The End of Summer

The end of summer has me feeling all the feelings. 

After a tough year, these past two months have been a breath of clean, cool, mountain air and I am sad to say goodbye. And yet, the excitement of a new month, a new school year and a new season fills my heart! I don’t want rest to become a casualty of the drive to achieve. As we’ve intentionally created space for rejuvenation over the summer, I’ve seen how it’s a key piece for me to be able to love the Lord with all my heart, soul and mind, and to love my neighbour (including my family) as myself (Matthew 22).

When I came across James 1:19-21 last week, the words jumped off the page:

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

I’m what some would call passionate, which is just another way of saying I have a short fuse. Frustration surges through me when things aren’t working well or when something unexpected stands in the way of my plans. My patience gets a real workout most days.

Lord have mercy! In fact, this very week has been full of ample opportunity to heed the Lord’s instructions. Never imagine I write these things here because I’ve perfected them in my own life! I write to remind myself of the things I need to hear. And with the hope that one day my own children, when they are grown and flown, will discover these words and understand the heart of the mom who loves them so deeply.

What does this call to a patient response actually look like in my life as we enter into a busier season for our family? With more demands, kids in different ages and stages, daily responsibilities and unexpected issues, I’m learning that a posture of rest is the best place to start. Full disclosure — this week I didn’t rest as I should have. I didn’t listen to the Word in this area. And guess what happened? The opposite of being quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. Moments of asking forgiveness and starting over. Rebuilding what was broken by a careless word. Exhaustion is not your friend! It makes it nearly impossible to actually respond instead of react to life as it bubbles up around you.

If I want to be quick to listen, I have to actually slow down long enough to hear what is being said. If I want to be slow to speak, I need to give myself the time it takes to think through my response instead of blurting out the first thing that comes to my mind. If I want to be slow to become angry, I must take a moment to weigh my response in light of what it means to love the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love my neighbour as myself.

I can press pause in a world that measures worth by progress, take a step back when I want to rush forward and carefully respond instead of react. These things take time, the very thing we’re told is in short supply and we need to maximize for success. What fools we have been, to buy the lie that success must come at the expense of rest! To wear the badge of busyness while our souls wither and our relationships slowly crumble.

What does success actually look like?

Perhaps it looks less like a schedule bursting at the seams and a pile of finished projects a mile high, and more like a life deeply rooted in Christ, with relationships built by the painstaking work of listening, patiently responding, and practicing self-control.

Lord, give me the wisdom to listen well, to measure my words and to respond with love today!

Image: Free Nature Stock/Stocksnap

The Gift of a Regular Day

Lord, help me to live this day by the truth of Your Word, not by how I feel right now!

This was my bleary-eyed, early morning prayer after I was jolted out of bed, not by the happy singsong greetings of a shiny-eyed, cherub-cheeked preschooler but by the angry edicts of a grumpy, pint-sized dictator. I did not feel particularly ready to greet the day in that moment. In fact, you could say I was on the verge of an internal temper tantrum of my own. My irritability revealed to me that perhaps I too need more sleep after last week’s intense heat wave and rather quick pace. The rain and cooler temperatures have ushered in better sleeping conditions which will hopefully mean better moods as the days roll on, but for today we’re still catching up. The heat and summer fun is all too much when you haven’t slept well for many days in a row.

Working through the morning crabbiness, I began to tackle the long list of things that will make our home liveable once again. When you spend the week with the blinds closed to keep the heat out, living mostly in the open air of the backyard where the slight but hot breeze is blowing, you can’t really see the growing mountain of things inside that may need some attention. Today we find ourselves exhaling, working on home things and resetting for the week ahead. As I build in these rhythms of rest into our life and embrace the quiet, I experience the grace of God in ways I tend to miss when I am moving at the speed of light.

Dirty dishes mean good food. Dirty laundry means great memories. Dirty floors mean a place to call home. I am not immune to deep grief and heartbreaking realities, but I also know that joy and sorrow are not independent of one other. Even in the middle of difficult things, I find myself experiencing moments that fill my heart with in praise of the Lord. His goodness and mercy are unending. Early this morning as I was chipping away at the to-do list, these ancient words bubbled up in me and became my song:

I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
-Psalm 27:13 (NIV) 

It struck me that this particular moment was a direct answer to my prayer to live this day in the light of God’s truth, not by my crotchety attitude. I know He reveals Himself in unexpected places, like discovering a sparkling gem in a pile of dusty old river rocks. You may not see it immediately, but upon further inspection you realize that what you are holding in your hands is precious. In my life, God has met me while I rocked my babies in the middle of the night and care for them through their childhood illnesses. He has met me on my way into the grocery store. Over broken dishes, weed-filled gardens and vehicle breakdowns. Through bread on the doorstep, text messages, phone calls and unexpected visits.

