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More than an Orange Shirt

It’s quiet in my house now. After a bustling morning of getting ready for school and work, breakfast and gathering the things needed for the day. I always take a moment to pray before I head to work, but today my heart is heavy. Today is a day selected by the Canadian government to reflect on the atrocities inflicted on the native communities for 120 years by their design, and with the assistance of the church.

To this date, over 6,500 bodies of children have been found buried in unmarked graves across Canada and parts of the United States, and there are more to be recovered. It burdens my soul that the actions performed in these residential schools run by the churches were done in the name of Christ. Abuse in the form of starvation, brutal beatings, different sorts of experimentation and sexual abuse were rampant in these schools that stole native children from their families in order to turn them into “proper, Christian children.”

I can’t claim to be an expert on what happened in these schools. There are so many survivors out there who have written their stories for the world that will make you weep. They will make your heart break at the injustice of it all. They will make you feel like donning an orange shirt in memory of these children will be inadequate. And to be honest, it is. And as I wonder what to do that would be enough, I look to the word of God.

I searched for something that would be helpful. I searched for something that would give a solution to a situation that I barely understand. And I stumbled across this verse in Jeremiah 22:3.

“This is what the Lord says. Be fair-minded and just. Do what is right! Help those who have been robbed, rescue them from their oppressors. Quit your evil deeds! Do not mistreat foreigners, orphans, and widows. Stop murdering the innocent!” (NLT)

These words were written by a prophet to the king of Judah, along with his servants, because a good government depends upon a good ministry as well as a good king. They were told that God required of them to take good care of the power that they held in their positions of authority. They were not only to help those who had been mistreated, but also to do no wrong. In his commentary on this verse, Matthew Henry says, that is the greatest wrong and violence which is done under colour of law and justice, and by those whose business it is to punish and protect from wrong and violence.

Similarly, in Proverbs 31:8-9 it says”speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.” If these children don’t have a voice, they can’t seek justice for themselves. And if we are on the opposing side as we are in this concern, we need to listen to the voices that can.

There are 94 calls to action for truth and reconciliation in this matter. And many have not been addressed, or have been swept to the side. Information regarding what happened in these schools is missing or has been destroyed. But it’s time to do something – more than just wearing orange in support of a widespread group of people. Because what if what has been done in the name of Christ can only be undone in the name of Christ?

I don’t have any answers, solutions or instructions on where to go from here. I’m just a girl whose heart is broken, and when my heart is broken, I pray. I pray to the One who sees all, the One who wants to restore everything that’s broken. When we pray, things change. Powerful strongholds are broken. And we can pray now, with intention, for real truth and reconciliation. These 94 prayers that coincide with the 94 calls to action is a great place to start.

The God I know would never have prompted violence to be done in His name. The God I know looked on these events as they were unfolding, and I’m sure they broke His heart, as evil and sinfulness does. The God I know longs for real reconciliation, and He has a plan to wipe out all evil for good. The other day as I was reading this book with my son, which we have read together for many years now, these words fell fresh on my heart. I’ll leave them with you now, and hope that you consider more than just an orange shirt today.

God loved his children too much to let the story end there. Even though he knew he would suffer, God had a plan — a magnificent dream. One day, he would get his children back. One day, he would make the world their perfect home again. And one day, he would wipe away every tear from their eyes. You see, no matter what, in spite of everything, God would love his children — with a Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love. And though they would forget him, and run from him, deep in their hearts, God’s children would miss him always, and long for him — lost children yearning for their home. Sally Lloyd Jones, The Story of God’s Love For You

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Hidden

My mother loves opals. Ever since she was a young woman she has thought they were the most beautiful stone in the world. I know they say diamonds are a girls best friend – but for her, it’s always been opals.

A few years ago, after my grandmother passed away my parents went to Australia for a trip of a lifetime. They had many amazing adventures like sleeping in a cave hotel, snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef, boating in croc infested waters, and sand sledding down giant dunes. Every day was a new adventure! And of course, while they were there, they looked at opals.

Australia is a land full of many treasures, one of which is opals. Hidden away under the earth in rocky, dusty caves are the most beautiful stones. Stones that look like fire, stones that look like the sea. Shimmering, sparkling, crackling, show stopping stones. But the thing is, you have to dig to find them. And when you find them, they’re not what they seem.

Opal mining
Mined cavern in Coober Pedy
Rough, uncut opals that have been freshly mined

To find an opal, an Australian miner must very carefully descend into a mining shaft with a pick and a shovel. They would then pick away, looking for any signs of opal dirt. Once they find something promising, they would continue digging into the area, creating a channel like cavern to find any clusters of opals to be discovered. Once an opal is discovered, they put away the pick and shovel and use a small handpick or a screwdriver to carefully dig around the opal to remove it so as not to break any part of the delicate stones.

Once the stones are mined, they are rough and have crusted layers of dirt caked around them that must be carefully cleaned away. They have to be washed and agitated, and often it can’t be done even by the most skillful hands. (If you’re interested, you can watch this video to see a sample of how it’s done.)

I know my knowledge of opals is limited, but I can only imagine that from start to finish the process of mining for opals takes hard work, and extreme dedication. But the end result is absolutely spectacular.

