Pick your hard.

Obedience is hard. Taking that first step out in response to the Lord’s voice in your life is scary.

On the flip side, regret is hard. Wondering what would have happened if you would have just given God your yes is really hard.

Having a clean house is a lot of hard work. Especially with little ones. Dealing with anxiety from too much mess, also hard (I can sometimes fly between these two extremes on the daily!).

Forgiving someone who hurt you is hard. Painful. Difficult. Not forgiving them is crippling to your own soul.

Life is hard. Pick the hard that matters for eternity. Almost every choice in life that matters at all results in actions that take either or all of your grit, guts and courage.

Your hard thing might be different from my hard, but we all have them. Don’t run from hard choices or decisions that lead to hard work. Anything worth fighting for or doing well will require your whole heart.

But here’s the kicker: you can pick a hard that partners with the Lord will and releases grace and favour over your life. Or you can go your own way, and deal with the consequences of your stubborn heart.

Jesus says that His yoke is easy and his burden is light. He is the God who can make a way when there is no way. He looks at our situation that is drowning in a sea of bad decisions and can create a highway of dry land straight into a place of blessing in the land of obedience.

I’ve had countless number of people say to me: Isn’t homeschooling hard? IMG_1705

Yes. It is.

But so was running a business when God asked me to.

So was getting everybody up, dressed, out the door, fed and adequately loved on top of doing everything else.

So was writing a book in the early hours of the morning.

But during that season, God’s blessing was there. He had our yes and we had his strength.

I feel an urgency to say to you who are making some big decisions: don’t run from the hard.

You are being tested to give your yes when you don’t yet feel the grace for it. God wants your yes and then he provides the rest.

When I said yes to homeschooling my kids I did it with big tears and trembling hands. I didn’t feel equipped or anointed for it. But I said yes, because He knew best. Full stop. End of story. And then his power came. And then his courage fell. And then his strength infused. IMG_1993

Psalm 84:10 in the Message hit this home with me the other day.

One day spent in your house, this beautiful place of worship,
    beats thousands spent on Greek island beaches.
I’d rather scrub floors in the house of my God
    than be honored as a guest in the palace of sin.

I’d rather scrub floors and dwell in the blessing of God than be honoured with great position when it’s not my time or place. IMG_2052

Don’t run from hard. Your greatest victory, your deepest peace, strongest anointing and your wildest adventure waits on the other side of your great, big, surrendered, brave yes.

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I don’t need another goal this year, I just need more grace.

Can I be honest? I’m a little overwhelmed by all of the new years “stuff” that’s floating around right now.

It wasn’t too many years ago that I sat with my husband in our living room taking an online goal setting course just before the New Year (or maybe it was just after, I can’t quite remember.)

We set some big goals and we did some great things that year. There was definite synergy in our decision to pursue growth together. We made some wise investments and worked hard.

I love goal setting, I love productivity and I love crossing goals off my list almost more than anything.

But things feel a little different this year.

And while I felt that it might just be me, I also felt compelled to write to the one who is exhausted or perhaps even pushed to the brink of tears seeing every single new year, new goal, new life post this week.img_9912

Because here is the thing with where I’m at in my life right now: I don’t need one more thing to do. I don’t need one more thing to cram into my schedule. I don’t need another expectation on my shoulders. I need more grace.

I need more grace for myself.

I need more grace for others.

Don’t misunderstand me. I work out, I dream big and I have lots of things that I still want to accomplish with my life.

But I’m feeling tired. 

And you know what? Chances are you might be too.

I walk into so many places in life and you know what I see? Exhausted, worn out, run down people trying to keep up. And while some of the goals being tossed around might help you be more prioritized or perhaps your goal is to finally prioritize, I think an extra helping of grace would serve us all incredibly well.

Grace is unmerited favour. And it flows freely from God, but have you offered it to yourself from yourself?

I’ve been the queen of getting up inhumanely early to pound out projects. And for certain seasons that honestly was the only possible time I could do it. And when I have to hit a deadline I know it’s going to be an early morning over a late night. But I can’t do that all the time. When I started homeschooling I realized the last thing my kids need is a worn out mom by 2 p.m.

Here’s what I’m saying: It’s ok to be at peace with your season.

That’s my big “now I’m THIRTY” life revelation. I spent my twenties learning that it’s ok to look at your life and say “now is not the time.”

It’s ok to say, “that was then and this is now.” Life changes. Seasons change.

If this is your go time, then, girl, we are cheering you on! Keep inspiring us and don’t give up on giving your best yes to everything that God’s got for you!

But if you need a break, give yourself one. Pace yourself. You don’t have to do everything all at once. If God is asking you to choose rest, please don’t feel shame. I get it, I have felt the weight of guilt that came from recognizing I’m not actually Wonder Woman. I didn’t leave my house for days when we announced my shop was closing. The shame is real and it can be debilitating if we don’t acknowledge what’s happening.

