Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Top Ten Blessings of 2015

Although 2015 has been a tough year, I think as the year draws to close, it would be good to focus on the blessings and joys. So here are the top ten highlights of the year.

1. My two jobs as a home care nurse and foot care nurse gave me meaningful work and satisfaction. Although I haven't been working full-time since April and I decided not to continue with the foot care position in November, it was a blessing to have work, and I grew in confidence through these positions. I am hoping to get back in to the swing of things this winter and work my way back up to full-time work.
2. The church I attend has been a source of encouragement and love. The people there have prayed for me and showed caring in countless ways.
3. Immanuel prayer has been a major blessing, especially during these last months of illness and recovery. My pastor met with me many times this spring, summer, and fall and helped me heal and grow. There have been others who have coached and mentored me as well.
4. My family has given me such support and love throughout this time. My parents have prayed for me and been there for me. My siblings have shown caring and shared fun times together.
5. My friends have been so supportive, loving and encouraging. I have enjoyed hanging out with them and they have understood when I haven't been myself. They are truly a blessing in my life.
6. The Bible study I attended starting this past August at People's church has been a source of encouragement, support and edification. The ladies there have been beautiful examples of Christ's love in action and sharing times of worship together has been wonderful. The study on Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World has also challenged me and helped me grow. Winning the door prize the first night was pretty sweet.
7. The clinic I attend has been amazingly supportive and beneficial to my recovery. My doctor is one of the best and my nurse is also very good. The social worker and others at the clinic have also helped me immensely.
8. This summer and fall there were many trips and fun times. Spending time with Aunt Marnie on a road trip, celebrating my brother's birthday with him, enjoying time at a cottage near Peterborough, visiting family in Montreal and Ottawa, and visiting my older sister and her family at Cochrane, Alberta have all been delightful. I also enjoyed volunteering for a few weeks for a local candidate this election.
9. The blessing that my future brother-in-law has been to me, my sister and our whole family is an answer to prayer. He has helped her make tough choices and supported her through them. His love for her is very evident and I look forward to celebrating their wedding with them on January 2nd. It has been wonderful to have the whole family together this Christmas.
10. The faithfulness of God and his unconditional love have been very present in the past year. He has given me hope and strength to face tough stuff. He has protected and guided me, and brought me healing and restoration.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Joy

"Behold I bring you tidings of great joy, which will be for all the people. For today in the city of David is born to you a Saviour who is Christ the Lord." So the angels spoke to the shepherds at the birth of Jesus. As I celebrate Christmas, with all its trappings of gifts, large quantities of food, and family togetherness, I want to pause and reflect on the birth of my Saviour and Lord, the Word who was made flesh and came to dwell among us. This birth of the Son of God was a humble one, but it brought to our world peace and joy. Jesus was truly was love come down to live among us, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

That the God of the universe would humble Himself to take human form, that the Christ would become a servant of those who would later reject and scorn him, that He would empty himself so that we might be filled, that he would come to earth with the purpose of offering Himself as our perfect Passover Lamb, that is the wonder of Christmas. Let His love be born in our hearts today and let His peace saturate our spirits.

May we never forget that the babe who was born and announced by the angels to the shepherds is the same King now seated at the right hand of God. He is our Great High Priest, interceding for us. He is the Good Shepherd who lay down his life for the sheep. He is the Firstborn of all Creation and the Bright and Morning Star. He brings us light and life, salvation and deliverance, freedom and the Father's love.

This Christmas may we be filled with inexpressible joy and experience the wonder and amazement that Mary and Joseph and the shepherds felt so many years ago. May we marvel at this extraordinary gift that came in such an ordinary form.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Ideal Match

I don't know if I believe there is just one soul-mate for every one, but some people just seem ideally suited for each other. I know relationships are a lot of work, but some couples make it look more like a delightful task than an onerous duty.

If I look at my parents, who have been married almost forty years, they just seem right for each other. They complement each other and treat one another with both respect and a deep love. My older sister and her husband, who got married fifteen years ago when they were in their early twenties, are a model of devotion and consideration four kids later. While they have gone through difficult seasons, they have weathered them and emerged stronger and more united. My second youngest sister has been married a year and a half to her husband and their marriage is an equal partnership where each one considers the needs of the other and respects the other's differences.

As for my sister who is getting married this January, I can see signs of mutual respect and love between her and her fiancee. They seem to click and complement each other in a beautiful way. They have built their relationship solidly on a foundation of love for God and caring for each other. 

I guess couples can grow together or grow apart. And when it is about how to serve the other person, rather than how the person can serve you, that's when relationships work.

