Second Chance

We’ve had five days in our a new house in my hometown, and I have to say the flood of emotion has been quite intense.

We’re living in the place that I spent a significant portion of my youth group days (since it was my pastor’s place). I rocked their babies in the same room I’m rocking mine. I pushed their kids on that same tire swing that my kids are loving. To say it’s nostalgic is probably not a strong enough word.

The funny thing is, all these old insecurities that I’ve dealt with over the last seven years have tried to come back and attach themselves to me. (Thankfully the best way to combat these, is to recognize them so they lose their power.)

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I wasn’t the cool kid in school that’s for sure. I tried to live out my faith, but failed a lot. I was sometimes bold, and then sometimes shy. Since leaving high school I have had a lot of regrets for not showing enough love and selflessness to the people in my town.

That’s why it’s crazy to be back. And in the position we’re in. It’s like a second chance. A chance that I would not have dreamed of having in high school. A chance that probably would have scared the life out of me.

I’m no longer a brace-faced high school student trying to overcome the pull to be cool, party or fit in. God has done so much in me while I’ve been gone, it’s incredible. I know that I have hope within me that every person I encounter needs. I am humbled, yet honoured that God chose me to come back and give loving this town and serving these people another go.

The Lord was comforting me with these verses last night as I considered every swirling thing in my mind.

The Lord replied, “Don’t say, ‘I’m too young,’ for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. And don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and will protect you. I, the Lord, have spoken!” Then the Lord reached out and touched my mouth and said,

“Look, I have put my words in your mouth! (Jeremiah 1:7-9)

May you also take that same powerful anointing into the places that you have influence. Don’t be afraid, the Lord has given you the words, and the hope that is within you cannot be denied!

Kipling, it’s good to be home.

The music in it all.

Crash!

Bang!

BOOM!

Vrooooooomm!

Do these sounds get you moving?

Sudden loud noises have never been a favourite to our firstborn. I had to always warn him if the vacuum or coffee grinder was being turned on.

Because of this I naturally did it with my daughter too, always warning her if I was going to do something loud.

There are always a difference right off the start. She would laugh.

When she learned to clap, she would applaud the obnoxious coffee grinder.

Suddenly she learned to dance, and then every sudden, loud, quiet, nice, horrible noise because music to her swaying little body. Nothing made her move like the sound of a table saw.

As I look at how this lady has brightened our world and added value to our lives I can sum it up like this.

She finds the music in it all. What my ears hears as annoying, her ears hear as music. Then her body finds the beat.

Some pretty stressful situations have been diffused by her laughing, clapping and dancing at a time when I just dropped a bunch of pots on my foot. My son has never liked the carwash, but now that she hears the music in the spray, he loves it too.

Just last week I freaked Caleb out by suddenly turning on the coffee grinder. As he jumped he started laughing “oh mommy, Goosie’s dancing again!” (Goosie is her nickname that came from all the times we called her silly goose.)

Sometimes this gift can slow her down (it’s hard to splash as fast as your brother when you dance to the music you’re creating), but it never steals her joy. In fact I have never seen someone get double enjoyment out of so many situations.photo

I didn’t get the importance of all this until Amayah was dancing to the train whizzing by and my husband said “that girl can sure hear the music in it all.”

Then I got it. The nugget of truth held within her beautiful dancing soul.

We can learn to hear the music and find something good to dance to, even when all you think you hear is chaos. In the midst of our difficult circumstances, we can pull out a piece of good and thank the Lord for it, and then hold on to that with all your might and dance on truth when discouragement tries to steal your song.

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them sing joyful praises forever. Spread your protection over them, that all who love your name may be filled with joy. (Psalm 5:11)

Don’t let anything steal your song.

 

All for a rush.

Do you find it hard to follow God in the big things? I’m aways excited to go on an adventure, especially with my wonderful husband, and so when God redirects us locationally, it can be a bit of a  thrill, even if it can be hard to leave where we are.

