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Moments

Tonight I looked at my baby as he lay on the couch. Long legs stretched out so his head lay on one end if the couch and his feet touched the other. And I marvelled at how not too long ago he was so small he could sleep in my arms. Remembered how he would wrap his tiny hand around my finger and nestle in for a snooze.

It seems like years have passed by in seconds, yet moments are frozen in time. Sometimes I wonder what makes a moment last forever. Big moments like when we took him home from the hospital for the first time and he cried the whole way home. Big moments like when he started school for the very first time. Big moments like the day he was diagnosed with autism. But small moments too. Like the day we were sitting on the floor when he was about 14 months old and he whipped through some preschool flash cards and shocked me with his knowledge. Like the day we drove down the highway with the windows down and his one tiny curl was blowing in the wind. Like the time he made me a cup of tea for the very first time. Like when he brought home his first perfect math test.

Moments happen daily. Sometimes we miss them if we aren’t careful. It’s in these moments that we see life. It’s in these moments that we experience love, anger, frustration, heartache, joy. And sometimes, in these moments we experience all of those at once.

Like today, when we were at Costco and he wanted a sample of stuffed chicken. I was checking my list and he asked if he could go. It wasn’t two steps away from where I was. He reached for a sample and the employee snapped at him asking if he was with an adult. Taken aback he put the sample he was holding back on the tray and walked back over to me. She rolled her eyes, threw it in the trash and mumbled something under her breath I couldn’t hear. I asked him what she’s said to him and he told me. Jilted, I told him he was indeed with an adult and to walk over and get his sample. He went back and told her he was with an adult and reached for his sample happily while she just about reached out to take it from him as I stepped beside him. She rudely asked if I was with him and I said yes. She proceeded to tell me I needed to be with him before he could have a sample in the rudest way possible. In this moment, my mama bear was awakened and I wanted to punch her in the face. He finished his sample, turned to her and to her surprise and mine said, “that was delicious! Thank you!”

The whole exchange hurt my heart so much. Maybe it’s because he’s been misinterpreted as a bad kid one too many times. Maybe it’s just because he’s nearly a teenager and people tend to group them all in the same troublemaker category. But my mama heart was wounded. Maybe I’m overly emotional – in fact, I probably am. I love my people fiercely. But what he did, that changed everything.

The thing is, he has worked incredibly hard to do what he did today. Social skills don’t come naturally to him. A few years ago, this exchange could have gone very differently. But it’s not even the social factor or the way he’s learned to navigate interacting with others. Today, I could see the Holy Spirit working in my son.

Contrary to popular belief, people with ASD aren’t completely clueless – they can understand when people are making fun of them and when they’re not being treated well. Two years ago, he might have had a meltdown. But today, he kept his composure, looked at this cranky Costco employee and treated her like Jesus would have – with grace.

I’m ashamed to say that my son chose to be gracious and I didn’t deserve to witness it because I wasn’t in the mood to be gracious. But I’m so thankful I did, because it gave me pause and I had to examine myself and my heart. Right there in the frozen foods aisle at Costco.

And so tonight, when I looked at this almost teenager as he was laying on the couch, I thanked the Lord God for giving me my sweet son. I thanked Him that I was able to see the Spirit at work in his life and it spurred me to pray for more of that. For more moments where he teaches me a thing or two about grace. And to pray that our moments will be ones I’ll remember for years to come, to tuck away in my mama’s heart, for times like this.

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The Fire and the Dance 

Sometimes pain is like a fire.  Like a fire slowly dying, it’s embers glistening in a sea of ash. Constant, steady, and oddly comforting – because it’s presence means you’re still alive.  And yet, like on a cold winter’s day, it can be stoked and prodded until it flickers and roars. Until it rages and you come undone. 

Sometimes when the fire is roaring, you forget to feel. Or you don’t – and every spark and pop that sizzles breaks something inside one piece at a time.  Until all that is left is embers of a life once lived. And now you shift through dust, desperately looking for something to fan into flame. Because sometimes the fire is the only life you know.  The only life you understand. 