Black Opal (Photo by Black Opal Direct)
Boulder Opal (Photo by Black Opal Direct)
White Opal (Photo by Black Opal Direct)

Sometimes when I think about my limited knowledge of the scriptures, it brings me back to the thought of mining for opals. Hidden, under the earth waiting to be discovered. Just like the unseen treasures in Australia, we need to be dedicated to searching the word for its treasure and truth.

People know where to mine silver and how to refine gold. They know where to dig iron from the earth and how to smelt copper from rock.
They know how to shine light in the darkness and explore the farthest regions of the earth as they search in the dark for ore. They sink a mine shaft into the earth far from where anyone lives. They descend on ropes, swinging back and forth. People know how to tear apart flinty rocks and overturn the roots of mountains. They cut tunnels in the rocks and uncover precious stones. They dam up the trickling streams and bring to light the hidden treasures. But do people know where to find wisdom? Where can they find understanding? No one knows where to find it, for it is not found among the living. It is hidden from the eyes of all humanity. Even the sharp-eyed birds in the sky cannot discover it. God alone understands the way to wisdom; he knows where it can be found, for he looks throughout the whole earth and sees everything under the heavens. He decided how hard the winds should blow and how much rain should fall. He made the laws for the rain and laid out a path for the lightning. Then he saw wisdom and evaluated it. He set it in place and examined it thoroughly. And this is what he says to all humanity: “The fear of the Lord is true wisdom; to forsake evil is real understanding.” Job 28:1-4,9-13,21,23-28

I love this passage in Job. As he says this, he’s sitting in a garbage heap covered in painful sores, scratching them with a piece of broken pottery. His children have died, he’s been stripped of his health and his wealth, and he’s listening to his friends tell him that this all happened because of his sin and his lack of trust in God. Job has been on a journey. And he’s not done yet. Like any normal person, he’s had his ups and downs – but how many of us in the midst of suffering can offer up the foundation of wisdom?

Job is saying that if God puts treasures in the earth that can’t be found without digging for them, like those beautiful opals, then wouldn’t He also put wisdom and understanding where it needs to be dug up and discovered? To gain real understanding of the truth, we need to dig deep.

Last year was a difficult year for many people. Being thrown into lockdown was hard and as the pandemic stretched across the world it brought a lot of change. One of the biggest changes for me was a disruption to my personal Bible study. Now, I know you’ll probably think that’s a bit silly because with all that time at home there’s really no excuse to not be in the Word. But here’s the thing – my kids not being in school was a major disruption to their routine and mine.

It took a full year to figure out the best time to study. Very quickly, my husband decided to stay late at work so he could quietly study there. But was I able to find some peace and quiet at home? (Insert one million laughing emojis here). What about uninterrupted time? Absolutely not. I tried waiting until my kids went to bed, late in the evening – but I’d be so tired I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I tried in the afternoon while they were occupied with other tasks, but the phone would ring or someone would come to the door. It was the easiest time to be interrupted. I tried waking up early, but I was tired and would fall back to sleep or someone would wake up early – and it didn’t seem to work either.

I was in a season where quick Bible reading became the new Bible study, and I feel like I missed so much. I don’t know about you, but I have to take more than a second look at something before I understand it. So despite trying so many times, when all I had was a hot uninterrupted minute to read, it felt flat. I’m grateful to have had time to read anything at all, but some days I felt like I was just reading so I could say that I did. It felt like those moments of study when everything falls fresh on your heart and mind would never come again.

I missed in depth Bible study. “Mining” the scriptures for hidden treasures is the only way to find wisdom and understanding. I missed that time to gain knowledge and grow in spirit and in truth. And if I’m honest, even now it’s not perfectly ideal with what I have going on. But it was important enough to me that I had to figure something out.

Finding hidden gems is exciting and enriching, but hiding them away us important as well. Just like you’d secure precious jewelry and gems so as not to be stolen, we can also secure the Word of God in our hearts. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11

This is as much encouragement for me as anyone else. It’s easy to get sidetracked and interrupted, and in all honesty, to give up on trying to study. But it’s so important in living a life that glorifies God. How can we know God if we don’t learn about Him?

Like mining for opals, true gems have yet to be discovered. If God takes pleasure in blanketing precious jewels in the folds of the earth, how much more does He long for us to blanket His precious words in our hearts? ❤️

Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. Colossians 3:16-17

P.S. If you’re looking for tips and tricks on how to study the Bible, here’s a small place to start.

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Unwritten

I woke up from a terrific nightmare. I was about to have life changing surgery, and had just laid down on the table when it started to rise up all the way to the ceiling and then down to the floor. Repeatedly.  Like a crazy circus ride that I couldn’t get off.

I’ve been on the verge of being able to have this surgery for a year now, which keeps being delayed because of the pandemic. This journey has been a long one, and with every step taking a year or two to unfold, it can be easy to be discouraged. But here’s the thing – every time something does happen, it’s best case scenario.

Five years ago I was scrolling through Facebook and I saw an advertisement for a lipedema clinic in Ontario. Imagine my surprise and delight to know I could book in to see a doctor who could finally diagnose me with a disease that I’d known I’d had since puberty. I booked a flight, I saw the doctor, I got a diagnosis. Two months later, due to some clerical errors the clinic permanently closed. But here’s the thing – my original plan was to go in January, but my family encouraged me to take the plunge so my appointment was in October. If I’d waited like I’d planned, I would have missed it.

