When Church Hurts. And When It Heals.

Church hurts. There, I said it…although I hate that. I was reminded today, at church, just how much church hurt is in my past, and I’d like to share some of my thoughts regarding church hurt…and also, how the church can help heal those hurts.

I’ll be clear: It is not my intention to speak negatively against any specific people, to drag names through the mud, or to, God-forbid, cause anyone else hurt. In fact, I have chosen against sharing openly about my thoughts on this topic, until now, solely for that reason. But some time has passed and part of how I heal is through writing. So here we are. My intention in sharing my story is not ill-willed. My intention in sharing the following is for this very purpose: to give hope to hearts that have been wounded by people in the church. That is all.

Back to today. The leader at our current church asked a question to our group about our experiences in our church – specifically relating to the topic of dress attire – from the churches of our childhood. Quietly, I glanced over at my husband, and we just shared a knowing look and a small, albeit sad smile. I waited until the others in the group shared their experiences and I debated, and prayed about, whether or not I should say anything. But after some silence, I felt peace to share what was expected in my childhood church regarding attire. Women were to wear dresses or skirts (below the knee) and head coverings. I am not suggesting that is wrong, it was just my experience. I also shared two memories from that church with regards to the topic of attire. 1. I remember when an elder stood up and read aloud an actual dress code that was to be adhered to amongst the congregants, and 2. When, after wearing dress pants to church one Sunday (years later), I was pulled aside and informed, not kindly, that if I chose to wear pants (instead of a dress) to church again, I would no longer be allowed to teach Sunday School. I’m aware that’s referred to as legalism. But I truly believe that those same people who did those things would most likely regret some of their actions today. I believe we all make mistakes, and I also believe that, by the grace of God, we can learn from them and grow.

And then he asked me, “Did those actions ever affect how you viewed God?” No hesitation. Absolutely, they did. “How?” For me, it made me believe, in a very skewed way, that God somehow expected perfection from me, along with certain behaviour I was to maintain, and that I was not worthy to receive His love if I didn’t act, behave, …dress… a certain way. I have forgiven those people who enforced their own personal convictions onto me…and our entire church, but as I shared those memories in our church group, I was surprised to find that I became emotional. My whole body was shaking and I fought back tears as I answered those questions. Sometimes, we don’t realize to what extent certain actions and behaviours hurt us until we are forced to think about them…and the consequences of them.

I have been blessed to know a few women who are wives of pastors, and let me tell you – they know church pain more than anyone else. The countless stories I’ve heard from them would shock most people. (I have permission to share the following.) One pastor’s wife shared with me how her husband would wear shorts to church, not out of disrespect, but due to significant discomfort. A member of their church didn’t like it, so she thought it would be acceptable to walk up to him after each service and pull his leg hair and then walk away. Pause. Consider that. If you aren’t outraged by that behaviour, you should be. That’s assault. And that type of behaviour and attitude has no place amongst God’s people. Another pastor’s wife recounted, “We were both serving in ministry together in a para-church organization when we got married. Shortly after we we were married, the directors suddenly left the ministry, leaving the entire weight of the ministry on our 5-month-married shoulders. The strain that abandonment had on our marriage was quite huge at the time.” Church hurt is isolating. I could go on with so many other stories from my friends who are pastor’s wives, but just trust me on this: there is behaviour in churches that would shock you, anger you, and grieve you. And it should. Because that’s not what God’s people are supposed to be like.

On a personal level, I know church hurt also, although differently from pastor’s wives. However, before I share, I want to restate the purpose of why I’m sharing this experience, and I ask that you remember it as you read. The purpose of this is intended only: to give hope to hearts that have been wounded by people in the church. It is not to cause more pain. I also want to make it clear that I harbour no bitterness or resentment to anybody in the churches referred to, and I have forgiven these hurts long ago.

Our family stopped attending church for 2.5 years because of significant pain caused by people in a previous church we attended. We just figured that the more you get involved in a church, the more you know, and when you know things, for us anyway, we felt it was important to stand up for what we felt was right and to stand against what we felt was wrong. When nothing we tried seemed to work, we relinquished our efforts, and chose to remain in that church for the sake of our pastors. My husband and I have developed a deep love and care over the years for those in pastoral ministry and we felt our calling, at that time, was to remain in our church to continue to love and support our pastors how we could. We tried to do just that. But for approximately 2 years, we hated going to church. It was exhausting. Draining. And it was evident we were no longer wanted there by some people. And yes, someone even said, “Well, there’s the door.” But, it seemed to us that we were just causing problems. The only reason we stayed for the time we did, was out of obedience.

After some time, my husband and I both felt peace about leaving. We met with our pastors and reminded them of our love and appreciation for them and expressed our desire, should they wish it, to continue a friendship with them. We sincerely desired and wished the best for that church (and we still do), but we could no longer attend. It was just too painful. Partly due to the Covid-19 pandemic, our church attendance…to anywhere…just dropped off. We were reminded often by friends of the importance to attend church during that time. I also remember telling one friend that if it weren’t for my kids, I’d never join another church again. Not because I didn’t want to. Not because I didn’t miss worshipping with other believers. But because the idea of joining another church and putting myself into another situation to be hurt was just too much. What’s the definition of “crazy”? Isn’t it doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result? No thanks.

There’s nothing quite like church hurt. Perhaps it’s because as Christians we expect other people in the church to behave…like Christians. Crazy, I know. But that idea IS kind of is crazy when you think about it. The church is made up of people. Sinners. And, if you are someone who has been hurt by the church, and you’ve been told this cliché before, don’t close your browser just yet. Hear me out, please. I used to hear people say that when they had been hurt by the church, they gave up on attending entirely. And, out of my ignorance in not knowing what church hurt can really do to a person, I would simply respond with that old adage that has been said to me: The church is made up of imperfect people. Yes, I know. Funny thing though: Hurt people already know that and hearing it doesn’t actually make the hurt feel any less or go away. But, there is a nugget of truth to that thought. I read the other day that churches don’t hurt people; People in churches hurt people. And that is where, I believe, the key to changing our perspective of church hurt lies. We weren’t hurt by our entire church. We were hurt by a few members in the church. Not the whole congregation. Not the pastor. And recognizing that truth was freeing for me.

We knew that we “should” have been attending church every Sunday for the 2.5 years that followed after leaving that church. But every time we would force ourselves to attend church “for the sake of our kids”, it was traumatizing. Yes, traumatizing. I would get fidgety and very uncomfortable and pray the singing and the sermon would just end! I wanted to claw my way out of the sanctuary. It was awful. And I hated it. The people in the new churches we “tried out” were friendly. There was nothing wrong with the sermons or the people, but I just couldn’t be there. And then a friend asked me one day if I had considered, given my reaction to attending any new church since our previous experience, that I may be having a trauma response. And just like that, it all clicked. It made total sense. I just didn’t know what to do with that knowledge. I was associating any “organized church” experience with previous hurt and pain, and I couldn’t shake it.

But, God is faithful.