He knows our needs. He hears our prayers. He is good. 

Even a regular day reveals His glory. To be completely honest, it has taken me many hours to finish writing this short post due to constant questions, conflicts, caring for the needs of littles and listening to the ones who need listening to. If I had shut myself in a room to wax poetic about the goodness of God in the middle of the ordinary, the power of this truth would have been lost on me today: His goodness knows no bounds.

Praise the Lord. Amen.

Blue sky beauty

Learning to Rest

The enduring daylight of summer is upon us and it’s so beautiful.

We’re in an 8-week stretch without actual night. The sun dips below the horizon just enough to give us all the phases of twilight, but no actual nighttime hours. Every night before bed I look out the window and marvel at the edge of the day lingering on the western horizon, and in the morning the light streams through the curtains long before my body is ready to rise.

The created world always fills my heart with wonder and awe. It’s not just the beauty that surrounds me, it’s the remarkable rhythm of life that teaches me lessons over and over again.

I grew up with the idea that productivity is a measure of your worth. Farm life is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with no shortage of things to do and serious ramifications if you don’t do them. While Sundays were for church and a short nap, Saturdays were for to-do lists. Weeklong summer vacations were for visiting family in another province, not for laying on the beach in Mexico. The only thing worse than being lazy was being thought of as lazy so I learned to work hard, or at least give the appearance of busyness, at the expense of my body, my mental health and my spiritual life.

I am all too familiar with burnout. In my early twenties I poured myself into a broadcasting job for 60 hours a week and found myself desperate for a break after three years. I took a two week vacation in another province to recharge my batteries and remember weeping nearly the entire 14 hour drive home at the thought of going back to my old pace of life. So I quit and took an opportunity 1300km away to allow myself space and time to reset.

“Your job will never love you back,” someone once said to me. “Boundaries are a blessing.”

Truth.

As I’ve spent the past ten years rocking babies, fixing owies, feeding hungry tummies and answering millions of questions about all the things, there have been long seasons of bone-crushing exhaustion that all the naps in the world could never have erased. Some seasons of life require all hands on deck and circumstances don’t always allow for vacations on the beach or even Sunday afternoon naps. But thanks to this gruelling season of parenting and most recently the pandemic, I’ve been learning to smash the idol of productivity and embrace the necessity of resting in Christ in mind and body. We always have a choice in the little things, like actually admitting when we need a break and asking for help. Or pressing pause on some of the things in our life that can wait and actively pursuing a slower pace.

It’s a tough lesson for a goal-oriented person. Regardless of my circumstances though, what am I saying to the Lord when I constantly push myself beyond my limit and refuse help or avoid acknowledging my need for rest?

I’m learning that resting my body actually gives Him the glory. It’s an admission that He is God and I am not, and that I can fully trust that He is taking care of me in every way. On nights when  my body is still but my mind won’t stop, I remember Psalm 4:8 — 

“In peace I will lie down and sleep,
for you alone, Lord,
make me dwell in safety.”

And Matthew 11:28 —

“Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”

And even Job 38:4 — 

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.”

God is able. In His wisdom, the One who does not need to rest chose to rest on the seventh day after creation and built rhythms of rest into His creation as a beautiful gift. He even commanded it for our good, knowing how much we would resist it and how much we would need it. Watching long summer daylight fade into twilight reminds me that this is a very good gift indeed and that I would be wise to embrace it as an act of worship.

Thank You Lord. Teach me how to rest in You, in every season of my life.

10:15pm on an early June night

When You Simply Can’t

I distinctly remember feeling like I had no idea how I was going to make it through the day.

Numerous interruptions in my sleep over an extended period of time left me feeling irritable and frustrated. It’s not that I couldn’t sleep; it’s that my sweet babies needed me night and day and I. was. tired.

I know the desperate feeling of burnout.

It’s no fun to feel like you’re at the mercy of your emotions. Many of us have grown up in a culture where emotions were something to be suppressed with a quick, “Suck it up, buttercup. Pull up those bootstraps and get a move on! Let’s make it happen!”

But what happens when you simply can’t?

Is there space for rest and healing?

I opened up my social media pages the other day to a loud debate. One side was frustrated with the constant barrage of instagram images that encourage us to only focus on our feelings and listen to our hearts, the other side bristled at the thought of ignoring our emotions out of sheer duty. Both sides used Scripture to support their point of view. Each was convinced that the other side was missing something important.

