Rest is not easy.

As I sit down at my computer this morning, the house is quiet with the kids watching their favourite show, YO! Gabba Gabba and baby napping.

This brief pause in the day is one of my exhale moments, where I am choosing rest in the midst of many things to be done.

So as I take a second to reflect on this season so far, the summer we nick named “The Summer of Rest”, I’ve realized I have learned one big lesson so far.

Life is hard.

Ok I didn’t just learn that, but even in the midst of trying to step back for a little bit, life is still a big ole challenge.

Our family was working out at a Bible camp. It was nestled in a beautiful spot, I didn’t have to cook at all, and I was able to operate daily in one of my passions: leading worship.

But I was totally exhausted. The kids didn’t sleep well and I felt frustrated. Why is this so hard? 

But the Lord spoke to me out in that place. He told me that I am expecting my rest to be easy. Rest is being gentle in our approach to life, but it is not easy.

Life is hard, but following God, and walking out his plan is rewarding. Not easy. Hard. But rewarding.

Deeply rewarding. That kind of way down deep joy that comes when you are so tired you aren’t sure how you are going to make it any longer and then a kid comes to the front after service to give their life to the Lord.

Oh yeah, I guess my tiredness was worth it to be here for this moment.

Even in our conscious choice to rest this summer, so many factors are beyond our control.

A friend said to me the other day, “I don’t want to see you and Andrew get burnt out”. 

I laughed and said to her, “the only burn out we are going to have is parental burn out”. There is no break, no rest from teaching, disciplining, teething and sleepless nights.

What I’m learning is that rest comes in the pauses. It doesn’t come in the big days off or weeks of sleeping in.

Rest comes in the silent moments when you inhale the presence of God and exhale the striving and things you have been trying to do on your own strength..

Rest is experienced in your heart’s posture. It’s not grabbing the bull by the horns so to speak, but gently walking out your responsibilities and breathing in the beauty of grace.

Rest is regaining that steadiness of breath. It’s acknowledging that there is a time and place for the sprint and the marathon, but also a need for the steady inhale and exhale.

We have two more big stints away from home this summer and I know I will be tired. Rest may not be sleep, but it is in the gentle rhythm of breath.

cows {early morning walk to show my girl her favourite animals close to camp}

eliandmama  {when we both get naps, happiness abounds}springside Creek{seeing my son explore this creek made my heart almost burst}

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The Jeans That Made Me Cry

When I first had Eli, I had told myself I wasn’t going to buy any pants until I reached my weight goals.

After a couple months living in leggings, I finally squeezed into some old jeans. Squeezed might be an understatement. They were so uncomfortable.

I saved the uncomfortable jeans for when I really needed to wear pants and then lived in leggings.

I was starting to feel in a fashion rut.

If you read any literature on productivity and getting lots accomplished at home or at work, you know the term “dress for success” is a true statement.

When I have an extra busy or crazy day, I make sure I dress up for it. It seems to give me the boost I need to tackle it head on.

So for me this awkward stage felt like it was stretching on forever. It turned my workouts into stress-outs, putting intense mental pressure on myself that  I needed to get to a certain point to so I could go jean shopping.

One day I broke. I hated feeling in physical limbo. I needed to look good regardless of where I was at in my fitness goals, and I needed to be patient with my body trying to recover from three pregnancies close together.

After talking it over, my husband dropped me off at my favourite jean store by myself and I started the hunt for the perfect pair.

Picking out a few options, I went to try them out.

First pair on, and I started bawling.

Jeans can actually feel comfortable?

I had totally forgotten how good a pair of jeans that fit just right feel. It had been so long since I had bought non maternity pants.

Even with the knowledge that these wouldn’t fit forever, I bravely confronted the total cost of the jeans at the till.

I felt encouraged in my heart. My dreams were worth the cost of feeling good in clothes that would make me feel good in life, even if they were short term.

Sometimes we have to make some sacrifices to keep our productivity up, but you are worth that. The dreams in your heart are worth it. Your marriage is worth the cost of feeling beautiful. Your kids are worth a mom that can comfortably and wonderfully get around with them.

Even the highly motivated wife of noble character in Proverbs 31 knew the value of dressing well for herself, as it says she was clothed in fine purple. Following that, the passage talks about the other important virtues she clothes herself in.