Hearing God’s voice on huge decisions is exhilarating, and it always blows my mind that He can speak and direct so clearly.

Change is happening quickly for our family again. In two weeks we’ll have relocated to a new town, new ministry position, new house, new friends, new everything.

I’ve had a few people comment to me how it’s awesome that we’re willing to follow God wherever He leads us. While I’m glad that we try to be obedient in this, I’ve been hit in the face with something alarming.

I don’t always follow him very well in the day-to-day.

I find it really hard to go talk to the person that God has clearly brought to me to share hope with at the playground.

I struggle to parent my kids consistently with love and patience.

I’m constantly realizing disrespect in my heart towards my husband.

Jealously can often take root as I battle the comparision game.

And while I may sound hard on myself, I have to ask the question: Am I just willing to obey the Lord when it’s a rush? A thrill? A new adventure?

Of course we need to submit ourselves to God’s big plan for our lives, and that means following His direction the big decisions. But obeying the Lord’s little promptings He gives us and honouring the conviction He brings to our heart will bring great fulfilment in him.photo-2

But for those who are righteous, the way is not steep and rough. You are a God who does what is right, and you smooth out the path ahead of them. Lord, we show our trust in you by obeying your laws; our heart’s desire is to glorify your name. (Isaiah 26:7-8)

I have a feeling that in this next season God’s going to be giving me lots of chances to go on this journey of daily obeying Him. I’m so thankful for His grace and mercy that makes these lessons less painful than they should be!

Embrace the rush, the thrill, the excitement of following God, but also embrace the gentle correction, the discipline and joy of day to day faithfulness to our God.

Give Me A Widow’s Heart

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A group of widows whose husbands were killed in 9/11 were interviewed and asked what they missed most about their spouses. Over and over the women said they miss the things that irritated them the most when their husband was alive.

“I hate when I hear wives complaining about their husbands,” one widow said, “I would do anything to walk into our on-suite bathroom and see the toilet seat up again.”

Tragedy seems to be constantly happening around us. There doesn’t seem to be too many days between reminders to hold our loved ones close, or to treasure them. But after the emotion fades, do we really walk it out in the heat of battle?

Tonight I wept over my kids as I heard of a little boy who has been given just weeks to live after a long battle with cancer. Grief over another’s situation is so strong, I can’t fathom living through my own.

Gary Thomas, author of Sacred Marriage, suggested something that has had me thinking over the last couple weeks. He said to pray and ask God for a widow’s heart toward you spouse.

As I prayed this, my eyes suddenly became open to all the things that irritate me that Andrew does. I wondered if my prayer had backfired.

Slowly, God started to show me how broken I would be if these things were missing, and they have actually become joys.

I suppose that’s the start of a widow’s heart.

The same prayer could be applied to your kids. The things that drive me crazy, I know I would give anything to have them back.

I don’t want my torn up emotions to be only a superficial experience that doesn’t change the deepest parts of who I am.

Lord give me a supernatural love and appreciation for my family, that does not come from having to lose one of them. photo

Save yourself some trouble, get a mentor.

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“I don’t want to see you crippled by insecurity like I was for so many years. It really affected our marriage.”
I sat across the table from one of my mentor’s at Tim Horton’s, drinking my coffee and dancing around the idea of looking in the mirror to examine my own pain.

She had just opened up her heart, because she wanted to see me overcome a hurdle much faster than she did.

She saw the dreams in my heart, and believed in them. Yet she also looked at where I was at as an individual and challenged me to work on my deeper issues so I could be successful later on.

I have had many mentors in my life, a couple who stick out as ones who have poured their heart and soul into me.

If I hadn’t allowed someone into my life to share their experiences and challenge my own, there is no way I would be where I am today.

Mentoring isn’t just for business people or rising leaders. Mentoring can be life-changing for every person.

Here are three reasons YOU need a mentor.