My husband had been suggesting to me that we should try going to a small house church in the city. I was very hesitant, for many reasons. But we went. And for the first time in years, I exited church on Sunday morning with a feeling that was utterly indescribable. We were loved. We were cared for. We were prayed over. We were encouraged. We were wanted. And we had the opportunity to be and do those things for the others there. For the first time in years, I left church feeling refreshed instead of drained, exhausted, and depleted. We witnessed what church was meant to be: people searching the Scriptures with one another, praying for one another, and caring deeply for one another. And it was incredible. It was clear that this was where God had called us. Our house church has been a place of deep healing for us.

But I’m not stupid. Growing up, my mother would often say, “You’ll never find the perfect church, and if you do, don’t join it, because you’ll ruin it.” How right she was. I have no doubt that we also caused hurt in that same church, and we’ve owned that. Causing hurt was the last thing we ever wanted to do, but I know it happened. The church is made up of people…who are imperfect, yes. But, the church of God is also made up of people who don’t hurt too. It’s made up of healers and helpers.

For our family, for this moment in time, in order to learn how to heal and trust again, God has provided a small group of people who love us…even with our imperfections. In the only way I’m capable of right now, God has met me and has provided an opportunity to still worship Him in a corporate setting. Just a much smaller one, without any resemblance of “organized church”. And I am immensely grateful for that.

I don’t know where God will meet you in your journey of healing, but I beg of you to remember this:

God is faithful.

His people are imperfect. (Including you.)

But God’s love for you is perfect.

And if you ask Him, (although it may take time) He will answer you and meet you where you are. Be patient in that process. Imperfect people will always hurt you. And you will hurt other people too, even if that’s not what you’re intending. But recognize that it is not the whole church of God that has hurt you. It may have been people in a church or it may have been certain beliefs a church holds or it may even be the structure of a church. But it wasn’t the whole church of God.

No church is perfect. The real church of God is humble. And it recognizes when it hasn’t been humble. The real church of God loves people well and it doesn’t cast people out. The real church of God is one that brings healing to wounded hearts and souls.

The only way the church can be real is to love God more than anything else. The only way a church can help heal your wounds is if you allow them to. And I know that can be a very difficult thing to do. But search your heart. If you wish to be part of a church that heals others, you must, as I have learned in this process, also learn to: Practice humility. Love Jesus. Read His Word. Obey His commandments. Set aside your pride and even the identity you have assumed from being wounded by the church and slowly, allow Jesus to bring healing to you – through His Word, through His presence, and through His imperfect church. If you give up on the church entirely, because you’ve only seen the ugly, it means you also give up seeing the beauty that’s there as well. It might be more hidden – because yes, it’s made up of sinners – but beauty IS there. Seek it. And when you find it, grasp onto it and never let it go. Because in it, there is a family that is waiting to embrace you with open arms, to love you, to pray for you, to care for and encourage you. And it’s worth every bit of hurt you experience in the process and every bit of searching you do. Choose to become a part of that healing for others. Choose to become what God intended His church to be – His beautiful bride. And from that, you will reap abundant blessings and indescribable joy.

Side note: When you do find that church family, remember to love your pastor and his wife well. And be their friend.

Tribute to a Godly Woman. A Personal Memoire.

I was given the opportunity to share at my Nanny’s funeral today and the following is my testimony to her life – and a life well-lived, it was indeed.

As a child, I had the unique opportunity to come to Ottawa and live with Nanny, Poppy, and Shirley for a significant portion of each summer. As a result, I had the privilege of spending countless hours with Nanny, and I’d like to take the next few moments to share with you some of my fondest memories and personal observations of her character.

First off, Nanny was resilient. She encountered any obstacle that came her way with dignity and with grace. I remember asking her (I was very young at the time) why it was that she had dentures. She told me it was because she was so poor growing up that she and her siblings had only one toothbrush to share so she didn’t get to use one very often. There was no bitterness in her tone when she told me that. It was just the way it was. She accepted that.

Second, Nanny was courageous and brave! She somehow managed to stay at home with four young children while her husband was serving in Israel as a peacekeeper. She made nutritious meals on an incredibly low budget, managed her home, still attended church services every Sunday (with her and her daughters in matching dresses, which she sewed herself), and still found time to teach her children about the love of Jesus.

Nanny. Was. Frugal! Honestly, she could make many meals off a dime (or from all the food she kept in her multiple deep-freezes or cold room storage of canned goods…which she did all herself). I still remember newspapers spread across her kitchen table with the coupon sections cut out. One fond memory that still makes me chuckle is the time she came home from work at lunch and stated that she didn’t feel like cooking – a first for her! She informed me that she had some coupons for Burger King and asked if I would like to go there for lunch together. This was a BIG DEAL. Not only was Nanny willing to eat at a fast-food establishment, but she was also willing to pay to eat there. I remember being in utter shock at her suggestion, but excited, I quickly corrected my eyes which were wide in disbelief and said, “Yes!” What’s even more amazing about this story is that this happened the next day AND the next! By Day 3 I didn’t know what had happened to Nanny or who this woman even was. But I enjoyed those Burger King lunches, dodging Ottawa traffic each day to get there, and after one of those visits, going with her to the park, just walking around, and taking in the sights of the Rideau Canal, hand in hand.

Nanny was a hard worker. I still shake my head in disbelief when I think of how hard she worked, for so many years. I honestly don’t know how she managed to do it all. She cooked three meals a day, found the time and energy to grow and tend a large garden, can all the produce from the garden, hang the laundry on the line to dry, sew dresses and matching outfits, sew on buttons and hem items for her grandkids, work outside the home part-time, still manage to run home on her lunch break to make and serve lunch to Poppy before going back to work in the afternoon, pay the bills, mow the lawn, plant flower beds, and knit a plethora of items, just to spend every second Saturday at CARP – Ottawa’s farmer’s market – to sell her hand-knit creations. I enjoyed spending those mornings with her at the market. Sometimes, she would open her cash box and give me a bit of change to go buy snacks at another vendor’s booth. She may have been frugal – but she was also very generous. Not only with her money, but also with her time. I remember waking up one night just before midnight and, noticing the kitchen light still on, I made my way out to the kitchen just to find her sitting at the table, knitting a dishcloth – a common occurrence. Instead of being bothered by the fact that I was out of bed in the middle of the night, she just asked me if I was hungry and promptly made me a peanut butter and jam sandwich. I ate it while I watched her knit quietly. I asked if she’d be going to bed anytime soon since it was late, and she casually replied that she had about another 10 dishcloths to knit before market the next morning…so she’d be awhile yet. I just assumed that adults didn’t need sleep after that.

Finally, Nanny loved Jesus. And she made Jesus known. She taught Christ and His love to her children and to those around her. This is evident in the lives of her descendants and in the way she treated others. I remember vaguely her expressing frustration one day because a patient she had been assigned to sit with wasn’t receiving the level of care she felt her patient needed or deserved. To Nanny, the situation was unfair and unjust, and she was going to make her thoughts known to whoever it was that was in charge. She gracefully fought for justice when she could. She aimed to show Christ’s love and character to everyone. I distinctly remember seeing her Bible open on the kitchen table (amidst all the coupons) so very often. Before tucking me in at night, she would kneel beside the bed, gently brush her fingertips over my eyelids to help me sleep and would pray with and for me. I’ve never forgotten how loved that simple action made me feel. She was a very good Nanny to me. With fond remembrance, at times I still glide my hands over other sleepy, little eyelids, and I have to say, that trick still seems to work.

