How to be a light bearer in a torch bearing world

I’m not usually a current events writer, but something about the riots in Charlottesville this past weekend stuck with me and I can’t let it go.  The term torch-bearers kept rolling around in my mind.  What seemed to be an innocuous term now has violence and hatred associated with it.    And rightfully so.  The people that were bearing those torches are evil.  I can’t think of a better word.  What they stand for and what they believe and what they do is so against the Bible, it can only be called evil.

I believe that its important to publicly condemn these people.  Its important to say the words and put on the labels.  But what I really thought about this weekend is, how can I actually change the world?  I don’t have an internationally read blog, so its not like saying anything here is going to change people’s minds.  A Facebook or Instagram post doesn’t change the world, and honestly, did a fight on twitter ever help anyone?

So, then what do we do?  Do we stay silent?  Pretend that it was an isolated incident?  That it has nothing to do with us?

No.  Staying silent is not the right answer.  But we can’t fight hatred with hatred.  As a Christian, I believe that the best way I can change the world, is one person at a time.  Some people have huge platforms and God has called them to a public life.  But most of us are just like me – a regular person leading a regular life, yet called to do something extraordinary.  Love people the way God would love them.

I’ve been spending a lot of time in the book of Job these past few months.  You probably know the story – a man who is going through the worst time of his life.  And he has terrible friends.  Friends who tell him that he must be doing something wrong.  That if he would only repent, things would get better.  They assume they know the ins and outs of the situation.  They assume  they know the depth of his grief.  And worst of all, they assume they know the reason for Job’s trials and that they have all the answers.  Sounds like a lot of words being spoken these days.

In chapter 16 Job tells his friends just how it is – “miserable comforters are ye all”.  And he goes on to tell them three things he wishes for from his friends.  I think when someone in pain speaks up and tells us what they need, its a good time to listen closely.

“I would strengthen you with my mouth”  The words we use when speaking to others matter.  When so many words of hatred are spewing out on the streets and on the internet, words of love stand out.  Words that strengthen are not the norm anymore.  May we always look for those who are hurting and use words that strengthen them, build them up, help them to feel the love of God through us.

“the moving of my lips should asswage your grief” Asswage is an old word that means to lessen the intensity of (something that pains or distresses).  Do our words bring healing?  Do they lessen grief?  Or do they add to it?  I know that I am guilty of that sometimes.  I think the biggest point of this is that in order to asswage someone’s grief, we first have to listen for a long time to understand it.  We can’t be afraid of people’s stories, of their opinions, of their grief.

“ O that one might plead for a man with God, as a man pleadeth for his neighbour!”  The last thing Job says at the end of the chapter is that he really needs them to pray for him.  And not just pray, but plead with God.  The most important thing we can do for those who are hurting, those in our little circle of influence, is to pray for them.  We desperately need prayer for our countries, our cities, our friends, our homes, our governments.  Its scary out there and people are hurting.  We are called to be the light of the world, to shine God’s love to each and every person out there.  To strengthen, to asswage grief, to pray.  But we can’t do that in our own strength.  It is a mission that only God can give us the strength to do.

May we go out tomorrow with determination to shine God’s love to each person that we can and change the world in a small way.


Home

Do you ever feel like your soul is searching for home?  Like you’re a little restless?

I have been.  I keep waiting for my house to feel like my home.  I keep thinking if I could just get the main floor the way I want it.  If I could only get Arianna’s room done – my hopeful project for this week – if I could just…then I’ll finally feel at home.  But so far it hasn’t happened.  I have pictures hung up, but still no warm fuzzy feelings.  I bought some chairs to sit in the backyard, maybe that will help.

Then this week I had to take my kids to camp.  I was kind of dreading having to go to the property again.  I drove up and memories flooded, good and bad.  I stood in the kitchen talking to the camp cook and fought back tears knowing I wouldn’t be there during camp this week – this one that was my favourite of all.  I looked over at the houses that I used to live in and felt a strange sensation.  The one that tells you this used to be home, but you no longer belong here.  This is not your home.  My youngest daughter and I cried ourselves down the driveway.

We went and stayed at my moms that night and although we had a wonderful visit surrounded by family, its not my home either.  I walked into my house this afternoon and had to admit, I don’t yet feel at home here either.  I feel a little untethered.

