Beauty and Jesus

So, my life is kind of disaster right now.

I’m behind on everything.  I completely missed one of my daughters music festival classes last night.  I haven’t cleaned up dinner yet.  Every day I’m told that my renos will be done in two to three days.  For about five days now.  There is drywall dust and boxes everywhere.  But I abandoned it all to write for a few minutes.  Because I can’t get something off my mind.

Its been very easy to feel overwhelmed the last few weeks.  Moving will do that.  Moving into renos will make you lose your mind completely.  But even more than the overwhelmed feeling, I’ve needed an attitude adjustment toward my house.  There are some pretty ugly parts.  And the parts that we’re trying to make pretty are far from done.  I can’t even make things look presentable yet because I can’t unpack anything else till I can have the rest of the house back.  I keep looking around and just wishing I could fix it all immediately.  That my house would be pinterest perfect with the snap of my fingers.  I wouldn’t even mind the work of shopping and picking out finishes, if only I had an unlimited budget and could pay someone to do all this painting and cleaning.

Then a quote by Ann Voskamp came up in my Facebook feed.  It simply said, “All longing for beauty is a longing for Jesus”.  Well.  Talk about a sermon in one sentence.  Or as some of my blogger friends say, That’ll preach.

I keep looking around my house, longing for the pictures to be hung, the shelves to be arranged just so, the pretty colours on the wall, to get rid of the terrible backsplash in the kitchen.  When what I really need is more of Jesus.  On the good days, I can live around the boxes and the inability to move forward.  On the bad days, the ones where my perspective is skewed, I wind up frustrated and miserable.  And all this week Jesus has been using my house to gently remind me that I don’t need anything but more of Him.  I’m trying to let every wayward thought, every frustration, every bad attitude, point me to Jesus.  Instead of buying more pretty things, get more of Jesus.  Instead of complaining, talk to Jesus.

Now, I’m not saying that I’ve completely accomplished this yet!  If you ask a few of my friends, they will tell you I’m still a little testy sometimes!  But the gentle reminders are still there all the time and this house is trying its best to point me to Jesus…

Maybe today you find yourself longing for something.  We all look for beauty in different ways.  In our houses, in ourselves, in our lives.  But what we really need is Jesus.  So continue on your search for beauty – I definitely intend to make this house beautiful bit by bit – but let those times remind you that the deepest longings of our soul can only truly be filled by Jesus.


You don’t have to do this alone

Recently I went with my kids to convention.  I’m sure convention has a more formal title, like Christian Student Convention, or something like that, but in our small circle when you say convention, everyone knows what that means.

I love convention.  Like, weirdly.  Its one of my favourite events of the whole year.  Most students and teachers don’t because its a lot of work, but I love it and always have.  In the past 24 years, I’ve only missed a few.

When we moved to this new town/church/school, I thought there was no way I would be involved.  Surely they were too big and organized and professional to need my help.  But the music teacher asked me for help!  I was going to convention after all!  I was so excited.

Till I wasn’t.

It suddenly occurred to me in the two weeks leading up to it, that this was one of the first events where I would see “everyone” and not be from my old church.  I started getting a knot in my stomach.  Started worrying about what people would say to me.  Started wondering what I would feel like.  I ended up being very anxious about attending the event that I generally love.

So, I did something revolutionary for me.

I told some people about it.

And not just a few close friends, I told some people that I’ve only known a short time, but people that were going.  And could help.  That could stick with me.

This might seem like a logical conclusion to some of you, but some of the people that know me well may have just gasped.  Its hard for me to admit things like that to people, and harder still to ask for help.  But hey, these last few months have been a little crazy, why not throw this in the mix as well.  One of my friends that was going even told me she would be my “emotional plexiglass”.  I love that.

So off to convention I went, armed with people who knew it was going to be difficult and would help.  I was trying this out and really felt I would be fine.  It was weird at first, but people were great and things were going well.

Then I found out something.  Things were about to get much worse.  I literally thought I might throw up.  I went and told my pastor’s wife.  Then at lunch, in the middle of hundreds of people, I went and sat down beside my Pastor, told him about it, and started crying right there.  Right in the gym, balancing a plate on my lap.  I told him I didn’t think I could do it.  And then he said something to me that just confirmed everything the Lord had been showing me in the past few weeks.

“You don’t have to do this alone.”

He repeated that phrase several times while telling me that I was part of them now and they as a group would help me get through this.