Nanny was by no means perfect. She had her faults. But I will always be grateful for the gentle and loving manner in which she treated me. I am forever thankful for the legacy she has left. She loved Jesus. And, if you knew her at all, then you know her life was evident of that.

Elatasad: A Story of an Empty Home, Broken Hearts, and Inextricable Happiness

Did you know that it’s actually possible to feel inextricably happy and sad at the exact same time? It’s definitely possible. I learned that this past week. I “researched” Google to see if there is a word that describes feeling both of those emotions at the same time and my results seemed to come up a bit skewed. The closest word I could find in the English language to describe feeling both happiness and sadness, simultaneously, was: “bittersweet”. However, I don’t find that word actually provides me with the satisfaction I require today. It just doesn’t seem to convey what I feel…precisely. Google’s mixed results also suggested the words, “saudade” – a Portugese term referring to “a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for something or someone that one cares for and/or loves”, and “elatasad”, which apparently means, “feeling sad but also happy and excited”. I don’t know if the Oxford dictionary recognizes those terms or not, but frankly, I don’t care. They’re exactly how I’m feeling right now, so I’ll go with them.

As you most likely already know, there are seven stages to the grieving process. You also are probably aware that those stages rarely are experienced in any order…and those stages are likely to repeat themselves at any given time. The seven stages of grief don’t care one iota about order. They just hit you hard, usually when you least expect them. I won’t bore you with providing an exegesis on those seven stages, rather, for the sake of some brevity, I’ll assume you know most of them.

Anger. I’m so angry that I don’t even know what to type at this very moment. You know it. You’ve felt it. I mean REALLY felt it! There have been times where the anger you’ve felt has made you want to vomit, to shake, to scream profanity into the freezing cold, dark night. And then…you realize there is nothing you can do. So you just stare. At nothing really. You just feel…empty. Angry. Unbelievably depressed. Wondering if there is something, anything, you could have done to help prevent the current events that are swirling inside your mind. But that’s just it. You couldn’t. There is/was nothing you could do. And that’s when you stand in your friend’s empty house, making sure the pipes haven’t frozen in -40 degree weather, staring at the emptiness around you, recognizing that the emptiness you see before you, matches the empty and gaping hole left in your heart. They’ve gone. And no amount of questioning or re-running conversations in your mind will bring them back. And there you are amidst all the “empty”, left to figure out how to grieve it all.

For me, my anger and despair arose this week from saying goodbye to a friend. Not through death, but from a long-distance move. You might think that I’m being overly dramatic. “Your friend moved away? Seriously? Anger and grief because of that?” I hear you. And something inside me snarls that I know nothing of real grief. But the real me knows that I do. We could discuss my childhood friend dying in a horrific and tragic car accident when he was only 5 years old…before I could say goodbye. We could discuss watching my father leave my childhood home while I begged him to come back…before I could say goodbye. (He didn’t.) We could discuss the time I booked my plane ticket in the middle of university finals to fly to Ontario…to say goodbye…to my grandfather, just to be informed the next morning he passed away. I made it for the funeral. I have a profound hatred for goodbyes. I wonder why….

But, we don’t need to get into all that. I do know grief. In my own way. And you know yours. But here’s the real thing: My anger/grief/emptiness/whatever you want to call it, doesn’t stem from the saying goodbye…this time. It stems from the reason my friend had to leave.

I’ve said goodbye to two friends in the last three years due to very unjust and unfair circumstances. This one? Abuse. Does that make you cringe? I hope it does. Because of abuse that had gone on for way too long, my friend and her husband had to pack up their family, their belongings, their whole life, and move away. Her husband quit his job and they are moving from a beautiful, new home to a bat and mice-infested home far away. Why? Her words to me were, “Because it’s better than abuse”. That’s why I’m angry. That’s why I’m devastated. It’s so unfair and unjust. If I’m this angry, how must my friend feel? She’s the one having to say goodbye to everything. I’m angry, not only for me, but also for her.

“Every heart has its secret sorrows which the world knows not, and oftentimes we call a man cold, when he is only sad.”

– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The burden of grief weighs heavily, doesn’t it? This past year has afforded me the privilege to provide care and a listening ear to two women who have lost their husbands. I’ve had the opportunity to sit with both ladies – to listen to their hearts, to hear some of their grief. And that has been an honor for me. I don’t take those opportunities lightly. I appreciate them. Those moments are sacred. They remind me that our life here is short. Our time is not unlimited. Our relationships and friendships do not and cannot last forever. At least, not here on earth.

But THAT is where we have hope! Our hope lies in Jesus Christ – the One who comforts us and grieves with us. The One who knows grief intimately. The One who said goodbye to the riches and beauty and comfort of His heavenly home, to take on human form, to give us eternal life – forgiveness of sins and the hope and assurance of heaven, where we will never have to say goodbye ever again.

That is why I can smile tonight. That is why I can feel grief and inextricable happiness at the same time. Not only because of the hope we have of heaven and no more “goodbyes”, but also because I love my friend dearly and desire the best for her. And right now, the best thing for her is to move away from her current situation to a more peaceful one. When you love someone, it hurts to say goodbye, but you also can’t help but rejoice to see them encounter freedom and peace in their lives. You rejoice in all happiness for them and their new-found home and hope. That’s just what friends do.

When was the last time you experienced it? Grief, that is.

The sad reality of life here on this planet is that we all do and will experience grief more often than we would ever desire to. But…God is gracious. And yes, I may have to keep reminding myself of that fact (every day), but it’s true. I won’t, even for a moment, pretend to have answers for you on the topic of grief, how long it will last, when it might overwhelm you, or what constitutes the appropriate situation to cause grief, because we cannot be the judge of one another’s grief…ever. I would argue that grief is sacred. It’s a process that must be honored and respected by all and never given a time frame.

I believe it was Dr. Seuss who penned, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” There is profound truth to those words. It seems like just yesterday that a co-worker of mine told me (when discovering I was moving to my current home-town) that his nephew’s wife lived there and that I should really meet her because we’d get along great. I nodded and agreed, having no clue how I’d actually get in touch with or meet this woman, but God did. I found myself sitting in a very random group of ladies one evening when I overheard someone whisper that the woman sitting directly across from me was “so-and-so’s nephew’s wife”. Immediately, I terrified her by excitedly asking her to confirm that remark and by stating how I was told we were supposed to meet and be friends. Thankfully, the surprise and fright that I caused her didn’t last, and by God’s grace, we developed a beautiful friendship over the last few years. One of trust, mutual respect, and love. Although I hated saying goodbye to her this week, I’m profoundly grateful and thankful for the time God allowed us to be friends. And by His grace, we will continue that friendship with the wonderful use of technology. A blessing. Absolutely.

