What is Better

“Mom! I need you to put pigtails in my hair!”

My four year old was waiting in the hall for me when I got up yesterday morning. My eyes were barely open, my body was still shaking off the shell of sleep. I needed a minute.

“Okay just let me brush my teeth. Did you look outside?”

“No,” she said, running to the front window.

I could hear her shrieks of joy from the bathroom.

“IT SNOWED! HEY GUYS! IT SNOWED!” she shared the good news with her big sisters.

I see an obstacle; she sees an opportunity.

It’s late March and perfectly normal weather in our city at this time of the year, but these overnight snow dumps still seem to catch me by surprise. Just the day before, we were enjoying the brilliant sunshine as the kids played at the park near our house. Our neighbourhood was buzzing with dog walkers and kids on bikes.

After the snow, all is quiet.

I stepped outside to drop something in the garbage bin and my ears perked up at the sound of birds in the trees. They seemed unfazed by the shallow blanket of white. It’s moisture that our dry ground needs, bringing the hope of a good growing season.

What appears to be a setback may, in fact, turn out to be the very thing that propels us forward.

Let me say that again: what we perceive to be holding us back may actually be the catalyst for the deeper, lasting change we desperately need.

Can we make room for it? Are we brave enough to let ourselves be interrupted by what is better?

If our pace is so harried that even one small deviation from our plan causes us to come unglued, maybe that is exactly what we need – to be unglued from our throne.

I was reading the story of Mary and Martha yesterday (Luke 10:38-42 NIV) —

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

“Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Martha had a heart to serve the guest of honour in her home with great care and attention to detail, but all the preparations had become a distraction to her. She became so frustrated that by Mary that she actually asked Jesus to tell Mary to help her! Can you even imagine?

And yet, something about that sounds so familiar to me.

My heart is full of distractions that bring frustration when someone isn’t going along with my plans. My prayers are full of requests for God to change other people to make my path easier.

Jesus had something important to share with Martha. He knew her heart. He knew she was worried and upset – she didn’t even have to tell Him that part. He reminded her that only one thing was truly necessary – to sit at His feet and listen to what He said. Jesus told Martha that Mary had chosen what is better, and He wasn’t about to tell her to be more productive.

Hmm. Could it be that there’s a game changer in there for me today?

Lord, search my heart. In the middle of all my grand plans, teach me to understand and choose what is better. Show me what it means to just sit at Your feet and listen to what You say.

spring snow on grass

Spring snow on the grass

 

The 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

I Want You to Be With Me All Day

“I want you to be with me all day!”

When our oldest daughter was a preschooler she would say this to me, around the time her second little sister appeared.

“But I AM with you all day,” I’d reply, laughing.

There were days when we were literally in each other’s space every moment and at bedtime, the refrain was the same. “But I want you to be with me all day!” she’d repeat.

I knew what she meant. She didn’t want me to just be there in the same house with her all day, she wanted me to stop doing whatever I was doing – be that nursing a newborn, cleaning up a potty accident, making dinner or other various household tasks – and be present with her in her moment.

It was her way of saying, “I need you mom.”

I remember being a kid and going to bed before my mom got home from her evening shift. That feeling of knowing she was out there somewhere in the world instead of safe and warm at home with me was unsettling. I always tried to stay awake until I heard that front door open and her voice sounded from the next room.

It didn’t matter what was going on around me, things were all right with the world when she was near.

Now I am the mom, and my kids want my full attention and presence. They want me to “be with them all day”, so to speak.

How often do I say the same thing to God? “I want You to be with me all day, Lord!” my heart whispers. And I wonder if He’s there.

“I AM with you,” comes the reply – through His Word. Through His beautiful created world. Through His provision.

Except He’s not whispering, He’s calling. He’s never distracted and always available.

Regardless of how we may feel today, we can be sure God is with us. Instead of “I want You to be with me all day”, let’s pray “thank You Lord that You will never leave me alone” (Hebrews 13:5b).

mom and kids

How Could He?

We sat on the soft couch in the early spring sunshine, huddled around a storybook Bible for kids.

“How could he?” she cried. Our five year old was hearing, really hearing for the first time, that God looked away from Jesus for a moment while He was on the cross.

“His own son! How could He look away from His own son?” Her bottom lip quivered and her brow sunk low. I could see tears forming behind her glasses. “Why, Mama, why did He do that?” She covered her face.

I put my arm around her. “It is very sad, isn’t it?” I said. I tried to explain how Jesus took our sin on Him, and that God couldn’t look at sin, so He had to look away. “But why did He do that?” she wailed.

She wasn’t asking for the theological explanation.

