The Old Year List

This morning I made a list.

It wasn’t a list of goals or dreams. It wasn’t a list of things I want to improve in 2023. It wasn’t even my usual practice of a list of items that needed attention this weekend. My tendency is to forget the good and remember the bad, so I put pen to paper and listed the things I loved about our holiday season. Amid the challenges, and there are always challenges, there were some truly beautiful moments that I don’t want to forget.

As the list grew longer, I realized that we are starting off the year from a place of abundance! When my eyes are on my problems, I’m blind to my blessings. If nothing else changes in my life this year, I’ll keep on remembering the goodness of God. I never want to be dismissive of my own difficulties, burying my head in the sand on things that grieve me. My hope is always that I would learn to hold the two in tension: deep sorrow and inexplicable joy. One does not negate the other. In fact, the deepest sorrows of my life remind me that I have a joy that cannot be taken away, a joy that will last forever, a joy that only Jesus can give.

Fast forward a few days. I’ve stashed the Old Year List away now in a bin of ornaments so when the time comes to decorate again, I’ll remember. More and more, I find I need the intentional reminders of the things that matter most so as I carefully packed up our baubles this year, I decided to leave one ornament out: an unfinished slice of a thick branch with the word JOY in black.

A bright and hopeful word burned with a 900 degree pyrography wand into a small disc of cream-coloured wood. It hangs at eye level in a common room, so that every single day I have a reminder that true joy comes with a cost. This little decoration was once a living branch full of buds and leaves and although it has changed shape and been marred by fire, it has a new kind of simple beauty that touches my heart.

Nothing stays the same, does it?

This is my eighteenth year of keeping a blog. I’ve been plodding away at this for nearly two decades, fully aware that social media has now become the preferred method of sharing bite-sized pieces of one’s life, but unwilling to let go of this long-form personal web log of snapshots of my life thus far. When I first put my fingers on a keyboard to write out my feelings, social media was just a baby.

So why, in 2023, am I still doing this? 

Why don’t I move everything over to the interactive spaces that will grow my platform and prove my worth as a writer to any publisher I aspire to impress one day? 

Perhaps it’s because I’m satisfied with a simple journal of sorts, one that that does not require membership and login information to read. Maybe deep down, I know that the process of turning a hobby into a career is a long, arduous, time-consuming venture that my current season of life has no space for. Most likely it’s because I know that one day I will be gone, but my voice will remain in these words for my loved ones to return to from time to time.

May they know the inexplicable joy that comes from trusting in Jesus, even when sorrows like sea billows roll. 

Whatever my lot, You have taught me to say: it is well with my soul.

That’s true joy.

(Horatio Spafford, “It is Well With My Soul”, 1873)

Image: Negative Space/Stocksnap

Merry Christmas, Indeed

“Let’s get outside,” I say. We walk around the backyard late in the afternoon, watching the full moon rise. Faint but huge, the orb brightens in the dusky December sky as she tells of latest art project and a story she had just been reading. Her bright eyes sparkle with mischief and her infectious laugh fills the air. I’m amazed at the person she is growing up to be.

***

6am. A headlong dive smack in the middle of our bed, followed by a snuggle. A warm little body invades our space, with one little arm draped over my shoulder. I feel a nudge. “Mom, stop snoring,” comes a whisper. The cosy morning routine will be missed when it’s gone for good, but for now this is our daily alarm.

***

“Mom, don’t you have to do something in here?” A sly smile crosses her face. I realize that for some unknown reason, these kids don’t want me to come out of my room just yet so I busy myself with a few things. Then, a knock on my door. “You can come out now,” she announces. Surprise! The whole living room is clean and ready for a party. She beams with pride as I hug her tight.

***

“Here you go,” she says. “I made this for you.” She holds out a small, handmade character with googly eyes. “You did? Wow, amazing job!” I gush. Her face lights up. This one always seems to know when someone needs a boost. Her quiet encouragement is an incredible gift to our family. “Thank you sweetheart.” I wrap her up in my arms.

