Moving Again, Part Two: The Next Step

Last night we went and looked at an apartment. After we put our house up for sale God revealed the next step like He promised. While we were praying about it, God told us to contact a couple we know and ask about where they live. We did, and then we went to look at the place. The couple themselves have a really cute apartment that’s nicely renovated. I was quite excited thinking, although it would be downsizing, it’s a really cute place.

When we got to look at the place, the one we looked at had tenants that seemed almost like hoarders. The place was really gross. I handed Caleb to Andrew as I knew he’d probably hold on tighter as we maneuvered around lots of junk, garbage, and other things. We could tell the landlord was embarrassed. This apartment hadn’t under gone renovations yet either, and it was in general an extremely disheartening experience.

Talking outside afterwards the elderly man shared how his wife was dying of cancer and had only a few months to live. Our hearts instantly broke for him. Inside of me, I felt selfish desire and compassion wage war. I didn’t want to move into this apartment I just looked at. I didn’t want to give up my dishwasher, my open kitchen, our yard and our extra space for company. But I knew the Lord wanted us to be available to love this man, maybe bring him food to bless him, or pray with him and his wife.

Walking back into our house last night I had mixed emotions. I knew there was no question. We’d be moving to that apartment when our house sold. I reminded myself of what I wrote about before in terms of sacrifice, and how this was no sacrifice, maybe inconvenient, but not sacrifice. I guess when the Lord gives me a revelation, He also tests me in it. But I still hold that it’s true.

There is a chance that we’ll get a renovated apartment, and I will pray that we do, since, as a dear friend told me today, “it isn’t wrong to want a dishwasher”! But if on the move day I find that we aren’t moving into a newly renovated place, and I’m down to a tiny kitchen with one sink, I’m so glad God has given me a glimpse into the purpose for this move. I’m sure you’re reading this and thinking, “wow she sure is making a big deal out of moving”, but you just need to realize how much this doesn’t make sense, and how extremely suddenly God has called us from a place we thought we’d be in for five or so years. I know that this is really just the tip of the iceberg. We know deep in our hearts something in our lives is about to explode open. God is working. He’s doing something in us.

I’m so thankful that no matter what, I don’t journey alone. My beautiful little family go as one. We’ll make any house a home. We can take anything and turn it into something beautiful, simply by love. I believe that is how the Father looks at us. He can take us, and love us into something beautiful, something He can use, a tool in His hand.

Our lives really aren’t about us. They’re about who we impact, who we touch, who we love. This is starting to get really exciting, and now I’m just hoping our house sells really soon so we can get busy in our new place and hopefully impact our new area for Christ.

Moving Again – Another Chapter Finishing

About a month ago my husband told me that he had this weird feeling we were supposed to sell out house.

“WHAT?” I was shocked. We just moved in it felt like, I just got settled, I’m still finding stuff from our last move! We brought our first baby home here, we can’t leave yet! That just couldn’t be God.

Andrew didn’t bring it up for a while and I prayed to God that if this was Him speaking, that I’d have peace about disrupting our nest and re-doing all the work that a move brings with it.

Last week God was speaking so much to us. He gave me personally really detailed instructions on some things that I’m supposed to accomplish. I was already feeling some “pressure”, but a good kind that motivates you and pushes you on. On Sunday morning we felt that we needed some prayer for protection over our family, so we went up to the altar at church and had a couple pray over us. While they were praying God spoke to Andrew clearly and said that we needed to sell our house as soon as possible.

On our way home from church Andrew dropped the bomb.
“God told me we need to sell our house, and sell it right away.” I can’t say that this time I wasn’t overwhelmed, or that I didn’t cry, but I felt God’s presence settle over me and peace wash over my whole body. I knew that this was God’s leading. I didn’t understand why, nor did we have any idea of the next step, but we had to be obedient.

