Sweet Slurps of Hot Chocolate

My husband, this morning, was reminded of one of his favourite memories with our sons.  Our youngest loves to cuddle.  He still likes to cozy up to us but at age nine and as tall as our eleven year old, those days when he fit onto our laps are a distant memory.  Almost.

Our boys didn’t sleep well when they were little.  I always did the night shifts, because there was always more than one, and Mark got up with the boys at six am.  He made coffee and warmed milk with chocolate sauce for the boys.  Then our youngest would sit on Mark’s lap and he’d slurp the hot chocolate from his sippy cup while Mark drank his coffee.  Our oldest was probably drawing or playing near them.  He isn’t one to cuddle but he would stay close.

This was the start to many a day in our household.  Our son doesn’t remember much about it other than drinking the hot chocolate.  But for daddy, it’s a memory close to his heart.  Spending those few quiet morning minutes with the boys, still sleepy from slumber.  Not yet ready to run and yell and go hard like they do.  Plucking them out of their play to grab a hug or kiss.  Rather they were content to sit near their dad and receive the day in little slurps of hot chocolate.

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Maybe our days would start out better if we just sat near our Father and received the day with tiny slurps of comfort.  I know it can be a challenge.

Our sons are still up at six most days.  Sometimes awake in their beds earlier than that.  Once they hear us up, they’re up too.  It’s a little disconcerting.  Especially if they’ve been awake awhile and their minds are geared up, already thinking about the latest storyline of whatever game they are playing.  Or what happened in the latest chapter of the book.  I want to hear about it, I really do.  Just not at warp speed the minute I get up!

It sounds spectacular to be able to get up and start the day with a quiet time.  It’s just not going to happen in my household unless I want to be up at four.  No. going.to.happen.

I’ve tried to plot and get creative to find that quiet in the mornings.  My brain functions better in the am.  That doesn’t mean it works for everyone. There is no hard and fast rule to morning being the only acceptable quiet time.  It can be any time. That is the key.  That’s what we’ve got to remember.  Those minutes sometimes just happen.  A child crawling up on our laps and sitting quietly.  The rock of swing.  Looking at a picture book.  Sitting for five minutes while your child takes his five minute nap for the day.  (I know there are other parents out there that have no idea what a two hour or three hour nap is!)

It’s more about recognizing them and accepting them.  No, they aren’t always ideal.  Or convenient.  Or what we thought they should look like.  So what?  God honours those nano seconds.  He doesn’t need more than a nano if that’s all you’ve got.  He can give the gift of quiet, of his presence in less than that.

It may be just a few minutes, long enough to slurp some hot chocolate.  But it’s enough.

Because….

5 Minute Fridays: because

(It’s where a group of bloggers write for 5 minutes on a word prompt given by Kate Motaung.  This is my first crack at it so we’ll see!)

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So let’s do this!  Go!

Because I can!  Typically I was a I can’t kind of girl.  I want to be a person who does because I can!

I can do whatever I want because I am powerful.

I can do whatever I dream because I am loved.

I can do whatever is best for me and my family because I am free to make that choice.  Nothing inhibiting me but me.

I can do because I am loved.

I can dance because I hear music.

I can write because I want to.

I can be a good mom because that is what I was chosen for.

I can be a good wife because he loves me.  I can choose the better because I want to be better rather than it be easy.

I can do whatever because I have the freedom to do so.  To say yes.  To say no.  To run.  To walk.  To dance.  To leap.

I can because it’s really up to me anyways.

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.  I will not cower or put my head in a ditch.  I will do because I can.  I am brave because He died for me.

I can because…..

Stop!

Why We Need to Declutter

Moving places or houses is a very difficult time.  Even it you want to move, it’s still stressful.  The one big plus I always enjoy is the purge that comes with packing up.  You can’t put it off.  It has to be done.  Having made a major move at least five times in the last twenty years has made me very good at throwing out.  I love the feeling of freedom that comes with getting rid of stuff.  Especially if I’m white knuckling an object.  It’s not because I want it.  I don’t but I can’t let it go.  Overcoming and dropping it in a donation bag or garbage bag, it makes you feel like you accomplished something.  You feel a lot lighter.

If you know me, you’re asking yourself, What’s wrong with this picture?  Because my house is cluttered.  I am a messy person.  The problem is two fold.  One; children.  Need I say more?