In the long-term, everything will thank you for choosing rest.

If you still need something to run toward pick a focus area.

This year, I want a better marriage. Plain and simple. How am I getting there? Honestly, I don’t know. Last year I wanted a better relationship with my kids and I just became consciously aware of what the Holy Spirit was speaking to me and gave him my yes and he did a miracle. Right now, that’s my plan with my marriage. On January 1st we had an unexpected 24 hours together while my mom took our kids. All I could breathe out was: God, you’re good to make a way. And I know he will continue to as I surrender my will to him.

If there is one thing I hope you give yourself this year it’s not an unattainable work out schedule or a list of experiences to check off. It’s grace to be ok with the fact that we are constantly growing and the date of the year doesn’t suddenly increase the pressure to change faster.

Life is a process and God who began the good work in you is going to finish it. Whether its January or July. He’s got it. Listen to him. Give him your yes. Say no when He leads. Rest in his whispers. Resign from a committee. Eat a frozen pizza at least once a week (well, maybe cook it first!).

You are enough. You are brave to make the right choices. You are powerful to choose peace. You have the vision to see the best is yet to come.

Happy 2019. May this be the most peace-filled year yet.

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A BRAVE YES: Pre-Orders + Cover Reveal!

A Brave Yes Pre-Order Christmas GraphicI can’t believe this moment has come! Today I get to reveal my book cover to you!

To be honest, this was one of the most agonizing processes. It’s so hard finding the right look that represents you, your message and will get the attention of readers!

When I officially confirmed the cover, I text some of my family and said “I said yes to the cover (which was much harder than saying yes to the dress)!”

Honestly, way harder than naming a child, picking a wedding dress, or for me, even choosing a spouse 😂

I’m heavy in the editing stage with lots of changes to review and a tight timeline with Christmas and family wedding hot on my heels, so having my cover confirmed has been the boost I needed to get up and get working!

A Brave Yes is about my personal journey in learning to say yes to God, no matter what. It includes many stories and raw moments leading up to our grand opening at my shop, pivotal moments in my life (including some intense birth stories), and deals with the burn out I went through. It’s my heart dumped out on paper and drenched with the hope that’s been poured out over me.

Here’s some back story to my book being published.

After opening the store, I had a message burning in my heart about saying yes to God (obviously, a brave yes!). My sister, Nicole, felt it on her heart to pray that I would have the courage to write. I started waking up early in the morning to get my heart typed out. When I told her that, she said she had been praying that God would wake me up! Not so nice there, sister! 

But really, she was the push I needed, in the physical and the spiritual.

My sister Emma works at a church and received an email about the Women’s Journey of Faith Publishing Contest and sent it to me. The deadline was very close and I had only just started writing. My instinct was to throw it out of my head, but my husband felt deeply that it was a “kairos moment” (divine favour meeting divine opportunity). We prayed together and decided I would give it a try.

I worked really hard and finished my book a week before the deadline. I sent it in about a month before we got our initial call for adoption.

Sitting in our Air B-N-B in Nunavut, the evening before the baby was born, I received a call from Word Alive Press and they were letting me know I was a top finalist in the contest and I had a won a prize of credit toward publishing with them.

I was elated. Two dreams were going to come true within the matter of days. I would finally adopt a baby and have a book published. I could hardly wait to start writing the next one.

Then, well, you know the story. Things fell through with the baby. 

I decided I couldn’t publish the book. I had given God my yes and my heart had been broken. How could I encourage others to do the same? For what? To be left sick to their stomach’s, endlessly weeping and with all their renovation (or whatever else) money spent?

I had to give the publisher my answer soon after coming home. I ignored it for a bit. Then one morning I opened my computer and began reading.

I read and wept and read and wept. My story was healing my heart. This was not a story of saying yes and everything going smooth as can be. I forgot how deeply I had poured my heart into these pages.

By the end of the second day of reading I told Andrew I believed I still needed to publish (he had never changed in his feeling that I should).

“I don’t know if I went to all that work to write down my story just so that I’d have hope in the middle of this one, but I need to follow through on it.” I said.

The morning I was supposed to sign the publishing contract, a big piece was missing: the finances (anyone else seem to have the roadblock a lot? ha!). 

A few hours later we opened an envelope from a couple with the exact amount of money for the down payment on my book. They didn’t know us well, what our need was, or our timeline.

Andrew and I looked at each other, knowing this was a final confirmation to step out because God would be with us.

What a journey this faith life is. Full of ups and downs, joys and heartaches. We don’t see the big picture. God is redeeming and working all the time. For our good, and his glory.

Are you ready to see the cover? Here it is:

a brave yes HR

I LOVE the fog in this picture. It completely encapsulates how I feel when I step out with my brave yes every single time. I can see the vague beauty of what God could do, but truthfully have no idea what will happen!