At that appointment the doctor recommended some treatment options, so I made an appointment with my doctor as soon as I got home. I discussed them with him and he immediately put my name on the list to see a specialist. Since this is Canada, and we have universal health care and what seems like a never ending short supply of physicians, wait times are long. It took over a year. When I finally had that appointment it was in a town an hour away, and the thought of having to travel several times every week for treatment (especially during winter months) seemed daunting and impossible. The specialist looked at my paperwork and asked why I hadn’t been sent to the clinic in my own town. I remember looking at her in shock and surprise, and when she said the clinic had just opened that month, I was at a loss for words. If it hadn’t been a year long wait, the clinic in my town wouldn’t have been ready for me.

At the clinic, part of my treatment was compression therapy. It was only supposed to be a few months, but due to the severity of my lipedema it took a year and a half to be fitted for custom compression garments. When the time finally came, I was able to be seen by an expert in the field who knew about lipedema and was gifted and skilled to know what to do.

When you’re in the midst of it all, the years seem to stretch long on the horizon. I can sit here today and write this testimony of God’s goodness in my life and present it to you in a nice little package with a bow so it all seems lovely and good. Friends, I’m not going to do that. Because those years of waiting were hard, and I would be remiss if I didn’t share the suffering.

The long and short of it is, in my suffering I cried so many tears I thought I’d never be able to cry again. I doubted God’s sovereign plan for my life. I was angry. I grieved for the life I wanted but couldn’t have. I lacked faith in His timing. I didn’t trust Him.

I’ve read the book of Job before many times, but I didn’t understand it. I’ve read it because it was part of my Bible in a year plan. I’ve read it because it’s good to see someone else had it worse than me. I’ve read it because I thought I might glimpse some wisdom for walking through the fire every day. And while it is full of wisdom to be unpacked at every layer, the secret to understanding the book of Job (and ultimately any suffering you or someone you love is experiencing) is this: Job couldn’t read the first few pages of the book.

In Job chapter one, we read about this man who was an upstanding follower of God. He was rich with possessions, had much wealth and many children. But he also was rich with integrity.  Verse one says he was blameless, he feared God and stayed away from evil. He also cared about the integrity of his children, and regularly prayed for them.  It seems everything is going well for Job. And then Satan and God have a conversation.

God points out how Job was filled with integrity and stayed away from evil. Satan points out that it must be easy to be that way when you have such a blessed life. During their conversation, God allows Satan to mess with Job.  So Satan gets to work and Job is stripped of his wealth, his servants die and then his beloved children. Everything is lost, all at once, for seemingly no reason. And in the midst of it all, with such terrible heartbreak, Job praises God.

I don’t know about you, but I haven’t praised God for my suffering. I don’t have that immediate response to trust Him and be thankful. Maybe some day, but I’m not there yet.

In chapter two, Satan meets with God again. In the heavenly courts, where he doesn’t belong, he tells God that Job only praised Him because He didn’t allow bodily harm. If he was allowed to remove Job’s health, then Job would definitely turn against God. So God allowed Satan to mess with Job’s health. Satan gets to work and immediately Job is covered from head to toe with painful sores. As he sits in the ashes of his former life, scraping at his sores with a piece of broken pottery, his wife tells him to curse God and die. And he says, should we only accept good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?

God is about to take Job on a journey. Job will endure hardship, be criticized by his friends, and be told that his suffering is a direct result of his sin. He’ll be upset, frustrated and angry but He will never curse God and turn against Him. God will intervene, eventually, and restore Job with even more wealth and health than before. But Job will never know that all of this was borne out of an accuser accusing God in his own throne room. One of the many messages of Job is this – there could be a reason for your suffering hidden from view. Only God knows the whole story. Hardship doesn’t mean God has failed or that you have sinned. We aren’t always give a reason.

From Job’s perspective, those parts of his story were hidden from view. Unwritten, yet written. Weaved into his story, but behind the veil. There, yet unseen.

If Job can praise God in his suffering, so can I. If Job can accept that a living God allows the good things and the bad, so can I. I can’t see the unwritten, yet written parts of my story. But I can trust that God’s plans and His purposes in my life are sovereign, worthwhile and good even when it hurts. Even when the waiting seems unbearable. Even when it all seems meaningless.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:5-6

In the things we can’t understand, we can trust in a good, gracious and loving God. The more I lay my story down at His feet, the more I trust that the written parts are just as important as the unwritten.

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Branded

My son is really loving the Lion Guard. It’s a spin off of the Lion King, featuring Simba’s son and his happy little gang whose job is guarding the pride lands from all calamities. Gallantly defending their territory with a catchy song and strong undercurrents of friendship and inclusivity, it’s a cute show (albeit a little young for a thirteen year old!) As I was watching it the other day, I noticed that the main character has a little tattoo on his leg, as does Simba and other members of the pride lands. I asked my son about it and he mentioned that it was for all the members of the gang, because that is where they belonged and everything they did was for the king and the land.


I thought about that for the rest of the day. If we all walked around with tattoos representing where our alliances are, what would they look like?

Maybe our tattoo would show what our hobbies or professions are. Perhaps we’d have a mark showing which family we’re from. Most importantly, maybe we’d have a brand showing where our heart truly lies. I know if we had a visible mark on our bodies, I’d only want mine to be reflecting that everything I am and all that I do was for Jesus and His Kingdom.