Second, my major issue is I can’t find a home for things.  You’d think it was simple but my brain quits.  So I pile.  BUT I know my way around my piles.  I continually declutter hoping to get to the point where there is so much space that I will be able to find homes for necessary stuff.  Wishful thinking, I know.  A girl can dream.

Today I drove a trunk load to one of the thrift stores.  As I passed them onto the worker, that stuff no longer had any hold on me.  It made me think about how I’ve been decluttering myself over the last few years.  We don’t always think about it this way but we get cluttered up too. Occasionally, we need to purge the garbage out.

Everyone talks about the schedule.  Make time to breathe.  I totally agree.  If we are scheduling ourselves so much, we might want to ask ourself one question?  Well, maybe two?  Why?  What are we running from?  A very busy schedule doesn’t afford you time to sit down and reflect.  It just keeps you in a whirlwind.  It’s our choice to be in it or not.  Only we can stop the crazy.

Some other clutter has been around for ages.  Hurts and wounds that we’ve shoved down or aside because we didn’t think they were important enough to warrant time to sift through them and understand them.  We try to ignore them but they persistently come up to the surface.  Would it be worth the effort and time it takes to sort through those matters?

Fear.  It’s like dust, it just settles on everything and makes everyone miserable.  We may have to sweep out a few fears to see what’s underneath it all.  Several inches of dust can hide a lot.  So can several fears.  Sweep them out, take a look at what’s underneath and stomp on anything that’s looks like a bug!  It’ll make you feel better.  It really will.

One of the things I’m looking at is pressure and expectations.  Mainly my own.  They are totally unrealistic and are paralyzing.  I can’t move for all the stuff!  The result: NOTHING!  There is no productivity because I’m too busy worried about producing!  Somewhere along the line I made up some totally stupid rules for myself.  They don’t work at all.  Maybe you have too.  Life becomes a burden.

As I sat quiet, I remembered that there is someone I can go to with all this.  I’ve been ignoring Him too lately.  “Lord, help me just to sit near you today.  What do you want me to do?”  What I really needed was some rest.  Not sleep but time to enjoy something.  Not produce.  Not clean. (Thank goodness!).  To Enjoy.

Earlier I’d read a blog by Michael Hyatt about putting more art back in our lives.  It resonated with me.  I like to create.  I needed something more than writing.  I pulled out my paints.

My "creation".
My “creation”.

Once we start to declutter, we need to fill those spaces with some good stuff.  Things that makes us happy.  Brings life.  Why do we get our kids involved in sports, music, dance and art only to crush that desire as adults?  I don’t get it.  Who do you respect more, an adult who is busy or an adult who took the time to do something he loved?  In a lot of our worlds, the word lazy would come to mind.  Busy is good.  Anything else is laziness.  But is it?

After I painted, I did some of the other things on my day’s To Do List.  Instead of being paralyzed by all my expectations and fear of failure, I was free to go and do my work.  God created for six days.  After each day, He said it was good.

Taking time to create a little every day whether it’s a meal, baking some treats, playing music or dancing, whatever you enjoy.  It’s always good. And it always produces more.  Abundant.  Life.

In Case You Need Something to Read…I’ve Got a Couple of Suggestions

I have always thought it would be cool to be a librarian.  I love books, scouring over pictures and artwork, reading stories that take me to faraway places and into worlds I had never even imagined.  Today I stroked it off my bucket list.  I am a volunteer librarian at our kids’ school. We have to put in so many hours of volunteer work at the school and what better place than the library?  And book geek that I am, I was totally thrilled that I got my own library card!

This morning as I read stories and helped kids find books to read, I felt a tremendous satisfaction.  There’s nothing more exciting than giving a child a book and seeing the potential of the two coming together; child with imagination and book.  I’ve seen it happen with my own boys.  A book, a story that captures the imagination can set in motion so many things, it will blow your mind!  Comics or pictures are drawn, new battles acted out with light sabres or lego-mini figs.  Storylines are set in motion for all kinds of play.  Ideas attach themselves to other books or things read.   It’s a tremendous thing to witness.

Setting up books on the table to spotlight, I pulled Jane Eyre out and put it in a prominent place.  I have a degree in English and some of the classics are so good, I just had to dust off their covers.  I knew some girl would see Jane and take her home.  As I checked out the books, Jane showed up with some other books.  I smiled at the girl and said, “That’s such a good book!”

