Wednesday, November 25, 2015


There is beauty in a surrendered heart. There is peace when you lay down your burdens and Jesus gives you his yoke. There is joy to be found in letting go of your own agenda and taking up your cross. And there is incredible love waiting for you.

Once you are filled to overflowing with this love, it naturally spills out and multiplies its effects in your life. People who once annoyed you, might still irritate you a little, but you will feel an unnatural tenderness towards them.

In reading about the vine and the branches, I am reminded that "apart from (Jesus) you can do nothing." In remaining in him, and his words remaining in us, we can bear much fruit. In another passage of Scripture, Jesus states "by your fruits you will know them." I want to be like a fresh water spring, like a vine loaded down with luscious fruit.

Too often the fruit in my life does not reflect the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self control. I end up with the rotten fruit of malice, envy, strife, anger, and words that wound rather than heal.

How can we remain in Christ? He gives us such a simple command to love another and he promises he will give us whatever he asks in his name. Why do we turn from love? I think part of the reason for myself is that at a times I don't feel loved or accepted. Jesus does love me and accept me, but instead of accepting his love, I turn to other things to validate me or I convince myself I must earn his love and favour. Then I run out of love and patience for other people.

The good news of the gospel is that everything we need is already paid for. It is a finished transaction! We have eternal life, we have everything we need for life and godliness, we have the ability to abide in Christ's love. We even have the desire to change gift wrapped for us and the strength to do so just waiting for us to open. I think I need to take these presents out of their pretty wrappings and put them to use!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A Family of Fourteen... and counting!

The excitement is building for my sister's January wedding. Today both my Mom and myself went dress shopping and she found a dress she loves, as did I. Christina accompanied us on our shopping trip and we really appreciated her fashion take and help. When I went to pay for my dress I found out the discount went even deeper, and then on top of that I got another 15% off, when my Mom decided to sign up for the Bay credit card. I ended up being seven minutes late for my appointment, but it was definitely worth it. The dress is very unique, so I won't have to worry about any one else wearing the same dress, as happened at my high school prom to three of us.

We will be going to Peterborough a day early, and I am trying to learn to style my own hair nicely before the wedding so I can do it myself. I just got it cut in a more manageable style. Apparently any Shopper's Drug Mart will do your makeup for free, and you can make a donation. I was going to figure out how to properly apply full makeup and buy everything I needed, but you can't really beat free, especially when you consider how infrequently I wear makeup.

Last night I had a wonderful Immanuel session, and I went on a longish walk which was invigorating. This morning we had our last regular Bible study for the season. Next week is our Christmas potluck dinner and celebration service. I have been attending since August, which has been a wonderful upbuilding experience. I think my Wednesday night Bible study has three more meetings and it also has been a real blessing.

Today my clinic sent my back to work letter in to my employer, so I really am going to be able to return to work next week. I am feeling pretty positive about finally returning to work and I should be back to full-time after Christmas sometime.

Christmas with the entire family is coming closer and I am really looking forward to it as well. We haven't had the entire family together in so long, since at Rachel's wedding the two youngest of my oldest sister's children weren't there. It will be a full house. We are going to our relatives to spend Boxing Day with them and then celebrating our family's Christmas the following day. It is already November 24th so that really is just over a month away. Excited to have my brother's lovely girlfriend Camille join us for our Christmas and the wedding. So much to look forward to!
Four of the five sisters over two years ago. Three of my sisters get enviable tans.

My beautiful youngest sister at Dundas Peak.
My sister who is getting married and I two summers ago.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

In the Desert Place

Sometimes it feels like my emotions betray me. I am tired and discouragement starts to seep into my bones. And I start to ruminate and all the reasons why I am hard done by come into my head and fill my thoughts. The "if only," the "why me" questions, the memories of the mistakes made and the things I did that embarrass me now with their sheer stupidity. The things that feel unfair and the battles I have fought. The long road ahead stretching steeply upwards.

