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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Sunday



This morning I am thankful for...

Anticipation! There is the anticipation of being days or even moments away from a special event, such as Christmas or holidays. When you know the good things that are about to happen, but you just have to wait until the right time arrives. And there is the anticipation of Jesus coming - remembering His first, and continuing to anticipate His second. I have been reading the prophets lately, and most likely will be able to finish the Old Testament of the Bible in the next two days before Christmas. Talk about anticipation! It is beautiful to read the prophecies about the coming Messiah, the humble King who will bring peace to all, in the days leading up to Christmas.

God's Sovereignty! No one is in control of the universe, of our world here on earth, or even of each of our lives except God. Sovereign means having supreme rank, power or authority. Being above all others. That is our good and beautiful God! Again, from the prophets, there is nothing that we can set up as a god in our lives that even has a chance of comparing to God. Anything else is just twigs and stones, self-built facades and illusions that help us feel in control. But God is truly sovereign. Thankfully He is also Love. He is also trustworthy and good.

Life! This is our first Christmas with our daughter and it is a delight to continue seeing her grow, to be thankful for the gift she is to us! We love to watch her develop and grow on a daily basis! It makes me feel more alive to see her little life begin. And I am thankful for God, the giver of life. He created each one of us, gave us physical life. He offers eternal life to all who surrender to Jesus. He gives the Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, as a reminder that even as our physical bodies age and break down, our spirits are alive and will be forever.Thank you Jesus!


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Waiting and Groaning

This morning I was thinking again with sorrow of the 20 sets of parents as well as hundreds of family and friends that are experiencing such unbelievable grief this week. As I was, this passage of scripture came to mind. Romans 8:18-25 (NLT):

Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will 
reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future 
day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, 
all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the 
creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in 
glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation 
has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.
 And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within 
us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when 
God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the
 new bodies he has promised us. We were given this hope when we 
were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope 
for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, 
we must wait patiently and confidently.)

As parents grieve such an unfathomable loss, the entire created world and all in it groans. As thousands each day face starvation and malnutrition, it groans. As evil continues trying to bring as much destruction as possible in this world, it groans. As countless people suffer at the hands of those with power and without compassion, it groans. As countless categories of people get the short end of the stick - the poor, the unborn, women, children, laborers, the homeless, widows, orphans, the hungry, the enslaved - this world, and all of us in it, groans for release from sin and suffering, for renewal and righteousness.  

And somehow, even though I too have shed a fair number of tears this week and felt sick to my stomach relating to the pain of these parents loss, I am thankful to be reminded that we are only in the middle of the story. We are waiting, groaning, hoping, anticipating and longing for that day when Jesus will make all things new. 

This is the question I am left considering this morning. How can I, who has the Spirit within me as a foretaste of future glory, be a source (or conduit?) of hope and restoration in this broken world? How can we?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Redefine: Struggle vs. Growth



I often use the word "struggle" to describe the various things I face each day that I find difficult. If I ate one (or five) too many cookies that day, I "struggled" with my eating habits. If I finally dragged myself out of bed after pushing the snooze button four times, I "struggled" with waking up early. If I did not get all the things on my to-do list accomplished, I "struggled" with housework, and therefore "struggled" with some negative self talk as well for the rest of that day. I probably struggle with something every day, and I have a few areas in my life that I would say I struggle with on an ongoing basis.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I Can Be A Super-Model



No, no, not the long legs, size 0, walking the runway in five inch heels type of supermodel. I'm pretty certain that is not a possibility in my future. But I can be a super model.

The other day I was thinking and dreaming about Jordyn; who she will become, what interests she will have, what life choices she will make someday. I realized that even though I want her to make her own choices, I will still greatly influence how she makes those choices.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Quick Fire Thankfulness



Today I am thankful for...

Soothers
Snow
Cheesecake
Grandmas
New Clothes
Harmony
Sleep
New Life
Being Challenged
Nutella
Growth
Love
Backroads
Stories

Friday, November 23, 2012

Walking with God




This past week at my youth group I had the privilege of teaching the lesson for the night. (Special hello to any River Warriors youth who are reading this!!!) I talked about the difference between head knowledge of God and heart belief in God. About how I can know (head) that God loves me, but when it actually hits a hard reality of a struggle I'm facing or a sin I keep committing, my true beliefs are exposed and the small fears that creep up tell me my heart is not yet fully convinced that God really does love me and offers

Friday, November 16, 2012

Redefine Part 3: Kingdom Living vs. Self-Willed Living

This post has been a beast for me to get out. I started it at least a month ago. It has been hard to write because it is still in process in my life. It is not something I have learned and can reflect on, it is something I am learning and processing each day.





When you hear the word "productivity", does it stoke the fires of your inner drive, or douse the flames of your inner carefree spirit?