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Surprisingly, another child had pulled Pride and Prejudice off the shelf!  I smiled secretly.  I know these girls will find good friends among these stories.  Yeah I know I totally sound like a book nerd.  I’m okay with that.

Since I’m talking about books, I wanted to share a couple of books I’ve read or been reading that you really shouldn’t miss out on.  I took the summer to savour, Angie Smith’s Chasing God.  You have to read this a chapter at a time because she gives you so much to think about.  I really had to go back and rethink what I knew or thought I knew about God.  I had to question whether it was man-made up or truth?  It was a process of rediscovering who God is and isn’t.  Angie Smith is real and funny and not afraid of the hard questions!  I haven’t shelved it yet because I want to read it again.  It had that much in it!  I loved this book.

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The second book is Atlas Girl by Emily Wierenga.  She’s a fellow Canadian and half of the story takes place around the area I grew up.  The names of towns and scenery was familiar.  It’s her memoir and I’ve eaten it up, almost done.  It’s gritty and raw as she writes about her battle with anorexia and childhood neglect.  How she nursed her mom, who had brain cancer.  It’s not depressing at all because all along her journey, God doesn’t lose sight of Emily.  She too, asks the hard questions.  It’s the kind of book where at the end, you just want to have a coffee with her.  Seriously.

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Both Smith and Wierenga, in telling their own stories and struggles, give us permission as readers, to ask our own questions.  To go to God and say, “I don’t get this”, “Why?” and “Help my unbelief”.  It shatters some of the stereotypes out there that because we follow Jesus, we have to have all the answers.  Good news is, we don’t.  He’s so much bigger than our questions.  He can handle them.  It’s okay to ask.  Maybe sometimes even shout them.  He’s got it.

There are so many good books out there, that my pile of Have to Reads is going to be taller than I am soon!  So much to read and so little time!  I might have to make room at the top of the pile for Jane though.  It’s been a while.

The Call to Fly

There is freedom waiting for you,

On the breezes of the sky,

And you ask, “What if I fall?”

Oh but my darling,

What if you fly?  

Erin Hanson

I fell in love with this quote the other day.  Someone posted the last bit on social media and it claimed me on a very deep and personal level.  The picture with the quote was of a child dressed up in faery wings.  I imagined the scene between a child and a parent.  Which one am I?  I know immediately.  What about you?  Which one are you?

I didn’t arrange this honestly, but the theme of bravery has been coursing through my life for a while now.  Which is why it’s popping up in my blog a lot.  My husband is preaching on it.  (No, we are not collaborating!)  I’ve been studying Esther.  I just finished the Divergent series by Veronica Roth, which has a discourse on bravery running through all three books.  “Be Brave” is the motto of one of the groups or factions and the main character wrestles with what this really means, to be brave.  So when I read this quote, I immediately saw it through the filter of bravery and fear.

So often we are afraid to try.  Fear strangles the breath and life out of everything and only dark remains.  “What if I fall?” we whisper to ourselves.  When did self-preservation become the be all and end all of life?  Better not expect too much.  Expectations equal disappointment, right?  Aim low.

I’ve fallen for these lies.  Now I’m shoving them back from where they came.  The people who are happiest in life, no, the people who are most content with their lives are the people who at least tried.  As Mark said yesterday.  They jumped.  Chances are they ended up flying too.  Maybe not at first but eventually.  They didn’t give up.  They kept jumping because their goal was to fly.  Their focus was not falling.  They are the brave.

Here’s another little gem I found a few years back.  Hanson’s poetry made me think of it:  “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.  We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?  Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.  Your playing small does not serve the world.”  – Marianne Williamson, from Return to Love.

There’s more but it’s too long to put here.  This made me think that maybe sometimes it’s not that we are afraid to fall but we are afraid of the flying.  Especially sometimes in church circles, flying is frowned upon.  Shhh.  You didn’t hear it from me but it’s true.  It gets mixed up in the highly competitive and comparison driven world we live in.  An egocentric driven success is not what I’m talking about here.  Anywhere pride lives, well, as my son says, “It’s messed up.”