Sometimes life is like a dance.  Gliding through the easy, joyful movements that make happy, carefree memories. Until the music slows, and the embers stir.  And you slow dance with a dance partner you didn’t ask for.  A partner no one ever wishes for, but many have to face.  

The fire burns and you dance. Because sometimes the dance is the only way to survive.  And so you dance in slow, methodical movements.  No longer graceful, no longer beautiful.  But still yours. And you face the music as it plays a song only your heart can hear.

Music speaks to the soul.  It goes down deep, past the burning embers and touches the places no one can see. It pours a soothing balm over the wounds from the fire and the dance.  Raw places that threaten to burst open again.  It replaces rejection and repels fear.  

In fire, in the dance, He is the music. He breathes life into the wounded places. He picks up the charred pieces from the fire and makes them new.  He lifts these eyes to the heavens, and the dance becomes light and airy – like a feather gliding in the wind. He restores what is broken.  

And breath returns, slowly and evenly. And hearts are lighter, and less burdened. Because He controls the fire.  He watches over the dance.  And He is the song.  Because the dance is not always easy, and the fire often rages and roars, but He is the song of our hearts.  Beautiful and sweet, it plays as the fire burns. And we dance, because the Music gives us joy that can never be extinguished.  

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A year 

Another year has passed and a world of fresh, new beginnings is on the horizon. It all seems so positive, doesn’t it? But a year is filled with more than just beginnings.  A year brings change. A year brings happiness and heartbreak. A year brings opportunities. 

This past year is wrapping up, and already I can pinpoint significant events that happened. And some moments that took my breath away. 

A friend of mine passed away this fall. I had the opportunity to visit her a few months before she died, which was such a precious gift.  When we visited together she told me I looked beautiful – and I told her the same. She wasn’t looking at my fat, deformed body and I wasn’t looking at her cancer riddled one. We saw each other’s souls. It’s heartbreaking to lose someone who sees your soul. But it’s a beautiful thing to have had that sort of friend.
Even though I had to say goodbye to my sweet friend, God blessed me with a few new friendships. New friends are fun, especially when you can laugh together. Or sing rousing renditions of boy band songs from the 90s (those are the best kind of friends).  Friends who understand your physical limitations and who change plans to accommodate your needs are cherished. I’m so thankful for my friends. 

I’m thankful for my family, too. For two weeks spent visiting people I love this summer. For hot, sunny days and lazy afternoons by the water. For beautiful nieces. One of the best memories of this year was when we were seated around a campfire and my three year old niece was telling spooky stories about giant bugs. I hate bugs so it got a bit real and I half jokingly shouted out that I was afraid. My beautiful little niece grabbed my hand and started singing about how when we are afraid we can trust in God. It made me cry and my heart explode all at the same time. 

My own kids have grown so much this year. Conquered battles, valiantly fought as they face daily challenges just to survive in a world their brains aren’t programmed for. I see them shine and I feel blessed that God made me their mother.  I see less toys littering the floor, and more things that fit into their future. Brain teasers for one whose mind is constantly moving towards math and science. A floor littered with paper and pencil crayons for a creative brain whose impulse to always hold a writing utensil is strong. I can see how they’ve changed, how they’re changing.  

Change can be wonderful, but it can also be terrifying. Looking at how this year has brought so much change to my own health story – I waited over a decade for a diagnosis and now treatments will begin in this new year. I can’t say I’m looking forward to it, because I’m afraid of the unknown. The unknown pain, the unknown expenses, the unknown everything. But like my niece sang to me that summer night, when I am afraid I can trust in God. The wonderful part of this change is that He already knows what is to come. 

Sometimes we know what is to come in a new year too. This year will be the fourteenth year that I’ve been married to the love of my life.  That’s a lot of days of serving each other. Many months of me washing his stinky socks and many days of him rubbing my legs to keep them healthy. Many hours of working towards the common goal of raising godly young men (we aren’t there yet). These seemingly menial tasks don’t go unappreciated or unnoticed just because they’re not romantic or lovely.  If anything, they’re greater than flowers and date nights because they’re just part of the life we live. Together. 

