Blog

A (Harsher) Word On Encouragement

The Miriam-Webster dictionary defines Encouragement in three ways:

  1. a. to inspire with courage, spirit, or hope
    b. to attempt to persuade
  2. to spur on
  3. to give help or patronage to

When was the last time you felt encouraged?  What brought about that feeling?  Chances are, it was probably someone who said something positive or uplifting to you or did something for you simply out of the kindness of their heart.  It’s a great feeling, isn’t it?  To be encouraged.  To have someone believe in us, cheer for us, help us, pray for us.  Sometimes, the encouragement we receive can make us feel as though we’re on top of the world, as if we are capable of accomplishing any task, no matter how difficult it may be.  But that’s because there’s power behind encouragement, isn’t there?

Why is that?  How can someone’s words or actions impact our own in such a drastic way?  I think it’s for the same reason that when another person speaks hurtful or unkind things about us or even to us, we cringe.  It hurts!

We were made FOR community and to be IN community.

It’s simply a part of the divine creation and order of things.  God made us to be a communal people.  His design and intent was never that His children would walk alone in this world, to strive to be able to do things on our own, or to even have to do things on our own.  You only have to look at Scripture to find truth to that.

So who encourages you?  Who spurs you on “towards love and good deeds”? (Hebrews 10:24)  Who encourages you and builds you up? (1 Thessalonians 5:11)  If you don’t have somebody who can speak life into your life, what are you doing about it?  Have you sought out a mentor or do you just sit miserably on your couch and “hope” someone will befriend and encourage you?  That might sound harsh, but know that you aren’t alone.  I was like you…for years.

“Where do I start?”, you might ask.  Great question!  My best suggestion is church.  If you don’t have a home church, start by finding one.  If you do have a home church, start by getting involved!  And no, the excuse of: “I just don’t have time” doesn’t fly with me.  You obviously have five minutes to sit and read this blog, so obviously you have five minutes you could spend helping out at church (granted…extenuating circumstances aside).  It can be small!  Maybe, for you, it looks like talking to the church secretary and asking how you can help with only five minutes of spare time – maybe that’s thinking of craft ideas for a Sunday School class, maybe it’s being an usher one Sunday morning and handing out bulletins before the service starts, maybe it’s offering to make an extra loaf of bread (or buy one while you’re already at the grocery store) for communion.  Maybe you have more time and you can help with teaching a Sunday School class, leading a Bible study one night a week, or helping with the Kids Clubs at your church.  When you do these things – when you “get involved”, you get to know other people on a deeper level than just your regular Sunday morning pew-warming neighbours.  And let’s be honest – how well do you REALLY know the people who warm the pews around your specific, self-allotted section?  Probably not that well.  But getting involved opens up new opportunities to meet fellow believers who are just like you – people who love Jesus.  The issue is – you can’t stop here.

Getting to know other people requires real work.  It involves opening the doors of your home to others, practising hospitality (Romans 12:3), regardless of how big…or tiny your home is.  Truly, the size of your home matters very little compared to the size of your heart – that, THAT is what people will see.  THAT is what will attract others to you.  So stop focusing on your own self-loathing and get out there!  Do what you can with what you have, regardless of how little that may be.  When you start to get to know people,  you start to care for them, to love them – so show it by your actions.  “My children, our love should not be only words and talk.  No, our love must be real.  We must show our love by the things we do.” – 1 John 3:18  In doing that, you may be moving mountains for others in ways you may never see here in this lifetime.  But these are the things that matter in eternity.  So what are you doing with what you’ve been given?  Are you keeping it all to yourself or are you sharing generously with others?  (My reference here is to the Parable of the Talents – Matthew 25:14-30)  Are you making a “profit” for the kingdom of heaven?  If not, don’t you think it’s about time you start?

“But, I thought this was about getting encouragement!?”

It is.  When you invest your time, your energy, your love, your wisdom into others (not for selfish gain), you can’t help but be encouraged.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” – Galatians 6:9

“Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves.” – Philippians 2:3

When you get to know some other older, wiser, godly women in your church family, consider asking one of them to mentor you.  The format of a mentorship relationship can be as formal or informal as you like – you’re the one requesting it!  But pray about it and make your requests clearly known, to God – He will provide one if you ask Him to, and to the person you choose to ask to enter into that mentor relationship with you.  Do NOT be discouraged, however, if they say “No”.  “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” – Romans 12:12  If, however, they say “Yes”, don’t be a drain!  Ask for that encouragement but also seek to be an encouragement to them.  Ask about their life, how you can be praying for them, etc.  Encouragement is not and should never be a one-way street.  The Bible is pretty clear on that.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice!  Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace.  And the God of love and peace will be with you.”  – 2 Corinthians 13:11

“Therefore, encourage one another…” – 1 Thessalonians 4:18

“Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up…” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today’, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” – Hebrews 3:13

Who do you need to go to and encourage right now?

Forgiveness – The Unexpected Gift of Freedom

It’s springtime here.  And it’s beautiful.  We moved last September to a tiny, hamlet-style town just 20 minutes from the city.  We love our new home…and neighbourhood.  I have absolutely no green-thumb, but my yards are completely (and meticulously) landscaped (from the previous owners).  Each time I bring the children outside to play, I’m constantly checking the shrubs and perennials that line our fence.  I check often because I have no clue if I’m supposed to be pruning off the dead, stick-like stems of what were once beautiful flowers just months ago, or if I should leave them in hopes of a miraculous, life-like appearance once again.  But each time I go outside, the signs of new life are everywhere.  The trees are budding and tiny, green shoots are peeking through the rock beds.  Each time I venture into my own backyard, I witness something new and alive.  It’s beautiful.  Miraculous!

It’s Sunday afternoon.  The thunder rolled and the rain poured.  The puddles are deep and wide.  Peacefully, my children napped through the storm.  After waking from her rest, my daughter took one look outside and her face awoke with excitement, eyes widened, a smile cracking, revealing an inner joy.  To add to the already blossoming excitement, she saw her friend already outside jumping in the puddles on our cul-de-sac.  I had the ultimate joy of sitting in my livingroom, watching the girls play on our street, running through the puddles and squealing as they chased their umbrellas which were tumbling around in the wind.  For some reason my five-year-old thought that having her umbrella run away on her was the most hysterical thing in the world.  I smiled, listening to the rain gently fall, and the squeals of glee, mixed with the all-out gutteral bursts of laughter coming from my daughter.  Is there anything more beautiful and peaceful than the joy that comes from listening to the sounds of your child’s laughter, or to witness their pure and innocent joy and happiness?