I have a feeling that this has less to do with my actual house and more to do with my soul.  In fact, the only place I feel perfectly at rest is at church.  Because the only thing that hasn’t changed in my life is my core belief.  My belief that no matter the circumstances, no matter where I live, no matter if my house is painted and decorated, no matter what, God is good.  And He is working out everything for my good.

There’s a quote I found a little while back that I really loved – “It may not be well with my circumstances, but it is well with my soul”.  I love that clarification.  That it can be well with my soul no matter the circumstances.  No matter if I don’t love my house yet.  No matter if I still haven’t figured out this whole new life and who I am and where I fit in it.  No matter if relationships are hard.  No matter the pain, physical and emotional.  My restless soul can always find its rest in God.  That is where my real hope lies, my sense of belonging, my home.


When God gives it back

Just over a year ago I really wrestled with God.

I felt that He was asking me to give up some things that were really important to me.  First was my own music education – even though I was so close to completing my dream and had worked away at it for so long.  The second was teaching music.  I had been teaching music in some form for almost 20 years and yet felt that God was calling me to quit and focus on my kids and my health.  It was a very difficult decision and one that I wrestled with for a while before I finally surrendered, choosing to believe that God’s way was best, even when it was hard to see.

Then, a few months later, that October, everything changed again.  We moved cities, jobs, I no longer homeschooled.  But the saddest part for me was I was no longer in ministry.  Besides my family and my relationship with God, the only thing I was more passionate about than music was ministry.  Now that was gone too.  It seemed as though everything was being stripped away.

And it was.

But when God asks us to give something up and we follow in that step of obedience, there is always reward.

Its easy now to look back and see why He asked me to give that all up – logistically, it would have made the move harder and I would’ve felt bad about leaving people in a lurch had I been teaching a bunch of kids.  But still, this year I wondered what would happen, how God would replace those parts of my life.

But recently, God has given it all back to me.  This fall I will officially become the music teacher at Heritage Christian Academy, my kids school at our church.  Its seriously the dream job.  Ministry and music combined!  Its like the cumulation of everything I worked for.  It also gives me the opportunity – and a good excuse – to go back and and study under a teacher again.  I honestly couldn’t be more excited.  And summers and breaks off too – perfect for a mom. (I tried super hard in this paragraph to not use multiple exclamations marks and/or smiley faces on every sentence.)

My heart has always been for the ministry and music is a love, so to combine the two is amazing.  I’m grateful for the opportunity.  But more than that, its pretty amazing to see when God gives you a glimpse of why He asked you to make the hard choices.  Because we don’t always get to see that!  Sometimes we just have to trust that He is good and have faith that it will be the best decision.  But once in a while He allows us these glimpses and we can see the direct result of our surrender.  And it is so faith building.

Is there something that God is asking you to do today?  Maybe its something that is hard to give up, or scary to start.  Either way, we can always trust our God.  It will always be His best in the end.

Also, I’m super excited.  Just so you know.


Seemingly Insignificant

Do you ever feel insignificant?

Do you wonder if the work you do each day will ever amount to anything?  Is it worth it to do the dishes again, answer a million questions, teach that english lesson, switch one more load?

Do you wonder if what you do has value?

I do.  All the time.  Oh, I know that everything I do has value, somehow, somewhere, but it can be so hard to move from knowing to believing, can’t it?  And the knowing keeps me doing it all, but the believing, that’s where the real difference is made.

I recently went on a missions trip to Chile.  When you think of missions trips, you think of doing wild, amazing things.  Of leading people to Christ, speaking to large groups, basically anything that seems big and significant.

And what did I do all week?  Well, the first day I led people from one line to the next appropriate line.  Yup.  For an entire day.  That’s all I did.  I said hola, smiled, and led them where they needed to go.  I was working in a vision clinic so I just led them to see the doctor or to be fitted for glasses.  The next three days I learned how to fit people for glasses.  Which was slightly more rewarding because it was fun being able to watch some people see clearly for the first time and they were very grateful.  But significant?  Didn’t really feel like it.

But you know what?  Because we said hola, and smiled, and were kind, and showed the love of Jesus through free glasses, when people were led over to the area where other Chilean christians were waiting to share the Gospel, the people holding those glasses were open and receptive.  And over 350 people got saved in those four days of clinic.

