I am excited to let you know that this blog is moving to a new location! Please visit jessrietema.wordpress.com to continue with me in any future thoughts and writings.
Monday, July 29, 2013
After an unintentional blogging hiatus, today I am hoping to ease my way back in. About six weeks ago there was a disruption to my life that completely changed my schedule. It's called going back to work. Maternity leave is over and I have been back on the job since late May. Thankfully, I genuinely enjoy my job and thankfully my girl is doing amazing in daycare, so the transition has been as smooth as possible.
I have really enjoyed using this blog over the past few years as a way to "think outloud" so to speak. It has been a place for me to process thoughts and challenges on my own journey as a follower of Jesus, a wife, a mother, a friend. It has also been amazing to be a source of encouragement and challenge for others as they have read my blog. Lately I have been trying to figure out the right place for writing in my life, how to properly continue this blog, how to be more consistent, how to actually add value and not just more noise.
But today as a way of putting thoughts down once again, and as a way of re-orienting my heart at the start of a new week, I want to focus on thankfulness. Today I am thankful for...
- The sounds of my daughter waking up each morning, talking to herself, sounding rested and happy
- Visiting with family, especially those who live far away that I haven't seen in a while
- The feeling of lying down in bed after a long and busy day
- Getting to connect with different people who are all at their own place in their journey with God
- Discovering new favourite foods - like blueberries and oatmeal.
- The power of reading the Bible, how it is alive and able to transform me when I come with an open heart to hear from God
- Learning more about who God is - a caring Father, relentlessly loving, slow to anger, full of grace
- Summertime activities like bonfires, beach days, sandal wearing, berry picking and watching thunderstorms
- Being married to an amazing man who inspires me daily in life and in faith
What are you thankful for today??
If you have a thought on this blog post, an idea for a future post, or a question for me, I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!
Sunday, June 9, 2013
There is a powerful song performed by Kim Walker called "How He Loves Us". I heard it for the first time around five years ago and I was completely taken by how the music and lyrics portray the exhilarating, breath-taking reality that God loves us. It is still a very meaningful song to me and a fairly popular one among many Christians. However, there is one line in the song that has never quite sat right with me before.
The second verse ends, "...Heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss / And my heart turns violently inside of my chest / I don't have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way / He loves us, Oh how he loves us..."
When I heard "sloppy wet kiss" the only image that was brought to mind was adolescences who had not quite mastered the art of kissing. Any kiss I had experienced that could be described as "sloppy" and "wet" had not been enjoyable. Why would we use such an image to describe heaven meeting earth, God's love coming down to touch our hearts? If a kiss was being given from heaven to us, I can only assume it would not be sloppy or distasteful in any way! All of this changed in the last week.
I recently have been trying to teach my 11-month old daughter how to give kisses. For a few weeks I have been saying "kiss", and leaning in to kiss her forehead or cheek, hoping sometime the connection would be made and she would mimic this sign of affection back to me. And finally it happened. As she sat on my lap facing me, her chin was covered in drool and her mouth was wide open, but when I asked her for a kiss, she leaned her little face right into mine and planted her sloppy, wet kiss right on my lips! My heart filled to bursting with love and joy and pride and happiness as I received my first kiss from this dear little girl!
And almost right away I thought of this line from this song. I realized heaven is not the sloppy kisser, we are! Heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss as we lean in to respond to God's invitation through grace. And when we get it for the first time, when we hear God's "Can I have a kiss?" and lean our messy, wet faces to kiss His, it is not uncomfortable or awkward. It is delightful! God's heart fills to bursting with a Father's love and He is so ecstatic at our return of His affection. He cheers and claps and swings us around in a big bear hug. When we become aware of His overwhelming love, that He is not evaluating, but delighting in us as we surrender to Him, our hearts get rearranged. We cannot hold on to sorrow, regret, or our "if only's" because He loves us!
Oh how He loves us!
Friday, May 17, 2013
Recently the youth group I help lead got to hear a guest speaker talking about his work as an aviator missionary in Mongolia. It was very interesting to hear about the various flights he has made as well as about the culture of the country he serves in.
After his talk, there was a question and answer period, and he was asked about the church in Mongolia, and if there is anything the North American church could learn from them.
He said in Mongolia the church has no denominations. He said we could learn to put aside our differences and focus on what unifies us - the gospel, loving people.