You know, I think it was the perfect thing to say.  There was no denying the fact that this was going to be hard.  There was no false bravado of “You can do it!”.  No glossing over feelings or situations.  No platitudes.  Just, you don’t have to do this alone.

How many times in my life has my refusal to ask for help ended up in me having to do it alone?  Too many.  And my life in the past few months has had things too hard and too heavy for me to do alone.  And I’m learning that I don’t have to.  God has sent people to help carry the load.  Just as there were times that I was willing to help carry other’s burdens, I need to acknowledge that there are times when I need help with mine.

Let me remind you today, you don’t have to do this alone.


Mixed Emotions

We got the keys to our new house last week.

In case our life seems confusing – because it is – we moved to Barrie suddenly in October and found a rental.  We then sold our house, that we were renting out because we lived at the camp, and bought one here.  So we finally closed last Thursday.

We got a good deal for the city.  Its an older house that needs some updating for sure and we’re putting in a second bathroom but its a nice house in a nice neighbourhood with a big backyard and some big trees.

So I should be thrilled right?

I went to the lawyers, picked up the key and waited for the excitement to hit.  It never came.  Still hasn’t.

What is my problem, you might be thinking.  I was too.  I thought about it all weekend.

First of all, I don’t want to move.  Really, really, don’t want to move.  No one loves it I’m sure, but this will now be the third move in less than 10 months.  Insanity.  At least this one I knew was coming, so I didn’t really unpack the last time.  It will be very nice to have all my things out again and have my pictures and decor but that will require unpacking.  So there’s that – moving is so. much. work.  And the house is filthy.  And we’re getting some renos done.

But I think what it really comes down to is, I’m done with change.  Almost every single aspect of my life changed a few months ago.  And it was necessary, if painful, and it has turned out amazingly, as God’s plans do, and I love my new life, even if it took some adjusting.  But I’m not sure I have it in me to change even this one thing.  Even if it is for the better.  The kids will be happier, the dog will be happier, I’ll have a brand new ensuite, and I just look at it all and think, I’m tired of this.  I should be ecstatic and I’m not.

I want to hide out in my bed, but instead I’m meeting the water guy on Thursday and the ESA guy on Friday and I picked out tiles and I’m trying to find a vanity.  Because life throws us curve balls and hard days and mixed emotions.  But there is always strength to go on.  Even on the days I want to stay in bed.  Because I’ve learned a little formula for these days.

Acknowledge the emotions and that life stinks sometimes.

And then get your strength from God.

Because some days are hard.  And some days you tell your husband that you’ll do this one last move and then its stay in the same house or divorce.  I may or may not be kidding about that one.

But this little formula is exactly what I would love this community to be about.  To be able to share that life gets hard sometimes, but to pass along the hope that God is so good.  And He imparts His strength to us – its there for the asking!  Maybe today you’re like me and need someone to come along side you and say, Yup, this stinks, but God is good and you can do it through His strength.

And also, if you could pray with me that there would miraculously be a vanity that I love that is less than I was hoping to spend on the entire bathroom.  Amen.


Messy Love

I really don’t love Valentine’s Day.  If there was the equivalent of a Scrooge, I would probably be that.  What could you call that anyways?  I think we should make something up.  Before you think I’m completely horrible, I did make all the kids Valentine’s Day popcorn to take to class.  It even had pink and red smarties and sprinkles in it.  Of course, it was covered in sticky marshmallow goop, so maybe the teachers won’t be so thrilled.

Anyways, not my favourite day.  I always say that Michael and I get along every day except holidays and anniversaries.  Too many expectations, too much pressure.  And some days, I just don’t feel the love.  Because you know what?  Sometimes people are terrible.  And they hurt us and disappoint us.  And its not just romantic love that disappoints.  Friends, family, kids, they all have the ability to wound us and make us hate days where we’re supposed to be celebrating love.

So, should we just throw it all away?  Become the Scrooge of Valentine’s?

This morning I got a nice card and a little gift beside my bed.  And it was lovely.  Please don’t judge, but I didn’t even get Michael a card, let alone a gift.  And we probably won’t even make it out for our plan of dessert at this little cafe because, well, Tuesdays and kids and homework and robots.  Yes, my older two children are on a team that’s building a robot for a competition.  And yes, its ruining my life, but they’re happy and have zero time for watching youtube, so there’s that.  Does that mean Valentine’s Day is ruined?