When we witness the happiness of our children, it brings a rush of joy to our hearts and souls.  Think about it.  Why do parents go to the ends of the earth to find that lost teddy bear?  Why do parents painfully pull out their wallets once again at the carnival when they see the pleading in their child’s eyes to play that game or ride that ride just one more time?  Why do we lavish gifts on our children at Christmastime (or Easter, or Valentine’s day, or for the really bad ones…Arbour day? ;))  If you’re like me, chances are you’ve probably even thought something similar to, “OK, I mean it.  This year, I’m going cheap.  They have more than enough toys.  They really don’t need anything!  A couple small gifts each.  That’s all they really need.”  The next thing you know, you’ve spent $400 at Costco (on the kids gifts alone) and you didn’t actually think through how you were going to get all of your purchases home.  Or maybe you’ve stood in line for hours (or days) on Black Friday awaiting the massive sales on toys – that special one your child has been eyeing for weeks.  Of course, I always think it’s sad how we rush out to get more stuff after we just finished celebrating Thanksgiving – the holiday where we are supposed to be thankful for the things we do own…but I digress.  Why do we put ourselves through all of that hassle?  I think it’s because, sometimes, we live for that moment – the build-up – when they finally open that gift and you get to see their widened eyes, their mouths open in awe, sometimes with squeals of delight or sometimes with no words at all – that moment where joy and happiness radiate off of your child.  At the core, we are selfish people.  Yes, we want to bring joy and happiness to our children, but being able to witness it – that does something for us as well.  It brings joy and happiness to us.  We can’t help but smile.  We might even shed a tear depending on the situation and we might even think, “Yup!  It was all worth it.”

Basking in the moment of listening to my daughter’s joy, I had to wonder if that’s how God feels about His children.  It only makes sense.  Having a child tends to reveal a depth of love which I don’t think most of us know we are even capable of producing.  The moment a child is brought into the world and placed into our care, instinct sets in.  Regardless of the kind of parent you are, regardless if you let your kids watch too much t.v. or none at all, regardless if you let them eat only chips for supper or if you provide a full-balanced meal, regardless if you scream at your kids sometimes or are completely calm and collected all of the time (you’re a liar by the way), regardless if your baby has sat in that poopy diaper for 20 minutes longer than he probably should have or if your child was potty trained right from birth, regardless if you live with your child or only get to see them every other weekend, regardless of our failings or shortcomings, when our child is threatened or hurt, that also does something to us.  We either rise up as an evil monster comes out of us to do whatever it takes to protect our child, or our hearts will break as we watch them suffer and learn the hard knocks of life on their own terms.  We are connected to them because they are our own and we love them.  Just like God is to us.

How He must hurt when we hurt.  How He must wish we wouldn’t have made some of the decisions we did.  How He must ache draw near and comfort us.  How He must want to guide us in healthy directions, keeping us from harm.  How He must yearn to take our place sometimes so we don’t have to go through the pain of learning or paying for our mistakes on our own.  Oh, wait.  He did.  Over 2000 years ago, on a cross, on a hill called Golgotha.  Because we are His own and He loves us.

Can you imagine how it must have felt to watch His only Son be tortured?  Spit on?  Mocked and ridiculed?  To witness the false accusations against Him and sit by and say nothing?

How deep the Father’s love for us?  How vast beyond all measure!  

For sending His only Son to die a death that was never deserved, He sure doesn’t ask for a lot in return.  As a loving Father, He seeks to steer us toward paths of righteousness – good things!  He desires to keep us from the hurt that this world brings.  He asks for our trust, our belief, and our obedience.  If you think of God in any manner but a kind, compassionate, and loving Father, you must think Him to be demanding, cruel, and a keeper from a life full of fun and happiness.

But just suppose for a moment He is Who He says He is.  Suppose for a moment that He actually is the way, the truth, and the life?  What if He is good?  What if He is kind?  What if He is the best example of what a loving parent ought to look like?  What if He actually tells the truth and means what He says?  At first glance, what God asks for in return – our trust, our belief, and our obedience – doesn’t seem all that impossible.  But when we take a closer look, these three little words have big implications on every aspect of our lives.  But I want to look at one specific area of obedience that Christ calls His children to – an area in which God has been teaching me a lot about lately –

Forgiveness.

Do you cringe when you hear that word?  Maybe you’re even thinking, “Oh, she’s going there?  Nope!”, and proceed to exit this webpage.  But if we haven’t fully forgiven, doesn’t it just mean that we aren’t spiritually mature enough to face that area of our lives?  Harsh, I know!  But nevertheless, true?

Two points I want to make right from the get-go:

  1. Forgiveness does NOT mean that you must continue in a relationship with somebody who has harmed you or hurt you.  Forgiveness takes only one person.
  2. Forgiveness is NOT the same as reconciliation.  Reconciliation takes two people.

So what IS forgiveness?  Forgiveness is the relinquishment of your desire for vengeance and justice against the person who has wronged you.  From her book, Passion Pursuit, Author Juli Slattery states,

You must understand that the forgiveness God has called you to, for yourself and others, does not compete with justice.  The loving Savior who hung on the cross is still the judge who is seated at the right hand of the Father.  He is still the Righteous One who says that, “Everything done in secret will be exposed.” (Mark 4:22)

But this righteous judge has another name: Redeemer.  He brings redemption for one reason – because He loves.

Forgiveness brings freedom – to you.  It has nothing to do with the person who has wronged you.  Extending forgiveness releases your hold of anger, vengeance, justice, grudges, and hostility – on yourself.  It frees you to be at peace.  It does not mean that when something unlawful has occurred, you refrain from making a report to the local authorities or don’t press charges.  It does mean that you:

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor [perpetual animosity, resentment, strife, fault-finding] and slander be put away from you, along with every kind of malice [all spitefulness, verbal abuse, malevolence].

And instead, choose to:

Be kind and helpful to one another, tender-hearted [compassionate, understanding], forgiving one another [readily and FREELY], just as God in Christ also forgave you.

Wow!  What a calling!  And yet…when we stop focusing on the sin of others and “look at the log (the bigger sins) in our own eye” (Matthew 7:3), we slowly come to a place of humility.  Before the perfect God in heaven, recognizing our own sin, we can’t help but fall prostrate in repentance.  In that very moment, forgiving others from their “debt” against us, becomes significantly easier.  But in that moment of our own sin recognition, we also come to a place where we realize that we must also forgive ourselves.  I would argue that, most often, forgiveness of self is the most difficult kind of forgiveness we could ever extend.  Upon realization of our own sin, self-forgiveness becomes almost impossible – because there are weights attached to it.  It would mean the relinquishment of guilt.  It would mean letting go of the shame we are burdened so heavily with.  It would mean freedom from our own personal vengeance and justice – letting go of the self-inflicted need to suffer for our sins.  It means letting go of your own pride – your independent desire “to settle your own score, pay your own bill, make your own way” (Passion Pursuit, p. 142).  Let me be very clear:

WE CANNOT SAVE OURSELVES.

BUT, we can, however, place ourselves in a similar posture of the woman from Luke 7, before the ultimate Savior and Redeemer.  Do you remember her?  This is the woman who had “sinned much”.  From Luke 7:36-50 (TLB):

36 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to come to his home for lunch and Jesus accepted the invitation. As they sat down to eat,

37 a woman of the streets—a prostitute—heard he was there and brought an exquisite flask filled with expensive perfume.