I have been a new mom now for over four months, and most days I am at home taking care of Jordyn, putzing around the house, doing what needs to get done. And there is always a good list of things that need to get done. Laundry, dishes, sweeping, dusting, on and on and on.  I am not a task driven person, however, so constantly feeling required to be productive is not easy for me.  Feeling like I need to accomplish housework and keep everything in

Monday, November 12, 2012

94 Years Young



In addition to being Remembrance Day, yesterday was my Grandpa's 94th birthday. So to celebrate, the Ontario contingent of the family that was available got together for a nice lasagna dinner complete with birthday cake. Being 94, my grandpa's body fails him in a few key areas - he has difficulty seeing and hearing, among other things. It can often be hard to communicate with him. Despite this, last night I realized there are a few things that transcend any communication difficulties, things that he connects with the

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Morning Thoughts



Today I am thankful for...

  • Spending time with family, especially those from far away
  • Every new ability my baby learns to do, cooing, laughing, grabbing her toes...
  • Being a part of a loving and Christ-seeking church family
  • Developing deeper friendships
  • (never thought I would say this...) Working out so hard I am dripping with sweat
  • Autumn sunshine
  • Christ in me, the hope of glory!!!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Be Made Whole



So often we, as broken people, put the burden of fixing ourselves on ourselves. We try, harder and harder. We make promises to ourselves, commitments to God. We push, we strive, we fight with our brokenness. We even ask God for the strength to change. But we are ultimately expecting to do it ourselves. 

But we do not have the strength or ability to fix our brokenness. We crumble under the weight of it. We really only have the strength to go to One who is

Friday, November 2, 2012

In the Flow



I've felt it when I'm running on the elliptical in the morning. When just the right song starts to play in my headphones, with just the right speed to match the rhythm of my feet. And suddenly my tiredness goes away, and I no longer feel like I'm struggling uphill. But instead I'm in the groove, in the flow. My body matching the tempo of the music. And for a few minutes, this crazy

Monday, October 29, 2012

Going Without



According to the Weather Network, a mammoth of a storm is on its way, one that could produce 60-100 km winds that could take down many trees, enough rain to cause flooding, and the potential for long periods of power outages. I'm quite curious if the storm will live up to the warnings and the hype. Not that I am looking forward to living in those conditions for any length of time, especially with a baby. But there is something anti-climactic when a big storm is predicted, and it passes with little impact.
Last night, Kevin and I were talking about how rough it would be to have no electricity for a few days. We've actually experienced a similar situation recently. In September we were at some good friends for a few days, and their well had run dry. So though there was electricity, there was no running water. We knew this in advance, and decided we were up for the adventure!
Going for a few days without running water is harder than I thought. Our friends drove to a neighbors once a day to fill a barrel full of water. This was used for cooking, drinking, washing dishes.  If we needed hot water it had to be boiled. If we needed to flush a toilet, you would fill a small bucket with rainwater and pour it in. When we needed to bathe our babies, we had to mix boiled water with cold in a basin. If we wanted to shower... hello neighbors!
I have to say I have never been more thankful for running water and warm showers than after that awesome, adventurous vacation!
Now today there is the smallest potential that I could find out what it is like to go without electricity for a little while.  We would have to break out some candles. Throw on our coats to cook over the barbecue on the back deck. Layer ourselves with sweaters, socks and blankets. Keep the fridge closed unless absolutely necessary.
I know I seriously take these luxuries for granted every day. Going without for any period of time is a wonderful practice in proper perspective and thankfulness.
What would be hardest for you to do without for a few days?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Uphill Climb



When I was in high school I hated walking home from school in the winter.  That twenty minutes trudging through the snow, enduring the cold wind in my face was not one of my favourite times of day.  I remember I would make up games in my mind to help distract myself from the cold and make the walk seem shorter.  I would guess how many steps I would take from one block to the next, and then count them!  My sister and I would talk about warm things hoping we could somehow draw on the mental images to warm us up - hot chocolate, hot tubs, laying on the beach...

The other day I drew on these memories while on a walk with Jordyn.  I had been downtown doing some errands.  The stroller was loaded up with groceries as well as my beautiful baby girl.  I had accomplished what I needed to do, and was on my way home.  Now, our home is in a spot where no matter which way you travel to it, you have to climb a pretty major hill to get there.  I was standing at the bottom of one of these hills, looking to the top some six blocks away.  And I was just tired, having no desire to push my loaded stroller up this hill and home.  So I decided to think of something I could do to distract myself from the climb.  I decided that rather than focusing on the top of this hill, I would focus on things along the way.  I just have to make it to that telephone poll.  I just have to make it to the edge of that driveway.  Now to that beautiful red tree. Now to that next house...  My little game worked, and before I knew it, there I was at the top of the hill, almost home!  

Hebrews 12:1-2 says, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith..."  

