The Middle Space

“There has to be a middle. Without it, nothing can ever truly be a whole. Because it is not just a space between, but also what holds everything together.”
                                                                           – Sarah Dessen,  Just Listen

There’s a prevalent lie today in Christian circles that we have to be “okay.” That we can’t doubt God or question him. That we can’t be mad at him. We can struggle, yes, ask a few whys but it should never get to a fist-shaking and faith-rattling brawl with God.

I tend to disagree. Some of us need to go through that fight as part of our journey. In fact it’s integral to it. It’s working out our faith and relationship with God.

Paul writes to the church in Philippians 2:12:
[ Do Everything Without Grumbling ] Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling

Wrestling with God is one way to work out your salvation.

Journeys have a beginning and an ending. Usually, we are in a hurry to begin, to get going on the adventure. Equally so with the arrival at our destination. No one really likes the middle part, after a bit.

It starts out okay but then someone has to go to the bathroom, gets car sick or lost. Tempers start to flare as boredom or anxiety sets in. “Are we there yet? How much more time?” It’s accompanied by a whine. This is the middle part of a journey. It’s ugly and messy and painful. I know you’ve been there in your mini-van which has started to feel like a clown car with one too many clowns in it. It’s getting uncomfortable. Who hasn’t been there?

Our spiritual journeys aren’t much different for some of us. We go through bursts of enthusiasm and vision at the start, only to stumble through the middle part. The waiting. The boredom. The fear and frustration. The feeling lost and directionless. The anger. We struggle with the suffocation of questions and doubts. The feeling that we can’t take One.More.Thing.

We’re spoiling for a fight. We start to wrestle with God.

Sometimes the church and followers of Jesus have a hard time with those of us who fight with God. There’s a slight air of disapproval. A purse of the lips. That’s a human perspective. I believe God can handle our grappling with Him. There’s nothing we throw at Him that He hasn’t already seen coming. He is our safest “opponent.”

Jeremiah certainly doesn’t make any bones about his complaint with God in Jeremiah 15:18.
Why then does my suffering continue?
    Why is my wound so incurable?
Your help seems as uncertain as a seasonal brook,
    like a spring that has gone dry.”

He echoes my own lament. He’s not the only one.

In Genesis chapter 32, starting at verse 22, Jacob physically wrestled all night with God. He came away from that fight with a blessing and a limp. And a new identity. No longer Jacob, but Israel, which means “God fights”. Interesting that, isn’t it?

I’ve always felt like I was less of a Christian because I was a fighter. Feisty. Not sure I would have survived if I hadn’t been. I have battled with God. Many times. I understand where these guys are coming from and I’m thankful their matches are right there in ink on the pages of the Bible.

If you find yourself locking horns with God today, don’t back down. He has the answers and He is truth. There are times we struggle with God and who He is to figure out the truth – about Him, about ourselves. It might take all night but don’t give up because someone gave you a disapproving “hrumph”. Seriously.

Jacob came away from that night better than he was before it. He met God face to face. We do too when we engage in combat with God. You can’t fight blindfolded or if you are hiding. For some of us, it’s the only way we let Him in close enough that He can grab hold of us.

Struggle, wrestle, fight, call it whatever, but it’s a part of our middle.
Not the entirety. The journey is full of ups and downs and good and bad. All those things combined, including the wrestling, make us who we are. Moulds us into the whole. It is the middle part that strengthens and deepens our relationship with God. James says it in his book in the first chapter.

Dear brothers and sisters,[a] when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. James 1:2-4 NLT

So when testing and trials come and you find yourself wrestling with God, remember you are in good company. Don’t pretend it’s not happening or you’re too spiritual for that kind of thing. God can take it. He’ll see you through.

Don’t give up and believe the lies that keep you from the truth. That takes the fight right out of you before the battle begins. It’s what the enemy wants. For you to give up. So don’t. Fight. Fight to get to the other side. Fight for the truth and fight for your relationship with God.

When we get to our eternal destination, it’s our middle that holds the beginning and the end together and it has God’s fingerprints all over it, glueing it together, creating our whole.