She was asking why it had to happen like this – why even the Father left Jesus utterly alone.

At our house, Easter always brings out the toughest questions about why Jesus had to die and how He could take away all of our sins. It’s this strange mix of egg hunts and execution, bunnies and burial cloths. And then, the great exhale of wonderful relief when we learn that Jesus, who was once dead, has come back to life again.

We live in this tension between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

We suffer the fallen nature of the world and the effects of sin while we await the glorious fulfillment of His promise of eternal life.

In the between time, we work to stay faithful to Him and build His kingdom in a world with a kingdom of its own, the kind that shouts you are a dangerous fool if you believe in anything other than the tangible and material, if you stand for something other than yourself, if you entrust your life to Someone instead of your emotions and feelings.

“In this world you will have trouble – but take heart, I have overcome the world!” – Jesus (John 16)

Jesus, as we remember Your sacrifice and victory this Easter weekend, let us be strengthened by the Holy Spirit to worship You in the face of doubt and questions. Let those questions and struggles remind us that while we don’t know everything, You do. And that is precisely why we bow in worship -You are God, Your love is unchanging, and You will never forsake us.

Jesus Storybook Bible

Image: “The Jesus Storybook Bible”, Sally Lloyd-Jones/Jago

I’m Typing With One Hand

Frozen mornings and warm afternoons.

March sunshine is powerful here. It melts away a landscape full of snow and cold, and brings the hope that one day soon it really will be a new season.

These sunny days are a balm for winter-weary souls. We are the hearty, the strong Canadian kind who look forward to snowstorms and can’t wait to play outside. But come March, even we long for the tradition of swatting mosquitoes around the campfire.

I am learning this simple truth: there is beauty in every season.

Winter’s frigid cold brings pastel skies and pale sunshine that makes the air sparkle with diamond dust.

Spring holds the beauty of birdsong and budding trees and flowers.

Summer’s heat grows our gardens and offers us long, warm evenings to play in.

Fall’s glorious colour is a second Spring of sorts, and its crisp air refreshes our senses.

Every year we receive these blessings without fail.

In my life I tend to see the glaring difficulties of the season I am in. And in my haste to focus on the negative, I sometimes miss the little lovely moments that really make this season beautiful. This morning, for the very first time in her seven years of life, our oldest daughter, our early riser, sleepily asked me to “wake her up in ten minutes”.  I got to kiss my husband and we laughed together before he left for work. I have a small silky-headed boy in my arms, gnawing on my shoulder, chattering away, slowly tuckering himself out for a nap. And the middle two girls are currently wrapped up in a world of their imaginings, creating a story out of thin air and random household objects.

I kiss my boy’s chubby little cheek, knowing that before long, he will be right in the middle of all if it, running to keep up with the big kids.

I’m typing with one hand. It is taking me three times as long this way, but I don’t mind.

This is the beauty in my season – all the ordinary moments that are extraordinary to me.

Bluebird sky

A Bluebird Sky in March – my view from the backyard.

Seeing with “Grandma Eyes”

I wrote this when my first two daughters were just 3 and 1, in Spring 2014. These memories are so close to my heart! And I still wish I had “Grandma Eyes”, but I know that it often takes the passing of the years to bring the important things of life into sharper focus.

***

I came across a photo this evening from my trip to Tanzania nearly six years ago.

woman in tanzania

She was waiting for treatment outside an HIV clinic in one of the villages we visited.  I have no idea what happened to her.

In fact, I had forgotten about her until I saw this.

She said it was okay for me to take her picture.  I was grateful.  I never thought that six years later I’d look back on it and wonder if she was still alive.

Six years.

We spend our lives wrapped in the small moments.  Then suddenly something from the past appears to remind us that time waits for no one.

I was thinking about what happens every night at bedtime at our house:

“Mom.  MOM!  MOOOOOOOOMMMMMM!”

I enter the darkness and lean down over her little pink and yellow bed.  “Yes?” I whisper, and kiss her little plump cheek.

“There’s one thing I want you to do for me.”

“What?”

“Ummmm…” (quickly thinking of something) “…can you turn up the story?”

“Sure sweetheart.”  I move the volume button on the iPod dock one notch up so she can hear the story-on-tape a little better.

“Thanks Mama.”

“You’re welcome sweetheart.  Goodnight.”  I lean down for another kiss on her cheek, and stroke her hair.  “Time for sleeping.”

And then a cry from the other room, and a little one who just wants to throw one arm around my neck and rest her sweet head on my shoulder with her pint-sized stuffed Snoopy tucked under the other arm – the perfect position for the night.