I love these verses, and thought of them while battling my tiredness to get up that hill.  Keep our eyes on Jesus.  Run with endurance.  However, I began to think...  If I'm fixing my eyes on Jesus, would that not be like fixing my eyes on the top of the hill?  Isn't Jesus my destination?

It is true, that Jesus is at the destination of my life.  That the inheritance of eternal life I have  received because of His love is all about Him, worshiping Him, enjoying Him.  Heaven will be centered on His glory!

But Jesus isn't only at the destination.  Jesus is with me along the way.  There are times in life where I feel like I'm living by saying, I just need to make it to next week.  I just need to make it past that major event, through this busy time, to the end of the crisis...  I just need to make it through today.  But I can still keep my eyes on Jesus in this.  Jesus is there in each mile marker of life, in the hard events, in the painful anniversaries.  Jesus is there when all I can do is put one foot in front of the other until the next day comes.  

So we can look to the top of the hill, and Jesus is there.  And we can look to the next significant moment we need to pass, and Jesus is there.  We can keep our eyes on Him in each moment of life. 


Monday, October 8, 2012

Giving Thanks

Today I am thankful for...


  • Christ in me - freedom, peace, life, light, burdens lifted, hope, worship
  • My husband - loving, faithful, hard working, tender-hearted, easy going, fun loving
  • My daughter - beautiful, sweet, smiles, giggles, discovery, life, love
  • My family - over-the-top loving parents, best friend for a sister, loving brother-in-law, gorgeous, silly, wonderful nieces
  • My husbands family - The care and love of his parents, awesome adventurous sister-in-law, big, tough, but soft-hearted brother-in-law
  • My Church family - encouragement, support, prayers, worshiping together, serving together, doing life together
  • Nature - Mountains, fall leaves, thunderstorms, flowers, wind, clouds, rivers, sunshine, on and on and on...
  • Technology - Skype, email, digital pictures, ipods, ipads, or even just electricity, running water, heated homes
  • Food - again, on and on and on...  but specifically grapes, hot chocolate, cheese, yogurt with granola, cheesecake, oranges
  • Memories - of my grandfather who passed away 11 years ago today, of holidays, of God-moments, of being a kid, of falling in love

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Music is to exercise...



...what the mountains are to hiking

...what chocolate is to a granola bar

...what a beautiful sunrise is to waking up

...what a thankful customer is to working

...what passing is to taking an exam

Sunday, September 30, 2012

More on Surrender



A few weeks ago on two separate occasions I heard some very impacting words that have continued my thinking of this theme of surrender.  One was a quote in a sermon preached by Andy Luchies - which you can listen to Here.  One is a line from a song titled Dawn to Dusk written by All Sons and Daughters - which you can preview Here.  The paraphrased quote and song lyric go as follows:


The pain of discipline is more bearable than the pain of regret.  

Tomorrow's freedom is today's surrender.

Both of these hit a nerve with me, and really they feel like two sides of the same coin.  I can choose to listen to God, to surrender my selfishness and pride, let go of my own will, submit to and endure His discipline to ultimately find freedom.  Or I can shut out God's voice, stay in my selfishness and pride, hold on to what I want, choosing momentary pleasure but ultimately feel the pain of regret.  

This also seems like it can apply to a vast array of life's struggles.
If I seek financial freedom, today I have to surrender impulse purchases and be disciplined to save.
If I want physical health and freedom, today I need to endure by disciplining my eating habits and enduring through exercise.
If I want freedom from sin, I need to surrender to God in the moment of weakness and let the Holy Spirit work in my heart, mold me day by day to be more like Christ.
And if I want to live in freedom, to live a life wholly devoted to Jesus, it will often take surrender and experiencing that pain of God's discipline, listening to Him and walking with Him.

One thing I love about these quotes is that they acknowledge that surrender is painful.  Discipline, in both senses of the word (practicing a daily discipline, and enduring God's loving correction), is not easy, but often painful.  But I have to agree that enduring that pain is infinitely better than the pain of regret, the pain of not being free.




Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Redefine Part 2: Surrender vs. Decide




If you have ever heard the same story told by two different people, you know that different perspectives can completely change the outlook on a situation.  For example…


The exact same sequence of events seen from different points of view can make you come to different conclusions.

This is something I have been thinking about when it comes to having a relationship with God.  Do we decide to follow God?  Doesn’t God pursue us?  Love us first before we even know it?  But even still, it is still my choice to follow God, right?

There is a familiar chorus that says, “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.”  I feel that many Christians would say that they made a decision to follow Jesus, that after careful thought and consideration, or after a certain clarifying moment in their lives, they decided to commit their lives to God.  And from their perspective, that is how it feels – I was not following God, and then for various reasons, I decided to follow Him.  Though God is obviously a part of this decision, it really puts the responsibility and direction of our relationship with God in our hands.