Over that last couple of days I’ve had major mood swings with the whole thing. I’ve gone from complete elation from the excitement of the unknown and the adventure to come, to being deeply overwhelmed at packing up our whole house, and walking through the process of trying to sell it.

At one point I actually said to God “this isn’t fair for you to ask me to do all this with a little baby!”. Well if that isn’t an outrageous statement. I have again been enlightened to see my own selfishness. All around the world currently, and throughout history, lovers of Jesus have had to make big sacrifices, take huge steps of faith and suffer greatly for the cause of Christ. Really, God asking me to maybe downsize and move to smaller place for the time being is hardly a sacrifice. The unknown of finding a place in Regina, Saskatchewan isn’t as daunting as being told to sell everything and drive your whole family across the country to start a church as Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church did (his obedience resulting in blessing as he pastors one of the largest churches in America). Or the disciples of old in the Early Church being tortured and imprisoned because they were obedient to the Lord directing them to “go and make disciples of all the nations”.

Two days after telling the Lord we would follow Him wherever He led us, He is already opening doors and showing us how He is really using this time as an opportunity to bless us for the future and prepare us for things to come.

So although this definitely has been an obedience test for us, and has involved faith to step out when we still don’t see the whole picture, I can’t call it sacrifice. I still will lack nothing in my life. Even if I live somewhere smaller, or we go back to renting an apartment for the time being, I will still have the love and joy of my family. We will be warmer, safer and more comfortable than most of the world. Each morning the coffee pot will start brewing, we’ll have friends and family grace our home, and we’ll be nestled in the indwelling presence of God that we ask to fill each place we live.

Truly, each step of the way, with each chapter written in my life, I realize more how the Lord’s blessings and mercies abound to us. Even if I am not really losing anything, or if I am truly going without, I hope that when I stand before the Lord He will look at me and say that I was always obedient to His voice.

Overstimulation: Thrown into a State of Activity

A Week Gone Mad

How often is this you? Your week starts out looking manageable and then you get a phone call asking if you can be a part of cooking a dessert for an event. “Oh no problem” you say, “the week is looking pretty empty.” You double check your schedule and realize immunizations are actually this week, and you know that your baby is going to be cranky after, but you’ve already committed to having a teen that you mentor over for lunch that text you last minute struggling. Do you cancel on the girl that really needs to talk so you can just sit and cuddle with your little guy? What if she really needs to talk? Well I’ll fit it in. In between her coming over and the baby waking up, I’ll just whip of this dessert. WAIT!!! I don’t have any eggs.
<INSERT UNPLANNED TRIP TO THE GROCERY STORE HERE>
Going to the grocery store with an almost five month old is never a “quick trip”. By the time the time you’re ready to head out the door, you smell something and realized he already wrecked his diaper. No problem, I’ll just run and change him and we’ll be on our way. Of course this will be the one time I forget to make sure he stayed covered during the change, and a spray of pee will soak me, the wall, the change table and his cute little “grocery shopping outfit.” I guess we won’t avoid a load of laundry today.
Just like that your week fills right up with the unexpected along with the planned get togethers, meetings, events – great things that might even be a part of your church!

The Outcome

When my week turns like this it usally ends up with my sitting exhausted on the couch crying to my husband asking “how on earth did things turn like this?” and “how am I going to accomplish everything?”. Our world turns into chaos, our baby is overtired, and husband most likely frustrated (even if he’s good at hiding it) because mom over-committed.

Why do  we over-commit? Through watching my little boy deal with the conundrum of “overstimuation”, I have learned a thing or two about myself.

Overstimulation

In case you are unfamiliar with what that is, basically babies can go into “sensory overload” with too many loud noises, people holding them, flashy toys, etc. They get wound right up, sometimes can’t sleep, other times fall right asleep to escape.

Stimulation itself really is a great thing. A baby needs the right amount of stimulation to grow physically, emotionally and socially. My son finds people smiling at him very stimulating. If he sees a smile he will instantly start responding, but I have to have wisdom to know when we’ve done enough laughing and smiling. All of a sudden that smile is upside down and the tears begin to flow. Caleb gets overwhelmed and goes into a panic as if to say “get me out of here!!!”.

