These Things I Know

August has a way of reminding me that summer can’t last forever. The heavy scent of harvest is in the air, with its sweet promise of abundance. Most years a north wind blows through in the third week and abruptly ends the warmth of summer but this year the sun is standing its ground. Amid the heat, we’re catching glimpses of shorter days with a post-6am sunrise and a few leaves turning here and there, and we’re making the most of these final schedule-free days.

Amid summer’s dying embers, fall looms in the distance. Routines, requirements, responsibilities — all await a fresh energy and positive attitude built up over the months of rest. We’re preparing for the new school year and the rhythm of life that September brings, with all its challenges and opportunities. I’m steeling myself and praying that the Lord would remind me of a few things as we launch into this fall.

Work is a blessing

Whether I deem the work to be meaningful or not, I am formed in the process of carrying it out. The excitement of work I love reveals God’s goodness to me. When I have the opportunity to do the things I enjoy and do well, I live out His design in my life and reveal His glory. The drudgery of tasks I don’t enjoy reminds me that not everything is about me. The toilet, the laundry pile, the dishes in the sink – each one is an opportunity to live out a love that costs me something by laying down my pride, leading by example and serving others well. Either way, the blessing remains.

Rest is essential

When I push myself past the point of no return, it’s not only I who suffer but those around me who bear the weight of my foolishness. My irritability and inability to manage well becomes a sharp sword in my hands, hurting the ones I love the most. Repairing the damage is a painful and lengthy process. When I rest well, I submit to the limits of my body and mind and enjoy the good gift that God has designed as nourishment for myself and my relationships. It becomes an essential part of what it looks like to live well.

Consistent times of worship and prayer are non-negotiable

It’s one of the easiest things to neglect – but also one of the costliest. How quickly I forget who God is! The only One who made me and knows me inside and out, who can bear the weight of the heavy things I’m carrying, who is sovereign over all and yet walks with me step by step, whose mercies are new every morning – He is the One who holds it all together. When I am rooted in Christ’s love through worship from the Word and time in prayer, I am grounded and ready for the temporary challenges that stand in front of me. My perspective shifts from the struggle of the here-and-now to the promise of the what-will-be and I live with my eyes wide open to God’s work in my life. It must be a daily practice.

Community is a gift

As much as I like to fly solo, I am learning that it is unwise to consistently attempt to go it alone. Accepting help is not my forte, but in His great wisdom the Lord has graciously placed people in my life to gently walk along with me in every area. The insecurities left over from previous rejections and hurts are slowly transforming into confidence and strength. Learning how to be a contributing member of the circles we inhabit is crucial for our growth, offering us much more than we can obtain in isolation. We need this.

Lord, let these truths settle into my heart as we prepare for September. Help me stand my ground against the distractions and temptations to go my own way, and keep me on Your path.

Psalm 121

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;

indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;

the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;

 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

The glory of an August sunset on the Prairie (image credit: my dad)

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

The In-Between Season

March may be considered spring in some parts of the world, but not here. We know better. 

In these parts we keep our winter boots next to our sandals. Our snow shovels coexist with our garden rakes. Up and down we go in a dance, swinging from a glorious glimpse of warmth and sunshine to wild blast of snow and ice and back again. 

I used to strongly dislike it.

I grew up in a part of the country that had distinct seasons. When winter came, summer trappings were tucked away for the next six months and cold weather gear took their place next to the door. After months of icicles on our eyelashes, northern lights dancing and pastel-coloured morning skies where ice crystals sparkled in the soft sunshine, the blue skies of April finally dawned and our bikes and sandals slowly emerged along with the migratory birds. 

When I moved here, I couldn’t understand how people lived with such volatile weather. You never knew what you’d wake up to, no matter how hard the forecast tried, especially in spring. It has taken several of these wild seasons to adjust to the carefree elements that come with living in the shadow of the mountains, where the heavy spring snow and the warm spring melt happen just a few hours apart. In fact, I’ve come to rather enjoy the ride.

The warmth of the March sun is invigorating, reminding me to live in the moment and take my kids out into the muddy puddles while we still have them. And when the snow brings much-needed moisture to our dry soil, we welcome it as a gift, knowing that it won’t last.

There is beauty in every season.

This week, I saw my first winter-white bunny with hints of brown, noticed the buds on the trees preparing to burst into bloom many weeks from now, heard the trickle of flowing water as the sun hugged the icicles on the roof.