As a single person, I don't think marriage is the answer to my life's fulfilment, but I aspire to a relationship such as my parents have. I want that partnership where we can work together for a common goal and vision. I desire that closeness and that deep affection. I want to believe that at the right time, it will happen. I have had to learn the hard way that just because you desperately want a relationship to work, doesn't mean it will. In the end, marriage is a gift, but singleness is also a gift and a season of freedom where you are not tied down by the needs of a partner or of children. It is a choice to enjoy the season you are in, and trust that God knows what is best for your life.

My parents at a Blue Jay game this past July 1st.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Devotional Junkie

Somehow things have gotten out of balance with my devotional life. It started with signing up for daily meditations to be emailed each day to my inbox. I now have five to eight each day plus three to five chapters of Bible readings sent to my email. Then I also signed up for a daily Bible reading plan from one of the apps on my phone. I already read Jesus Calling, My Utmost For His Highest every day and sometimes Jesus Lives and Jesus Today. Every week I read from Devotional Classics and another devotional called Ancient Christian Devotional. Depending on the day or week there might be more devotionals I dip into. Basically I am deluged with devotional readings.

With so many readings each day and week, my prayer life is somewhat limited and I can't internalize so many truths at once. I am left feeling spiritually dry and dissatisfied at the end of the day, as I realize despite everything I have read I haven't really connected to God or spent any time thinking about applying the truths I have read about. 

This week I was reading an excerpt from St John of the Cross and realized some of the seven capital sins he discusses may in actuality be part of my life. They are secret pride, spiritual greed, spiritual luxury, spiritual wrath, spiritual gluttony, spiritual envy, and spiritual sloth. It was quite eye-opening to see how things you may view as virtues, like diligence in devotional readings, when out of balance or done for the wrong reasons, can actually become a vice, or that you can actually be too spiritual, prideful in your own pious acts, or overly greedy for spiritual consolation, addicted to the feelings that more and more reading and religious activities give you. Maybe in all this activity, I am actually pleasing my own self and not walking in true obedience to God. Perhaps he wants me to humble myself, exercise simplicity and moderation, be content, at peace with him and where he has placed me, filled with joy instead of envy, strong in the power of his might rather than relying on my own strength.

I know something has to change so that I spend less time reading and more time praying, less time seeking consolation and more time seeking and enjoying God, less energy keeping up with what I think I have to do and more energy seeking God's will for my life. There is something to be said for moderation in all things and although Christ has already spoken to me about this lack of balance, I have not acted on it and decided how to scale back and simplify my routine. I think I seriously need to consider how best to spend time with God in a way that I hear from him, actually apply what I have heard, and simply soak up his love and grace and peace. I need to be devoted to God without being a devotional junkie.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Addicted to the Written Word

One of my favourite movies which I have seen countless times is "Ever After" in which there is a library scene in which Danielle, the Cinderella character, pronounces herself "addicted to the written word." One of the reasons I chose to be an English major is my love for reading and writing, although I have never read dense philosophical works such as "Utopia," which is Danielle's favourite book. There is something about holding a book in your hand or looking with proprietary pride at the collection of books in their own particular order on your shelf. I have loved books from a young age when my Mom would read to us books such as Dr. Seuss or Henry's Awful Mistake. My older sister belonged to a book club that would send her books in the mail. My Mom read us E.B. White and CS Lewis, Madeleine L'Engle, and JRR Tolkien. To this day, I can't read Lord of the Rings without hearing every song in her less than melodious voice.

I don't think I could get used to a world without books. I hoard paper and have almost all my papers from university still and some from college. I even have a couple of projects from high school I have kept all these years. Lately I have more books to read than I have the concentration and focus to delve into.

I am a long time fan of fiction, especially historical fiction or classics both English and translations from world literature. But now I also enjoy non-fiction such as memoirs and inspirational stories, histories, and devotional works. 

I have kept many books I had in university although in the interest of space I have had to let go of some of them. This fall I was able to pass along some of my nursing texts to someone who was taking the same program, freeing up room on my shelf. This summer I got an Ikea shelf at a garage sale which attaches to the wall and holds my journal and cookbook collection as well as reference books and miscellaneous other books I have acquired over the years. As an English major I would spend Christmas break and summer breaks reading my book list. One of my professors counselled us to read every book twice, because there were things that only became clear in the second reading. I admit I never managed to follow this advice.

Saying goodbye to a book, even if I know I will never desire to read it again is a traumatic event. Books are like old friends. I still remember with fondness my maternal grandparents' book collection and how they would take us to the used book store every spring. My grandpa would allow each grandchild to select five books and that's where I got my copy of Gone With the Wind and Little Women. When my grandparents passed away I didn't take as many of their books as I would have liked to have in my possession. My Mom continues the family tradition by getting us discount books each Christmas. 

