Friday, October 30, 2009

Good Gifts 2

My mom LOVES buying presents. Not necessarily outrageously expensive things like cars and boats and diamond rings (though, I'm sure she'd like to...) but little things like bookmarks and magnets and cute shirts. When we were kids she would actually individually wrap every little thing that she put in our Christmas stocking. I'm talking candy bars, oranges, little water squirters, toy cars, hockey cards...everything! She loves the idea of giving. She still can't send me a letter without adding some little token of affection - a small ring she picked up at a discount store, a bookmark, stickers, a necklace held in place on the letter with tape - precious. The last letter had a little bundle of handwritten Bible verses tied with a bow and the tiniest flower.
Now that I have my own children I understand how much fun it is to pour out little surprises and watch their delight.

I think God loves watching us delight in His gifts.

I grew up in one of the most beautiful places in the world ( a little biased...) - Newfoundland, Canada. I lived near the ocean, quite literally, a stone's throw away from the water. From my patio I watched my little bay change with the seasons and loved the beauty in each. Spring time would bring a softer, warmer breeze and the sound of breaking ice and the trickle of melting snow. Summer would bring towering icebergs, whales and glorious pink, purple and orange sunsets on the still water. Fall brought powerful winds and crashing waves on the docks and shoreline. And then there was cold...but so beautiful. I remember standing on my patio, waiting for the school bus and drinking in the view. The mornings of the first snow fall were usually the most stunning. A blanket of thick, fluffy snow covered everything, almost dampening sounds and making it seem quieter. The water would be still and almost frozen like a glass, becoming a mirror of the white world around it. It looked like crystal. So beautiful and breathtaking. And as I would stand there I would be so aware of God's extravagance. He could have just given us what we needed but instead He takes great delight in - delighting us.

I have to be honest, I have inadvertently let the last couple years of working and having and raising children cloud my vision just the tiniest. I haven't always stopped long enough to enjoy a sunset or paused outside my car to take a long look at the stars (perhaps carrying a car seat, crying baby, diaper bag, grocery bag and balancing a tea could have hindered it a little...). However, tonight I took a walk with my two boys through bright yellow leaves and was again reminded of God's gifts to me.

James 1:17 says;
"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows (NIV)".

I pray that I will continue to keep my eyes open to God's generosity and the gifts that He so generously bestows each day.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

What do I know?!

Today I was thinking about all the things I don't know.
I don't know exactly why the sky is blue...I'm sure I could check wikipedia but, off hand... nope, don't know.
I don't know how ants can carry a bazillion times their own weight ( I don't even know what that ratio is...).
I don't know how it is possible for my voice to travel miles and miles to my mom's end of the phone.
I don't know how my car engine works.
I don't know how to get my son to like mashed potatoes.
I don't know why my dog has to turn around three times before he lays down.
I don't know how bubble gum is made...though I do know that much of it is made in a factory in Sarnia, Ontario.
I don't know why we crave things that aren't good for us (I mean apart from weird pregnancy cravings for apples and pickles and spinach).

On a more serious note..

I don't always know how to handle every situation that arises with my children...can I trust that babysitter?
I don't know the right words to say to a hurting friend.
I don't always know what the healthy decision is.
I don't always know the right time to stop talking.

But, God knows. As I contemplated a few decisions I had to make I remembered a verse from - I don't know where it's found...let me check...James 1:5.

"If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him (NIV)."

God wants to give me wisdom for the decisions I have to make in my life. Not only that, He does so without finding fault. He doesn't think about all the times I've ignored His wisdom in the past - He wipes my slate clean and generously gives me instruction and counsel that is for my good. Thank You God. Thank Goodness, Someone knows!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sleepless Night Song

So, there's this strange phenomenon that parents are familiar's how a 24 pound two year old can take up more room in a bed than two full grown adults. It probably has something to do with the strange contortions they make with their little wiry bodies. It comes in many forms - a leg across mommy's back, a head snuggled across daddy's neck - change position - whole body draped over daddy's head, little toe in mommy's ear. Now, add a little nine-month old, with the same innate abilities and it makes for a pretty sleepless night for the adults in the equation.

And so went a night in our home just recently.