At those times I forget Jesus' words of comfort and hope, the promises of my Heavenly Father, the rest and peace I have been granted time after time. I forget He sees me in my weakness and he does not despise me in it. A bruised reed he will not crush and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out, as a good friend reminded me today.

I guess tears can be healing, and sorrows must be acknowledged for losses that have been suffered and hopes that have been disappointed. I can grieve what has been lost, but I can't wallow in it. It is a good for a man or woman to bear the yoke when they are young and to sit in silence and offer their cheek to the one who would strike them, as it says in Lamentations. It goes on to say however "For the Lord will not cast off forever. But though He causes grief, yet He will have compassion according to the abundance of His mercies. For he does not afflict from His heart, nor grieve the sons of men" (Lamentations 3:31-33 Modern English Version). The NIV phrases it "He does not willingly bring affliction or grief to any one" and speaks of God's "unfailing love." 

God's love never does fail, however jumbled my emotions might be on any given day. He is always the same, strong, sure and steadfast in his affections for me. When I go through dark times he is with me through it and he promises to remain with me through all the painful steps and anxiety-inducing stumbles. He is as proud of me as a parent is with their young child just learning to walk. He sees my faltering steps and fumbling efforts, and he says "Well done, my child." Learning to accept his praise for something I feel I should have mastered long ago can be hard, and harder still is stopping my striving and just resting in his love. Still, in this season of transition and change, he is teaching me the art of waiting patiently and just soaking up his love like a thirsty plant.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Beautiful Courage

Ben Harper "How Could We Not Believe"
How Could We Not Believe
(with Ellen Harper)

Was so beautiful how could we not believe
So beautiful how could we not believe
We love
We grieve
Then all seek our reprieve
So beautiful how could we not believe

Was so beautiful we had to stand aside
So beautiful we had to stand aside
We had to stand aside
With our arms open wide
So beautiful we had to stand aside

Was so beautiful we had to close our eyes
So beautiful we had to close our eyes
And listen to the sound
It could be heard miles around
So beautiful we had to close our eyes

So beautiful to be free from my name
So beautiful to be free from my name
To be free from my name
And all those who lay claim
So beautiful to be free from my name

Was so beautiful how could we not believe
So beautiful how could we not believe
How could we not believe
Having lived through times like these
So beautiful how could we not believe
So beautiful how could we not believe
So beautiful how could we not believe

This spring and summer this song, written by Ben Harper, and performed with his mother Ellen Harper, was my anthem of hope. The whole album Childhood Home showed such vulnerability and openness about Harper's journey through mental illness and broken relationships that I was greatly helped by listening to it and encouraged to fight on. Of all the songs on the album "How Could We Not Believe" was my favourite. It reminds me of the beauty of courage and resiliency and the importance of faith and hope. It was so special to have Harper collaborate with his mother who shared in some of his struggles just by being someone he loved. It is so hard for a mother's heart to see her son go through some of the things Ben Harper went through including hospitalizations, broken marriages, and times when it was if Harper was watching himself from the outside doing things he didn't understand in places he never wanted to be. The artistry of both Harpers really shines through this whole album.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Learning to Fly

  • "The Christian way is different: harder and easier. Christ says, "Give me All. I don't want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don't want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked—the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours."'

  • "Both harder and easier than what we are all trying to do. You have noticed, I expect, that Christ Himself sometimes describes the Christian way as very hard, sometimes as very easy. He says, "Take up your Cross"—in other words, it is like going to be beaten to death in a concentration camp. Next minute he says, "My yoke is easy and my burden light." He means both. And one can just see why both are true" (CS Lewis, an excerpt from "Mere Christianity", from Devotional Classics: Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups, edited by Richard J Foster and James Bryan Smith, page 8).

