We Are Not Missing Out

I was scrolling my social media feeds the other day and I noticed one of my friends went on a trip. Another was out to dinner. Still another, at the movies.

I exhaled, stomach drawn in with that familiar sinking feeling.

My mind searched for the last time we went on a trip. I couldn’t remember dinner at an actual restaurant without kids. And the movies? Nope. As I thought of my own adventures over the past few months, I started to wonder if maybe summer really hasn’t been all that great.

Wait a minute! This is ridiculous! Just stop.

The struggle is real. As I see what others are doing, I’m tempted to compare and measure and see where I stand. And in the middle of my jealousy, my own beautiful life begins to look bleak and unsatisfying.

Lord forgive us!

Comparison is a sneaky thief, always trying to steal what’s right in front of us. And it’s always followed closely by the temptation to let jealousy and envy move into our hearts and bring all their toxicity.

Not today, friends.

Instead, let’s take a really good look at our own camera roll and see these beautiful moments right in our hands! It would be a shame to trade them for the shadow of someone else’s Instagram posts.

In this process of letting go of my measuring stick and embracing my own life, I am discovering something amazing: when I truly see the good things that God has given to me, other people’s good things are easier to celebrate!

It’s actually quite a gift.

God is so good! And everything good in our lives is because of Him! We are not missing out. And the amazing thing is, He’s not just blessing those people over there, He’s blessing us too in a million big and little ways. Our hearts need the clarity to recognize His goodness and respond in the only way we can – with a life of worship.

hymn 40

From the old red hymnal

When Everything is Ashes

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
 and provide for those who grieve in Zion
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.
Isaiah 61:1-3 (NIV)

The smoke stings our eyes as we watch it burn to the ground — a dream, a goal, a relationship.

If you’ve ever hoped for anything in your life, you know exactly how it feels to be deeply disappointed when it fades away.

Our hearts cry, “Lord, do You see me? How can this be Your will?”

Elisabeth Eliot was a missionary, author and speaker who faced her share of ashes. Her first husband was murdered while they were on the mission field by the very people they had come to reach. She outlived both her second and third husbands. And in her golden years, she received a dementia diagnosis that signalled the end of her public ministry.

She once said, “Of one thing I am perfectly sure: God’s story never ends with ashes”.

Whatever looks hopeless today, we know God isn’t finished yet.

All over the Bible we catch glimpses of what is yet to come – the hope of life beyond what we can see, in the actual presence of the Lord. As we engage His Word, He shows us more of who He is, and we find ourselves caught up in His beauty. More than that, as we read we discover that we are deeply and unconditionally loved by the One who can do what no one else can do: raise the dead.

In the story of the death of Lazarus, Jesus shows up after Lazarus has passed away and is greeted by a sister who is in the throes of grief:

“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

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 11:21-27 (NIV)

In dark places, when we find ourselves surrounded by ashes, we can rise with the confident declaration that Jesus is who He says He is: the Resurrection and the Life. And when everything else tells us it’s hopeless, let us agree with Martha, and say, “Yes Lord, I believe!”

With the Lord, ashes are never the end.

A few verses later, we read:

“…Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go’. “

John 11:43-44 (NIV)

Only God can do that.

Whatever we think is broken beyond repair; whatever we look at and say, “well, that’s over forever” — it’s not the end. He is the Resurrection and the Life, and only He can raise what was once wrapped in strips of linen and buried behind a stone for days.

Only He can take what is utterly destroyed and make something infinitely more than we could ever have imagined, working now in our lives and ultimately for our eternal hope and future.

Let’s fix our eyes on Christ. Only He can give us beauty for ashes!

coals

Image: Pawel Kadysz

Who Needs Sleep?

I’ve been sleep deprived for at least 8 years.

It’s a bit of a problem, but thankfully it comes in waves. There are nights that I actually do get to sleep all the way through, and the next morning the world is in full colour! Many days, though, I’m dealing with the effects of being up in the night with at least one of our four kids.

Last summer, though, I had a moment of clarity and gratitude for it all.

I laid awake in the middle of the night with an arm around a little warm body.  Our 5 and a half year old had fled to our room after a bad dream.  I didn’t know she was there until she was climbing over me and snuggling in for refuge.  We talked about it a little bit, and after a few minutes, she was ready to go back to her own bed.

When I got up with her to help her find her way in the dark, 3 and a half year old awoke and began to cry loudly about the lullabies on the iPod.  They weren’t right.  They were too quiet.  The nightlight wasn’t in the right spot…  I took a deep breath to keep from losing it and reminded her to use a quiet voice so she didn’t wake the babe.  “I CAN’T!” she wailed.  That about did it.  I hissed a “be quiet or else” type of warning and tucked them in.