For now, my heart hurts. And that’s ok. Because I know that God is not only with me, but He’s also with her in this move, guiding her steps, filling her with His peace, and being her Providence. And He does that for each of us when we ask Him to. Regardless of our circumstances, regardless of our current pain or grief or heartache, He is our peace. Lay your head on your pillow tonight, resting in the knowledge that He will provide for you, that He is your Peace…in every situation you face. Rest in the hope we have of heaven: a place where we won’t have to say goodbye ever again.

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

– John 14:27

Continue reading “Elatasad: A Story of an Empty Home, Broken Hearts, and Inextricable Happiness”

A Hesed Kind of Kindness

“What wisdom can you find that is greater than kindness?” -Jean Jacques Rosseau

The Oxford Languages dictionary suggests the word ‘kindness’ is: the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. What images does your brain conjure up when you think of the word ‘kindness’? Do you remember a specific event; one in which kindness was extended to you? What memories come flooding back? What emotions do you feel? Or, instead, do you remember instances in your life where your very soul craved to be shown kindness on some level, and you never received it? Perhaps you didn’t grow up in a home where kindness was practiced. Or for some of you, you may not even know how to recognize kindness anymore because what you thought was kindness, was in actual fact, manipulation, control, and abuse. Whatever your experience, I invite you to share a conversation with me here in this space. Grab a cup of coffee, find a comfy spot on your couch, take a deep breath, exhale your chaos, and join me in this quiet moment.

Over the past year or so, I’ve been processing and pondering not only the word ‘kindness’, but also what it means to be kind, what that looks like, and why it’s imperative to practice extending it to others, even if we don’t feel that we are recipients of kindness ourselves. My journey started when I began working through Michael Card’s book, ‘Inexpressible: Hesed and the Mystery of God’s Loving-Kindness’.

Have you ever heard of the Hebrew word, ‘Hesed’? It’s a powerful one. A life-changing one…if you know what it means. But here’s the catch: you won’t ever really know the full extent of what it means because there is no one word in the English language that can accurately translate it completely. 🙂 Hesed is a Hebrew word found in the Bible which refers to all the characteristics of God. Card states, “A single word is rarely enough in a given context to express all that hesed means, so translators are forced to pile on adjectives.” For example: Hesed can mean the following:

miracle, mercy, generous mercy, benevolence, compassion, persistent faithfulness, faithfulness, faithful act, reliable, solidarity, goodwill, ardent zeal, grace, graciousness, extravagant generosity, largesse, glory, honor, honoring, pity, clemency, rock, bedrock, God-fearing, piety, charity, strength, devout, active goodness, favor, immense favor, loyal friendship, good heartedness, working graciously, generous, endlessly patient, generous act of goodness, devotion, devoted work, commitment, goodness, good deeds, gracious dealings, beauty, big-heartedness, unconditional, all-inclusive love for all creation

Sound like a lot? Yes. And it should. Most commentators would suggest that any time you see the word ‘loving-kindness’ in the Old Testament, it would be referring to the word hesed. Card gives a very simplistic, yet beautiful description of Hesed, which is the definition I’ll use as reference for the rest of this blog. He writes, “Hesed: When the person from whom I have a right to expect nothing gives me everything.” Isn’t that beautiful? Doesn’t that inspire you? At the very least, it ought to point you to the beauty of the gospel: God’s ultimate kindness to us.

What motivates you to be kind? Stop and think with me for awhile here. Don’t rush past this. What’s your motivator to extend kindness? Do you have an ulterior motive? Are you hoping for kindness to be returned to you? Are you expecting anything in return? What’s the driving force behind why you show kindness to others? A friend asked me this question not that long ago and it forced me to really think on what my motivation is behind why I choose to be kind.

After some thought, I came up with the following: I choose to be kind because of my obedience to Christ. Paul states in Ephesians 5:1, “Be imitators of God”. Christ has been extremely kind to me and compassionate, so I try to do likewise to others. Christ also states in John 14:15 that “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” What was the greatest commandment? Matthew 22:36 quotes Jesus’ response to this question. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” That’s where my motivation comes from. I have no wish to receive anything in return. I don’t just show kindness to try and “convert” people to Christianity. If that happens as a result, then that’s awesome, but it’s not my goal or motivation in extending kindness. It comes down to one point and for me, that point is being obedient to and to imitate Christ alone.

When we make the choice to extend kindness, we choose to be an imitator of Christ and His Word. When we choose to respond in love instead of reacting in anger or frustration, we do what Paul tells us to in Colossians 3:12-14. Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, KINDNESS, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. When we choose to put on kindness, we become what Nancy Demoss Wolgemuth calls “instruments of grace”. She states in her book, Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel, Together, “Yes, people may cause the lion’s share of our headaches. But when we serve people, we serve Christ. And when we treat people with kindness rather than indifference or impatience, we become channels of blessing, dispensing gracious words and actions that can’t help but adorn the gospel of Christ.” (pg. 319)

But here’s another question for you. Have you ever noticed that it’s one thing to show kindness to a homeless person by purchasing them a coffee or a lunch, but it’s a totally different thing to show kindness to the people who live in our very home? We might be tempted to think, But I AM kind to my family! I make their meals, I do their laundry, I pick up after them, etc. Those are indeed good things to do and they have the ability to show kindness, but do you do those things out of love? Because if you don’t, it’s pointless. Read that again. Pointless! Wolgemuth suggests that “God cares about our motives and our disposition – how that service is carried out, how we treat and respond to our family, friends, and others.” (pg. 310) Paul states in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 “If I speak in the tongues of men and angels…if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge…if I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain NOTHING.” Based on these verses, Wolgemuth continues, “He might similarly say of women who serve their families and care for their homes, ‘If I have a house so spotless that people could eat off the kitchen floor…and if I can whip up incredibly scrumptious meals on a tight budget…and if I’ve transformed our home into a magazine-quality showcase…but I don’t do it all with kindness, it’s nothing.” Our kindness and love are not felt when the noise of our tiredness, exasperation, and frustration screams so much louder.

When we choose to be kind, we showcase God’s glory and His love to the rest of the world.

To end, I wanted to share some stories with you that had been sent to me on kindness in action. I trust they will encourage you and uplift you, maybe make you shed a tear or two as they did me, and motivate you to extend the hesed of God to a world around you that’s desperate for kindness.


Three of my homeschool mom friends came to my house the week we were packing up to move. As a mother of seven, the basement clutter was overwhelming to me. They hauled out and sorted through stuff in every nook and cranny. The following year, those same three and their girls drove 3.5 hours to my new home to throw me a surprise 50th birthday party!


I was having a rough day, slept through my alarm, late for work, stressful clients. At lunch, I stopped and got a sandwich and grabbed a bag of donuts to get me through the rest of the day. As soon as I walked out the door, I dropped my sandwich. The container flew open and the sandwich fell to the ground. I picked it up and threw it out and started to walk away, too frustrated to walk back. Then I heard someone yelling “Excuse me!” I turned around and a guy who had seen me drop my sandwich told the cashier and they replaced my sandwich for free. I was so embarrassed but also happy and grateful and it made my day better.