Together we have made many plans for the future. We’ve dreamed about what could be. We’ve cried when dreams have died. We’ve rejoiced and celebrated when our goals were reached. This year will be no different.  

The only thing that is different about  this year is that together we are seeking God. We don’t want to miss opportunities that He has for us. We want to reach the end of 2018 and know in our hearts that we both followed after Him wholeheartedly. And then we don’t have to fear for the future, a and what a year will bring. 

A year brings 52 weeks, 365 days on the calender. How will you fill your days?

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One Still and Silent Night 

A few nights ago, the snow was falling softly down.  I was coming home from a Christmas party, and when I stepped out of the car it surprised me at how calm and quiet everything was. There were no traffic noises, no sirens. No bustle of activity on our usually busy street. Just a peaceful night. I stood there for a few minutes, and as I watched the silent snow I thought of another still and silent night, long ago in Bethlehem. 

I wonder why the song suggests it was a silent night. Bethlehem was a bustling, busy place in the middle of a census.  There wasn’t any room at the inn for Mary and Joseph because it was full.  Full of men, women and children.  And many of them likely had some animals with them. I imagine it was actually quite noisy, but I can’t be sure because I wasn’t there. All I can do is imagine…

Imagine what it would have been like to be able to witness the birth of Jesus. To see the manger bed. To stand beside the shepherds. To hear the sweet baby noises, and marvel at such a beautiful thing.  To kneel down on the dusty, crumbled ground and look into the face of a King. 

I’ve heard the Christmas story for years.  From a very small child, I’ve heard of the story of a baby born in a manger. I’ve had nativity sets in my home. I’ve read the Bible passages and the cute little storybooks with the colourful pictures. I’ve seen (and acted in) plays and pageants. Perhaps, if I’m being honest, because of all of that it seemed a little stale to me. 

But as I stood watching the snow on that silent night, I was flooded with the truth. That a heavenly King, who on that still night, was nestled in the arms of a girl in a cave. That when laying in a manger, He looked like just another helpless baby. But this baby was the God who knew the thoughts and lives of all the shepherds, Mary and Joseph, Simeon and Anna, and all those who came to see him. This baby was the One who would drive out demons, who would heal a man who couldn’t walk and one who couldn’t see. This baby was the One who would speak to the dead and make them alive again.  This baby would suffer and die a terrible death, reserved for the worst types of criminals, to be the hope of all the world. This baby knew what would be, and yet He still came. 

He came for the broken hearts. He came for the lonely, the sick, the weak, the poor, the neglected, the needy.  He came for those who feel unloved, unappreciated, uninvited, unacceptable. He came for you. He came for me. And He did it all because of love. Because love is the most powerful entity in the world. Love repairs what is broken.  Love unites us all. And Jesus, born in a manger, was the embodiment of love. 

The snow was falling harder and it was getting cold. A siren somewhere off in the distance pierced the silence. I crunched through the snow to the front door to my house, thankful for a baby who gives life and hope to anyone who chooses to receive Him. 

He truly is the best gift of all. 

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On Christmases Past

The first snow is floating down covering the ground in a blanket of white. The twinkling and glistening of the colourful lights bring cheer to the dark skies. The smell of sweetness wafts through the air, special treats baked only once a year. It’s almost Christmas time. 

As I was redecorating our Christmas tree this evening I was flooded with memories.  Bittersweet memories. It all started when an ornament hit the floor. A loud pop, followed by a crunch. Broken pieces of a beautiful, rich red ornament splashed across my floor. The colour that onced graced the walls of my Grandma’s dining room – that daring colour that stirred my soul.  And now, shattered at my feet was yet another ornament passed down from my grandmother. I’ve broken five so far this year.  

And every time one fell a part of my heart broke with it. Because it’s hard losing something that once belonged to someone you once belonged to. Someone you loved and someone who loved you.  Even if it’s just something as small and trivial as a few Christmas ornaments. 

She’s been gone for a year and a half now and I’ve forgotten the sound of her voice. That’s the hard part, the things you miss – little things that you take for granted. Big things too. 

