The last couple weeks

Wow, I feel like I haven’t blogged in so long! There has been so much that has happened with us since my last post.

It seems like God asks me to write about something and then challenges me to see if it’s true!  After sharing my heart regarding adoption and how I long to live a selfless, serving life, God brought an incredible opportunity our way. These past couple weeks we have been able to help my sister and my nephew by bringing them into our home indefinitely. At first there were so many unknowns. My sister wanted to turn her life around, but there were a lot of factors that could stop her from staying and confronting some of the issues in her life. Miraculously, God has done an incredible work of restoration in less than a week! My sister is a completely new woman with joy, hope and purpose. I’ll leave the details of her amazing story to her to tell.

I’ve managed to snatch a few minutes alone tonight for the first time in what feels like forever. Sitting in my quiet living room, the lights of the Christmas tree shining brightly and the dishwasher humming softly, I’m in awe of the work God’s actually doing in my heart. I say actually because I always find in the middle of Him doing work in me, I don’t often realize that He is. Starting really when Caleb was born I feel like my selfishness has been being exposed.

I was used to having Andrew all to myself for almost a year, my time to myself and my life really the way I wanted it. We were used to two incomes and just the expenses of a carefree newlywed couple. I don’t feel like we were careless with our money, but if we wanted to get up and go for breakfast, we didn’t think much of it! Now, leaving anything to do with finances aside, we have to decide if it’s really worth going out of the house with an active six month old simply to eat. Most of the time it’s “nahhh….let’s just stay home!”

I feel like where I am at today has made me so appreciative of every little thing we do. Each trip out is special, each coffee is a treat, and these treasured silent moments are breaths of fresh air, especially with two busy babies in the house now. Oh how much I took for-granted before.

I have also tried to start making a lot more things myself. To anyone who knows me well, stop laughing! I know I’ve said forever I am not artistic or crafty. But, thanks to Pinterest, I’ve been learning just how easy some of the things that I usually run out and buy are to make. Time might be a little shorter, but I’m finding it quite rewarding. I feel like God has challenged me that if I really want something, I need to look at what I already have and see how I can transform, improve and refresh it to become something of greater value and beauty.

And this mindset is transferring to people. Ok, don’t take this too literally. No analogy is perfect. However, I do see that when I choose to invest in someone I can see the Lord work through me to bring transformation, improvements to their character and refreshment to their spirit. I’ve said this over and over, but I pray so much that our home will be filled right up with peace. Many people have said to me that when they walk in they feel relaxed and renewed. I thank God that He will not only use me to renew purpose to old objects, but also to instill hope and faith into the hearts of others.

As I’ve been doing these things, I feel like I myself have been shown glimpses of my value in the eyes of Jesus. I can honestly say I am feeling more beautiful everyday. I think as your heart becomes lighter and you see purpose and potential in literally everything around you, you see it in yourself. And how can that not make your smile just a little brighter?

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord. May Jesus give you a heart to see potential in those around you, and in yourself. May you see your purpose through the eyes of the one who gave His life to give you life. May you accept the freedom you have been handed.

Love and blessings to you all! I am humbled by the people who take the time to hear what’s going on in my life. Thank you!

 

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Lost Perspective

Wow, what a crazy week, that turned into a crazier weekend! Looking back over my instagrams from the weekend and fun Facebook status’ about decorating for Christmas and nice family time, I realized I did not accurately portray how I was doing at all. And in some ways, rightly so! The world doesn’t need to know day by day my emotions and current struggles. But as Sunday afternoon rolled around, my perspective was gone. Exhaustion had over taken my body, and I was an emotional wreck.

This past week was a huge challenge for me as my beautiful little boy has not been sleeping well. The old “sleep when your baby sleeps” wasn’t working either, as his naps were hardly long enough to be considered a nap. I felt like I barely survived the week, managing to make it to Friday with three out of five suppers on the table, a relatively intact body and some scraps of sanity that I was looking forward to building upon while my husband was home. Saturday morning was lovely as we set up our tree, spent some time together and relaxed a little (although I was still severely short on sleep). That afternoon something happened in Caleb and he became increasingly whiny, miserable, grumpy, and an exhausted-but-not-willing-to-sleep little man.

Last night we were up every one and a half to two hours as he cried in his sleep. Poor little guy was probably teething, and I felt bad for him. There were definitely a lot of factors that I won’t bore you with, but don’t worry, we weren’t taking him for granted, we had a pretty good idea as to what were causing the issues.

