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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.

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The Fire and The Den

A thick cloud of smoke was billowing from the room where my youngest son lay, and I was powerless to help him. Thick, black smoke. The acrid aroma burnt my lungs as I stood inches away, unable to save him. I could see him, curled up on a couch by the window and deep within my soul a cry rose up and bellowed from my lips.

Turning, I could see another door. I couldn’t see inside, but I knew that he was there. My oldest son, alone with lions. Lions whose roar was so powerful it felt as if the very ground beneath me would split at the sound. I cried out for help, but no sound came from my lips as hot tears spilled down my cheeks.

And then I awoke from my dream.

My heart racing, I sat up and looked around the room to get my bearings. Our quiet house, my children safe in their beds. And I relaxed, but only for a moment. Something about the dream had shaken me to my very core. It had seemed so real. Perhaps because in a way, it was.

My youngest son attends a school whose mascot is a fire breathing dragon. My oldest son a school with a roaring lion. And they are not okay.

School isn’t just school anymore. Long gone are the days of learning arithmetic and literacy, geography and history. Sure, those subjects are still taught – but every class and every lesson is rooted in a social agenda whose main purpose is to normalize immorality. To push new social ethics and to tear down those who don’t line up with their truths. And my children daily walk through the doors of these schools and into a new kind of battle ground. Whose superior weaponry seeks to mock, kill and destroy.

Oftentimes I feel powerless, like I did in my dream. Prayers for their protection seem to fall flat, and I grasp for fresh faith. If I’m being honest, oftentimes I feel blinded by the crushing weight of it all. But sometimes hope can linger just under the surface.

This Advent season we have chosen to memorize as a family Psalm 121:1-2. “I look to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” It’s a good reminder of Who to turn to in times of trouble. But just under the surface is the real hope…

I lift my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip—

he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you—

the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. Psalm 121

The Lord does not slumber or sleep, but watches over me and keeps me from harm. Will He not do the same for my children?

When I think of thick smoke and hot fire, I remember a time when three men walked into a fiery furnace and did not get burned. Three men who refused to bend to rules that went against their beliefs, who took a stand and clearly told the king they would never do as required. In a rage, the king threw them into a furnace burning seven times hotter than usual, so hot it killed the men charged with throwing them in. And in the midst of the fire, they were not alone – the king looked into the furnace and saw their God was with them (Daniel 3).

When I think of roaring lions, I remember a time when a man spent the night in their den and was not harmed. Powerful men who didn’t like this man set a trap for him by convincing the king to make a law stating no one could pray to anyone but him – and anyone who did not obey would be thrown into a lion’s den. After the king made the law, the man was caught and even the king couldn’t save him from the lions, though he wished he could. But the next morning, when the king returned to the den, the man emerged without a scratch on him because his God had shut the mouths of the lions (Daniel 6).

Both of these stories emerge from a time when these men were living in a land that was not their land. Where the people they lived with and worked beside did not like them. They resented their beliefs and aimed to destroy them. And yet, these men were not moved. They faced the consequences of their actions and they arose victorious, as they all were promoted to high places by the kings who punished them and recognized their God was above all others. The very same God who reigns today.

I drifted back to sleep and was in the same hallway, with those same two doors. No longer frozen in fear, I opened the first door. The smoke was thick and choked my breath. Gasping for air and groping around in the darkness, I reached the couch. My son stirred and lifted his head with a smile, and together we walked out of the room. He was completely unharmed, though he’d been in the fire for some time.

I moved toward the second door, but before I could reach it, my son emerged. Looking like he’d been through a battle, ripped clothing and dirty skin. But his face glowed with victory and no wounds were visible. All three of us walked out of that hallway and into a meadow where we were surrounded by thousands of others whose hands were lifted and whose voices were crying out “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty!”

And then I awoke from my dream.

This time, my heart was light and my hope stirred. If God could save Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from the fire and Daniel from the lion’s den then He can surely do it again for my children. And He can do it for yours, too.

I’d say nothing much has changed since the book of Daniel was written. People in powerful positions still seek to put an end to those who devote their lives to God. But the fact is, everything has changed since Daniel. Jesus was born so he could die to save a desperate world and give hope and life to the hurting, broken people who lived before us, who live among us, and those who will live long after we are gone.