Last Christmas was the first year my father and his siblings were without their mother. Dad had 12 siblings and one was my aunt who has Down Syndrome. She is living in a group home with other women who are mentally challenged. Last year, my dad, along with his other 11 siblings decided to each take a day leading up to Christmas to surprise my Auntie and the other ladies, basically like a 12 Days of Christmas. They did anything from performing skits for all the ladies to bringing gifts for everyone, baking, singing Christmas carols, etc. I just thought it was such a wonderful thing to do for my Aunt, yet alone the other ladies that lived there. I’m sure it must have been tough to spend their first Christmas without Grandma, and then to have all the Covid restrictions on top of everything…but every time another sibling showed up, all of the ladies faces lit up with joy.


It was in the fall of 2009. I was about 3 months pregnant with my first baby and was feeling very sick and very low emotionally. I was still pretty new to the city, and to Canada, and to marriage, and to pregnancy. And, though I was very happy to be in the place I was, I was feeling a little lonely for all that was familiar and comfortable. I had to do some shopping and went into a gift shop to browse for a gift for a friend. I had picked up a wooden Willow Tree figurine and considered it, then put it back. As I pulled my hand out from the shelf, my coat sleeve caught another Willow Tree figure and it fell to the floor, the head rolling off across the floor. I was a little panicked and upset that now I’d have to pay for something that was worthless and broken. I was trembling as I took the head and body of the figure up to the desk. I held them up and explained to the store-keeper that I had knocked it off and it broke. He shook his head a bit and said, “Oh, I’m gonna have to have you pay for it”, not unkindly but a bit brusquely. I nodded and barely managed an, “I know”, before tears came to my eyes. He could tell how bad I felt and I was trying to be brave and I knew the right thing was absolutely to pay for it. I just felt awful about breaking it, awful about having to waste money on something broken, and maybe just awful because I felt so sick all the time. Anyway, he paused, tipped his head thoughtfully, and said, “Wait just a minute”. He headed to the back of the store and brought back a little package of super glue and handed it to me, saying maybe that would help me fix it if I wanted to. I thanked him with a choked up voice and got out my money to pay. At that point, he waved his hand and just said, “No, don’t worry about it. You can just have it and the glue.” Then my tears spilled over and I weakly protested that I knew I should pay for it, that I was responsible for breaking it. He wouldn’t accept my payment and then asked what chruch I went to. I explained briefly about my small home church group and he shook his head and said something like, “I was just wondering, beacuse most people wouldn’t have even told me. They would have left the broken figure on the floor and walked out. So for you to come to me and accept responsibility, well, that’s just a very different kind of person.” I thanked him with all my heart for showing me mercy and kindness. Then I walked home and bawled most of the afternoon over the kindness he showed to me in my moment of shame, embarrassment, and lonliness. It still makes me cry. I glued that head back on, and even though it wasn’t even a figurine I would have picked, not one of my favorites, I have it still to remind me of mercy and kindness given when we don’t deserve it. The figure is holding out a wrapped gift. It amazes me how the figure itself pictures what that gentleman did for me. It may all sound like I was over-dramatic or made a huge deal out of something that was pretty trivial. The thing is, that kind man met me in my neediness and was kind just to be kind. He didn’t have to. Kind of like Jesus.

To God Be The Glory…

My head is beyond full of frustration. Anger. A total jumble of words that are exploding. And yet…I can’t seem to type any of it just yet. Listening to music that gives God glory and praises Him is keeping me from spewing my frustration all over this blog. I’m angry. I’d possibly consider it to be righteous anger, except for the very unrighteous words that want to scream from my lips. But for the sake of my point here, I’ll reign in that frustration. Right now, I’m angry at Christians. Specifically, people who call themselves by that name, yet defame Christ behind (and some not behind) the protection of their keyboard.

I do not claim to be guiltless of this sin. Not at all. Let’s just be clear on that right from the start.

It’s one thing to have disagreement. It’s another thing to have disagreement when it’s not face-to-face. It’s another thing altogether when Christians behave in any manner BUT Christ-likeness when they disagree, in public, in private, and online.

Conflict is NOT bad. Did you know that conflict can actually be healthy?! I’m serious! But fighting, discord, and dissension…that’s different. And that’s why I’m typing faster than my head can even think.

When we call ourselves Christians, do we know what that means? It means we represent Christ. In our actions, in our behaviors (both public and private), and even in our attitudes! No, it doesn’t mean perfection. We are still sinners (and always will be, this side of heaven). BUT, we are called to a life of holiness and Christ-likeness!

“Be holy, because I am holy.”

– 1 Peter 1:16

Newsflash: This does not mean it’s OK to rip people apart, tear them down, or speak unkindly or disrespectfully to them – on any platform.

When we do this, our true colors show vibrantly. When we do this, the bottom line is: We lack humility, grace, and the ability to “count others more significant than ourselves”. (Philippians 2:3)

It is absolutely impossible, however, to behave in a way that represents Christ when we are so filled with self-righteousness. Colossians 3 is very clear on the matter of “putting off” our old self and what it looks like to the world when we “put on” Christ.

“PUT TO DEATH therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry…But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth…

PUT ON then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these PUT ON LOVE, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the PEACE OF CHRIST rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do EVERYTHING in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Colossians 3:5-8, 12-17

In the book/movie, Sense and Sensibility, the character of Marianne Dashwood is immature and cares nothing about what others think, until near the end of the story (after she’s been humiliated and forced to grow up) her sister asks of her, “Do you compare your conduct with his?”, referring to an equally selfish and immature individual. Marianne astonishes the reader audience by her maturity when she responds, “No. I compare it with what it ought to have been; I compare it with yours.”

We cannot compare our sinful attitudes and behaviors to others. We must compare it to Christ’s.

Why is it so difficult for us to truly love others as Christ does? Easy answer? Because we lack holiness and humility in our lives. We get so hung up on being right and trying to make people see our perspective that we actually lose focus on the perspective we need to be having. The perspective of Christ’s.

When we stir up dissension or call people out, thinking we are being Christ’s warriors (regardless of the platform or circumstance), are we doing it out of a heart and attitude of love? I know I’ve been guilty of calling people out, not out of love, but rather frustration, hurt, and anger over what I have believed to be injustice. But we must remember that “Controversy for the sake of controversy is sin.” – Walter Martin

When we choose to be “keyboard warriors” (regardless of where we are and who we are speaking to), remember your audience and onlookers, for Christ’s holy sake. Think of what you are showcasing. Are you radiating the goodness, the kindness, and the character of Christ in your words and attitudes, or are you defaming His name and His grace for the sake of pride?

“If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.”

1 Timothy 6:3-5

“Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.  There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?”

James 4:11-12

Friends, let’s showcase Christ. Let’s let His grace and mercy and humility radiate from our lives, our lips, and our fingertips. It’s OK to disagree with one another! It’s NOT OK to slander or showcase hostility towards one another. As a friend shared with me recently, “Disagreement turns into dissension when we lose sight of our respect and love for the other person and their perspective. Is the point of your disagreement worth sinning for?”

