I Yuv You!

Fractured and shortened sleep often leaves me in a sour mood.

We had a good run for a while there, but we’re back to one or two of our four young children waking up at night for random reasons. Sigh. In spite of my reduced energy level this week, I’ve worked at my various tasks faithfully, making sure everything that needed to be done was done on time and with care.

I’m finding, though, that if left unattended, the coals of resentment will burn long and low. All week I’ve been asking the Lord to help me to love my family the way Jesus has loved me – sacrificially and extravagantly.

It’s tough to do. I don’t want my golden years to be defined by the bitterness of a personal ledger filled with names and ways I’ve been wounded. I want my life to be characterized by selfless love. But if I can be completely honest here, it takes work not to let that resentment build and the roots of bitterness to take hold.

My prayer has often simply been, “Lord, help me to love my family the way You have loved me.”

This morning I was in the kitchen with my back turned to the table. I had just set down cups of milk for the kids and was returning to put the jug away.

Within a few seconds, my four year old announced, “Mama there’s a spill!”

I spun around quickly to see her entire cup of milk tipped over, the rich white liquid running onto her chair and the floor below.

My heart sank.

“Oh!” I replied, springing into action with a few cloths from the drawer. As I knelt down on all fours and began to mop up the spill, I felt frustrated. It’s not just one thing – it’s all the things. All the little things I do every day that no one ever says thank you for…

My internal rant was interrupted by an unprompted announcement from my almost 2 year old son.

“I yuv you!”

It stopped me in my tracks. Did I hear him correctly?

He shouted again, “I yuv you!”

When I realized what he was trying to say, I laughed and replied, “I love you too!”

He said it over and over again. “I yuv you! I yuv you!”

With each time, I felt a little lighter. His adorable voice was a soothing balm to a heart scorched by resentful thoughts.

Something so small and seemingly coincidental – an expression of love from my youngest child who is just learning to speak – was the work of the Lord in my life today. In that moment, a gentle reminder that Jesus loves me, He sees me, He knows me.

When I feel forgotten, He is the One who remembers His children. When I feel unappreciated, He is the One who whispers His love in a thousand ways. When I feel exhausted at the thought of getting down on my knees to soak up one more spill, He is the One who knelt down to wash the feet of those who would later deny and betray and abandon Him.

Lord, let Your great love never be lost on me. Let it transform me from the inside out, so that I can love freely and fully, even in the smallest acts of service again and again and again.

walking

Taking a walk

Bloom

I couldn’t believe my eyes.

In fact, I could have sworn that I yanked them all out at the end of the season two years ago.

And yet, there it was: a small purple, white and yellow pansy peeking out through dry dirt littered with the fallen leaves of a Saskatoon bush, blooming in the late October sun as if it was a midsummer’s afternoon.

In the past few months our backyard has seen desert-like conditions with heat and drought, followed not long after by a huge dump of snow and weeks of chilly temperatures, that has since melted and warmed into a gorgeous stretch of actual fall weather.

After all of that, the hardy little pansy popped its pretty head up out of the ground and started to blossom, right beside a big ugly thistle and our dried up pumpkin vine, the fruit of which had been stolen by our local squirrel before it even had much of a chance to grow.

Bloom where you’re planted.

Be faithful to God in the the driest, hottest seasons where you’re feeling unimportant and invisible.

In those very moments your heart begins to wilt, send your roots down deep into the Word and learn what it means to have the attitude of Christ:

“Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death
even death on a cross!”
Philippians 2:6-8 (NIV)

I’ve been reading through the books of Psalms and Isaiah this summer, attempting to savour each bit. It’s really. slow. going. Being a wife and mom of four young children is a full time job. Add in my career and other ministry involvements and it’s life overflowing! In years past I’ve gone with a quick devotional approach to reading my Bible, but I’ve recently been challenged to tap the brakes and take more time to understand the context of what I am reading and learn what it reveals about who God is.

There has been a long season in my life where I have been desperately seeking the truth about who God says I am instead of the lies I had been believing. Now I am finding more freedom and the desire to ask yet another question entirely: not “who am I?”, but “who is I AM?”.