I hope and pray that lives will be transformed through the message in this book. That where you’ve felt stuck you will feel released. Where you’ve felt discouraged, you will find hope. Where you’ve given up on God, you’ll see his power at work again.

I turn the big 3 – 0 at the end of this month and I’d love to see thirty pre-orders between now and the end of December. Right now I’m offering a special price of $15 for the book AND a discounted $10 shipping!

If you choose to pre-order this book as a Christmas gift, I will email you a printable that you can put in a card or in a stocking, letting the recipient know that early 2019 will be bringing them a new book!

ALSO: If you live in Saskatchewan there is a good chance I can get your book to you WITHOUT shipping! So feel free to just pay without shipping and then if we can’t get it figured out to have it delivered to you, we can ship it. There’s time to figure that out! 

All you have to do is e-transfer to abraveyes@gmail.com, message the password via email or Facebook message to my page and I will get in touch with you for your mailing address (if shipping is necessary), a receipt and a printable (if it’s for a gift).

So plain and simple:

Option 1:

E-transfer $15, pick up or we will get it dropped off when book arrives.

Option 2:

E-transfer $25, book will be shipped when it arrives.

I want to thank you in advance for ordering your copy through me personally. Word Alive Press has it set up that if I can sell my “author copies” myself, it funds a majority of the publishing process. It’s a huge help to me and my family when you order them from me directly!

Thank you for walking this journey with me! I’ve felt incredibly loved and supported by you all!

Many blessings on your Christmas season,

Monica

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Be catapulted by mentorship.

I remembering being eight months pregnant with Caleb. Nerves consumed me. Beyond my fear of labour and delivery were the echoes of every other parent warning me that I would never sleep again.

I was terrified.

Sitting at a table with some couples from our church, I began to share my fears with another mom.

The thing is, she didn’t look exceptionally sleep deprived and seemed very at peace with her role as a mother. I asked her how she was doing it.

That night I learned a secret that took me through all three babies. I discovered the Baby Whisperer book. And without even knowing it, that mama became the first in my collective of mentors.

One of the many times we were struggling through some parenting issues we looked around and noticed some parents further ahead of us that seemed to have really healthy relationships with all of their kids. Andrew and I knew where we were and it didn’t look we were on course for where they were. One night we met with them and asked them to be our parenting mentors. They walked with us through numerous ups and downs, shared their greatest triumphs and challenges, and have continued to invest in our children and in our family.

Flash forward to opening our business and being flooded with prophetic words and struggling to discern it all. I have someone in my life who has owned a business and is extremely prophetic. All teary eyed from my confusion and feeling all torn up, I stopped by the Regina Apostolic Church one day on a quick city trip and asked Pastor Rob to be my prophetic mentor. I knew he was and is someone who continues to walk in peace regardless of what was going on. I needed to learn that if I was going to successfully wear these different hats.

My latest adventure in homeschooling quickly brought to light my need for a mentor with a special gift for raising children. I looked around and saw a woman raising kids and homeschooling with beautiful fruit. Her family truly shines with love for one another and the world, not to mention they are all extremely gifted people. This amazing mom of eight took the time out of her busy life to give me homeschooling advice, and I’m honoured to have her on my collective of mentors.

I believe our willingness (or unwillingness) to allow people to speak into our lives and share their wisdom is going to be what either holds you back or catapults you further. Why wouldn’t you want to learn from someone else’s mistakes? I know I still make plenty of my own, so if I can save a few along the way, I’m all for that!

There is a difference between comparing ourselves to others and being inspired by others.

In a day and age where we can be publicly shamed online for sharing our opinions, we’ve lost a culture of mentorship. I know I’m scared to tell someone what worked for me and my babies in case someone jumps all over me. Yet my experience might truly help someone.

So here is my tried and tested advice:

  1. Look around you. Who’s doing what you want to do with excellence and integrity? Who has a marriage that exemplifies faithfulness and joy? Who has peace even though they have walked through difficulty? Who has great time management?
  2. Contact them and ask for 15 minutes of their time.
  3. Have three questions prepared to ask them. If you honour their time and affirm why you admire them, I know that they will be motivated to share with you their secrets and even better, their struggles!

Will everything they suggest work for you? Maybe not. But I bet you will learn something! I have more mentors in my collective that I haven’t mentioned and in different seasons I talk with them to varying degrees. Some were just a mentor for a piece of my journey. But each one has impacted my life deeply and to each one, I am grateful.

I hope you will be inspired to find someone you can learn from! As long as our heart is beating, we can continue growing!

P.S. Your brave yes might be agreeing to talk to someone who sees something they can learn from you! Don’t hide behind false humility, we all have something to offer!

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You write a beautiful story.

Somehow we’ve crossed the mid way point in November. Time just continues to move on and as my seven year old said: Wow, we are just growing up so fast! I wish we could press pause.

Funny thing is, I never felt that way as a child. Time seemed to move so slowly and I remember thinking each New Year’s Eve how long that seemed to take.