Depends.

Depends on your definition of love.

If celebrating love means roses and butterflies and notes and chocolates and feelings, then yes.

But if this past year has taught me anything, its that love is actually very rarely those things.  Instead, love is forgiveness and grace, again and again, and its messy and heartbreaking and self-sacrificing and sometimes you have to fight with all your might to keep it.  Sometimes you have to beg God to give it to you, because its impossible to give of it yourself.  Its praying for the people who have hurt you and turn their back on you and refuse to text you back anymore.  Its cleaning and meals and rides.  Its a lot of work.

But that kind of love?  That messy very very hard love?  Its the most wonderful, fulfilling thing you will ever experience.  Because it comes straight from Heaven.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t have it in myself to do all those things.  To keep sacrificing, to keep forgiving again and again.  But God does.  And He’s living right inside me.  Teaching me about love more and more every year.  Pushing me to love more, love deeper.

So for me, this Valentine’s Day has very few of the mushy feelings – lets face it, I’m generally not that person anyways – but thinking about it today has renewed my determination to love people in the real, messy, and hard ways that true love requires.


Failure, mess-ups, and love

Last Sunday night I was standing in the back hall waiting for the choir to file out.  I had only been in the back line once before, but I knew the drill.  The only way to know when you’re supposed to file out is to keep peeking out of the door to see when the other row started.  I peeked out once.  Nothing.  Then promptly forgot my job.  Yup.  Even though it was about 30 seconds till church was supposed to start, I forgot to look out again.  I got laughing at some story being told.  Just enjoying myself like the fate of the back row didn’t rest on me.  Suddenly, I thought to open the door and look out.  There stood the other half of the choir in their nice neat row.  The director was waiting behind her music stand, the pianist had already started in the intro.  And our row was completely empty.  I practically ran out the door, not looking to see if anyone else could keep up.  Its a good thing I don’t wear heels or I would’ve added falling on my face to my embarrassment.  The pianist had to completely restart the intro.  Horrors.  Not only that, but in my haste, I threw open my music until I realized that everyone else was calmly standing with their music closed, waiting for the director.  Like the good choir people do.  So I shut it at the precise moment she told everyone else to open theirs.  I tried telling myself that it was Sunday night, not morning at least.  Everyone knows that Sunday night is more relaxed and errors are more acceptable.  That in the grand scheme of life, this was not that big of a deal.  And on and on I talked to myself, trying to not feel absolutely horrible.  But horrible it was.  I felt terrible.  Like a complete failure.  Not only that, but one of the church staff members teased me about it right on the platform and I told him to shut up.  In church.  To a staff member.  Although, I really can’t bring myself to feel like that was a complete failure.  He kind of deserved it and he’s way younger than me.

And earlier last week, I was helping with the church website.  I’ve basically sworn off anything complicated to do with church websites for the rest of my entire life.  But this was just changing the theme on WordPress.  I knew I could do that.  So I got my computer, camped out in my bed – my office these days until we move – and installed the new theme.  Which basically takes the website down to nothing until you build it back up.  I distinctly remember thinking, what if I fail at this?  These people don’t even love me yet.  They hardly know me, let alone love me.  What if I totally mess this up, can’t fix it, and I will be known as a failure.

And that’s when it occurred to me.

We’re all just looking to be loved.

And when we mess up, we feel like no one will love us.  So I had to have a little talk with myself.  Some days we just need to preach a little truth, right?  Because we forget so easily.  In the middle of stressful situations, in the middle of our mess-ups, when we do actually fail big time, this is when the lies start.  We allow the lies to tell us that we are the sum of our mess-ups, that no one loves us, that we are not worthy of God’s love.

But that is just not the truth that is in God’s word.  God loved us first.  Before we ever did a thing for Him.  He died for us while we were yet sinners.  We don’t have to earn His love.  He loves us more perfectly than anyone ever could, every day, every minute, through every mess-up, every failure.  So rest assured in His love today.  Even if you messed up the choir, or cooked a dinner so bad you had to feed it to the dog (which I also did last week), or yelled at the kids again, or just generally feel like you’re failing at life.  God loves you no matter what.


Monday Morning Hope

Do you ever feel like Monday mornings could use just a little something extra?  Like a little more hope?

Today I’m letting you know about a new devotional on my site.  Monday Morning Hope.  When you sign up on my site, you will get a devotional entitled Hope Through Trials delivered to your inbox.  Then the next three Mondays you will receive an email devotional.