She is clothed with strength and dignity;
    she can laugh at the days to come.

I know for me, dignity and strength came in the form of a pair of great jeans that day!

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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

From insecure to inspired.

I’ve always had friends in my life that I love immensely, but I leave being with them feeling a little insecure.

Comparison always creeps in and I wish my hair was more workable, my clothes more put together and my heart a little more loving.

Recently I realized that I wanted to move from being insecure around those friends to being inspired by them.

The difference in insecurity is that we lose confidence in who we are, or we start going down a path of self-hatred.

I did a little reading on the definitions of inspire and insecure.

inspire: fill (someone) with the urge or ability to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.

insecure: (of a person) not confident or assured; uncertain and anxious.
(of a thing) not firm or set; unsafe.

Being insecure around someone cripples our chance to grow from that relationship.

Opening our hearts to become inspired by that same person is a much more beautiful, beneficial process.

When we are insecure, we end up acting out to prove our worth, or withdrawing to become invisible.

Sometimes I have been on the other side of the insecurity trap. My life, choices or stance has made others feel inadequate.

I know I have pulled back from sharing who I am with certain people because I know it can set them against me or against themselves.

I pray that my life fills others with the urge or ability to do something they didn’t think they could. That through being myself, they are released to be all that God has created them to be.

God is teaching me a lot about balance in all areas of my life, and specifically keeps speaking the phrase “beautiful balance.” 

In this balance, I am learning that I can be who I am and free others to live inspired lives as I walk in the combination of truth and unfailing love.

Believe it or not we can speak truth while operating in love.

As a black and white person, I struggle with the love side when speaking truth. But Psalm 89:13-14 pulls out this concept beautifully.

Powerful is your arm! Strong is your hand! Your right hand is lifted high in glorious strength. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne. Unfailing love and truth walk before you as attendants.

Imagine unfailing love and truth walking before us, paving the way for who we are and the message that we carry.

May your life set people free. May you inspire greatness in those around you, and never cause them to feel unsure or afraid. May your courage be the catalyst for someone else’s dream becoming a reality.

May you be, confidently, who you were created to be.

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The Truth About Our Family Photos

One of my little dreams was fulfilled this past week. We had a photo shoot with our beautifully completed family. We decided to commemorate a pretty big season for us: our fifth anniversary right around the corner, the birth of Eli (yes, he’s already seven months!) and the other kids birthdays.

Our photographer was fantastic, a sweet woman who genuinely enjoyed capturing our family, which was a gift.

The morning of photos was pretty hairy. I felt so overwhelmed.

In my attempt to be brave and savour this sweet season with our kids, I was doing it before I had lost the amount of weight I wanted to, and the reality of this suddenly hit me as I was trying to figure out what to wear.

A few outfits later, I settled on one I would later regret, and we, with a few raised voices and angry looks, got in the van and on the road.

While the kids did pretty good, there were definitely some moments of me angrily telling them to smile and then faking a happy family moment.

I had to laugh at some of the photos when we got them back. Our photographer was so skilled, I almost forgot some of the memories that went with them.

Like this one where Amayah sassily (is that a word?) said to Eli “MY BALL!” and ran away with it.

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Or this one, where Caleb decided he wasn’t going to cooperate.IMG_8150

And one of my favourites, Amayah starting to cry because she wanted to go see the “bath” (the lake).IMG_8155

Or trying to get a nice anniversary picture, looking at each other, paranoid that the kids were running toward the giant “bath”.
IMG_8199And even though Eli started to get grumpy here because he was hungry, that kiss still holds every bit of my love.IMG_8448

How we wish we were with three kids…IMG_8397

How we really are with three kids…

IMG_8318I hope you enjoyed this funnier side to our little photo shoot.

Even if it took a little work to get there, a bit of outfit regret, and a few extra pounds I would have liked to go without, I am so thankful to have captured these memories of my family, because they really are growing up extremely fast. 

A big thank you Sarahlynn Photography for all her hard work making our chaos look beautiful!

Don’t you see that children are God’s best gift?
    the fruit of the womb his generous legacy?
Like a warrior’s fistful of arrows
    are the children of a vigorous youth.
Oh, how blessed are you parents,
    with your quivers full of children!
Your enemies don’t stand a chance against you;
    you’ll sweep them right off your doorstep.

Psalm 127:3-5 MSG