As people, there are so many things to stimulate us, entertain us and keep us busy. When I looked into stimulation, I laughed at the definition that said, to paraphrase “end points are triggered to throw the nerves into a state of activity”. HA! How many times have I been “triggered” and thrown into a “state of activity”. Perhaps I hear of something I’d like to be involved in, and instead of stepping back and looking at it objectively to see how it fits in the greater schedule, I respond emotionally, and I’m thrown onto the hamster wheel, running and running, going no where.

A Mother’s Priorities

My compulsive “be prepared for everything” mentality is being put to good use. I keep panicking that I don’t have the skill set at the moment to keep up with three or more children, and that I must get my act together. Thankfully, the Lord knew that, and just gave me one to start out with. Instead of putting unhealthy pressure on myself to be able to handle more, I am trying to glean wisdom from mom’s who do handle more and see what their keys to joyful living include.

The bible holds an example of an amazing woman. Instead of finding this intimidating, let’s look at it from a learning and growing standpoint – this outstanding woman mentoring us new moms in the way we should live. I want to look at how this woman prioritizes what is most important (click here to read Proverbs 31).

Ten Keys to the Wife of Noble Character

1. Her husband is number one to her (apart from the Lord). She invests in her husband. Verse 11 says “she will greatly enrich his life”.

2. She looks for deals. Throughout this portion it talks about her bringing her food from afar, making her own clothes, bedding and having no fear of winter because she has prepared clothes for her children. Her husband might be the provider, but she is a part of stewarding those funds.

3. She cooks for and feeds the people in her care, in most cases her children and husband.

4. She works hard at everything she does.

5. Her heart and soul go into serving and loving her family. She finds joy in the daily and can laugh at things to come.

6. She knows the value of sowing, reaping and investing. That might be in a business sense, but also in terms of people.

7. She extends a helping hand to the poor and needy.

8. Nothing gets by her, she watches over the affairs of her household. She is an observer of her husband, her kids and all things concerning them. She can make time to talk to a struggling child, care for a cold or recognize when her husband is dealing with a lot at work.

9. She doesn’t forget about herself. She knows that how she dresses will reflect on her family, and is ok with putting a little time into getting ready (verse 22 “she dresses in fine linen and purple gowns).

10. She fears the Lord, and he gives her strength and wisdom. There is nothing she cannot do when she is partnered with him.

The reward for keeping these priorities is great.

Her children stand and bless her.
      Her husband praises her:
“There are many virtuous and capable women in the world,
      but you surpass them all!”

Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last;
      but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.
 Reward her for all she has done.
      Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.

So, I will practice keeping these priorities, and update soon on how it’s going. It seems daunting in some ways, but when broken down, I can at least hold commitments up to this list and see if they really fit in the overall plan. Perhaps this may lead to a few less over-commited weeks.

Faith: A Confident Hope

Dreams fill my heart. Each day I look around and I have greater vision for myself, for my family and for our lives. I see youth being touched and empowered to become leaders in their families and school. I see marriages being transformed. I see families walking in the destiny that God has for them, in love and commitment. I see God using the tough and painful things I’ve walked through to help others. I see no limit to what God wants to do in and through me, because He has spoken that to me again and again. But when will I start to walk in this?

Adjustment Period

We each have our comfort zones. A job we feel we succeed in, a group of friends we fit in well with, or a ministry role that we feel is making a difference. If you are like a lot of people, and like myself personally, you could have a lot of dreams in your heart, a lot of promises you feel God has spoken to you. When you transition to something new there can be an adjustment period where you feel like you don’t fit. The new group of people you’re trying to get to know seem a little less accepting, your job is a little more challenging that you expected, or you are flat-out discouraged. You might question whether God actually called you to do anything. Was it all emotionalism and hype in the middle of an exciting service? Was it my own self just wishing I could be used by God?