And then, snow and cold returned, this time slowly and with the mysterious beauty of an icy veil. In the afternoon hours of a rather foggy, snowy day, we emerged from our house and made our way along our rather ordinary street, transformed into a Narnia-like wonderland after hours of winter mist.

Stunning. Magical. Absolutely enchanting.

“Wow! Look at that the trees! They’re so beautiful!” My seven year old’s eyes were wide with wonder, drinking in the living winterscape around her.

Thank You Lord for the constant reminder of Your love and care. For Your handiwork, evident in the frost-covered branches of a tree, gently hanging in the stillness of a cold early March afternoon. For praise uttered from the lips of children captivated by the world You have made. For these moments that pierce our hearts with Your glory. For Your gift of common grace that reveals beauty in every season. But most of all, for how all of these things point us to You as our true source of life.

This is the in-between season, not fully winter, not fully spring. It’s not lost on me that this season coincides with our journey toward Easter, an invitation to prepare our hearts for the most pivotal point in history and the central reason for our faith. As we consider humanity and the condition we find ourselves in, may the gradual lengthening and warming of the days remind us that our hope lies only in the saving grace made possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. May we place our faith in Him, experiencing the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, empowering us to live out the love of Christ in our regular, everyday challenges and triumphs.

“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” 

Ephesians 4:1-6 (NIV)

Image: Stocksnap

For the Tough Days

There is something that grieves me so deeply I am rendered immobile with sorrow if I dwell on it too long. It’s a situation I have no control over; in fact, I am simply a spectator. I have reasoned, begged, pleaded and prayed – and the situation remains the same. The pain that comes with this kind of experience is something I simply cannot explain. Is God really good? Yes. Can I understand why He allows this to continue? No. My heart takes comfort in knowing that one day all will be made clear. And yet, it is so difficult to watch. This morning I am thinking about the different Scriptures that help me focus on Him while the storms are raging.

Each heart knows its own bitterness,
and no one else can share its joy.
Proverbs 14:10

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:18

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
1 Peter 5:7

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:8-10

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.
2 Corinthians 1:3-7

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13

Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Let His Word wash over your weary heart today and carry you through.

Morning skies (image: mine)

Morning Light

Golden October, when the weeping birch leaves whirl to the ground in a fiery yellow dance. Their ragged edges make them stand out among the rest of the round-edged, decaying leaves of the other trees of the neighborhood. They are one of the last to say goodbye to fall and embrace the cold to come. 

Everyone is ready now for the snow to fly.

Last night I looked out the window and couldn’t see across the street. Never late. That first impressive snowfall of the season usually blows through sometime in October. It won’t stay, not this early, but we’ll take it anyway, even if the kids need snowsuits under their Halloween costumes.

The morning after a snowfall has a quiet, icy beauty like no other. The temperature plummets in the clear, cold air and as the sun dawns on the world, the edge of the western sky is painted in a pastel pink and purple hue. The sun rises late this week but in a few days we’ll turn our clocks back and have our morning light again, although it comes with late afternoon darkness. Always a jarring reality to contend with but I’d rather have the morning light.

And morning light always comes. The simple rhythm of the day is soothing in the midst of changing seasons. Regardless of what it may hold I know that morning light dawns again tomorrow, a whisper of God’s grace each day. There’s not a day that goes by that the sun doesn’t rise. God’s loving care is woven into the very creation of day and night. His grace is closer than we imagine. And when put our faith in Jesus and open up His Word, we experience an even greater hope than creation alone can inspire.

1 Peter 5:6-11 has my attention today: 

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Humble ourselves. Cast all our anxiety on Him. Resist the enemy and stand firm in the faith. The God of all grace will restore us and make us strong.

This from the Apostle Peter, a person who walked with Jesus every day. He saw His miracles, watched Him die and rise again, experienced His restoration and forgiveness, and obeyed Him in breaking tradition to visit, eat with and baptize the first Gentile Christians. According to church history, Peter was martyred during the Nero’s persecution of Christians in Rome.

Whatever you are facing today, you are never alone when you are in Christ. He is the Bright Morning Star (Revelation 22:16).

To Him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Image: Stocksnap

Yes and No

“Every yes is a no to something else.”

I don’t know exactly who said it first, but it’s the kind of thing you see in articles on productivity and time management and it’s giving me something to think about.