But things are different now. Even for children time moves fast. This is part of why I have decided to continue on with homeschooling. I spent the first few years of my mothering wondering how I would make it through to suddenly crossing a threshold of time that screamed: how did we get here?

Even now I sit at my table, the house quiet with my babies at their grandparents and the clock ticks on. Tick – tock. Tick – tock. Tick – tock.

It’s methodical sound reminds me that it stops for no one and pauses for nothing. In the same “tick” life may come and life may leave and in the “tock” hope restored or a heart devastated.

Oh I’m not meaning to sound so melancholy. On the contrary, these revelations from my last year have led me to push deeply into the hope of Christ. Hope that goes beyond the sadness of the heart or even the joy that comes.

It’s no secret this has been a hard year. At the start of 2018 I asked God for a word for the year. He told me two things:

  1. You don’t know what’s coming.
  2. You need to focus on the nest.

These things could not have been more true. This year side swiped me on so many levels. I had no idea the things that were coming, I had hoped they were good things, but so many were painful. Yet with the encouragement to focus on my nest and keep that the priority, we transitioned through them a lot smoother.

Grace upon grace, upon grace, upon grace.

I started the year on a sabbatical to recover from burn out. I had fizzled right out starting our business and moving twice. After recovering from that our son started to face some big challenges and God asked me to be brave and trust him that I could homeschool.

Homeschooling turned out the be the greatest gift and ever layer I have unwrapped has been more exciting than the next, but it did set off a chain reaction of two things that were painful:

  1. An unexpected resignation at the church. Andrew and I had co-pastored for nearly four years and suddenly that was done.
  2. I would be working at my shop less and hiring more people to run it, shooting our costs through the roof during an already delicate new business stage.

And then of course the call for adoption. In those months it seemed to be the missing puzzle piece. It made sense of the clearing away of my schedule and the settling back at home.

But thousands and thousands of dollars later, and so many more days away from my children than I ever want to know again, I was empty-handed.

Do you ever have questions? Yeah, me too.

Lord, I was brave. I gave you my yes. I know that you are doing something deep and incredible, because you don’t string me along to break my heart. Something is going on here greater than I can see. I won’t stop believing.

And yet as I move on, it feels like a melancholy movie, like a Romeo and Juliet where no one and nothing is in place at the right time. After the adoption falling through we realized our hearts have been expanded to foster babies. It’s the cry of our heart to do this. And yet when we stepped out to do it, we found we can’t be approved until our basement renovation is complete, which has been held up by…you guessed it, spending all that money to go to Nunavut. Yet without going to Nunavut, we wouldn’t have hearts burning to foster.

Sometimes the complex conflict in my heart is enough to make me weep and laugh. I’m so grateful for the heart I have after this pain, yet so deeply grieved by the pain itself.

Guys, I’m not complaining. I’m being real. You need to know what this has been like because I’ve had too many people say that everything falls into place for me. I’ve tried to encourage others and heard so often “well if I had your husband, or your energy, or your favour…”

And while I hope and I’m praying my faith remains simple through everything, I’ve heard the excuses for giving up, and I’m going to be honest, I feel like I have those same ones. But we can’t do it. We can’t give up and we can’t make excuses. So many lives hang in the balance. Our maximum impact on the world lies on the other side of sticking this out.

We can’t stop believing that God is for us. Life is not simple. I may have thought it was at one point. But I am convinced the only way to make it through our complex and complicated lives is through intimate relationship with a concrete and constant Saviour.

As I look toward this Christmas season, I am preparing myself to actively let go of an extremely difficult, yet a simultaneously greenhouse-like year as I look at the growth in my life.

I know in my heart that God looks at all the missed opportunities, conflicting time lines, financial difficulties, broken dreams and flurry of questions and he sees the most beautiful painting, the greatest story, a patchwork quilt that will one day tell a more completed version of His great faithfulness.

Great is Thy faithfulness,” O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

Perhaps this year has been one of more questions than answers and more heartache than joy. Or perhaps you relate to the bizarre ebb and flow of joy and pain that I’ve found myself in.

I feel the Holy Spirit calling us to let go of our disappointments. But it isn’t an immediate throwing down. It’s an invitation to let go over Christmas. To allow the simplicity of the gospel and the beauty of a saviour sent to earth as a baby, to renew our hope again.

Don’t be discouraged if you can’t dream yet or if the goals aren’t coming or the inspiring words haven’t been released for 2019. Just let go, and let hope flood your soul.

From there, I believe we will see our dreams take flight. We will know the steps to take. We will be in a place of greater courage to face the unknowns.

This is my life song right now. Let it revive your heart this Saturday.

With love,

Monica

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My good, His glory.

It amazes me how quickly I can move from having my life feel manageable and on track to completely and totally out of control.

This past week I finally took action and made the first step in something my husband and I had felt the Lord placing on our hearts. A lot had happened in our lives and suddenly it was weeks after I had planned to scratch this from my to-do list.

