Asking for Directions

My scenery has changed this week. As I look out the windows, I see trees and cedars and I hear the waves crashing on the beach just beyond the front door. You can see the lake from the big front window.

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It’s a week to unwind, rejuvenate, and create. It’s a week I have begun to look forward to every spring. Last year I put the finishing touches on Whole here. Who knew then, what a year would bring!

This year I am in a different place on so many levels. I feel like I have ended, started and am in-between. Can you be in all those spaces at once? Do you ever feel like that?

I feel like I need to stop and ask for directions.

I’ve walked along the beach the last couple of mornings in the sunshine and wind. Watching and listening to the waves roll in is hypnotic, soothing. My shoes dig into the wet sand. (No I’m not a barefoot sand person!)

I see footprints (someone is a barefoot sand person!) shoe prints and dog paw prints in the sand. I notice the colour of the water – grey up close and a thin line of turquoise and cobalt blue along the horizon.

I beach comb by taking pictures of interesting things as I walk. Driftwood, rocks, little streams feeding into the Great Lake.

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As I reach the point where I’m going to turn around, I see a sailboat beached. It’s yellow and pretty. Reminds me of summer stories of fun, sea and romance.

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After taking a couple of pictures, I turn around and head back the way I came. I’m thinking about the boat. I liked it. I wonder about what it would feel like to sail it?

As I’m walking back, I spot another boat. A blue rowboat. It looks like it’s made of wood.  I hadn’t seen it on my way up the beach. I stop and take a few pictures. The beauty is in it’s rustic appearance.

How could I have missed it before? I had walked right by it.

Blind. How many times are we blind to things that are right in front of us? Like the rowboat, we pass by, absorbed in our thoughts, our worries, our stuff.

How do you walk? Do you walk with your head down? Where are you looking? I often walk looking at the ground, intent on where my feet are taking me. Do you do this too? We miss a lot because we are not looking up, don’t we?

I had caught myself a couple of times staring at the sand rather than the beautiful water and trees and sky around me. I was missing the good stuff because I was looking down instead of up.

Look up.

Wake up.

Get up.

It’s starting to become my mantra. Perhaps it’s the directions I’ve wanted to ask for.

Looking up instantly engages us in our surroundings. We see who’s there, what’s happening. We are free to enjoy the scenery. We become aware of where we are and our place in it.

Waking up frees us from our blindness. Sometimes we are so involved in our heads, in what we are doing, in just trying to keep up with everything, that we fall asleep to everything else. We miss the boat so to speak. We don’t see the offer of something else, something new, something different. We bypass the beauty because we are engrossed in our small worlds.

Getting up is action. Don’t just sit there but go investigate that invitation, that beauty. Get up close to the boat. Touch it. Get in it. Take the next step.

If we don’t start to look up, wake up and get up, what are we missing? I think we miss not only things in this world but also in the spiritual world. As we look up, wake up and get up we become engaged not just physically but emotionally, and spiritually. We become more in tune with what is going on in both the physical and spiritual realms. We are ready to receive the next directive.

We become available. “Here I am Lord send me.”

I’m not sure about you but I want to be that person who doesn’t just see the boat, but gets in the boat and heads out to sea, following the One who does know the way.

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Busy vs. Beloved

“The world pressures me to make things happen. Now. But when things don’t go as planned,I often try to regain control – by shutting down my heart.”

Bonnie Gray, from her new book, Whispers of Rest

 

Wait! What?

“But when things don’t go as planned, I often try to regain control – by shutting down my heart.”

I think I inwardly wince as I reread those words. Especially the last five ones. It’s Day Seven, entitled Beloved, in the 40 Day devotional book, Whispers of Rest.

I write in my journal, “Do I do this?” and then draw an arrow pointing to the quote I’ve just written down. I don’t really have to think hard about it. I know the answer.

Yes I do.

It’s not the discovery that I do this that bothers me.  I know it but can I accept the truth of it? I would prefer to stay in denial. If I accept the truth of it, I need to open my eyes to where I shut down in my life. Where I am trying to do or strive, that it costs me my heart.