For the next hour I drifted in and out of sleep while more noise came from their room than is necessary or allowed at 3am.  At 4, one was up again trying to get to the potty on time, but oops.  I could hear the steady stream hitting the step stool in front of the sink from the warmth of my wonderful bed.  I bolted up and out of bed just in time to see a giant puddle and a worried little face.  I gently told her it was okay and that accidents happen.  She sat on the potty and waited while I wiped and washed it up, found fresh pajamas from the clean laundry baskets downstairs, and tucked her in again.  As I was going back to bed, I pretended not to hear a small squawk from Little One’s room.

My head hit the pillow with great desperation and I sighed, feeling crankier than ever.

My husband put his hand on my arm and said, “Thank you for doing all of that.”  He has often been the one to take care of the potty accidents while I calm a crying babe, so he knows all too well what it’s like to get up with the kids.

“I am sure there is a special place in heaven for mamas who get up a million times in the night.”  I said.

“What time is it?” he asked.

“4:15,” I said.  “I am so tired.”  He patted my arm again.  We laughed for a minute or two about how we know we are living in the good old days right now… at least that’s how we are going to remember nights like these.

The next morning at 6:30 (read:  2 hours and 15 minutes later), two out of three kids were awake and playing.  One woke up with a fit of tears at 7, complaining that she wasn’t done sleeping.  But pretending you’re a superhero is irresistable, and all was forgotten before breakfast.

Not every night is like this one, but we’ve had our share.  In the early days of sleepless nights, I’d spend the following day feeling bad for not having the energy to take the kids out to the park or run a bunch of errands or have craft time WITH painting (so much to clean up!) or make cookies and have a flour fight in the kitchen like they do on the commercials.  But I must be getting smarter or something because I am learning to take it easy on those days instead!  We all NEED it.

Come to think of it, I’m either getting much smarter or even more exhausted, because I am so done with trying to figure out how to do everything perfectly and keep up with that pesky Jones family on social media.

My word this summer is GRACE.  I mean, how many days have I spent my time and energy wondering if what I have done with my kids or in my house today meets an imaginary standard I’ve set for myself?  These good ol’ days have often been filled with angst as I “should” myself to death throughout the day.  “I should have taken them there.  I should have fed them this.  I should have done that thing…”.  But I saw something the other day that was EXACTLY what I needed.  Instead of asking, “what have I done today?”, ask “who have I been today?” (thanks Alicia Bruxvoort and Proverbs 31 Ministries).

My heart echoes a resounding “YES!!”.

As we tumble through this stage of our lives, in the thick of these good ol’ days, it’s the nights with no sleep and letting go of perfect that are helping me to bear the fruit that matters most:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22).

One sleepless night at a time.

sunflowers at sunrise

We grew sunflowers one year. They were so beautiful at sunrise.

Ordinary Glory

This summer I’m taking some time to recharge, so my posts will be a little shorter, but I’m still here!

I’ve been amazed by the sunsets this week. They are breathtaking and photos simply do not capture their full beauty. And yet, I’m always out there, trying to catch them with a lens!

The other day, this particular part of the sky was stunning! I couldn’t believe that a 10pm sky looked like this.

sky

Summer sunset

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.”

Psalm 19:1 (NIV)

Amen.

The Gift of a Boring Summer

The long exhale of summer holidays has begun.

The backyard has simultaneously become an oasis of free play and a courtroom drama with both sides arguing their case to the judge. Sibling relationships are growing and strengthening with each passing moment and a baby brother who can crawl adds a new dynamic.

One year ago this weekend, I was quite ready for our son to join the family. The other three children had been a week and a half to two weeks early, so surely he would follow suit! Not so. This boy decided to arrive the day after his due date, two of the hottest weeks of the year later, with a long fanfare: five days of early labour to prepare us for his eventual welcome.

Boy, was I tired.

Fast forward to today. Still tired. A different kind of tired, but still… tired.

We all are. It has been an intense year!

Change may happen quickly, but adjusting to the new normal happens slowly. We’ve had a lot of change this year, and we’re all ready for a deep breath and some beautiful space in the schedule to enjoy life together.

This summer, we will not be rushing around from activity to activity. We will not be cramming the days with every possible summer bucket list item. We will not adopt the frantic pace that sometimes comes with a such a short season of warm weather.

I have something else in mind.

I’d like to give the kids the gift of the kind of summers we had growing up – a good, ol’ fashioned, boring summer. And with that boredom, I want to give them the freedom to be creative, the space to make a mess, and the life skills to clean up after themselves.

Honestly though, it’s the last part that just might do me in! That’s why I came up with the “Mama’s Summer Prayer” (adapted from the Prayer of Serenity):

Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the messes they will make; the courage to make them clean up after themselves instead of just doing it myself; and the wisdom to know when they actually really do need my help! (haha!)

Here’s to a summer full of whatever it brings!

oobleck

The non-Newtonian fluid “Oobleck” – cornstarch and water – acts like a solid and a liquid. So cool!