In Exodus 13, the Lord gives specific instructions for a yearly festival that the Israelites must hold to remember and celebrate that He brought them out of Egypt. In verse 9 it says, “this annual festival will be a visible sign to you, like a mark branded on your hand or your forehead. Let it remind you always to recite this teaching.”  It was something that God didn’t want them to forget. What if we had tattoos that reminded us of what God has done for us?

In the tv show, Kion experiences difficulties and is wounded in battle. The wound threatens to overtake his spirit and turn him evil like his uncle Scar – unless he and his mighty bunch of friends take a difficult journey to find healing at the Tree of Life. (A little disclaimer: I’m thankful I was watching with my son, because there are some slightly suggestive scenarios in this television program that could point towards new ageism, the occult and Buddhism. Probably why my parents wouldn’t let me watch that movie when I was a kid! However, there are some powerful lessons that could also point to Christ, and that’s the route we took.)

When Kion and his friends set out on their journey, they were told it wouldn’t be easy. They bravely set out to find the Tree of Life anyway. Ultimately, they struggled along the way – getting lost, fighting battles, learning to lean on each other and trust one another – but in the end, they made it. Kion was saved from turning evil, but the scar was a permanent reminder of all that he’d endured. At the Tree of Life he not only found healing, he found a  new life and a new tattoo with a tree replaced the tattoo from his former life as he and his crew joined forces with the lions there.

When the Israelites set out on their journey, it was not an easy one. They fought battles, they lost their way (hello, golden calf!), and they had to learn to trust their leaders and ultimately, the Lord. And eventually, they made it to the Promised Land. From slavery, to the wilderness, to a land flowing with milk and honey. If they had tattoos or scars of slavery, things were going to change. Maybe they didn’t have a tattoo on their skin, but God commanded they remember what He had done for them year after year after year. So that their hearts were constantly in tune with the redemption the Lord had brought them.

But God doesn’t stop there. He wasn’t done with the Israelites just yet. Later, God uses Ezekiel to bring them a message. It’s been years since they were brought out of slavery and had wandered in the wilderness. But yet again, the Israelites have been captured in battle, scattered among different nations, severely persecuted. Ezekiel prophesies that the Lord would restore them back to their homeland. But they weren’t just going to go back to the land, He wanted to do more.

For I will gather you up from all the nations and bring you home again to your land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations. Ezekiel 36:24-27

What is good news for the Israelites is good news for us, too. Through Jesus, and His death on the cross, we have the opportunity to have our stony hearts removed and replaced with tender, responsive hearts that are completely new. Here in Ezekiel there’s this compelling message that God wants to gather those who are lost, regenerate our hearts from something dead to something alive and beautiful, and to reestablish His Kingdom with us as part of it. If we had a branding, or a tattoo that spoke of all that Christ has done for us, it would be a showstopper.

I talked to my son about this after the episodes were all over, and Kion was living it up with a new pride and flashing his new tattoo. If we had a tattoo like that, what would it look like? And his answer blew me away. A heart. I thought about it for a split second and asked him, why a heart? Because God is love, and we belong to God, so we love too.

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples. John 13:34-35.

If I could love like Jesus, if I could be a living testimony of His kindnesses and grace in even just my life, I might live up to that heart tattoo. Until then, I’m just thankful that I’m branded with His name and He’s given me a new heart, a new life, and a new home. ❤️

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Lights

My children love Christmas lights. I know most children delight in driving around looking at the lights during this season, and adults do too – but my kids? My kids are obsessed.

Every year we take them to the native reserve in our town for their amazing display of lights. There aren’t many houses on the reserve that aren’t decked out with lights – some completely covered with additional lawn ornaments and holiday tunes playing, while others take a more simple yet beautiful approach with just a few. That must be where the whole thing started…

Now it’s this huge ordeal. We save the tour of the reserve for Christmas Eve, but they beg us to take them on a drive to look at lights regularly from November until January. They sketch out houses with lights and plan potential routes. They dream up their own plans of what they’d decorate their own houses to look like. They watch television programs about the craziest, over the top light shows. They scour the internet for deals on lights for our own house, but to their dismay we keep it simple with a single light projector. My oldest son takes walks around the neighborhood to look at the lights after dark. In December, it seems like every waking moment they think about the lights.

This year when we went to set up our outdoor projector, it didn’t work. The cord was frayed and looked like it had been munched on by a squirrel. My husband tossed it in the trash, and we both thought oh well, it was nice while it lasted. Our children, however, were completely devestated and remind us daily how sad our house looks amongst the others on our street and ask when we will be replacing it. (If anyone sees any for sale after Christmas, let me know or I’ll never hear the end of it!)

I’ll admit that looking at Christmas lights is a fun family activity, and we do enjoy it ourselves. Seeing the different displays of lights illuminating the dark sky is exciting, but it’s not as essential to our celebrations during this season as our children would like to think…

This past weekend we celebrated my husband’s birthday and after supper we decided to take a drive out of town to go and see a Christmas display that the kids had been raving about. We enjoyed the drive and they were so quiet – until we arrived. Then they loudly and excitedly chattered about the lights and watched with wonder as the performance timed to music flashed and twinkled both outside and inside the house. Across the street there was a meager display with a single white light illuminating a wood carved Nativity. And while my kids were drawn to the flashes of light and jingles of holiday tunes, my heart soared at the sight of a silent display of love.

