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Don’t get caught in shorts this winter.

When a child insists on wearing clothing for the wrong season, it’s one of the most exasperating things for a parent.

A couple of weeks ago we broke through our frigid arctic temperatures and things felt “warmer” for us. My son decided that this was the perfect day to wear shorts to school for the first time in 2018.

We tried and tried to reason with him about this, as it was still well below zero celcius, but there was no convincing him. I sent him with ski pants to at least wear over top when he went outside.

When I picked him up at noon, he had left his ski pants inside the school. When I brought him back from our lunch date to play with his friends, he wasn’t able to go out.

He watched from the warmth of the van, promising not to wear shorts again until the right time.

This got me thinking about rushing ahead with the seasons of our life. It can be so exciting when we get a glimmer of hope that spring is in the air, but the reality is it’s still winter. And if we dress for spring, we’re going to get cold, maybe even sick.

If we run around acting outside of our season, we could get hurt, those around us are exposed, and everyone is put at risk.

It is so important to know our season. Not just our season in the spirit, but in the natural to.

Here are three questions I’ve been asking myself lately.

  1. What season am I in with my family?
  2. What season am I in with my work?
  3. What season is it in the Spirit Realm?

Having the correct answers to these questions frames my everyday life. If I want to thrive where I’m currently at, it is vital for me to follow through on the guidelines I put in place.

Right now, I know that I’m in a season with my family where we are recovering from a really intense 2017, along with experiencing our first year with a child in full-time school and after school activities.

My season at work is that I’m still in the first year of a brand new business. We’ve nicknamed it “the newborn stage”. That takes lots of work! I don’t have a business degree so I’m committed to learning on the fly and taking some online classes in the evenings geared toward working moms.

In the Spirit I know that God has told me that I’m a bird this year. I’m to be carefree in the care of Him, building my life around my nest. This doesn’t mean I don’t leave the nest, but it’s my top priority next to my relationship with Him. I will sacrifice profit and presence at my store for the sake of protecting my nest in this season.

All of these things together shape the day-to-day decisions I make. These realities cause me to guard my Saturdays strictly because ALL my kids have a day in the nest and our family needs time to rest together.

It means that I won’t take on any extra commitments outside of what’s already on my plate because newborns are a lot of work and if I want to see my baby business into the toddler years, it needs around the clock feeding and care.

It means that in the midst of balancing all of this I am aiming to live in divine peace because Jesus said:

“Take the carefree birds as your example. Do you ever see them worry? They don’t grow their own food or put it in a storehouse for later. Yet God takes care of every one of them, feeding each of them from his love and goodness. Isn’t your life more precious to God than a bird? Be carefree in the care of God!” Luke 12:24 (The Passion Translation)

Friends, let’s get real. Seasons come and go quickly. I feel like I was just changing diapers, breastfeeding and wondering if school days would ever come. If I have to say no to a few things now because of my season, those chances will come back again. And if I have to say yes to a few things that I typically wouldn’t because of my season, one day soon I can say no.

It’s simply the season. I don’t want to be caught outside in shorts during the winter time. And I don’t want to be drowning in a parka when it’s summer.

I know some of you are wondering how you deal with expectations during your season. I have found that people will respect and honour your ability to be upfront with where you are at (especially if you model respect for where they find themselves).

It helps to develop some one liners to keep with you when you feel caught off guard by a request.

Perhaps you have even heard some of these from me:

“That sounds like a fun opportunity! Our family day is Saturday so I won’t be able to attend.”

“Thank you for thinking of me! I’m guarding all my extra energy for my kids right now so I won’t able to participate.”

“Thank you for telling me about your _________ (insert product, business, other expansion opportunity), my business is in it’s infancy so I’m just growing what I currently have and not taking anything else on.” 

Will you disappoint people? Probably. But staying dressed for your season is going to give you greater freedom for the seasons to come. You won’t be trying to recover from frost bite, or heat exhaustion, you will just transition into the next level of what God has for your life.

What season are you in? Have you been trying to wear the wrong clothes for where you are at? Are there some things you need to say no to to guard your priorities? Are there some things you need to say yes to demonstrate your priorities? 

