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.


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.


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.


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.


Shiny

So I go to a new church now.  Its a shiny, new, big church.  Seriously, it has like 15 huge chandeliers in the auditorium.  Well, I haven’t counted, but its close.  I’ve been going to conferences at this church since I was about 12.  Its one of those big professional churches where everything runs smoothly and looks beautiful.

I thought it might be hard for me to feel at home here after going to a small country church and living at a camp.  We would have lots of people, but it definitely wasn’t big or shiny or new.  But I have started to feel at home here.

You might think that would’ve started when I sang in the choir, or when we became members, or when we had our first parent teacher meetings.  But no.  I distinctly remember the first time I smiled and thought, this feels like home.

It was when one poor little boy threw up over the other poor kids while the kids choir was singing one Sunday night.  Before you think I’m a horrible person, I really did feel sorry for this poor little boy and the other children who kept right on singing covered in, well, you know.  And also, in my defence, I was not the only adult barely keeping it together.

But it was the first time that my church was not just shiny and new and big.  In that moment it was just a regular church with regular people and sick kids and a clean up on aisle 3 right in the middle of service.

I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of weeks now.  I spent so much of my life trying to look shiny.  I never let anyone in, tried to make sure I was giving the best impression possible.  I made sure I always did the right things, said the right things, looked the right way.  And it was exhausting.  And I had very few friends.  Go figure.  I was always striving.  Always trying to look shiny and new and awesome.  And don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that I should suddenly start doing or saying the wrong things.  But I was fake.  I didn’t tell anyone I was struggling with depression.  I would never have written a blog post about feeling angry or sad.

But I’ve been learning.  As I look around, as I hear other people’s stories, as I tell mine, none of us are very shiny or new.  I think there’s a verse like that, right?

So here in this new church, I’ve tried to be even a little more honest.  I told a few people that going to that same conference that I had been attending for all those years as a “former pastor’s wife” was very hard.  And that I worked in the kitchen so I wouldn’t have to answer questions all day.  When I confided that in one new friend, she told me why she was having a difficult day and we hugged and cried together at the sink and I suddenly felt a connection with her that will hopefully form the basis of a solid relationship.

Shiny and new and big and awesome has its place, but crying together at the sink is beautiful too.

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Changes, Changes

Do you ever hear those stories about how someone’s life changed in a moment?  Well, I never really thought that would be me.  I’m a planner.  I like things organized.  And I’m a control freak.

So when I went to bed two Sunday nights ago, I did not expect that the next Sunday I would be saying goodbye to my church family, where I have been for 28 years, and moving to Barrie to start my life all over again.

Obviously, there was a major life change in there.  But one I’m not going to tell you about.  At least not for quite a while.  I was asking my writing group to help me figure out how much to share on my blog.  They were full of wisdom.  We decided that a couple weeks of complete silence would be best.  Followed by a short update with not much detail.

Here’s the thing.  With advice, I’ve decided to be authentic, but not transparent at this time.  In other words, I’m still going to share with you all the things I’ve learned, what God is teaching me at this time, how I feel about things, but I’m leaving out all the personal details for now.  Its been a hard change for my family and we need time to figure things out first.  As one of my fellow writers said, you have to live the lessons first before you can share them.

So here are the details I can give you.  Because you must be curious by now:)  Michael left the ministry officially about two weeks ago.  We moved to Barrie and are attending Heritage Baptist Church.  Michael is looking for a job up here while I’m adjusting to the life of a mom whose kids now go to Christian school instead of homeschooling.  I use the term adjusting lightly.  I’m kind of in love with it.  You may remember a recent post about not wanting to homeschool this year, so that worked out well!  The kids are adjusting very well.  Because of the camp ministry, I think we could go anywhere and they would have friends there, but they have some especially good ones here.  Emma is the only one struggling since the math change has been hard for her.  Apparently going from Saxon math to Abeka math in grade four is extremely challenging.  But they’ve only been in school two days, so I’m sure in a few weeks she will be perfectly fine.

We love this church and the Pastor and his wife.  We’re looking forward to serving there and are excited about our upcoming time there.

I want to be sure that with all this excitement about not homeschooling and the church here that I don’t give the impression that I was happy about having to leave Harvesters.  And the way that we did.  It was heart wrenching and hard and as Emma described it after our last Sunday, “well, that was the hardest day of my life!”.  Its not easy to leave the place you went to many times a week for 28 years.  I don’t know if I’ll ever get that level of familiarity back.  And I loved my Pastor and his wife dearly.  They were like second parents to me.  That church has many good people and many good memories.

But, now its time to look forward.  I started choir practice, I have some muffins and pot pies to make, and I’m trying to start putting faces with names.  Change can be hard, but its not all bad either.

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