Realizing, for the first time since we had Caleb, we were all way too exhausted to try to rescue our appearances and make it to church, we opted for a stay in your pajamas day, trying to lie down when Caleb settled a bit.

So bringing us back to Sunday afternoon, today. I started having an absolute meltdown. As any of you moms out there know, you get to a point of being so tired your mind starts playing tricks on you. You start forgetting why you’re doing the things you’re doing. You can get angry at this little person that certainly doesn’t mean to be causing all this chaos. Lots of you are jumping up and down inside wanting to tell me “oh Monica, it will all be worth it.” Don’t worry, I know. But in the middle of such extreme exhaustion, even the best of us get beat down. The breaking point for me was trying to get enough milk from myself to mix with Caleb’s cereal, to no avail. Nothing was going my way, Caleb was getting more and more cranky, Andrew was being very patient but surely getting frustrated and I wanted to snap.

Needless to say, we made it to bedtime. As Caleb played calmly in the bath with his Thomas Train, oxytocin flowed through my veins once more and my emotions became intertwined with that amazing little boy. My perspective was returning.

Andrew offered to make sure Caleb went to sleep and I climbed into bubble heaven in my bath tub. Thomas was still floating around from Caleb’s bath. I smiled. What a sweetheart I have. He sure loves play with his bath toys. There is nothing I want more than for our tub to be overtaken with Caleb’s toys, and I would never in a hundred million, billion years desire for my life to be any different.

Resurfacing from a temporary submerging in frustration, anxiety, exhaustion and self-pity, I saw how my joy had escaped me. Yes my circumstances are still the same, and for all I know Caleb will still be up a seemingly endless amount of times tonight – but I love that little guy. Even in my weakest moment God is still giving me strength. Although I didn’t see it, today was completely a picture of that. Our worst day happened when Andrew was home to help me out. The Lord knew what I could and couldn’t handle.

So whatever this week brings for you, may we accept this prayer that Paul prayed in Colossians 1:11-12

We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy always thanking the Father. 

A Lesson From The Persistant Baby

Caleb reached forward, trying so hard to grab the intriguing tower. It was like there was nothing else in this world. Just those cups all stacked up to make a lighthouse looking object. The focus in his eyes was incredible. He had just discovered his new ability to maneuver around the room. There was nothing to stop him from getting his slobbery little hands on this toy.

He took a moment and looked at me for encouragement. I knew he was asking, “Mama, do you really think I can do this? I only just started moving around, is it too far out of reach?”

“You can do it, honey.” I answered, “Just inch forward a little more.”

He tried different angles and various approaches. It was still out of reach. Eventually he inched himself close enough to touch it.

And then…

It all fell over and scattered! Some pieces rolled way farther than he was physically capable of moving to. Frustration passed over his face. All his hard work moving towards his toy had not paid off. His lower lip trembled for a moment, but then his eyes zeroed in on one specific piece. He inched towards that one again.

He snatched it up. Finally he had one of the pieces he had wanted to play with so bad, right in his hand. Instead of chewing on it though, he put it beside him and zoned in on another piece.

I know what you’re thinking. This is all babies, Caleb’s no super human. He’s just a curious kid who will stop at nothing to get something in his mouth. Although I like to believe he’s pretty incredible, it’s true. Each of us were born with a very curious nature. Each of us as babies would have laid on the floor reaching and reaching for something far out of our grasp because it was fascinating.

So why do we not always work relentlessly to attain something anymore? Why do we give up so easily? Throughout our lives we lose faith in ourselves and in God. Our heart gets broken and our dreams become shattered. We have tasted defeat more than triumph. Why reach for something unattainable? We’ll only be disappointed.

The truth is if God is on our side all things are possible. Sometimes that dream or “tower” in our life is finally within our reach, and then it all falls apart. We can choose to become fed up and abandon our destiny or we can zero in on the little pieces that are scattered around. We can focus on a little piece at a time. Perhaps we weren’t ready to see the big picture. Maybe that promotion or position would have led us into pride, but God wanted to teach us humility by taking us down the longer road.

Whatever it is, giving up is not the answer. Galatians 6:9 says;

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. 

I had no idea such a little guy could inspire such big things. But the lesson here is clear. Keep reaching for what God has placed on your heart. Do not give up even if your dreams seems to have broken apart. Keep focused on the little things that you can continue to do to get you back on the road towards the big picture and your ultimate destiny.