Who is this amazing God who would lay aside His glory and sacrifice His life for the sake of those He loves so completely?

Is He really the same yesterday, today and forever? (Hebrews 13:8)

And how does knowing Him more deeply impact my day-to-day demands and moments of completely mundane tasks that bring no joy to me in my natural state?

I am captivated by the beauty of the world God has made. Even a simple tree across the street, standing strong and tall in both the blazing hot sun of the summer and the wickedly frigid winds of the winter brings my heart such awe and amazement that I can’t help but worship the Lord. I could spend all day in that moment, heart lifted by a glimpse of a bird taking flight, but I am snapped back to reality when I hear a little voice saying “uh-oh Mama” from the washroom (and all the parents cringe!). Somehow, walking around my living room straightening cushions, folding toddler t-shirts and bringing the trash to the curb just in time for the garbage truck just don’t have the same “wow, Lord, You’re awesome” factor.

And yet, these are the practical things right in front of me. And I am finding that they are the very things God is using to transform my heart.

This past week I’ve had to consciously make the choice to turn my work into worship. I’ve been picking up socks in prayer, tying little shoes with thanksgiving and teaching scissor skills with a song in my heart. Every time I return a toy to its home, every time I throw away a piece of trash left behind by my children, every time I behold the aftermath of imagination and creativity strewn about the living room, I am choosing prayer and praise: prayer for the person it reminds me of and praise for the gift of life in Christ.

Believe it or not, this simple act of worship is fuelling new growth in my cold, frustrated heart, and I am finding fresh gratitude and hope. Beauty is blossoming in the most unlikely of places because my eyes are constantly on the One who loves unconditionally and without end.

Against all odds, like the extraordinary little pansy flourishing in my otherwise-dead backyard, I’m just gonna go ahead and bloom where I’m planted too.

hardy pansy

Can you believe it?! This little pansy is amazing to me.

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!

On Palm Branches and Dashed Hopes

palm leaf

As we were pulling up to church one Palm Sunday a few years ago, we realized we forgot something.  Time was tight, so I dropped the kids off with my husband and took the baby with me to run back and get it.  I thought I might be able to make it back in time.

But I missed it.

My favourite part of Palm Sunday:  the Kids Palm March.

On the Sunday before Easter, the kids get to wave Palm branches and march around the church during the first few worship songs.  When they get to the front, the branches are placed in a glass vase of water sitting under a wooden cross draped with purple fabric.

Amid the frustration of running back home, the disappointment of returning too late, and the general isolation of being a mom of a little one who is too noisy and busy for the service and too sniffly to play in the nursery, I felt sad.

My heart was heavy as I followed my little one around the back of the gym, praise music filling my ears.  My eyes scanned the front and settled on the cloth-draped cross with the large beautiful palm branches sitting beneath it, and strangely, I understood.

Those palm branches held such hope for the people who had waved them by a dusty road into Jerusalem so long ago.

Hope that never came to fruition.

The King of Kings riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, welcomed by crowds expecting a political revolution.

Only days later, the King of Kings, mocked, beaten, left to die on a rough wooden cross.

Here’s what a palm branch looks like the day AFTER it has been waved with great enthusiasm.

shrivelled palm.png

Spent.  Tired.  Shrivelled.

And rightly so.  Palm branches are not meant to last forever.  Our hope was never in a palm branch.

Our hope is in the King of Kings.

And the rest of the story is still coming.

Letting My Living Room Go

I walked in the house the other night and saw the remnants of the day scattered around the living and dining room. Books over here, toys over there, unfinished pictures and markers on the table. Random socks dotting the floor, along with crumbs and bits of paper, and little t-shirts and pants in piles where daytime clothes became pajamas.

And you know something? For the very first time, maybe the only time ever in my life, I didn’t freak out. I looked upon the glorious mess and my heart was actually lifted by the signs of life around me! It’s a common sight in our home – all the things lying around all the time. It’s truly the project that is never quite finished! Every day, we fill up and spill over this space. Yes, it is work to clean it up – and yes, since our kids are still pretty young, we’re heavily involved in the supervising and helping of said cleaning – but I had this realization in that moment that felt like I had sprouted wings and flew away from the stress of our mess.

