Wild Winter

Over the last six months God has taken me on a journey of really observing what season I am in. When I look back on my life so far I can see very clear seasons, but I haven’t always recognized them in the moment.

I found that I would become extremely frustrated and discouraged with where my life was at and would try to fix things instead of relaxing into what God was teaching me or doing in my life at that time.

This all started this past June when we entered into our “Summer of Rest”. That phrase became our mantra and guided most of our decisions.

Even if something came up that we really wanted to do, if it didn’t fit in our season of rest, we didn’t do it. And it was ok, because we knew it was only temporary and for our benefit.

Then came “Audacious Autumn”. The word audacious means “showing a willingness to take surprisingly bold risks”. For me this also meant asking audaciously of the Lord and sometimes of others.

We audaciously bought a fixer upper home that we (well, let’s face it, my husband) has stripped down to the studs and is completely redoing (hey, I do get to be involved in the planning and clean up!).

demodays copy{Excited kids helping out possession day}

The day we got possession of the home I heard the Lord whisper to my heart that the season was changing. He said he was giving me some notice so I could prepare myself.

“Wild Winter” officially came full force last week, and regardless of my preparation, felt like it came as a bit of a wrecking ball.

My kids got really sick in the midst of a big push to demolish the inside of the house and felt again in survival mode, a setting that I hate living in.

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{I had never seen my boy so sick.}

The dust has started to settle, at home and at the worksite, and I asked the Lord what on earth was going on.demodays
{so much demo!}

“It’s Wild Winter”, He said.

Oh right. I forgot about that.

“And it’s just a season, right Lord?”

“Yeah, it’s just a season. We can do this.” 

“Well can I know what spring is going to be?” I audaciously asked, since it’s still technically autumn.

I felt the Lord chuckle.

“No, you just press right into me and I’ll get you through wild winter, then we can talk about spring.”

I just love my Lord. I love how practical my relationship with him is, and how he speaks to my heart and knows me so intimately. He knows he can’t give me too much of the vision or I’ll get ahead of myself.

Wild means uncontrolled or unrestrained, and I know over the next few months it will feel like things are a little chaotic and and out of my control. But God is still in control, it’s just a season, and spring WILL come!

That ugly little outie.

I hate my bellybutton. It just makes me sick if I have to look at it. I herniated it during my pregnancy with Caleb (basically it popped out and never went back in).

My OB told me that when I was done having kids I should get it stitched up to prevent anything making it worse in the future.

Yeah, I haven’t done that yet. I’m finally back to a good exercise plan and that would knock me out for weeks. And surgery? Scarier than giving birth.

But my disdain for my belly button has not been a post part issue. No, it’s been as long as I can possible remember.

As a tiny little girl, I looked down at my “outie” and thought it was gross and ugly compared to everyone else cute little “innies”.

Even though it was rarely seen, I was so self conscious about it.

I hated it.

Before I got married I was so afraid that my future husband would think my belly button was ugly (I know…if you’ve had babies this sound like the least of your worries…but remember this was pre-kids!).

The other night I was bathing the kids and I noticed for the first time that each of their belly buttons were completely different. Eli has this adorable innie, Caleb is kind of a sweet little “middle of the road” and Amayah had probably the cutest belly button I had ever seen.

I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. I knew I had seen it somewhere before.

As I was telling her she had the most adorable little belly button it hit me! She has MY belly button!

I was so shocked. She has a little outie and it was honestly one of the cutest, prettiest little things.

I started yelling at Andrew “did you know she has MY BELLYBUTTON?? HOW HAVE I NOT NOTICED THIS! AND IT’S CUTE! IT’S ACTUALLY REALLY REALLY CUTE!”.

He seemed a little confused by my enthusiasm.

But guys, it was this crazy moment of seeing something that I thought was ugly on me, as beautiful on her.

And that means that if it was beautiful on her, than even if my thoughts told me otherwise, then it was beautiful on me too.

 

Our uniqueness is not ugly. All it takes is seeing our similarity in someone else to recognize it’s beauty.

I think God is saying to us tonight, it’s just like Him. Our belly button is just like his. We are a lovely, adorable, wonderful reflection of who he is.

And THAT is not ugly.Amayah and mom

So God created human beings  in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

Genesis 1:27 (NLT)

Four Years Ago Today

I love my “on this day” app for Facebook. This whole week has been flooded with memories from the past 8 years of getting ready for an awesome youth retreat that I’ve had a the privilege for by involved in for thirteen years.

So many of my posts are encouraging people to pray for retreat, excitement for the weekend to arrive and good reports of healing and miracles during the event.

Then there was one post from this day four years ago that really pulled on my heart.

I’m having my first major time when I realize I can’t just do whatever I want now since I’m a mom. It’s happened before, but never to the same extent as since Youth Retreat prep and now the retreat itself is going to begin. It’s a new season for us. Thankfully we’ll still be involved, it just definitely looks way different than in all the years past. Caleb’s so worth it though!

I threw the “Caleb’s so worth it” part in at the end to not sound like a bad mom, and I did believe it, but I remember how deep my pain really was.

This weekend was so monumental for my spiritual growth in high school and when I then got to be involved in putting it on it was like a dream come true to have the chance to give this experience to other kids.

And when it looked like I couldn’t do it anymore, my heart was broken. Motherhood was such a beautiful gift, except when it took away something I was deeply passionate about.

Well, that was four years ago, and today my emotions were definitely engaged because this year I have the deep priviledge and incredible honour of being the evening speakers for the retreat alongside my husband.

So in the midst of my nervousness for this weekend, and great sense of awe that we are actually speaking at this event that was so instrumental in my life…I am encourage today by the unfailing promises of the Lord.

I remember my pastor praying over me after I had Caleb and saying “the Lord put fire in your bones, he’s not done with you.”

It felt different in that season four years ago, and yes, it was so worth it. But he has been faithful to fulfill the desires deep in my heart that he has placed there.

I pray for you today, that where you feel your dreams are broken, or laying dormant, that you would be faithful to keep walking with Jesus. Do not give up. Don’t think about giving up. Not ever. BECAUSE at the time right time, these things will come to pass and you will reap a harvest for the Kingdom of God!

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.
Galatians 6:9

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Last year around youth retreat! No more newborn 😦 

The Vase

I have barely been out of school a decade and I already see a difference in intensity to what you guys are facing compared to what I did.

In regards to sex, “everybody’s doing it” isn’t just a phrase, it seems to be your reality.

While I’ve experienced first hand the beauty of God’s plan for sex, my heart breaks because I have watched how premarital sex hurts people.

I’m not talking about losing your salvation, or being separated from God, or anything like that. No, His love is so great it covers anything you do.

But I am talking about the hurts that are going to have to heal.

Hurts that could be avoided by waiting for the one God has for you.

I’m not being cliché. I have sat with many wives who have poured out their hearts as to the hurt that their premarital sex has had on their marriage, even if they end up marrying the guy.

I have sat with teens who feel trapped in a web of sex that they want out of, but feel like they’ve messed up too much to stop.

I have heard stories of women who gave their whole self to a guy, trying to secure his love, only to be left pregnant and alone.

Tonight God gave me a picture of a beautiful vase. A gorgeous, ornate, exquisite, extremely expensive vase. He has his arms outstretched holding it.

expensive-vase-qianlong

{Qianlong vase valued at over $80 million US}

Then someone else reached out and took that gift and threw it on the ground and it shattered everywhere.

When they tried to pick it up the beautiful, valuable, incredible pottery cut them deeply. There was a wound that was going to take a while to heal.

This is what I felt the Lord say to me!

“I am holding out this beautiful gift to you, but when you use it at a time that it’s not meant to be used, it becomes broken and dangerous. It will cut you deeply. That thing that you couldn’t wait to get your hands on will leave you bleeding and suffering.

But when you wait and use it the way I intended it, that beautiful gift becomes a display of my great love for you.”

The good news is that the Almighty, All Powerful God of the Universe can come in and pick up the pieces for you, binding up your wounds.

Psalms 147:3 says

He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.

Please hear this, if you have had sex outside of marriage there is hope. You can be healed of the pain, you can experience freedom. You are not ruined and there is always forgiveness.

But this is my heart tonight, for my friends who are on the fence about this topic: Is the short-term benefit worth the long-term risk?

I beg you, with tears, to ask the Holy Spirit what he has to say about this and let him show you his heart for intimacy.

Don’t sell yourself short or think that you aren’t worth waiting for, or believe a lie that you have to give everything away in order to be loved.

It’s simply not true.

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Check out Ann’s blog post called:
Dear Kids: Why Wait till Marriage – What no one tells you & I wish someone had told me.

Sunday Meltdown

Sundays are hard. I don’t know what it is about the after church crash for our family that always turns our house squirrelly.

We have a bit of a plan for Sunday afternoons and evenings to help ease the chaos, but it always seems to spiral out of control from over tired, socially drained kids.

My ears are still ringing. I didn’t know a child could scream as loud as I heard Caleb scream tonight. Over a bath toy. Or something. I couldn’t quite understand between the hitting, punching, yelling and crying.

I’m sure our neighbours thought he fell and broke his leg, or worse.

My two and half years old sweetheart dressed like an adorable little Minnie Mouse called me a “stupid mom” today.

She’s not a bad girl, only copying what she’s heard.

Yes, I admit it. Four and a half years into parenting and I still say the word stupid.

These are the days where it can be easy to believe the lie that I am a bad mom.

A friend once told me to look at myself through the lens of how I’m doing on a good day, when I’ve had sleep and when I’m feeling on top of my game.

That has stuck with me because it helps me to remember that I DO love my children deeply, I am good at listening to them, at caring for them, at speaking good words of life over them, at teaching them, at praying for them and at holding them tightly when they feel overwhelmed.

In the midst of making supper tonight I stopped at my cupboard where I had a verse written down from a friend. It said:

The Lord is my strength and shield.
    I trust him with all my heart.
He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy.
    I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.

Psalm 28:7

I hadn’t noticed those three precious words in the middle: He helps me.

Those words are like the deepest exhale for the soul.

He helps me. 

I’m not walking this journey alone. He helps me. With him, I can do it.

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How is my baby 1 on Wednesday?!

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Love her face here! She is so funny!

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This boy. No one sends me for an emotional roller coaster like him. The firstborn of two firstborns. So strong, so determined!

One Year From Now

Last year at this time I was eight months pregnant, almost immobile and extremely frustrated.

I hate feeling crippled by anything, and without much use of my left leg, still with all day sickness and other baby related ailments, I felt trapped in my own body.

It was this beautiful autumn time of year. The leaves were changing colours and I couldn’t even drink a pumpkin spice latte without wanting to throw up (and if you know me, that’s crazy.)

I felt like I was missing out on my favourite season of the year and that my pregnant state was robbing me of all that beauty.

One evening that I would have loved to have been out for a walk I looked at my husband and said “September 2015 is going to be my fall. I will be mobile, I will go for walks, I play in the leaves with the kids and I will drink pumpkin spice everything. The kids should be sleeping decently, and I will be walking out many of my dreams!”

Hard to believe a year has passed since I made that audacious statement. I was feeling aggravated by something the other day and I suddenly remembered what I said.

“September 2015 is doing to be my fall.”

Just remembering those powerful words I released seemed to spark a renewal in me to press on through the hard days.

I was suddenly thankful for my non-pregnant body, although not in the shape I maybe had hoped for yet, is still extremely mobile, and definitely not held back.

Each cup of steaming coffee that hasn’t made me nauseous feels like a new gift.

My nights aren’t what I expected by this point, I’m awake way more than I think I should be, but in general I have the energy I was longing, no, desperate for at this time last year.

It’s funny what just one year can do.

Think about a situation that’s really pulling you down. 

What could it be like in one year? What positive steps could you make today to be in a better place in that area one year from now?

Sometimes one year brings growth, and other times one year brings pain.

September of 2013 was also a fall I would like to forget, stuck in a terrible season of a colicky baby, way harder than anything I have faced since getting married. The year before that I wouldn’t have imagined the hardships that were coming.

I don’t know what another year will bring, or what will be happening in September 2016, but I do know that I want to position myself right now to have the best year possible!

Speak words of life over your situation today, that when the seasons change again you won’t be held down by the things that are stopping you now. Declare health and strength over your body and over your family.

Be encouraged today that one year from now, everything could be different.12047368_10156022065185431_882942097_n

{Two years ago this girlie just screamed all the time. She LOVES going for walks now.}12047732_10156022066755431_459767635_n

{the kiddos and their cake pops, while I drank my first pumpkin spice latte of 2015}

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{This guy is in school two mornings a week now.}

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{My baby. So grateful that he’s safely on the outside of my body. So much love for this bear.}

Hiding from the pain.

“Whatever.” I said, and picked up my phone.

I’m not even going to bother explaining myself anymore. 

Scrolling through nothing really on my smart phone seemed to dull my frustration with Andrew.

A few days later some devastating news came over text. My heart sank. The baby we had been praying for died.

Overcome with grief, sadness and confusion, I was going to break down.

I picked up my phone and scrolled through more nothingness, ignoring the pain in my heart.

A few nights ago the kids weren’t falling asleep so we decided they would have to scream it out since the older ones were manipulating us.

“I can’t handle listening to them freaking out like this!” I snapped at my husband, then picked up my phone and scrolled through nothingness, drowning out the sound of their voices with the words of others.

Last night the grief, confusion and sadness started to flood over me again. Tears started to spill, I reached for the closest thing to me. My phone.

Then I heard pretty clearly “no, just put the phone down and feel what’s going on.”

I didn’t want to feel it. I would cry. Bawl. Be angry and confused with God. I would feel like I don’t understand. I would feel out of control.

In that moment, I did let myself feel. It hurt a lot. I poured everything out to God and to Andrew in one big messy pile.

Nothing made sense, and I wished more than anything I could take away the pain of the people we love and lead, walking through many forms of tragedy. feel

It was through allowing myself to really experience the emotions of all the people I was breaking for that I actually went places in prayer for them.

I wasn’t hiding from the burden anymore. The pain was real, but God was really listening.

This morning as I worshiped and declared God’s goodness over some confusing circumstances in the lives of those we love, I was reminded that Jesus was moved with compassion for people.

The compassion he felt didn’t leave him where he was. It pushed him to love, touch, pray, comfort, heal and serve.

If we want to really make a difference in people’s lives, we have to be brave enough to feel what they feel, hurt when they hurt and cry when they cry.

It means not tuning out and numbing ourselves, but being fully present to say “I feel your pain. I don’t understand it, or have the answers, but I feel it, deeply and acutely, and I want to stand with you.”.

May you be brave enough to put down your phone, or whatever your desensitizer is, and feel what’s going on in people around you enough to love them where they are.

And may God use YOU to make a difference.

Have you checked your joy levels lately?

Do you ever stop to look at how much joy you have in your life?

Joy is the first thing that tries to escape me in a difficult moment.

Loss of joy is a scary thing because in the last part of Nehemiah 8:10 it says

Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!

As a part time working mom who doesn’t get a lot of sleep with three little people to love and adore, I know I need strength. My guess is you do too.

I go to great lengths to ensure my body has everything it needs to thrive through my days.

Exercise, nutrition and water intake are three things that I watch closely to make sure I am in optimal shape for all of my roles and commitments.

But in this verse there is a little key that has been unlocking pretty big doors in my life.

Joy is strength.

Since I have encountered the fact that when I have joy, I have strength, joy is something that I have been monitoring closely.

If I notice I’m feeling weak or discouraged, I check my joy levels. Where is my joy at? Have I let it all leak away without taking notice of it?

The secret to joy, is thankfulness. When you have a thankful heart, God is free to pour out his joy, which is literally strength, into us.

I was at a revival service not that long ago and the speaker prayed over me to receive more of the joy of the Lord.

As I enjoyed a beautiful moment in His presence, I saw a picture of a lot of the things that drive me crazy in my life.

I saw my son run past the kitchen counter with his arm out, knocking everything off, cheerios spilling everywhere, and my favourite mug breaking.

I could not stop laughing. I laughed so hard and thanked Jesus for the gift of my kids. My thankfulness could not be stopped in that sweet moment of joy.

After this experience I was tested in my joy. Andrew and I went away without our kids for our fifth anniversary.

We arrived at the restaurant and I could tell that my husband wasn’t feeling well at all.

As I watched him push his fries around his plate, I knew that something MUST be wrong. Fries rarely go untouched! My heart sank.

By later that evening, he was throwing up, and shortly after him, I was too.

We laid on our king size bed in a beautiful hotel room battling the stomach flu.

In that moment I consciously chose thankfulness, which turned to joy, which turned to strength.

I thanked God that our kids weren’t with us and that we didn’t have to take care of them. I think I thanked him for that over and over and over!

Don’t allow your strength to be zapped from your body, mind and spirit. Use thankfulness to unlock joy, which will unleash strength!

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My sister, walking out thankulness and joy on her grad day, getting out of the hospital just in time to be at the ceremony! She was so strong!

Why YOU should cut cable and start dating!

What do having cable TV and dating have in common?

Well for some maybe nothing. But here is what I am extremely concerned about:

I hear so many married couples with kids tell me that they can’t afford, or find the time to go on dates.

In fact, we have been looked at by some with a “must be nice” attitude when they see us prioritize date nights, thinking we must roll in cash, or have nothing better to do with our money.

This mentality is frightening.

Why?

Because statistics have shown over and over how important it is for your relationship to have it stay as a top priority, especially during your season of having babies and toddlers.

It is downright scary to see how many couples break up after they get through the intensity of raising kids and then realize they “have nothing in common anymore”.

This happens not because they are incompatible, but because they have become disconnected. The kids, jobs, sports and frankly everything else seemed to come before their marriage.

If you see the importance of going on a date and connecting regularly with your spouse, the majority of us can cut something in our budget to make room for it.

Like cable TV. Honestly, there have been times where watching TV is easier than getting up and doing something together, or diving into a conversation.

If TV isn’t your issue, maybe it’s something else.

Like too many vehicle payments, a shopping addiction, or maybe an out of control grocery budget.

Generally speaking, there would be some place that you could take from to make room for a date, if it’s a priority.

When we started to relook at our budget to make room for a babysitter, there were seasons where a date itself consisted of spending $3 on two coffees from Tim Horton’s while we were out for a walk. The majority of our “date money” went to hire the babysitter for two hours.

This spoke volumes to each other about the priority of our relationship, and it also spoke to our kids about how mommy and daddy value each other.

It has made such an impact on our oldest, that if Andrew and I aren’t getting along well, he tells us that we need to go out together on our own! Even a four year old can see how much it helps!

Don’t be trapped in a victim mentality that says you can’t have what you need. Your marriage does not have to be the martyr for everything else.

There are always options, and if you know Jesus, he is a creative and innovative Saviour, who delights in making a way where there appears to be no way!

You can be victorious in your marriage. Find time and money to be together!

Maybe you just have to start by cutting your cable!11350161_10155610647130431_147947337_n

The Summer of Rest

Every May I seem to find myself on the fritz of burning out. The realization of how close summer is, combined with the fast pace of life, always leaves me exhausted.

Even though I know that summer can be slower, there is so much opportunity for adventure, and I often pack my summers a little too full.

I was inspired by someone who said that they ask God for a word for their summer.

When I told Andrew that, the first word he felt was simplify.

Which was perfect because I heard rest and peace.

We have had an amazing year. Actually, amazing doesn’t even cut it. We have moved to a place where we are doing everything we dreamed of, had another baby, made some dear new friends, took part in some awesome events, and the list goes on.

But there have been challenges too, and being completely honest, it’s been a learning curve pastoring a church together.

We feel tired. God knows that. So our words for Summer 2015 are simplify, rest and peace.

There are many things that are rejuvenating for me beyond sleep (which might still be a little hard to come by with the baby stage).

Sipping my morning coffee outside, reading books on blankets in the yard with the kids, evening walks, ice cream cones, summer dates, bonfires and barbeques are a few that come to mind. 11304450_10155579878910431_1769978623_n

Sitting in the Lord’s presence, listening to worship music, singing to Jesus and slowing reading through the Word all restore my soul.

I hope that one day some of our words might be adventure, risk or maybe even mountains, but for now rest and peace sounds like what we need.

Depending on what you do, summer may not be a time where things slow down for you, but I encourage you, in each season we transition to, take a moment to see where you are, and ask God what word he has for you.

Six and a half years ago, before we were dating, Andrew wrote this verse in a card to me that was from all my bible school classmates.

Have you never heard?
    Have you never understood?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of all the earth.
He never grows weak or weary.
    No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
He gives power to the weak
    and strength to the powerless.
Even youths will become weak and tired,
    and young men will fall in exhaustion.
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
    They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
    They will walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:28-31

He has always remained a voice of reason in my life, encouraging me to take time to relax and allow the Lord to give me new strength.

May your summer hold unexpected beauty, more rest that you had planned, and more joy than you can contain.11292834_10155579879520431_1207155673_n

Courage from a feather.

I posted a photo on Instagram this morning wearing my courage key and sharing three things that I needed courage for today.

While there were more than three things today that needed courage, Caleb’s immunizations were at the top of my list.

You see, a couple of years ago Caleb had to have blood taken. And it did not go well.

It took Andrew and two nurses to hold him down, and another nurse to take his blood.

He was so traumatized from that experience that he would panic in doctor appointments or any kind of medical situation.

So four-year old needles were something I was dreading. To the point of near avoidance. When I got the call this week that they could fit him in, I knew I had to take the plunge and be brave.

I had many little conversations with Caleb throughout the day about what was going to happen, and since as a family we are committed to trying things that scare us and being brave, he felt confident that this was a chance to be courageous.

As I was packing up Eli, who also had immunizations today, I heard Caleb excitedly yelling “mom, a feather, a feather just flew into my hand.”

There in his hand was the most delicate, beautiful little white feather I had ever seen.

I’m not into good luck charms, or believing items hold power, but I do like it when we can use something as a reminder.

I, and anyone involved in the Brave Collective, knows that the feather is a symbol of courage. 

A feather enables flight. A baby bird risks heights and all other fears, to bravely jump from the nest.

I reminded Caleb of the meaning of the feather, and said to him that I thought God gave him that feather to remind him that He would help Caleb be brave.

This was just the boost that he needed, and with great anticipation of his opportunity for bravery, we headed on our way.

And he was amazing. Like, blew his mama totally away, incredible.

At the end he received a certificate, and it happened to say the word brave on it. Was he ever proud.11304295_10155560877770431_2058500153_n

All the pieces are falling into place for me tonight as I remember a passage I read and prayed over my family this morning from Psalm 91.

This I declare about the LordHe alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.

Psalm 91:2-4

The feather was in Caleb’s hand for a moment, then it disappeared and we couldn’t find it.

I thank God tonight for literally covering my son in His feathers and sheltering Caleb with His wings, even from what may seem an insignificant childhood fear.