It kinda got me thinking, I guess.

Genesis 1 teaches that God looked at all He created and saw that it was good. We are good creations made in God’s image, with great worth and value. Genesis 3 teaches that humans were completely changed by the Fall, when sin entered the world through the disobedience of Adam and Eve.

Good creations who have become completely fallen with no hope of redeeming themselves, except through the absolutely free gift that came through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus. His death and resurrection made a way for us to be restored and returned to the One who made us in the first place.

When you put your faith in Christ, you are no longer under sin but under grace! And you have an eternal hope that cannot fade away.

So what does all this mean for us on those days when we feel like we’re worth absolutely nothing and can’t stand the sight of ourselves in the mirror?

We are loved. We know this, because the entire Bible is filled with truth after truth about the love of a Father for His children. We are made perfect in Christ. We know this, too, because we read more truth about how while we were still sinners, working against God, Christ died for us to bring forgiveness, redemption and new life. We experience God’s grace when we put our faith in Christ, and from that moment on we are changed and renewed, transformed into people who are forgiven and accepted into the family of God forever. We allow the Holy Spirit to bear His fruit in our lives, growing not only our relationship with God, but even with those around us.

And this is all wonderful objective truth that we hold onto, as we dig into His Word and discover more about who God is.

The problem is, we are forgetful.

We easily forget the truths many of us have been taught from birth. We forget because we live in a fallen world, and although we are redeemed, we still fight against sin.

We are bombarded by messages of putting ourselves first, all the while knowing that God deserves first place in our lives. We are encouraged to “put on our own oxygen masks” so we can better take care of our families. We hear that we can’t “pour from an empty cup”, so we look for ways to fill ourselves so we don’t feel depleted.

But what kind of oxygen are we breathing? What are we filling our cup with?

Maybe the conversation should be less about whether or not it’s godly to get some sleep, enjoy a cup of coffee and plan a girls night when we’re feeling low, and more about the basic truth about who we are in Christ. What we believe about that crucial bit of theology forms how we live our daily lives and learn to love God, ourselves and those He has placed in our circle of influence.

I am the mother of four small children. It has been no easy task making sacrifices day after day after day for the past eight years so I can care for my family in the way I understand God has called me to care for them. I have been through deep valleys, struggling at times to see my worth and value even in the middle of this very important job of raising tiny humans and loving my husband. I also work in a ministry position where I have the absolute privilege of speaking truth and hope into the lives of thousands of people every weekday on my radio show and to our social media followers. And I have days where I wonder if I am making a difference at all. I lead worship and am involved in my beautiful community of faith, full of people who know me and us and are journeying together through some of the most faith-forming years of my adult life. And still, I wonder at times, would anyone miss us if we had to move?

Let’s be honest. We all struggle to varying degrees with feelings of inadequacy and unimportance. And our constant movement toward self-care is an acknowledgement of our human limits as we attempt to stay afloat in circumstances that are at best, trying, and at worst, a walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

It is biblical to take time to rest and recuperate and reconnect with the One who created us with deep love and care in the first place.

It is called Sabbath.

And we forget to take it and enjoy it as the gift that it is.

We forget because we are human. We forget because this world is fallen. We forget because sin tempts us and lies to us and we cannot see clearly.

God is working in each one of us to draw us closer to Him every single day. We open the Word and we drink in His message of love and truth. We look at this beautiful world, and we see carefully crafted, picturesque places that thrill us completely. We see one another and we know His love and grace through relationship and connection.

It’s wise to take a break. And it’s wise to have regular habits in place so you don’t end up in survival mode in the first place! Please take that mental health day. Sleep. Exercise and eat healthy food. Talk with your doctor. Visit a counsellor. Walk your journey in the company of those who deeply love you! We need each other. We need rest and balance. We need enjoyment and refreshment! These are beautiful gifts from the Giver of Life!

But let’s not be deceived that a weekend away can sustain us. We need more. We need something real, something that will never fade away. Only Christ can reveal to us a God who does not abandon His beloved children! He is who He says He is, He will do what He says He will do.

And as we continue on in our journey of learning what it means to be human, let’s not abandon truth for the sake of a feel-good cure to a deeper need. The only way to weather the ups and downs of self-worth and identity is to deeply root ourselves in the One who is never shaken – Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 3:16-21 (NIV)

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

tulips

Last year’s tulips

We who are in the thick of it…

This one is for the mamas of littles.

We who are in the thick of it, neck-deep in diapers and finger rhymes, early readers and mad monkey bar skills.