Its not very often that we get to see the results of our seemingly insignificant actions right in the same room, on the same day.  But it was a beautiful reminder to me that every little thing we do in the name of Jesus really is significant.

I was about to write this post last Tuesday, when God had other plans.  I think He wanted this lesson to really sink into me before I shared it with you.  Instead of my plans of writing on the internet and trying to do something significant, I spent the afternoon with my daughter in the walk-in clinic.  She’s fine.  She just decided to jump off the top of bleachers at her dad’s baseball game and sprain a ligament in her foot.  So a bone is kind of bumping out the side of her foot a little.  But no cast for the summer – all the praise hands.

So if today you’re showing up faithful to your job, or you’re wiping snot for the one hundredth time, or you’re doing groceries, or cooking, or whatever, remember that when we do the seemingly insignificant with the love of Jesus, He turns whatever we do into significance.


Dear North American Christian

I have had the amazing privilege to be in 14 different countries in my life so far.  I hope to go to many more!  Some were quick visits, some were longer, and I lived in the Philippines for about two years.

This week I’m adding a new one to the list.  I leave in just a few days for Chile.  I’m going on a missions trip with a group called Medical Missions Outreach.  If you haven’t heard of them and the awesome work they’re doing, please click on the name and find out more!

I’m excited about this organization because I love the way they reach people.  I believe that the Gospel is the most important thing that we can give to any living soul on earth.  But I also believe that they will be much more open to the Gospel when we show God’s love to them in physical, tangible ways.  I don’t have any medical training, but I’ll be able to work alongside Doctors and Nurses as they care for people’s physical needs and then missionaries as they care for their souls.

I also believe that every North American christian should leave North America at some point if at all possible.  Seeing so much of the world has opened me up to new cultures, new ideas, new ways of seeing the world.  I’d say new foods too, but I’m so picky that hasn’t happened too much!  All of that has been great, but when you sit beside someone in their cardboard house and they want to be the one that shares what they have with you, it changes something in your perspective for the rest of your life.  It doesn’t take away that we have problems here, because each of us has real problems in life and I wouldn’t diminish that.

It gives you more of an eternal perspective.  Helps to remind you of what is really important.  And that most of what we have, is not important at all.  It helps me remember that money doesn’t bring happiness, contentment does.  That there are Christians being persecuted for their faith, so I should be able to stand here for mine.  That God loves people in every country in the world, and I need to also.

I know not everyone can just go on the next missions trip this year!  But there are ways we can all broaden our perspective and live with eternal vision, even here in North America.  So if you can, go on that next trip, but if you can’t, figure out a way to be involved in missions some way in your city and church.  You’ll be surprised what you can come up with.


Conquering Fear

Yesterday my two oldest went to Canada’s Wonderland with their school.  We’ve been there quite a few times before, with our old homeschool group.

These kids are 14 and 12 and have never been on a big ride.  Seriously, last year they upgraded to the very mild adult rides.  Their old friends used to hate them because my kids are quite tall and so were allowed to ride every ride for a few years now but certainly did not take advantage of that, unlike their shorter friends who were dying to go on everything.  I remember driving there last year and telling them that this would be their last year if they didn’t at least try a couple!

But this year it was a whole big group of kids their age or older and the pressure was on.  I couldn’t believe it when my son’s Instagram showed that he went on Leviathan right off!  Its the biggest ride in the park!  One that I have never, and probably will never, go on.  Even my daughter, who likes to try nothing new, went on!  Its a good thing I wasn’t there because she said she cried the whole way up – I would’ve freaked out knowing that she was strapped into something and terrified!  But she loved it and wanted to go again.

I think yesterday was really good for them.  They both had so much fun.  But they never would’ve gotten there without the help of some friends.  They used positive peer pressure to conquer their fear and ended up loving something they thought they would hate.

This is what friendship can do for us too.  When you open up to other people, tell them about your fears, or your struggles, they can help you get through the other side.  You can tap into all that positive peer pressure to help you do amazing things.

For the past year or more, I’ve been a part of a group called Hope*Writers.  They have inspired me to do so much when it comes to blogging.  I would never have gotten this far without them.  They helped me figure out things like how much personal information to put on the internet and they celebrated with me when I put out my first newsletter.  In real life I have friends that email, call, text, and listen.  While I’m still getting used to depending on other people, I love the encouragement and support my friends give me in many areas of life.