My favourite book in the world is the Bible which I have loved ever since I excelled at answering questions in the back of our Bible story book at age five. I still remember my kindergarten teacher telling us Bible stories in her own words while we sat together on the carpet. As I child I used to correct Sunday school and Bible teachers when they got a fact slightly wrong.  I have a number of study Bibles and several different versions. I even have a Greek New Testament. I love the stories, tracing the history of redemption, and the cadences of the language particularly in the New International Version. There is something about reading the Psalms, or a chapter from Job or Ecclesiastes, or a particularly beautiful passage in the prophets that is a special experience that you can't find in any other book. The New Testament is full of both stories about Jesus and the early church and the teachings of Jesus and the apostles that contain truths I want to internalise. Also the fact that the Bible is God's word by human authorship adds value beyond good literature. From my years of hearing the Bible read there are quite a few passages I know by heart. It is one thing to know the Scriptures though and quite another to live them. It is sometimes a long distance from the head to the heart, and then there is putting into practice what you have learnt.

I have a dream of writing a book myself some day. I would want it to be a wise book and something that could help other people. I have read and now own a book on the healing power of writing your story which also has writing exercises in it, so maybe I will start to do a little bit at a time. Even if I never got it published I think it would be a worthwhile project that would help me on my healing journey.

Fair Weather Report

I have been enjoying a couple of days with a friend who came to visit from Toronto. While she was here I got the call that I will have three training shifts this week, so I am pretty excited about that and a little nervous as well. Today I will drive my friend to her parent's place in Brantford where she will be visiting for the holidays and then Wednesday it is back to work!

After so many months being off work, it will be a good feeling to be a nurse again and help my clients with their health concerns and daily routines. I hope I will get into a healthy rhythm of work, rest, leisure, study, exercise, and devotional time. I have had the luxury of so much time to myself which I could fill with long walks, Bible studies, times of prayer, and lots of blogging. Now I will have to budget my time a little more and prioritize the things I want to do.

This has been a very strange December weather-wise. Instead of snow we have got rain and fairly unseasonable temperatures. I don't think we will have any snow this Christmas, but I am really looking forward to the whole family being together. Tomorrow we are decorating the tree we cut last week and my sister from Montreal will be here. 

I am feeling very blessed and have a lot to look forward to in the next few weeks. I better get going though as my friend had been napping and now is awake. It doesn't do to ignore your company!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Winding Road

When this year began, I didn't envision I'd be where I am now. I didn't think I'd have such a struggle to return to a sense of normalcy or that I'd be away from nursing for so long. This month I will be scheduled for some training shifts to ease back into the working world. 

The more distance I have from the events of this spring and summer, the more I realize how very ill I was, and how removed from reality my thoughts really were. Every once in awhile a memory of that time returns for me, and I wince to recall something I said or did or believed. 

It has been a long road back and I am still in recovery even now that my medication fiasco is mostly straightened out. I am feeling like I am back to a Suzanne I recognize, even though these experiences have altered me in so many ways.

Accepting I have lost some things in the process and grieving those losses is important. Knowing that I have a God who heals me and is with me through it all, comforts me and assures me that I am safe in his hands. Such brokenness and pain is something my Saviour understands and he died to heal those wounds.

I am thankful for all those who have lifted me up in prayer, or just been a friend through these months of illness and incremental recovery. I have been blessed with many true friends and mentors. The time my pastor took to counsel me through Immanuel prayer has been instrumental to my emotional and spiritual healing. I have worked through anger, bitterness, and grief and let go of fear, perfectionism, and striving. While sometimes I still ask why or consider what ifs about my future, I have been given a sense of peace and hope and expectancy. I don't know what the future holds for me, but I do know God will work everything for my good, even the hard stuff I never wanted to face.

While I don't understand this winding road I have travelled, I do know I have had a faithful friend who has journeyed with me every step of the way. He is someone I can trust and rely upon.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

The Red Letters

Sometimes I want to take offense at Jesus' words when I read them in the gospels. They seem to demand all, and maybe I only want to give some. His words shake me out of spiritual complacency and the comfortable status quo of my life.

"Take up your cross and follow me... Lose your life for my sake, to find life." It is there in Matthew 16 in red letters and the words present a challenge. I shrink back from what it will mean in the practicalities of my day to day life. What will I have to give up; what will I be required to do that will mean denying myself and my own desires?

Jesus doesn't just want a piece of my heart, and the part of my life I am willing to surrender. He doesn't just want a part of my mind, a section of my soul, and a portion of my strength given to his service. He wants all and not just at the times that are convenient for me to offer it. 