38 Going in, she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping, with her tears falling down upon his feet; and she wiped them off with her hair and kissed them and poured the perfume on them.

39 When Jesus’ host, a Pharisee, saw what was happening and who the woman was, he said to himself, “This proves that Jesus is no prophet, for if God had really sent him, he would know what kind of woman this one is!

40 Then Jesus spoke up and answered his thoughts. “Simon,” he said to the Pharisee, “I have something to say to you.”

“All right, Teacher,” Simon replied, “go ahead.”

41 Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people—$5,000 to one and $500 to the other.

42 But neither of them could pay him back, so he kindly forgave them both, letting them keep the money! Which do you suppose loved him most after that?”

43 “I suppose the one who had owed him the most,” Simon answered.  “Correct,” Jesus agreed.  

44 Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look! See this woman kneeling here! When I entered your home, you didn’t bother to offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair.

45 You refused me the customary kiss of greeting, but she has kissed my feet again and again from the time I first came in.

46 You neglected the usual courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has covered my feet with rare perfume.

47 Therefore her sins—and they are many—are forgiven, for she loved me much; but one who is forgiven little, shows little love.”

48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49 Then the men at the table said to themselves, “Who does this man think he is, going around forgiving sins?”

50 And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.

Did you catch it?  “She knelt BEHIND Him, at His feet, weeping.”  This woman was at the lowest of lows in her town, her social class, and probably even her self-esteem.  She didn’t even feel worthy to kneel before Jesus’ feet; she knelt behind Him.  What sorrow and brokenness she must have brought before the Savior!  This woman had indeed, “sinned much”.  But where there is much sin, there is much forgiveness.  Where there is great sin, there is great redemption.

In order to forgive ourselves, we must believe that Jesus really is the TRUTH.  If He is true, what He says is also true.  Psalm 103:

vs. 3:  He forgives all my sins.  He heals me.

vs. 8-13:  He is merciful and tender toward those who don’t deserve it; He is slow to get angry and full of kindness and love.  He never bears a grudge, nor remains angry forever.  He has not punished us as we deserve for all our sins, for His mercy toward those who fear and honor Him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.  He has removed our sins as far away from us as the east is from the west.  He is like a father to us, tender and sympathetic to those who reverence Him.

Do you believe it?  If not, you are indeed calling God a liar.  God longs to forgive us.  “He is like a Father to us…”

Do you dare let go?  Do you dare cling to truth?  Do you dare believe that God forgives you and even calls you to forgive yourself?  In humility, in brokenness, in repentance, dare to approach your “tender and sympathetic” Father.  From 1 John 1:9,

But if we confess our sins, God WILL forgive us. We can trust God to do this. He always does what is right. He will make us clean from all the wrong things we have done.

God is that parent to us who longs to see us, His children, joyful and happy.  He hurts when we hurt; but how it must bring joy to God’s heart when He sees His children living in the freedom that He offers us, the freedom that His only Son died to purchase for us.  God delights in His children!  Psalm 149:4 states,

For the Lord takes delight in His people; He crowns the humble with victory.

Choose this very day to put your stake in the ground.  Claim the freedom and the miraculous newness of life that comes with forgiveness.  Run through those puddles and let out those squeals of glee, because you know that your tender and sympathetic, heavenly Father says to you, just like he said to the woman who had sinned much:

“YOU ARE FORGIVEN.  GO IN PEACE.”

Minivans, Vomit, and Frozen – What They Taught Me About Fear

I must have only been 10 or 11, but I clearly remember sitting on the floor of a friend’s van (we could do that 20 years ago if the seat belts were all occupied) and one of the children wouldn’t stop crying.  I didn’t get it.  We had just left his cousin’s house, not far from his own.  He could visit anytime he wanted; he could see them again the next day.  WHY was he crying?  Let me re-phrase: Why was he SCREAMING?  He happened to be sitting on the seat directly parallel to my spot on the floor, so my left ear received the full extent of his piercing, screaming sobs.  My eyes were wide.  I stared straight ahead, and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why this 4-ish year old wouldn’t shut up.  In only a matter of, I’m sure, a few seconds, I could no longer hear my own thoughts, and I lost it.

“(Insert child’s name), SHUT UP!”  I shouted.  It only seemed logical to shout so he could hear me over his own screaming.  Immediately, both his mother and my mother shouted my name, scolding me.  It’s somewhat humorous looking back on the situation now, but it also serves as the earliest memory I have of “too much input”, a phrase my psychiatrist terms, “ADHD”.

A large part of ADHD, for me, is the complete inability to process my current surroundings/situations in the same manner or at the same rate that most people can.  For example, most people I know can drive a car and listen to a screaming child in the backseat, simultaneously.  Heck, some people can even do it while carrying on a conversation with another adult or listening to incessant, repetitive, and very annoying children’s music.  But I can’t.  No, really!  I’m incapable of processing those things.  My brain turns to fuzz.  Imagine, if you will, using the old “bunny-ears” antenna and the channel you wanted just wouldn’t receive or come in clearly.  The channel would be an annoyingly loud, scratchy sound and the screen would flicker a black/white/grey mess.  That is what my brain does when more than 2-3 things are happening around me at once.  I don’t “recept”, or process.  I shut down.  That’s when anxiety takes over.

Skip back to age 8 or 9.  My head hung over the toilet bowl while I vomited.  No stomach flu.  Just “nerves”.  I knew my dad was on his way to come pick me up for the 9 hour drive to his parent’s acreage for the week…over the Christmas holiday…yet again.  It wasn’t that those visits were terrible; sometimes they were OK.  But let’s just say my fondest memories of those visits were the late night cups of tea and endless games of Skip-Bo (or Scrabble) I played with my Gramma.  To this day, I don’t know why I was so nervous for those trips, nor do I care to over-analyze the “why” behind it, but I believe that trip in particular accounts for my earliest recollection of anxiety.

Fast-forward to today.  I have good days but lately, it seems, that the bad days tend to be more often than not.  “Bad days” are the ones filled with anxiety.  So much so, that the simple thought of driving to the city (only 20 minutes away) is enough to keep me at home.  Even when we are out of the grocery essentials, we stay home.  And what if the kids don’t behave picture-perfectly while in public?  We should stay home.

Let me paint the picture clearly for you:  My children do get along sometimes, but for the most part, each wants what the other has and when they can’t have it, a melt-down begins, usually by both children, crying or screaming at each other.  Hair has been pulled, faces have been hit, skin has been pinched, tears have rolled.  On a good day, I can process what is happening and put a stop to it immediately.  But on the bad days, all it takes is for that one blood-curdling scream to be voiced, and mommy loses it.  Again, the only logical thing to do is shout over the noise in order to be heard.  “STOP SCREAMING!  STOP PINCHING! DON’T PULL HAIR! STOP PUSHING! PUT IT BACK! LET GO, NOW!”  My almost-daily vocabulary.  It’s exhausting…and loud.  When you stay at home all day, every day, shouting the same things over and over, you tend to get…anxious.  To keep my sanity and to keep the peace (and quiet), I have allowed (too much) t.v. and screen time over the past few weeks.  Let’s just call that a coping method.  But you see, in today’s society, you can’t allow your kids to watch even a small amount of television without feeling some measure of guilt, because every mother knows (and has probably been told a few times) that the “American Academy of Pediatrics strongly urges parents to strictly limit screen time…It will fry their brains, they aren’t ready to handle it developmentally”, bla, bla, bla.  Yes, we know!  So even in our attempt to get some guilt-free sanity, there’s still an inkling of guilt.  It never really goes away, so neither does our insanity…or anxiety.