But from the perspective of looking back on my life, when I take in the sequence of events that I have gone through, it becomes much clearer how active God has been in my life, how He has lead me and guided me with His loving kindness.  He has pursued me with gentleness and love.  He has been patient through my half-hearted growth and He has been faithful despite my erratic devotion.  He has not changed, but has consistently drawn me closer to Himself, wooing me and showing me the depth of His love.  And for my part, I stumble and stammer, sometimes walking with Him, and other times losing my footing. 

Realizing all of this, the idea of “I have decided…” does not seem to be appropriate.  If “decided” is the right word, then I have had to make that decision over and over again.  Yet somehow, I know that I have a relationship with God that is not lost despite my ups and downs. 

I am starting to think a much more appropriate term for the beginning and continuing of my relationship with God is Surrender.  This is still an action on my part, but with much more recognition of God’s hand working in me.  I have surrendered my life to Jesus.  And as I continue to walk imperfectly through this life, I will continue to surrender different aspects of my heart to Him as He leads me, as He molds me and shapes me.  I have surrendered my desire to be the one making decisions but instead desire to have Jesus as Lord and Master.  

Friday, September 14, 2012

Redefine Part 1 : Wisdom vs. Requests





Everyday we all operate out of internal constructs that tell us how life works and how we should live.  We have been taught through life experiences, through other people, through education, and many other influences, that this is how things are.  For example, if someone has continuously had people hurt them - parents, friends, lovers - they learn in their mind and heart that people cannot be trusted, and they begin operating out of this idea.  They close their hearts to love, keep others at arms length, and assume that only they can take care of and provide for themselves.   

There is definitely a danger when these narratives in our lives are false.  We usually end up hurting ourselves or others, and rob ourselves of the fullness of life we could have.  In my own life changing these false ideas has been often difficult, but always worth it in the end.  Sometimes the realization that I am living out of an incorrect view of things is a long uncovering process in my heart, and other times it takes mere seconds to recognize a false narrative for what it is and adopt a new perspective.  Lately I have experienced this a few times, and I want to explore here how these things are being redefined.

Prayer.  How do we pray?  What do we pray for?  I have to admit, like most people I know in the Christian community, it is very easy to pray and ask God to do things for me.  God, please make it not rain on that day we have an outdoor event.  God, please help me do well on my test.  God, please help us drive safely as we travel.  God, please make my baby sleep.

Please make my baby sleep – this is the prayer I was about to pray a few weeks ago when Jordyn was having a really rough day.  But as I was sitting there, holding her, it struck me that she is a baby.  And babies cry.  And cry.  And do not always sleep well.  I cannot expect that every time she is cranky, I can pray, and God will make her sleep. 

So I started to think about what I pray for, and what I should pray for.  There is a big difference between asking God to do something for me, and seeking His presence within my life and circumstances.  When Jordyn is not sleeping and crying, I can pray for His presence, for patience, for His love – that goes beyond our understanding – to fill me so that I can endure these hard moments. 

In the end I prayed for wisdom.  God, give me wisdom to know what is best for my daughter in every situation.  Wisdom to know when to gently hold her and soothe her, or when to walk away and take a breather.  God, give me your heart for her, that I can love her and care for her the way that You love and care for us.  I know there are going to be lots of hard moments – being a parent, but in all of life too.  God is not going to fix them all, because that’s not what it is about.  God is much more about relationship than quick fixes or instant answers.  So now I often pray for wisdom, inner strength, love, patience, and most of all an awareness of His presence in me each moment.  

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Some of the best things in life...



  • Biting into a fresh, juicy peach - or better yet, a freshly made peach pie!
  • Holding a baby close and having their soft face rub against yours
  • Morning sunlight spilling in a room, warming you up to a new day
  • Friends that build you up and inspire you to be a better person
  • Adding your voice to three or four part harmony
  • The scent and feel of being wrapped in a fresh, warm towel
What is one of your best things today??

Friday, August 31, 2012

Homemade Salsa

One of my favourite things on the internet is following cooking and baking blogs!  I have found a few treasures that make me laugh so hard it hurts with their writing and drool uncontrollably with their recipes and pictures.  I tried having a food page on this blog once, but it didn't fly.  For one, it takes incredible creativity, time and energy, and I could not do it justice.  For two, I tend to blog about more serious heart topics.  I work out a lot of what I am learning on here.

That being said, yesterday I attempted to can my own homemade salsa, and thought it would be fun to share some pictures from my exhausting but rewarding day!  

I even laid out all the ingredients before hand and pre-measured my spices in pretty glass bowls for a pre-cooking picture




After everything was chopped it was into the pots to boil for 1 1/2 hours!  