Why I Send My Kids to Summer Camp

Let me just get this off my chest. I am not a camper. My family did not camp. The couple of camping experiences I had were rainy. Very. Rainy.

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The church and girl guide camps I went to didn’t endear me either. I am not particularly fond of the great outdoors. I hate playing games of any kind. I got homesick.

Perhaps I gave up too soon. So why then, did I encourage my kids to go to summer camp?

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1. Strangely, I still like the idea of camp. Stories taking place at camp and boarding schools were some of my favourites. Maybe the idea of no parents was intriguing. I also noticed that many kids who went away to camp and liked it, were campers for life. Somewhere there was a grain of truth to camp being a good thing and I wanted to find it for my kids.

2. Camp is very different from when I went to camp, many eons ago. Adventure awaits, not crafts. Well there are crafts for those who want them but when I went, it seemed to this non-crafty person, a main feature. As mentioned, I am not outdoorsy partly due to the fact I am allergic to trees, grass, dust, animals, etc. That pretty much makes up a lot of the outdoors. Also as previously stated, NOT a gamer.
But today’s camp? Adventures to test your mettle await. It might scare you silly but who cares? Rock climbing walls, high ropes, and all kinds of other challenging things for kids to try that they don’t necessarily get to do at home. Maybe that’s what I was looking for as a kid. I wanted to prove myself. Today’s campers get to do that if they so choose. (And maybe I just went to the wrong camps!)

3. Kids learn to get along. There is always someone in the cabin who rubs you the wrong way. It’s Murphy’s Law. The cabins are tight quarters so you learn very quickly, to put up with them or work it out. This is a skill that our kids will take with them into adulthood and use many times. More adults should go to camp and learn this skill.

4. Kids learn independence. My kids suddenly learned skills they didn’t (and I didn’t) know they could do like wash dishes! They had to learn to keep track of their stuff and pack it all up to go home. They learned that they could work through homesickness and have a feeling of pride that they made it to the end of the week. This in turn, lets them know they have what it takes to endure, and persevere.

5. Even though I don’t like the outdoors all that much, I want my kids to. Camp provides them with a beautiful setting and lets them see and appreciate nature and God’s creation. They learn to respect it and how to live in it. They see the beauty and the danger. It creates a sense of wonder and awe, even if it’s momentary.

6. In today’s tech age, camp provides a reprieve from it all; Instragram, Facebook, Twitter and whatever else kids are on these days. Camp pries the phone from their fingers and puts it in Time Out. They get the chance to look up, breathe and actually see their surroundings. They have to talk to someone face-to-face at camp. They get to laugh and clown around with other kids, without a phone in their hand to take a selfie.

7. Camp gives kids a chance to discover their own personality. Without parental eyes looking over their shoulders, they have a chance to loosen up and try new things and test out behaviours. (Sorry counsellors!)

8. Finally camp opens up a new world. They meet new people from different cities. They learn about their new friends’ worlds. They try new things and foods. They learn about leadership and take away a few lessons of their own. We’ve had many discussions about what they like in a leader and what they don’t. What they might emulate when they are in a leadership position. Camp shows them that there is a bigger world out there and endless possibilities.

So that’s why I send my kids to camp. I want them to be campers. Call me crazy. That being said, we chose the camp our kids go to very carefully. As parents we are trusting our children into the care of these people. You want to make sure they are going to be safe because stuff happens. It’s a good idea to talk to people who went to the camp as campers or their parents. I was familiar with the camp as it was near a cottage we rent.

It’s also a good idea to review with your kids about what is appropriate and what is not. Secrets are not okay. Hopefully, they vet the workers but why not be preventative? Some things to think about if you are considering sending your kids to camp.  We all want it to be a positive experience, right?

I prayed hard before and while they were at camp.  They may not be an arm’s length away from me but they are never out of their Father’s hands.

Finally, I do want to thank all the people who volunteer and work at camps. This is a calling and I, for one, am thankful for those who are called because I am not. The cabin leaders and other volunteers can make a difference in a life.  You have much influence.  So thank you.