I pray today that you can throw off guilt and step into freedom to run exactly where God has placed you today!

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A Brave “NO”

I was headed into Regina one day by myself. It was, and is, still one of my favourite situations. Our little town now has a Tim Horton’s (if you missed that update while I was away from blogging!), so I had my coffee, my music and no one crying at me for snacks.

Around half way there I felt like I had enjoyed enough time to myself, it was time to check in with God.

For me, prayer in the car is just like an out loud conversation. Guaranteed, I look crazy to someone who passes me as I talk out loud alone. But these have been some of my most meaningful conversations with God.

On this particular day I felt the Lord ask me: “have you told Andrew that you won’t speak at Sr. High?”

I was slightly surprised. I had felt this vague feeling that I wasn’t supposed to go speak at a retreat that we were so excited and honoured to be invited to, but I thought it was maybe just my nerves.

I told the Lord I wasn’t sure. The next thing he said to me I will always remember.

“Well remember in this decision that if you say yes to this, you’re saying no to something else.”

Instantly I knew that the “something else” was more important than what I currently wanted to say yes too.

Sometimes saying no sucks. Sometimes it doesn’t even make sense. Why would I say no to an opportunity I’d been so excited to receive?

Sometimes saying no disappoints others. But when you say no at the right time, you can be sure you will be ready for the something else that is going to be the best for you.

I told my husband that I felt I wasn’t supposed to go and said I would stay home by myself with the kids (he knew that I had heard from God because I would NEVER say that).

The something else came not long after. It was a conference in Redding, California that God put the spotlight on and I was able to fly down with a dear friend. bethel

There was no way I could have done that trip if I had said yes to speaking. It would have been too much, too close together, my kids definitely would have suffered and I would have burnt myself out.

Saying no to speaking put me in the right place at the right time to receive a call to business that I hadn’t expected. It changed the entire course of my immediate future and unlocked doors of opportunities.

I used to be scared of saying no, worrying I would miss out, but now it stirs some excitement in me. I know that when God leads me into a sometimes disappointing no, he is leading me into something far greater.

It isn’t always such a big deal or so life changing. Sometimes its sweet rest that I didn’t know I needed. It’s been availability for a child who gets sick. It’s been extra finances for a spontaneous family trip. It’s been peace instead of chaos.

Be released to say the NO you need to say to unlock greater freedom in your life! Be confident that the Lord leads the way into His best for you, EVEN when it doesn’t make sense!

“Trust in the Lord completely, and do not rely on your own opinions. With all your heart rely on him to guide you, and he will lead you in ever decision you make.”

Proverbs 3:5 (The Passion Translation)

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Instant Coffee & Declarations: What I learned from two hospital stays with my son.

Apart from delivering my babies, the last fifteen years has not had me inside a hospital for longer than a few hours for minor emergencies.

The last five months have held two stays in the Regina General Hospital’s Pediatric ward. Two different reasons, same little boy.

We are still celebrating a great report from our six year olds last stay that looked pretty scary off the start. It has caused me to think through our times in the hospital and the things that I learned.

    1. No matter what the issue, being moved to a “bigger hospital” is scary. I discovered quickly that my mind will jump to the worst possible scenario while my heart beats wildly like it’s going to jump out of my chest. When I got the call from my husband saying that the pediatrician in Regina wanted us there immediately, I could not think straight. I realized that this is not a time to trust my “feelings” but to keep the facts before me and stay calm. The facts that: my God is fighting for us, that he has said he holds us beneath the shadow if his wings and that he has a call on my son’s life to be wholehearted and faithful in some sort of big way that he is unwilling to cancel. 
    2. My son is much braver than I give him credit for. When he broke his arm, it was a bad break. The x-ray almost made me throw up, it was displaced so badly. We knew surgery was a must. It was 11:00 pm when he was taken away by the anesthesiologist and it was the first time we had been a part through the process. He was exhausted and so was I. Before he left he told me he would be fine if I just sang “Jesus Loves Me” one more time. I leaned down by his head and sang softly these words of truth while he squeezed his stuffed puppy. He was scared, but he knew what had to happen for his arm to be strong again and I saw him choose to be brave. I have reminded him of that choice to be brave many times now since then and I have watched him grow in courage through remembering the fear he once overcame. broken arm pic
    3. “I wish this was me instead of him” is really a true feeling. Both of these cases had my son dealing with things I had never had to face before. Letting him forge his own path, even in injury was really hard. I found it best to write down these feelings and see what God had to say about them. Watching how brave my son chose to be encouraged me that he is being prepared for something great! It might not be the way I would choose, but I felt so strongly that good would come from it. IMG_1355
    4. Unknowns can pull you away or force your roots down deep. On New Years Eve when we were driving up the hospital, all of the unknowns were freaking my husband and I out. The first time we had gone was for a broken arm, and while that was sad to watch him go through, we knew what was wrong.This time, we were just hearing organs being mentioned has potential problems. We were trying to hold ourselves together when we heard a little voice from the back.