What was supposed to be a baby step that made me feel good about my token obedience to the Lord turned into a landslide of events that once began, I couldn’t stop.

In a moment our lives felt in super speed and instantly I felt unable to keep up with everything.

To add to the drama, my kid’s were puddles of candy-hangover disasters the day after Halloween. I was losing my marbles. How had life become so hard in forty-eight hours?

Friday morning I woke up with a terrible migraine. I’ve, thankfully, only had a handful in my life and they’ve shown up after what my chiropractor refers to as a “perfect storm” where stress, tiredness and all the rest collide to create a barrage of unbearable pain.

A simple act of obedience on a Tuesday had led me to this place by Friday. The enemy was trying to steal my confidence, I was sure of that.

Sunday morning I stayed home from church because my headache hadn’t completely subsided. The moment my house was quiet, the Lord began to speak.

“Did you remember that this is all for your good and my glory?”

Really? I replied in my heart. My good? Maybe your glory, but I’m a bit of a wreck here.

“I am working every single thing in your life for your good and my glory. Chill out.”

Does God have to tell you to chill? Or is it just me? That morning I had the contemplative space to see that almost nothing had happened in my life outside my own head. I was freaked out that something started moving quicker than I wanted.

My good, his glory.

IMG_9925I love how Psalm 32:8-9 in the Passion Translation puts it:

I hear the Lord saying, “I will stay close to you,
instructing and guiding you along the pathway for your life.
I will advise you along the way
and lead you forth with my eyes as your guide.
So don’t make it difficult; don’t be stubborn
when I take you where you’ve not been before.
Don’t make me tug you and pull you along.
Just come with me!”

I almost laughed aloud when I read “don’t be stubborn when I take you where you’ve not been before.”

Boy, had I been stubborn in my heart. Not by outwardly refusing to do be obedient, but panicking that the only way I could go there was on my own strength, forgetting that it’s God who leads us into unknown and promises to stick with us through it!

God is taking us, you and me, to places we’ve never been. It’s terrifying. I will be the first to admit it! But let me tell you post migraine, it’s easier to surrender and let Him be Lord than to deal with the physical and emotional strain that comes from trying to be in control.

He is taking all of our mess, brokenness, shattered dreams and misunderstandings and he is literally creating something GOOD for us! And not only is it good for us, but it’s going to display his glory. My life. Your life. It’s good. And it’s going to give God a whole lot of praise and turn a whole lot of hearts right to his.

We just have to ask ourselves if we will be willing to chill out and step out when he says: Just come with me. 

 

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I deeply appreciate all of your likes, comments and shares! Thank you for your love and support!

Library Day (Hip-Hip-Hooray)

“You can find magic wherever you look.  

Sit back and relax all you need is a book!”  – Dr. Seuss

I wrote a song for my kids for Library Day. It started out with them rolling their eyes and has turned into the first thing they hum when they open their eyes on Thursday mornings (well maybe not quite that extreme).

It’s Library Day, Hip-Hip-Hooray! So let’s get on our way! Cuz it’s library day, every Thursday! 

Then I generally add a tag of “having fun isn’t hard, when you’ve got a library card!”

PLEASE tell me you know that Arthur song from the mid nineties?

Yep, I’m a coooooool mom.

IMG_9458In preparation for library day tomorrow (and to inform you that these gems will be coming to our local library if you’re from around my town), I’m going to share our four favourites from this last week.

Choosing four is hard. We take out an average of 40 books a week, so this is really narrowing it down!

You’ll be able to tell we’ve learning about the ocean the last couple of weeks, but themes like responsibility and geographical locations like New England have also been at the fore front.

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1. The Specific Ocean – By Kyo Maclear, Illustrated by Katty Maurey
This book threw me off at first because the little girl didn’t want to leave the city and go to ocean. What!? This confused my inner beach child who was practically raised at the Pacific Ocean until we moved to the prairies when I was thirteen. I soon realized my own kids were skeptical of the wonders of the ocean, having never experienced it themselves. As we see the girl embrace the ocean and grieve having to go home, we see the beauty in trying new things and letting go.

2. The Boy and the Ocean – By Max Lucado, Illustrated by J. Lively Huharty
This is a beautiful story of a boy beginning to understand how vast God’s love is for him as he stares at the immensity of the ocean. With his parents by his side, he catches a glimpse of the massive and unmeasurable love of God.

3. Nanette’s Baguette’s – Words & Pictures by Mo Willems
This was a big time favourite for us! This unique rhyme exposed us to a more words ending in -ette than I could have imagined! Nanette’s experience also opens the door to a great conversation with children’s about responsibility and owning up to their mistakes. It was also a good reminder to me as a mom about how intense it is to tell your parents the truth when you know you could get in trouble and to extend some great grace to these little people!

