New Mercies

Its now been one whole year since we moved.

In the few days before we moved, I spent quite a bit of time with a dear friend.  She had some words of wisdom for me.  She told me to get through the first year, knowing that all the firsts would be difficult.  Then after that, it would be so much easier because there were no more firsts.  A couple of weeks ago I was telling some ladies at our church’s ladies auction that it was my last first.  The last thing on the church’s calendar year that I had never been to, had no idea how it worked.

Not only was it for firsts here, but firsts from my old life too.  The first time I missed Western Day.  The first summer of not being at camp.  The strange longing that comes with knowing you’re right where you’re supposed to be, and loving it, but still feeling like a piece of your heart is somewhere else.  I suppose we all experience a little of that at different times.

This past Sunday was Christian School Sunday at church and I was asked to give a testimony as a new staff member.  It made me continue my reflection on this past year.  Its a completely different life.  And I love it so much, even though there are people and places and things I miss from my old one.  But the thought that kept coming up was, His mercies are new every morning, great is His faithfulness.

God took my heartbreak and turned it into something beautiful.  He took the ashes of an old life and created the most wonderful new one.  And He’s still doing so, every single day.

And He’s been faithful for this whole year.  Faithful to walk beside me in each new situation.  Hold me up every time I wanted to quit.  Rejoice with me in every victory, even when it was just driving somewhere without a GPS.  Cry with me with every memory, good or bad.  Forgive me for my lack of faith or forgiveness.

I would have never made it through this past year without a daily dose of mercy.  Praise God that it never runs out.  We can never make too many mistakes.  Never cry too many tears.  Never forget Him for too long.  Every single morning we wake up, His mercies are fresh and new.  Just waiting for the taking.


Uphill Together

Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.

For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.  Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Yesterday was Canadian Thanksgiving.  We decided to do something a little different this year.  We stayed home, didn’t go to any family events, spent a lot of time sleeping, resting, and yes, watching tv, and spending time with just the five of us.  We decided to go hiking for the day on Monday.  An hour’s drive from here there is a waterfall with a trail down to another waterfall.  Perfect.  It said it was a three hour round trip so we thought it would be a lovely hike through the woods.

The weather was perfect, we had a picnic lunch, and off we went.  It turned into 13 kilometres of uphill the whole way.  Well, maybe not quite, but it felt like it.  Michael’s phone said we did the equivalent of 84 flights of stairs, and my legs certainly feel like it this morning!

My son, who’s been running, didn’t seem bothered a bit.  My 13 year old daughter lead the entire way without slowing down, except for us to catch up.  My husband was perfectly fine, but my 10 year old daughter and I struggled a bit.  By the end it was more than a bit.

I have to tell you at this point, I can be a whiner.  Its bad.  Most women complain about men whining when they’re sick, but its the opposite in our house.  I’ve been trying really hard to eradicate this trait, but by kilometre 11, I was done.  I’ve also passed along this trait to my 10 year old.  Between the two of us, we can really get going!

But around 11.5, she stopped and started crying.  Not really the tears streaming down your face kind, but the I’m really trying not to cry but I might die kind.  So I ran over, put my arms around her, told her I knew that she was getting tired, but we were almost done and we were strong, persevering women who could finish.  (I also told her we were husqvarnas, a word from my mother’s language which means a woman good to break sod.  It may not sound like a complement, but it is.)

A miracle happened.  I stopped whining.  I had to.  Otherwise that poor dear was not going to make it.  In the end, we made it to the car, we had a day full of memories and the feeling of accomplishing something great.

A couple of things occurred to me as I watched this last couple of ks.  The two of us were struggling.  And because of that, we were the best people to help each other.  We were kind of getting irritated with the perkiness of everyone else who seemed to go straight uphill no problem.  But the encouragement from another person who’s legs were about to fall off helped more.

The second thing was, as soon I was focused on helping her get through the last k, I stopped whining about my problems.  I was no longer focused on my pain and struggle, but hers.  Mostly because she’s way to big for anyone to carry up a hill anymore!  But when I focused on her pain and struggles, mine seemed much smaller.

Maybe you’re struggling to get up a hill today.  Maybe the best way for you to get up it is to find someone else and tell them they are a husqvarna.  Or at least a strong persevering woman.  Its seems backward to help someone else instead of yourself, but God’s kingdom usually works that way.  Cheer someone up a hill today, and keep climbing!


Captive Thoughts

This past weekend was a little rough.