We still walk through the fire and among the lions. But the same God who was with those men is here with us today, walking beside us. King Nebuchadnezzar saw it with his own eyes, and I believe that Satan can see it too. God took what was meant for evil and turned it for His good and His glory- the two kings acknowledged God was over all other gods, and all four men were promoted and were prosperous in their time.

Even though the smoke is thick and the fire rages, even though the enemy prowls around like a roaring lion, even though the battle is long and hard – the victory is already His. Satan is already vanquished, and Jesus has always been and always will be King.

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Out of the Overflow

Oh, Christmas. It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Lights, trees, music, presents, gatherings – so much joy! At least, you’d think so. But sometimes the busyness of Christmas can steal your joy and your focus.

If I’m being honest, sometimes Christmas can be overwhelming. Please tell me I’m not alone. All the things that are added to the calendar in December on top of all the things that are on the calendar every month, every week, every day of the rest of the year. It’s a bit much.

I know not every mother is as exhausted and weary as I feel I am. Having two autistic children and a disability myself is tricky at the best of times. I can’t even tell you what a struggle it is to make supper each night when I’m tired and in pain – but my husband is a very hard working man. As much as I’d love to use my disability as an excuse, in my heart of hearts I know that means I’m the one who should be the chief cook and bottle washer. So I suck it up and cook, and the loving and kind man that my husbans is helps me every time I feel I’m not going to make it. And then December arrives…

The parties pile up, the kids come home with invitations to Christmas events, the calendar fills up. My to do list grows – the decorating, the shopping, the baking, the wrapping, the crafting, the Hallmark Christmas movie watching. And then there’s the service projects, the things I look forward to doing every season because I love Jesus and want to share His love with others. It all adds up, and with it all the joy robbing stress that comes with it.

In the midst of the busy, in the midst of the merry, I forget to rest. And not just physical rest, because my weary body demands that daily. Actual rest – soul refreshing rest. If there’s one thing I know it’s that sleep isn’t the only kind of rest a person needs. There are several types of rest necessary, but the most important is to rest in Jesus.

I know that what steals my Christmas joy also steals my Christmas focus – the real, life giving, soul reviving reason there’s a Christmas in the first place. Sometimes I need that little reminder. And I realize I need to shift my focus. Back to the stable, back to the cross, back to the resurrection.

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
Isaiah 9:6-7

When I look to the stable, my soul finds rest in His birth. In the small details, in the big details, in the manger. The manger was where the animals would go to eat. Probably dirty, probably smelly. And there the King of the whole world first layed his head, though He was worthy of so much more. It’s no coincidence that it was intended to be a feeding place. Because my soul finds rest and sustenance in Jesus, the Bread of Life, who promises that all who “eat” from this bread will have eternal life (John 6:51). Which points us to the cross.

When I look at the cross, my soul finds rest in His death. In the overwhelming love He shows in this sacrifice at Calvary. The translation of Calvary is “place of the skull,” and both the cross and the skull are common symbols of death. Jesus knew the reason He was born in Bethlehem (meaning “the house of bread”) was to die so that we could be forgiven in the shedding of His blood. The Bread of Life was born in the House of Bread to give us eternal life. Which points us to the resurrection.

When I look to the resurrection, my soul finds rest in knowing there is eternity with Jesus. His resurrection was the first of many, His resurrected body a glimpse of what is to come for us in eternity (1 Corinthians 15:20). Free of pain, free of sin, perfect and whole. This is especially encouraging to those of us whose bodies are weary, worn and far from perfect.

There are lots of ways to find physical rest, and many tips and tricks to get the lists done, attend the parties, and do all the things. But tips and tricks simply aren’t enough, and I always feel like there’s something missing. Because there is.

It isn’t until I allow my focus to be shifted to the true meaning of Christmas, that my joy returns and my heart overflows with happiness. Out of the overflow, I’m excited to give, serve, and spread love during the holiday season.

Find rest in Him this Christmas. ❤️

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Warm Mittens

It’s getting colder now, especially at night. This past weekend we unearthed a tote from the depths of our downstairs closet revealing hats and mittens, scarves and coats. Providing protection from the elements is important when living in Canada. Change is on the horizon, and as much as we would like to enjoy the fall weather forever, we know what’s coming…winter.