It’s been in our “too much screen time” weeks that we have had a re-surge of the movie, Frozen.  Since hearing Elsa’s song, Let It Go, when first released in 2013, I’ve often wished I could be like her.  For the few of you who haven’t seen the film, let me paraphrase:  Elsa has magical powers.  She turns things to ice.  Get it?  Frozen?  Anyway, she can use her powers for fun and for good, but when she uses her powers (or when they escape her) out of fear, damage occurs.  She kept her powers hidden for years until they escaped from her (out of fear) on her Coronation Day, in front of everyone.  So she fled.  When she’s leaving all she’s ever known to be “free”, she willingly uses her powers and sees what she’s actually capable of doing – creating beautiful winter-wonderlands, a magical ice-palace, Olaf (a snowman which comes to life), etc., and all the while, she sings the famous song, Let It Go.  For some reason her words resonate with me:

The snow glows white on the mountain tonight
Not a footprint to be seen
A kingdom of isolation
and it looks like I’m the Queen

The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside
Couldn’t keep it in;
Heaven knows I’ve tried

Don’t let them in,
don’t let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be
Conceal, don’t feel,
don’t let them know
Well, now they know

(Chorus)

It’s funny how some distance
Makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me
Can’t get to me at all

It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me,
I’m free

Chorus:
Let it go, let it go
Can’t hold it back anymore
Let it go, let it go
Turn away and slam the door
I don’t care
what they’re going to say
Let the storm rage on
The cold never bothered me anyway

I’ve always wished I could “let it go” when it comes to things that have caused seemingly unwarranted anxiety, worry, or stress, but apparently I don’t posses the same powers as Elsa, nor can I simply run away from my responsibilities, become a hermit, and do what I want, when I want…although I have certainly tried at times.

Recently, I was thinking over how I have allowed my two-year-old (who throws a massive temper tantrum the very millisecond he doesn’t get what he wants) to control my life.  I don’t go into town because I don’t want to listen to the screaming fit that occurs when he drops his teddy bear, gets mad about it, so I almost drive off the highway to retrieve it and hand it back to him, he gets mad, throws it down again, and screams and cries about that fact all over again.  Because…I can’t be in a vehicle with a screaming child.  Therefore, I don’t go to the city.  I don’t dare volunteer at my daughter’s school.  My social anxiety certainly plays into that, but I think the real reason is I avoid it is, chances are, my son would have a tantrum, and we would end up leaving anyway…so why go through the hassle, have the glares or stares of other parents and teachers, just to walk out in shame?

A few days ago, while driving to the city – a situation that causes anxiety to begin with – along with my two children (who were getting antsy in the backseat), I was already incredibly anxious about an upcoming health appointment – the necessary reason for the trip.  I knew I wasn’t processing well that morning and needed to focus on driving (Saskatoon drivers…they’re crazy), so I popped in the only kid’s CD that I can handle, which also happens to be my kids’ favourite (and therefore, keeps them quiet-ish).  The first song came on and immediately the fighting subsided.  They started “seat-dancing” to the beat, and I started singing along (it’s weird…but sometimes that actually helps me to focus on my task at hand).  Then it hit me.  All of my anxiety had dissipated.  It was gone!  My situation hadn’t really changed though.  I was still driving in the city, the kids were still making noise (thankfully happy noises at this point), and I was still going to a dreaded appointment.  What changed?

My focus.

Take a listen.  Seriously!  Do it! (This is the song to which we were bouncing along.)

 

I love Brad’s music (and I’m proud to say we attended the same college years ago) but this song in particular really changes your focus, doesn’t it?  It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, what you’re going through, what you’re feeling, because when you start praising the Lord even in the midst of your circumstances, no room is left for anything else.  It was at that moment that some of Elsa’s Let It Go played in my head, “It’s funny how some distance makes everything seem small, and the fears that once controlled me, can’t get to me at all“.  Silly mommy.  My two-year-old hasn’t been controlling me, my actions, or even my re-actions.  It’s been fear.

Anxiety is driven by fear.  Fear of the what-if.  Fear of the what-if-not.  Fear of the can’t.  Fear of success.  Fear of unsuccess.  Fear of the past, present, and sometimes, even the future.

Fear.  It truly is crippling, isn’t it?

The funny part about Elsa is that, only a short while after running away to “freedom”, she found out that she really wasn’t free at all.  When she fled, she left a wake of destruction.  Her hometown was covered in ice and snow.  Her people were freezing and starving.  When told to come back and fix the problem, she refused (out of fear), stating she didn’t know how.  She only knew fear and fear was her enemy.

In the end, she almost killed her sister because of her powers…because she allowed fear to take control.  The only way to break the negative impact of her powers was “true love”…of course, because it’s Disney, right?  But instead of a magical “true-love’s kiss”, only an act of true love was required.  Even though Anna was dying, she used her last ounce of strength to save Elsa’s life…the action of true love.

John 15:13 (NIV)
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

In that moment, the sum of Elsa’s fears stopped.  In that moment, the swirling snow stopped.  The howling winds stopped.  Everyone just stopped.  And Elsa wept.  Her worst fear had come to fruition.  She thought Anna had died.  Only in her burden of grief and despair, in the absence of fear, did Anna slowly begin to breathe, and the world around them slowly began to thaw, because “only an act of true love could thaw a frozen heart“.

1 John 4:18 (Msg)
There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear.

When our focus shifts to be on Him alone, the author of “well-formed love”, there simply is no room for fear.  Focusing on Him creates that distance where everything else, the little matters of life, and sometimes even the big ones, become a lot more clear.  “It’s funny how some distance makes everything seem small, and the fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all.”

Philippians 4:13 (Msg)
Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.