We do = we count. At least that’s what it feels like. If we aren’t doing something, what’s wrong with us? The world tells us we are lazy. We are stupid. We don’t matter. I need to contribute to be a part of acceptable society. To do so, I shut down my heart, so I can get my To Do list done. The cost is a cold hard heart.

If I don’t feel, I can’t get hurt. At least that’s what I tell myself. If I don’t allow my heart to get involved I believe the lie that I can control the situation or the people. Maybe more importantly I am telling myself that if I shut down my heart and emotions, I can control myself. Escape unscathed.

But that’s not the point, is it?

Further on in Day Seven, Bonnie writes; “Jesus didn’t shut down his heart. He opened his heart to love and brokenness, so that he could one day make your heart his home. Your story is his story.”

What would it look like to open my heart to love and brokenness instead of shutting it down? I write in my journal.

Jesus lovingly turns to us in our brokenness and mess. He meets us right there. He invites us to a life of healing, hope and wholeness in Him. 

What if we turned to those around us, in our own circles, in love? Instead of turning away from their brokenness, their mess, we turned to it? What if we turned away from productivity that the world clamours for and instead turned to people? To ourselves?

  • Maybe we would be more open to getting our hands dirty in the messiness of life because we don’t have a To Do list to check off.
  • Maybe we would be more willing to stop and really listen to someone instead of thinking of what we need to do next or look at our watches, thinking that time is slipping away.
  • Maybe we would comfort more rather than scold.
  • Maybe we would be a better spouse and parent because we are engaged in the moment.
  • Maybe we would shed the chains of what we think is control and instead experience the freedom of actually living life. Experiencing both the ups and downs instead of trying to control them.
  • Maybe we would let ourselves off the hook.
  • Maybe we would turn our hearts back on. Maybe we would accept the love that is offered to us by the One who never turned away from us even in our mess.

Life might actually look radically different.

It’s so much easier to shut down. No doubt about it. But we miss out on the abundant life if we do. We may have our list all checked off but in the end what does that do for us? Nothing. It’s lifeless and cold.

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We don’t have to prove anything. We don’t need to produce any worldly thing. We just need to be loved. Beloved. See that? Be Loved = Beloved. Louie Giglio points out that little word play in his book, I am Not but I know I Am. You just have to be loved to be the beloved.

“Before Jesus performed a single miracle, he was already beloved.” Bonnie writes. God loved His Son. He loves us too. Because I am beloved, I can open my heart instead of shutting it down. I can share the love that God gave me.

 

I have had the pleasure of being on the launch team for Bonnie Gray’s new book, Whispers of Rest. It’s a 40 day devotional that invites you to rest in God.

I have really enjoyed the invitation to rest and go deeper with God in those periods of stillness that this book offers to each reader. It releases today.  You can find it here at  http://www.whispersofrest.com

Non-Mother’s Day

Can I tell you a secret?

Most years I hate Mother’s Day.  There, I said it. And I’m a Mom.

I understand what it’s like to want a child and not have one. I’ve hated those Mother”s Days too.  So I feel a little guilty because now that I am a mom I still don’t really like this day.

Most Mother’s Day, it’s just a reminder of what I’ve done wrong, what I’d like to do over and that I’m too tired to try much harder. Honestly I don’t want to be recognized one Sunday in May. What I really want is for my children to be healthy, loving individuals who follow hard after Jesus. I want them to listen to me, respect me and love me all year long. Without fanfare.

I struggle with this Sunday in May because it’s so hard for so many people. People who have lost their moms to a myriad of reasons. People who have no children. People who are made to feel guilty because they don’t want children. People who have had abusive mothers. It’s just difficult. So really I don’t give much credence to this day. It matters more to me what my behaviour is all year long. Do I honour my mother every day of the year? Am I caring, kind and considerate? Is this what I’m teaching my kids? That’s what counts in my books.

This is probably not a popular opinion.