People will always want to put a label on your flying or light.  At times it makes us want to hide it under a bushel so to speak.  A blogger I follow, Adelle Gabrielson writes about shining in her blog.  Williamson’s quote brought her blog to mind.  We need to shine!  “Playing small does not serve the world.”  What would have happened had Paul played it small?  “Oh I’m such a bad person.  I can’t possibly go and preach the good news.  What would people think?”

What about Peter or Deborah?  Your favourite artist?  Billy Graham or Beth Moore?  What about that brilliant prof or coach?  Your own parents?  Would shoving their talents away from the world, do any good whatsoever?  I don’t think so.  I would hate to think what the world would be like without those people who made a difference in our lives.  Who focused on flying rather falling.  If you know people who have let the fear of falling rule their lives, you’ve already witness the damage of not trying.  The light goes out but guess what?  It’s never too late to fan that light back into existence.  It’s not.

Being brave isn’t always about big accomplishments, sometimes it’s about taking the next step.  Getting up out of bed.  Working towards a dream against all odds.  Loving your children even when it’s hard.  Going to work.  Standing up for what you believe.  Some days these are all hard to do.  It takes some courage to do it.  Letting our light shine in the darkness around us.  Although these seem small, they are in fact big.  It’s an oxymoron, I know.

God is calling us to be brave.  To be the person He created us to be.  He asking us to fly.

“But what if I fall?”

His answer? Beloved, I’ve got you if you do.  And every time after, until you fly.

How Hope Trumps Fear

Thirteen years ago, the world became a very different place.  More fearful.  And yet, braver.

This anniversary is always a jumble of emotions for me.  The horrific events of September 11, 2001 were bookended by terrible tragedies happening in my own personal space.  Death and sadness had already invaded our homes the weekend before and then again the weekend after.  If that wasn’t enough to deal with, Mark and I were moving to New Brunswick.

Monday September 10, the movers came and packed us up and we said goodbye to family and friends and drove to Ottawa to stay the night with Mark’s parents.  Our car was having some issues so bright and early Tuesday morning, Mark took it to the garage.  It was going to take a couple of hours to fix it but we thought we should be on our way by the afternoon.

He went down to watch some tv. I ate some cereal and thought about a sad funeral happening that day back home.

Then Mark was calling to us from downstairs.  Something about a plane hitting a building in NY.  Another tragedy.

With the second strike, we knew it was much more and we parked ourselves in front of the tv, watching and listening.  Then the car was ready and we had to go.  Leaving all we loved behind as we drove into an unknown and now scary future.

As we drove through Quebec, and into the dark, we listened to the radio all the way.  It was surreal.  We were driving to a new ministry, a new city, a new province.  We really didn’t know anyone there other than the few people in the new church who had called us.  Meanwhile the world as we knew it, was crumbling.

There would be one more loss to be mourned that weekend and then the silence that follows disaster, death, loss.

Thirteen years later, as we remember I can’t help but feel that although fear invaded along with the terrorists, hope stealthily crept in too.  I see it this morning as I scroll through Facebook and blogs.  The words fear, love, hero, remember all jump at me from the screen.

 

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The word hope has been popping up a lot lately for me.  My eyes are just starting to waken to this.  (Sometimes it takes me a while!)  What I did notice was hope doesn’t travel alone.  Hope usually brings a few companions with it, like the words from social media.  Love.  The bible tells us love drives out all fear.  Love saved thousands that day thirteen years ago.  It stomped out fear not by erasing it but in overcoming it.

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Hope and love bring along kindness too.  Like that Maritime hospitality that ministered to so many stranded after planes were grounded. I’ve experienced that Maritime kindness and let me tell you, it can’t be beat.  A kind gesture can unravel even the tightest knots of fear, mourning, hate.  Hope, love and kindness trump fear.  Every.Time.

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Ironically, I read this today in my homework for Beth Moore’s study on Esther: “When we trust our lives to the hand and pen of an unseen but ever-present God, He will write our lives into His story and every last one of them will turn out to be a great read…And not just in spite of those catastrophes. Often because of them.” Beth Moore, p. 14

How many peoples stories changed thirteen years ago not just in spite of circumstances but because of them?  Stories of bravery, love and human kindness.  I’m betting a lot of those people didn’t even know they had it in them.  We often wonder don’t we, if we would be as heroic, selfless, brave?