I’m not a fan of winter. The icy streets, the freezing air, the mountains of snow piled high everywhere – it’s not my favorite season, especially because we can have snow for six months of the year. I dislike having so few hours of sunlight, and having so many days where the sky is not blue but a pale grey. No matter how warm our winter clothes are, I’ll probably never warm up to winter.

As I passed out winter gear, everyone seemed indifferent, except for one. My oldest son grabbed his winter hat and gloves and exclaimed, “I’m so glad to have these back! I missed them!” I will admit, it threw me off beat. Why on earth would anyone miss winter clothes? But then he proceeded to tell me how cold he’d been when walking the therapy dog at school and how his heart was warm but his hands were freezing. He finished with a huge grin and said, “WORTH IT!”

I thought about his comment the rest of the weekend. How many times I been uncomfortable, or going through something, only to happily declare it was worth it in the end? And how could my heart have been warmed and at peace if only I’d trusted and understood the Lord’s protection?

I look up to the mountains – does my help from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth!

He will not let you stumble, the One who watches over you will not slumber. Indeed, He who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps.

The Lord Himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade. The sun will not harm you by day, or the moon at night.

The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.

Psalm 121

I often take the Lord’s protection for granted. I’m the kind of person who lives in the day to day, the here and now. And sometimes, when you’re living life like that it’s hard to see it even as it’s happening. It’s not some big, grand tale of protection.

When I think have an impressive story of protction, I’m reminded of Desmond Doss, a medic in world war two. He was a conscientious objector, and refused to carry a gun. This posed some problems for Doss as he was assigned to an infantry rifle company – no one wanted to fight beside someone who wasn’t carrying a weapon and couldn’t protect them. His fellow soldiers abused and mocked him, and he was even court martialed for failure to obey orders. But Desmond Doss believed strongly in the command from God not to kill, and persevered all obstacles until he and his company were standing on the battlefield in Okinawa. The assignment was to capture and maintain a rock formation they’d termed “Hacksaw Ridge.” Due to poor visability, rough terrain, and a vigilant enemy they were having difficulty. After a small victory, they were shocked by a brutal counter attack and were ordred to retreat back over the edge of the cliff. All able soldiers, excluding Doss, scrambled off that ridge leaving two thirds scattered across the battlefield, wounded and seemingly forgotten. Desmond Doss prayed continually to save “just one more” of his wounded fellow soldiers, sneaking around enemy territory to administer care, under heavy fire and so close he could hear the Japanese whispering to each other. He saved at least 75 people on that day, and all without a weapon to protect himself. A few days later, Doss was wounded and unable to continue, but not before he saved many more. After the war, he was awarded several medals for his efforts. But of his heroism, Desmond says it was nothing – he would risk his own life so another could live because that is what God had asked of him.

The God who protected Desmond Doss from his enemy is the same today. If I look back over my life, I can see His hand of protection in areas where I didn’t even know I needed protection from!

We are walking through a difficult season in our family right now. Every morning of each day, I pray for protection over my husband and my children. I pray Psalm 121 over them and have even hand written these verse for each of them to keep for themselves. When my children are struggling through something, I’m going to stand by their side and do everything I can do to help them. But I need sleep, and I need rest, and I can’t be with them every second of every day. It’s so good to be reminded of a Proector who never leaves our side who doesn’t need to sleep like we do.

When we pray for the Lord’s protection, no weapon formed against us will succeed, and He will silence the voices of our accusers (Isaiah 54:17). When we pray for the Lord’s protection, we don’t need to panic or be fearful because He personally goes ahead of us and doesn’t abandon us (Dueteronomy 31:6). When we pray for the Lord’s protection, He sheilds us and we are safe (Proverbs 30:5). When we pray for the Lord’s protection, the evil one cannot touch us (1 John 5:18).

My son delights in the warmth provided by his winter coat, hat and mittens. He happily puts on each one, knowing full well he will be protected from the cold wind and wintry air outside. Just as warm mittens protect our hands from frostbite, the Lord protects us against the trappings of the world. If we can protect our bodies like this without a second thought, why do we often forget to protect our hearts and our lives when we pray?