If you know me in real life, you probably know that its coming up to a year since we moved to Barrie, completely changing everything about our lives.  But this weekend, one year ago, started that whole process.  And it wasn’t pretty.

It was hard and terrible and not an anniversary I wanted to celebrate.

And as it approached it seemed that every day it got a little harder to breathe.  The weight of memories, good and bad, the weight of decisions made, decisions going forward, changes, all pressed down on me.

I kept thinking and thinking and over thinking until I finally realized that I hadn’t been praying about it.  And so I started.  And praying helped a lot.  But what helped me the most, besides it finally being over, was controlling how much I was thinking about it.  And what I was thinking about it.  And how much control I was letting it have over me.

I had let this event, this anniversary coming, grow to this huge thing in my mind.  Until it was all I thought about.

Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;  II Cor. 5:10

I’ve been repeating this verse to myself continually for years now.  Like, a lot of years.  As in, I have a very stubborn mind.

I finally realized that dwelling on the past and imagining worst case scenarios for the future was not helping me get through this weekend.  Not that I made it through unscathed.  For I did not.  There was some talking, some tears.  But I made it.  And I can breathe.  Because each day I’m trying to remember that I can ask the Holy Spirit to control my thoughts.  I can bring them into captivity.  I can make decisions about them.

And while its hard to let go of the feelings and the what ifs and all the thoughts, its so freeing when I do.  When I trust in God to take all those things and make something beautiful out of them, I can breathe again.  Its not about shoving them aside, or pretending that they don’t exist, its about bringing them into captivity.  Putting them in their place.

Do you have any thought patterns that need to be brought captive?  I have several!  But memorizing this verse was one of the best things I ever did.


our words

I also could speak as ye do: if your soul were in my soul’s stead, I could heap up words against you, and shake mine head at you.

But I would strengthen you with my mouth, and the moving of my lips should asswage your grief.  Job 16:4-5

I have this thing with my husband where I often ask him why he loves me.  He used to hate it.  Well, hate is a strong word, but it was not his favourite thing.  I used to hate his answers.  That might be slightly too strong, but not too far off.  It seemed like he was always telling me things that were out of my control, and therefore, not “me”.

I wrote a whole chapter in my book on how I realized it was really a control thing for me, that I was really asking, what can I continue to do to make you love me?  And I went on to talk about dwelling on God’s love for us.

But just because you write and have your own website, doesn’t mean you have your whole act together.

So I still ask.  All the time.

The other night I handed him a doozy.  I said, “I think you should tell me 15 reasons why you love me.”  I was mostly joking because I knew he would hate that.

But he did it.  All right in a row.  And they were all sweet and wonderful.  And you know what?

Its like it filled my soul.  I was amazed how much those words meant to me.

Its been a tough couple of weeks.  I started working part time, we had missions conference, I’ve been really sick, you know…life.  And those lovely words filled me back up.

As I’ve been studying Job lately, I’ve been amazed by the amount of chapters that his friends take up.  They berate him, tell him everything is his own fault, tell him to repent of his sins, basically, they decide they can speak for God.

In chapter 16 he gives them some advice.  I can’t decide if he blows up and loses it on his friends, or if this is said in a weary voice with tears. But he basically tells them they’ve been terrible friends and he needs their kind words.  Their strengthening, edifying words.

How we speak to people in their grief, in their sorrow, in their hard times, is so important.  Every time, we are given the opportunity to add to their load or to strengthen them for the task ahead.  Even when the week ahead is as simple as trying to get the laundry done and kids lunches made and music picked out.

Maybe you would join me this week in striving to build others up with my words?


Failure

My son turned 15 last week.  He didn’t want a big party, or any fancy gifts.  His only request was that we took him and his best friend to go tree top trekking.  Easy.

I totally messed it all up.

First of all, his birthday was also the first day of school and my first day of working.  I was supposed to bring cupcakes for the class.  I found myself at Zehrs at 8:55 buying cupcakes.  Nothing homemade here this year.

Then I planned out his day with his friend.  I talked to said friend’s mom, set up times, sleepovers, etc.  I felt on top of everything.  Until I realized that I forgot to book the actual Trekking.  Oh yes.  Michael drove two very excited boys out to the forest, only to find out that they were fully booked for the day and the boys could not go.

I literally almost cried.  I felt like such a failure.

They’ll live, of course.  And we’ll take them another time.  But for real.  He asked for one thing and I didn’t deliver.

So now what.  I sat in bed for a while.  Held back the tears.  And then thought, well, I might as well research what to do with these feelings and then write!