In his comprehensive demands, Jesus wants me to count the cost of being his disciple. I sometimes wonder how I would hold up under persecution or whether I would have followed Jesus, if I lived in his day, or would I have taken offense at one or another of his sayings. In this country, I am free to be as devoted to Christ as I want, but so many around the world are persecuted for their faith.

The rewards of discipleship actually far outweigh the cost: salvation, deliverance from past futile patterns of thinking, peace, joy, rest, forgiveness, unconditional love, and eternal life. But making Jesus Lord of your life means yielding to him in your daily decisions and renewing your mind on an ongoing basis. The process can get a little messy and decidedly uncomfortable. 

I want to be the master of my own destiny, the captain of my own soul. Jesus offers an alternative way where I make him the Master and then have him gradually remodel my life to make it according to his design. Since he is an expert craftsman, his work will make something beautiful out of what seemed marred and ugly. I need to trust him with all the broken pieces and believe that he holds the keys to a life that may not be comfortable, but will be rewarding and ultimately life-giving.

Mike and Linda canoeing out on the lake near our rental cottage this summer.

This canoe was barely sea-worthy, but the view out to the lake was lovely. 

I don't recall what was so funny.

Friday, December 04, 2015

The Glad Game

In the past I have claimed to be a realist, but really that was a code name for a deep-seated pessimism. Of late, I have been growing in the area of seeing my circumstances in a positive light. In the hospital this past spring, they taught us mindfulness and that practice of thought focuses on the five senses and involves observing a thought that comes to you, and if it is negative simply letting it go. There are various principles to this meditation practice, but in essence you are paying attention to the simple joys in life and letting go of some of your uglier judgements about yourself and other people. Mindfulness practice is excellent for those struggling with depression or anxiety, and I found in it a way to calm my racing thoughts and focus on the now.

There is a conflict between my desire for a realistic appraisal of my situation and my search for true joy. The kind of joy that is always bubbling under the surface of life and spilling over into words and acts of gratitude. Joy that is not based on circumstances or the prevailing mood of the day or the fickleness of emotions. Joy that runs so deep it is not swayed by hormonal fluctuations or bad news or disappointments and daily struggles.

So many occasions in the Bible we are commanded to rejoice, even in the face of persecutions and suffering. Paul found contentment and true joy, even when in prison or undergoing persecution and hardships. In one of my favourite passages on the vine and the branches in John 15, Jesus says as we remain in his love and keep his commands to love each other, we will experience abiding joy. He states "I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete" (John 15:11, NIV). Peter writes about rejoicing in the believers' "new birth into a living hope" and into the inheritance kept in heaven for us, even in the midst of trials that prove the genuineness of our faith. He speaks of "an inexpressible and glorious joy" in salvation (1 Peter 1:3-9). This joy in being redeemed and delivered is clearly a fulfilment of a prophecy in Isaiah about a time coming when, "With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation" (Isaiah 12:3, NIV).

One of my mother's favourite movies is Pollyanna, and she often exhibits a similar sunny optimism. At times I find that so aggravating, I retreat to a gloomy Eeyore-like state that is probably of much greater annoyance to everyone around me. I focus on what I cannot do, instead of the world of possibilities of what I could accomplish if I simply tried. Playing "the Glad Game" may not be a such bad idea, when dissatisfaction builds, discouragement sets in, and the violins start playing for my pity party for one.

How do I rejoice in my current situation? One of the keys must be found in love and service for others. The others might be unearthed by abiding in Christ and praising God for who He is and what he has already accomplished in my life, namely salvation, redemption, deep healing, and forgiveness. There have been so many answers to prayer, so many instances of his faithfulness. The thing about his many promises, is that they never fail, and his love doesn't either.
My parents in Montreal this fall.

My parents and myself

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Of Magnets and Mysteries

This morning I spent time with a lovely group of ladies from Flamborough Christian Fellowship in a Bible study. We are learning all about ourselves as new creatures in Christ and as people who are called to be saints. I haven't yet returned to work, and the slowness of the process was discouraging and frustrating me. However the email I sent this morning received a reply and there was a request for information on my availability and skill set, so things are finally getting moving!

Yesterday when I was extremely upset with my current situation of still not being back at work, I went for a walk and talked to God about this frustration and my impatience. He reminded me of how long the people of God waited for a Saviour. Advent is a season of waiting. We remember how the people of the old covenant waited for a Messiah for thousands of years, and we ourselves wait for the Lord's second coming.