As CS Lewis explains in Mere Christianity, self effort and trying to be good do not work. Our old self has to die and be buried, and we can't keep trying to resurrect the corpse. We need a total surrender and an utter abandonment. The cost of discipleship in some ways is steep, but the cost of non-discipleship is steeper. As Lewis argues, sometimes our spiritual laziness, as we attempt to hold onto our natural selves, means we have more and harder work in the long run. We also have a lack of satisfaction and joy in our lives. The more we try to preserve ourselves and fight for happiness, and the more we try to direct our own lives, the more difficult time we have of it. We either give up our fight to be "good" or we become desperately unhappy people with martyr complexes. We try to make a compromise in our "half-measures" that just doesn't work.

When we come to an end of ourselves, however, and "put on the new self," as the apostle Paul phrases it, we are free to become what Lewis calls "a little Christ" (10), which for him is the ultimate purpose of the church and of the whole of Christianity. This is what we have been created for. We are made to become a gift for the Father, as he puts it, "that present which is Himself and therefore us in Him" (10). It is then we awaken to the light of day and our whole purpose for living.

I love the analogy Lewis uses to illustrate this concept. He says we are like eggs who must turn into birds. It may be difficult to hatch and later to learn how to fly, but it is a lot harder to remain an egg forever. We must either hatch or we will ultimately pass our expiry date and go bad. In the same way, we have to die to our "natural selves" in order to come into the abundant life Christ speaks of.

We must count the cost of discipleship, and then take what seems like a big risk. It requires courage to come to that decision to surrender, but the rewards far outweigh anything we give up in the process. I don't know about you, but I am looking forward to that moment of weightlessness and glorious strength, as I learn to "soar on wings as eagles."
My beautiful sister and her fiancee.

Down by the river on August 25th.

The birthday boy and Mike.

My parents posing in Mike's lovely kitchen.

After wading and before skipping stones.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Perfectionism and Perfect Peace

The more things I have to do in a day, the easier it is to lose my centre. Getting stressed just takes a little bit of necessary hurry and a sense that I am just not getting my to do list done. Part of the stress is my perfectionist tendencies, which I have never been able to turn off completely. That nagging voice in your head, that you didn't do that specific task to satisfaction or that you can no longer complete it perfectly.

My standards for myself and even for others in my life, at times, have always been high. I was that student who simply had to get that A++. It is how I felt good about myself and it how I defined my self worth. This drive to achieve made group projects a nightmare, especially in high school. Can anyone say control freak?

My desire to control others also manifests itself in emotional manipulation, which I am quite good at. I know exactly how to push a family members buttons to get the response I am hoping for. I am trying to reform, and somewhat succeeding at no longer doing this unhelpful and unhealthy habitual behaviour.

I am exploring ways to let go of perfectionism. In my Wellness Recovery Action Plan group, they are encouraging me to learn to relax and realize no one is perfect and that goals have to realistic and achievable. In some ways high standards push me to succeed, but at what cost?

It costs me my peace, my sense of well being, and my joy. It creates anxiety and breeds discontent and ingratitude. It also makes me difficult to live with, especially if I am being extremely stubborn and obtuse. My Mom used the Dutch word "dwarse" to describe me sometimes. I think the English equivalent is "muleheaded."

I need to rethink what constitutes success. Maybe it is not completing tasks perfectly and perfectly on time. Maybe it is treating people as you would want to be treated, even if the dinner doesn't turn out or there is not the ingredients available for the recipe you want to make. Relationships are more important and lasting than a dinner, which in a week from now, no one will even recall. 

I also need to handle constructive criticism a little better. It shouldn't be viewed as an attack on me personally, but as an opportunity to grow and learn. The thing is I can articulate what I need to change, but it is so hard to be a recovering perfectionist. Still, recognizing change is necessary is step one in the reformation process. The other steps take a little bit more work, sadly.