4. One Morning in Maine – Words & Pictures by Robert McCloskey
Set by the sea in Maine we meet a sweet little girl named Sal who has a loose tooth. This was a timely story for us as my oldest just lost his third tooth, but first top tooth. IMG_9437McCloskey’s beautiful charcoal drawings keep my kids enthralled and the interesting details, like their boat ride for groceries, keeps everyone engaged. This is our third Robert McCloskey book and we are officially big fans of his! My five year old daughter felt it was important that I note that this book is a winner of the Caldecott Honour. She loves reading books that have won awards! This story inspired us to have clam chowder, a first for my kiddos, who all loved it!

 

All of these books can be ordered through the library! A few clicks and you can pick them up and take them home to enjoy as a family or with a child in your life!

What books are your kids enjoying?

Happy Reading,

Monica

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Encourage literacy and a love for great books by sharing this post with your friends!

A Yes That Remains

Soup bubbled on the stove. Butter, sugar and eggs waited in a mixing bowl to become cookie dough and veggies sat on the cutting board.

The minutes ticked away until Andrew would walk in the door. I felt ahead of the game that night. The house was only a category one of disasters, much less than most evenings. The kids were relatively content.

I glanced at my phone and saw the big scary word “UNKNOWN” as it rang silently.

Everything was on schedule and I didn’t want to ruin it. I stared for a moment. My normal “just leave it” inclination vanished and I quickly answered before the caller hung up.

On the other end of the line was a voice so familiar and yet different.

“Would you and your husband please come and adopt my baby?”

My heart pounded something fierce. So opposite to the first time this happened when tears spilled down my face and joy exploded and there was no way my answer would be no.

In the days that have followed I have had to do many difficult things. I’ve had to reopen my heart and remind myself of the promises I’ve made to God that are not at all dependent on my circumstances.

The sting of defeat felt all to real again. My mind told me I know better than to do this privately.

And in the midst of doing many hard things faithfully day after day, I’ve felt the Holy Spirit whisper something of great importance. Something that I feel with great urgency to pass along to you.

a brave yes that's painfully familiar

Your brave yes is not always found in the adventure or first time experiences. Your brave yes will often be found in the known, perhaps memorized and the painfully familiar. It’s a yes that still shows up when you’ve been hurt. That tries again when you’ve faced defeat. It’s a yes that remains even when everything within you wants to scream a fear filled no 

This kind of brave yes is a call to remind ourselves of the Apostle Paul’s encouragement:

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Galatians 6:9 NIV

And to dig down deep when we are hurt and feed our soul with the truth of this verse:

“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them.”

Romans 12:9a NLT

It’s a reminder that those who have gone before us have lived a life that cost them much and so we have the freedom that we do:

“They make firm commitments and follow through, even at great cost.” Psalm 15:4b TPT

You just might have been looking for the next big step of faith and it hasn’t come because there is a big breakthrough waiting for you on the other side of faithfulness.

Or perhaps you were obedient to the step of faith and it didn’t work out the way you hoped, but the real test of faith is in the will you try again?

You could be asked to forgive when all your want to do is hold on.

You may be discontent in your marriage and all you want to do is quit but this is your moment of yes to see it through to victory.

You may be hurt and want to recoil but brave love says communicate.

You may be fighting to stay consistent in your parenting, wanting to give in, and this is your chance to sow deeply into the lives of the ones you’ve been entrusted with, even when it’s unimaginably hard.

A brave yes will rarely be glamorous and exciting, even when others may think it is from the outside. You know that blood, sweat, and tears accompany anything worth fighting for. You won’t feel like Wonder Woman blocking arrows as you head across the battlefield.

But these days are important.

This yes matters.

Stay the course. I can feel that a big victory is coming.

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Can I save you some time? (Here’s some books you can order from the library and read with your kids!)

IMG_9070Reading has always been a big part of my life and a part of our little family. My own parents instilled a love of reading through many different ways. I remember laying on my mom’s bed in the afternoon while she read a book like “Milly Molly Mandy” out-loud to us. Or in the evening reading the Little House On The Prairie series or a classic like Wind in the Willows as a family before bed.

Those were some of my most favourite memories and my absolute favourite part about being homeschooled as a child. We devoured books. A good story was guaranteed to spark the imagination of four young girls ready to act out an adventure.

As much as reading was a priority with my own kids, last year I felt time was always against me. Getting to the library was challenging with my work schedule and reading the same old books became boring and our stories were relegated to the few the kids pressured me to read in the mornings and then at bedtime.

For me this became a red flag that my life has too full and I needed more margin. But that’s not what I’m here to write about today (I will leave that for another time!).

Now that I’m homeschooling I read an absolutely ridiculous amount of books with my children, and I love every moment of it because I have dedicated a good amount of time to choosing great books. IMG_8807

But truthfully, it’s quite time-consuming.

I was thinking today that it might be nice for some of you busy parents to see my favourites from each week so that I can save you some time and you can go straight your local library and pick them out. No sense both of us spending a crazy amount of time on it!?