Both our kiddies couldn't sleep and both ended up in our room. Lack of sleep can make you irrational and I felt like having a full-blown kick-my-legs-crying tantrum at 3 AM (did I say felt like? I may have kicked my legs a little...and cried...). Needless to say, the next morning I felt nothing like being nice or gentle or patient or anything! I just wanted to sleep. However, like grownups do, I plodded through the day, putting on a smile of encouragement at my son's newest words and patience when my youngest squirmed out of his almost fastened diaper for the third time (see previous post - The Struggle :). I didn't feel like doing these things - I could barely see straight - but I did them because I love my family.

My husband and I are reading a book called "The Love Dare"*. There's a quote that I love that says; "If you accept this dare, you must take the view that instead of following your heart, you are choosing to lead it...choosing instead to lead your heart toward that which is best in the long run. This is a key to lasting, fulfilling relationships." I don't let my emotions or my feelings completely dictate how I treat my loved ones for the day. I couldn't imagine not feeding my kids just because I didn't feel like getting out of bed. However, that morning, as I took care of my children and went about the business of the day despite my tired state, I thought about how quick I am to let my emotions dictate how I react to God. If I'm happy, inspired, thankful, glad, excited or in a general good mood, praise easily flows from my heart in a song or prayer as I skip through my day. But, find me in a state of confusion, fear, anxiety, fatigue, passiveness or anger and I seem to clam up.

David gave us a good example of what to do in those times. He chose to lead his heart instead of following how he was feeling. Psalm 34 says;

I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips (NIV)."

I pray that I will remember to choose to praise and talk with God even in those times when I don't feel like it. That I will lead my heart and not follow my feelings...even when I've had a two year old barrel rolling over me all night...

*Stephen & Alex Kendrick, The Love Dare (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2008), viii.

Friday, October 23, 2009


I tried my hand at refinishing a few months ago. Some friends of ours had moved into a new house and were getting rid of some old furniture. They asked us to take a look at their garage to see if there was anything we could use. A quick peek showed an old set of nightstands and a dresser. They were painted white and chipped and scratched from long time use. However, they looked pretty sturdy and I imagined that with a bit of sanding and paint we could use them for a bedroom. So, my husband (probably a bit skeptical about the whole idea...) and his friend loaded them into our van and we made our way home - me, with visions of a gleaming, new bedroom set in my head, my husband, with thoughts of how long it would be gathering dust in our garage.

The vision stayed with me and a couple of weeks later, armed with paint thinner, scrapers, sandpaper, brushes and paint - I went to work. My ever-supportive better-half watched the kiddies while I scraped and sanded and painted in the hot sun. A few hours later, we had a new dresser and two new night stands for our room. What was one person's junk - had become my treasure. What was once useless had become useful.

I read the book of Philemon today. It's a tiny book of the Bible, tucked between Titus and Hebrews. Only one chapter and twenty-five verses. It's a letter from Paul to a friend, Philemon. Paul is being imprisoned for teaching about Jesus and has somehow befriended a man who's name is Onesimus. Onesimus was apparently a servant of Philemon who had not the best reputation with his boss. In fact, Paul puts it this way; "I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. Formerly he was useless to you..." (10-11). "Useless" - ever feel that way? Kind of like an old set of dressers, dented and scratched by life and put to the side, no place for you anymore. Useless.

There's hope. Paul wasn't finished his letter. "Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and me...He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord"(11, 16b). Some change had happened inside of Onesimus and I have a feeling it had to do with him becoming "a brother in the Lord." A transformation had taken place and a life that seemed to be going nowhere took on new hope and meaning and usefulness!

Perhaps you feel that your life has no purpose anymore or maybe you see a family member or friend walking a road that seems headed to nowhere - don't give up hope. Jesus takes lives that have been deemed lost and hopeless and can transform them into lives of beauty and purpose. What others thought useless becomes what God could see for them all along...usefulness.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Struggle

A couple days ago my husband and I were each changing a diaper (I would like to take this time to praise my husband as he has still changed more diapers then me up to this point - to all the single ladies...make "will change a diaper" a prerequisite...:). I had just finished explaining to our dear nine month old that if he would just stop struggling and cooperate, things would go a lot faster and smoother and he could be off crawling and chewing on the nearest object in the blink of an eye. Then I heard my husband in the next room also explaining the merit of being "still" while being diapered, to our two year old.