So here’s how I got over my epic parenting fail last week.

Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand. Psalm 27:24

I may have failed at this birthday thing, but that doesn’t mean that I, myself, am an epic failure.  Sure, it was a little stumble, maybe even a fall, but I am not utterly cast down.  Now, if I had to parent on my own, if everything was in my own strength, my own wisdom, then yes.  I would probably be an epic failure.

But I don’t have to do it alone.

God is literally reaching down, and holding me up.  And you guys, I’ve felt it.  There have been times this past year where I would have messed up my life by being reactionary, but I have physically felt the presence of God holding me up.  Isn’t that amazing?

The God of the universe catches you every time you fall.

For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again.  Proverbs 24:16

So when you know that God is upholding you, your next step is simple.
Get back up.

I had to text the mom, explain to her what happened, and then we got together and figured out a time that would work.  Again.

My pride may have been a little bruised, but other than that, it was all ok.  We all dealt with the disappointment, and then moved on.

And we can find that strength to get up again because His mercies are new every morning.

What if you messed up for the tenth time today.

His mercies are new every morning.

What if you didn’t just mess up a little.

His mercies are new every morning.

What if you really sinned.  Really messed everything up.

Get back up.

Because His mercies are new every morning.


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.


Jehovahshalom

I always think of Gideon as a little scared.

I mean, God had to really convince him to go and fight the Midianites.  Back and forth with the fleece, hiding out in a winepress, Gideon’s beginning doesn’t seem to match his ending.

But right at the beginning of his story is where we find the name of God, Jehovahshalom.  Meaning, The Lord is Peace.  Right when Gideon is choosing to get involved in the battle, you would think he would be thinking about other names, like maybe, the Lord is our banner.  Or something about victory.  But his first impression is peace.

Gideon is hiding in the winepress, threshing his wheat so the Midianites won’t steal it, when the angel of the Lord appears to him and gives him his very first assignment.  When he realizes exactly who is talking to him, I’m guessing he had quite a look on his face because the next words of the story are, “And the Lord said unto him, Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die.”  Maybe he meant, you won’t die from the assignment and maybe you won’t die right this second, we don’t know, but either way, it would appear that Gideon is pretty scared right now.

“Then Gideon built an altar there unto the Lord, and called it Jehovahshalom: unto this day it is yet in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.”

Gideon was scared, but willing.  So, in the way of the Old Testament Israelites who wanted to remember major events, he built an altar.  And called it The Lord is Peace.  Peace.  Not victory.  I think that maybe Gideon knew he needed to feel that peace before he could even enter the battle.  In the New Testament we call it the peace that passes understanding.  Even though he was scared and hesitant and later on had to be convinced once again, he wanted to remember that at that moment, he felt peace.  The kind that only comes from God.

God had fully convinced him that he was where he needed to be and doing what he needed to do.  So when the battle got hard, or long, or heartbreaking, or dangerous, or anything else that battles do, he could look back at the altar and know.  The Lord was his peace.

I always thought I knew about that peace that passes understanding.  Until the last two months.  I cannot even tell you how much I’ve learned about and leaned on that peace.  Although, I suppose that is the way of life.  You always think you’ve got it figured out until the next curve ball.  The peace of the Lord has flooded my life in ways I can’t explain.  Its as though I can feel Jehovahshalom standing beside me in the battle.  Reminding me that He is in control and I have nothing to fear.  The battle may be raging, but with Jehovahshalom standing by my side, I can have complete peace in spite of it.  I know the battle the Lord has allowed in my life, I know what He’s asked me to do in the battle, and I feel like I could, with Gideon, build an altar right here in my Ophrah.  Reminding me in the future of the peace God has given with this assignment.

Are you feeling scared today?  Really, can there be many days when everything is going so well we have nothing we could be scared of?  But this is where this name is so important.  Because His peace is what gets us through the battle.  You can trust in Him, Jehovahshalom.

yahweh-rapha-2


Yahweh-Rapha

The LORD that Healeth.

This one has been popping up in my study of the names of God but I keep scrolling past it.

Honestly, I struggle with this one.

Next month will be 8 years of chronic pain.  I have asked the Lord a thousand times to fix it.  And He hasn’t.  Frankly, its frustrating.  I asked then if it could at least be diagnosed.  And I’m not.  Its embarrassing to have to explain to people that I can’t do certain things, or admit that I spent the day in bed, or that I couldn’t fall asleep at night from the pain, but I don’t know why.  I have a few close friends that I joke with about my “illness” and we laugh about it being an excuse for everything, but mostly, its just hard.  And I’m not healed.