      “God is never ill. God is never ill. God is never ill.” He sang this little song, over and over and over. I knew right away what it meant to him. God is never ill, and if he is in Christ than he has access to health and healing. His faith was blooming.

      His voice got louder and louder until he was ordering us all in his preacher voice to declare after him: GOD IS NEVER ILL!

      The other two kids chimed in with their own declarations over Caleb’s body and fear literally began to vanish. We arrived at emergency with nerves but deep roots that God had all of us in the palm of his hand.

    5. I will turn into protective mother hawk if someone else tries to stay overnight. Both times my husband kindly said “do you want me to stay with him?” and I felt like something rose up inside me like a slightly psychotic pterodactyl and I had to be careful not to rip those well intentioned words to shreds.
      There was NO WAY anyone else was staying with my baby. I would be the only one in the world to go without sleep in the chair beside him. IMG_1365
    6. Pediatric nurses are actually guardian angels. Not just pediatric nurses. But nurses who are excellent with kids. Like Kyle in emergency who kept telling Caleb he was such a BOSS (he loved that). And all the powerful women on our floor who cared with such a grace and compassion. That blew me away because there were others facing more life threatening issues than us (once we realized Caleb was out of any sort of immediate danger), yet they cared for us as though we were  of the utmost importance too.
    7. Starbucks Via Instant Coffee is a good thing to throw in your bag. Seriously, one of my biggest take aways from these trips! I am not an instant coffee girl but when I did not want to have to leave Caleb, I made a cup and was blown away by how good it was. (Definitely a good gift to take someone staying in the hospital. All you need is a kettle which for us was free in the parents lounge). IMG_1362
    8. A promise is a promise, and we need to learn how to get one and hold onto it. The morning of the second day at the hospital, January 2nd, I opened my bible because I needed a promise. We still had no answers and I was feeling tired and afraid. I continued reading where I had left off in Psalms. This jumped out at me for him:

      “The Lord looks down in love, bending over heaven’s balcony.” Psalm 14:2a (The Passion Translation)

      It was only part of a verse, but it hit me like an arrow of peace. I still didn’t know what was wrong, but the Lord was looking at us with love, and that was enough for me to know he was going to be ok.

      When we are facing difficulties of any kind, it’s so important that we read God’s word and wait for him to reveal a promise for us to hold on to. For me I know it’s a promise to hold on to because I’m reading and it’s almost like that phrase jumps off the page or a spotlight is shone on it, and it speaks instantly to my heart.

    9. People called to medicine really are planning their lives around the noblest way to benefit others. Every person that we encountered on both of those trips, whether at our home hospital, or in the city, was passionate about helping others. My heart was absolutely moved by the fact that this is one of the most practical careers to “plan your life around the noblest way to benefit others” (my verse for 2018). If you are considering this field, I highly commend you and pray that my life can support you in some way.
    10. We need to be passionate about funding for hospitals, especially for families. I am far from running an exceptionally profitable business, but this burned in my heart that whatever happens with our finances in the future I pray that I can be a major contributor to pediatric wards and children’s hospitals in the future. I also saw the incredible volunteers who come in to play with kids and give their parents a break, wash toys and organize activities. There are many ways we can support our hospitals and having benefited from them a little more than I would have expected in the last few months, I am grieved that I didn’t recognize their vast importance before. Let’s help hospitals do more for sick and injured kids! IMG_1357

The challenges we go through in life are often not fair nor do they make sense, but we can allow them to mold and shape who we are and the lives that we live. I can say that my life is changed from two short stays at the Regina General Hospital.