As I looked at the carefully crafted nativity, I was struck by the thought that the King of Kings came to earth in a completely simple way. No fanfare, no flashing lights. Just a baby born in a dirty stable. A King born not in a palace, but in a cave. This silent display drew my heart to consider the cross. How a perfect baby was born to lay down His life so we could live. So that we could be free. So that we could have hope.

As we drove home we didn’t see another nativity. We did see several inflatables, which of course the boys happily commented on. But while they dreamed of decking the lawn with snowmen and Disney characters, I looked at the bright lights illuminating the houses and marveled at how they looked against the blackened night sky. Then another thought struck me. And it brought all my jumbled Christmas thoughts together.

You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. Matthew 5:14-16

One of the reasons why we like Christmas lights is because they shine in the darkness. They bring cheer and happiness to many because they illuminate the dark. During the beginning weeks of the pandemic, many people chose to put out their Christmas lights to bring some positivity to a gloomy situation. To lift their spirits and those of the people around them. And here we have this command to do the very same thing – but instead of Christmas lights we are the lights.

God uses ordinary people to accomplish His purposes and to share His message with those who need Him. Like Christmas lights against the dark sky, we are to illuminate the darkness with His love through our actions. We are to shine so bright that others take notice. But we can’t shine if we don’t have His light in our lives.

Just a few days after Jesus was born, He was taken to the temple for a purification offering and dedication to the Lord as required by the law. While He was there, an elderly man named Simeon who was waiting for the Messiah was prompted by the Spirit to go to the temple. Simeon was promised he would not die before he had seen the Saviour. As he took Jesus in his arms and praised Him, he said, “He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and He is the glory of your people Israel!” (Luke 2:32). Jesus’ birth also fulfilled the prophecies in Isaiah that speak of this amazing Light:

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. lsaiah 60:1

I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth. Isaiah 49:6

It was just a simple light shining on that nativity, but it was a beautiful reminder that the Light of the World has come. This Christmas, may you think about how He has called us to illuminate the darkness with His love so that His salvation may reach to the ends of the earth. Let’s shine together. ❤️

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Weapons

Fear. It’s such a small word, but it’s packed with emotion. It’s such a small word, but it’s full of power. It’s a living organism, growing and growing and growing, spreading from one person to the next, to the next – until it’s reach has far surpassed anything else.

Right now, in the midst of this global pandemic, the world is gripped with fear. Fear of the virus. Fear of the U.S. presedential election results. Fear for the economy. The world is fearful of living in a society filled with hatred, systematic racism, and division.

Everywhere you turn, there is fear billowing under the surface. It’s in the waiting room at the hospital. It’s in the line ups at the grocery store. It’s in classrooms and offices. It’s in churches and neighborhoods. It’s in the hearts and minds of people you know, people you love, people you long to see.

Here’s the thing about fear – it’s not always easy to spot, and it likes to hold on. It’s sticky, like peanut butter on the roof of your mouth or a burdock stuck to your favourite sweater. It starts out small, but if left unchecked can grow bigger and bigger and bigger until it’s a monster that never leaves your side. Until it’s gripped you and has you in it’s hold, like a snake wrapped around it’s prey.

Because fear is everywhere, the enemy loves to use it to attack. A versatile weapon in the hands of a skilled craftsman, sharpening it’s blade waiting for the perfect time to strike. Like a warrior on the battlefield, he plunges it into the heart of many then watches as it spreads like thick, black poison.

Sometimes I forget about it’s power. When I’m going about my day and suddenly a thought enters my mind, starting out as a small chant that I just can’t drown out. And before I know it, I’m doubled over and completely surrendered to it’s grip – completely wracked with worry and focused on the small chant that’s now turned into a full blown roar.

Friends, it doesn’t have to be this way. We don’t have to surrender to it. And I understand that’s truly easier to say than it is to do, but let’s remember we have a weapon that’s even more powerful.

A few days ago, in the early morning hours my son woke up, loudly announcing his presence. This isn’t abnormal, in fact, it’s an every day occurence. But this day stood out among the rest. Because instead of doing what he’d usually do, by repeating a line in a movie or something he’d thought of last, he was chanting this…

Worship is my weapon! Worship is my weapon! Worship is my weapon! Thank you, Lord!

It stopped me in my tracks. Not just because it was different than usual, but because at that moment in time, I was right in the throes of fearfulness. As his voice reached my ears, it was like a soothing balm to my wounded heart. Moments later, his brother was awake and announcing his presence by loudly singing these words…

I raise a hallelujah, in the presence of my enemies

I raise a hallelujah, louder than the unbelief
I raise a hallelujah, my weapon is a melody
I raise a hallelujah, Heaven comes to fight for me

I’m gonna sing, in the middle of the storm
Louder and louder, you’re gonna hear my praises roar
Up from the ashes, hope will arise

Death is defeated, the King is alive

I raise a hallelujah, with everything inside of me
I raise a hallelujah, I will watch the darkness flee
I raise a hallelujah, in the middle of the mystery
I raise a hallelujah, fear you lost your hold on me

Sing a little louder
In the presence of my enemies
Sing a little louder
Louder than the unbelief
Sing a little louder
My weapon is a melody
Sing a little louder
Heaven comes to fight for me

Raise A Hallelujah, Bethel Music

I stumbled out of my room, listening to my kids and getting lost in the routine of getting ready for the day. But their early morning encouragement never left me. It was like the Lord knew exactly what I needed and exactly how to get the message to me. Coincidence? I think not.

