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.

Daily Moments

Every day there are little moments that make my life so wonderful. There are of course the big things that happen every now and then that make me go “wow life is good”, like the day my husband had flowers delivered to the door when I was at home with our new baby. That was wonderful. But really what makes up a great day, month, year, and life are the little things. Here are my top ten favourite daily moments. I hope it encourages you to take a second and thank the Lord for the beautiful things He’s placed in your life.

10. Morning coffee – starting the day from a place of relaxation first, and work second.

9. Fresh Baking – whether it is a healthy attempt at muffins, or brownies that are way too full of sugar, the smell of baking filling the house brings lots of excitement.

8. Listening to Focus on the Family – Everyday I get great wisdom from people who are passionate about raising kids and keeping marriages strong. These are the little “time outs” that I get during the day.

7. Nap times, those few times a day when the house is peaceful and quiet and I can get done what I need to.

6. Caleb’s beautiful smiles each time he wakes up that just say “I’m so happy to see you Mama!” and the cuddles and playtime to follow.

5. Andrew’s faithful goodbye kiss every morning before he leaves, he never lets me forget that he loves me before he heads out the door, even if he’s running late.

4. Andrew coming home at the end of each day and that moment when he looks at Caleb and says “you’ve grown again today!”

3. Evening walks with my family. Caleb looking up at us in the stroller while Andrew listens to me talk about the little things Caleb accomplished that day or I hear about what happened at work.

2. Evening tea with Andrew while we do our devotions after Caleb goes to bed. I always can count on that time where we’ll seek God together, receive get guidance and direction, and connect together.

1. The Lord’s presence filling our house. When I come in from getting groceries, a walk, or doing errands, I always feel peace and safety in my house. I pray daily that others will feel peaceful and “at home” when they are over, and that my children will always feel that this is a safe and calm environment for them.

Autumn Morning Muffins

Autumn is definitely my favourite time of year. As the leaves change colours and the air feels cooler, I love experimenting with certain seasonal foods. This year, I’ve been really into pumpkin. Pumpkin Spice Cake has made an appearance a couple of times around our house. However, after having a baby, this is the first time I’ve been extremely conscientious about my weight. I decided I wanted to try to make a HEALTHY pumpkin muffin. Whether I have in fact succeeded or not, I don’t know, since I’m still not sure how many calories are in these, but after messing around with a few recipes I have come up with some muffins too delicious not to share.

Autumn Morning Muffins

Prepare and set aside:

1/2 an apple, chopped
1 cup of grated carrot
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
1/2 cup walnuts (optional)

In a separate bowl:

1 cup quick oats
1 cup low fat milk
Combine quick oats and milk and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Add the following ingredients to the oats/milk:
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1 tbsp vanilla or cooled coffee
1/2 cup low fat vanilla yogurt or applesauce
2 eggs
3 tbsp. honey

In a large bowl mix:

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all bran cereal
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. pumpkin pie seasoning mix

Add the apples, carrots, raisins and/or walnuts to the flour mixture. Fold in pumpkin mixture until just combined. Place in a prepared muffin tin and sprinkle with brown sugar, oats or cinnamon (or combine all three and sprinkle on, that’s what I did and it turned out wonderful). Bake at 375 F for approx 20 minutes. Makes 24 medium muffins.

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.