It was simply this: we are a lively family of six people who all have our own plans and dreams and goals for this shared space we live in. And while those plans and dreams and goals don’t always align, one thing is for certain – we are living here together, and we are making a home with each other, enthusiastically pursuing our interests. But guess what? One day that will change. They’ll be enthusiastically pursuing their interests in their own homes, and this space will hold the memories of running and playing and laughing and creating and resting and recharging and building relationships with the ones they hold dear.

Can I just be honest? This is something I have to work with in my heart most days, because kid mess can really drain the life out of you if you let it. Thankfully the older kids are getting to be experts at cleaning up the thing they are playing with before pulling something else out, but we still have littles who are exploring the world around them with great curiosity! And instead of freaking out over the mess like I used to, I’m starting to adopt the famous Miss Frizzle quote from “The Magic Schoolbus”. Right before they go on their adventure, she always says, “Time to take chances, make mistakes and get messy!”

This year, I vow to keep the top of the piano cleared of clutter so I can have a nice vase of fresh flowers on it instead of junk. But other than that, it’s a free-for-all. We are going to learn to get messy and learn how to clean it up all together, even if it takes all day!

Here’s to letting MY living room go, and letting it become OUR living room!

IMG_2155

Flowers on the piano

When I Feel Most Like a Super Mom

My husband brought home two costume items on Halloween after work: a pirate hat and a cape.

I chose the cape and in true mom-fashion, took ten minutes to turn it into my tongue-in-cheek costume for the year: Supermom.

supermom 17

Hair and makeup were already done – and by done I mean not done at all. I threw on an apron with a soother pinned to the top, hand sanitizer taped to the middle, a diaper and a coffee mug in one pocket and a baby toy in the other. With a burp cloth over one shoulder, I carried my purse AND the diaper bag across my body and in the other arm, I hauled the car seat with the baby in it. The finishing touch – my shirt had real spit-up stains! Imagine that! haha! With my dollar store cape draped across my shoulders, we were off to take our kids trick-or-treating at Grandma’s house.

The costume made me laugh because it wasn’t too far off from my regular life right now – a little stressful and last-minute, with a lot of mess and imperfection and a healthy dose of mirth. We snapped a few photos to freeze the moment in time so we can look back when the kids are older and everything is different, to remember what it was like right now.

It was fun to pretend for a couple of hours, but as they usually do, things got real when we arrived back home with buckets of mini chocolate bars and gummies in hand.

Our oldest two were fighting about who would hand out candy to the other trick-or-treaters while our two year old was a puddle of tears in the middle of the living room, chocolate smeared all over her lips and the sleeves of her bunny costume. The baby, of course, was very ready to eat.

I sat down in the armchair to feed him while my husband handled the oldest two and helped the bunny into her jammies.

Supermom was gone. The apron and cape were hanging over the high chair, and it was just Super Tired Mom in her place!

There was a time in my early mom years when I couldn’t possibly be caught in a costume like that in public because it’s not perfect. In fact, there are still times when perfection threatens to steal the amazing life I have right in front of me by telling me it’s all simply not good enough.

But as I grow older, I am beginning to understand.

Here’s what I know about being a super mom:  super moms are not born, they are made. They are forged in the fires of sleep deprivation, spit up and sippy cups. They are grown from the earth tilled under by tantrums and toilet training. They are refined by the flames of daily giving yourself up for someone else and knowing deep inside that you would not have it any other way – that through this process comes real gold.

You know when I feel most like a super mom? When I survive a solo trip to the store with all four kids. When I successfully navigate the waters of crazy post-time-change behaviour without seriously losing my cool. When we can laugh together even though life is hard and we are all tired.

It has nothing to do with kids in matching outfits or a spotless bathroom. And boy am I glad!

Super moms, all of you – keep on doing what you are doing. Be open to the changes that motherhood brings to your body, your mind, your heart, your spirit, but most of all, your soul.

We carry on with hope in our hearts because we know that God makes all things beautiful in His time.