Granted, there are times when my anxiety will take over, or should I say, fear?  But acknowledging the fear and asking God for His help to take a stand against it, can make a powerful and impactful difference in one’s life.  So that’s precisely what I did.  Even on a “low-processing” day, shortly after having the stomach flu, I was determined that fear was not going to have the upper hand in my life on that particular day.  I decided to pack up the kids, drive into the city, while it was snowing, and pick up an order from the bookstore – a task I had put off accomplishing for days…due to fear.  But, I did it!  And the kids may have screamed at each other for a bit in the back seat, and the snow may have been blowing across the highway, and my son may have had another disastrous diarrhea diaper in the bookstore, and I may have even met my husband for lunch (around naptime), and my son may even have had a massive meltdown when I went to order my lunch, and I may have encountered the stares of fellow patrons, and I may have had to take him outside the restaurant for a stern “talking-to”, and I may have had a crappy lunch when it finally did arrive, and I may have had cranky kids on the way home.  But, I did it. (Insert sigh of relief and slight smile)  I acknowledged my fear.  I took a stand against it, and I would say, for the most part anyway, I kept my cool.  It wasn’t easy.  It wasn’t even enjoyable.  But it was an absolute refusal to allow fear to control my life.  And it was only possible with (my daily dosage of medication, and) a full reliance and focus on Him.  The results were amazing.  My attitude and even my general, daily anxiety had changed for the remainder of that day.  I was happier, more content, more confident, more fully alive.

Anxiety will take it’s toll on me again, I’m sure, and because it is a mental health disorder, there will be days where I will feel completely incapable of controlling the fears that drive my anxiety.  And on those days, I might have to stay home.  But you can be sure that the next day will be met with sheer determination from the moment I awake, to acknowledge the fear, to put my foot down, and take control of it, because my focus will be on Him.  And if you find yourself ever in need of a little help in that area, be sure to crank Brad’s song and get praising the Lord.  It will change your focus from fear to instead, the Perfect Love, Who casts out all fear.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus.  Look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.

Because He lives…I can face tomorrow.  Because He lives…all fear is gone.  Because I know He holds the future.  And life is worth the living, just because He lives.

Fifty Shades Lighter

My husband and I LOVE watching movies together.  We started dating when we were both attending the same college, which happened to be located in a very small town.  This meant that there was never much to do, except “get into trouble”…or watch movies.  Brent was one of the lucky students on campus who owned a car (which, of course, was an added bonus for me!)  When the papers were written (or not) and we were ready for an academic mental break (or just wanted to spend every waking moment together – because that’s what you do when you first start dating, right?), we would drive in to the nearest town and see a ridiculously cheap movie at the theater, or grab a Tim’s and walk across the parking lot to browse the never-ending, wall-to-wall shelves lined with VHS’s and DVD’s at Blockbuster – the movie rental store.

That was part of the movie-watching experience 10+ years ago, wasn’t it?  Sometimes, in the bigger cities, Blockbuster even offered you snack-sized bags of popcorn that you could munch on while you slowly meandered through each aisle, tilting your head every so often to read a title, stopping to pick one up, read the plot summary on the back of the case, just to set it back on the shelf and continue the process.  I find it incredibly sad that some of my younger friends will never have that experience – but, I digress.

Movie-watching, together, became a favorite past-time for us, and it still is one of our favorite “together” activities today.  Don’t get me wrong – occasionally we do go out for dinner, talk to each other, visit with friends, or play the odd game of seriously competitive mini-golf, but if we can’t find a babysitter to incorporate the theater experience on our date night, we stay in, and rent a newer release online.  So it comes as no surprise that we’re already thinking about upcoming film releases for this winter/spring, which of them are top priority, and which ones we should add to our “rent it later” list.  (I’m already freaking out about the new Beauty & the Beast – what?!?!)  But one that has been on my mind a lot lately is the upcoming Fifty Shades Darker.  You saw that one coming from the title, didn’t you? 😉

I have to admit, I started reading the first book after hearing so much hype (when it first came out) and I hated it.  But not all of it.  I didn’t hate the story-line.  I did, however, detest the writing.  When the movie came out, there was even more hype – SO much hype!  I normally like to let social excitement die down before jumping into whatever it is that people seem to find so enticing, so I didn’t go see it in the theater.  Bu-ut, when the film became available to rent, we did.  I was curious!  Honest moment:  Loved it.  And I’m ashamed of that fact…now.  I actually loved it so much, I purchased it.  I know, I know.  But just wait.

As someone who has to analyze everything (and everyone) in life, I couldn’t wrap my brain around WHY I fell in love with the story.  I think the idea of the film played into a lot of what (most?) women, to some extent, fantasize about.  Now, those fantasies probably don’t include an abusive aspect, but I do think that on a deeper level, they do include: a longing – to trust another person completely, dare I say, even submissively.  Let’s get real for a moment: What woman does not fantasize about having 5 minutes in her day where she could actually take a break from the overload of her brain?  I’m talking about a woman’s brain that, oftentimes, is in constant overdrive.  It simply never stops.
For example:  It’s 10 p.m.  I need to go pack my child’s lunch for school tomorrow.  I decide to do that.  I go, open the door of the fridge, grab the jam and then you see it – the container of rotten left-overs from two weeks ago.  You’ve been telling yourself for weeks that you need to empty that.  So you grab it.  You might as well since it’s right there (and you simply can’t stand seeing it anymore).  You are about to empty the rotting food into the garbage can, BUT, the garbage can is overflowing.  You meant to take that out two days ago.  You grab the nearest paper towel and using it as a buffer between your hand and the top of the smelly, rotting pile of goodness knows what, you push the garbage in the can down (again), scrape the rotting food onto the heap – but, oh…oh that stench is sickening!  You go to throw the containers into the dishwasher quickly to avoid contaminating your small amount of kitchen air with the stench, BUT, your eye catches the sink filled with dirty dishes and you realize that the dishwasher is filled with clean ones.  You meant to empty THAT this morning.  You quickly grab the dishsoap, squirt it in the rotten-food container to ease the stench, fill it with hot water, and that extra drop from the tap was just enough to make the tower of dirty dishes crash down, sideways in the sink.  The dirty water from the soaking tower even had the audacity to splash upwards, all over your last pair of clean PJ’s.  And it doesn’t take long before you remember the massive pile of laundry, still sitting in the hallway, that you also meant to do…yesterday.  And at the end of all that, you still don’t have your child’s lunch made for school the next day.

Sound familiar?  Or am I actually just THAT crazy?  I can’t imagine that all of that only happens to me!  But maybe it just has to do with my ADHD brain and if that’s the case, you can stop reading this right now.  This post isn’t aimed toward to you.  🙂  But for women who experience something similar to the above example, I strongly feel that the underlying theme of 50 Shades of Grey provides just that – a mental break, whether that was its intent or not, because it’s just that – a fantasy.
While discussing my rambling thoughts with my massage therapist one day, she agreed adamantly (and maybe that’s just because she was providing a service and wanted a tip…but…) with, “No kidding!  What girl wouldn’t want a mental break?  Wouldn’t it be nice to actually have a man take care of your health needs instead of the other way around?  Make YOU a doctor’s appointment!  Make YOU a healthy breakfast and force you to take the time to eat it!?  Sounds lovely.”  (These are some things that the main character does in the story.)