The end result is 14 jars of sweet salsa!  I am very happy with it!  Special thanks to Diana who came to hang out with me and take care of Jordyn while I chopped, cooked and canned.  I am looking so forward to cracking open the first jar with a big ol' bag of whole wheat tostitos!  Now if I could only get the smell of onions off of my hands....  

Monday, August 20, 2012

Another Year of Life

Today, on my birthday, I am thankful for...

Life!

  • That I have been given another year of life myself
  • The new life of Jordyn that I am still in awe of recieving
  • The life that I have with Kevin here in Wingham, full of music and friends, laughter and fun, growing ourselves and trying to be a blessing to others
  • The life that I have inside - Christ dwelling in me, delighting in me, molding me into the woman He wants me to be

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Equal Not Same



A few weeks ago we were browsing on Netflix for a movie to watch.  We came across one movie called "Two Weeks" about four adult children saying goodbye to their dying mother and also dealing with things between each other.  We watched the movie preview, but didn't end up watching that movie.  But there was a line from the movie preview that caught my attention and has not left my mind since.

The dying mother character in the movie was making a video for her kids.  I haven't seen the movie, but it appears that all four of her kids are very different from each other, and obviously do not get along with each other.  The mom says, "I love you all equally, but I don't love you all the same."

I love you equally but not the same.  I find this a fascinating and freeing thought.  That the amount of love you have for someone does not necessarily dictate how that love is shown.  Especially when there are multiple people being included - for example in this movie - a woman has four children and loves them all but shows that love uniquely to each child depending on who they are and the relationship they have built.  Or I also think of three young ladies I know who have a best friend triangle between them.  They each love the others so much.  But I am sure if I asked them, they do not probably love each of the other two the same.  They get along as a threesome wonderfully, but I would bet the three separate one-on-one relationships that make up the friendship are all unique to the others.  

There is no cookie-cutter way to love your friends, your family, your neighbors.  I do not even think God shows His love to each of us the same - equally yes, but perhaps not the same.  In the big grand narrative He ultimately showed His love for us by sending Jesus, who died in our place on the cross and rose again to conquer sin so that we could have right relationship with God - this is for all of us.  But God made each of us and knows us inside and out.  He walks with us each day and I am sure shows His love for you and me in ways that we can understand, in ways that meet us where we are.  

I think this takes out the "should" in loving others.  I should do this for so-and-so because I did it for that person.  I should make sure that my siblings, or my friends, or my children get the exact same measure of my love.  Instead, it becomes a matter of being present in each relationship and uniquely loving each one in ways that will speak to them and touch their hearts.  One friend may need a crazy fun night out once a month, and another a weekly chat over coffee.  But in all of this, we continue to love each other more and more.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Never Be the Same



One month ago our sweet baby girl was born.  Jordyn Grace, 10:03 am on July 6th after 11 hours of labour,  7 lbs, 14 oz, 21 inches.  Details that will be forever ingrained in my memory.  I knew on that day that our lives would never be the same again, though I didn't really know what that meant yet.  Now, one month later, I have a growing understanding of what it means to be parents, what this huge event in our lives is going to mean for us.  On a day to day basis, I am learning what it means to take care of a daughter.  To make sure she is fed, changed, and sleeping at the right times, to hold her and comfort her when needed.  But also in my heart I am learning what it means to have a daughter.  I now know a totally new kind of love that is also going to change me and because of her existence in my life I will never be who I was one month ago again.  I always knew that having a child would teach me so much about God, about love.  That in becoming a mother, and experiencing this kind of love, that I would have a new understanding for His love for us.  And this is already true.  His love is not based on anything we have done, it is pure and complete and based solely on the fact that He is our Father.  Jordyn is one month old, and has really done nothing yet except exist, but already Kevin and I love her so much.  Our love for her is not based on accomplishment or performance, but on the fact that she is our daughter.  I am excited to continue on this adventure, though with a mix of overwhelming awe and nervousness as well.  I am excited to learn who this little girl is going to be.  I walk forward in humility and dependence on God.  


Happy One Month Jordyn!





Saturday, June 23, 2012

Motherhood





The due date for my first child is 6 days away - which is one of the reasons I'm up at 6:30 am instead of sleeping in on a Saturday morning (cannot wait for comfortable sleep to return...)  As I'm sitting here awake, feeling this baby inside me, I'm feeling overwhelmed but also in awe of the responsibility of motherhood that is about to become mine.  I, along with Kevin, and the support of our families and church family, get to take care of this little person, and help him/ her grow physically, emotionally, spiritually.  I will be the one they run for when they're hurt or sad.  I will be key in directing them to the Lord, in comforting them, in helping them become strong and confident, loving and adventurous, godly and healthy.  It is crazy to think of.


One of the other things I'm thinking of is the great examples of motherhood I have around me that I can look to as I become a mother.  I am very blessed in this regard, and am so glad I do not go into this alone.  Here are a few of the amazing mothers I know and what I have learned from them.