She Cut Her Own Bangs.

My daughter cut her own bangs.

Last fall, I found a little strand of hair and some scissors in the kitchen under the table, and I didn’t think anything of it. Then I saw another lock of hair by the fridge. Weird, I thought, and went about my day.

A few days later, I saw more hair under the computer desk, and noticed that she had a new ‘do.

Let’s just say it wasn’t a particularly happy discovery for me. And since I am the parent who tends to freak out about all the things all the time, I was really working hard to manage my emotions on this one. I mean, if you freak out over EVERYTHING, then when something is really worth freaking out over, do they even notice? It’s something I’ve really been working on.

I took a deep breath and counted to five. Then I asked her about it.

“Did you cut your hair?”

“No,” she replied.

“Really?”

“YES Mama, I did NOT cut my hair!”

“Are you sure?” I asked. “This is your last chance to tell the truth.”

She looked worried, then instantly her expression changed to repentant. She sighed a heavy sigh. “Mama, okay. I did it.”

“Hmm,” I said, wheels turning in my mind. I mean, is it really THAT big of a deal that she cut her own hair? Nope. But hiding it from me IS a big deal.

“Well, scissors are for paper, not for hair. So, you won’t be using scissors without supervision for a little while. And you can’t get up early and do art by yourself for the rest of this week.”

Her most favourite time of day – 6am at the dining room table, working on drawing and coloring and art and all manner of cutting and gluing and so on.

It was as if I had cut off her right arm. She wailed, “Mama! Why?! OH PLEASE, WHY?!”

We had talked about trust in the past, so I reminded her what it was and how important it is for our family. And I explained that when she cut her hair and hid it from me, she had broken my trust and would have to show me that she could be trusted to do art by herself.

After a week, we were back to 6am drawing sessions. But unsupervised scissors took a bit longer. Eventually, even those returned.

Fast forward about a year, to last Sunday.

She wore a headband to church, which was not unusual, and I didn’t even notice that the scissors had struck again. But later that afternoon, some little bangs caught my eye.

I am pretty sure smoke blew out my ears when I realized she had cut own her hair AGAIN. I took a deep breath and counted to five, then calmly asked her the question.

“Did you cut your bangs?”

“No,” she tried to lie.

“Are you sure?” I looked in her eyes.

“I didn’t.”

“Really? Because it looks shorter in the front,” I said nonchalantly.

She relented. “Yes Mama, I did.”

I took another deep breath. “We’ve already talked about this,” I said. “Scissors are not for hair. When did you cut it?” I led her to the bathroom mirror so I could inspect the damage.

“Before church,” she admitted.

I fiddled with her new baby bangs, trying to find a way to keep them from sticking up.  We put a bit of water on them, and it helped. A little.

Sighing, I pressed my lips together, searching for the right words AND the right way to say them. “I don’t think I can fix your hair. I was going to take you to the salon for a haircut, but since you already cut your bangs we’ll have to wait until they grow out.”

“Oh,” she said in a small voice.

“Can you tell me why you cut them?”

“They were in my eyes,” she said.

“Okay, well, you know that you are not supposed to cut your own hair, right?”

“Yes,” she said quietly. “I won’t do it again.”

“Ever,” I added.

“Ever,” she repeated. She was waiting for an angry loud exchange, followed by a lecture.

Instead, I put my arms around her shoulders.

“Well, at least it was after picture day at school. And at least you didn’t grab a bunch from the top,” I said. “I know some kids who just grab any spot and cut away. And then it REALLY sticks up,” I laughed.

She burst out laughing at the idea.

We both relaxed.

“Listen,” I said tenderly, leaning down to meet her eye to eye. “I love you, and I know you know not to cut your own hair. I am not going to give you a consequence, but I hope you can remember this moment and remember that scissors are for…”

“Paper!” she finished. “I love you Mama,” she said.

We hugged.

The funniest part is, she actually did a really good job. Both times. And for a kid who is dreaming of being a hairdresser when she grows up, a pair of leopard print scissors are just dying to be tried out on her long thick hair!

scissors