1. You benefit from someone else’s mistakes. There is no better way to avoid the biggest mistakes that can set us back then by having someone share those mistakes with you.

My husband and I have avoided some painful situations because our mentors imparted to us the importance of coming into agreement through prayer. They had to learn it the hard way, we didn’t.

A mentor – someone whose hindsight can become your foresight. – Anonymous

2. You will experience expedited growth. Whatever area you feel stuck in, an outside person is going to be able to see road blocks. I have asked many older moms why I feel so frustrated sometimes with where I am at. More often than not they share with me that they can tell I’m probably letting my priorities get out of whack.

I can receive in a moment what it took some of them years to learn.

Pride leads to conflict, those who take advice are wise. 

Proverbs 13:10

3. You will help others sooner. Freely you receive, freely you give. As you learn and grow at a faster rate through the blessing of mentoring, you are then compelled to share with others and enter a mentoring relationship with them.

This moving statement by Edward Everett Hale will reflect the passion in your heart to give what you have received.

I am only one, but I am one. I can’t do everything, but I can do something. And what I can do, I ought to do. And what I ought to do, by the Grace of God, I shall do.

As you receive mentoring, and then give the gift of mentorship, you’ll be hit with the boomerang of blessing.

Good parenting does not equal good kids.

I can tell a good recipe when I see one. There are components to it that just tell me it’s going to work out. If I’m baking, I feel very confident that it’s going to be delicious if it calls for real butter, sugar and vanilla. Those three things already tell me it’s a winner.

But there are a lot of situations where following a list of instructions and using quality ingredients cannot guarantee results. Diets seem like a great example. What works for one body, often won’t for another.

In parenting, we have been talking about this a lot a we decide how we are going to raise our kids. There are many how-to’s, but no guarantees.

Some of the people I look to as great parents, have kids that seem to have “not turned out.” Or in one family you can have a variety of turns outs, each having been reared the same way.

Scary.

Actually this terrifies me. The reality is no matter how great a job I do at parenting the results are out of my control.

This morning at our church’s parenting class the speaker summed up what I had been trying to formulate into words over the past months.

“We parent well out of integrity, not for guaranteed results.”

The fact is, I have to parent the way I believe is right purely out of deep love and commitment to Jesus Christ. If I manage to serve him faithfully through the process, than I have succeeded.

Whether my kids choose to then be followers of Christ and positive contributors to society, is up to them.

Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.

Colossians 3:23

Whenever I manage to embrace the mindset that I’m parenting my kids for the Lord, I do so much better.

I stop owning results and taking responsibility for their behaviour. I can accept the fact that my kids are choosing to act out of control, but I don’t have to respond out of control, because of my love for Jesus.

I hope and pray that my children will make positive decisions and choose to live for God, but with no guarantees in any method of parenting, I make my peace with God, doing what I believe is right out of honour to him.

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photo found here

You better listen to me or I’ll….

My life can be described lately by two memes. You know, those hilariously true little cartoons that you can’t seem to avoid every time you log in to social media?

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This one has been all to true of me lately. My patience by the end of the day, or by the end of the morning seems non existent. “Holding it together” becomes a full body job, as I feel like someone is standing in front of me poking me repeatedly in the eye with a fork!

Ok maybe a bit of a dramatic visual, but honestly!

In an effort to get on the same page with parenting, we committed to plowing through and implementing the book Loving Our Kids on Purpose by Danny Silk.

Boy, is that a paradigm shifter.

In a nut shell I would say he encourages us to parent from a place of love instead of fear.

Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.

1 John 4:18

“Wow, what a great way to parent!” we thought naively.

I can honestly say this has been one of the hardest things to change. I had no idea how much of my discipline revolved around sayings like:

“You better not do that or I’ll…”

Obviously this statement evokes fear.

Threatening and bribery are not ways to cultivate or teach love. But the opposite is so time consuming!