So what is your Leviathan today?  What group could you gather around you for help and encouragement?  How can you conquer your fear and get out and do what you’re called to do?  Because, in the wise words of my 14 year old son, “When all you hear for two weeks is ‘dude, you gotta do it man’ then you have to do it, mom.”


Perfection & Beauty

I’m a perfectionist.

This has caused problems for me most of my life.  Lack of sleep, stress, worry, they all come along with it.  I’ve tried so hard to be the best at something, anything.  I work and work at things that just don’t matter, or I stress out about what people think of me.

Living like that has been exhausting but I’m slowly recovering.  I still like to be really, really good at, well, everything, but life has been far from perfect lately.

I’ve been thinking about this with my renos lately.  I haven’t had time to finish painting.  Or hang up all the pictures.  My contractor hasn’t come back to finish details yet.  Everything is in a state of half done.

But its been good for me.

Because today Emma told me that she really loves this house.  There’s still junk on the back porch. There’s no grass in the backyard.  Her room is not put together yet.  And because of all those things, I don’t feel quite at home here yet.  But Emma loves it.  For all the right reasons.  Because without all the stress of life, and the drive of perfectionism, and the worrying about what people think, she sees the house where her family lives, where she can play and sleep and we eat around the table together and we laugh and talk and rest.  She can see past the imperfections to what really matters.  She can find the beauty in the chaos.

That’s what I want to see in my life.  My family is not perfect.  My husband is not perfect.  I’m not perfect.  Life doesn’t always work out like I planned.  People disappoint, troubles come.  And yet, with a closer look, it can all be beautiful.  I can enjoy this beautiful house with its dirty trim and unadorned walls.  I can enjoy my marriage and family even during the hard times.  I can see the beauty in life even when my body is in pain.

But only if I let go of the idea of perfection.

One day I’ll finally revel in the perfection of everything, but not until Heaven.  Until then, may I always choose to see past the imperfections of my house, my life, my people, and choose instead to see the beauty.


eternal focus

Do you ever feel like quitting?

There’s life in general, which I feel like quitting every day.  Seriously, I have this awesome new bedroom and bathroom that feels like a spa and I can watch Netflix with the touch of a remote.  Throw a fridge in the corner, and I would never emerge to real life again.

Then there’s the spiritual life.  Can we just be real for a minute and say, its not always sunshine and roses?  Its hard, and you have to think a lot, and its time consuming.  Take away all the church and serving and working on my attitude, and there would be a lot more time for Netflix.  Or the cottage.  Or hanging out with friends.  Or whatever it is that makes you want to quit real life.  I think we could all agree on naps.

Sometimes I feel like quitting.  Whether its difficult situations, or a time thing, or I’m angry at God about something, sometimes I lose my focus.  So how do we keep from quitting during these times?

In John 6, Jesus delivers what His followers call, “hard sayings”.  There’s certainly hard sayings in the Christian life, aren’t there?  Love, grace, forgiveness, these are all awesome when they’re directed toward us, but when we have to start extending those to everyone else, things get a little harder.

After Jesus teaches these hard sayings, many followers leave.  They quit.  This Christianity thing was too hard for them.  Too many demands, not enough miracles.

Jesus then turns to His 12 disciples and asks if they will leave too.  Peter responds with an answer that has stuck with me for a while now.

Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.

We can quit, but then what?  Where else is better?  Who is better?

And most importantly, who else offers eternal life?

I’ve found that when I most feel like quitting, its because my focus has gotten off the eternal and onto the temporal.  It has gotten off eternal life and onto the comforts of this life.  Off of the glorious and onto the mundane.

Off of God and onto myself.

I have to preach these things to myself because some days, like today, I feel overwhelmed and tired and like I would just like to nap forever.  But this hard, time-consuming life is worth it.  And the only way to remember that is to keep my focus on the eternal.  As in, it doesn’t really matter if the kids bedrooms are painted and the yard is cleaned up.  But trying to speak truth to K-6th grade kids does matter in the end.  Even if it was entitled, why its awesome to be weird.

So keep on serving and loving and working in whatever way God has called you to.  But keep your focus where it needs to be, or you will want to quit.

But I think short naps are important too.


sitting with sadness

I heard some bad news a couple of weeks ago.  The kind of news that makes you want to cry.  The kind that pulls up a chair, sits with you, and brings up all sorts of memories, good and bad.  This sad news sat with me until I was not only thinking of that particular news, but many things associated with it.  It brought up terrible things from the past year.  It made me think through things I had hoped were forgotten.