Beyond that, what’s so enticing?  First, it’s a captivating story-line in the sense that it consistently leaves the reader or viewer with the “what happens next?” mentality, so you tune out real life, (or at least I do with any good page-turner…maybe that’s why I’ve stopped reading books…)  That, in and of itself, provides a mental break because you are so captivated with another (un)reality.  There are lots of novels that provide this – 50 Shades is just one.  But the second reason I find it to be popular is because it provides not only a real mental break, but also a fantasy-related mental break.  Again, it may have nothing to do with the sex or abuse (or numerous other issues we could delve into), but rather, in relating to the main female character, we (I, certainly) can desire that break – to give up ALL control in any current situation, even to the point of being required to “not think”, or plan, or control, or micro-manage.  It’s a break that (all?) women, to some extent, desire – because it so rarely happens in real life.
So, is 50 Shades…wrong?  Other than the obvious pornographic nature of the story, how does it REALLY affect me?  As a woman?  As a wife?  As a mother?  As a Christ-follower?

About a year ago I stumbled across a Bible study…on sex; but it was a study just for women.  A rare find, I had to go through it.  To say it was incredibly enlightening, would be a severe injustice.  Focusing on the Song of Solomon, the study scrutinized sex, within marriage, the way God had originally intended it to be.  It was honest.  Raw.  Real.  (I like those things. 🙂 )  It talked about things that the church does not normally talk about, even in closer circles of trusted friends.  One of the topics discussed was 50 Shades of Grey.  To be fair, the speakers for this study never said not to read the book (or watch the film).  They did, however, ask some tough questions.  Questions that forced me to be honest with myself about my real reasons I was so strongly drawn to the 50 Shades fantasy.  Questions that demanded analysis – on the effects it was having on me, my relationship with Jesus, on my husband, in our marriage, and indirectly…even on our children.
Some of the effects I noticed (and I’m sure there are many I am completely oblivious to) were my thoughts, resulting in unintentional action.  The word “fantasy” has many definitions, some of which, I found to be most enlightening.

“Fantasy” – obsolete: hallucination; the free play of creative imagination; the power or process of creating especially unrealistic or improbable mental images in response to psychological need.

Whoa!  That last one though!  I became captivated with the film (since I loathed the book), and found myself thinking (fantasizing?) about the story-line (too) often.  When something, even if “innocent”, captivates and fills your mind that you start to lose touch with reality, is that healthy?  Is it God-honoring?  I like the Amplified Bible’s version of this verse:

Philippians 4:8
Finally, believers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable and worthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s Word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely and brings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things [center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart].

When I am filling my mind with something that is anything but God-honoring, it changes my relationship with Jesus, my husband, and my children – they learn by watching their parents, right?  When you are in fantasy-land, your focus is on yourself.  What do I want?  What should I get?  How can I better feel that way?  How can I get that mental break that I so desperately long for?  When you are obsessed, fantasizing – wishing we had something other than what is right in front of us – we, in a way, slap Christ’s nail-pierced hand.  Where is the thankfulness for the here and now, for the precious gifts He has already given us?  For that husband who loves you dearly and would even die for you?  For those children who ask incessant questions because they are curious about the world around them?

When I finally snap out of it, I realize that all of my fantasizing, even if only for a mental break, has actually provided the exact opposite.  I’m exhausted!  It’s exhausting to be obsessed with something (take it from someone who has OCD).  It’s exhausting to constantly wish for more or want for, what we think might be, “better”.  It’s exhausting to choose greed instead of thankfulness.  It’s exhausting to consistently justify sinful actions.  That last one may seem a bit strong, but it’s something we do so often, isn’t it?  We tell ourselves, It’s not really THAT bad, or It’s not REALLY affecting me.  But for a believer, desiring to follow God whole-heartedly, the end result tends to be the same: on our knees, in soulful repentance.  SO, is 50 Shades really wrong?  Is watching it or reading the book really…sin?!?  For me?  Yes.  From The Message:

James 4:17
In fact, if you know the right thing to do and don’t do it, that, for you, is evil.

Harsh, James!  Harsh!

Dr. Juli Slattery, co-founder of Authentic Intimacy, summarizes my closing thoughts best:

“How ironic that the title of this new movie (and the corresponding book) is Fifty Shades Darker. John wrote, “If we say we have fellowship with Him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” I care so deeply about your sex life because I care so deeply about your relationship with God.”

I am completely aware that my experiences, brutal honesty with myself, and even life-challenges will be very different than your own.  You may disagree with me completely and that’s OK, because these are my experiences, realizations, and short-comings, and over-comings.  It was only a year ago that February 2017 (second film release) could not arrive soon enough.  Now that it’s almost here?  I think I’ll see what other movies are playing.  Maybe an indoor game of competitive mini-golf will be in order.  Who knows?  I’m fully prepared that when I see the poster ad’s going up, I’ll want to go see the film…a lot.  But I also know that the pull I feel towards that film, is not and will not be founded in anything “light”.  So I’ll pass by it and smile.  Because I will remember that I have chosen to “walk in the light, as He is in the light”.  And if I need to make it even better, that knowledge serves as a reminder that my control, my need to micro-manage, my “needs” so-to-speak, have already been relinquished.  And in that, there is complete and total rest…even for my over-driven brain.

Today, I Realized I Was Old

This morning, I came across the following poem I wrote only one year ago today.  As I found encouragement in it once again for myself, I felt, perhaps, it could serve the same purpose for others.


Today, I Realized I Was Old

Today, I realized I was old
It was graduation day
Education all behind
The future was bright before me
It was time to settle down
A career meant I was grown

Today, I realized I was old
It was wedding day
Youth was complete
A marriage was just the beginning
Didn’t this mean I was now mature
Betrothal meant it was time to adult

Today, I realized I was old
It was birth day
Sleep was gone
A parent was now my name
I quickly found out how little I knew
Parenthood took me by surprise

Today, I realized I was old
It was grief day
A child of a friend was lost
Grieving reminded me of how short life really is
Younger death reminded me of my age
Grief made me age

Today, I realized I was old
It was Saturday
Young children asked me to play
Technology and work had made me tired
All energy was gone
Why couldn’t I engage

Today, I realized I was old
It was graduation day
My children had grown
New careers were starting
How young they seemed
A reminder of my youth

Today, I realized I was old
It was wedding day
Their youth was ending
A marriage was just the beginning
Didn’t this mean they were mature
Betrothal of children meant
I had to be old

Today, I realized I was old
It was birth day
A time of enjoyment
Grandparenting – a new start
A time to play and spoil
But, oh! I was getting old

Today, I realized I was old
It was retirement day
A time to celebrate
A career all done
Coffee cup in hand with nowhere to be
I was feeling old

Today, I realized I was old
It was chemo day
A difficult journey ahead
But I had been through much already
An IV in my vein
I was ready to be young again

Today, I realized I was old
It was death day
A tearful goodbye from all I was leaving
But when eternity opened before me
I saw my life
And realized just how young I had always been

Author:  Isaak, Rebecca – 2016

This Is Not Where I Belong

Chances are, if you are a female who was born and raised in Canada after 1985, you’ve probably read, watched, or at the very least are familiar with with the series, Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan.  For those who have not yet enjoyed the privilege of experiencing her work, the story is about a widower farmer, along with his two young children, living in the U.S. Widwest.  He writes an advertisement requesting a mail-order bride to assist with the daily challenges of farming, parenting, and his desire for companionship.  Sarah, an ocean-loving woman from Maine, feeling like a burden to her brother and his new wife, answers the ad and travels to the hot, dusty farming plains to meet Jacob, Anna, and Caleb to see if she can help.  In the end, as all good love stories go, Sarah and Jacob do fall in love and marry.