Our timing is not God's timing. It is said that the Lord is rarely early, but he is always on time! When I think of the gift of a Saviour and the gift of salvation and eternal life that resulted from him becoming flesh and dwelling among us, I am in awe of such grace and favour. As we learnt today from the teachings of Graham Cooke, through Christ we have died to our old natures, and our identities have completely changed. I am now a daughter of God and a joint-heir with Christ. Everything he had and walked in while he was on this earth, is available to me as a gift. He himself lives in me, and I also have the gift of the Holy Spirit whom he sent. I have been given the gift of righteousness and God's commands are an invitation to walk in newness of life, not an avenue of condemnation.

If I allow that truth to really sink in, my thinking, my behaviour, and my motivations will be totally transformed. We are all God's brilliant creations, and we are called to display the goodness of God in our lives. Graham Cooke states all heaven is attracted to Christ's life in us. We are like magnets of his love and grace, drawing others to the Lord to receive what we have received from God. We are called to be givers and in giving we receive. There is so much in this teaching to grow up into!

The way of salvation and redemption is the type of mystery that draws you in deeper and deeper into the mind and ways of God, which are beyond human comprehension. It is amazing how everything fits together and comes together in Christ!

Rachel and Joel checking out the menu at the restaurant they took us to this fall.
If this is my self-indulgent drink, you should have seen my dessert crape!

Biking in Ottawa this fall with John (not in this photo) and Camille.

Rachel and Joel in charming Montreal.

Monday, November 30, 2015

A Faithful Instructor

Today is the day I am officially permitted to return to work, and once again I am in waiting mode. I have to do a skills assessment before I am put back into the rotation and this has yet to be scheduled. It has been so very long since I have worked as a nurse and I definitely miss it.

Having all this open time has been a blessing mainly. I have managed to go for walks almost every day throughout the fall, although not lately since I have some kind of foot injury. It is always good to get out and see the autumn beauties and I often make it a prayer walk. I have also gone to the free of cost gym at the hospital several times for strength training and cardio. As previously mentioned, I have also done a Tuesday morning Bible study and Wednesday evening Bible study. With lots of time for personal prayer and Bible reading, I have been blessed to spend as long as I want with my personal devotional time. I have also attended Wellness Recovery Action Plan group every Wednesday starting this October. We have our last meeting this week.

Once I go back to work I will have to find a new rhythm in life; one that balances work, play, study, exercise, time with friends, and daily devotions. I will have to prioritize and strategize. It will be good to feel productive again and help my clients with their health struggles, rather than being focused on my own. So often what you do is, rightly or wrongly, tied to your identity and self-worth. I have certain status as a nurse that I don't have as a mental health patient. I am not my illness, and I have to remind myself of that truth, but so often I feel defined and constrained by it.

When I first was hospitalized and acutely ill back in April, I expected to be back to work at least by the summer. And now it is nearly December. So much has happened in the interim that I have changed and grown into a different version of myself. I don't handle stress in the same way. I have grown stronger in my faith. I have learnt from a long distance relationship that didn't work out in the way I naively hoped. I am learning to let go of the regrets of the past and move forward one step at a time. Living in the moment, squarely facing difficulties and challenges with God's help, valuing friendships near and far, relying on the Holy Spirit.... these are all lessons I am being taught by a very patient instructor. I have been richly blessed with so many encouragers on the road to wellness and recovery and I often thank God for all the support I have been given by the body of Christ, my pastor, the clinic I attend and my excellent doctor and nurse, and my friends and family. So many do not have the resources I have been blessed with.

On a walk in Cochrane, Alberta this October.

My younger sister and I during my birthday celebration this year.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Amazing Exchange

  • "Nondiscipleship costs abiding peace, a life penetrated throughout by love, faith that sees everything in the light of God's overriding governance for good, hopefulness that stands firm in the most discouraging of circumstances, power to do what is right and withstand the forces of evil. In short, it costs exactly the abundance of life Jesus said he came to bring (John 10:10). The cross-shaped yoke of Christ is after all an instrument of liberation and power to those who live in it with him and learn the meekness and lowliness of heart that brings rest to to the soul.... The correct perspective is to see following Christ not only as the necessity it is, but as the fulfillment of the highest human possibilities and as life on the highest plane." Dallas Willard
Dallas Willard's words set down very clearly the cost of nondiscipleship. As believers in Christ our highest goal should be to become like Christ. Considering that he is the most remarkable person to have ever walked this earth, that is a formidable challenge. His teachings, as recorded by the gospel writers, contain some of the most challenging precepts ever to be written down. His parables still tantalise with hidden meaning and significance today. The Sermon on the Mount lays down a way of living that is completely contrary to human instinct and even common sense. To turn the other cheek, to go the extra mile, to not resist an evil person... that's challenging enough. But how about not even saying "You fool!" when you are exasperated by someone's utter stupidity? How about avoiding all thoughts of lust?