When in doubt, pray. Hard! Seek the Lord. Ask Him to make you aware of your own sin…and repent of it before you dish out any kind of rebuke on somebody else. A prayer that I have been repeating daily as of late has been: Oh, God, show me more of Your holiness. Show me more of my sinfulness. Help me to hate sin and to love righteousness as You do. Grant me a deeper conviction of sin and a more thorough spririt of repentance. And make me holy as You are holy. (Holiness by Nancy Leigh DeMoss)

There is nothing wrong with disagreement. But there is evil in slander and dissension.

Are you filled with pride or humility? Are you truly seeking to bring the opposing person to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ? Are you giving God the glory in this situation? Or are you simply trying to win the argument?

 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”

1 John 3:18

In the words of Tim Neufeld’s song, Benediction, “To God be the glory, forever and ever. To God be the praise of all men. To God be the glory, forever and ever. To God be the glory, Amen.”

A Toxin. A people.

Toxic people. Frustrating, aren’t they? Annoying. Infuriating. Downright exasperating, at times.

As a Christian, what’s my role in that situation? I’ll warn you now. Just because I’m writing a blog post on this topic, does not mean I’ll provide a helpful answer for you. In fact, I can almost guarantee that won’t happen here.

But, if you have your coffee and a comfy seat, spend some time with me and my ramblings, if you wish.

Toxic people are ones that destroy others. They are the opposite of anything considerate or thoughtful of others. They think only of themselves, what suits them, what’s convenient for them. Toxic people live up to their title because they are masters at taking….everything they can….from those around them. They are thieves. They take from you. Your time. Your sanity. Your energy – both emotional and physical. In some extreme cases, perhaps even your money or personal belongings. They try (and often succeed at) taking our joy away as well. They also are great at causing anxiety in others.

They will blackmail you. Threaten you. They will make and break promises to you. They take anything positive in life and snuff it out. All joy. All excitement. All hope.

That is….until you’ve finally had enough. When you have tried, and I mean, really tried to show Christ’s love to them, to offer and cater to their requests, to even extend forgiveness, and you’re still labelled the “bad guy” in the situation, that’s your massive red flag / flashing red light. Call it what you want, but that’s your warning that you are NOT in the wrong here and it is time to step away….FAR, FAR away.

If you can’t do that physically, do it emotionally and mentally. Be done. Do not enable that behavior any longer. Do not continue to give in to outrageous demands or requests made of you. No. You set a boundary. And you STICK. TO. IT. That is the ONLY way to gain some peace back in your life with people like that. And guess what? That’s actually OK!!! It’s actually GOOD!!!

It IS possible to still extend love to someone without letting them treat you like a door mat. Trust me. I know just a bit about that. But, I won’t get into my story now. Just take my word for it. It’s possible. I would encourage you: if you are having doubts or regret or struggling with blame or guilt, honestly ask yourself these questions:

  • Have I extended grace?
  • Have I prayed for that person?
  • Do I wish the best for them?
  • Have I done the best I can?
  • Have I apologized for any part I may have played in the situation?
  • Have I cleared my conscience before God on this matter?

If you’ve answered “yes” to those questions, then you, my friend can walk away…in freedom, with a clear conscience.

That’s what I’m doing tonight. Before God, my conscience is clear. I have done what I can, the best I can do in my situation. And now, I’m enjoying a glass of wine and letting go and choosing to forget any hurt or wrong done to me. I refuse to let Satan toy with my emotions and my mind and agree with any of his “Yes, but you….” statements. And it’s freeing.

My only other suggestion is to, once you’ve reached the glass of wine and trying to forget step of this process, you also pray for that toxic person. Pray for their souls. And let God do the rest. That is the only, and perhaps uncoincidentally, the very best thing we can do for them.

But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!”
~ Matthew 5:44

Waves of Hope

Can I be real with you for a moment? Life hurts right now. A lot. There is so much pain going on and I have a sneaking suspicion, it’s not just me that’s feeling the gravity of all of it. There’s light. And there’s also darkness. There’s moments of joy, but lately, I feel like the waves of depression have been slowly taking over…yet again.

Have you ever watched the waves of the ocean? They’re constant. Almost peaceful. We’re familiar with their sound and back and forth motion. And for this former Maritimer, they’re comforting. Rhythmic. Calming.

As this year is starting to come to it’s end, with Christmas right around the corner, I feel I’m lacking the joy that normally comes around this time. I feel any sparks of joy I have, I’m trying to desperately cling on to, hoping that things will get better. And yet…I feel like I’m watching any joy I clasp, slip away, leaving with the tide. It’s as if the tide is going out and I’m helpless to stop it. In return, slowly, repetitively, the waves of depression keep coming in.

The worst part this time though, is that I see it coming in and settling, not just in my mind, but also in our family. It’s something that you can just sense. You know it’s there. And you feel helpless to stop it.

It’s tempting to stay there, isn’t it? Because when depression begins to seep in, rarely do we have the energy to fight it. Rarely, we feel we even can.

Although you try and try to maintain some joy, some light, some spark of happiness, those waves of depression keep coming. And the blockades you’ve set up to ward off this depression – friends, church, community, seeing the smiles of others, freedom to go out in public…without fear or even hesitation – canceled. Gone. Taken away.

Then what?

When your defenses are taken away, how can you still fight? That’s where my heart and mind have been lately. And even writing this “out loud” makes me want to give up and just sob. But it can’t end like that…can it?

In the words of Dallas Holm:

There’s a heaviness inside your heart;
A weight you can’t describe, a feeling that you just can’t hide. There’s a weariness within your mind. The thoughts don’t come too clear; you feel as though I’m not so near to you. But remember, I said I’d never leave.
Trust in My Word and believe I am here, forever. I’ll never let you go.
This is all you really need to know.

Can you relate? I need to remind myself of those last four sentences. Daily, even when I least feel like it, I have to preach the gospel to myself. And that’s precisely where we find our Answer, isn’t it?

Christmas. A thrill of hope! The weary world rejoices!

Amidst the waves of depression, there are other waves: waves of HOPE! And I will, I must, I have to cling to those waves. Those are the only waves that I can put my trust in. Jesus. Hope in the form of a baby in a manger. What kind of hope is that? An infant in a feed trough?!

The best kind of hope there is. The kind of hope that Jesus brings is exactly that – newness of life! The Light that overcame the darkness. The wonderful Counselor. The Prince of peace. Immanuel. God is WITH us!

When I remind myself of the truth of the gospel, reminding myself that God is still in control, that He can still be trusted, that the kind of suffering we are enduring is really a walk in the park in comparison to so many other things…that’s when I feel it. That thrill of Hope! And not surprisingly, what follows to wrap itself around me is…peace. The Prince of peace, Himself.

Weary world, rejoice with me! There IS hope! There IS peace! There IS Immanuel. God IS with us. Even now. When darkness seems to be closing in, there is Light. And not only that…but the Light of the world that I choose to worship, is the Light that has already overcome the darkness.