This isn’t just for parents. I’ve met a grandparents who pick out books from the library to read with their grandchildren at home and my own sister always gives my kids a story with a special note on the inside cover. Reading is a great way for anyone to form a special bond with a child in their life!

Here’s my tip to save time at the library: I order all of my books online. We still go to the library once a week but I find that it frees me up to be present to read to the kids, help them start an activity or keep my youngest entertained so that the older two get the amount of time there that they really want. Or if we can’t make it, I’m still guaranteed to have new recruits coming in every Friday morning!

Our family has fallen in love with old stories. They are completely unpredictable and sometimes the oddest things happen! But they never fail to pull at our hearts, teach us a lesson and make us laugh.

Now that my daughter is flying through “Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons” and I suddenly almost have a second reader on my hands, I want to continue to prioritize cultivating a love of reading more than anything. Not just so they will read great stories all the time, which does have value, but because they will be more apt to enjoy learning when the struggle of whether or not they want to read is out of the way. IMG_8957

And if I’m completely honest, the chances of them reading their bibles of their own accord and seeking out meaningful devotion books are much higher when they are confident readers. Even in something as basic as reading, we are sowing into their spiritual lives.img_9299.jpg

So who’s willing to say if they are interested in this? Would you like to hear what books we are reading every week and you can skip the research phase, order the books in a click and pick them up between hockey and dance? Let me know in the comments if you think this will be helpful to you!

Here are my favourite five from last week (and number one will be from today because it was just that good!).

  1. Kermit the Hermit, By Bill Peet
    A crusty old crab goes to great lengths to bless the boy who saved his life from a dog. I had to choke back tears at the end of this one! kermit the hermit
  2. Apple Pie For Dinner, retold by Susan VanHecke
    Granny Smith wants to make a pie but all she has is plums! This story tells beautifully that by giving generously of what you have, what you need will come to you. (note: This went along beautifully with our Five In A Row book “How To Make An Apple Pie and See The World”, if you happen to be interested in the material we are using.)
    apple pie for dinner
  3. Nora’s Ark, By Natalie Kinsey-Warnock 
    In the Vermont Flood of 1927 a family opens their home to a variety of people and creatures and learn the ones you love are more important any thing, or flooring.
    Nora's Ark
  4. Follow that map, By Scot Ritchie
    A fun and engaging way to learn basic map skills that includes an interactive story where you help find the children’s lost puppy!
    follow that map
  5.  Mousetronaut, by Mark Kelly 
    A tiny mouse gets to go to space, and just might save the mission! We are currently reading as many inspiring and exciting stories about space as we can right now as my daughter is very eager to become an astronaut!
    Mousetronaught

Maybe you can save ME some time! What books are your kids loving?

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Through the portal.

This one is going to sound a little sci-fi esque to some of you, but it’s been sitting in my heart for a while.

I’ve heard the common verse about “in your weakness God’s strength is made perfect”, many times and honestly I’ve never really grasped the full magnitude of what it meant. I found it comforting that he would work through my weakness, but I really didn’t get the power of it.

That is until I read this verse in the Passion Translation and the word portal was used.

So I’m not defeated by my weakness, but delighted! For when I feel my weakness and endure mistreatment—when I’m surrounded with troubles on every side and face persecution because of my love for Christ—I am made yet stronger. For my weakness becomes a portal to God’s power.

2 Corinthians 12:10

I instantly saw a picture of a person standing in an empty room. It was dimly lit and I could tell they were confused, broken and unsure where to go next. Where they were in that moment, was nothing. Looking at them with human eyes you would see they had no prospect of anything because there was simply nothing.

I could not see any doors or windows so the chance of rescue from their place seemed unlikely. As I watched I saw the person bravely open their hands. It wasn’t a big gesture, nor did they do it with a lot of expression. It was like a last resort, the very beginning of surrender.

Suddenly there was a zap of blue light and the person was sucked up through a portal that opened up on top of the ceiling where the blue light had flooded in.

The person was gone. The picture I was seeing zoomed out. I saw a multi layer complex, we could call it “life’s problems.”

I could now see that where the person had been standing was, as I was described, an empty room of weakness. This is the room where brave is not felt, fear runs wild and it looks to the naked eye like there is no way of escape. All seems lost. Your circumstances seem hopeless.

But from my vantage point I could see that the person, in their beginning moment of surrender in the middle of their weaknesses, had been translated up to the next level and they were standing in the place of the supernatural strength of Jesus Christ.

That place of weakness because a portal, a doorway, a entry point, to God’s great strength.

Weakness Becomes A Portal

They stood in the confidence of bright and vivid colours while the King was on his great white horse and an army moved out to begin the battle. The person simply stood, strong and secure beside the great King.

Below that level of weakness was just simply normal life where we can wonder at times whether we live in our strength or God’s strength and we don’t always see with such clarity. There can be a lot a of gray.