Monday, November 16, 2015

This Season's Sunshine

After a great weekend of relaxation and refreshment, I am ready to take on a new week. This gorgeous weather we have been having has already called me out of doors to enjoy the late autumn beauties and warm sunshine. On days like today, it feels good to be alive and it is easy to be thankful and sanguine.

It is on dreary fall days, peppered with disappointing news and perplexing challenges, that it is not easy to be so upbeat. Focusing on the future, instead of living in the now, is a recipe for anxiety and worry. I am learning not to live there, but to stay in the moment, and realize the blessings and treasures all around.

Let's face it, I am one of the wealthy people in the world. Not only do I have a home to live in and a car of my own, stylish and not-so-stylish clothes to wear, plenty of good and nourishing food to eat, a family who loves me, access to good medical care, and even my own room and private space, I also have a God I have come to know more intimately who is walking beside me each day. I also have been able to have a solid education at both the university and college level and have opportunities to continue my education at my own pace and choosing. So I am richer materially than most of the world and spiritually than many people.

I have a glorious inheritance, and am blessed so richly I can't even begin to name all the ways that God has met my needs and also my desires. I am learning to delight in him and allow him to carry all my unresolved issues until such a time as we can deal with them together. He is faithful and He will do it!

Though I miss the satisfaction and renumeration of working as a nurse, I am going to make the most of this time I have been given. I will draw deeply from the well of living water and delve into God's Word. I will find ways to help others and stretch out my compassion muscles again. I will seek God's wisdom and guidance for this new season. For every season brings with it a special grace and a renewed purpose. I have so much to look forward to as this time in my life unfolds, but I can only take it one day and moment at a time. So here's to a November to remember and an autumn of discovery!
My youngest nephew on our hike in beautiful Alberta

My oldest nephew enjoyed exploring.

The upward climb in the foothills of the majestic Rockies.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Weapons of War

Gratitude is an art I am trying to learn. Disappointments and setbacks, such as occurred yesterday, when I discovered my return to work would have to be delayed yet again, happen frequently. Life isn't always easy, but finding the positives in any situation helps.

Thankfulness and praise are both actually weapons of spiritual warfare. They bring us near to God, our Father, and then he often fights our battles for us. On more than one occasion, the Israelites marched into battle with singers who were praising the name of the one, true God. There were some pretty miraculous victories in the Bible, when they were vastly outnumbered with more primitive weaponry and they still defeated their enemies. Sometimes God intervened so they didn't even have to fight at all. This happened at the Red Sea and again when Hezekiah was King, as well as on other occasions.

Our battles today are different. We are not fighting physical enemies, as our battle is not against flesh and blood, but we are fighting against the spiritual enemies of our souls. Sometimes we battle our own flesh when we are faced with a tempting situation. At other times we are fighting demonic powers who are determined to undermine our faith and trust in God. We may unfortunately at times have people who are our enemies as well, but Jesus makes it clear we are to love them and pray for them. Prayer is another weapon against evil.

When we put on the armour of God, we must not forget the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. The breastplate of righteousness, helmet of salvation, shoes fitted with readiness that comes from the gospel of peace, shield of faith, and belt of truth are all defensive weapons. But the Sword of the Spirit is an offensive weapon and with it we can fight against injustice, unrighteousness, poverty, and division amongst God's people and the world. That is, if we are doers of the Word, and not hearers only, and we have built our lives on the solid foundation of obedience to Christ's commands.

Other items we cannot forget to put on are the robe of righteousness and the clothes of love. My personal favourite is the cap of peace, although I cannot find a scriptural reference for that. The thoughts we entertain in our minds are so crucial to our mental health and spiritual well-being, so I think of that cap as my filter for the negative thoughts and worries that often bombard me as well as the messages I receive from the media and entertainment industry.
Me at my baptism as a believer quite a few years ago.