Later, I asked my younger son where he’d heard the words he’d been chanting. He said, “oh, I had a scripture in my mind.” I asked him what scripture it was, but he had forgotten. So I started to dig, and here’s what I found – worship being used as a weapon all over the place.

In 2 Chronicles 20, King Jehoshaphat receives news that opposing forces have joined together as a common enemy and are waging war against them. Terrified by their impending arrival, he turns to prayer and fasting. By way of a man named Jahaziel, moved by the Spirit to speak, Jehoshaphat heard from God that he won’t even need to fight because God would demonstrate his power. He and his people went out the meet then enemy and fell facedown worshipping God, praying and singing. And as soon as they started singing, God sent ambushes against their enemies and they all ended up dead!

In Joshua 6, the Israelites have entered the promised land and are being met with resistance at Jericho. A large, seemingly impenetrable wall is blocking their way from conquering what the Lord has spoken to be theirs. They turn to the Lord, and Joshua obeys His commands by marching along the wall for seven days. Six days of marching with nothing happening must have been frustrating! But on the seventh day they blasted their trumpets, shouted praise to the Lord and that massive wall came tumbling down.

In Acts 16, Paul and Silas are imprisoned because the angry owners of a psychic girl, whom Paul and Silas had freed of a demon, dragged them into the public square and had them arrested. As they sat in prison, they prayed and sang out their praises to the Lord. Then God sent an earthquake that shattered prison walls and unbound the shackles of the prisoners, and opened the heart of the jailer who was led to Christ by Paul and Silas that very night.

These are just three small ways that worship has been a weapon against the enemy. How encouraging to read these scriptures, knowing we serve the same God who has equipped us according to the battles we are facing.

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

Can we just stop there for a second? The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but have divine power to DESTROY STRONGHOLDS. Strongholds like fear, and it’s counterparts anxiety and depression. Worship is our weapon. Prayer is our weapon. Scripture is our weapon.

In the midst of fear, in the midst of worry, in the midst of living this life in 2020 – worship is our weapon. Our praise, our prayers and our songs to God have more power than fear. They can tackle fear to the ground.

Today, I am focusing on worship. And I pray you’ll do the same. I’ll leave you with Colossians 3:6 –  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. ❤️

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Timing

It’s been a difficult season. It’s okay to admit that, and to share with others how you are feeling. Six months ago when we were celebrating a new year and a new decade, no one could expect the challenges that awaited us. 2020, you’ve definitely thrown some curve balls.

Every person that I speak to has had some kind of disappointment these last few months. Cancelled vacations, celebrations, postponed events that they were looking forward to. In my own home, we experienced sadness at the loss of our yearly summer visit with my family – I look forward to seeing my little neices every year, and thinking about how two years will have passed before I see them again seems almost unbearable. My boys also were disappointed with school celebrations that were cancelled and an extra long summer at home with Mom. (Hey! I’m not so bad…)

There’s also this one thing that was so huge and so exciting that was postponed. I’ve only mentioned it to close friends and family, but I’m going to share it with the world now because it’s part of something bigger I feel I need to tell.

As many of you may know, I have late stage Lipedema. It’s a painful fat disorder that affects your limbs, and in late stage can spread throughout your entire body. In short, it’s ugly. I’ve lived with this disease for over 20 years, gradually getting worse. There’s no cure for Lipedema, and diet and exercise won’t do anything to get rid of it (trust me, I’ve tried). There are several treatments to make it more manageable, including a specialized massage and compression therapy. I’ve been fortunate to have both of those. But the real treatment is liposuction –  not only does it help get the diseased fat out, it gives back quality of life and takes away much of the pain.

This year, I was supposed to be able to have the first of several lymphatic sparing liposuction surgeries with a surgeon skilled to work with women in late stages. I can’t even explain how much having these surgeries would be life changing for me. And maybe I don’t need to. Now, with all that is happening in the world they’ve been postponed until next year at the earliest. But here’s the thing. I am not disappointed, or even sad…

This morning, I was reading Psalm 91, again. It’s been my go to during this season. Hear the beauty of these words…

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord: He 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. Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday. Though a thousand fall at your side, though ten thousand are dying around you, these evils will not touch you. Just open your eyes, and see how the wicked are punished. If you make the Lord your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home. For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go. They will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone. You will trample upon lions and cobras; you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet. The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation. (NLT)

I’ve taken the liberty to highlight my favourite parts that soothe my soul in the midst of this pandemic. It sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? But this morning, I read it after I’d read the story of Joseph.  I know I’m taking liberties again, since Joseph lived and died before the writer of this Psalm ever put pen to papyrus – but imagine what it would be like for Joseph to read this while sitting in prison serving a sentence for something he didn’t do, after being sold into slavery by his own brothers? Ouch. If I was Joseph, I might feel discouraged. I might feel like the writer of this Psalm didn’t have a clue. Joseph did make the Lord His refuge. Joseph did make the Most High his shelter. And yet he sat in prison, watching days stretch into weeks and months and even years. Eventually, Joseph would leave that prison and would become the right hand man to the king of Egypt. But right there, in that prison, he didn’t know. He was given the ability by the Lord to interpret dreams, but not to see into his own future.

