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.

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.”

On Words and the Tongue

I talk a lot. Those that know me can attest to this. On top of that, I have a very sharp tongue. And to add to the problem even further, the words that come out of my mouth a lot of the time are anything but pure.

Lately, I have been told by a few people that I am a really great encourager. That comes as a major surprise to me. I don’t feel like I do that at all, but I can’t help but notice that it has come up in conversation not just once, but a few times – to the point where I can’t ignore it anymore and have begun to wonder if that is a spiritual gift that has been hiding somewhere deep within. So it’s no surprise that words have been on my mind lately.

Scripture has a lot to say about words and about the importance of holding one’s tongue as well as encouragement. So I’ve started a mini-study on what impact that should have in my life. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

Fools Talk:

Ecclesiastes 5:3 …Many words mark the speech of a fool.

Ecclesiastes 9:17 The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouts of a ruler of fools.

Ecclesiastes 10:12 Words from the mouth of the wise are gracious, but fools are consumed by their own lips.

Ecclesiastes 10:14 …Fools multiply words.

Have you ever noticed that the quiet ones usually have the most profound/meaningful things to say?

Tongues are Powerful:

James 3:5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.

James 3:8 …No human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

This last verse really made me think. If we can’t tame the tongue, what hope do we have? Our only hope is Christ Jesus. He is the One that created us. He created our tongues and our ability to speak. He alone can tame a fiery tongue. We need only ask. But what if I have asked? What if I have wept over my speech and begged God to take my unholy words away from me? What then? I believe it is a conscious decision to consistently be in prayer (1 Thess. 5:17), asking God’s assistance with our speech, each day. Remembering to really think before we speak. Accepting the challenge of continually seeking to live a holy, God-fearing life. Only then can we expect change.

Guarding One’s Tongue:

Proverbs 21:23 Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity.

Psalm 34:13 …Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies.

Our Words:

James 3:10 Out of the same mouth comes praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.

Ecclesiastes 5:2 Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.

Matthew 15:18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.

Going Forward:

Desiring a godly heart is a good place to start, but it is not the same as having one. Having a godly heart does not mean being perfect either. I desire a Christ-like heart; one of compassion, love, cheerfulness, goodness, self-control, temperance, (shall I list all of the fruits of the Spirit?), but do not feel that I exhibit these. And truth be told, it’s probably because I don’t – when it really matters. It’s easy for me to have compassion on the homeless person asking for money. It’s easy for me to be cheerful when I’m doing what I love. It’s easy to be good at work when I have a performance review approaching. It’s easy for me to be patient when I’m waiting for something I really want. But what about those other times? What if it’s having compassion on somebody going through a circumstance and your thought is for them to “suck it up.” What if it’s being cheerful in the midst of a failing marriage? What if it’s being good when nobody is watching and you’re aching to do X. What if it’s being patient when that toddler asks that same question for the fifteenth time and you are busy doing something else?

Having a godly heart, I believe, is:

First – having the desire.

Second – realizing our imperfection.

Thirdly – recognizing God’s perfection.

Fourthly – asking for His transformation on our lives.

Fifthly – actively working towards being like Him each day.

So for those that may find a discussion on “words and encouragement” strange coming from me, it’s actually quite perfect. As a woman who struggles with her filthy words and foolish talk, I am the perfect candidate to kneel before God in humbleness and beg for forgiveness and ask for wisdom. For my words to change, my heart has to change (Matt. 15:18 – as above), and so does my mind – Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

On understanding encouragement as a spiritual gift, I am still praying about that one. Discovering our spiritual gifts is a journey. And although I would never have considered encouragement as one of mine, I’m wondering if perhaps spiritual gifts can change as God changes us.

I want to honor God with my words, but change will hardly happen if we don’t set the right boundaries. That’s where accountability comes in. So if you hear me say something that isn’t any of the following, please remind me (gently) of this blog post.

Thanks for being on this journey with me.

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.

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.”