No denominations. I can barely imagine what it is like to have no denominations. I never really considered that outside of North America there are places where the Church does not experience the same fragmentation that we do here. I am so used to being divided by secondary issues, that it truly surprised me to think about a Christian community that does not define itself by the details of what it believes outside of Christ.
All of this made me me think of a quote I read in The Good and Beautiful Community by James Bryan Smith. He writes, "We simply must not divide over things we cannot fully understand. Especially in light of the fact that what we can understand, what is not a murky mystery but a blinding truth, is something we can all agree on: Jesus is Lord! If your heart beats in love for Jesus, then take my hand and we will walk together in fellowship." Our differences of opinion on the things we can only partially understand do not override our unity on the one essential thing we do understand. Again Smith says, "If you do not look, act, worship or believe as I do, but your heart beats in love for Jesus, then regardless of our differences, we can and must have fellowship with one another."
What does it look like to have fellowship with one another, regardless of non-essential beliefs? It would not be merely putting up with each other. It would mean genuinely having community with each other - love, growth, mutual grace and taking care of one another. It would mean understanding that there are a diverse number of ways to faithfully follow Christ. It would mean being humble enough to recognize that my own understanding of Scripture and of who God is, is still just a best attempt at truly seeing the truth, and that we have a more complete picture together.
I looked up the word fellowship, and one of the things I found was that it is directly related to the words communion and community. If you are a follower of Jesus, then you are in community with every other follower of Jesus. We are united around Christ, around His grace and love. We are united around the sacrifice He made which broke his body and shed his blood for our redemption. We are united around the table, around remembering and celebrating Christ. We are a diverse, beautiful group of people that have fellowship based on Jesus Christ alone.
If your heart beats in love for Jesus, then take my hand and we will walk together in fellowship
Monday, May 13, 2013
This morning I am feeling grateful that I was able to celebrate Mothers Day yesterday for the first time as a Mom. It has been great to celebrate my Mom in the past as a daughter, but now I'm also one of the ones being celebrated. This past ten months has been a wild ride but so full of laughter, fun and love. It's something you can never go back from. No matter where life leads now, I will always be a mother.
One thing I have been contemplating leading up to Mothers Day is that motherhood inevitably includes both joy and scars. The joy comes in millions of moments like your first ultrasound, holding your baby for the first time, a first year filled with many firsts - smiling, rolling, crawling, walking. There is joy in watching your children grow, develop their own personality and identity, learning and becoming amazing people along the way. The joyful moments are plenty, but there are also moments that cause scars.
For some, motherhood includes the scars of waiting, longing, and even losing.
There are the physical scars of growing, stretching and giving birth.
There are life changes and personal sacrifices that can never fully be anticipated.
There are heart battle wounds from needing to discipline your child, from watching them make mistakes and get hurt, and from moving from being their closest companion to seeing them be embarrassed by you in front of their friends.
There are the bittersweet mile markers of a life-long process of your child becoming an independent adult that include everything from taking your child to daycare to helping them move out after high school to watching them start a life of their own.
Being a mother is a beautiful thing. But even in my first year of it there has been both joy and pain, both memories that I will cherish all my life and scars that will always be a part of who I now am.
So whether you have given birth to a child, raised a child or even just longed for a child, Happy Mothers Day! Be aware of God's presence with you through all the moments motherhood brings.
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
For me, I follow a few of my favourite writers, speakers and bakers as they share their thoughts via blogs, facebook and twitter. If Don Miller has a thought he would like to share, I can know about it within minutes. When Michael Hyatt posts a blog that impacts me, I can not only read it but comment and engage in the community discussion that the post creates. I have heard of others who have built relationships with such online mentors, even growing to the point of sharing guest posts on their websites or collaborating on projects together through this online connection.
On a couple occasions I have even had writers respond directly to me when I have commented on their blogs. There is something about knowing that they read my comment and replied themselves that is really exciting to me. Yes, this might make me a nerd. I'm ok with that.
However, in all of this one thing I am learning is that those that I consider celebrities are still just people. They share their thoughts on things they love and are excited about, and attract like-minded people. They are well known and successful but still probably find the most satisfaction in being loved by family and spending time with good friends. They make mistakes, get tired or frustrated, and on occasion have to deal with the shadow side of their lives within their online community too.