But standing in the room of weakness, there is no confusion. Without God, we are nothing. But in the tiniest act of surrender, God’s strength was able to rush in like a flooding light and lift the person up to the next level of victory.

I felt him whisper:

Don’t fear your weakness. I’m breaking through. I’m taking you higher. You will see my power like never before.

This was such a vivid encounter I decided I wanted to try pressing into the portal of power.

A opportunity to stand in my weakness came soon enough.

A tantrum. A freak out. A moment where I wondered how I could mother for another moment. My confidence zapped by a debilitating encounter with the anger of a child.

I put the child in their room and stood in the hallway.

I whispered weakly:

Lord, I know there is a next level of strength available. I don’t know what to do here. I’m really weak at being a calm and collected mom. I need your strength, power and solutions.

I closed my eyes and waited to enter into the portal where there would be a trading of my weakness for the strength of Jesus.

I didn’t try to do anything in that moment. I breathed in the Holy Spirit and I waited.

Suddenly the wisdom came. I knew what I needed to do. I prayed with authority that confusion would leave my relationship with my child and that we would be able to move forward in understanding.

In that moment I knew I had moved from my weakness to God’s strength.

Everything changed in that moment. The situation was dealt with in minutes rather than the hours these tantrums would escalate into.

The trouble for me is, I don’t always recognize when I’m trying to operate out of my human weakness instead of my super-powered-Christ-strength.

And when I do realize I’m acting out of weakness, I’m not always humble enough to stop and go through the portal to the next level of supernatural living.

But as I saw in the picture, God is just waiting for us to open our hands a little. When we give him even the smallest invitation, he is coming like a flash of lightning to lift you higher. And without weakness, we wouldn’t get to experience the full glory of his strength.

He wants to strengthen you. He knows that in todays’ world we need that instant access to a way of life that blows away hopelessness, despair and apathy.

He is calling us to come up higher. To a place where strength, wisdom, courage and power are given for second guessing, trembling hands, and empty threats.

I need this kind of life. It’s not a life where everything is always resolved quickly, but it is a life where we stand in strength and let go of that feeling of never being good enough for the battle. Because the battle is not ours. It is the Lord’s. And all you have to do is take the first step of surrender.

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When the bus hits.

IMG_0084Not really looking, I just stepped into the street. I didn’t see the bus coming. My eyes looked up just as it plowed me over. As I saw my body begin to explode I snapped to reality from my daydream.

I sat on the pretty gold wingback chair, staring out the window at the playground on the artic tundra.

Cold rain fell, as it did nearly everyday after she was taken.

Tears fell down my face.

That’s what has happened. I whispered to God. I stepped out in faith and I’ve been hit by a bus of heartache. I trusted you that this would happen the way you said.

This morbid picture began to reverse, like an old VCR rewinding through a movie. Suddenly I was back on the pavement about to step out.

“That’s what you think happened. No, this is what happened” I felt Him whisper.

I stepped out again. The bus hit me. My body stayed intact and my heart exploded and spread to the corners of the nation.

“What you think has destroyed you has expanded your heart.” 

I stood in that mental picture God was revealing to me and saw my heart scattered all over. And in the moment I knew it was not broken in sadness, it had been multiplied during the explosion.

In that vision I could see that my capacity to love had widened and my ability to meet the needs of others was increased.

My journal was nearby and I quickly wrote down what I had seen in my mind’s eye. While it didn’t bring me excessive comfort right then, I had enough wisdom to know this would carry me through the coming weeks.

It reminds me of a verse that God gave me years ago when I was in a bad car accident, and they are the words that Joseph spoke at the end of his life with the hindsight to see God’s redeeming work, even though he was sold into slavery, falsely accused and served jail time.

He said:

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

Genesis 50:20

What was meant for evil in his life he was able to confidently say God used for the saving of many lives!

Dear one, I know the road is hard. I recognize you may be facing something so mammoth it feels impossible to see how this can ever be turned for good. But this is God’s heart for you today:

What you think has destroyed you has expanded you.

The trial that you face is increasing your ability to forgive. It’s widening your scope of compassion and deepening your capacity to love in a way you thought you never could.

And though it hurts more than anyone else can properly understand, if you continue to keep yourself open to Jesus and allow him access to your heart, he WILL use this to impact the lives of more people than would have been if you hadn’t walked through this.

Please, don’t harden your heart in this challenge.

What you feel has destroyed you is actually expanding you.

Surrender it. Don’t hold on to it. Don’t try to understand it. Don’t aim to rationalize it. The enemy may have intended to throw a big ole wrench into your life, BUT God. But for the grace of God Almighty, your trial would have been purposeless, and instead he makes it a powerful platform to display his power and his goodness.

Let it sink deep. This pain is expanding you. You do not go through anything that he cannot use.

I pray this knowledge comforts you, as it has comforted me.

We’re coming out on top.

IMG_8578

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