Relentless 2011

This weekend marked my tenth November Retreat (a youth retreat put on by our church), my second as a married woman, my first as a mom. Each year this weekend becomes a milestone where I look back in awe that it’s already been another year, celebrate what God has done in my life and look forward to where I’ll be at the following November.

This past year has definitely gone the fastest out of every year yet. As we made it to retreat time, although we’ve completed our First Year of Marriage (you can read more about that whirlwind by clicking on the link) and had our baby boy, I felt like a youth again, absolutely craving this mountaintop experience I knew I would have with the Lord this weekend. Anticipation filled my heart because I knew God always does something incredible in me. No matter how big the flame in my heart has been, whether flickering or going strong, He has always breathed softly on it and renewed passion and purpose in me.

Last night in the service, our speaker, Danny DeLong spoke an incredible message about our calling in life. I was challenged to the very core of my being. He was talking about the Great Commission and how we are all called to be missionaries by default. He made the bold statement that we only add-on to our call as missionary other professions if we’ve heard clearly from the Lord. We watched a video about missions in Asia, and it gave tragic statistics about people over there and the broken lives that they lead and the lack of missionary presence serving there.

When I was listening to this, it made me feel like we should abandon everything, take our family and go do missions. Thankfully my husband was able to remind me that we have heard from God, and we are confident that we are where we are supposed to be for the time being. That moment though, really revealed a lot in me. Sitting in that pew listening to Danny speak with passion about helping people overseas shone a light into a dark part of my heart. This part was ravaged with fear. Questions swirled in my mind: What if we were persecuted? What if one or all of us died? What if we never saw our family and friends again? What if we couldn’t afford to give Caleb all the things that I think are important to a happy childhood?

I want my heart to be so broken by the Lord for the things of His heart that I would go anywhere. In that moment I felt that I couldn’t tell him “I’ll go anywhere”. I thought my agenda was surrendered to God, until I realized I have always subconsciously begged Him, saying, “I’ll do anything in North America, just don’t send us where we could die.” I hate admitting this since I have the one thing that can save other people’s souls for all of eternity – a relationship with Jesus Christ. If we have peace with God, losing my life should mean nothing. With all the emotions, responsibilities and love that goes with becoming a mom, it breaks me  to imagine missing any moment of watching Caleb grow into the courageous man I know he’ll be. This realization of the fear holding me showed that I need to commit to asking God for courage to walk out everything He asks us to do.

After many tears, prayers and talking to Andrew over the last twenty-four or so hours I feel like I’ve reached the point where I know I would go anywhere if the Lord asked us to. I’m so glad that God can use these times to speak directly to me. God can speak to us any time, but there is something about getting together with other believers and devoting an extended period of time to worship, prayer and teaching.

I want to thank every person who has ever been a part of putting on the November Retreat at our church. For the last ten years, I have been challenged every single weekend to draw closer to God and examine my heart. During the toughest years of my life, as a teen from a small town, I knew that I could come away for this weekend encounter with the Lord. I have laid at the altar so many times, weeping, as the Lord whispered different pieces of my calling to me – and He is still doing that today.

So if you’re still exhausted from putting the retreat on, I hope that this encourages you to know that ten years from now someone might be sharing how coming to this retreat radically impacted their life. These events are incredibly important. Even though my involvement looks different right now because Caleb is my current priority, I hope I will always be involved to some extent, whether billeting or serving to see this happen.

If there are two encouraging pieces to take away from this post, I hope they are:

1. If God has asked you to work at something, do it faithfully. You may not see results right away, and you might NEVER know the lives you are affecting for eternity. Whether it’s putting on a youth retreat, serving in your community or doing missions overseas, obedience will bring about amazing results.

2. The Lord wants to continue to reveals pieces of ourselves that aren’t fully surrendered to Him. If we invite Him to do so, He will shine a light into the dark places of our hearts. A newly exposed area may be raw at first, but it will draw us into deeper intimacy with our Saviour as we humbly say to Him “more of You and less of me.”

May Jesus Christ reveal YOUR unique purpose for being on this earth, and may ours lives plant seeds of hope in others everywhere we go. May the Lord bless you for your faithful service to Him. When the going gets tough, don’t quit. Go to the source of strength, and He will give you all you need.

Leaving a Legacy

This weekend has brought a celebration of two lives. It’s really got my thinking the last few days about life, purpose, destiny and legacy.