The promises of blessing in the Beatitudes for attitudes that are completely unnatural to the average human life in this fallen world, show the way to an ethic of love we will never quite master. But Jesus' perfect life, sacrificial death, and resurrection open the way for us to have peace with God, salvation, and make possible an ongoing process of sanctification by the working of the Holy Spirit who Jesus sent to comfort and direct us. By this remarkable process, this becoming disciples of the Master and Lord, we gradually learn to put into practice this ethic of love. We are filled with the Father's love and we are blessed with abundant life. We become a channel of this life, peace, love, and joy to others. It is a mystery how this exchange of Jesus' righteousness for our own sin, his healing for our brokenness, and his peace for our chaotic emotions takes place, but this mystery of redemption is made possible through his blood shed for us.

We are made into completely new creatures. Our desires change and our motivations change, and we scarcely know how. We still mess up on a regular basis, but we are moving in a new direction on a journey to a destination that is clearly spelled out on the pages of Scripture: a new heaven and a new earth where we will finally look on the face of our Saviour and we will finally have a complete likeness to him in every respect. In losing our life, we truly find it! The cost of nondiscipleship is to miss out on this amazing exchange and forfeit our place in God's kingdom. However, Jesus did not come to condemn the world, but to save it, and it is for each person to decide whether to accept his offer of life. In the choice of life or death, blessings or curses, I choose life!

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.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

My Trip out West

My niece Julie and I during our Saturday hike.

Karen with Charity. "Do self" was her favourite phrase.

A beautiful cascade of water and a less than perfect photo.

Ethan enjoyed this police car at a mall in Calgary
Imagine living out here in the foothills!

I went out on a hike one day towards the mountains! Never made it there.

Julie posing near a culvert.

Ethan is very adventurous!

Here are a sampling of pictures from my time out West. I wish I had got some photos of Clint doing his studying, as he was working on three papers during my time there, plus attending tutoring, holding down two part-time jobs, and volunteering his time at a church plant. It was wonderful to see Karen and Clint in their relationship to each other and their parenting! I was so impressed by how they handled their many responsibilities with grace and love. I also enjoyed the church they belong to and was inspired to read the entire book they were studying after their Sunday morning Bible study. I would definitely read it again. It is called The Wild Goose and I highly recommend it. I wished I could have spent more time at the library, because there were so many books there I would love to study. Not sure if I could ever study for the time required to become a professor or even to get my Masters, but parts of it would be fun. Maybe I will pursue it more as an engrossing hobby than a career for now.

Staying at the Guest House was great for getting away from all the noise and bustle of a household of six including a two year old, four year old, and two school age children. Owen has matured into a thoughtful boy who is an excellent artist and enjoys playing outdoors. Julie is a delight with such enthusiasm for life, friends, school, and arts and crafts. Ethan is a rambunctious kid who is basically fearless and so affectionate to his Aunt Suzanne. He is also a sensitive child who responds readily to discipline. He enjoyed many shoulder rides and exhausted me with his energy. Charity is so sweet and a little bossy... she tries to keep up with the others and does many things independently at her own insistence.

Karen has a job cleaning houses and also manages her household and children, with assistance from Clint while also troubleshooting and doing computer and editing work for Clint's many papers and assignments. She does not have a dishwasher and so spends much time cleaning up in the kitchen. I was able to cook one meal for her and relieve her of some of her dishes duties. We watched a great movie together Friday night, that was wholesome and funny. It was a faith-based movie, but the production values were excellent. We also enjoyed some time at a shopping mall in Calgary Karen had never been to shortly after I arrived. I bought a couple things at Ricki's and finally have high rise casual pants, which I consider a triumph. The sweater I got is less practical, but in a beautiful colour.

The beautiful surroundings and the time with family made it a perfect get-away. Five days was long enough to get a sense of their life in Alberta, but short enough to hopefully not wear out my welcome. I look forward to sharing Christmas and Linda's wedding with them in December and January. It was lovely getting reacquainted with the Langelaar family!

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

My Spiritual Journey

This is a piece I wrote for Writer's Craft about my spiritual journey, as far it had progressed at age seventeen. The twists and turns since then have been innumerable. All along there have been peaks and valleys, but no valleys lower than my first profound depression. Dark nights of the soul come to many in life. Emerging from them, you begin to see hope shining out of the darkness and emptiness. Times of spiritual barrenness also come along the way. Then too are times when God seems silent, and heaven seems to be closed to your prayers and entreaties. The trick is to remember in the darkness what you learnt in the light, and always to remember the incredible love of the Saviour. The heart issues can only be handled by One who knows us completely and understands our pain and struggles intimately. Learning to forgive yourself and others is a process, as is grieving what was lost along the way.