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Rest

A few years ago, on a chilly fall morning, I sat at the table with my grandmother sharing a pot of tea. It was quiet in the house, which was abnormal – because wherever we are visiting, we bring the noise. On this particular morning, my husband had taken the boys on a walk through the woods so it was calm. I remember that morning so well. My Grandma reached across the table for my hand and said, “I worry about you. You have such a heavy load. I pray for you all the time.” I smiled and thanked her and we had barely finished our tea when the boys came barelling through the doors with news of their adventures.

It’s exhausting sometimes. Having two autistic children can be challenging enough when I am the one mainly responsible to field the calls and e-mails from the school, to schedule the appointments and therapies, to help strategize and plan everything. It often feels like a full time job! It is, in a way. When you add in my own chronic illness and all the appointments and therapies, and my limited amounts of energy – some days it’s a struggle to do all the things. I understand why my loving grandmother was so concerned, and why she felt the need to pray for me often.

I often think about that morning chat over tea. That visit was the last time I saw my Grandma, she passed away the following spring. A few months after she died, I thought again about her words and knew I would miss her dedicated prayers for me. But God lovingly takes care of His children, and shortly before she died, He placed me into a new family. Where I thought there would be a void, God instead gave me an overflowing abundance of love and support.

Last night we met with our life group. We meet together often, aiming for once a week. We talk to each other about how our weeks are truly going, about our deepest struggles. We laugh until we cry at hilarious things that happen or are said. We worship together with our voices raised to Jesus, our hearts full and overflowing with joy. And we pray for each other. We cry out the the Lord on behalf of our best friends, praying for intercession, praying to be filled with the Spirit, praying for His will to be done. And often, when my friends pray for my husband and I, tears fall down my cheeks in gratefulness to be truly covered in love.

I look around the room and I’m so thankful for the gift of friendship. I am thankful for Pamela’s tender heart and kindness. I am thankful for Tim’s passion for the Holy Spirit. I am thankful for many things about Jody, who is one of my oldest friends, but one thing that stands out is how she powerully prays with authority. I am thankful for Ben’s humbleness and knowledge of the scriptures. I am thankful for the way that Brent makes connections in the Word and in life and for his gift of preaching. I am thankful for my friends Karen and Jill and for the way they mother their children (and wish I could be like them, if I’m honest!) I am thankful for Emma’s wisdom and her heart to serve. I am thankful that my friend Michelle gives healing hugs. I looked around the room at these people who are my family, and I feel incredibly blessed.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25

Friends who are family. Living in our own homes, the with connected hearts. When someone Greaves, we grieve with them. When someone celebrates, we celebrate with them. If there’s an emergency, we rearrange plans so we can help.

Together we have witnessed our brothers and sisters walk through a lot of fire. We have prayed them through many trials. Experienced a lot of heartbreak. And it’s the hard stuff that brings you closer together. It’s the hard stuff that makes the Love shine through. Still, I don’t think a week goes by that we don’t laugh over something. Because while we walk each other through the hard stuff, we also help each other find joy. We encourage and uplift each other. We point each other to Christ.

I still miss my Grandma, and think of her often. But I don’t miss her prayers. I am so covered in love and have felt the powerful prayers of the righteous. Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”(Matthew 11:28-30). My circumstances haven’t changed, and my load is still heavy. But my heart is so incredibly light. And in Him, I find true rest.

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The Jesus Factor

Yesterday was my first day at home with both kids in school for the day. It was quiet and calm, my house was pretty clean, so I decided to do something I don’t usually do. I sat down and watched a scary movie.

First, let me explain the magnitude of this. I’ve never been one to just watch be scary movie and be okay. I have friends and family who love the horror genre, who can stand up as the credits start rolling and go on with their lives. Not me. Oh, not ever me. I think about it. Perseverate on it. Walk in fear afterwards, even for days after. If the film is watched on my house, I feel it. Like a dark, heavy presence lurks in the depths of every corner. Something almost demonic.

Several years ago, when my children were very little, my husband convinced me to watch a scary movie. He likes to watch them occassionally, and because I love my husband we popped some popcorn and watched it. The film was about an evil force using mirrors as a gateway to haunt a family. It was absolutely terrifying. When it was over jt was over and we went to bed, I had a hard time falling asleep. The next morning, my husband took the boys to McDonald’s for breakfast so I could sleep in. I was just waking up when heard small voices and felt little hands placed on my bak shove me from the side of the bed. I opened my eyes and rolled over, expecting to see my three year old son. He wasn’t there. Completely awake, I got out of bed and walked into every room of our apartment. Everything seemed normal, but something was wrong. They weren’t home yet.