Thank you so much to everyone who aims to benefit others through the medical field!

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On The Other Side Of Diapers

When I was pregnant with my third baby I remember the intense urgency I had to get my firstborn fully potty trained. We had moments of success but we were far from saying that we had officially potty trained him. My soon to be middle child was barely going to be eighteen months old and I knew I only wanted two kids in diapers at the same time, NOT three.

Baby number three arrived and during the day time we were down to just two in diapers, and that felt like such a relief.

It seemed like our days consisted of poop, pee and analyzing both of those things for each kid. Changing a newborn, changing a toddler and rushing a preschooler to make it to the potty on time.

In fact besides eating, I’d say everything in our lives revolved around the “number one” and “number two” issues of life.

It felt like an outrageously big ordeal to go get groceries. (Ok well it actually still does if I take all three.) But really, to time it all just right that everyone ate, had clean diapers or had just gone potty so we didn’t have a major bathroom event seemed so big and so daunting.

Sometime this past year that newborn, now over three, potty trained himself. I don’t even really remember when it was (last baby problems), but it just kind of happened.

This massive victory came to us almost completely unrecognized until one night I went to find a diaper wipe to clean something off my son and realized we didn’t have any. I was kind of annoyed.

“Where are all the diapers wipes!?” I demanded to know.

“We don’t have any, I don’t think we’ve bought any diapers in over a month!” my husband answered with some excitement.

WOW! That’s a big deal! That’s a lot of savings! This was a huge milestone for us. We were on the other side of diapers and we hadn’t even celebrated it!

I find this is the case with so many areas of my life. Some issue consumes me for so long and then it’s suddenly finished with and I don’t even take a moment to celebrate that I won that battle.

This past week I was overwhelmed with some things with our store and wondering how I was going to get certain items restocked in time for Valentines Day.

I was really worked up about it and started ranting to my husband about how I don’t want our reputation to be that of a sold out, under stocked shop that never has what you need. (For the record, it’s not good to talk to me about anything remotely serious after 8 pm, it will only end in over tired tears!)

“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” My husband slowed me down.

“I get what you’re saying, but can I just remind you that months ago you were crying and stressed that no one would come in to your store and shop and what if we were risking so much for nothing! And now you’re selling out!? That’s a big win! Yes we need to solve some stock issues, but wow, babe, you’re doing a great job!”

Because I get more stubborn when I’m over tired, I unfortunately didn’t melt into a pile of appreciation over his deep encouragement right then, but I did the next day! (He knew he would celebrate that win eventually!)

It’s so important that when we find ourselves getting caught up in the intensity of life that we can celebrate the steps we’ve taken, the difficulties we’ve overcome and the challenges we’ve rose above, or even just survived!

I want to be one who can do that for myself, not simply fall apart and need someone to remind me that’s things are ok (although, who doesn’t appreciate that?).

I also want to be one that is so able to see the treasure in another that if they are the one needing to be celebrated, I can whip out a mental list of things they’re doing well!

How about you? Do you need to take a moment to celebrate something you’ve come through? Maybe you don’t even realize it, just like I almost missed the fact that we were on the other side of diapers!

You’re doing a great job and if no one else tells you, let me be the one to say, take a moment and don’t let a victory, big or small, go uncelebrated!

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Becoming a Treasure Hunter

Out of all the lessons I barely began to learn in 2017, there is perhaps none greater than that of becoming a “Treasure Hunter”.

A man named Johnny Enlow (you might want to remember that name for future posts), spoke about becoming a treasure hunter at the conference I attended in February.

I saw this first hand in my life when we started to look for another house. We had put our much-loved, and only recently finished, house up for sale. By this time we knew that we were going to be starting the store.

I was still thinking small and I specifically was looking for a house that had an oversized garage or room to build one so that I could run my store right out of it.

We looked at every possible house remotely within our price range. So in our town, that was two, maybe four if we were approved higher than we expected!