It was a day meant for terror but in the end it was a day of hope, love and kindness.  As I remember, I mourn, yes but I celebrate the courage, the love, the kindness that triumphed.  And with it, hope breaks forth anew.  Hope in a God who loves us.  Whose love and kindness won the victory over fear and evil two thousand years ago and every day after.

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What are you remembering today?

 

Photos are from my personal files.  Please contact me for permission to copy.  Thank you.

 

 

When You Feel Lost

And the Lord directed me at that time to teach you the decrees and laws you are to follow in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess. Deut. 4:14 NIV

School’s in and routine is back in full swing.  I’m happy about it, I really am.  I enjoy knowing some semblance of what the day, week will bring.  With the onset of routine however, a glaring flaw is exposed.  You know that lost feeling that comes with change.  Yeah that’s it.  Sometimes it doesn’t ever leave.  It just stays and nags at your mind.  Do you get it too?

Maybe your little ones have gone off to school.  You have days and years of busyness with kiddos at home but now they’re off to play and learn at school.  You have the time you’ve been dreaming about since they were about a month old.   Only you can’t figure out what it was you wanted to do.

Or your children have flown the nest, soaring free, and you are alone.  No one to worry about anymore.  Maybe your spouse is around and the two of you don’t know each other very well.  The house echoes like a dark cave.

Maybe you just feel like you have no purpose.  Yeah, you have lots to do, just nothing fulfilling.  You are lost, wandering aimlessly around the house, guilt-ridden the house isn’t clean but you can’t even bring yourself to do it.  Or your job is full of nothing.  You can hardly make yourself get in the car and go everyday.

I feel that way too.  I am starting to empathize with the Israelites as they wandered in the desert for forty years.  As I’ve read their story again this summer, I found some new tidbits I never noticed before.  First of all as little kids, we were taught the Israelites were lost.  They weren’t.  God knew exactly where they were.  They did not know their destination at first.  God did.  Then they refused to go and take their inheritance.  Then they changed their minds.  God wasn’t too happy with them.  They didn’t trust Him.  Part of the reason they didn’t trust Him was they didn’t really know Him.

He wanted to teach them a few things.  He wanted to school them in how to be His chosen people.  They had, after all, been under the yoke of slavery in a foreign country for hundreds of years.  Probably safe to say that much Egyptian influence had seeped into their lifestyles and beliefs.  So they needed some time alone, away with God to learn trust and dependence, obedience and worship.  A desert is a perfect place to learn, away from the distractions and busyness of life in a populated city.

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Right off the bat, they had to put their trust in God to lead them out of Egypt.  They had to trust Moses, the leader God selected.  He parted the Red Sea for them to walk through and then drowned their enemies.  Still they doubted.  It was going to take a while for them to overcome the mindset of slavery and embrace their freedom.  It was going to take time for them to learn to trust a loving God over the threat of a whip.  Lies need to be replaced with truth.  It was going to take some time.

With their trust, He also wanted their obedience.  Not forced labour.  He gave them free will.  They had to learn how to exercise it.

He wanted their exclusive worship.  They had to get rid of all idols, the gods they knew about to know the one true God.  Why?  Because He loved them.  He wanted them to love Him back.  To know Him intimately and as long as there were mistresses in the house as idols, they wouldn’t.  Their hearts would be divided.

God knew what was best for them.  It was important that they were separate, different from the other nations.  When they got to the promised Land, they knew these things already. (Deut 4:14)

Deuteronomy 4:5-7 NIV tells us: See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the Lord my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. 6 Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” 7 What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him?

The choice to rebel was real and on several occasions the Israelites decided to take that road.  It brought division and chaos.  God means business when He gives us His Word and the people of Israel learned it the hard way.  In learning to trust, obey and worship, they were laying down their wills and acknowledging who was the one true God.

The book of Deuteronomy is a book of remembrance.  A reminder of God’s grace, His love and His majesty.  So they didn’t forget who they belonged to.

If you are feeling lost, maybe it’s a matter of perspective.  We don’t know the destination but God does.  Maybe the final stop is not really that important.  The journey of getting there, of learning trust, obedience and worship, is the most meaningful part of the journey.  Maybe it’s about laying down our wills, our rebellion and acknowledging who is really the boss of our lives.  So that when we get to our promised land, we are different from those around us.  These lessons will be imprinted on our foreheads and palms and doorposts.  People will say about us, “What other faith is so great as to have their God near them whenever they pray to Him?”