“I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
-John 16:33

So when your strongholds and defenses are taken away, where does your hope lie? How do you continue to fight?

When Jesus is the only hope I have left, it’s true that it’s then that I realize…He’s all I need. And oh, how I need Him! Every hour. Every minute.

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
Exodus 14:14

Continue reading “Waves of Hope”

Giving Thanks – The Art of Contentment

I know what I want to write – but how to write it without sounding like I’m complaining or subtly requesting pity…that’s the difficult part. That’s the last thing I want to elicit from you! I’m about to write out my thoughts, feelings, emotions – lack of contentment – sin. So don’t pity and don’t think for a moment that my expression of hurt, sadness, and loneliness, is a cry for anything except this: a request to read to the end, my conclusion of the matter.

Every year, we practice rhythms. The rhythm of changing seasons, moon phases, daily, weekly, monthly, and annual routines and practices. We celebrate birthdays, rites of passage, and holidays. And this year, this Thanksgiving, is no different. Every year, Brent and I look on as our closest friends leave town, and share their excitement with us of their upcoming visit with family, traditions, turkey dinners, etc. And every year, we try not to be sad, as we stay home alone, and Brent and I discuss whether or not we’re too emotionally drained or not to even bother purchasing and cooking a turkey dinner. This year, we’ve been so preoccupied with other life events that we didn’t find the time to even discuss the holiday, let alone purchase a turkey, until today – Thanksgiving Sunday – because I think we both dread the discussion – wallowing in exhaustion, anticipating a restful holiday Monday, knowing full well that once again, families will get together to visit, laugh, feast, watch football games, cousins play outside in the fallen leaves, and all enjoy more than their necessary helping of pie slices, before travelling home, content, happy, thankful.

It’s exhausting to practice the rhythm of trying not to be depressed on major holidays. It’s exhausting to try not to feel lonely. In years past, we have tried to focus on others instead of wallowing in self-pity – making big dinners and inviting over friends or people we knew that also wouldn’t be celebrating with family. Putting in that effort dulled the pain of not being near family, ourselves, and celebrating with them. And, of course, let’s not forget the practice of posting big, happy family photos on social media to remind the lonely people of what you have and they don’t. Ha! (Have I depressed you yet?) Sigh.

BUT….

I won’t allow it. I won’t allow loneliness or depression to take hold. I won’t be jealous of friends and family from a distance. I won’t wallow in self-pity. I won’t allow any of those things for many reasons, but the main one is this – I won’t allow myself to be that shallow and immature and unChristlike.

So here’s what I’ve decided to do about it: I will choose to practice the rhythm of thankfulness. I will choose to focus on what this holiday is about. I will choose to: count my blessings one by one – because, of those, I have SO many. How unbelievably selfish it is to take our health for granted and not even put a thought or prayer to those in a hospital or on their death bed with no loved ones nearby? How unbelievably selfish it is to sit in our warm, furnished home that is bright with electricity, and pumping heat on this cold, autumn day, and not give a thought or prayer to those who are homeless – or refugees? And how unbelievably poor-spirited and ungrateful am I to covet the joy of others and not give a thought or prayer of thanksgiving to Christ for the blessing and joy and gift of my salvation??

My despair, my sadness, my jealousy…they are symptoms of much deeper sins – discontentment and ungratefulness.

The cure? The rhythm and practice of giving thanks. Because it is only when we CHOOSE to be thankful for what we have – that is when we become content. Just as the rhythms of creation and our lives occur, may I encourage you, (as I also preach to myself here), to carve out time, often, to practice the rhythm of giving thanks and to count your blessings – naming them one by one. Having a big family get-together with a feast? Thank God for that. Have your health? Thank God for that. Have a warm home? Thank God for that. Have the grace of God on your life and a personal relationship with Him? Thank God for that! And while you’re thanking God for those things, I’ll be doing the same – for the health of my family, for our home, our vehicles, food in the pantry, clothing to wear, friends and family who love us, and mostly – for the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross…for me. For His death. For my life. For His grace.

When I’m thankful – I need and want nothing more.

When I’m thankful – I am filled with joy.

If you’re like me and need a place to start on your journey of giving thanks, read any book of the Bible that the Apostle Paul wrote. It’s actually very difficult to find a book he penned without discovering at least one statement of his choice to be thankful. I find it only appropriate to share his words:

“…For I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.” – Phil. 4:11-12

“At the moment I have all I need – and more! … And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from His glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” – Phil. 4:18-19

“Be thankful in ALL circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
– 1 Thess. 5:18

I hope this post did not elicit any feelings of pity or anything like that on your part. I simply wanted to share my musings on this specific holiday. I hope that by reading this, you were reminded of your many blessings and that thankfulness and contentment are choices we make. They are specific attitudes which give us the power to either wallow in our sin or to live joyfully. If anything, this holiday makes me long for the joy of a future feast beyond my wildest imagination, beside all of my family in Christ, and in the presence of Jesus Himself, that He’s prepared for us in heaven. And you can bet, that feast will definitely be filled with joy and thanksgiving, simply because of His presence. “Oh! What a day of rejoicing that will be!”

I’ll simply close with the words from a children’s song from VeggieTales. May it bring you joy…and thanksgiving.

“I thank God for this day,
For the sun in the sky,
For my mom and my dad,
For my piece of apple pie!
For our home on the ground,
For His love that’s all around,
That’s why I say thanks every day!

Because a thankful heart is a happy heart!
I’m glad for what I have,
That’s an easy way to start!
For the love that He shares,
‘Cause He listens to my prayers,
That’s why I say thanks every day!”

Yellow and Orange – The Colors of Joy

Growing up in the Maritimes is totally different than growing up on the Prairies. Chances are, you probably know that. But if you grew up on the Prairies, you probably didn’t know what you were missing when the season of Fall came circling around as it so faithfully does each and every year. “What did I miss?”, you ask? I’ll tell you. Leaves. But not just any leaves. RED leaves. At this point, you’ve probably rolled your eyes and exited this webpage. But…on the hopeful chance that you haven’t, bear with me. I promise I’ll make a good point. 😉

I’ve lived in Saskatchewan for 16 years. And every single year, when Fall showed up, I’ve focused heavily on one thing. I’ve made it my goal: To find red leaves. They’re not easy to find in this “land of living skies”. So, every year, when I find a rare vine or bush that has produced some shade of red, I’ve honed in on it – marking my task complete for that year. Some years, I haven’t found any red. Other years, God provided a bounty of red findings. And it brought joy to this foreigner far from home.

But, this year was different. This year, God shed light on some areas of my life that have needed attention, repairs, and repentance for far too long. One of those areas, He revealed a few weeks ago as I found myself driving along the highway, subconsciously searching for the red in every grove of trees I happened upon. The voice was gentle. It didn’t scold. It reminded me of truth long forgotten.