I sat with this sadness for a while, until I started worrying about how sad I was.  With my struggles with depression, I start to worry when I feel on the verge of tears for two weeks.  So, in my weird way, I sat down and started analyzing myself.  Was I depressed?  My sure indicators are that I want to stay away from all. the. people. / run. away.  But I wasn’t doing that.  Instead, I actually told a few people about it.  I told them that it was breaking my heart, and even that it was bringing up other things for me.  The other indicator that I’m depressed is that I’m completely overwhelmed by the thought that nothing will ever be ok.  And I honestly don’t feel that way right now.

So, I said to myself, if you’re not depressed, why are you so sad?

I came to this conclusion.  Some things in life are just overwhelmingly sad.  And its not wrong to feel that way.  It doesn’t even make you depressed.

If you start looking around, the world is a pretty sad place.  You can always find something sad going on around the world with a simple click.  But you don’t even have to look that far.  Its almost guaranteed that someone you know is going through something hard and sad.  For that matter, we often have something going on in our own life!

So how do we sit with this sadness?  How do we acknowledge the sorrow without letting it ruin our lives?

I was reminded of a verse out of II Corinthians 6 this week.  “As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing.”  Yes, we will always sit with sadness, to varying degrees, but we can always invite rejoicing too.  It feels weird, but they can both sit at the same table.  As Christians we have so much to rejoice in.  Our salvation, the hope of Heaven, the delight of His Presence, the list goes on.

So if this week you find yourself sitting with sadness, that’s ok.  There’s nothing wrong with sadness.  Sit with it.  Feel it.  Allow it to make you more compassionate and soft.  But don’t let it take over your life or make you bitter.  Invite rejoicing to join you at the table.


Notes and Lessons

There has been a great mystery in my life the past six months.  I’m pretty sure the person wanted it to stay that way.

But alas, I am not built for not knowing things.  Seriously.  It drives me around the bend.  I get a little obsessive and I start checking post marks and comparing hand writing.

For the past seven months, someone has been sending me lovely little cards, accompanied by a piece of chocolate, with scriptures written on them.  And not just written, but very nicely done, with loops and swirls and bold and cursive.  Something my handwriting could never achieve!  These verses started coming when everything fell apart last October and continued for six months.  They found homes on my fridge, on my counter, piled up in different places, getting splashed with food, getting read over and over.

I finally figured out who was writing them.  I won’t put her name here, because she obviously doesn’t want to be recognized, but I intend to write her a private message to thank her.  And to tell her to read this blog post.

These verses meant so much to me.  I’ve never had anyone do something like that for me before.  Completely anonymous, purely for encouragement.  I learned a bunch of lessons from this experience, and I hope to keep putting them into practice in my life.

First, she did this for me without knowing the whole situation.  I’m pretty sure at the time, she only knew that I was hurting.  I’ve never told her about what happened, although someone else might have.  But the cards started very quickly, so I doubt she knew.  It didn’t matter to her if I had done something wrong or not, if I was making the right decisions or not, all that mattered was that I was hurting.  She just saw another hurting woman and did something about it.

Second, we were not super close friends, and she reached out anyways.  I love her, and I enjoy every minute we spend together, but it only amounts to a few hours a year.  We don’t talk on the phone, or text, or message, or see each other often.  But that didn’t stop her.  She is a great friend in the truest sense of the word.  She was there for me when there was nothing in this for her.  No recognition, no accolades, no one to see her doing it.  I shouldn’t have been surprised when I found out who it was, because she’s such a loving and giving person.

Third, she used the best form of encouragement possible.  She didn’t send me memes, or platitudes, or quotes, or tell me to keep my chin up.  Just verses.  Carefully chosen to speak to a hurting heart, no matter the situation.  When someone’s life is falling apart, the best thing we can do for them is to keep pointing them to Jesus.  Oh, I need people too, and I was so encouraged that someone thought I was worth that effort!  But in the end, we just need to keep pointing people back to Jesus.

Those little cards made such a difference to me.  I would brighten up every time I would see one come in the mail.  So, thank you, J, for the blessing you were to me, for those precious cards, and for the lessons learned.  I can’t wait to give you a hug in person.