And suddenly I’m transported to her living room – with sticky, sap covered fingers my twelve year old self hangs ornaments on her Christmas tree. Standing with my siblings we decorate the tree. Commenting on the ornaments as we added them to the branches while she sat in a nearby chair, sipping tea she’d never finish. She always left tea in the bottom of her cup – I’d almost forgotten that too. On this day she sat watching us carefully adding her precious memories to her tree. The sharp smell of the pine needles assault my own memories now.  And it’s almost as if I can relive the moment when a delicate bulb slipped out of my fingers and onto the dark hardwood floor. Tears slid down my cheeks then.  Tears slid down them tonight, too, just for a moment.  

I can smell her pumpkin pies. Pecan pies, too. I can see them placed on the counter cooling. I can see her in the kitchen making Christmas dinner. Turkey, stuffing, creamed peas and more. I can hear the chatter of family talking. And I can see myself, in the TV room with my siblings and cousins, watching a Christmas movie and feeling bored.  Wishing we were home, playing with our new gifts – gifts I no longer remember.  To entertain ourselves we would run down the stairs to her unfinished basement, chasing each other as our socked feet pelted the cold cement floor. Running through the frames of future walls, squealing with delight and hoping desperately we wouldn’t find any dead mice.  Then when we grew tired and cold, we’d head back upstairs. If we were quiet and didn’t disturb the adults, we could play with the wooden carousel she had on the coffee table.  How we all loved that decoration, watching it spin around with its wooden people rushing past our faces and the candles trying desperately to hold on to our vigorous turning. 

I would love to have another Christmas day at my Grandma’s house.  To walk through the halls, to stand in the rooms where my memories live.  But those rooms have changed, and the basement has been finished by new owners. All traces of my grandmother are gone from that house. So it stings a little when traces of her crash to the floor and break. When my Christmas wreath is redecorated because dilapidated ornaments are loosened or missing.  And my heart aches from missing her. 

It’s been many years since I had a Christmas with my grandmother.  Decades have passed since I ate her pies and sat in her tv room. It feels like forever since I tried on her hats and stood in her foyer applying her lipstick. But it also feels like yesterday, and so it is unbearable to know I wished away those moments I now wish to have back. 

When I step out my door to turn on our Christmas lights I am standing on her steps, plugging in her lights as she stands in the window watching.  It’s funny how moments are fleeting but memories are everlasting.  Tonight as I breathe in the crisp air I remember the woman who loved me. And I think about the ones I love.  I think about my boys, and wonder what they’ll remember when they’re thirty-five and thinking on Christmases past.  And I smile, knowing they get to experience a little bit of my Christmases past. Because even if all the ornaments shatter and none remain, I still have Grandma’s pie recipes. 

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Chronic Joy ~ Fruit of the Spirit Series 

I like to give my children gifts. I know what they enjoy, what they think about, what they need to do this life. When I want to give my children a gift, there is a lot of thought and time that go into it. Once the gift is purchased and wrapped, I can hardly wait to see the looks on their faces as they discover what they’ve received.  The look of excitement.  The look of happiness.  The look of joy.  

Joy.  It’s a word that’s thrown around a lot this time of year.  With the Christmas season closing in, people are stringing lights and shopping for gifts for those they love. Christmas cards are being written, wishing peace and joy to all. I love this season and all that it brings.  But does it really bring me joy?

If we look at the Bible we see that biblical joy isn’t a feeling of happiness based on your experiences or circumstances. Rather, it is a powerful picture of how Christ overflows in your life as you align your heart with His. It is one of the many fruits of the Spirit. 

What does Biblical joy look like? 

It Creates and Opportunity to Grow – James 1:2 states that we can be joyful when we experience trials of many kinds because it builds and shapes our character. When was the last time that you looked back over a situation in your life that was difficult to walk through, but you were thankful for it anyway? When you are through the fire and you are able to see things in a heavenly perspective – when you see the way God has changed and shaped you through this hardship, you experience biblical joy. 