Until next year…

 

Let Go & Let God

I’m not sure who coined that phrase but it’s often said frequently and with very little thought.

We let it slide off our tongues like syrup. Meant to comfort others and advise them. As parents, it’s harder to take our own advice.

As a mom, we don’t always want to let God do His thing. We want to hang on tightly to our kids, not let go.

We want to keep them safe. We want to keep them happy. We want to keep them successful in the worldly sense.

Evil lurks around every corner. We know this. We do not want to let God and let go….

I’m sharing over at Raising Generations Today this morning.  You can read rest of the blog here.  Enjoy and be sure to check out information for their Thrive conference in the fall.

Why People Win Over Achievement

“I’m learning over and over again that connection heals me more than achievement ever could.” Shauna Niequist

Often times we believe when our dreams come true, everything else will fall into place. That we’ll be content, happy. That we’ll be the person we want to be. Finally.

The shocking truth is it doesn’t happen, Even remotely. Because if you’ve attached your emotional health, your worth to achievement then you are sitting on a rocky foundation. It will be shaken at the first criticism or self-doubt.

With success and achievement come the whispers that you can do more. Be more. It will never be enough, especially if we believe we aren’t enough to begin with.

Why? Because we’ve attached ourselves to a black hole that can never be fed enough. There will always be someone better, faster and smarter. There will always be another level to conquer. Another award to win. It’s become all about us. It’s a ton of pressure.

I’ve been thinking about Shauna Niequist’s quote since I read it a week ago. It was in my Overcomer study on Philippians by Margaret Feinberg.

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Niequist is right but I don’t really want to admit it. It’s a bitterly hard pill to swallow for this introvert and recovering people hater to admit that we need each other. It’s one of the hardest struggles I have in ministry. Sometimes I drift to the “dark side” and think ministry would be so much better if not for the people. We might actually get God’s work done. Oh yeah, that’s right, God’s work is people. Shoot.

Why is connection, key to healing and not achievement? Because it is through people we get glimpses of God, His love for us and his acceptance of us. Achievements, success, more money, awards are momentarily great but they can’t do what people do. Love us. As we are. Achievement always demands more. That we be more. Do more. Acquire more.

Connection is relational. It only requires we engage. That doesn’t necessarily mean talk either. Sometimes it means just listening for our benefit or someone else’s.

 

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Connection is spiritual. I totally believe in kindred spirits. But I also believe connecting to someone totally different than you can be equally as rewarding.

It’s spiritual because it comes from God, who created us for relationship. It also points us back to God.  He’s the only relationship that can totally heal us.  He uses other people to help us down that road and direct us back to him but He is the true physician.  He gifts us with other people and the connection they bring to our hearts.

People who genuinely love us let us be who we are, while at the same time they inspire us to be better. It’s not the same as achievement. They love us even if we hadn’t written a book, got a promotion, won a race. It will never matter what we do. It only matters that we be.

Love. Acceptance. Understanding. Kindness. These are a few of the building blocks to health and healing. Kids who are loved, accepted, and are understood and grow up in a kind environment, usually grow into healthy adults. For those of us who missed out on those things, as adults we can still do ourselves a favour and learn to love, accept and understand ourselves. Be kind to ourselves. It’s never too late to grow into the person we want to be.

If we in return show love, acceptance, understanding and kindness, they can help us on the road to healing. Every time we choose to give them away, we become more of who we were meant to be and that is healthy. If I make the effort to join in and be a part of a group, instead of hiding, I find that my heart gets lighter and my mood better. (Usually 🙂 Knowing you did the right thing too, can certainly make a difference in feeling better about yourself.

How did I learn this? In community. Of. Course.

In many different communities; a course that helped me deal with anxiety, many different churches, MOPS, family and friends. My life is richer because of them all. The awards and accomplishments have added to it too as well as the failures but they fade, the friendships, the love do not.

Maybe I’ll take that pill with a little bit of jam!

 

 

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.