And Then, Summer

Summer mornings are glorious.

The fresh air is thick with the hope of a warm day. The sun has been up since the wee hours, the sky is a fantastic shade of blue streaked with white wispy clouds, and all the things are growing.

I mean ALL the things – flowers, trees, grass, kids.

This summer our baby turns one.

Looking back, I’m amazed! How did we make it through the past twelve months?

Seriously.

I love having four kids. It’s a whole lotta crazy mixed with a ton of surprises and a huge heart-healing dose of love and cuddles, with so many opportunities to grow that I lose count every day!

AND it’s very busy – so busy that sometimes I cannot keep up.

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.

All this in the span of 20 minutes.

Lord have mercy!

I know that I would not be able to be the mama of this family without the wonderful grace of Jesus, greater than all my sin.

It is ONLY by His grace.

Isn’t that the way it goes? 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.

Thank you Lord!

summer feet

Summer feet

Father’s Day

Things don’t have to be perfect to be thankful for what you have.

My dad and I haven’t always seen eye to eye on things and our relationship has been difficult at times, but this weekend I am choosing to focus on the things I am thankful for.

I am thankful for a dad who always checks in to make sure we’re alright.

I am thankful for a dad who lets me know that he prays for me and our family every day.

I am thankful for a dad who expresses his love for me with words of encouragement.

I am thankful for a dad who reads my blog faithfully and is interested in what’s going on in my world.

I am thankful for a dad who loves the Lord.

Dad, you are a gift, and I am thankful for you!

Happy Father’s Day! I love you.

tree in park

Discovering

Discovering…

…His secure presence in moments of absolute uncertainty.

…His wisdom when I simply cannot see the next step.

…His love when I feel utterly overlooked.

…His joy when my circumstances are overwhelming.

…His power when my needs are great.

…Him when I come to the end of me.

ocean forever

True Thanksgiving

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

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV)

There are toys strewn about the living room. The dishes are piled, the lawn needs mowing and the laundry hamper seems bottomless.

Life is very full and rarely goes the way we plan. It’s easy to find myself muttering under my breath as I go from room to room, putting things back in their place and making mental notes of what needs to go on the grocery list this week.

In this busy season of family and work, it’s often a struggle to find the time to process life, let alone allow my heart to move into that place where I realize that no matter what is going on around me, I can rest in Jesus.

More often than not I am “giving thanks in all circumstances” because my circumstances are manageable or better than someone else’s. But that’s more of a “feeling relieved in all circumstances”.

The truth is simply this: I can give thanks in all circumstances because no matter what those circumstances are, the One I give thanks to is who He says He is, He will do what He says He will do, and He can be trusted.

Wow.  Want to turn your worries into worship?

Give thanks.

Even if you aren’t quite there yet.

Even if the problem isn’t actually solved at the moment.

Even if you really can’t see the tidy ending, or there isn’t or won’t be one.

Give thanks.  In ALL circumstances.  Because the ONE you thank is so much more than ANY circumstance.

Thank Him that He never changes, like shifting shadows. Thank Him that He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. Thank Him that His grace is sufficient for you and that His power is made perfect in weakness.

Thank Him that He is good and His love endures forever.

forest through trees

Image: Ricardo Gomez Angel

The Gotta-Do’s and the Good-to-Do’s

Sometimes the grind really grinds you down.

All the Gotta-do’s get mixed up with the Good-to-do’s, and it all gets out of whack.

Gotta do dishes.  Gotta do laundry.  Gotta do e-mails and texts and fb messages.  Gotta put the dollies in the dolly box, crayons in the colouring bin and random socks in the sock basket.  Gotta get to the lawn and water the garden. Gotta fill the van with gas, gotta take the garbage out, gotta get the shower sparkling, gotta, gotta, gotta.

Gotta-to-do can really take its toll.

But the Good-to-do’s are life-giving.

Good to stand beside a bright 7 year old who is determined to make her dad’s morning coffee just right with as little help as possible. Good to stop and listen to the chatter of a funny 5 year old who is constantly informing me about all of the things she is thinking and learning. Good to read “The Sneetches” to a beautiful curious 3 year old snuggled up beside me in the most deliciously comfortable way. Good to play on the floor with a sweet 10 month old flashing his irresistible toothy grin at every turn. Good to stop my dinner prep to kiss my dusty husband when he walks in the door from a long day at work.

Good to praise the Lord and forget not all His benefits, every moment of the day.

Like the heavy scent of springtime lilacs, they are that fragrant breath of fresh air you need but forget to take or REFUSE to take because the Gotta-do’s are in the way.

Loosen the grip on the Gotta-do’s and grab the hand of those Good-to-do’s – that’s the goal this week!

lilacs in spring

So fragrant!