Disclaimer:  This is a lot of new technology for me!  Sequences, auto mailings, embedded forms, so this is the plan and I’ve tested a lot of it, but just pray along with me that this all actually works!

When you sign up at my site, you’re not signing up for all the blog posts or all the spam.  I won’t be emailing you everyday.  You don’t have time for that, I don’t have time for that.  So don’t worry that you’re going to suddenly hear from me way more than you want to!  Its just a way for me to keep in touch with you once in a while and start building a community together.

I’m really looking forward to sharing with you and I pray that these devotionals will be a blessing to you.

Look for the embedded form below:)


When The Bottom Falls Out

Some days it feels like the bottom dropped out of our world.  Maybe its a phone call, a diagnosis, bad news, family issues, financial issues – the possibilities are as endless and unique as there are people in the world.

There is hope for these days.

When the bottom drops out of our lives, it only serves to remind us that those things weren’t actually holding us up.

If you know Christ, He is your foundation.  And He never moves.  He is rock solid.

My hope is built on nothing less

than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;

I dare not trust the sweetest frame,

but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

Its so easy for us to base our lives on the things we control.  Or at least we think we control.  But then those things shift, move.  And we’re shaken.  What we believed about our family, our life, our body, ourselves, is suddenly not true.  And we don’t know where to stand.  We search around for solid rock.  We start to question things.  The things we thought were true, what the future will hold, how we will be able to move forward.

When darkness veils his lovely face,

I rest on his unchanging grace;

in every high and stormy gale,

my anchor holds within the veil.

Dear one, your worth was never based on anything you have done.  Or grown up as.  Or the relationships you have.  Or don’t have.  Not your worth, not your identity, not the core of who you are.  You have worth solely because Jesus loves you.  Your identity is that you are a child of God.  The core of who you are is based on those two facts.  Jesus loves you and He died so that you could be a child of God.  That’s it.  Nothing that happens to us in this world can change that.

His oath, his covenant, his blood

support me in the whelming flood;

when all around my soul gives way,

he then is all my hope and stay.

His oath, His covenant, His blood.  These are the things that we can stand on.  That sustain us when the bottom seems to fall out of our lives.  This is what we go back to over and over again.  When the bottom drops out, when the flood overwhelms us, when it seems that all is lost or shaken, He, then, is ALL my hope.  All my hope, and all I need.  The solid rock that my slipping feet are searching for.  The place I can plant my feet and feel secure on the foundation of my life.  When I’m standing on Christ the solid rock, it doesn’t matter if all other ground is sinking sand, I’m secure.  And that is all my hope.


I Wore a Scarf to Costco

I used to be known as the woman who always wore a necklace or a scarf.  I actually tried both at once, but was slightly mocked for that.  I also love colour.  Don’t get me wrong, black is my go-to basic, but I do own a screaming hot pink blazer.

It occurred to me last week that I haven’t worn accessories much since everything happened a few months ago.  And as I stood in my closet yesterday, I realized that I’ve been wearing an awful lot of black and grey.  For most people, this might seem like no big deal, but I realized that I haven’t felt like myself.  Deep down, I no longer cared about accessories or colour.  So yesterday, as I contemplated what to wear, I pulled down my screaming hot pink sweater (yes, I have more than one piece of clothing that is hot pink) and one of my favourite multi-coloured floral scarves.  All for the important day of going to…Costco.  Yup.  In the middle of winter where no one was going to see anything but my coat anyways.  Thankfully, I also took the girls to their piano lessons where it is usually warm enough for me to take off my coat.

For me, that scarf was saying, the time for mourning has passed.  There are times of mourning, and that’s ok.  And good.  I have spent the last three months clinging to the grace of God.  Every day I have gripped onto His grace to me, begged for His grace to flow through me, relied on His grace for the every day.  But now its time to remember that the joy of the Lord is my strength.  Oh, I’m very sure that I’ve not passed the stage of needing extra grace!  I’m still relying on that.

But its time to throw some joy in there.

Over Christmas, I had to decide.  Was I going to let circumstances and people steal my joy?  Because its so easy to let that happen, eh?

But God is so good.  For months I felt a supernatural grace, and now that I’m asking for it, I feel a supernatural joy starting to flood my soul once again.  With my struggles with depression and the fact that I’ve always said, I’ll never be a happy-happy person, my joy may look different than yours.  But its creeping back in.