Our Confident Hope

Our nightly reading the last couple evenings has been in Hebrews. When we moved on to Hebrews I changed translations to see if it would help me understand a little more. There is nothing like having something reworded to you that brings sudden clarity and understanding. The very first verse in Hebrews 11 hit me like a ton of bricks.

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.

Wow. Hebrews 11 then continues on with one of the most awe-inspiring account of various men and women of the bible who made choices in faith and did extraordinary things.

Keep Your Dreams Alive

An incredible example in the bible of a man who endured enormous obstacles is Joseph (for more in-depth teaching on this story I recommend the book “From Dream to Destiny” by Robert Morris. It is the most encouraging book I have ever read, apart from the Word of God).  He was given specific dreams from God, and eventually ended up being sold into slavery and imprisoned before he walked in the promises of God. Take note: he did walk in the promises of God.
Psalm 18:30a says;
God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true.

Remember How Far You’ve Come

As I look back on my short life, I cannot believe how far I have already come. When you are walking through the seasons of preparation for the next phase of life, it’s hard. You don’t see how you are being equipped. During my time in the Master’s Commission Program at the Regina Apostolic Church I found it hard at times to keep up with my ministry assignments, homework, all the leadership lessons I was learning and the personal healing God was walking me through. At times I felt discouraged that I had all this knowledge and nowhere to put it to good use. Looking back, I now see how I use the tools I learned from MC every single day of my life. Even if the only people I ever lead are my kids, I know I have powerful tools in my hands to be a confident woman of God who knows how to stand up for what she believes. That is a far cry from the emotionally fragile 18-year-old girl who left Kipling, Saskatchewan only four years ago, who had some leadership giftings, but no tools to walk them out, struggling from the emotional pain in her life.

I am reminded of the road trip that my family and I went on in August. Caleb was only 2 months old and we were extremely naive at what traveling with a baby would be like. On the way back from Alberta we decided to do the whole trip in one day (our first mistake). We would stop and take breaks, but this was not cutting it for Caleb. He wanted out of the car. He did not sign up for this excursion, and anytime we started driving again he would start screaming louder and louder. Somewhere in between cities and towns, in the middle of nowhere our vehicle sat on the side of the highway, mommy crying, baby screaming and daddy completely overwhelmed. We tried saying to Caleb “we’re almost there, you just need to go a little further, we’re going to be home soon!”. But of course he couldn’t understand.

I think sometimes us as adults do that with God. Things are taking longer than we wanted, they are more challenging than we thought and we start telling God that we want out. We didn’t sign up for this. But little do we know, if we were to just be quiet and learn and listen, we’d be able to fly down that highway on towards the destination, bypassing all the stops for personal breakdowns along the way.

So you’ve come this far, how much farther do you think God will take you in one year? Two years? How about ten years? Stay open and pliable in his hands, and watch as He shapes you into something useful in His hands.

Keep the Faith: Confidently Believing

Hold on to that word or vision from the Lord. Relinquish your selfish desires and earthly agendas, and be ready…because before you know it it’s going to be your turn and the Lord is going to say “GO!”

Hebrews 11:1

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.

Jesus, may you help us to be confident in the things you have spoken to us. Confirm in our hearts that the things we hope for will actually happen. Give us strength, courage and perseverance to “press on towards the goal” and live lives of faith, hope, love, peace and joy. Thank you for each of the trials I have faced. Thank you for the woman you are creating me to be. I know your ways are perfect, your time is perfect, and you always come through on your promises.

Home Improvement

My husband always has so many great ideas for how to improve our home. Currently our back entrance is ripped up because he is amazing, and is tiling it for us! There seems to usually be some project on the go, and he is really gifted at seeing potential in the spaces in our house that need a little help.