My great grandma who would have been 100 yesterday. She passed away at the old age of 99. She was an incredibly special woman to me. For some reason the best times we had together involved her being in the hospital. On three of four separate occasions I was with her in the hospital, mostly because I was the only family member in the city who was able to get there when she had various ailments or accidents.

One of the most amazing things about my Great Grandma Hazel was her resilience. When Grandma was in her early nineties her friend accidentally hit her with a car. This sent her to hospital with a broken hip. As I drove up to the hospital to be with her, my mind was racing with how I’d need to encourage her not to give up on life. I was sure her spirit would be crushed by this injury so late in life. I was shocked when I arrived at the hospital to see how exuberant she was. Her main concern was making sure that no one canceled her trip out to Ontario on the train. She also needed the entire hospital staff to know she’d still be golfing. She just had to be good to go for the golf season.

Great Grandma pulled through remarkably and showed amazing character in her ability to overcome adversity. She is now remembered today by my family as a woman of perseverance, strength and a true love of life.

Tonight we celebrated Grandma Switzer’s (Andrew’s grandma) 75th birthday. During the night there were many tributes given to her. Her kids stood up and shared many ways that she was and is an amazing mom. Her kids spouses, and some grandchildren shared thoughts about her as well. Her devotion to her husband, love for her kids/grandkids/great-grandkids, commitment to prayer and hard work ethic were mentioned over and over.

The verse that kept resounding in my mind was about the wife of noble character from Proverbs 31:28 “her children will arise and call her blessed, her husband also and he praises her”.

A legacy is described as anything handed down from the past. It doesn’t matter how much life you have left to live, you have room to leave a legacy, to hand something down – to turn something from the past into an encouragement for the future.

Whether it’s been from bringing a new life into the world, celebrating the lives of other, or hearing of tragedies where someone too young is taken from this world – the message to me has been loud and clear: Don’t waste your life.
Don’t pursue things that in the end will come to nothing. Matthew 6:19-21 talks about this and says not to store up treasure on earth, but to store up treasure in heaven, for where your treasure is there your heart will be also.

I don’t want my heart to be in my house, my car, my clothes or any other possessions. I first want my heart to be with Jesus, and then my husband and son. How rich I will be if my treasure is found in my Saviour and my family!

The song in this video talks about the kind of legacy as Christians we should want to leave. This always makes me cry as I reevaluate just where I’m at in life. Andrew and I frequently ask each other, are we wasting our lives? Are we really making our time on earth count? Are we impacting people, or are we just indulging in selfish desires?

When I think about this long-term perspective of legacy, it helps me overcome some of my insecurities. This morning as I was getting ready for church I just felt like my clothes, hair, make up and everything just was not working right, and I was getting really frustrated about my appearance. But when I die, do I really want to be remembered for having nice hair, fashionable clothes or any kind of superficial beauty? No. I pray that I will have lived a life that my kids will honour. I can only hope that by God’s grace I will have loved people, worked hard, encouraged everyone to follow whatever the Lord put on their hearts and empowered my kids, grandkids and great grandkids to use the gifts God has given them to influence their spheres and take on the world for Jesus Christ.

Please, if you feel like you’ve wasted your life: don’t give up. Find strength from the Lord and ask Him what He wants your legacy to be. Even if you pass one thing positive on to the next generation, you will have made a difference. The Lord’s mercies are new every morning. There is no sin too great that He will not forgive. There is no mountain too large that He can not move.

Life is short, Lord help us make the most of it.

My Tattoo

90635011221916486_XPHzfBaWOne of the biggest struggles I’ve had, since getting pregnant and having Caleb has been my body image. I had never once before had to worry about my weight. After almost 18 years of gymnastics, either training or coaching, I could eat just about anything and it didn’t seem to affect me. After gaining a few pounds from pregnancy, as much as I am unhappy about it, it’s at least something, that if I work hard at, I can reverse. Stretch marks on the other hand, that’s a different story.

You know how people say when you’re pregnant your belly button might “pop” out? It’s always said in a kind of exciting way, a milestone a pregnant lady may achieve. I had many nice ladies ask me, “so has your belly button popped yet?”. What an awkward question! But when mine did pop, it never went back. It’s just basically an inside out belly button, awkwardly stretched long ways and garnished with a nice dark, stretch mark scar right down the middle.

Beautiful.

Then there are the stretch marks on the rest of my stomach, hips, and thighs. This is only my first baby! How much worse is it going to get?