I am not denying that mothering is one of the most difficult jobs we will ever do. It is.
Being in charge of a child or two or three…is extremely hard. Whether you are the mother, grandmother, foster parent, aunt, guardian. It doesn’t matter either if the child is a baby, a toddler, middle schooler, teen or young adult. It doesn’t get any easier, it just gets different.

It’s not a glamorous job even though tv, movies, church and a whole host of other things, try to make it out to be. It’s not a big game of playing house, no matter how hard you try to make it. The lives we are responsible for, matter. The decisions we make, matter. And half the time I don’t have the emotional or physical energy to make good decisions. A lot of days I feel like I am doomed and so are my kids. Am I the only one?

So how do we raise our kids so that they are loving healthy individuals? How do we take the doom out of the equation?

This is what has worked for me. The key word being work.

Take care of yourself. Rest. Nap when your kids nap. Eat well. Do something you love that will breathe life back into your soul. Deal with your issues whatever they are (and you know what they are!) I know a good program!  This probably goes against every fibre of your mother being. But you cannot give when you are empty. All that does is rub you raw inside and out. Taking care of yourself and doing for yourself, fills you up so you have something to give.

Stop worshipping the children. We are the adults, act like one. Stop being a slave to your child. Children need to know they are loved but they also need boundaries. They do not need to be entertained all day long. No, mixed with some yeses, is good. We do not need to give up our own lives to breathe life into our child’s. Our children need to see that it’s okay to take care of ourselves and our own desires as well as take care of them.

Let it go. Unfortunately we can’t have a Do Over when it comes to parenting. But we have the present. So fix what you can and then move forward. Ruminating about past mistakes helps no one. Show them love, show them good health, show them kindness, TODAY. It’s not too late. Kids never stop learning or watching.

Our Heavenly Father loves our kids more than we do. He is in control and He knows the bigger picture. Let Him lead. Never stop praying. Or maybe we need to start praying. This is where I am right now.  Realizing that I need to pray! There is a higher, mightier power I need to tap into!  He’s waiting for me to do it.  It’s not too late for that either.

Finally it’s okay to admit we need help. We need someone to listen. Go find someone that can do this for you, either professionally or a good trusted friend or pastor. Even if they can’t help, they can listen and maybe point you in the direction you need to go.  That’s what someone did for me. I finally told my pastor my issue with anger and he got me into see a professional that could help me. I will be forever grateful to him for that. He got me started on the road to healing.  Later on a friend told me about a program that led to further healing.  It’s never too late to get help.

These things have made my whole family much healthier and happier.

So even though I’m not a big fan of Mother’s Day, I do honour and thank my Mom who raised seven kids and sacrificially gives of herself. She is still mothering in her senior years to her kids, grandkids and great-grandkids. She is still a Mom.

I also honour and thank the many women out there who mother in their own ways whether it’s to biological kids or to kids who touch their lives. Many women have touched my life in so many ways who were not related to me. They made my life richer. May we do the same to those around us.

 

 

Seeking His Face

I’m not a big socialite. But when I do venture out into the masses, I usually don’t go just for something to do. I go with a purpose. I am seeking someone or something.

If I go to a party or a gathering, there is one person I will seek out. I scan the crowd looking for the face I am seeking. I listen for their laugh and the timbre of their voice. I may be searching for my husband, my sons or a friend.

When we seek, we look until we find, don’t we? We are purposefully looking for someone or something in particular.  Children seek out Easter eggs on Easter morning.  They eagerly look until they find the brightly coloured sweet treats.

Today’s verse of the day from biblegateway.com was from Hebrews 11:6, The Voice. Without faith no one can please God because the one coming to God must believe He exists, and He rewards those who come seeking. (emphasis mine).

It was the last part of the verse that caught my attention. He rewards those who come seeking.

It struck me that all I have to do is come seeking Him. I don’t have to be anything else. We think we have to have cleaned up our mess first before we seek Him out.  We believe we need to at least try to have it together before we go to God. We tell ourselves we need to have solved our problems before we seek His face.

We have to be perfect.

But it doesn’t say anywhere in that verse or in the bible, that we have to have it altogether to come to God. To look for Him. To seek Him out.  The ill and infirm sought Jesus out.  Those who had blown it and those who were socially unacceptable came looking for Him. Those who had doubts came to Him.  He welcomed them all.  He didn’t turn them away.  He could handle it all.