There are many different reasons to work on your house – perhaps it’s to increase the value of your home, make it more esthetically pleasing, safer for your family, etc. I walked through that area of our house today and felt God whisper to me that I had a few more “home improvements” that I needed to do. Not in my physical house, but in my heart.

The Lord always has the perfect timing. Last night if I had felt Him say that, I would not have been as open, as my emotions, and physically body, were overwhelmed with exhaustion. Or maybe He tried saying it, and I just wasn’t listening. Either way, this morning on the other hand I smiled to myself and said “yes, yes I do.”

Last night I was tired, frustrated and I guess just being irritable. That happens to all of us. How you react and what you do with that is completely up to you. I responded by getting angry at my family and ignoring them for a bit. (Yes, this is honesty – I am embarrassed). When I was in my 3 years of Master’s Commission (a discipleship program at our church), I feel like my heart was not just getting a few renovations, it was completely demolished and rebuilt by my loving heavenly Father. All the hurts, pains and bad habits surfaced and I was forced to look them square in the eye and decide how to deal with them. He delivered truth to me and shattered my insecurities. I walked through an intense healing process and became free of a lot of things holding me back.

Now, being out from “under the microscope” so to speak, I haven’t been quite as on top of things. I have let bitterness take root in my heart, I have left some people unforgiven and especially let justice and judgement overtake mercy and love.

I love how the New Living Translation puts Psalm 51:10;

Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me.

The definition of loyal is giving firm or constant support. For me this needs to happen with Jesus first. I am not always giving Him my full allegiance, I let other things get in the way. Last night when I was really upset, I was not loyal to my family. I think even my baby senses mommy wasn’t being very supportive. Thankfully God isn’t guilt tripping me, He just longs to set me free.

I started out by saying there are many reasons to do Home Improvements. I think there are even more reasons to do Heart Improvements. May I have the courage today to rip the old, moldy, outdated stuff out of my heart and humbly ask my Father to clean our my heart and renew my spirit. I pray that those around me would see the “updates” and be drawn to the light of Jesus Christ.

Immeasurable Strength

After you give birth, it’s really hard not compare birth stories, talking about the experience and reminiscing at the incomparable extremes of the worst pain you’ve ever felt, to the most joy and love you’ve ever felt. There is nothing in the world like it. Perhaps you thinking meeting your spouse and falling in love would be the most joy you’ve ever felt, or your wedding day. I’m not disagreeing with that or saying I didn’t feel a lot of joy. But let’s be honest. Falling in love was easy. You hung out, enjoyed each other, planned an exciting wedding then went on an amazing honeymoon. Having a baby literally is blood, sweat and tears.

You go through 9 months of sickness, pain and discomfort, then suddenly out of no where get hit with the most outrageous pains that we label “contractions” (I couldn’t even recognize them as “contractions” at first because I felt that word did not describe the feeling at all!) come upon you and the most intense hours or days of your life descend. There is nothing you can do to stop it, there is no turning back.

My point in this blog is not to recount the horrors of labour and delivery, and reiterate all my thoughts, feelings and emotions that came during that part alone, since, frankly, they’ve changed. Instead I want to show how absolutely amazing it as that we as women can go through such a traumatic and painful experience and can come out better people, better wives, better contributors to society, and better lovers of Jesus Christ.

Since I only gave birth 4 and a half months ago, I still daily look at my son Caleb and think to myself “I pushed you out of my body. Thankfully you weren’t as big as you are now, but wow. I did that.” Since the day he was born there have been so many challenges; sleepless nights, healing from delivery, colds, etc – and at times I have felt I would not make it through without calling someone in and going to bed for 24 hours straight. Each time I feel like this I remember the words of my incredible labour and delivery nurse, Katherine. “You can do it Monica. This is one night of your life. You’ll look back on this forever and be proud of yourself for getting through this. You’re strong, girl. You can do it!”