The same kind of thing happened today. My oldest had just finished a "feesee" (freezie) and was covered in purple juice. He wanted to keep playing but I saw the wisdom in getting him cleaned up before he stained his clothes and everything else in reach. It would have been over in probably 4 seconds had he just been still but the power struggle that ensued made the whole process quite longer and more unpleasant. A minute later, all cleaned up, he huffs on his way back to his important toddler schedule of playing with sticks and chasing the dog.

I found myself smiling at my likeness in my child...not physical looks (he looks just like his dad) but in the way he struggles with the things that are good for him and makes the process longer and sometimes, more unpleasant, than necessary.

Don't I do the same thing with my Father? I fight against trusting Him fully because I'm afraid of what it might mean - what it might take away. I fight against giving up a grudge because it would mean that, in my eyes, justice wasn't done. I fight against giving that extra money because I see all the things I need it for myself.

The Israelites did this too. They fought against the way God wanted to set them free from Egypt ("You're taking us to the desert?!"). They fought against the way He provided for them ("Manna again?!"). They fought against who God gave them as a leader ("Aaron, you lead us!"). They fought against entering their freedom ("The giants are too big for us!"). I read that the trip from Egypt to Canaan actually only takes 3-4 days. Taking into account the number of people and the animals that were with them, it probably would have taken a little longer but I wonder if the forty years of wandering in the desert would have been cut a lot shorter had they not stopped struggling with God, trusted Him and let Him lead?

I can't see the future or the reasons behind a lot of what God does but one thing I do know, is that He tells me not to lean on my own understanding (stop trying to figure it all out) but to trust in Him with my whole heart (Prov.3:4-5). I pray that as I grow in Him, I stop the struggle and let Him do what He wants to do in my life. I don't want to be left with purple juice on my face..;)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Permission Slip

Remember when you had to get a permission slip from your parents to go to the pumpkin patch or the skating arena or to the zoo with your school? You passed in the slip with a sigh of relief...signed, sealed (well...probably crumpled and full of spaghetti sauce from your dinner table) and delivered. Now you were free to go!

You know, God gives us a permission slip of sorts...permission not to worry. While the rest of the world succumbs to worry and anxiety in times of sickness, singleness, barrenness, loneliness, lack-of-moneyness (sorry...couldn't think of another "ness") - God gives us permission NOT to worry. I'm reading a book by Max Lucado called "Fearless". He writes that Jesus' "most common command emerges from the 'fear not' genre. The Gospels list some 125 Christ-issued imperatives. Of these, 21 urge us to 'not be afraid' or 'not fear' or 'have courage' or 'take heart' or 'be of good cheer'." * My friend Faye reminded me of this a while back.

A few years ago a situation arose that had the potential to be 'awkward' for me and was kind of out of my control. I had thought of so many worst case scenarios and worried so much that by the night before this 'event', I had worked myself up to quite a state of anxiety. I called Faye hoping she would have some sage words of advice and...because she's Faye...she did. :) She just said "Jesus said not to worry about tomorrow." That was it. Seven words. But they were TRUE! It hit me right then that I really didn't have to worry...Jesus was giving me permission not to. Even if the rest of the world would say.."No, really, go ahead..worry! You should!" Jesus was saying "No, don't worry about it." Actually, Matthew 6:25-26 quotes Him as saying; 25"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?"

So, that was it. I totally felt permission from God not to worry and was at peace about the whole situation. I felt immense relief at being allowed not to worry. I stepped into the next day with confidence that God was in control and He was.

Now, don't think I've got it all figured out. Fear and worry is probably still my biggest battle and I constantly have to re-certify myself in this lesson. But I always know that God has that permission slip, always signed and always ready.

*Max Lucado, Fearless (Nashville:Thomas Nelson, 2009), 10.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Like A Child

"And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven". Matthew 18:3

It's no wonder that God tells us to become like little children...