There is something incredible about this early stage of motherhood. It brings you to the edge of yourself and then gives you a little tap, sending you flying over into the arms of Jesus. It strengthens you in areas you didn’t know you were weak, it smooths the edges you didn’t know were so sharp, it softens your hard heart and brings stunning moments of beauty out of what otherwise feels mostly like chaos.

And all of that takes an amazing amount of time and brain space. It’s really easy to lose yourself in it as the days of “eat, play, poop, sleep, repeat” turn into weeks and months. Sleep deprivation takes its toll. There’s only so much time, and slowly, things you once loved start falling to the side. Besides, you’ll pick them back up in a few years when the kids don’t need you anymore.

Enter the mom-guilt.

Some of us feel guilty for popping out to grab a coffee with a friend. Some of us feel guilty for going back to work. Some of us feel guilty for not planning out an entire day’s worth of brain-enriching activities, with a hundred healthy snacks and meals and endless time for reading with our kids.

Some of us simply struggle with doing anything that remotely resembles something just for us. We are waiting until the right time, for things to be perfect, so we can relax and do our thing without interruption or distraction.

After just seven years of parenting, here’s what I’m coming to realize. Although the way my kids need me will change, they will never really stop needing their mom.

I know because I have never stopped needing mine.

We will always be in each other’s lives, affecting each other’s lives.

Our kids will always need us, just in different ways, and in different seasons.

We know it won’t always be like it is now. One day our littles will not need us to help them go potty or learn to use a spoon. There will be more space for our careers, our interests and our passions to take flight into incredible achievements. There will be time for all the things we once dreamed of doing.

One gorgeous autumn afternoon, we’ll see the sun shining through the window into our clean living rooms and envision the exact toys that were once scattered there. We’ll see our counters free of crumbs and remember days like today, when all manner of Cheerios and cheese bits are waiting to be wiped up. We’ll have a moment of wishing for just one more snuggle and one more tickle fight and one more belly laugh and one more game of chase-the-toddler down the hall for a bath.

laundrytoys

And then we’ll remember that they are soaring into their own adventures with all the spit and vinegar of youth! And we’ll cheer them on as they learn and grow.

And that means we’ll always be learning how to strike the balance between pouring ourselves out for our families and taking the time and space we need to tend to our own hearts.

Once I was talking to a woman with a large family who was going through a divorce after two decades of marriage. My heart broke as she shared her story. While she spoke, she said something that struck me:  “You know when the flight attendant says in the event of an emergency to put your own oxygen mask on before you help someone else with theirs? That’s really important. Take care of yourself so you can take care of your family. I didn’t do that. I should have done that.”

Sometimes the daily grind feels, well, very grind-y, pushing us beyond our limits and making us feel drained.

There is wisdom in recognizing when we really do need take a break for our own sake and the sake of our family.

Around Mother’s Day this year, my eldest daughter asked me what I was into.  I think she was making a list of ideas for gifts or something.

“Daddo loves Star Trek and sharks. What do you love, Mama?”

“Hmm,” I said. I searched my very tired brain for a moment, but it was blank.  Pregnancy exhaustion was filling every inch of my mind and heart. “Well, I like cool mugs. And fun journals.”

She bounced away, happy with the reply, but the question stuck with me. What do I love?  What were my interests and the things that made me feel happy?

I was too tired to remember, and for very good reason. My life is very full! Truth be told, I wouldn’t have it any other way. But I can very easily become overwhelmed and depleted if I don’t stay on top of the basics.

Extra sleep.

A hot shower.

Good food.

Getting outside in the sunshine.

Exercise.

Connecting with the Lord in prayer, worship and Bible reading.

A date with my hubby.

Talking with friends.

Space to do something I love.

Time actually playing with the kids.

In  my first years of parenting, it took alot for me to ask for help — even from my husband! I thought, “I chose this, no one is going to do it for me.” And we all suffered for it. With my third daughter, everything changed. About two weeks after she was born, we discovered she had a rare condition that required close monitoring with many tests, appointments and medication – and I simply could not do it all on my own. My mom came to help, not to mention the amazing church friends and other family that stood by us and helped us through a time when we really needed them.

Here’s the thing – when I’m feeling like I need a break, I have learned to tell someone. Even if I feel silly, or like I don’t matter anyway, or like I’m being a burden —  I tell my brain to be quiet, and then I tell someone how I’m feeling.

It’s my first step in finding a bit of balance.

You matter.

Your family loves you and needs you.

REMEMBER!

A refreshed mama is an amazing mama. There will be time for big things later if we make time for the little things now.