My Mom - I have an amazing mom and I know I will be thankful for her example and her continued support as I become a mom.  She loves very deeply.  She gives freely.  She prays faithfully and believes God answers.  She is not afraid of hard work, and can accomplish amazing things!


My Sister - I have loved watching my sister as a mother, seeing her dream come to life.  She is gentle and purposeful with her girls.  She is willing and able to do difficult things in the moment, knowing that it will be good for her girls in the long run.  She loves and cares for them in such a beautiful way.  It is inspiring to me.


My Mother-in-Law - Kevin's mom is an incredible woman as well.  He often talks about when he was growing up, that she was very intentional about being an active part of his life, playing sports with him and helping him learn how to make healthy and God honoring choices.  


Friends - My friend Melissa instills confidence, creativity and passion for God into her two little boys.  Another friend, Loni is an amazing example of entrepreneurship, beauty and love.  Charmaine is a strong, vibrant woman, and has a heart for worship.  Yolanda is playful and patient.  Liz shows her kids how beautiful a godly marriage can be.  


I am so glad to have these, and many more amazing women in my life as I start this journey.  I hope and pray I can become a great mother as well - God helping me.  

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Context





Growing up as a kid in the church, there are certain verses from the Bible that you learn, memorize and basically have engrained in your mind.  For example –

John 3:16 – God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.
Jeremiah 29:11 – For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.
Philippians 4:4 – Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again, Rejoice.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 – Encourage one another, and build each other up…

These are amazing verses indeed.  However, all of them are little snippets from longer passages, and I wonder what we miss by making them such small, bite size memorable chunks.

Here is where this is coming from.  Yesterday I was listening to a passage of scripture being read, and another one of these verses came up that I have had memorized since I was little.  However, hearing it read in the context of the larger section of scripture, I was amazed at the meaning and depth of the passage that I was missing out on.  I could do this for all of the above scriptures, but I won’t (unless asked…).  But I just want to take a look at the one from yesterday.

The short, bite-sized verse I have memorized is this:
Romans 3:23 – For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

This is a good verse.  It is a true verse, and even on its own, there is a lot to take away from it.  But on its own, where does this verse leave me?  What does this verse say about me, and about God?

I, like everyone, have sinned.  I have fallen short of the glory of God.  God has a standard to which we are to try to live up to, and I cannot do it.  I have disappointed God, and most likely he is angry at me because of this.  My identity is one of failure.  My relationship with God is one of shame.  I’ve messed up and he must be so disappointed in me. 

Now, some of those thoughts are true – I have sinned, I have fallen short, I cannot live up to God’s standard.  But I think where it goes wrong is the conclusions that can be reached about what that means for me, and who God is, what relationship with God is possible.

Bigger context –
Romans 3:21-24 – But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.  This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.  There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

How does this change the understanding of this verse?  


It’s not about me being a failure.  And it’s not about God being angry about that.  It’s about God already knowing how I have failed, how I can never be righteous on my own, and in His crazy love for me, for us, offering us a place at His table because of Jesus sacrifice on the cross.  God is not angry.  God gets it, that we cannot do this without Him.  All who believe are justified freely by his grace.  [justified – made right, validated, accepted…]  We are not just forgiven and therefore tolerated, yet still identified as a failure.  We are forgiven, accepted, made whole, and welcomed into God’s immeasurable love and grace.


When I read Romans 3:23 alone, I feel like a failure, and like God is always going to be fundamentally disappointed in me. 

When I read the larger context (P.S. – try reading all of Ch. 3, or even all of the book of Romans!) – I feel loved, and like God considered me worth fighting for – not because of who I am, but because of who He is.  And I do not feel like God is angry at me.  I feel like God wants me to get it too, to get what He has done for me, and to live as His redeemed child.  

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Time to Rest





Today I'm thankful for...

  • The strong Christian heritage that both Kevin and I have in our families.
  • Celebrating life - The finished race of Opa Van Haren and the new life still growing inside me
  • Unexpected gifts, big and small
  • Rest
  • The beauty of written words
  • Pillows
  • Jello
  • Wireless internet
  • The River Warriors Youth Group - the community and growth we have experienced over the past year
  • My co-workers at Euro-Parts - their support and excitement as I head into maternity leave

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Backwards Economy



Right now I'm reading in Proverbs, and I'm reading it in the Message paraphrase.  This morning this verse struck me.


Proverbs 11:24 - The world of the generous gets larger and larger; the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller.


It struck me in a few different ways.  It would be easy to think that this verse is describing some sort of mystic backwards financial strategy - the more money I give away, the more money I will get.  That somehow God will bless me more financially for giving to others.  To be honest, that's the first thing that came to mind for me.