But there is always one part in the second film (because I don’t enjoy reading) that tends to cause a lump in my throat and I find myself fighting back unwanted tears.  As Sarah starts settling into married life and learning the new “ropes” of farming, a severe drought begins.  The wells dry up and long-time generational farming families start leaving all they have known, due to the severity.  Sarah struggles to make sense of the desperation and eventual choice of some of the farmers to leave their homes and land.  Jacob had stated in past conversation that the Wittings (his family) would never leave.  “We were born here.  Our names are written in this land.”  And so, when the barn catches on fire, Jacob chooses to remain at the farm – his home – and forces Sarah and the children to return to Maine for a visit.

After arrival in Maine, the children’s eyes grow wide when they see the ocean for the first time, and when Sarah steps near the cliff edge of her aunts’ home, the ocean comes into full view.  In that moment, a knowing smile comes across Sarah’s face – this is home.  After some time passes, rain does come and Jacob embarks on the journey to Maine to surprise Sarah and the children.  As they return to the prairies, they all take in the beautiful sites of the farm, the new barn, some of the animals that Sarah had named and turned into pets, the blue skies, and the miles of wheat fields that surrounded them.  After the others turn to chores and unpacking, Sarah breaths deep, slowly surveying all she has come to know, picks up a long stick, and leaning ever so delicately, she inscribes her name in the dirt.

“Home” was with Jacob and the children.

Insert ugly cry.  Every. Single. Time.

nick-jay-photography-island-in-the-sun
Island in the Sun – Used with permission by Nick Jay Photography
When I moved from the Maritimes to the middle of Canada over 12 years ago, I never dreamed that these flat, seemingly endless fields, would be the place I would one day call “home”.  I originally came to Saskatchewan to complete a 4-year degree.  One week after graduation, Brent and I were married.  He was still attending school here and following our academic careers, we moved to the first place that offered a job –  the middle-of-nowhere, northern Saskatchewan.  Needless to say, although we firmly believe God called us there for that time, it was far from anything we had expected, and one year later we moved to Saskatoon – one of the two major cities in Saskatchewan.  Saskatoon does have the Saskatchewan river that runs directly through the center of it, similar to the St. John river in Fredericton, NB.  I found it incredibly helpful to find a similar “home” away from my hometown, as I was beginning to miss New Brunswick immensely, but Saskatoon was (is) still in Saskatchewan.  And if you are as terrible at geography as I am, I’ll share this tidbit of information with you: there are no oceans anywhere near this province.  Surprise!

But “home” is so much more than location, isn’t it?  Home is where the heart is.  Home is where the people you love, the people you have known all of your life and who have known you, reside.  Home is your family, your friends, your culture.  Home is what you have known most of your life.  So how do you learn to be home when all you have known – location, family, friends, culture – is nowhere to be seen, even if you do search for it past miles of open wheat fields?

The answer?

You stop.  You observe your surroundings.  You study the new family, friends, location, and culture in your midst.  You ponder.  You reflect.  You realize that you want to return to what you know.  And when you realize that you and your spouse apply for numerous job postings that are ANYWHERE near what you consider to be home.  You receive no reply, no interviews, no call-backs, and ultimately, you start to lose hope.

After doing this for a few years, you then realize that perhaps the feeling of lost hope may not actually be due to a lack of qualifications or even available jobs within the entire East Coast of Canada, but rather, something more.  Something higher.  Perhaps it is a way that is not your way.  Perhaps there are thoughts in play that are not your thoughts.  Perhaps, just perhaps, there is a plan; one that is vastly different from any plan you could ever have imagined.

And perhaps to be fully happy, fully content, and fully at peace, at home, you choose to stop fighting, and instead to willingly embrace God’s ultimate will for your life.  And that is probably the most difficult thing you will ever do – willingly let go of all you have known and all you have so deeply, achingly desired, to be where God wants to you be and to do what God wants you to do.

As difficult and tough and long as the fight is, letting go completely, fully, and submissively of whatever it is that you hold onto so dearly, results ultimately in a peace that transcends all understanding. (Phil. 4:7)  You may, at this moment, experience a waterfall of tears.  I mean the doubled-over, your-stomach-aches-in-places-you-didn’t-even-know-existed, sickening-kind-of-sobs-along-with-hyperventilating, kind of tears.  But they are not a result of your decision to do God’s will and be where He wants you to be.  They are from grief over the loss of something you never really had, but thought you did.  Grief over the loss of control over your life, which you thought you had, but never really did.  Grief over the unknown, the what-could-have-been, the never-will-have, the distance from your dream, and what you think God’s plan for your life should be.

For Brent and I, this realization came over the last 6 months-ish.  After applying (again) for numerous jobs that we were qualified (and even over-qualified) for, with no response, we chose to believe that God was asking us to stay in Saskatchewan…for good.  After trying (unsuccessfully) to sell our house over the past two years, even lowering the price numerous times, having offers – only to have them fall through at the last minute, God miraculously sold our house with a possession date of less than 1 month!  We knew that the next house we would purchase would be our long-term home.  The house that was absolutely perfect for us, in a neighborhood that we could not have afforded less than a year ago, only came on the market in July – following after the decision we made to not only listen, but to embrace God’s will for our lives.

After being our new home for less than 2 weeks, our family spent some time in beautiful British Columbia to celebrate my father-in-law’s 60th birthday.  The 45 minute drive from the airport to our resort was completely parallel to the waterside.  Homesickness immediately took over.  But God in His wonderful mercy, made my phone ring twice and that entire drive was spent with our children sleeping in the back seat, while I answered questions and assisted my temporary replacement from work.  (Oh, did I not mention that on top of God asking me to give up “home”, He also asked me to give up my job simultaneously?  Perhaps we’ll review that topic another day.)  Otherwise, the entire trip would have been a sob-fest.  But God IS merciful.  From our private patio at the resort, you could see the waterfront and even hear the waves.  Just steps away from our room door, was the beach.  To be blunt?  It hurt.  A lot.  But instead of seeing what I missed, what I thought “home” should look like, I saw God, mercifully granting me a precious gift just weeks after choosing to follow His will.

