparing our hearts for the days to come. We will let the leaves of last season work to fertilize the growth of the next. We will choose to give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever. 

The familiar refrain of the Psalms invites us to send our roots down deep into Him and remember the truth of who He is,

even when…

even if…

even now.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” Psalm 118:1 (NIV)

The brilliant tree across the street.

The End of Summer

The end of summer has me feeling all the feelings. 

After a tough year, these past two months have been a breath of clean, cool, mountain air and I am sad to say goodbye. And yet, the excitement of a new month, a new school year and a new season fills my heart! I don’t want rest to become a casualty of the drive to achieve. As we’ve intentionally created space for rejuvenation over the summer, I’ve seen how it’s a key piece for me to be able to love the Lord with all my heart, soul and mind, and to love my neighbour (including my family) as myself (Matthew 22).

When I came across James 1:19-21 last week, the words jumped off the page:

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

I’m what some would call passionate, which is just another way of saying I have a short fuse. Frustration surges through me when things aren’t working well or when something unexpected stands in the way of my plans. My patience gets a real workout most days.

Lord have mercy! In fact, this very week has been full of ample opportunity to heed the Lord’s instructions. Never imagine I write these things here because I’ve perfected them in my own life! I write to remind myself of the things I need to hear. And with the hope that one day my own children, when they are grown and flown, will discover these words and understand the heart of the mom who loves them so deeply.

What does this call to a patient response actually look like in my life as we enter into a busier season for our family? With more demands, kids in different ages and stages, daily responsibilities and unexpected issues, I’m learning that a posture of rest is the best place to start. Full disclosure — this week I didn’t rest as I should have. I didn’t listen to the Word in this area. And guess what happened? The opposite of being quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. Moments of asking forgiveness and starting over. Rebuilding what was broken by a careless word. Exhaustion is not your friend! It makes it nearly impossible to actually respond instead of react to life as it bubbles up around you.

If I want to be quick to listen, I have to actually slow down long enough to hear what is being said. If I want to be slow to speak, I need to give myself the time it takes to think through my response instead of blurting out the first thing that comes to my mind. If I want to be slow to become angry, I must take a moment to weigh my response in light of what it means to love the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love my neighbour as myself.

I can press pause in a world that measures worth by progress, take a step back when I want to rush forward and carefully respond instead of react. These things take time, the very thing we’re told is in short supply and we need to maximize for success. What fools we have been, to buy the lie that success must come at the expense of rest! To wear the badge of busyness while our souls wither and our relationships slowly crumble.

What does success actually look like?

Perhaps it looks less like a schedule bursting at the seams and a pile of finished projects a mile high, and more like a life deeply rooted in Christ, with relationships built by the painstaking work of listening, patiently responding, and practicing self-control.

Lord, give me the wisdom to listen well, to measure my words and to respond with love today!

Image: Free Nature Stock/Stocksnap

Berry Watch

We’re on “Berry Watch” this week.

Last year we had only a handful in total, but after thinning out the oldest branches early in the season, our single bush seems to have survived the relentless heat and is bursting forth with berries. We’ve been checking back morning and evening to see which ones have ripened enough for picking and eating. I’ve taught the kids which to take and which to leave a little longer as we work together to fill a small container, give it a rinse and enjoy.

Each year without fail, whether a little or a lot, this bush bears fruit. Mid-July comes along and we get to see how much will actually be harvested, and how much will be enjoyed by the birds that call our neighbourhood home. Some years we end up with enough to make a little jam, but most years it’s just enough for a taste.

Our little apple tree, on the other hand, hasn’t been so faithful a fruit-bearer but we haven’t quite been ready to give up on it. It came to us second-hand, wind-whipped, then heavy-laden with an unexpected snowfall just three days after being planted in the yard. I pruned that one a little too much one year and it has taken nearly four years of patient watering and feeding but, with great joy, we have counted a dozen or more little apples on its branches ripening in the sunshine. I’ve marvelled more than once this year at its resilience, carefully watching to be sure the birds haven’t helped themselves to the precious few that cling to its branches.

One had a great start, planted young in good soil and watched over all along. The other was a transplant, overcoming imperfect conditions and care to bring forth fruit in its season.

I can’t imagine a greater picture of God’s loving care for each one of us as we remain in Him. And I’m amazed that it’s right in my own back yard!

Makes me think of Jesus’ words in John 15:1-8 (NIV) —   

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

Regardless of how you got your start, stay faithful to Jesus and let Him bear His fruit in your life!

Coming along nicely