In the moment I looked at her and thought to myself, “you have NO idea what I’m going through! I need an epidural!!” but her encouragment pushed me on. And when I came to a breaking point and asked for one, I found out because of some complications with my blood I couldn’t get one. I felt absolutely trapped in my own body. It was a few moments of sheer panic. But my husband and the nurses were right there encouraging me and telling me that I could do it.

Finally, 12 hours after entering the hospital my little Caleb was born. I cannot even find the words to describe the absolute elation I felt as they placed his wet and slimy newborn body on mine. The emotions overwhelmed me. I could not believe I did it. I did it. Not on my own, no I prayed constantly for strength and perseverance, and I had an incredible team of encouragers.

Isn’t that so how life is though? If you pray hard and have people who encourage you, you can do anything. Each one of us have overcome some huge obstacle in our lives. Maybe you can’t relate to childbirth, but you overcame an illness, injury or a really difficult relationship. It may not just be one night of your life that you’re pushing through, but it’s temporary. You can do it. You can overcome. You can rise above the ashes of discouragement and taste joy and victory.

Deuteronomy 20:4 says:
“For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.”

I’m not calling labour my enemy, but it was something that I had to fight through, and the Lord was the one who came to me. After partnering with Him in that, I know there is absolutely nothing in this life that I cannot accomplish through Christ, who gives me strength. I know that there is no difficulty too great in my marriage, no parenting issue too large, or call to great from the Lord that I can not make it through.

May you have the courage to overcome your toughest situation. The Lord did not create us as woman to be weak and fragile people. He gave us the task of bearing children, partially, I believe, to empower us to know that we are anointed people, useful in the hands of God.

Trivial Pursuits

Since becoming a mom I feel like my days suddenly have so many goals. Yes, I had goals before, and they probably seemed way more “important”. Now my mind is absolutely swamped with all of the things that I put on myself that I need to achieve.
I want to make sure I spend as much time with Caleb as possible, make sure he’s being stimulated properly, his body is exercising and moving appropriately for whatever age and stage he’s been at and ensure that he feels the maximum amount of love possible.

I also have goals for my health; I need to eat healthy, drink lots of water and remember my vitamins since I’m breastfeeding.

Then there are financial goals, I need to learn how to shop efficiently, plans meals so I don’t buy unnecessary food items or waste groceries in our fridge, while making sure I have enough options for my husband’s lunches and snacks. I need to find great deals for us since we’re trying to get used to living on one income before my maternity pay ends.

And OF COURSE I must have a spotless house. I cannot handle a messy house, dirty floors, a cluttered fridge…hmm what else around here is out of control that is driving me crazy? So the guilt and frustration of not meeting my daily “cleaning schedule” after only 2 weeks of it implementation have me reeling from the disappointment of shattered goals.

I haven’t even mentioned my relationship with my husband and the time that I need to put into him, and the goals that we have together and separately for our relationship.
There are still books that I need to read to help me as a mom, since, if you can’t tell already, I really have no idea what I’m doing. I love my boy, I love my husband, and I love my Maker. And that’s really it. In some ways I still feel so young, so inexperienced, so tied up in my mind of how things “should be”, “ought to be” and “realistically are”.

So I sit here at 9:30 at night, trying to keep my eyes open waiting to go in and feed my sleeping baby one more time for the day, processing and sharing all of this. If anyone actually reads this, they are probably thinking…wow she just has one child? How is she going to handle another? Or 3? Manage a whole house of people? I have no idea. But tonight I am reminded of this (may it bring encouragement to you, wherever you are at):

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”

Lamantations 3:22-24

So it will all be ok. This too shall pass. Tomorrow is a new day. The Lord has  new mercies, more grace, and greater strength. There is nothing that He puts me through that He will not also equip me to handle. These trivial pursuits will be laughed about in years to come. I’ll smile at young moms and remember how unrealistic I was with myself, and hopefully bring encouragement to them and tell them to “lighten up a bit, just enjoy yourself”. May we somehow, in the midst of the craziness of life, keep the important things (like love, faith and people) at the forefront of our minds every single day.