In the spiritual journeys of Christians, some are reaching the home stretch and others toddle along near the starting gate. But all have farther to go. My spiritual journey includes a few dark and rough spots through the valley of the shadow.

When I was a child, I had a strong faith in Jesus. I believed in God and Jesus because that's what my parents taught me, since I was really little. It's what I learnt in Sunday school and and school, and I just believed with very few questions. Before each meal I would say after my older sister "Lord bless this food and drink. For Jesus' sake. Amen." After the meal we said "Lord thank you for this food and drink. For Jesus' sake Amen." When I went to bed I would pray "Father in heaven, hear my prayer. Keep me in your loving care. Be my guide in all I do and bless all those who love me too." Often I added some lines to the end. Occasionally, I mixed up the three prayers so that I blessed the food at bedtime.

I loved the Bible stories my parents read us after supper. I especially loved to answer questions about the Bible stories, because I knew all the answers. In other words, I had a lot of head knowledge about the Bible.

At five years old, I decided I wanted to be a missionary. And what better way to start than in my own neighbourhood? Living across the street was a boy named Andy who didn't go to church. I remember trying to convert him while we sat in the play room at my house. I must have been really pestering him, because my Mom squelched my missionary efforts by telling me to leave it alone. Despite this damper, the fire of missionary zeal still burned high.

One night I remember saying a special prayer. I prayed that God would hold onto me and never let me go. I felt that as a teenager I might decide against Jesus. I prayed that God help me to continue to believe when I was older.

As I grew I began to question and doubt. My parents believed in Jesus, but did I really? Did Jesus really die for me? When I wasn't doubting, I was repeatedly asking Jesus to come into my heart. I felt I needed to be good enough in my own strength instead of relying on Jesus' power. I didn't read my Bible regularly. After awhile I only said short, guilt-inspired prayers. I had short bursts of Bible reading and prayer, but the words in the Bible seemed to condemn me. Besides I would much rather fall asleep reading a fiction book than read the Bible.

Near the beginning of my hospitalization, I believed I was in hell. My mouth was parched and and I was stuck in my bed with the iron bars. During that time I believed a lot of weird stuff. I thought Jesus had come back and I had been left behind. One day Dad told me if I wanted Jesus' help I had to ask him. Dad led me in a prayer and I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I sang "Jesus Loves Me". My Mom says that was the turning point of my illness.

Now I know it is God who is healing me. I feel like a baby in my Christian walk, but I know God will finish what he has begun. I'm trying to do devotions every day so that I'll grow. Sometimes I still experience doubt. I doubt Jesus'  desire to help me in my situation, and I tend to worry rather than pray.

In the future I want to grow in my faith. I want all the fruits of the spirit to be abundant in my life. I want to have the discernment to see where my sins and sinful patterns are, because a lot of times, I ask for forgiveness for all my sins and I can't even remember even one of them. I want to have complete trust in God. I also want to be strong enough to help other people.

Monday, November 02, 2015

These Three Remain

This past weekend my church was having their annual prayer weekend. Since I am unable to fast from food, I chose to fast from my blog and focus on God. It was a nice break and I did manage to get lots of organizing and tasks done, plus daily devotions, exercise, and attending the meetings Thursday night, Friday night, and Saturday night. Sunday I was helping with Sunday school again, but I was there for the first part of the service and came back in for Pastor Appreciation speeches and presentations.

The big news is I am starting work this week. Thursday I was really stressed about it, but by Saturday I was doing much better emotionally. I realize I do not need to worry or be anxious about anything, but I just need to present my requests to God. The reason why he commanded "Do not worry" is He knows how we are to have peace and security, not in ourselves, but in Him. We can actually present our cares to Him, and He will remove them from us, and wrap us in His love like a warm blanket on a chilly day.

The other thing that happened is I am not going back to my foot care position. Although I loved the work and helping my clients, I did not enjoy the constant travel, the continual stress of rescheduling appointments and cleaning tools and endless documentation, or the expenses which meant despite all my busyness I was basically only earning minimum wage or even less. Four clients would be a full day of work, but only four hours of pay. In addition, it is my hope to eventually start my own business in foot care, and there is an obvious conflict of interest working for a company in foot care while promoting your own business. I do not regret doing my foot care job, because it taught me many skills and grew my confidence. However, it is time to move on.