I was pretty discouraged about the choices but one in particular stood out as the right choice on so many levels. It was a corner lot with room to build a big garage and close enough to the school my kids could just walk over for lunch every day.

It seemed perfect.

There was another house we looked at. Instantly I hated it. As we left that day I told my husband “I don’t know what it is but I just have a bad feeling about it.” 

What I thought was a deep intuition, turned out to just be plain dislike.

I walked by the house we wanted every day and asked God to save it for us until we sold our house.

The day after we got a firm offer on our house, just days before we felt we’d be in a place to make an offer, my realtor called and told me the house had sold.

I remember where I was standing in the bread isle of our local Co-op, my hand shaking and trying to fight back tears.

It was the only real option and now our house had sold.

To say my heart was broken was an understatement. I should have been experienced enough now with buying and selling houses to not get attached until it’s a done deal, but in my mind that one was perfect. I had renovated it in my head, imagined exactly how I’d set it up and just what I’d make for all those hot lunches at home.

Time went on. We sold our house and the dates all lined up for exactly when my mom was moving away and we were able to rent her house so we weren’t stranded.

We tried to be patient for something else to pop up. We looked at other houses. Finally, I knew we had to look at the house I hated.

When I told my husband what I was feeling, he just laughed, since that was the house he had felt was the most sensible all along.

I don’t really like sensible.

I knew every single thing I disliked about that house. I memorized them all and had purposed in my heart to never go back and look at it again after our first visit.

Andrew knew I must be desperate, and I was.

By this point we had renovated a space on Main Street, opened up shop and sent the kids back to school. It felt like the last chance to move before the snow.

The morning that we went to see the house I hated again, I remembered that I had committed to becoming a Treasure Hunter.

I prayed with all my heart:

“Lord, illuminate the treasure to me in this house. If this is your plan I want to see the good and move forward in faith.”

We pulled into the driveway and instantly everything felt different from when we had been there before. Even the yard looked much bigger than I had remembered!

While walking through the house it was like I saw gold shining all over it. The vision flowed for how it could look and the renovation didn’t seem as daunting.

We felt full of peace that this was our home. We wouldn’t just walk into it and enjoy it the way it was, but we could see the treasure of what it could be.

There were two others guys who learned about being treasure hunters. Their names were Joshua and Caleb. If you’re familiar with the bible you probably know about them.

God had given the Israelites a land and told them that it was good. But a group of twelve went to scope it out.

Ten of them were just like me when I looked at our house the first time. They just saw a long list of problems and issues that felt overwhelming to face. They reported back to their people that the job was just too big, and it was all just too hard.

Joshua and Caleb came back with a different report.

They said to all the people of Israel, “The land we traveled through and explored is a wonderful land! And if the Lord is pleased with us, he will bring us safely into that land and give it to us. It is a rich land flowing with milk and honey.
(Numbers 14:7 & 8 NLT)

They saw the treasure! The good in that place and they knew that if God was for them, he would help them get there!

I’d love to say that my house has cemented this lesson deep into my heart, but the truth is I’m fighting everyday to be a treasure hunter. My eyes have been trained to see the danger, the fear, the possibility of what could go wrong and I have a strong self preservation instinct.IMG_1482

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(More has been done since this picture, but you get the idea!)

But what seems impossible to us humans, God laughs at and reminds us that with Him nothing is impossible. The more I experience this, the braver I get.

I pray today that God will illuminate the treasure in whatever unsettling or even terrifying situation is staring you in the face and that you move forward in the confidence of faith, knowing that if God is for you, nothing can be against you!

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Birthing A Dream

“I had a dream last night you were pregnant.” I was surprised by my husband’s unusual dream and the fact he even remembered it by morning.

“Well that sounds like a nightmare to me.” I joked back.

He went on, more insistent that this was a significant dream.

“No seriously, I had a dream you were pregnant and everyone was congratulating me and then a good friend of mine said this would be the toughest one to support you through yet. I really think it means something.”

“Well as long as it doesn’t mean a real baby, than I am open to it.” I said laughing.

That was early December 2016. I had a stirring in my heart that something was changing. Something was coming. I couldn’t see what it was but I could feel a shift was about to take place.