I do get excited about the idea of connecting with deep theological thinkers, creative writers, and leaders in various areas of life. I will continue engaging with these people at the level that I am able, and enjoying my occasional online brushes with fame. But the reality is I most likely still will not become their friends, or meet them face to face. And that's ok.
In his song Whom Shall I Fear, Chris Tomlin wrote the line, "The One who reigns forever, He is a friend of mine. The God of angel armies is always by my side." This blows my excitement about blog post comments out of the water. Forget about fame and celebrity status. Forget about being well known for writing transformational books or baking decadent new treats. The Creator of all people, all beauty, all love knows me. He doesn't just read my comments. He doesn't just know about me. He knows me intimately and is with me. He loves me and invites me to walk every day in His presence. He is not a celebrity but the King of kings, and I am His!
Thursday, April 11, 2013
I have to admit, when I woke up this morning and saw the ground dusted with snow, and more of it falling from the sky, my first thoughts were not happy or grateful. No, they were more along the lines of - how much more of this can we take? I am completely ready for spring. Ready to be able to walk outside without boots and a toque. Ready to teach my girl about grass and bugs and sun protection!
However, it quickly dawned on me that even though it is snowing, I am safe and warm inside my home, and I still have plenty to be thankful for today. So this is an exercise in choosing to be grateful and filled with joy rather than focusing on the negative.
Today I am thankful for...
- My home. That we are not homeless or nomads, needing to endure the elements all day and night. I am thankful to be inside and warm
- My family. My husband and daughter are sources of joy that do not leave me whatever the season
- Maternity Leave. Today I am thankful to live in a country that allows me to be home for a year with my baby. It is such a huge blessing.
- God's presence. That he comes alongside me when I'm being drawn to a bad attitude, and guides me to His love and joy.
- The promise of Spring. Even though it's snowing in April, it is still April!
What are you thankful for today?
Monday, April 8, 2013
A haven is a peaceful place in the midst of danger. A dry place to find cover from the pouring rain. A safe place to be vulnerable. A loving place to be truly yourself. It is where you set out from and where you return to. Where you are strengthened and embraced.
As a wife and mother, I love the idea of viewing our home as a haven, and viewing one of my roles in our family as creating and maintaining that safe environment. Our daughter is still in a stage where she does not often leave our care. I hope that at this point her entire awareness is love, comfort and being taken care of. So as I have been thinking about how I can make my home a haven, I have primarily been thinking about how to do this for my husband. Right now I am on maternity leave and Kevin is working full time.When I do go back to work, I am thankful my job is one I can easily leave at work. Kevin's primary work is in a ministry position that requires him to invest not only his time, but his heart as well. He holds a position with more responsibility and weight to it. It is good, and it is tiring. I love the idea of being intentional about making our home a haven for him to come home to. I have spent some time thinking of a few things I can do to make our home a haven for Kevin.
First of all, I can take care of him. Do the daily life things that make him feel cared for. Make a tasty, healthy meal at the end of the day. Keep his clothes clean and dry. Take the few moments it takes to tidy the house before he gets home. Buy the groceries and bake the treats. And I have been learning more and more to do these things without asking for his opinion. He can truly feel at home and relax when these things are taken care of for him.
Next, I can share his burdens. Listen, without talking. Let him share his heart and help him figure things out. Be his sounding board. Support him through hard days and tough decisions. Recognize the responsibilities he has, the pressure he is under, and be the woman he comes home to when he needs to let it all out. Be his wife, his best friend, his confidante. Be trustworthy.
Finally, I can love him unconditionally. This includes all of the above and so much more. Make him feel noticed. Have fun and laugh. Hug and kiss. Let him be himself and make sure he knows he is accepted just as he is. Be aware of his needs and purpose to meet them out of love, not duty. Spend time with him. Make him aware of how you feel about him.
These ideas are really just an attempt to put words to a heart attitude. Is being a wife simply my half of a marriage contract that means cooking, cleaning and taking care of children? Or is being a wife a sacred privilege in which I get to uphold this man I love in both simple and significant ways? I want my husband to feel strengthened when he sets out each morning, and embraced when he returns home each day. I want him to feel our home is his haven.
I would love to hear your thoughts. If you are a wife or mother, or even if you just think about how you can make a haven for yourself, please feel free to leave a comment.