I am learning so many lessons lately, I cannot hope to tack them all to the end of this already lengthy post. Suffice to say, I continue to learn and grow. My desire is to surrender all to Christ, and to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit, growing in my spiritual gifts and also serving others even in the less glamorous tasks. I can see that every task done for the glory of God, is made into an outgrowth of Christ's love and grace. Motives are so important. Am I doing it for the approval of others, to feel good about myself, or as an expression of love? Without love, it all amounts to nothing. Without following Christ and his ways, all the busyness in the world will all be empty striving, devoid of power to change myself or any one else. With Christ, all is beauty and truth, hope and trust, love and obedience.

In the end, it all comes down to faith, hope, and love. That is what remains in the aftermath of my dreams and schemes, plans and agendas. In Christ, I can deal with disappointment with more grace, and life becomes an adventure rather an obstacle course that I can't muster up the energy to tackle.

Just to update this post. I will now have another appointment next week before I will be cleared by my health care team to return to work. I am okay with that... we need to ensure I have a good plan for going back to nursing and my doctor needs to make her best recommendations. Maybe tomorrow I will finally manage to share some photos from my trip.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Not a Mystery, Nor a Misery

One of the many delights of visiting my sister in Cochrane, Alberta on the beautiful campus of Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary, nestled in the foothills of the Great Rockies, was the seminary library. To a bibliophile like myself, I was overwhelmed with the wealth of books on topics I love and care passionately about. One treasure I got out of the library on the last evening there was Elizabeth Elliot's Keep a Quiet Heart. What follows is an excerpt from one of many short meditations from her newsletter. It is from a devotion entitled "Ever Been Bitter?"

Elliot had been talking about hard things in your life, and times you ask "Why?" and how God responds to your honest questions and doubts. She continues that why questions are sometimes only human and natural, but that there is a distinction to be made between allowing the why questions to embitter you and using the why questions to draw you further into God's embrace and seeking Him and his will for your life:

  • "When we begin to doubt His love and imagine that He is cheating us of something we have a right to, we are guilty as Adam and Eve were guilty. They took the snake at his word rather than God. The same snake comes to us repeatedly with the same suggestions: Does God love you? Does He really want the best for you? Is his Word trustworthy? Isn't he cheating you? Forget His promises. You'd be better off if you do it your way.

  • I have often asked why. Many things have happened which I didn't plan on and which human rationality could not explain. In the darkness of my perplexity and sorrow I have heard Him say quietly, Trust Me. He knew my question was not the challenge of unbelief or resentment. I have never doubted that He loves me, but I have sometimes felt like St. Teresa of Avila who, when she was dumped out of a carriage into a ditch, said, 'If this is the way you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few'" (Keep a Quiet Heart, Eliot, pg 45).

Elliot goes on to discuss Job and how she thinks he was not so patient, but always honest. She points to Job 16 as an example of how forthright Job could be with God. In this passage he complains "O God, you have ground me down and devastated my family. You have reduced me to skin and bonesas proof they say, of my sins. God hates me and tears angrily at my flesh. He gnashes his teeth at me and pierces me with his eyes. People jeer and laugh at me. They slap my cheek in contempt. A mob gathers against me. God handed me over to sinners. He has tossed me into the hands of the wicked" (Job 16: 7-11, The New Living Translation). Job is just getting warmed up in his diatribe, going on to say he had just been minding his own business when God broke him apart and made him a target; He does end by expressing his longing for a mediator, confessing he has a witness and advocate in heaven, despite the fact he will soon go "down that road" from which he "will never return."

Elliot closes by listing five Scriptures, stating the matter is not a mystery, but there are "clear reasons." She lists the following passages about suffering and joy, which I have taken from the New Living Translation:

1 Peter 4:12-13

Dear friends, don't be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very gladbecause these trials will make you partners with Christ in his suffering, and afterward you will have the wonderful joy of sharing his glory when it is displayed to all the world.

Romans 5: 3-4
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good
for usthey help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation.

2 Corinthians 12:9

Paul, speaking of his thorn in the flesh, that he begged to be delivered from on three occasions, explains:

Each time he (God) said, "My gracious favour is all you need. My power works best in your weakness." So I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may work through me.

John 14:31

Jesus facing the cross, during the Last Supper, states:

but I will do what the Father requires of me, so that the world will know that I love the Father. Come, let's be going.

Colossians 1:24
Pauls writes to the church in Colosse:
I am glad when I suffer for you in my body, for I am completing what remains of Christ's sufferings for his body, the church.

Hard stuff and suffering, while it naturally leads to why questions, need not end in misery, resentments, and despair, but rather in perseverance, joy, trust, and peace, knowing we have a Heavenly Father who cares enough to hear our railing against Him and His ways. How we can produce joy out of suffering and trials is a holy process that only the Holy Spirit can accomplish in us, if we will ask him.