I read the verses in Luke 1:38 again and again. The ones where Mary just finds out she’s expecting Jesus and in a bold move of faith she says to the angel Gabriel

“This is amazing! I will be a mother for the Lord! As his servant I accept whatever he has for me. May everything you have told me come to pass.”

I accept what He has for me. May it all happen.

I declared it everywhere. In my sermons, my journals, my prayer walks.

My first trimester was here.

Then I went to a conference where I had an encounter that showed me I was called to start something in business. (That will be a story for another time.)

The days and weeks that followed were bursting with questions as the Lord showed me that he wanted me to start a “clothing store on a mission” in our town . I wrote in my journal on March 16:

“Thank you for teaching me that “big” for me is tiny for you. I’m going to have to hold that in my heart as I pursue business and this whole process. I know I am going to grow a long in confidence through this.”

We had officially entered the Second Trimester. I was finally “showing”. The news was out. Crazy or not, we were going to follow in obedience and start this store.

This is where the hard work began. And where we experienced the reality of this “pregnancy” being the hardest to get through together. I woke up at 4 am every morning to write my business plan in quiet before I went to work or stayed home with the kids. Andrew and I wrestled through finances, building plans, goals and the purpose.

As the dream got closer and closer to coming into the world, I became more and more difficult to be with. My brain was consumed with birthing this store.

July 2017 I told a friend I was so pregnant and uncomfortable with this dream I felt like I just needed it OUT. But the big push was still to come. Renovating our building and setting up shop. 

 

Opening day arrived almost 40 weeks to the day of that pregnancy dream my husband had. By this time we had forgotten about the dream and hadn’t kept track. It wasn’t until closing time on September 2nd that I realized the significance.

The shop was born. But the work was just beginning. We had entered the newborn stage. 

I could not have imagined when I was in that “dream pregnancy” what God was doing, what he was teaching me, what he was preparing us for.

I believe with all my heart that agreeing with God’s declarations over our lives lead to unlocking his goodness and grace in greater measure than we could ever imagine.

As I stare into 2018, I declare again “I accept whatever He has for me.” Big or small. Audacious or reasonable. Out of the box or right inside. I am his servant and I want every good and perfect thing that comes from above, every circumstance that pushes my roots deeper and every challenge that strengthens my faith.

May everything he is speaking over you, and me, come to pass. 

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Hello Again

“I’ve worked so hard on this blog. Like 5 years. I feel this tug to lay it down for a year and not touch it. But I’m fighting it. What do you think?”

I text this to my sister after wrestling with whether or not to be obedient to the tug on my heart. I knew it was God. Some people have asked me how I know, and I can’t explain besides the fact that when you get to know someone really well, you know their voice. You can tell what they’re trying to say without having to spell it right out for.

She text back pretty quick, and simply said: “Monica. I know you. If God has told you to lay something down, you better not touch it because you are going to be picking up something even better than you could imagine.”

That was the final confirmation I needed to humble myself, risk losing the wonderful 400 people who faithfully followed my blog (I know, not really that impressive!) and say a brave yes to what God had in store for 2017.

One quick blog post can’t recount the miracles that took place this past year, or the incredible pain I walked through. Contending for God’s best in our lives is never easy. But it’s always worth it.

I finished that year unsure if I was going to restart my blog. But then I read Romans 12. Over and over and over again. I couldn’t get out of it. But the line that stood out to me, rolled around in my head constantly is found at the end of Romans 12:17.

“Plan your life around the noblest way to benefit others.”

The fire in my heart exploded again and I knew instantly I needed to write once more. There are many things I can be doing with my life, but I truthfully believe that transparency and opening my heart to you again will encourage others, and ultimately restore part of myself as I practice being brave again extending my story, fighting the fear of what others may think.

I have so much to share from my year on a break, and I know we will learn so much more together this year too.

So my friends, I say “Hello Again.” Welcome back to my virtual kitchen table. Welcome back to “Monica Switzer Blog”. Get ready to hear some wild stories, cry some real tears and laugh too, as we set out on an adventure to “plan our lives around the noblest way to benefit others.”

With gratitude,

Monica