After more than a year of pausing and waiting, it’s temping to jump back onto the hamster wheel of busyness and do all the things! And yet the lessons I’ve learned about capacity, time and priorities are helping me to pause and count the cost of my yes with some important questions:

  • What has the Lord put in front of me right now to invest my time and energy into?
  • What do I need to say yes to this season? In this day? This moment?

Last night I said yes to a short break in the middle of my evening to-dos and and no to an early bedtime. This morning we said yes to rest and creative play and no to a nature hike. Tomorrow’s plans may be a yes to adventure and a no to home projects that need to get done. Sometimes the no’s are difficult ones, but I am trusting that these are simply a yes to something else that the Lord is unfolding in my life and the life of our family at that moment.

As our daily rhythms intertwine with the unexpected and the upcoming fall season takes shape, I’m praying for wisdom to choose well. I’m so thankful that Jesus knows me better than I know myself and that I can trust Him to work in and through each season and each day! 

May the lessons we’ve learned from the past year and a half mark our future decisions. We don’t have to run ourselves ragged! The badge of busyness can quickly turn into chains. Praise the Lord that we have permission to pause and consider just what we are saying yes to, and what the implications are. If these choices feel big, that’s because in some senses, they are. Life is made up of a series of little moments that shape the bigger moments we experience. Isn’t God so gracious? He is walking with us through it all. We need His wisdom to learn how to make the most of the time He has given us and the courage to live for His glory.

James 1:5 (NIV) — 

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

Image: Artsy Crafty/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

Interruptions

This morning when I came to the computer to write, I found my office chair was already occupied by my third daughter’s favourite soft brown teddy bear “eating breakfast” out of an old coffee can filled with one of my potholders.

The little visitor sent me straight back in time to when the very same daughter was a preschooler with her sweet little cheeks, bright blue eyes and favourite green headband in her long brown hair. (The headband that we lost and miraculously found on more than one occasion.) Her favourite stuffy was a little doll, Cindy, that went everywhere with her. I can’t remember how many times we were nearly late for something because she couldn’t find the doll’s sweater, scarf and hat. At dinner, Cindy had her own little spot on the stool beside my daughter, “eating” her pretend food while we ate ours. For a long time, Cindy became another member of the family. I often came across little scenes of her reading a book or napping on the couch or doing other random things, always an adorable reminder that I share my home with other humans with big imaginations and plans.

I’m living out the lifelong lesson that all kinds of interruptions are actually invitations to something much greater. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote:

We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. God will be constantly crossing our paths and canceling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions. We may pass them by, preoccupied with our more important tasks, as the priest passed by the man who had fallen among thieves, perhaps — reading the Bible. When we do that, we pass by the visible sign of the Cross raised athwart our path to show us that, not our way, but God’s way must be done.

It is a strange fact that Christians and even ministers frequently consider their work so important and urgent that they will allow nothing to disturb them. They think they are doing God a service in this, but actually they are disdaining God’s ‘crooked yet straight path’ (Gottfried Arnold). They do not want a life that is crossed and balked. But it is part of the discipline of humility that we must not spare our hand where it can perform a service and that we do not assume that our schedule is our own to manage, but allow it to be arranged by God.” (Life Together, 99)

Teddy bears on my office chair. Dolls eating dinner. Small cars in the pots and pans cupboard. Plastic dinosaurs in the fridge next to the milk. Although these scenes are slowly becoming less frequent at our house, I’m still amazed at how toy pigs in a sparkly shoe can snap me out of my self-centred daze and remind me of the blessing of imagination, the wonder of creativity and the beauty of simplicity: gifts my children offer me in abundance every day. These little interruptions invite me to ponder God’s good gifts.

But what about the interruptions that cost me something? Time, energy, health, attention, love, compassion. Some interruptions are long and painful. Sometimes you lose something you cannot regain. Some hardly feel worth the effort after all is said and done. Most often, they do not come with recognition or gratitude on the part of the interrupter.

These are invitations to live like Jesus and embody His love for me to those around me. They are the hard things of ordinary life that may not appear to be worth the asking price, but we can be confident that our loving Heavenly Father is working in and through all things, even the small things, and maybe especially the small things, for His glory.

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!

“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
“Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?”

For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever!
Amen.

Romans 11:33-36 (NIV)

The bear eating breakfast.