I don’t know exactly what that was that morning, all those years ago. I just know these two things: those hands and that shove weren’t something that imagined, and the demonic is absolutely real.

I couldn’t watch horror movies after that. Every few years, my husband would suggest one and I would shoot it down. In the last year or two, we’d discovered I don’t mind slasher movies like Scream and we watched the entire Final Destination series and that was okay too. It was just the paranormal ones that did something that completely terrified me. That was, until a year ago.

Everyone I know was raving about the movie The Bird Box. There were memes all over every social media app. It popped up in my Netflix suggestions and I told my husband we should watch it because everyone else was doing it (I know, I know.) We knew nothing about it, and the Netflix synopsis was extremely vauge. We pressed play and after thirty minutes, I knew I’d made a mistake. But I couldn’t just turn it off. I had to see the whole thing through to the end.

As usual, once the movie was over my husband was fine. But I couldn’t stop perseverating on that creature. Unseen, powerful and completely terrifying. But, something didn’t sit well with me. In the film, the people who see the creature immediately commit suicide. So in a short period of time, whole cities were completely deserted as all the inhabitants died. As I thought about it, I wondered but what about the Christians? Of course Hollywood didn’t factor them in when making a movie. How would a demonic force react when the presence of Jesus in their life flowed out of them? Well, I guess that wouldn’t make a good horror film. But it did do something in me.

Jesus and his companions went to the town of Capernaum. When the Sabbath day came, he went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, for he taught with real authority—quite unlike the teachers of religious law. Suddenly, a man in the synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, “Why are you interfering with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” But Jesus reprimanded him. “Be quiet! Come out of the man,” he ordered. At that, the evil spirit screamed, threw the man into a convulsion, and then came out of him. Amazement gripped the audience, and they began to discuss what had happened. “What sort of new teaching is this?” they asked excitedly. “It has such authority! Even evil spirits obey his orders!” The news about Jesus spread quickly throughout the entire region of Galilee. Mark 1:21-28

Demons, evil spirits and the evil forces in this world know who Jesus is. Not only do they know of Him, they fear Him.

This week a new album came out that my boys couldn’t wait to listen to. (Okay, I’ll admit it – me too!) One of our favourite bands, Rend Collective, put out an album of children’s songs called SPARKLE. POP. RAMPAGE. One of the songs is called Not Afraid, and it features these perfect lyrics:

If you say I’m an overomer

I will overcome the monsters

I may be small but I’m a fighter

Cause you are strong and fear is a liar

I’m not afraid of the dark, the dark is afraid of me

I’m not afraid cause your heart is shining bright in me

Be bold, be strong, be brave, hold on

I’m not afraid anymore, your love glows in the dark

Today I put on heaven’s armour

The sword and shield can not be conquered

I raise a shout cause I’m a warrior

Your battle cry will lead me onward

I know this song is intended for children – but friend, in stopped me in me tracks. I don’t need to be afraid because with Jesus in my heart and with soul fixated on Him, the demons in this world are afraid of me. So yesterday, I sat down with my husband and watched IT! which has lots of creepy and scary moments throughout and I was not afraid. I even laughed at some parts. And last night, when I lay my head down on my pillow, I drifted off to sleep in peace.

I’m not writing this to suggest you take advantage of the next rainy weekend and binge watch a bunch of horror movies. In fact, I hope you don’t. We are accountable for all our time spent and overloading on one thing is probably not good idea when we should be taking captive every thought and making it obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). I’m of the opinion that what we watch, read, listen to and prioritize in our lives vastly affects our attitude and actions. Instead, I’m writing this just to share the freedom I’ve found in knowing Jesus. Even in a small (but not significant) part of my life.

As I was heading to bed last night, my usual thoughts crept up – what if Pennywise tries to prey on my kids while I’m asleep? And then laughter bubbled up as I crawled into bed. No, it would be afraid of them too. We all have the Jesus Factor.