Are you going through a period of mourning?  Are you “wearing black”?  Maybe its time to start praying for little bits of joy.  Maybe its time to pray for a flood of it.

You know what the hardest part was for me?  To say, its ok to be joyful.  I think God wants me to love my new church and be happy here.  I think God wants me to love my new city and my new home.  God wants me to have a joyful marriage.  I may not have chosen the circumstances of the past few months, and I certainly can’t control other people, but I can rest in the fact that God is ultimately in control.  And He doesn’t ask me to live a life in constant mourning.  So for today, I’m going to choose joy.  And the only way to do that is through His strength and His power.

Now, I do have a new grey sweater I was planning to wear to church on Sunday…I’ll try to find a flashy necklace…


When 2017 Doesn’t Look Like You Thought

New Years.  Brings thoughts of fresh beginnings, happy family pictures, resolutions, general joy and bliss.

But maybe not for you.  Are you looking at the start of 2017 and wondering what happened?  Maybe you’re beginning with family issues, health issues, grief, loss, change, depression.  Maybe its not even that serious, but you’re just not feeling the joy and bliss of the flip of the calendar.

If you had told me three months ago that my 2017 would look like it does, I would have told you you were off. your. rocker.  Then three days later, my life took a sudden turn that I would have never guessed.

But the other day I was listening to a podcast and the guest was talking about Exodus 13.  Verses 17 & 18 say,

“And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt: But God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red sea: and the children of Israel went up harnessed out of the land of Egypt.”

Essentially God was saying, I know these people, and for their own good, I’m going to lead them the long way around.

The long way.  The way that would have made zero sense to anyone watching.  Or with a map, or a plan.

And yet there was no denying that this was the way God wanted them to go.  There was a massive pillar of cloud by day and fire by night.  God was very clear that He wanted them to go the long way around.

God leads us the long way too.  Whether we can see the good right away, or whether it takes years to show up, or whether it seems as if we will never understand, God’s way really is for our good.  Even when its long and through the wilderness.

Over the next few books, we get to know these Israelites pretty well.  They had issues with trusting God, getting along, obedience, faith, complaining…starting to sound familiar?  It certainly does to me.  I can see why God sometimes needs to lead me the long way through the wilderness.  The wilderness became a place of purging sin, learning lessons, growing faith.  These things don’t happen on the easy path, the short path.  The biggest growth happens on the long journey, the difficult one.

But you know the best part of the story?  When they finally get to the Red Sea, they get to witness miracles.  They literally get to see God destroying their enemies, making a path through an impossible situation, taste total freedom from Egypt.  If they knew what was coming, they might have savoured that walk in the wilderness that was leading them to the miraculous.

So, my friend, at this, the start of 2017, we don’t know how long the road is going to be, how hard the journey, but we can rest assured in this: God road is always for our good.

And He is the God of the miraculous.


Tidings of Comfort and Joy

Twinkling lights, the smell of Christmas cookies, pine trees, Christmas carols playing softly.

Peace.  Comfort.  Joy.

This is what Christmas is supposed to be about.  But some days its hard to feel the peace, there seems to be no comfort, no joy.  So how do we recapture the magic?  Because we can’t just snap our fingers and decide that everything is fine.  Maybe like me, you’ve recently had a painful reminder of hurt, or may be going through a tough time.  Maybe you feel alone.

God rest ye merry, gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember, Christ, our Saviour
Was born on Christmas day
To save us all from Satan’s power
When we were gone astray
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy
Wouldn’t that be nice.  Nothing you dismay.  Nothing.  How could anyone say that?  If you notice the first line, the comma is after merry.  The Old English meaning of this line is basically, Gentlemen, continue in being happy.  Continue being happy and be dismayed about nothing.  How is that possible?

Every carol that we’ve looked at together this month really comes down to the same message.

Jesus.

O tidings of comfort and joy.

Jesus – comfort and joy.

Because when you have Jesus, you have everything.  Jesus is your salvation, your hope, your best friend, your brother, your family, your comfort, your joy.

All you need is Jesus.

So enjoy all the wonderful things of the season, the lights, the cookies, the smells.  But if you need me to sing you tidings of comfort and joy, let me tell you about Jesus.  Only Jesus.  Always Jesus.

Now to the Lord sing praises,
All you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood
Each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas
All other doth deface.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy