Even In The Fire

Facebook memories showed me that it’s been four years since our fire.

If you’ve been tracking with me since the beginning, you might remember that story. There was a string of arsons that night and our garage was burnt down…not without a couple of miracles though.

I was woken up in the night by an loud fire alarm, only to find out later that there was no alarm.

When I wrote the blog post later that day, I knew I had been changed, but I couldn’t quite point out how or even why.

Well four years can sure hold a lot. Andrew and I often refer back to that fire as one of the best things that could have happened to us.

First, we came into some money through the insurance that freed us up to go to a conference that confirmed what we already knew, we were called into full time ministry.

Second, our life perspective was shifted. Any area that our priorities were out of line, seemed to fall back into place after watching our backyard in flames, unsure if we’d ever go back in our house.

I like to think of that night as an attention grabber from God. Not that he caused the fire, but he certainly used it to ask us what we were doing with our lives.

It was from this moment that we made some big decisions to live on less so we could do more with our lives.

We discovered that our house, vehicles, possessions, stuff…none of it matters as long as we as a family are together, AND doing what God has called us to do.

I wouldn’t trade that life lesson for everything that was in that garage times a million.

The words from a Jesus Culture song “Alive in You” came to my mind as I was thinking about the last four years.

“You are strong in my brokenness. Sovereign over every step. Even in the fire, I’m alive in you.”

I’m encouraged tonight that the other “fires” in my life are going to be a catapulting force as well. officeday

I will not be consumed, but I will continue to be transformed more into the woman God has called and created me to be.

Spring of “Suddenlies”

There is now only 10 days of winter left. 10 days in our “wild winter”.

What a winter it’s been. Our renovation project has definitely taken longer than we expected. We were sick pretty much constantly from Christmas until the third week in February. The church is really alive and BUSY!

Those three things alone have equalled me being really tired. My exhaustion mostly surrounded taking two rounds of antibiotics to try to get rid of a case of strep throat that wouldn’t go away.

Literally as wild winter ends we will be hanging drywall at the new house and we will enter spring with some new hope that we will actually live in that place.

After pouring our hearts out to the world (well not to the world, but it felt like it), I was emotionally and spiritually drained. The Lord encouraged me that as I was entering my seasonal transition month of March it needed to be a March of Margin. So I’ve cleared my schedule of a number of things as I rest up for the next wave of what God is doing.

On Saturday I had some time with my Bible and I was reading about how Jesus calmed the storm in Matthew 8.

Then Jesus got into the boat and started across the lake with his disciples. Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” Jesus responded, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm.

This story resonated so much with where I was at. The Lord had warned me about wild winter and said I was going to need to hold on to hope and press into him while getting through it.

But as winter has been drawing to a close, I started to feel like the wind and waves were getting a little intense. In my exhaustion I wondered if I was going to drown in burnout.

But then Jesus comes and SUDDENLY there is great calm! There is instantaneous breakthrough!

As I read this I felt the Lord say to my heart:

“This is the Spring of Suddenlies! You feel like wild winter almost knocked you out of the boat, but get ready because SUDDENLY I am going to move in with my commanding voice and you are going to see instant breakthrough in areas you’ve been believing for! You will see SUDDEN progress on the house, you will see people drawn to your church who are passionate about what’s going on and have a desire to serve. You are suddenly going to see marriages strengthened that have been struggling. Sudden physical healings! You are going to suddenly feel stronger in your physical body and you will suddenly be entering into things that you wouldn’t have imagined a month ago.”

Even as I write this the Holy Spirit stirs in my heart and I say HALLELUJAH, winter was hard but SPRING IS COMING!!!

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We are not alone.

We were struggling. I was reeling. Devastated, disappointed and doubting whether our marriage would make it.

Andrew & I shared in our recent podcast our story of him confessing to me about being stuck in pornography. 

I remember after it all happened, I sat with my very best girlfriend and used extremely cryptic language, hoping she would just call out what the issue was.

I felt so extremely alone, and because I didn’t know anyone else talking about it, I thought we were the only recently married couple walking through this.

After we spoke this past Sunday, I have heard from women all across Canada who identify with our journey.

The number one thing we have heard is:

“Thank you for being brave because now we know that we are not alone.”

Because I’ve had all these messages I feel responsible to say two things:

  1. Most of us are struggling with issues like anxiety and pornography. Some are further along in the journey and have experienced more freedom, and others are still chained up…but the battle is the same.
  2. Can we stop being cryptic? I know we need to respect our spouses wishes if they want things kept confidential, but really, we need to talk to at least one person who validates the fact that we are not alone.

Alone. “Having no one else present”, “on ones own”, “separate, apart, or isolated from others”.

No one wants to feel alone. No one wants to feel like they are the exception to all the other “normal marriages”.

It’s often when we are alone that the enemy has the ability to lie to us the best. When there is no one else to become a sounding board, we can be swallowed up by the thoughts in our own head.

We need to have relationships that silence the negative voices and call out the best in us! The truth that:

  1. I can face hard, hurtful things and be ok!
  2. This wasn’t my fault.
  3. I can stick ,with love and respect, to the one who has hurt me, like so many others have!
  4. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and is comforting me right now!

When something is brought into the light, darkness no longer hides it and quickly it’s power is broken! Open up to someone in your life, step on the devil and allow the Lord to start using your story!

And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony.

Revelation 12:11

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Our little family in the thick of the battle.

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Four years later, sharing our story and seeing God move! All glory to Jesus!

Living The Dream

How often do you stop, look at your life and realize you are living your dreams right now?

Life can weigh us down sometimes. Maybe you’re getting through university, have a new baby, are parenting a teenage you’re struggling with, facing some financial struggles or are finding marriage really hard. These are real things that can be tough to walk through.

Recently, I realized I don’t always observe when I’m walking out a dream. Usually  I ended up too blinded by my current negative circumstances to acknowledge that I’m walking out something that I’ve been working towards.

As I zero in on some big dreams for the future, God showed me some of the dreams I have had for my life that have come true, that I definitely have not stopped to really bask in.

My husband has been encouraging me to remember the importance of celebrating my successes and acknowledging when we win together, not just charging on to the next thing.

Here are a few dreams that I realized I am living out!

  1. After my serious car accident in 2007 the Lord spoke to me a verse in Genesis 50:20:

    You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.

    The Lord miraculously saved my life, the emergency crew did not expect to  an unharmed person. When he spoke this verse, I knew he had a call on my to help people.

    I have so much more I want to do in this area, but he has definitely been faithful to bring me into positions where I can directly impact and influence others!

  2. I prayed for my future husband for my whole single life. I longed for an awesome, godly man who would love me for who I was, who would be an incredible dad AND do ministry with me.

    Without sounding too “fairy tale” like, Andrew has been the fulfillment of those dreams. Of course it hasn’t been all easy, but I am so thankful that the Lord gave me a vision of the kind of man he wanted me to be with, and then brought him to me!

    2015 was our “wood anniversary”, so I bought Andrew a pallet sign that says “living the dream” to remind him that he is the fulfillment of so many promises from the Lord to me!

  3. I dreamt of wearing many hats as a child. I imagined being a mom, a doctor, a pastor and a fitness instructor!

    There was a time in my life where I didn’t know if I’d be able to walk out all of the things on my heart at the same time, but each year I feel like my capacity to do and handle more grows. Absolutely a dream come true!

In the midst of whatever you are walking through, can you see the glitter of a fulfilled hope or dream?

Remember this:

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If you want to build your confidence in the Lord, just take a minute to write down the things that have actually happened that he promised you would!

 

Eleven Dollars For Haiti

When I was about five years old I had a pastor that I loved dearly announce he was leading a church mission’s trip to Haiti.

I can’t remember if they showed pictures in service or told stories of a year prior, but I ached with every part of my little self to go with them.

I wanted to go so desperately. I knew I was too young, but my heart was still broken.

What could I do? The idea came to me that I could organize my Sunday School class to draw pictures and sell them to raise money for the trip.

After the pictures were drawn, I felt full of boldness. I walked right up to people and asked them to purchase a picture for this great cause.

All together we raised somewhere around $11.00.

My heart was bursting. When I handed my pastor the little jar of money, I felt like I had just passed him a cheque for $11,000.

This is a pivotal moment in the story.

This is where most people would probably say “awwww, that is sweet/cute/adorable of you!“.

He didn’t do that.

I remember clear as day how he genuinely thanked me from the bottom of his heart for my efforts and apologized again that he couldn’t take me with him this time, and promised that when I was a little older, I’d be more than welcome on a mission’s trip.

He didn’t make me feel like a cute little kid who contributed, in reality, almost nothing.

Instead, he filled me with confidence that I could live with purpose and make a difference in this world.

This past week I did a timeline of my “God Encounters” for the Eat, Pray, Hustle bible study I’m a part of. Havilah Cunnington had us divide our life into seven year increments.

I was shocked to realize that this memory of fundraising was one of the pivotal moments of my faith journey in that 0-7 age bracket.

When I realized this, I felt an urgency to make sure I did not treat any of my kids ideas for God lightly.

It is so easy to look at kids and gush over their cuteness. I DO THIS ALL THE TIME!

The reality is God is placing BIG dreams in the hearts of LITTLE people. They may not walk it out fully now, but they are been developed to chase after the heart of God!

As parents and leaders in a child’s life we should be the ones to help them look at their “God dreams” and determine how they can become a reality.

I pray that my kids never feel embarrassed or belittled after doing something for God, but instead would say with confidence:

“I can do ALL things through Christ who gives me strength!” Philippians 4:13

Dream big little one.

The photos: I’ve had the privilege of reconnecting a few times with my dear former pastor over the last six years. While I didn’t get to go on a mission’s trip with him, the Lord allowed my dreams to come true TWICE through serving in Guatemala!

I’m Never Satisfied

A funny thing about the fitness community’s pictures is that they don’t just look slim and muscular, they also have incredible hair, perfect make up and a remarkably flawless complexion.

A few weeks ago I bought some new clothes (which was necessary since I felt like my other ones were a little big on me), tried some new eye liner, and stressed about whether or not to cut my hair (but didn’t).

I realized what was happening. I had started to see results in an area that I thought would bring me happiness – weight loss. And instead that drove me further over the edge of dissatisfaction.

There is a funny portion of scripture in Proverbs that talks about some things that are never satisfied.

The leech has two suckers that cry out, “More, more!” There are three things that are never satisfied—no, four that never say, “Enough!”:

the grave, the barren womb, the thirsty desert, the blazing fire.

Proverbs 30:15-16

It hit me that “image” or the world’s standard of beauty can be like a thirsty desert. It always wants more. Just when you think you’ve attained something, you’re dry again and chasing after what you will never catch.

Ecclesiastes 1 offers a melodramatic account as well.

Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content.

No matter what I see in the mirror, no matter how much praise I might receive, or how great my husband tells me I look, I AM NOT CONTENT!

Why is that? 

Because we are chasing the wind. Something impossible. There will never be this moment of satisfaction.

HOW DEPRESSING.

When I realized that I would never be happy, I said to God

“Lord, you have to show me my beauty. You have got to show me through your eyes because I don’t want to live in a state of selfish seeking.”

The weeks that followed were interesting. Almost embarrassing.

I was cleaning my house and I stood up and caught sight of a gorgeous smile in the mirror that stopped me in my tracks.

It was mine.

I feel like blushing just saying that. But I truly didn’t recognize myself in that moment. God gave me his eyes for a second. Eyes that weren’t judging, comparing or contrasting.

Little moments like this kept happening. Out of no where my kids came up to me and gently said how beautiful they thought I was while I was sitting there make up-less in my pajamas.

But the big one was on my birthday. I got a text from a friend who pretty much exposed everything in my heart. She said exactly what I had been feeling for weeks.

“Happy Birthday beautiful friend. I hope you know you’re beautiful. You’ve shared about your fitness journey this past year. I know that you know fitness is about being healthy and well. But I hope as you have journeyed to get fit that you haven’t felt the need to get “more beautiful”. Don’t know if that makes sense. You are so gorgeous.”

Oh did that make sense. I was a wreck. That came from her, but honestly, it was straight from the heart of God to me for that day. 

Please don’t think you will ever attain your imagination of beauty. It will never be satisfied. It will never say “enough”.

Ask Jesus to show you your beauty. You will be shocked at the beauty within you. Not vain, conceited, jealous beauty. No, it will be life giving, bright light shining, hoping inspiring beauty.

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{It is hugely for this girl that I battle for my confidence in Christ.}

I use my phone for important things.

There are so many great things I use my phone for. I hardly have to pick up a pen or write on a piece of paper.

I can write my grocery list on my convenient Google Keep app, and still have the fulfillment of checking off items. I also can write myself a little note about a blog idea no matter where I am.

I can open up my Google Calendar, add some events to our schedule and even have it sync to my husbands phone.

I love it. It’s so…convenient.

Sometimes it’s so awesome and easy that I notice my eyes are starting to get a little sore from looking at the screen, and I realize that some little people are wandering around my house doing bad things trying to get my attention.

Then there is my oldest. He is so desperate to be grown up. He reminds me of someone.

Oh yeah. Me as a kid.

We had a huge catastrophe the other day because he would not let go of this broken iPod touch we use for white noise in the kid’s bedroom.

I finally had to forcefully take it from him because he was having too much screen time.

The meltdown was of mammoth proportions.

When he was finally calm enough to tell me what was going on he said “I can’t be a man if I don’t have a phone.”

When I probed him further he said “you and dad are always on your phones. It’s what adults do. I can’t be a grown up if you don’t let me have a phone.”

His pain was so deep and so real. 

Caleb longs to be respected as a man, and I get that.

I remember the feeling of not being allowed to wear make up, and believing I wasn’t a woman if I didn’t have this freedom.

This interaction has had me really questioning whether all the apps on my phone are worth the emotional pain to my kids.

The truth is, I’m not always wasting time on it. There are some really good, important things that I’ve been working on.

But all my four year old sees is mom staring at her phone.

I’ve decided that for now, it isn’t worth my son’s angst over whether he is really a man or not and I’m doing what I can to cut my phone usage down and buying a paper planner!

Sometimes we have to take a less convenient path to save someone else from confusion and pain.

I am excited because I actually love writing out my days and I feel much more organized when I am organized on paper and HOPEFULLY it buys us a little more time to deal with the media monster that’s trying to rear it’s head!

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This boy loves hands on activities. If I can keep up with crafts, he will forget about screen time!

Don’t Be A Robot (and other goals for 2016)

On my birthday my lovely family woke me up with breakfast in bed. If you you know me you know that I LOVE breakfast! Especially if I don’t have to make it!

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{I won’t be so vain that I can’t post a no make up photo!}

We started out in bed, but syrup, a one year old and my clean sheets don’t mix too well, and we finished at the kitchen table.

During this birthday breakfast the kids asked me to read a sign that I have in our dining room. It says:

“Be brave, take risks, have courage and seek adventure.”

My 4 year old looked at me and said:

“Well if you don’t like adventure, you’re just a robot!”

That definitely made me laugh! But I thought it was timely wisdom for starting my new year. I don’t want to be a robot. I want to live a full and adventurous life, pursuing what God has for me!

I don’t have my goals fully finalized for 2016 BECAUSE (I’m SO excited about this) Andrew & I have signed up to take Jesse & Crystal Paine’s Makeover Your Year Goal Setting Course.

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I’m sure I will have a few things to change after this course, but for now, here are my goals for 2016!

Personal:

  1. Get 30 minutes of exercise everyday (whether an official workout, or a Sunday afternoon walk).
  2. Complete 8 rounds of the 21 day fix.
  3. Do ONE load of laundry from start to finish six days a week. (I read once: a load a day keeps the chaos away)
  4. Continue Monthly Meal Planning (I usually come in under my grocery budget if I stay disciplined with meal planning!)

Business/Blogging:

  1. Fully finish our investment property renovation in 2016. (We plan to move in April, but you know how all the little things can get left undone if you don’t have a goal to get ’em done!)
  2. Find a consistent blogging routine.
  3. Develop, with Andrew, our “Couples in Ministry” Course/Retreat.

Marriage:

  1. Attend our pastors conference in Toronto KID FREE!

Work:

  1. Finish my licensing program by July 2016.

Spiritual:

  1. Waste less time on my phone.
  2. Write down in my journal what God is speaking to me everyday. (Simplicity is key, I’m focusing just on his voice.)

Parenting:

  1. Wean Eli & have him sleeping through the night by his second birthday in October. momandE.jpg

All right, this is what I’m running towards! What about you?

I hope you will consider taking the Make Over Your Year course with us and create a plan to see your dreams become reality!

 

 

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!

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.

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{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.