Little children don't worry about tomorrow, they just enjoy the moment they're in.
"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:34

Little children trust completely...have you ever seen a child jump with abandon off of a high place with not a doubt that someone will catch them?
"Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding." Proverbs 3:5

Little children aren't concerned with money...they enjoy what they have and know their needs will be met.
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?" Matthew 6:25

Little children are forgiving and seldom hold a grudge. I've watched my son "fight" with another toddler one minute and be laughing together the next.
"And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins." Matthew 11:25

Little children run for their parent's arms when things are scary.
"The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe." Proverbs 18:10

Little children aren't prejudiced. They just see a person, not color, position or financial status.
"Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble." 1 Peter 3:8
Little children rejoice in the little things...leaves, bugs, sticks, puddles, and flowers.
"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." James 1:17

I'm so thankful that I have living reminders with me each day of how God wants my heart.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Lego Blocks and Balance

So, I am only 3 posts in and quite possibly only 2 people have read my blog (here's a shout out to Tom and Jen..woot-woot!:) but I have already fell out of balance. You see, I started the blog with the intent of an accountability of sorts so that my relationship with God would be enriched. However, I have went from awaking to hear from Him and have His Word continue to change my life to awaking to hear from Him SO I COULD BLOG! How quickly we lose balance! We start out with a genuine desire to do some thing of worth for God to bring glory to Him and gradually (or even three days maybe...) it becomes all about the thing and not so much about God.
A few weeks ago I was playing blocks with my son. We were having a great time at first just being silly, trying to build the tallest tower ever and then knocking it down, dumping them all from the bag at the same time to make a big noise and bigger mess but then things got serious. I started to get "creative". I decided my son would think a chair made out of blocks that he could actually sit on would be so cool! At first he thought it was great fun as he passed me blocks but eventually he got bored with the "design process" and started trying to knock the unfinished chair down like the towers. But, instead of mama laughing and joining him, she calmly told him to play with his other blocks while she finished his chair. Well, this was no fun, so he tried to knock down the chair again. This time mama actually reverted to whining and said "no, I'm building your chair!" This was also no fun and he started to whine. Then I realized that I had fallen out of balance. :) The blocks were just a way to have fun with my son but all of a sudden it had become less about my son and more about the blocks.
So, all of this to say that I may not blog every day or every thing that God teaches me but I pray it will be because I'm trying to keep it about Him and not about blogging. Keeping first things first.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Shine Bright in the Storm!

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13

I have a photo that sits in an album on my book shelf and every now and then it's a good reminder of the potential and promise during storms.
I was driving home from a training meeting one fall stormy evening. The sky was heavy and dark with the promise of thunder and a downpour. But just for a moment, the sun broke through the tiniest hole in the clouds. All of a sudden everything under the sun stood out in stark contrast to the black sky all around. I'm sure you've seen this before. There was this one tree that was just brilliant! It was tall and full with bright golden leaves and your eyes couldn't help but be drawn to it.
It reminds me of our privilege as believers, to be able to trust in God even when things around seem unstable or dark. As we trust in Him, He fills us with joy and peace and hope. Imagine how that must affect others? When they see us filled with joy, peace and hope in the midst of uncertainty, conflict at work, family problems, sickness, financial strain...their eyes must be drawn to the contrast. The contrast of our hope and joy against what seems to be darkness. I pray that we are able to find His joy, peace and hope in the midst of even the little complications with our everyday life.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Good Gifts

"Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"

So, I blew it. I yelled at my son. My son had been crying for quite a while and just wouldn't sleep. His crying and my own lack of slumber erupted into a frustrated "GO TO SLEEP!". Later that night as he slept peacefully in my arms, his long eyelashes lying against his cheeks, I was overwhelmed with love for my precious boy. I longed to give him all he would ever need as he grew, to make him laugh ( you know, those irresistible belly laughs that could only come from a child), to protect him, to surprise him with gifts and see his excitement at discovering new things.

Then, a new thought crept into my heart. I was reminded of my earlier outburst and other times when I have fallen short of being the perfect parent. Yet, despite my imperfections as a parent, my love for my children was overwhelming and I would do anything for them. I thought, if I, who is by no means perfect, love my children this much and desire only good for them, how much more would God, who is the perfect Father and has perfect love, have good things for me.