In the end, Joseph became a wealthy and powerful man. He was able to reconnect with his family and restore broken relationships with the same brothers who once plotted to kill him. It took years for Joseph to arrive at that point in his life. It’s not clear how long, but many years stretched between the day his brothers sold him to a traveller and the day he saw them again, this time with their lives in his hands. But the Bible is clear on one thing. In all those years from slavery to success, the Lord was with Joseph and was working and showing favour towards him. In Potiphar’s house, they experienced wealth and favour because Joseph was among them (Gen 39:5). In prison, Joseph was given privileges and became a leader, even as a captive himself (Gen 39:21).

Joseph’s story is an exciting, rags to riches tale. But it’s so much more than that. It’s a testimony to how God’s timing is perfect, and how God is working in our lives and hearts even when the day to day seems long, tiring and unsuccessful. If the God of Joseph is the same God today, how can I expect any less for my own life?

My Lipedema journey has been long, exhausting, and if I’m honest it been heartbreaking at times. There’s been very long wait times. It took almost 20 years just to get a diagnosis, let alone have any treatments. But I believe in God’s timing. And here’s why:

  • In 2016, I was diagnosed by a doctor at a Lipedema clinic. It only remained open for about six months. I was planning on waiting to go when it was more convenient, not right in the middle of back to school time (which is tricky for my kids). Instead, I was encouraged to book an appointment immediately and able to get in. Had I waited, I would have missed it altogether. 
  • In 2018, a full year and a half later, I started receiving massage and compression therapy. It seems like a long time to wait, and it was. Still, if it had been immediate, I’d have had to drive an hour each way to a clinic in another city three times a week. When my name came up on the waiting list, there was a clinic in my own town.
  • In 2019, I was fitted for custom compression after a year and a half of treatments. At that time, I was able to work with a professional who understands Lipedema and is compassionate and caring. Had it not taken so long, I’d have had to work with someone else.
  • In 2020, I heard about a surgeon who could perform multiple surgeries to give me back my body. And he will. When God says the time is right.

Good and perfect things come from a Lord who loves us. Psalm 91 declares it – safety, rescue, protection, honour, and salvation. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that good things don’t always come when we want them to. But rest assured, the King is on His throne. He is ruling, and reigning even now. An end to this pandemic will come, in His time. My surgery will be rescheduled. We will see family and friends again. But don’t miss the beauty of this broken season. Stop and rest in His perfect love and experience the goodness He has for you in the midst of it all. His timing is perfect. ❤️

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The Calling

It’s snowing today. In May. Gross, disgusting globs of snow. When it is supposed to be warm and sunny with buds on the trees and flowers peeking through the ground. Instead, it’s gross and grey and gloomy. I didn’t want to get out of bed. When I did, the kids were arguing. As usual – because it seems that’s all they do lately. My husband made me breakfast, but I couldn’t even appreciate his kindness because tomorrow is Mother’s Day. And I don’t think anyone cares.

We have reached that weird part in life where the kids should be able to do things on their own. They should be able to bake a cake or make a card. But they don’t. And I think my husband is really tired. Tired of doing everything for everyone all the time. I totally get it… because I am too.

All I wanted was a day off. A day where I don’t have to listen to anyone fighting. A day where I can eat some delicious chocolate cake and just do nothing. But as long as I’m living in this house with these kids, it’s never going to happen. (If you know my children, you’ll understand!) A day off is pretty much a pipe dream. So right now, I am feeling sorry for myself. And a bit angry that no one seems to really care. When suddenly, I’m scrolling through Facebook and something I see stops me in my tracks.

It’s nothing special, really. A post from my friend about something her daughter wrote about her mom for Mother’s Day. My first reaction was to roll my eyes and keep scrolling. It wasn’t the photo or the words that made me stop my scroll. It was my friend’s words – about how motherhood is a calling. It hit me like a ton of bricks.

It’s so easy to forget when you’re right in the middle of it and the drudgery of the every day seems so exhausting. It’s easy to forget that these children were hand-selected and carefully formed and created by God especially for me. For some reason He thought I could be the mother that they’d need.

I fall short of my calling all the time. When I’m tired. When it’s been a long day. When I’m frustrated that no one is listening. When the kids are being disrespectful. When everything is hard and I don’t feel like being gracious, or trying again.

If I’m being honest, sometimes I just don’t want to see it that way. Understanding it is a calling changes me. It changes my heart from being frustrated and annoyed at my circumstances, to being thankful for them. It fuels me with more grace to give out when I don’t feel gracious. It changes my attitude about making meals I don’t want to cook, and doing laundry I don’t want to deal with. Because as long as it is a calling, it is an assignment from God. Handed down to me to fulfill for His glory.

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. And even though it’s nice to have a day where you are honoured and appreciated for the hard work that you do, it’s not the most important thing. The most important thing is that you wake up and be present. Be prepared, be busy, be the Mom. Because if motherhood is your calling, you have to give it your all. All day, every day – until you hear the words, “well done, good and faithful servant.” ❤️

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The Worry War

I am a worrier. I worry myself sick sometimes. Over small things, over big things, over anything. Worry consumes me and I know it’s not okay. I know it’s not healthy, and I know it’s sinful.

I’ve got reminders all over my house to not worry. Reminders like “everytime you think about it, pray about it.” Or “worrying doesn’t take away tomorrow’s troubles, it takes away today’s peace.” But no matter how many reminders I have put in place, I can’t seem to stop myself from worrying.