Upon returning back to Saskatchewan a week later, after delayed flights, missed connections, exhausted children, and missing family from our vacation already, we had a very uncanny sense that we had returned “home”, really for the first time since returning from any vacation in our married lives.

nick-jay-photography-hay-bales-under-an-evening-sky
Hay Bales Under an Evening Sky – Used with permission by Nick Jay Photography

Along this journey  I have come to realize that for a follower of Jesus, there can only ever be 2 homes in your lifetime.  The first home is here on earth.  Regardless of location, our true, earthly home is in the will of God.  Even if the ocean was within my sight for the rest of my life, I wouldn’t be happy, nor would I possess peace.  Because that is not where God has asked me to be.  For this time, God has placed us in a very small town, with little considerable amenities, in the beautiful province of Saskatchewan.  There may be things, people, views, and even cultures that I miss from time to time, but here, there is peace.

The only other “home” for a Christ-follower, is heaven.  Last week as I sat in my happy place at the end of a pier, watching the boats bob in the waves nearby, and hearing the seagulls call, I had to wonder if my next home might possess something similar.  I imagine seeing the reddest leaves in Fall, the clearest, crystal water, and the sounds of birds calling, perhaps even species I have yet to view, surrounded by family, dear friends, and the most wonderful friend of all – Jesus.  Now that is a home worth waiting for.

Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.

– Colossians 3:2

For today?  Brent and I share a dream to one day retire on Grand Manan Island in NB.  But that is all it will remain – a dream.  I will not fight my way there.  If God wills it, then you’ll know where to find us – just look for the old couple, coffee cups in one hand while we use our free ones to hold each other’s, sitting on a two-person bench, toes dug into the sand, watching the waves roll in.

But if that is not what God wills, you’ll find the same thing, in Saskatchewan, on the edge of wheat fields, watching the combines during the harvest season.  Or maybe God will have a completely different plan by then and we will be in the slums of India, or my most-undesired place to be – Istanbul – or maybe God will have taken one of us to our heavenly home before we had the chance to experience old age, but we will be happy…and peaceful – because, regardless of sights, regardless of location, regardless of the people that surround us, we will be in His will, and not one place else.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

– Joshua 1:9

Where I Belong

You’re Always There When I Need You

Have you ever heard it said, “Life is hard and then you die”?  I have…a lot!  And although there have certainly been times where I have believed that to be true, I’ve also wondered if it really is.

My life has been considered to be a “hard life” at times by previous counselors and psychiatrists, but I don’t see it that way.  Have I had challenges?  Absolutely.  But who hasn’t?  We all have something that we struggle with, sometimes on a daily basis.  Life IS hard.  It’s true.  But your attitude towards it can make monumental impacts on you, on how you want your life to “turn out”, and even on other’s lives.  You have the power to choose to see the joy, even gifts, in each and every day.  You!  But are you strong enough to actually do it?  Are you capable to seeing past all of the “negatives” that fill your mind?  This may be cliché but it’s true: If I could do it, you definitely can too.

For those that don’t know me well, I was diagnosed with ADHD and OCD and Anxiety Disorder – all within this past year.  And although that may be surprising to some, it actually came as a blessing and relief to our family.  It’s been a very difficult journey in our home and on my immediate family.  Even close friends and family are unaware of the turmoil I have placed on my husband, children, and even myself.  But I don’t end there.  That is NOT my story.  Because it’s when you remember who you truly are, before all of the psychological labeling, that really matters.  Me?  I’m a daughter of the one High King of heaven.  I’m made in His image and He calls me His child!  So although the life I may have has been “hard”, it’s also been an opportunity.  To learn.  To grow.  To see and to feel things I never thought possible.  To become more and more like Him – each and every day – regardless of my circumstances.

I recently watched a movie scene where a leader took his self-help group out into the middle of a busy street (imagine New York), and they just stood there.  Every person in that group got very tense.  Horns were honking, people were shouting rude expletives, and motioning the same with their hands.  The group wanted out.  They felt stuck, in the way, the problem, and in a way, they were.  But then the leader took them to the tallest building running along the same street, where they proceeded to the roof.  They looked over the skyline and were amazed by the views.  Their reactions changed.  They were no longer scared, stressed, anxious, or tense.  They were relaxed.  The relief was evident on their faces and in their entire posture.  Then they looked down to the very spot they had been standing only minutes prior and it seemed significantly different.  They felt as if they had some control, they were no longer in the chaos.  Although nothing had really changed on the ground level – cars were still honking, people were still shouting, and there were more people running through traffic – they now had a different view of the situation.

And that’s how it is with God and being His child.  Your life may be incredibly stressful and chaotic, but He can help you see past some of those things and live life to the fullest, regardless of your current life events.  Trust me, I know some of the feelings of stress and chaos.  For some very strange reason, God thought it would be good, beneficial, and even wise for me, somebody with Entomophobia (fear of insects/bugs) to not only live with a variety of bugs and spiders, but also mice, bats, and (what we thought were) bedbugs – BUT – God is merciful, and they were “only” batbugs).  But the fears, stresses, phobias, anxiety, and panic attacks that ensued from those things certainly can cloud one’s view.  When you are in the middle of it, you can’t see above it.  And with my ADHD brain, I can’t even begin the process of trying to see above it, to choose to be thankful – in EVERYTHING?!?!  (1 Thessalonians 5:18 – “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”)

That’s where the even harsher reality sets in.  Not only are disciples of Jesus asked to rejoice ALWAYS and to give thanks in ALL circumstances, He also asks us to be content.  WHAT?!?!  (Hebrews 13:5a – “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have…”)  Oh, that is so, so hard to do – if we only see things from our current view.

So how do we see things from a different view?  From God’s view?  From an eternal view?  (Colossians 3:2 – “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”)  I think the answer is somewhat cyclical; it’s in the previous verses – rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks all the time.  Scripture says in Psalm 37:4 to “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”  This does NOT mean that He will deliver you from your current situation or that He will hand over to you what you want.  Because to truly delight in the Lord means to find your entire peace and fulfillment in Him alone.  And when you do that, you leave no room for the desire of extra.  There’s a reason Jesus also said in Luke 10:27, “Love the Lord your God with ALL your heart and with ALL your soul and with ALL your strength and with ALL your mind.”

I would add to those the verses from childhood:

  • Philippians 4:13 – I can do ALL things through Christ which gives me strength.
  • Proverbs 3:5-6 – TRUST in the Lord with ALL your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him and He will make your paths straight.

It comes down to a choice, a decision, to wake up each day (or go to bed each night – even if you have to take medication to help you sleep) and trust in Him…even in the right now.  1 Timothy 6:6 – “But godliness with contentment is great gain.”

Sitting at a Wal-Mart McDonald’s this evening after a particularly difficult few days with my daughter, setting straight some behavioral issues, and contemplating on whether or not my responses have been the right ones (and dealing with the oh-so-continuous guilt that comes with not being the best/perfect mom), she looked up at me and asked if I could wipe the Ketchup off of her arm.  As I did the “mom routine” once again, she looked up at me, smiled, and said, “Thanks, mom.  You’re always there when I need you.”  Apart from having my emotions ripped out of my chest in public, 🙂 I realized just how profound that statement was.  (My daughter teaches me theology every day – and I’m so grateful for it!)  Because the second part of Hebrews 13:5 is what makes the change of view possible.  “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”