We just have to come. Seek and you shall find him. (Mat 7:7)

If we had solved our problems or cleaned ourselves up, we wouldn’t need Jesus right? We’d be patting ourselves on the back.  We would be thinking we did it ourselves.  Our pride would tell us that we can handle it. No need to bother the Almighty. We got this.

It’s a big lie that we believe. Satan likes to keep us feeling like we are not good enough so we don’t seek God.  If we do manage to make some small progress bettering ourselves, then we believe we don’t need Him. It’s a vicious cycle.

However the verse from Hebrews is simple, Believe He exists and seek Him out. And he’ll reward you.

There may be other rewards but the main reward is Him. I AM, present in our lives.  His presence trumps everything else; the unsolvable problem, the explosive mess, the unredeemable relationship, the life that looks unsalvageable. His presence turns it all upside down and makes it workable. So the impossible is possible with God.  (Luke 1:37 The Voice)

All we have to do is seek His Face and He does the rest.

Today, I’m Thankful For…

A few years back, I embarked on A Year of Thankfulness on Facebook, posting everyday a picture and a few words of what I was thankful for that day.  It was a commitment to say the least!  365 days.  And I did it for two full years.  It’s been a number of years now since that project.  I learned so much.

It’s easy to fall back into a mode of expectation, entitlement and ungratefulness if we aren’t on our guard.  So today I want to write a little about what I’m thankful for on this bleary Monday because even though it’s dull and grey and spring seems a thousand years off, there is much to be thankful for and in awe of in this life.  I need that reminder as much as, probably more so, than you!

First of all, I am so thankful for the wonderful book launch we celebrated in February!  It was a wonderful afternoon and I am so thankful for all the friends and family that dropped by.  It really blew me away.  People are good and generous and I am amazed that people are excited for me and for this little book.  It’s such a contrast from what I was taught in some of my university classes.

I am also thankful to see how God is using His message to work in people’s lives.  I’m just starting to get feedback in and wow!  God is at work.  It’s humbling and thrilling at the same time.  I’m speechless.  Thank you to all who have purchased a copy and spread the word.  Keep it up!

I am thankful for those who have worked hard to make this Whole endeavour (yes I intended that pun!) a success!  From the people at WordAlive Press to friends and family who have worked tirelessly to help me get the message out there.  Thank you!

I’m thankful for those who remind me to celebrate God’s goodness and not get caught up in fretting about this and that.  You know who you are and you preached a sermon on it yesterday, one that was planned months ago!  I hate that when that happens!

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I’m thankful for the wonderful time spent in Windsor signing books and laughing with old friends!  It was refreshing to my soul. Thank you to all who came out! It was so much fun!

I am thankful for lunches with friends that come with travel to their cities.

Finally I am thankful for the apostle Paul.  I know that seems random but as I was reading about him this morning in Beth Moore’s book, To Live Is Christ, his life didn’t seem so perfect or annoyingly “super saintish” as I’d previously thought and it was a balm to my soul.  And like him, I hope that I find contentment regardless of what I have or don’t have, or whatever the circumstances might be in my life. The good, the bad and the ugly.

That’s the catch up.  Hope you are finding lots to be thankful for today. Feel free to share your findings here!  What has you thankful today?  I’d love to hear about them.

Love, Mom

Dear Beloved Child of mine,

You are loved. You are loved far more than you can ever imagine. You will never understand the sacrifice of that love until you are a parent to your own beloved child. This is how it should be.

Because of my love for you, You are more important than anything this world has to offer. In the end, all the successes, all the failures are not as significant as I thought. They are fleeting and empty but I get distracted by them. I have to remind myself what really matters.

I made a list….

Read more here at Raising Generation Today where I’m sharing today.

JenniferWillcock.LoveMom

Why Go To Church?