I once read a quote that said something along the lines of “worrying about something is a sign that you don’t trust God with it” and it sucker punched me in the gut. It couldn’t be truer. Why am I so bad at trusting God? The Bible speaks to that as well. Philippians 4:6-7 is one of my life verses because I need to constantly re-construct my thoughts and give them over in prayer.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s an army of worry plaguing my thoughts. I worry for my parents who are currently at the end of a holiday in New Zealand, trying to make it home before airports close and borders lock down. I worry about my brother who has the worst case of asthma I’ve ever seen in my life. I worry about friends with babies, and the seniors on my street who are at risk. I worry about my husband who is a nurse in a long term care centre, knowing he does not have the privilege of working from home, and will be up close and personal with this virus when it reaches them. Worry can consume us, can’t it? But we can’t lose to this worry war.

In these days, fear is rampant and present in every home. Every news story, every social media site totes news of the disease and the death toll climbs. With every precaution put in place, with every new piece of information, I know I need to get ahead of the fear by putting on my armour. I prepare myself with what I know, and here’s how I choose to fight.

1. God is in control. This virus was not a surprise to Him. He knows the exact number of days that it will run its course throughout the world. He is not sleeping, and we are in His care. (Psalm 121:3-4)

2. We do not have to be afraid because we have been given the gift of His peace. (John 14:27)

3. Instead of adding to the panic, we can be instruments of His love and find ways to help others. (1 John 4:7-8)

4. We can fight worry by being in the Word and allowing it to change our hearts. (Hebrews 4:12)

5. Worship over worry, let praise be a priority. (Psalm 59;17)

And above all else, PRAY.

This morning we decided to get out of the house and go for a little drive. We were listening to music as we traveled and the song Great Are You Lord came on. We’ve sung this one hundreds of times, but the words settled on my heart today with fresh meaning. It’s Your breath in our lungs, so we pour out our praise to You only. How fitting it is to sing these words in the midst of a respiratory pandemic sweeping across the world. He gives us breath. He daily provides the oxygen we need to breathe, to exist, to live.

The worry war still rages. It’s 2 a.m. and I can’t sleep because I’m fighting my fears. But as I write these words, I remember a verse that brought me comfort as a child and still brings me comfort today. I will lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone oh Lord make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8.

I am thankful that God is on His throne, completely in control. I am thankful that He has won the battle and conquered fear, so I don’t need to worry in uncertain times. I am thankful that He covers me in His love. The worry war will rage again tomorrow, but tonight I’m closing my eyes in peace. ❤️

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Every Day Love

I love rom coms. It’s fun to watch two people falling in love. It always makes me feel all warm and happy. There’s nothing like popping some popcorn and watching two people’s love story. But here’s the thing – rom coms only start the story. Because no one wants to watch what happens when love and life collide.

I love my husband. I love our love story. I like to think back on the time we met when we were young and in our prime, looking smoking hot and doing whatever we wanted because life hadn’t really started for us yet. Going on multiple dates a week, being romanced with flowers all the time, just that east peasy love bubble that we both lived in. Ah, the love bubble. But…that love bubble? It pops. Sometimes it explodes. And it’s not the guy or the girl that makes it happen. It’s just life.

Life is hard. Harder than you ever think it will be when you’re just starting out and living in the love bubble. You get married, things are sweet. You spend all your time together and little things like him leaving his socks on the floor and her leaving a sink full of dirty dishes are irritating, but not bubble popping. But then time moves on and when you start to experience life together, that’s when things get hard. That’s when the bubble bursts.

I’m not a marriage expert, but I am an expert on navigating life when it gets hard. Illnesses, disabilities, accidents, workplace stresses, infertility – all of these things can be difficult. And when the heat starts rising, that’s when the bubble implodes. But here’s the thing – life might make the love bubble a thing of the past, but it doesn’t mean that you don’t love each other anymore. It just means that life is hard.

Marriage is really just living life together. Committing to navigating through the fun times and the soul sucking difficult times. It’s not quitting on each other when things get tough. And if I’m being honest – that’s hard. Because when you say “through better or worse” you have no idea how hard that worse can be. I repeat – no idea whatsoever.

My husband and I have navigated through some awful storms. In fact, it’s storming at our house right now. But through all of our married life, instead of running away from each other in the hard stuff – we come together. It’s clinging together in the storms that makes a marriage strong. Praying together, crying together, encouraging one another. Some of the hardest things in our marriage that could have broken us made us stronger together. The happy ever after that we see in rom coms doesn’t exist. But happy does.

It’s Valentine’s Day today. Our 17th one together, as crazy as that seems to me. I remember our very first one – we weren’t technically dating yet, but we might have well been. He showed up to my house with some pink flowers and a whole bunch of pink themed gifts (my favourite colour). We went out for dinner together, too. It is such a sweet memory.

We have had many Valentine’s days like that, but they haven’t all been that way. Sometimes we do flowers and dinner out. Sometimes we just give each other a card. Tonight we are doing pizza with our kids and probably watching tv in our PJs. If I’m honest, I prefer pizza and PJs over the most romantic dinner in the city. Because that every day, comfortable love is more real than any happy ever after I’ve ever seen on TV.

Rom coms still make me smile. I’ll never quit watching them. (Plus, I love how they make my hubby tear up when he watches them with me). But I’ll take our every day love over romantic gestures every time. Because it’s real, and it’s raw and it’s beautiful. Love and life go hand in hand. And when you love through life, it’s built to last.