***

We collapse onto the couch after a particularly demanding few days, finally finding a quiet moment together. In the soft light of the Christmas tree, tears of disappointment roll down my cheeks and I share my heart. With his gentle presence and steady reassurance, I know I am not alone. 

***

This week has been a lesson in “It doesn’t have to be perfect to be good”. Life swept in with a vengeance, as it often does, waylaying all our final Christmas preparations and plans. And while the weight of the imperfect always threatens to crush what is very good in our lives, the good prevails because the best gifts don’t fit under the tree anyway. The good prevails because no matter our circumstances, we welcome Christmas and all that it means.

Whether or not the stockings are stuffed and the presents are wrapped…

the house is tidy and everyone is healthy…

the family is whole and relationships are happy…

Christmas comes right into the mess. Regardless of the imperfection that rages around us, we have true hope, lasting peace, deep joy and perfect love because we know that Christ has come! And He has promised to return to make all things new. He is good and His love endures forever, and His faithfulness continues to all generations (Ps. 100:5).

It’s never lost on me that we mark the longest night of the year and birth of the Saviour mere days apart. Even the rhythm of the seasons points us to the Light of the World! The people walking in darkness have seen a great light. The people stumbling around in the black of night, desperate eyes searching the heavens for a glimpse, a twinkle, a spark… the people losing courage with every passing moment… the people who are convinced they have been utterly forgotten and cast aside… 

into their world… 

into our world…

the Light has come.

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

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

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

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

John 1:1-14 (NIV)

How can we stay silent, when salvation is finally here?

Sing to the Lord a new song,
    for he has done marvelous things;
his right hand and his holy arm
    have worked salvation for him.

The Lord has made his salvation known
    and revealed his righteousness to the nations.

He has remembered his love
    and his faithfulness to Israel;
all the ends of the earth have seen
    the salvation of our God.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth,
    burst into jubilant song with music;

make music to the Lord with the harp,
    with the harp and the sound of singing,

with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn—
    shout for joy before the Lord, the King.

Let the sea resound, and everything in it,
    the world, and all who live in it.

Let the rivers clap their hands,
    let the mountains sing together for joy;

let them sing before the Lord,
    for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
    and the peoples with equity.

Psalm 98 (NIV)

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

November Light

The chatty summer birds are mostly gone now, seeking warmer nests to fluff their feathers, and the winter birds have centre stage. These are not nearly as petite and delightful, but rather clumsy and comical as they lumber around the neighbourhood scratching out their living.

Leaves have dropped, snow blankets the ground and nights are finger-numbing. The night is long and dark, but it’s worth it to see the morning light come in with such brilliance.

The first rose glow gives way to orange-gold radiance, then blinding light, and finally, the pale sunshine of a November day. The sun hangs low in the sky, casting long shadows as it speeds toward the western horizon, slowly revealing a stunning late afternoon colour gradient which fades as darkness falls. The silhouettes of the towering neighbourhood evergreens that stand guard over our street, begin to blend with the night sky full of twinkling stars and planets. We like to play a guessing game: is it Mars? Jupiter? Venus? The moon is late to the party these days, rising in the middle of the night and sticking around long past sunrise, another November treat.

Each November day, with its vivid dawn, reminds us that “…the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”
(John 1:5 NIV)

This comes as a complete surprise to me, but I’m developing an appreciation of the very month I have long dreaded for its challenges with frigid weather, constant childhood illnesses, and long hours of darkness. There are gifts to discover in the gradual shift from a world alive to a world asleep until spring. The in-betweenness brings moments to breathe deep before we wander into another season full of anticipation and celebration, one quite unlike any other we’ve had before. Cuddles on sick days, candles in darkness, calm evenings – these are the blessings of a month that I’ve often cast aside as bleak and dismal.

November begins with a somber day of remembrance, considering recent history and struggling with the reality that the world has not changed as much as we would like to believe. As we wandered among decommissioned planes, tanks, torpedoes and naval mines this year, the grief of war stirred up a deep longing in me for true peace, the kind that only Jesus can bring.

Come, Lord Jesus, and make all things right.