It Becomes Our Strength – Nehemiah 8:10 –  This scripture is proclaimed during the feast of trumpets, where the Israelites were gathered together to hear Ezra read the law of Moses. As they were gathered here listening to all of these commands, they were affected by the realization of their sins and their disobedience to the law stirred their hearts to deep regret and sorrow. The Israelites were being reminded.that though they were devastated in the conviction of their sin, God was still at work in their lives. They felt sad, but could walk in joy because of God’s faithfulness to provide them with the strength to do the work set out before them. Sometimes we have days where we don’t feel like serving God, because we are unhappy or not “feeling it,” but God gives us the strength to continue His work and serve others with joy.

It is from God – Psalm 4:7, 16:11 – God can put joy in our hearts, and in His presence there is a fullness of joy. My husband has worked the same job for over 18 years. It’s dirty, it’s physically demanding, and it’s under appreciated. Yet in the midst of all of that, he really loves it. He enjoys caring for people, even on the hardest of days.  A few months ago he’d lost that love for his job. Different factors contributed to him coming home feeling deflated and void of any happiness or fulfillment. Bathing, feeding and dressing the elderly is a ministry that flows from his heart. So it nearly broke mine to see him that way. One evening at our life group, he asked for prayer for more joy. A few days later, others gathered to pray for him. Later that week, he had an awful day at work. As he was driving home, he couldn’t stop smiling.  His heart was lighter. He returned to work and found his joy had been restored, though none of the circumstances had. God just put His joy in my husband’s heart. 

It is the heart of Worship – Psalm 98:4 – Shout to the Lord , all the earth; break out in praise and sing for joy!  Have you ever been worshipping with fellow believers and felt a resounding presence of joy? It is an amazing feeling. When we experience the joy of the Lord it overflows out of us and is turned back into joyful praise to Him. Sing and don’t hold back! Dance for joy! Worship Him with all that is in you.  

Oh that I could have joy as often as I have pain! But the truth is, I can. Happiness is fleeting but biblical joy is everlasting.  It is a gift. It is produced in our lives when we serve God wholeheartedly. 

This Christmas season, I want to experience joy. But not the kind of joy written on a Christmas card. Not the kind of joy that comes bundled in a package with a pretty bow. I want to experience real joy – by serving Him, by worshipping Him, and yes, by even through Him shaping my life through trials.  Real joy, everlasting joy, is only from God. 

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Chronic Love ~ Fruit of the Spirit Series

A week ago it was my birthday. I have always enjoyed birthdays, because the idea of celebrating a person once a year really appeals to me. It is such an easy way to show that you love and appreciate someone. On my birthday, it was no exception. My people showered me with gifts and well wishes and I felt the love. My husband always goes a little bit overboard on my birthday – but he delights in my enthusiasm as I enjoy every gift he gives. So last week, it went a little something like this…

“Ahh! I LOVE this mug so much I can’t wait to drink my tea out of it!”

“Wait, what? You got me tea, too? I LOVE TEA!”

“Yarn! I can’t wait to make something from this. I LOVE yarn!”

“Oh my goodness, this crochet hook is so amazing! I LOVE IT!”

You get the idea. I think every gift I opened, I said something about how much I LOVE it. And there is nothing wrong with appreciating tea, yarn, crochet, perfume, colouring books, etc. It’s just sometimes, you need a little perspective. Because in the same enthusiasm that I expressed my love over my new mug, I said this…

“Ohhh! A new Bible! I am so excited about this. I LOVE GOD!”

As soon as the words passed through my lips I cringed. Yes, I do love God. But do I love him the same as my new mug? I think sometimes we overuse the word love. We use the same word to describe how we feel about hobbies, television shows, clothing, buildings, and books that we use to describe how we feel about our loved ones. Can one word really describe everything? The answer is yes. If you look up the word love in the dictionary, it does cover “a great interest or pleasure in something” and “an intense feeling of deep affection.” It still didn’t really sit right with me, so I decided to look at it in a different way – Biblical love.