Danny Silk posted this meme which my husband shared, and it definitely encapsulated where we’ve been as a couple in our parenting over the last month.

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While funny, it is so true. We sat down and came up with great plans on how to handle our most frustrating situations. But still I find myself in those situations faced with a strong willed three year old, and I let my anger take over.

My husband has been a great encourager through it all reminding both us us that ultimately the goal for us is to learn self control regardless of what anyone else is doing.

We can only handle our own responses.

This isn’t just true in parenting, but in almost every situation in life. People disrespect us, abuse us, demean us, and we are only responsible for how we react.

Does that make you feel powerless?

But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.

1 John 4:4

The really powerful one is the one who can rest in the victory that God has already won and walk in the spirit that is great that the spirit of selfish reactions.d2c3777b4e7b4b296b801eed77f165c0

Those things you hate.

There are a few things that can get me really fired up. I mean, they can get me really angry.

Like divorce. No, I don’t hate the people who get divorced, but I hate the destruction of families, the splitting of a union that God has joined and the impact on kids.

Like apathy. I hate it in myself. I hate it in the church. Jesus said he wants us either hot or cold. It’s the lukewarmness that he spews from his mouth.

Like insecurities. We’re powerful and free. I hate that we believe the lies of the enemy sometimes, and that we’re often immobilized by this.

Like sickness. I hate it. I don’t understand it. I don’t get why Jesus doesn’t heal some people, but I know that he does still heal today.

A wise woman named Elsie Welch once asked “What do you hate?” and then proceeded to tell us that whatever we hate is what God has made us passionate to fight against.

So I will continue to value, protect and fight for every marriage in my sphere of influence.

I will fight the apathy in my own life and disciple those in my sphere to be passionate, uncompromising lovers of Jesus.

I will continue to speak truth over myself and others, rebuking the insecurities that try to hold us back.

I will continue to pray for the sick. I will see many recover. I may seem some not. But I will never stop praying for healing.

What do you hate? Here in lies your passion.

What do you hate

Are you a giver?

love-picture-quotes_1701-1“Well, what’s in your hands?”

That was the answer to my question to a pastor regarding how I was ever going to pay for my discipleship program and missions trip.

I asked what he meant and he went on to explain the story of the loaves and the fishes in Matthew 14.

“But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish!” they answered.

“Bring them here,” he said. Then he told the people to sit down on the grass. Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. 

This story still stirs me all up inside. The little boy brought everything he had to Jesus and he blessed it.

And the main benefactors of this act? Thousands of others. The little boy still got to eat his lunch, but his obedience blessed thousands and brought unbelievable glory to God.2226_122548615430_36_n

Financial giving was not something I really grew up learning much about. My basic understanding was that if I felt led to give something to the church, then I should. It was more of a “spur of the moment” thing than a regular commitment.

Surrendered finances isn’t about simply giving a percentage to the Lord, it is consistently giving everything you have to him allowing him to take care of your needs and then impact others.

Regular giving isn’t a legalistic commitment, it is a joyful opportunity to show my Father ever pay cheque that we trust him to be our provider.

Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand. Once I was young, and now I am old. Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned or their children begging for bread. The godly always give generous loans to others, and their children are a blessing.

Psalm 37:24-26

For us this means giving before paying any other bill, again as an act of trust and an expression of adoration.

My generation struggles to give, and that is extremely concerning to me.

We have grown exponentially through sacrificial and regular giving. The bond of trust between me and the Lord only gets stronger as he leads and I follow.

By not giving, you are withholding the blessing of God in your life. I’m not just talking about financial blessing, I’m talking about the blessings on peace and joy.

We receive more peace as the Lord “proves himself” to us again and again, and then naturally joy just overflows from that place of knowing your secure in your Saviour.

Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test! Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease. Your grapes will not fall from the vine before they are ripe,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “Then all nations will call you blessed, for your land will be such a delight,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

Malachi 3:10-12

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Taking Your Conversations Deeper

What makes you smile lately?