In just a few short months I went from feeling more beautiful than I ever had in my life on my wedding day, to feeling worse about myself than I ever have (a great combination when coupled with being newly married). For a little while I was disgusted with myself. In my eyes, these scars did not represent love, they brought me shame and embarrassment, and confusion over why God designed it to be this way.

I came before the Lord and gave Him my hurt, pain and confusion. I told him I didn’t want to be mad about this. So many moms told me their marks brought them joy, a reminder of how they birthed their child into this world. Why didn’t I feel this way? I wanted to, I tried to, but my self-esteem was quickly plummeting.

In this place of brokenness before the Lord, He showed me that we now had a similarity. I could greater understand Him. We both had scars on our body from bringing life to someone. I just brought earthly life to a beautiful boy, while he brought salvation and eternal life to countless numbers. I felt him whisper to me the same things he said to the disciples in Luke 24:39 when he appeared to them after being raised from the dead. “My daughter, look at my hands and my feet.” As I looked at them, I felt him say to me
“I am not ashamed of these scars of love. My children look to me and they will always know the great love I have for them. It is not a sign to me of what I did, but a sign to them. A promise of love. I gave up myself for them.”

Of course, my sacrifice of bringing life to my son was nowhere near the sacrifice Jesus made in bringing life to us. I just share this since I know the Lord spoke it to me to bring comfort to my soul, and I hope it does to you as well.

In a small way I gave up myself for Caleb. I will give up myself again for future babies. Although I’m not sure Caleb will ever ask to look at my stretch marks, they will be a sign for him. A sign to him that I would lay down my life for him, that I would go through pain for him, that I would do anything for him, because he is my son. My body has a promise of love forever tattooed upon it. I don’t need a tattoo of Caleb’s name or something to remind me of him, I will just look at these scars and remember: My child is loved. I will always love my child.

My Jesus loves me. I look at His hands and His feet and I see it. I see the promise of eternal life. I see the sacrifice. I see love, hope and a passionate Savior.

Here In Lies A Confession

I’m feeling pretty restless today. An impending move makes me unsettled in my house. I don’t really feel at home anymore, it’s more me just waiting to leave, not wanting to get more attached, but not wanting to make everyone around me feel like we’re living in limbo.

These are the days where I don’t feel like making supper, I don’t feel like cleaning, and I could just go back to bed for the day. It’s hard not to do those things when you’re just at home anyway. Whose to stop me from giving up for the day and deciding I’ll just start again tomorrow?

But, I really do have things to do. I really do have things to accomplish. We’ll have a realtor open house here on Wednesday that our basement isn’t ready for, so I need to go down and get started, since it’s really unfair to get Andrew to work on it with me after he’s been at work all day if I haven’t done anything.

My brain sort of feels a little mushy. Like I’m craving a challenge. An adventure. I talk to Caleb, but unfortunately he doesn’t respond. Maybe it is “fortunately” for now, because too many questions might come up if I continue to ramble to Caleb when he can talk.

Once I get going, I know organizing stuff in the spare room will be an adventure. You never know what you’ll find down there. Perhaps I’ll pretend that I’m digging through some abandoned compartment searching for something of value.
Confession.
I pretend a lot.
I always have. My imagination can be quite vivid, and sometimes I am completely lost in another world, another age, another country. What I am thinking and feeling inside of me can sometimes be so real and so tangible I think the other person close to me must be able to hear what’s going on. I can be baking something and instantly I am standing before many giving a world impacting speech, and then I can be suddenly transported to covering an event as a reporter, or defending a client as a lawyer.
Yes, I’m 22. Yes, I’m married with a child. But I think somethings will never change. Part of me will always long to, for one day, go back to the 1700s and grace a stone mansion in England, clothed in flowing gowns and having my hair done by my attendants, to then have Andrew appear and run with me over hills and through rain until we collapse with exhaustion. It probably wasn’t really that way, but Lizzie sure ran through the rain a lot in Pride & Prejudice, and a heroine was always rescued by a man on a horse when she tripped and sprained her ankle running dramatically through the rain.

Even as I write, this feels as real to me as ever. But it is not. And today I must accomplish the things that must get done. I will be lost among my thoughts, dreams and imaginary things until reality calls me back, usually by way of the baby monitor.

So Lord, will you give me energy, strength, focus and excitement today? Thanks. I kind of need it.

Psalm 73:26
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.