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.


Are We There Yet

Has your life taken you on some unexpected twists and turns?

My marriage definitely has.  From where I grew up, to the Philippines, back again, into the ministry and living at camp, and now to Barrie.  Definitely not what I envisioned when I started out as a newly married 20 year old!  I couldn’t have predicted the route we would have taken.  And because of this crazy road we’ve traveled, I wouldn’t even try to predict the route we have ahead of us for the second half!

I was privileged to receive an early copy of the book “Are We There Yet?” by Paul and Terrie Chappell.  In this book they use travel analogies to talk about marriage.  I knew it would be a helpful read because I’ve read many things written by them, but it was even better than expected.  It was full of Biblical and practical advice.

In a chapter entitled Unexpected Turbulence, the Chappells talk about what its like to go through trials together as a couple.  I thought this would be a helpful passage to share with you, as we look together for hope in hard times!

“Although you may not be facing intense persecution as a couple, perhaps you are facing an incredible time of trial or pressure.  You feel as though you are running from Satan’s attacks, hiding in a cave of loneliness, watching destruction come in the lives of people you love, or facing any type of ongoing trial.  Your trial may be financial – perhaps the loss of a job, trouble finding work, bills, debt, bankruptcy.  Perhaps yours is health-related.  Perhaps you’re dealing with doctors, test, treatment, hospitals, pain, exhaustion.  Maybe your trial is a child who is struggling, rebelling, or has left the faith.  Maybe you have lost a child or have not been able to have children.  Maybe it is an unfaithful spouse, the death of your parents, a child with special needs, a deep life disappointment, a …There are more possibilities than we can name here.  But none of these possibilities surpass the grace of God.

These times of trial have the potential to make or break a marriage. On one hand, they can drive us to the Lord and to each other as we seek His help and recognize our need for His grace.  On the other hand, we may respond wrongly to the trial and reject God’s grace and allow the stress to drive us away from one another.

God desires to bless you through your times of turbulence as well.  Trials do place pressure on the most tender places of our hearts.  But rather than allowing the trial to destroy your marriage, let God use it to strengthen your marriage. This happens when you together decide to respond to the trial in faith and trust.”

I hope that if you’re married you’ll consider getting this book.  It was a blessing to me and I know it will be to you too – whether or not you’re going through a trial right now.

Its available on October 17th, but you can pre-order it anytime.  If you click on this link, you can see what free bonuses you’ll receive when you pre-order.

Happy Reading!


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.


Identity

Today was my first day back at work in six years.  And that was just a one year stint.  I hadn’t worked for nine years before that.  I was super excited – I even told you guys all about my new job.

Until about two days ago.  Last night I had nightmares.  This always happens before a big event, so I was kind of surprised that I didn’t have more nights of them.

First, all the kids came to choir in sleeping bags, laid down on pews, and refused to participate.  After I lost my mind on them, I finally got them to stand up and sing, only to see someone in the back with a checklist, slowly shaking his head.  This man is a choir director at a church with a Bible college, who, by the way, I’ve had very little interaction with, ever.  Can you feel me rolling my eyes at myself?   Like my son said, at least it was so unrealistic I didn’t have to worry about it coming true!

Lo and behold, everything went perfectly fine today.  There will still be a few kinks to work out, but for a first day, it was great.  And I had so much fun.

So why, then, am I so anxious?  And why do I feel as though someone is always there with a checklist, shaking their head?

I think its because I’ve always been a doer.  I try so hard to just be.  To be okay with that.  But I never am.  I’m always striving for other people’s approval.  And mine.  And I fall short of my own approval every day.  The voices in my head are always chattering, always negative.  Sometimes I allow this to become my identity – the woman who is perfectly capable and perfectly qualified to do her job, and yet deep down, believes that someone, somewhere is shaking their head and finding her wanting.

How do we combat the lies we tell ourselves?  Its easy to just say, find your identity in Christ, harder to let it sink into our hearts.  The only thing powerful enough to do that is scripture.  Consider these verses…

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;

Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.

I Peter 2:9-10

We are chosen.

We are royal.

We are holy.

We are peculiar or belonging to God.

We show forth His praise.

And my favourite one of all

We have obtained mercy.

Its quite a list.

But if we could let its deep truth sink into our hearts, we could start to find our identity in Christ.

Notice this list doesn’t say anything about us.

Our job doesn’t make the list.

How clean our house is today doesn’t make the list.

That huge pile of laundry in my bedroom doesn’t matter.

If you failed today, if you sinned today, His holiness covers you.

If you feel alone, you are chosen.

No matter what, no matter the situation, there is mercy.


enough strength

Almost two weeks ago I sat staring at my phone, at an email waiting to be sent.  I reworded it, I saved it as a draft, I went back and forth for a while before I hit send.  It was an email asking for help.  Because this summer, I’ve been struggling with something.  And I noticed that I was eating too many snacks, and watching too much Netflix, and not writing enough.  And I knew what I would tell anyone else…just talk to someone.  So it was time to hit send.

I had thought and thought about this issue I was having.  Until I knew exactly what I would say when I went to this meeting.  I had an outline.  For real.  Points one, two, three, here are my issues, what do you think?  All very logical and organized.  I even made it all the way through without crying, quite a feat for me.

Basically, this issue came down to the fact that I was tired of fighting a battle.  I wanted the magic fix, a snap your fingers solution, someone else to do it for me.  The only problem is, this is not that kind of battle.

It wasn’t until after talking that I realized something…I am at once tired of fighting, and yet desperate to win the battle.  I was thinking all last week, I don’t understand myself, it’s like I’m two different people.

And then a few days ago, I remembered that I am.

If you are a Christian, you are always two different people.

How quickly I forget.

And I was allowing the old me, the fleshly me, to gain the upper hand.  Eating and Netflix and silence and being alone were not helping me to win the battle.  And it just took one conversation for me to remember who I really am.

That I am a child of God so I don’t walk alone.

That I am a soldier fit for battle and God has given me everything I need.

That as a friend and a wife and a church member, God has surrounded me with people who will help and that silence doesn’t allow those people to know when to help or what to say or how to be there for me.

That as a Christian, I don’t have to fight alone, in my own strength.  God gives me all the strength I need each day.  Maybe just enough.  But enough.

I’m so glad I hit send that day.  That conversation started my thinking down the right path.  It gave me hope.  Mostly because I was just reminded of the basics.  But the basics are always enough.  If we remember them.


How to be a light bearer in a torch bearing world

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Home

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

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

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

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

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

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


When God gives it back

Just over a year ago I really wrestled with God.

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

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

And it was.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Seemingly Insignificant

Do you ever feel insignificant?

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

Do you wonder if what you do has value?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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