But I don't think that is what this verse is saying.  I don't even know if this verse is about money primarily.  We can be generous with money, but also with our time, our love, our talents, our possessions, our homes.  


And the world getting larger and larger for the generous?  I think this is about people, not financial return.   As Shane Claiborne would say, this is about a new economy where money loses its power, where the more you give to others, the larger your community becomes and the more we take care of one another.  


The world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller because those who hold onto their money, time and love with clenched fists are only trying to take care of themselves.  They are hoarders of their wealth, cautious with their hearts and because of that their world is confined to the places and people they feel they can control.


The world of the generous gets larger and larger because they are consistently touching more and more peoples lives.  Giving of our money, time, or love doesn't necessarily mean we will get those things back in exact or larger portions, but I think it does mean that God will use our expanding family and community to take care of us when a need arises.  With a perspective of abundance and reliance on God, we love one another, care for one another's needs and burdens, and continue to embrace those who God brings our way.  



Sunday, May 27, 2012

Perspective: Gratitude





One week ago along with my youth group, I was at All Ontario Youth Convention and had the opportunity to  hear Shane Claiborne speak.  One week later, I'm still digesting some of the things I heard that pricked my heart.  One of the questions that I've been faced with this past week is - what does it mean to live a life of gratitude?


Here are some of my own thoughts from this past week that normally would appear normal, but are really born out of an ungrateful heart...

  • Pregnancy is getting really uncomfortable - swollen feet and hands, hurts to walk, hurts to sleep
  • That angry customer I just talked to was a major pain in the neck
  • I'm bored
  • I wish I had enough money to buy...
  • Waking up in the middle of the night is getting very frustrating 
  • The rooms in my house are too small, I wish we had more space
  • It's hot outside
  • and on and on and on....
This past week when thoughts like this have come to mind, some of them have actually caught my attention and made me stop and think.  I need to foster a heart of gratitude instead of self-focused entitlement.  When I think of Jesus, of His love and grace, of the ways God has blessed me, and when I broaden my view to think of others, what they are facing and going through, there is no reason to live ungrateful.

  • I have a beautiful baby growing inside of me when others have not been able to conceive or carry a baby to term
  • I have access to incredible health care that will allow this baby to come into the world healthy and strong, and that will take care of me
  • I have been blessed with a great job that I enjoy, great staff to work with, and a steady income
  • If someone is angry on the phone, I do not know their life situation and what they are going through.  And I have the Spirit with me, to walk with me if I feel hurt by anothers words
  • God provides 
  • I have a house, I have a bed, these are incredible gifts that millions of people go without
  • I live in a wonderful country with changing seasons that all have their own beauty.
  • No matter what I struggle with, God does not treat me as I deserve, but as a Father with his daughter, He treats me with love, grace and forgiveness.  And He walks with me as I try to become more like Him.
I want to live in gratitude each day for who God is and what He has done in my life.  The thing is, it does not stop at merely feeling grateful.  From hearing Shane speak, a life of gratitude goes much further.  It may start with expressing thanks to God, using words, prayers and musical worship to try and express that gratitude.  This is very appropriate and a great response to God for all He has done for us.  But it does not stop there.  

A life of gratitude looks around and says "this is too good to keep to myself" (Shane).  It gives birth to amazing generosity, reckless sharing, and an opening of ones hands and heart.  A life of gratitude looks at the blessings God has given to me - Love, Grace, financial security, food, possessions, knowledge, talents, etc. and says - "I want to let God bless others through me."  Whatever we have in our hands that God has given to us, we can choose to hold onto tightly, or we can use to love and bless others.  A life of gratitude loves and blesses others - and spreads the love and grace of Jesus all over.

This is something I'm still trying to figure out.  And I know God will walk with me through this.  I think it starts with a perspective change, like I was encountering this past week - recognizing my closed hand attitudes of ungratefulness, and choose to instead look with a heart of gratitude at each moment, each joy and struggle I face.  

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Not Far Off



How do we deal with those moments where suddenly (or not so suddenly) God feels far away?  


Last night as I fell asleep my prayer to God was simply saying "I feel like you're far away," and not knowing what else I should say or do to "fix" that.  After a somewhat restless sleep, when I woke up my mind was immediately filled with thoughts of God's love for me.  And I marvelled and thanked Him that His love is so much greater than our love.  He does not move away from us, but when we turn away from Him, and then turn back, He is right there.


I had a similar moment a few months ago.  I was struggling with prayer (still am...).  And at a youth retreat weekend called Shape, we were given time to just sit and be alone with God, to listen for His voice.  So I was talking to Him about how I was struggling with prayer, and I felt the Spirit say "I am not far off.  When you pray, I am right there listening."  


Often since then when I'm not sure what to pray, or when I'm feeling like I did last night, that somehow I have gotten distracted and moved away from God, I feel the prompting of His Spirit say "Remember, I am not far off..."  