What can almost bring you to tears?

Where would you live if you could live anywhere in the world?

What eases your stress?

These are what counsellors call “meaningful questions.” They are questions that cannot simply be answered with a “yes, no, maybe” or my least favourite: “good.”

All too often I have asked people questions to only receive a one word “good.”

How was school today? Good.

How was your drive here? Good.

How are you feeling? Good.

Really it’s not the fault of the responder for being vague, they weren’t given much for their tired mind to build on.

My husband and I are enrolled in an online Marriage Mentoring Academy (I’ll write about that in the future), and have been learning the art of asking meaningful questions.

I can’t begin to tell you how it’s transforming our conversations. We work with a wide variety of people from grade 6 all the way to the early thirties, and this skill is valuable in each relationship.

But where it hit closest to home was on our Valentine’s day date.

Andrew and I have no problem talking for hours when we go out, but honestly sometimes we come home feeling like we were just at work again. We end up coming up with incredible ideas and plans for our ministry, which is very thrilling, but it often doesn’t leave us understanding more of each other’s hearts.

There is a time and place for all those conversations, but we knew when we went out that we wanted to dive in a little deeper.

We were armed with the skill of asking meaningful questions and decided that each of us would think of one question ahead of our date.

This may sound structured, but it was the best conversation I think we’d ever had since having kids. These two simple questions set the course of our night and we dove into each others hearts from the restaurant, to the coffee shop to back home.

When you ask someone a meaningful question you have shown them that you are genuinely interested in them. You have made a deposit of trust into their life, and they can feel confident opening up to you.

By asking a meaningful question you can get further in a mentoring relationship in one get together than you can in ten sessions waiting for them to “spill the beans.”

If you want to take your relationships to a deeper level and really impact a person’s life through purposeful listening, learn to ask meaningful questions!

It may take some forethought, but it is 100% worth it!

great-minds-eleanor-quote-600(this image is from Saving More Than Me)

 

Gas Station Angel

Pumping-Gas-10My fuel light came on again. Seemed like we were burning through a lot more gas with an extra fussy baby this past summer. 

Amayah wasn’t happy to be going for a drive, but I knew we needed out of the house and she needed to sleep. We just had to make it until daddy was home.

I pulled up to pump, dreading the screaming that was going to start the moment we stopped.

As I was getting out of the car, she sounded like she was setting a record for the loudest wail. Caleb started screaming too. He was mad at me.

“Why did we stop?”, he demanded.

It was an extremely hot day in July so the kids were quickly cooking in the vehicle as I tried to get the gas I needed as fast as possible.

Between the heat, the screaming and my panic, I couldn’t seem to get the right card with the right pin number. I had to cancel and retry my transaction what felt like a million times.

The voice that came over the loud-speaker giving me instructions was the last straw for my sanity. 

Tears just started to flow. I couldn’t even see the numbers on the pin pad.

All of a sudden I felt a hand on my shoulder.

“It’s ok honey, you just get in with your kids and I’ll pump it. Do you need it filled?”

I was sobbing so hard by this point I could hardly respond to this kind older woman. 

I jumped in the with the kids and tried to calm them both down while she stood and filled my vehicle up.

Then she peeked in the car and told me she had three kids of her own and it’s so hard when they’re new babies. 

“Sometimes you just need an extra hand.” She told me. I ran and paid for my gas, while this stranger sat with my babies.

She gave me a hug, and I drove away.

When your fragile, it’s the little things that make all the difference in your life. This mystery woman, or my gas station angel as I fondly call her, was simply aware of the needs of a young woman at the pump next to her.

This woman lived out Philippians 2:4.

Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

Awareness of others is a simple gift we can give to those around us. A crying baby to one person might not seem to be a big deal, but to the mother, it may be pushing her over the edge.

This lady’s example as stuck with me as a reminder to help others with the little things.