In our world and in our own shattered relationships, Lord, make all things right. Bring the kind of healing only You can. Let this in-between season stir our hearts as we dare to hope that You are able to do what no one else has ever been able to do in the history of the world.

Help us embrace the tension of the now and the not-yet. Help us grieve our losses, adjust our expectations, and rest in Your love. We know that we are still in the middle of this story, and we trust that You are faithful.

It seems fitting that November ends with the dawning of the season of longing and anticipation of our Saviour. We look forward to celebrating His first coming and we anticipate His second coming, knowing that He has promised to return and make all things right.

November is the space we need to prepare our hearts, dare to hope, and trust that He will do what He says He will do. It’s the space we need to learn not to grow weary and lose heart. It’s the gift of the in-between, the time to anchor our entire holiday celebration to the One who is worthy of our praise before the sparkling of the season begins.

Now is the time to fix our eyes on Jesus…

“…the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” 
Hebrews 12:2-3 (NIV)

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.

Isaiah 9:6-7 (NIV)

Glorious November Light

When Darkness Falls

Morning dawned with the first snowfall and a flurry of activity. Even before I rolled out of bed, requests for help to find warm winter wear rang out from the hallway.

“Mom! I need warm socks!”

“Does anyone know where my boots are?”

“Mittens please!”

I blinked at the clock. Impossible! It might as well have been Christmas morning! The kids buzzed with excitement as they layered on their snow pants, jackets, toques, mittens and boots and tumbled out the door and into a chilly wonderland.

A deep layer of pure, white, heavy snow pressed the branches of the neighbour’s trees toward the ground. This one had yet to drop its leaves, much later in the season than usual. We’ve had a long, warm autumn with days upon days of sunshine, blue sky and t-shirt weather, but it’s giving way to the days of hot chocolate, sledding and snow angels.

And darkness.

November ushers in a pre-dinner sunset, with long, dark evenings and plunging temperatures. In years past, it has been my most difficult month to hold onto hope in all things. The combination of colder weather, longer evenings, and the urgency of the approaching year-end tempts me to slip into my grumpy pants for a while.

This year, though, I am determined to light a candle when the nights get too long for my liking. When the light fades into early darkness, I’ll lean into the hope of a flickering flame and rediscover the beauty of the soft glow. But more than that, I’ll remind myself of this:

“For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord,
    my confidence since my youth.

From birth I have relied on you;
    you brought me forth from my mother’s womb.
    I will ever praise you.

I have become a sign to many;
    you are my strong refuge.

My mouth is filled with your praise,
    declaring your splendor all day long.”

Psalm 71:5-8 (NIV)

Image: Stocksnap

Thankful

That little sunflower, the one from April that nearly drowned after my earnest 7 year old cared a little too much for it, is three feet tall now.

It stands guard at our front window, watching the sun cross the sky from morning ’til night, a stalwart reminder of resilience in the face of trials of too much water, not enough water, hungry critters, heat that rivalled the desert, and now the kiss of frost.

I’ve often said that I don’t garden because I’m good at it; I garden because it teaches me things. Every year I marvel at the wonders the Lord brings out of my feeble efforts to grow beautiful and delicious things. I’m slowly realizing that it really isn’t me that’s doing the work. Some plants that I thought would thrive have long since shrivelled up, and the ones that I had little hope for are still blooming in Technicolor as the last few weeks of summer fade into the glory of fall.

We are not self-made. Each of us is a garden of hopes and dreams, where ones we think will thrive die off and ones that were planted without a thought grow tall and strong and beautiful, surprising us with a fragrance of life that fills our senses and thrills us beyond measure. God’s goodness is truly astounding!

While roses and sunflowers bloom and carrots and beets sweeten in the frosty night air, the golden and amber paintbrush of fall begins to touch the edges of the landscape.