Gratitude, prayerfulness, watchfulness, and readiness for trials, sufferings, and battles, are all things that can be developed over time as we mature in the faith. Healthy habits with our minds, bodies, spirits, and souls will gradually change us into people who are more like Christ, if that is what we are truly seeking. When we are more Christlike, we also will be more uniquely ourselves. We are created to be God's masterpiece and though the picture has been marred, the beauty is still there!

Grateful for my family! This is a picture from my birthday celebration this year.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Unpoetic Life

The colored sunsets and starry heavens, the beautiful mountains and the shining seas, the fragrant woods and painted flowers, are not half so beautiful as a soul that is serving Jesus out of love, in the wear and tear of common, unpoetic life.

The most saintly spirits are often existing in those who have never distinguished themselves as authors, or left any memorial of themselves to be the theme of the world's talk; but who have led an interior angelic life, having borne their sweet blossoms unseen like the young lily in a sequestered vale on the bank of a limpid stream.
--Kenelm Digby

Sometimes in the midst of all your striving, you hear Jesus' gentle words, "Come to me all you who are weary and heavy-burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

When you think you have so much to do, some of it even in service for God, Jesus' reminder breaks through all of that busy-work. What does that rest actually look like? What does it mean to accept the peace and rest he offers? How can you find it in the middle of the chaos of your life and your daily to-do list that always seems to have items outstanding?

Let's face it, our lives are fairly prosaic most of the time. There are certain daily tasks we have to do: there are our daily responsibilities for the household we are a part of, there are the things we want to do, there are our leisure time activities, there are things others ask us to do, there is our work, daily exercise, and the unexpected things that crop up. Sometimes we may feel pulled in so many directions. We need to invite Jesus into all this daily living and ask him what he would have us do. We may be surprised by his answer.

When he told Martha, "Only one thing is needed," as she was rushing around preparing him and his disciples a suitable feast, he added that Mary had chosen "the better part." Mary was just sitting at his feet listening, in defiance of the custom of the day. Maybe we need to think about what, maybe more accurately, who that one thing is.

I realize I can get so caught up in doing, I forget to pause before I jump into my day, and bring daily list of things I want to accomplish before him. I fail to ask him and the Holy Spirit throughout my day for direction and guidance. I view interruptions as inconveniences to my own agenda. Lacking insight and wisdom, I check things off as I complete them, but wonder why I feel empty inside.

If I am not acting out of love, all that I managed to do, in the eyes of eternity, is like so much hay and stubble. I need to be connected to the vine to bear fruit that will last. We need to act, yes, but we also need our marching orders from the Captain of our souls!

Friday, November 06, 2015

My Grandest Obsession

I am one for grand obsessions. The all or nothing, black and white thinking, the do or die. I sometimes am guilty of fighting on the wrong hills, and perishing in a cloud of gun powder and smoke.

This blog became my obsession. I enjoy writing my thoughts and I did. every. single. day. I didn't consider it a proper morning until I had posted. While writing proved therapeutic, checking my blog constantly for how many people were tuning in wasn't. And in the end, it became another addiction to add to my list.

What can I say? I must have an addictive personality. I have quit Facebook and, though I tweeted for awhile and still have Twitter followers being added, rather inexplicably to my mind, I am not longer tweeting either. I just opened an Instagram account, to fill the void left by Facebook and have been on Pinterest a lot lately.

But when your social media persona starts to take over your waking life, you know it is time to restore some healthy balance. And life will get busy again; once I start working so posting every day will become impractical.

God has been dealing with me in the area of selfishness, pride, and navel gazing. So in the future I will be blogging less and prayer journaling more. I will be checking on my blog less and writing more cards to friends. Email checks will become less frequent and I will spend less time on my phone.

Balance is key to a healthy life. And face time with friends is more important than any online relationship. Also exercise and healthy eating are essential. So I will take more walks, call up more friends, go to the gym when I have time available, and try to have a better grand obsession... namely pursuing God's purposes passionately, spending time in prayer instead of just writing about it, and sitting at the feet of the Master.