Where the word love in the English dictionary falls flat, the word love in the Bible doesn’t. Biblical love is much deeper, and more meaningful – agape love.  In short, this agape love can only be defined by the nature of God.  Because God doesn’t just love, He IS love. Everything that God does, flows from His love. And as Christians, we are to look at this love and try to model it. Love is the very first fruit of the Spirit mentioned.

One of the teachers of religious law was standing there listening to the debate. He realized that Jesus had answered well, so he asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” Mark 12:28-31

What does Biblical love look like?

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 – It is selfless. Most people are familiar with this passage in the Bible because it is often used in weddings. But if we really looked at all these attributes we would see that when we love with an agape love, we will be putting other people before ourselves. This isn’t an easy thing to put into practice, but it is important.

Romans 12:9 – It is sincere. I didn’t know that I was missing real, sincere Christian love until I started attending my current church. We have a large church, so we have groups of people that meet weekly in homes around the city. These groups are named “life groups” because the people in these groups do life together – they are the people you can share with and depend on. My husband and I have been attending a life group for a year and a half now and every week when we get together, we feel loved. My heart can’t even express how powerful it is to know that we as a group care for each other. We aren’t just friends. We practically help each other when we can. We serve each other. We build each other up. I had only been going to this life group for about a month when my beloved grandmother passed away.  Even though they didn’t know me well, they blessed me with a beautiful bouquet of flowers because they knew my heart was broken. It spoke volumes – to me, it wasn’t just a bunch of pretty flowers – it was a testament to how we love each other. REAL, SINCERE, POWERFUL, SPIRIT FILLED LOVE.

Ephesians 4:2 – It is humble. We all make mistakes. But it is so essential to be able to gracious and forgiving, just as Christ is gracious and forgiving to us. Biblical love is not judgmental towards others who are struggling with sin. It is gentle and kind, it is giving corrective and godly guidance. It is acknowledging that you are not better than another because you don’t struggle in the same way.

1 John 4:18-19 – It is without fear. When we experience God’s perfect love, we are able to proceed without fear. I love what the message says here: “God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.” In this light, we can be bold in sharing this love with others because God lives in us, and we have nothing to fear.

Proverbs 10:12 – It strengthens relationships. Relationships can be tricky, because we are sinful people. When someone has wronged us, we want justice – and the sooner the better. If we have been hurt, we want to act out in anger. But love. Once when I was a teenager, someone had said something hurtful to me. I wanted to punch them in the face, but fortunately I refrained. At the end of each school day I always downloaded to my Mom (thank the good Lord there was no Facebook when I was a teenager). This particular time she told me to “kill them with kindness.” I had tried many things to get this particular person to stop harassing me, so I decided to give it a try. My motivation was not Biblical love -it was the furthest thing from my mind – but I was kind. Eventually, the person gave up trying to be hurtful. And believe it or not, we actually became friends. Love overcomes all hurt. We just have to be disciplined to show Biblical love even when it is hard.

5 Things To Remember When Back to School Breaks Your Heart (1)

Now that we have looked at different aspects of Biblical love, let’s look at a different word for a minute. When you are at the doctor and they first diagnose you with something and they use the word “chronic,” everything changes. Because the word chronic means “long lasting and difficult to eradicate” and “constantly recurring.” So, if we put these two words together – chronic and agape love – we would have something amazing. I don’t know about you, but I want Biblical love to be constantly recurring in my life. Imagine what the world would look like if Biblical love was difficult to eradicate. It would be a very different place.

As I sit here, I am drinking my birthday tea out of my birthday mug. I do love them – the tea is delicious and the mug is adorable. I know they are just things – but in a very small way, these things reflect some of the Biblical love that my husband expresses to me. He loves me selflessly (most days, I mean, let’s be real). He loves me sincerely. He could have used his hard earned money to buy himself something because his birthday is coming up soon too. Instead, he chose to shower me with gifts. And if we are being honest, I will do the same for him when his birthday comes around.

More importantly than physical gifts, we should want to grow in God. We should want to  want to put this fruit of the Spirit into practice in our lives.  We should want to display Biblical love to others around us. And as we live out Biblical love, we will experience great JOY.

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