Thanksgiving is on the horizon and it’s all too fast for me, to be honest. That’s usually when the initial waves of cold and flu season are slamming our home, school and fall commitments are ramping up and the urgency of the final days of warm weather pull us outside as often as possible. Nearly a decade ago I began a tradition of Three Weeks of Thanks, where we spend the three weeks before Thanksgiving intentionally focussing on gratitude and preparing our hearts. In years past, we’ve done handprint leaves out of construction paper with the things we’re thankful written on them. They go up on the wall under a “tree” of sorts, as if they’re gently whirling to the ground. I already know what mine will say.

Our eldest is a pre-teen. Our youngest is off to kindergarten this year. And the in-betweeners are in the thick of elementary-age experiences. No longer are the wee hours of the morning fraught with spills and potty accidents, nor are the evenings quiet with kids in bed early. It’s easy to write a blog when your kids are little; the material writes itself! There are so many adorable moments and I’m glad I’ve recorded some, but as they get older, the stories are shifting. My children are becoming their own people and I’m learning so much about them and myself as we grow together.

That means this space is shifting too. Gone are the days of a young mama sharing about sleepless nights and applesauce smears, here are the days of a late-thirties mom of four learning to trust the One who made these sweet ones to take care of them in the way that only He can.

For this journey, I am thankful.

Thank You Jesus for these hopes and dreams that are thriving right in front of me. I am fully aware that these aren’t by my hand but Yours. You are the Master Gardener, and I’m living proof that Your plans are far better than mine ever were.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.” James 1:17-18 NIV

Image: Stocksnap

Slowing Down to Savour

A temporary relief from the stifling heat of summer is so welcome! Dark clouds hang overhead, yet to give us the treasure within. We’re waiting for the rain to fall after a week of bright blue skies, blazing sunshine and hot, sleepless nights.

Summer is sailing along now, heavy with the scent of life in full bloom. All the things we’ve planted are showing their resilience in the face of hail and heat. Some stand tall regardless of what comes, others are crushed beneath the weight of the elements or become food for critters and birds bent on survival.

Saskatoons are slowly ripening, but the sparrow stole my only strawberry of the year. Though the plants are young and the soil likely needs more nutrients, I have hope that in future years we’ll have more berries. Maybe I’ll expand the patch in a few more years if the plants are doing well.

Amid all the flowers and fruit, our kids are engaged in the very serious business of backyard play. With four between the ages of 5 and 11, there is no shortage of ideas on how to spend the day. Morning ’til night, with short breaks for food and responsibilities, they play. And play. And read. And play. I believe in the gift of a rather boring summer, with loads of space in the schedule to literally do nothing, if that’s what they want to do. Of course, the responsibilities are always an expectation, but otherwise, we aim for a rather carefree summer pace.

I glance outside. The much-needed moisture begins with sprinkles at first and then turns to a steady, gentle rain. The thirsty ground is soaking up the blessing of a long, cool drink. Trees bend in the wind and robins impatiently pull the surfacing worms out of the ground.

The kids wander around for a while before becoming thoroughly soaked and chilly. In the back door they tumble, asking for a late snack, although lunch is nearly ready. It’s our daily reset button, a gathering around an abundant table, filling their hungry bellies and setting them on track for the afternoon ahead.

I don’t want to forget what it was like in this season of life. I am learning to slow down and savour the small, ordinary moments of each day. These scenes are mainly for me, snapshots of what life is like in these good old days, moments captured on paper and in photos, and mostly, in my mama’s heart.

All four kids, home together, more of a gift than I can fully appreciate, I’m sure. That old cliche rings true: “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.”

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom….
Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.”

Psalm 90:12, 14 (NIV)

The pansies are doing alright this year. Grateful.

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

Remember

A mama house sparrow hops around our front lawn, looking for a bite to eat in the sunshine. Everything is alive now, with dandelions, saskatoons, apples and irises in bloom. Ants carry on, bees bumble from sweet flower to sweet flower, sparrows and chickadees flit here and there, robins diligently care for their broods. The hawks are back too, solitary hunters soaring and diving to fill their bellies.

Let heaven and nature sing!

In becoming what I like to call Noticers, we’ve caught breathtaking glimpses of our magnificent, carefully designed world right in our own backyard. I’m amazed at how many times I hear, “Mom! You’ve got to see this!”, an invitation to hurry out the back door to observe the shape of a spiderweb or quietly tiptoe across the deck to spy a house finch among the leaves.

