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.


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.


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.