Absolutely THE best.  And I slowly set her down with a kiss on her squishy cheek.

And then I stand up from the sides of their beds, and suddenly she’s three and she’s one and here we go into month 4 of another year.  My half-birthday has come and gone, and we’re nearing Easter celebrations.

Wasn’t it just Christmastime?

I’ve often said I wish I could see these moments with “Grandma Eyes” – with the wisdom and perspective of all those wonderful women who have gone before me.  The ones who know better than anyone that they sure do grow up fast, so don’t sweat the small stuff (and there is ALOT more small stuff than you realize, young mama!).

I look again at the woman above.

Time is short.

We must make the most of the moments, because the milestones come faster than we realize.

Oh Lord Jesus, help me savour the sweetness instead of sighing with heaviness.  Give me even just a glimpse of life through Grandma Eyes!

The Time Machine: You Can Always Come Home

This morning’s post is from 2013. Still touches my heart!

***

Yesterday my two and a half year old and I were sitting on the couch, watching that talking vegetable show and we got to the end of the one about the scarecrow and the tin man and the cowardly lion, which is really the story of the Prodigal Son (lost on her… she just loves to see her favourite veggies dressed up like her favourite literary characters)… and we get to this end part where the little asparagus is coming home after running away to the amusement park.

And he’s practicing his speech…

“Mr. O’Gill… Mr. Farmer O’Gill, I would like to work for you…”

And oh, I can feel them tears threatening.

And that Dad Asparagus won’t hear a word of it.  He just picks up that little Asparagus and whirls him around in his arms, and says all those things that we know so well – “you were lost, and now you’re found.  You were dead to me, and now you’re here”… and for the first time in my life, I am that Dad Asparagus.  And I picture my precious children breaking my ever-living heart in a million ways, again and again, and I picture myself waiting and agonizing and praying for them to return to me.  And then they do.

And I finally understand.

So that Dad Asparagus and that little Asparagus are jumping on that computer animated trampoline, and with every bounce, another tear slips down my cheek.

And Andrew Peterson sings:

“You can always come home
You can always come home
You can always come home to me”.

I wipe my tears before she has the chance to ask, “You cryin’ Mom?”.

And I know that’s my voice singing along.  “You can always come home to me, kids”.  Always and forever.

And I thank the Father that I can always come home.  Because lately, I’ve been practicing that “come home” speech – that one that says “I can work off my debt, sir, if you just give me a chance…”

And I am met with that unexpected, undeserved, unabashed love and acceptance – the very thing my heart craves, in the very place I least expected it.

And I crumple into His arms – stunned, relieved, amazed.

His patience – stunning.

His forgiveness – life-giving.

His love – amazing.

(I also think, “what a God’s-Glory-moment – using a cartoon to bring healing to a tired mama’s heart.”)

yellow flower

 

Ringing Out in the Middle of It All

This morning at breakfast the kids and I prayed, “Thank you Jesus for today, and please help us to remember that our real joy is found in You.”

It’s something that I am learning in this season of life where there are so many things waiting to make me forget.  Lack of sleep from a night-waking baby and early-waking kids. It’s winter, so someone is either getting sick, currently sick, or just getting over being sick. The kids bicker and fight. My plans go awry. The tap starts leaking. The van breaks down. Messes are made, stress grows, frustrations mount and tempers flare. We grow tired of waiting for things to improve and begin to believe things will always be this way.

And then, ringing out in the middle of it all – “Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King! Let every heart prepare Him room, and heaven and nature sing!”

Can it be so? Can we really find joy in the middle of even this? I am beginning to discover this sweet truth – the more I dwell on Jesus as my real joy, the more buoyant my spirit is becoming, even in the face of plain ol’ day-to-day challenges.

I am catching glimpses of His glory right here in the middle of the ordinary: the belly laughs of my kids, my husband’s hand on my shoulder as we pass each other in the kitchen, the sun that streams through the front window during these very short days, the glow of the stars in the long evenings and nights. So many beautiful things – such incredible reminders that God is good, and God keeps His promises – bringing everlasting joy to our hearts in the gift of a tiny baby, His only Son.

On Sunday we’ll light the Advent candle of joy. As we prepare our hearts to celebrate the first coming of Jesus, may it remind us that we can rejoice in HIM, and in every opportunity to rely on His power in our weakness.

Let these words from 1 Peter be a beautiful balm to your weary soul. REJOICE – the King has come!

1 Peter 1:3-9 (NIV)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Yes! Lord Jesus, as we celebrate your first coming, may we await your Second coming with great joy in our hearts!

christmas cookies

Sharing cookies always brings a smile!