I think often when we get to the point where we can feel a distance between us and God, it comes after a longer time of ignoring what is taking us away from Him.  The reason could be sin, fear, or simply busyness and distraction.  I have experienced each of these.  Often I am simply choosing to fill my mind and time with silly things and not putting God first in my life.  Other times, like right now, I have something I am worried about, and rather than surrendering it to Him, I let this distance grow.  


But when I feel God say "I am not far off," I am reminded that the road back to closeness with God is not long and arduous.  There may be things I have to deal with, but getting back to God is as simple as turning around and recognizing that He is right there waiting.  He is not far off.  When I recognize how I have stepped away and when I let Him turn me around, His love is right there to surround me once again.  

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Movement




I love baby movement!  I have been feeling my baby move for about 13 weeks and I have not gotten over it yet.  When the baby moves, it is a sign of life and a sign of growth.  As an expectant mother, it is always a positive thing to feel my baby move.  


But what about for the baby?  I know that every time he (or she) moves, it is not out of excitement and joy of being alive!  Sometimes he is cramped and uncomfortable, trying to find a better position.  Sometimes he is reacting to external stimuli.  If I drink something cold, he might be moving away from that odd sensation.  If there is a loud noise, he might be startled.  If there is a big change from dark to light, again the baby is reacting to something that is new or uncertain.  


Other times the baby is reacting to the sound of my voice talking or singing.  Or he is just awake and moving around for fun.  


But I take all movement as good - all movement is a sign that this baby is growing and alive!  


It has made me wonder...  When we cry out to God in hard circumstances, when we figuratively (or literally?) kick and scream over discomfort in our lives, when we react to new or uncomfortable things - does God get excited because these are signs of life?  Does He say - Yes!  She's growing, she's going through things that are going to develop her character and make her more into the woman I'm forming her to be! 


I know this is too simplistic - I know that God grieves with us when we grieve, that He is bringing His Kingdom, and He is in the process of making all things new, doing away with pain, suffering and death.  And I know He tells us to cast our cares on Him because He cares for us.  But I still wonder if from His perspective, when we struggle and wrestle with hard things, if to Him this is a sign of life and growth that excites Him for what He knows is coming.  

Monday, April 16, 2012

Anticipating Change





Today I am thankful for...



  • Feeling weightless, floating in a pool, when normally right now I'm feeling very weighed down
  • Buffet breakfasts
  • Finding sweet deals!
  • Quality time with my amazing best friend and husband
  • Gelato!
  • Taking the scenic route
  • The hope we feel of what's all to come in the next few months
  • Continued daily kicking sessions from my little baby
  • My amazing husband who walks painfully slow with me because of my cramping body, who trusts me and loves me, who can put Ikea furniture together like none other!
  • Days that have no schedule or agenda, just open possibility before you
  • Rest
  • Rearranging furniture
  • Love

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Jesus Last Hours





If I knew I was going to die within the next 24 hours, what would I do?  This sounds like a creepy icebreaker question at a party, but it is actually the question I started my day off with yesterday.  


I think if I did know I was going to die within the next day, I would be very sad and scared.  Not scared without hope, because I know I am in God's hands - but still scared of the unknown experience ahead.  I would cry and hug my husband and make sure he knows how deeply I love him.  I'm not sure if there is much more I would be capable of doing in a moment like that.  


Yesterday was Good Friday, the day we remember that Jesus died for us, that He willingly endured the torture of death on a cross so that he could extend God's grace and love to every one of us.  So the night before Jesus died, while He knew what was about to happen, what did Jesus do?


I spent some time yesterday reading John chapters 13 to 19.  This is what Jesus did in the hours before being arrested, put on trial, and crucified.  He was with his disciples, teaching them, comforting them, preparing them for what was ahead.  In these last hours, His words to His disciples included these - 


Serve each other, as I have served you
Love each other, as I have loved you
Trust in Me
Peace I leave with you
Do not be afraid
Remain in Me
I chose you
Listen to the Spirit I will send, learn from Him
There is sadness ahead, but there is even greater joy ahead!
In this world you will have trouble, but take heart - I have overcome the world.


And then He prayed for them (and for us!) - 
For them to know God and therefore have real life in God 
For them to be unified, as Jesus is unified with the Father
For protection, to remain faithful to the Truth in a world of evil and lies.
For maturity, for oneness, for God and His love to be seen in them


Jesus, knowing He was mere hours from death, poured love onto His disciples.  Taught them and strengthened them with words that they wouldn't even understand until later.  Jesus did not succumb to fear of what was ahead for himself, but turned to his disciples to comfort and prepare them for what was ahead for them.  


I am amazed by my Lord, my Saviour, of His selfless love, His willing sacrifice, His offer of grace to me and to everyone.  By His wounds we are healed.