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Up until a few weeks ago, if someone had asked me what my earliest memory is, I have a handful of memories from around age five that immediately come to mind. I remember being in church at an evening service as a small child, lying down in the pew and watching the pastor talking. I remember lying on the floor after jumping off the stairs, which resulted in a broken arm. I remember a birthday party when my birthday cake was a barbie doll in a princess dress.
However, recently my mom gave me this amazing scrapbook she had complied throughout my childhood that detailed each year of school from pre-school until high school graduation. There were class pictures, newspaper clippings, drawings I had done, and details recorded of what teachers I had, what girls I was friends with, big events from that year. It was so fun to look through this book at a mini-version of myself and remember things that I haven't thought about in years. One fun thing that happened while I was looking at this scrapbook was that I recalled a memory that would have been earlier than all the other "first" memories I could have listed before. I very distinctly remember being in preschool, sitting at the table and finger painting with chocolate pudding. I would have been either three or four years old at the time. I have a new earliest memory!
I have always considered myself someone who has a poor memory and have often had trouble remembering lots of things from my childhood. And often when I do try to remember, I remember the bad memories way faster than the good memories. The friends who hurt me, the struggle of being a chubby kid, the months of bullying, the boys I liked who didn't like me back. The reality is, many things that happened in childhood are what produced wounds in my heart and emotional struggles for me as an adult. Perhaps it is not that I have a bad memory, but that something inside me feels it is easier not to remember.
But throughout the days after looking through this book, literally dozens, if not hundreds, of happy memories resurfaced from my childhood. Playing with the water toys outside in my primary grades, going trick or treating with my best friends, different class projects and field trips, family vacations, church kids group sleep-overs, Easter breakfasts, Christmas traditions, singing as a family and on and on. It felt good to remember.
From a few different sources I have been learning that there is a much better alternative to trying to repress painful or hurtful memories. As with me, often if we try to block out the pain of our past, we block out the joy and grace in our past as well. Instead of doing this we can bear honest witness to those memories and then take them to Jesus and let Him redeem them. Jesus is not shocked by our past. He not only knows it already, but was with us through every moment. I have deeply appreciated being able to remember those moments that caused emotional scars and ask Jesus to reveal how He was present with me in those moments. Even better, I have loved releasing that pain to Him and letting him redeem those memories.
I find myself in a new place lately where I can think back and embrace both the fun memories of childhood and the hurtful ones with openness and grace. I do not have to distance myself from my past, but know that Jesus was present then, is with me now, and will continue walking with me as I move forward.
What is your earliest memory? How have you dealt with memories that cause you pain?
Thursday, February 21, 2013
A song I heard recently described God as the Everlasting Day. This struck a chord very deep within me. No night, ever again. Just glorious, unending day and day and day.
In the Bible, Revelation talks about just this in 21:23 "The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp." In the future kingdom of God, there will be no more night just beautiful day illuminated by Gods glory. But we're not there yet, are we? Well, yes and no.
In this life we experience both night and day. Literally and figuratively. Each 24 hours brings once again the setting of the sun and the world plunged into darkness. We obviously still have night. And we can also go through moments or seasons that are marked by pain or confusion or bewilderment that it feels internally like the pitch black of night. Darkness and night are marked by fear, blindness, sorrow and long hours of unanswered questions. We do not always feel awake, alive, or lit up in life. Sometimes we want to hide in the dark, want to find a corner to curl up in where no one can see us, comfort us or question us. We feel the pull to succumb to the night. And sometimes the night feels long. If you have ever woken from a bad dream in the night and not been able to sleep, sunrise feels very far away. In the same way, if you have had to endure a particularly painful and dark time in your life, the hope associated with day could not feel further from you. So do we just wait for the distant someday when we will be in this everlasting day?
2 Corinthians 4:6 says, "For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God's glory displayed in the face of Christ." The everlasting day resides inside of us if we have made Christ Lord. Christ's Spirit inside of us gives us a taste of that everlasting day.
We also need to remember that even in our dark moments God, who is light, is present with us. Even in our grief, our fear, our anger, our confusion, the times that we cannot see anything because we are in the dark, God is not in the dark. Psalm 139:11-12 says, "If I say, 'Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,' even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you."