A few days ago, I read a blog by a woman whose husband died last month from cancer. She writes that as a widow, she doesn’t care if her church is trendy or if it has a coffee bar. She is hurting and she needs Jesus.  You can read it here. It’s worth the time. I happen to agree with her.  Even if you don’t, she makes some very good points.  (BTW this is not a rebuttal blog at all.  She got me thinking, that’s all.)

Being in church leadership, I understand why churches are resorting to cafes and hipster tactics. As leadership, we are told again and again how the millennials and everyone else is leaving the church en masse or not entering it in the first place. People think church is archaic and irrelevant in today’s world. They don’t have time for church. People have been wounded by the church and people professing to be Jesus followers. There are all sorts of reasons why people don’t go to church. But hey, Starbucks is full on a Sunday morning. So I get why churches are deciding to incorporate the trendy into Sunday morning tradition. Sometimes you just want to get people to come out because they have to be inside to hear about Jesus. To meet Him.

Thankfully we have the freedom to choose the church we attend. Some of us are visual learners so a video or drama helps us learn better. Some of us learn by writing notes during the sermon. Some of us learn by doodling through the sermon – our hands busy while our minds take in the words. Churches don’t all need to be the exact replica of one type of church. We were all created unique by a very big God. It’s okay if our churches are different from each other.  As long as Jesus is our priority.

Some will argue that no, they don’t need to be in church. They can learn about Jesus elsewhere. In nature. In other relationships. I would agree but just like church, you can’t put all your eggs in one basket. Our relationship with God is not one dimensional. We need it all; nature, godly relationships and church.

There’s one other thing. I know it’s hard to believe but some people encounter Jesus for the first time ever in a church!!! I know, right?

The one thing that must happen in church is Jesus is preached. The Word of God must be taught and then lived out. Especially by those in leadership. Jesus must be present in order to be experienced.

To be honest though, I’m like everyone else. I don’t always want to go to church. Sometimes it’s just a single Sunday. Other times it’s been for a season. There are a number of reasons why. But after reading this blog, I have to ask myself, Why am I going to church? As a pastor’s wife, I kinda have to. That’s one reason. But that really isn’t good enough for me.

Why do I go to church? That question coincided with my Lent reading from Margaret Feinberg’s #Beloved study of John. I was a day behind so the passage was from John 5. It’s about the man who sits beside the pool waiting for the water to be stirred. He can’t get himself in because he is paralyzed. Jesus comes to him and asks him a bizarre question. “Do you want to get well again?” (John 5:6 Phillips) Really? Of course he wants to get well!

 

Jesus’ question had nagged at me throughout the day. It was a main point in Margaret’s blog about the reading too. After reading the widow’s blog about church, I put the two questions together. Why am I even going to church? Do I want to get well again?  I think the two are very connected.

Even though the church has many faults, God still wants us there. It is a place of fellowship and community that is centred around Him. There is healing and hope in hearing about other’s people’s journeys. It’s one of the widow’s main points about church. She wants to hear about people’s own stories of God not what the flavour of coffee is. She’s absolutely right. It’s through our stories that we get to know God better. That it becomes personal. One of the places this should happen is our churches. (Sometimes the leadership gets their priorities mixed up.)

It also is a place of learning. The pastor has been taught to teach the bible. More than one message I have heard in a lifetime of sermons has cut me to the close. Changed me.

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Do I want to be healed? Do I really? Or would I rather just sit by the pool and make excuses? Put up my walls and shrug, “Oh well, guess that’s not for me?”

Do you want to get well again?  He’s asking us today that very same question.

Yes I do. I think that’s why I don’t leave church. It’s not perfect but at the moment it’s what we’ve got.

It’s also a place I have encountered Jesus more than once. Like in ancient times,when Jesus taught in the Temple, His presence is still in our churches today when we invite Him to come, bringing healing and power. It comes through His Word, through people acting as His hands and feet and through the testimony of His people.  As I head out to church, a part deep inside hopes to meet Jesus there as I stop and sit. I probably will have to surrender my own will. I may have to let people help me, carrying me to the pool. I may have to take down my protective walls, but He’s there waiting.

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Me. You. We just need to come.

Do you want to get well again?