And what about my friend who was sent home from the hospital to her four kids not being able to walk.  And told that its probably nothing.  Or my friend that just started being a friend but is now dying of cancer.  I’ve been thinking over this name of God in relation to those two women for a while now.  Why aren’t they healed?  Where is the Great Physician in all of this?

Then I started to actually study this out in depth.  Did you know the words “The Great Physician” cannot be found in the Bible?  Um, what?  I’ve been saved since I was a little girl and been studying and teaching the Bible for years and I fully expected that phrase to come up when I typed it in.  Nope.  Not there.  So I looked up physician.  There are actually only 11 verses that have the word physician(s) in them.  The times in the Gospels that Jesus refers to Himself as a physician, He’s talking to the Pharisees and telling them they need healing for their souls.  It actually has nothing to do with the physical body.  One other time He uses the word physician to say that the people are going to eventually tell Him to heal Himself.

Where The LORD that Healeth appears in the Bible is in Exodus 15.  The Israelites had just crossed the Red Sea on dry land.  In typical human fashion, they started complaining.  To be fair, they were in the desert and the water was bitter.  So the Lord told Moses to put a tree in the water and then it was drinkable.  More than that, it was sweet.  Then the Lord says that if they follow His commands, he will not bring on the diseases of the Egyptians and calls Himself the Lord that Healeth.

So where is all this going?  Why does it make a difference if we say the Lord that Healeth or the Great Physician.

Well, maybe it only makes a difference to me, but this study changed my whole thinking on this name.  You see, to me, doctors have failed me.  (If you’re a doctor reading this, I don’t hate you personally, I just dislike your profession.  No offence.)  I have been to doctor after doctor and had test after test and it has done exactly nothing for me.  So when I think of God as the Great Physician, it makes me think of Him as someone who has the ability to heal my body, but just decided not to.

But a healer is totally different.  A healer cares about much more than just the physical body.  He takes into account my emotional health, my mental health, and most importantly, my spiritual health.  And instead of just deciding not to heal my body, He is instead choosing not to heal it because,

He’s healing something else.

But He is always healing.

This is so profound for me because instead of focusing on what is not healing, I can focus on what is.

Because He is always working to heal me.

In some way.

yahweh-rapha


Jehovahnissi

Does life ever feel like a battle to you?

It does to me.  I get tired, I feel alone, the battle seems endless.  Sometimes it seems as if I could comfort myself with the thought that it will be a short battle, so I’ll just “get through it”.  Other times, long battles come into my life, like eight years of chronic pain, and I realize that I need more help than to just, “get through it”.  In fact, getting through it seems impossible.

The name Jehovahnissi appears only one time in the Bible.  The story is Moses and Joshua fighting against the Amalekites.  You may be familiar with the part of the story where Aaron and Hur hold up Moses’ arms so that Joshua could win the battle.  But this name of God comes after the victory is won.

At the end of the battle, the Amalekites are defeated and Israel is rejoicing.  But God commands Moses to remember what happened here.  To remember the battle fought and won.  He is to write it down, rehearse it in the ears of Joshua, and they are to specifically remember that God has completely defeated their enemies.

Then Moses does something interesting.  He builds an altar.  Altars in the Bible were used to either worship or remember.  Moses knows that its important for the Israelities to remember this victory.  And he calls the name of the altar Jehovahnissi, the Lord our Banner.

Why banner?

Banner here gives the idea of a pole with a flag attached, carried during the battle.  The job of this banner was to essentially rally the troops.  It gave them something to look at, a visual reminder of who they were fighting for and why they were fighting.  It gave them a sense of fighting together, that they were not alone.  There was a great cause, a team.  That banner waving in the wind was a focal point that the soldiers looked to when they needed encouragement.

Here Moses is reminding the soldiers that the Lord is our banner.  It is Him that we fight for, Him that we look to.  He is our source of encouragement in the battle.  He is our encouragement because it is through Him that our battles are won.

Have you won a battle?  May I encourage you to build an altar?  There are Joshuas fighting right now who need to see an altar and need a Moses.  Someone to rehearse in their ears the name Jehovahnissi.  To remind them to look up and see the Lord our banner.  To focus on Him in the battle.

Are you in the middle of a battle?  Look up.  Always up.  Imagine in the sky there is a banner waving.  A tangible reminder of the Lord.  That He is with us, fighting for us.  That we never have to face a battle alone. Jehovahnissi.el-roi-2