For the past 16 years, I have been so focused on finding that one thing I miss so desperately much from my homeland near the water – the home of Maple trees turned red each Autumn – their deep maroon, burgundy, and oh-so-very-dark-wine-colored leaves. That’s when it hit me. The past 16 years of my life have been so focused on finding what I thought was missing to make a perfect Autumn, that I was actually missing the beauty of what I had surrounding me instead.

Over those 16 years of searching for what was missing, I missed the beauty in what was present.

This may sound so simplistic and elementary to you, but to me it was profound and taught me a much larger lesson that had nothing to do with leaves. What else have I missed??? What else have I missed out on because my attention was so focused on what was missing rather than on what was right in front of me? As humans, we tend to do that, don’t we? We hone in on “the missing”; the “not present”, the “not how I think it should be”, the “what God never gave me”, the “deserved reward or credit I never received”, that we miss the blessings that surround us daily!

And here’s the amazing part: When I finally listened to God’s nudging and conviction and the smack up-side my head on that drive, it was then that I finally focused on what was here, right now. The beautiful, present reality. Not on what was missing. But on what was here. I chose at that moment to stop focusing on what was absent and to genuinely THANK God for the oranges, the yellows, the greens within my sight at that very moment. And THAT’S when I finally began to see the beauty and the blessing in the now. That’s when I was floored by the amazing beauty in God’s creation. And that’s when I stopped longing for and missing what wasn’t there.

God is so faithful, isn’t He? He interrupts our longings, however small and insignificant they may be, because to Him, they’re significant.

What do you feel is “missing” from your life right now? What isn’t there that you think should be there? Maybe that thing, whatever it is, no matter how large or how small, isn’t there because God has a different blessing awaiting you. And all you need to do is look around. I don’t say that to sound trite. I know we each have longings, deep longings of our hearts that others just don’t understand. But remember this: God understands. And He cares deeply about those longings that ache inside of you. He sees that pain that nobody else sees. And He longs to draw near to you IN that pain. He wants to be a friend to you – the very best kind of friend. And that’s why, just sometimes, He chooses not to give us our deepest longings and desires. Because He truly does know what’s best for me…and for you.

Look for Him in the present, dear friend. Look for Him in the right now. He’s there – and it’s beautiful. Don’t allow yourself to miss the beauty of now because you’re still searching for the “red”.

For I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. – Philippians 4:11

When He Seems So Distant…

It’s been a hard month.  Well, who am I kidding?  2020 has just been hard, period.  I don’t want to add to the ridiculous amount of discussion you’ve, no doubt, been dealing with regarding Covid-19, so I’ll just say, in addition to that, I’ve dealt with a lot of other things too…that have also been hard!  I’m sure that you have as well.  Because…life goes on, right?  There are always other stressors, anxieties, worries, ailments, opportunities, etc., that happen on a daily basis for us humans.  So, in addition to dealing with Covid-19, I started homeschooling my children (not due to Covid), started a new job in a brand new field, and have also had the incredibly frustrating experience of having my identity stolen.  Trust me, change your passwords…often!  Your future self will thank you.  *eyeroll*  *heavy sigh*  Not only was my identity stolen and used to open credit cards in my name (that were maxed out) but these people also managed to change my information on my actual credit report!  Is your head spinning yet?  Mine sure has been.  Dealing with all of that…stuff…has been a royal nightmare to say the least.

This past month, especially, has been one of many tears, short fuses, anxiety, and fighting…for the truth to win in my life.  It has been exhausting.  But…it didn’t kill me.  And you know what they say about the things that don’t kill you…  Apparently they “make you stronger”???  Hahahahahahahaha.  Ok, I don’t know about that.  I certainly don’t feel I can attest to that, yet, anyway.  However, I can attest to something else.  And that is: the nearness of God…and His goodness.

It seems that in times of trial and stress, it’s so easy to feel as if God has abandoned us, isn’t it?  We assume that the pain or trial we are facing must be due to either His lack of love for us or, at the very least, some form of punishment.  Why?  Why do we naturally bend toward that type of thinking?  Honestly?  I think it’s because that’s our human nature.  We don’t typically cause harm to those we love unless we want to punish them.  But there are a few issues with that kind of thinking.  First, we are assuming that God is the “cause” of this harm, and second, we equate pain or trial with not being the easy route – therefore, it’s not the loving route.  We would be wrong on both those assumptions.

Just because bad, wrong, terrible, unjust things happen to us, or those we love, does NOT mean that God caused them to happen.  Seriously, read the book of Job.  You need only read the first chapter to see that God was not the cause of Job’s trials.  But He did, in His rightful providence, allow them to occur.  This leads us into the belief that if we allow something painful to occur, we must not love the other person.  Again, wrong.  If you have children, you know this is very far from the truth.  The difficult truth of parenting is that sometimes, parents allow their children (within safe parameters, of course) to experience pain and difficulty – so they can learn valuable and life-long lessons they would most likely, otherwise, forget.  It’s the experience of the pain that reminds us of lessons learned.  It’s also the experience of pain that allows us the opportunity to speak life and truth and encouragement into another person’s pain or tribulation.

I’ve recently read that pain…in it’s truest form, is a gift.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Pain often represents a warning sign, a symptom that something is wrong.  But that same pain, if identified, worked through, accepted, can also lead to healing.  Obviously, I’m not talking about physical pain and healing here, although the same idea can be applied to some of those situations as well.  But, reading through this idea that pain is a gift made me wonder:  When was the last time I thanked God for the gift of my current (or past) pain?  What is/was He trying to teach me in and through it?  And where is He during it?

The answer isn’t always so obvious to us during that painful time, is it?  But afterward…  Do you remember the poem, Footprints?  It was a popular one years ago and I feel that the overuse of that poem over the last many years may have caused some of the significance of the meaning to slip away somewhat, but remember with me if you will, the truth behind it:  It wasn’t until after the pain, when the main character thought he had been alone all those times, when he saw only one set of footprints in the sand, that Jesus had been right there, carrying him through it.  Hindsight is 20/20, right? For me, that’s proven to be true.

Dallas Holm wrote these lyrics that were released in 1993 and they still ring true today:

There’s a heaviness inside your heart
A weight you can’t describe
A feeling that you just can’t hide

There’s a weariness within your mind
The thoughts don’t come too clear
You feel as though I’m not so near to you

But remember I said I’d never leave
Trust in My Word and believe I am here
Forever, I’ll never let you go
This is all you really need to know

I’ve heard every prayer  I’ve seen every tear
When I seemed so distant, I’ve always been near
And I know the future, and I know the past
So believe me when I say…This too shall pass

He is with you.  When He’s seemed so distant, He’s always been near.  I’m still working on not trusting my feelings and emotions that change daily.  They simply aren’t trustworthy.  But He is.

So if, like me, you’ve been having a rough time as of late, or even if you haven’t been, take a deep breath and let me remind you of what is true:  God is still on His throne.  He still has a plan for your life.  He WILL see it through to completion…because He IS still good.

And on the days where you find yourself trusting your emotions more than your God, listen to the words of this song (click the link below to listen):

Be Still, My Soul

and remember…

“Be still, and know that I am God”  – Psalm 46:10