I remember one time I had a really rough night where I was plagued by fear so strong it gripped my heart and I felt desperate, alone and without hope. There was a time in my life where this was more common, especially in the dark of night. Early the next morning, I was sitting in the living room by a large window as the sun came up. The physical presence of light broke into my dark place and melted my fear. I remember that being one of the sweetest moments, feeling wrapped tight in God's loving arms. He hadn't left me for a moment, he could see through the darkness that I experienced. But the light brought with it an awareness for me of His presence. Now I know that this same light and hope live inside me, so that even in the darkest moments, I do not need to fear. The Everlasting Day is with me.
Feel free to leave a comment sharing what you think or what you have experienced...
Thursday, February 14, 2013
My baby girl was just recently in a stage where when she wanted to move forwards, she actually ended up moving backwards. (She has since progressed to a forward motion baby-style army crawl, but not yet to full out crawling). It was super cute to watch. You could see the look in her eyes when a toy was just out of reach. She wanted that toy, and was determined to get there. But the harder she tried to reach for it, push up on her arms and kick her legs, the further away she would get from it. I'm sure other parents are familiar with this stage. You can leave the room for just a few minutes, and come back to find your little one caught in some obscure corner of the room between the wall, the couch and the side table, not able to get out. Or as one of my friends experienced, the baby would end up under the couch with just her little fingers sticking out. Obviously this causes serious frustration in these developing mini people. Not only can they not reach the toy they want, but they end up in a totally unexpected, awkward and possibly even painful spot. Stuck and unable to get to where they want to be.
Sometimes I feel like this happens as we try to live Christ-like lives. I can see the life I want - living in freedom, experiencing intimacy with God, walking daily in step with the Spirit, reaching a place of victory over this struggle or that one. And yet the more I try to get there, the worse off I seem to get. The harder I try, the more I move backwards. The more I move backwards, the more frustrated I get. Remind anyone else of Romans chapter 7? "Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!"
Thankfully it is not about trying harder to get there. Becoming more like Christ is not an object just out of reach. Instead, it is something the Spirit does inside of us. More like a baby growing. There does come a day when they can move forward and get to the toy, but it isn't accomplished purely by their will to get there and keep trying. It is accomplished by the growth that is happening in their body that over time gives them the strength to crawl forward and go places they have not been able to go before. Likewise, the Spirit is transforming us on the inside, so that one day that spiritual fruit that seems completely out of reach becomes a part of who He has made you to be.
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
This wintery morning I am thankful for...
- Snow - It has been a remarkably beautiful winter here.
- Snow plows - and those who drive them! After literally driving through some snow drifts last night, having clear roads in winter is so much more appreciated
- Warmth - being able to look out at the snow from the warmth of home.
- Team - met with all the youth leaders last night and deeply appreciate working as part of a team where each person has different strengths and uses them accordingly
- Baby Babble - who knew that "ba ba ba" could be such a beautiful sound?
- Friends - to talk to, to laugh with, to spend time with, to wrestle with life with...
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
This morning in the midst of getting my girl up, fed and dressed, and trying to make a plan for a busy day ahead that is at the mercy of the snow squalls happening outside, I was drawn to pause by the morning light. We have gotten lots of snow the past few days, and it is forecast to keep coming. As the dark of early morning slowly started lightening up, I had to pause to notice the beauty. Snow piled high on the deck, untouched in the yard, hanging heavy on tree branches. Snow a blueish-grey in the early morning light. It was so beautiful. I was reminded of Matthew 6 where Jesus speaks of the flowers in the field, which God so magnificently clothes with no effort from themselves. How Jesus declared their beauty to far surpass the clothing made by human hands. This winter morning blanket of snow is more beautiful and worthy of my attention than a lot of the other things I could choose to spend my time on today. And though my day must move on, I paused to appreciate God's handiwork this morning.
Thursday, January 17, 2013
Happy Belated New Year to each one of you! We were in Alberta visiting family the two weeks after Christmas, so even though we are 17 days into the year, I feel like it is still just starting!
Last night I experienced something that is fairly common for me. My baby girl has been struggling with a cold on and off for the past few weeks, and last night her cough sounded pretty rough. So even though all three of us were tucked into our beds, and both my hubby and daughter were sleeping, that occasional nasty cough kept this mama awake for far too long. It isn't always a coughing daughter, but often when something keeps me awake at night, that's when it happens.