For years I’ve thought that I was just one of those people who didn’t like change. We have this vintage book about opposites where the characters go to the circus and at the very end two of them are heading home. One says, “I’m sad that it’s over” and another one says, “I’m glad that it happened”. Guess which one I tend to be! I’m the one who sheds a few tears at the end of the Beatles Anthology every single time, even though we know from history how that story ends. It occurred to me this week though, that it’s not change itself I dislike but its hallmark sense of loss.

I find the slow rhythm of the seasons steadies me. Give me the first robin, the first handful of Saskatoon berries, the first pop of fall colour, the first blanket of snow and I feel confident in what lies ahead. These changes I welcome, although they’re bittersweet. New milestones, adventures and plans are exciting, but a sudden illness, unplanned large expense or unwelcome news can throw me for a solid loop unless I pause to remember not only who God is but also what He has done in the past.

This week I came across Psalm 116:1-7 — 

I love the Lord, for he heard my voice;
    he heard my cry for mercy.
Because he turned his ear to me,
    I will call on him as long as I live.

The cords of death entangled me,
    the anguish of the grave came over me;
    I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
    “Lord, save me!”

The Lord is gracious and righteous;
    our God is full of compassion. 
The Lord protects the unwary;
    when I was brought low, he saved me.

Return to your rest, my soul,
    for the Lord has been good to you.

Amen. Praise the Lord. He is good to me, even when my plans go awry, when interruptions come, when my energy is drained and I have little left in the tank. Even when the mundane is, well, mundane. Even when the day feels like an uphill climb or the pace of life is dizzying. Even when we have to say goodbye, and change brings its unmistakeable sense of loss.

Maybe, especially then.

What shall I return to the Lord
    for all his goodness to me?

I will lift up the cup of salvation
    and call on the name of the Lord.
I will fulfill my vows to the Lord
    in the presence of all his people.

(Psalm 116:12-14)

The foreshadowing of a fruitful year for our Saskatoon. (image: mine)

In Hidden Places

Out on a hike in early spring, few signs of life are emerging. Purple crocuses are the first to peek their heads out of the ground, searching for sunshine. Rustling in a syncopated rhythm, the long, flat, brown grass dances in the breeze. Trees reach to the sky, slowly awakening after this long winter’s nap, though not quite prepared to unfurl their leaves in the chilly wind. 

The kids bound down the trail and slide into a small grove, eyes wide, drinking in the sights of the peaceful wood. If you held out a bit of bread you could share it with the resident chickadees, who would happily land on your hand for a small crumb. My eyes travel up to the tippy tops of the tallest branches, across and then down the rough bark, looking for anything unusual or interesting to share with my co-adventurers.

There it is. Down at the bottom, where the tree meets the bed of dried grass, a green beacon in a sea of brown: a patch of moss thriving in the golden glow of spring sunshine.

Growing in the hidden places.

Equipped to do so, too. Some types of moss still grow underneath the snow, with remarkable built-in protections like an antifreeze and sunblock of sorts when the weather is too cold and the sun is too bright.

Four small heads lean in close to see the emerald and lime hues sparkling in the light. This remarkable little plant is often overlooked in favour of blooming flowers and budding leaves, especially in warmer seasons. It is epitome of grit, flourishing in places other plants are simply not capable. Moss has been found in some of the harshest environments on the planet, with evidence of one type that went dormant for 400 years before springing back to life.

After a minute or so, the kids jump up and continue on with their adventure, climbing over logs and scampering through the brush, but I linger behind to snap a photo before catching up with their fast little legs.

The photo was forgotten until just a few days ago when I nearly scrolled past it looking for something else. My mind returned to that early spring hike on the sleepy hillside. During what has been a particularly challenging week, this unsuspecting patch of moss is a gift to me, a picture of fortitude and tenacity, reminding me of the One who equips us to grow in hidden places.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:7-18 NIV

Tenacity.

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)