Treasures from a Trip of Remembrance

(Before you read the blog, I just want to draw your attention to the beautiful header on my site and the logo you’ve been seeing.  A huge thank you goes to my very talented friend, Ben Guse who designed it for me!  I love it!  Thank you Ben!)

Now here’s the blog:

I was on a quest this morning. The boys had been asking about old class pictures. I couldn’t find them. After a major move, when you can’t find something you start to get a little worried. Either it eventually turns up or it’s gone.

After another conversation about the said pictures last night, I made it my mission to find them this morning. Closets, bins and boxes were searched. Where were they? I knew I had not knowingly thrown them out. I went back to the only place I could think they would be even though I had looked quickly in the bin already. The scrapbooking bin.  I haven’t really touched it in five years!

I pulled it out into the light and started sorting through it. Eureka! They they were halfway in. Breathing a sigh of relief I put them aside but kept going through the papers and pictures. I was having some fun looking at some of the treasures I hadn’t seen in a while.

 

Besides the class photos, I found a few things I wasn’t expecting.

Friendships. Some have endured and others have not. But every single person in those pictures brought something to my life. Friends are like that, right? Some really are for a season but it doesn’t mean their impact is any less. It was so good to see some old friends smiling up at me. We had some really fun times together. We really don’t have any idea how we make an imprint on other people’s lives. When we don’t have those relationships, we become barren and dry.

Hope. As I sorted and remembered I was filled with hope. Some pictures were of experiences and relationships that were hard. Some were awesome.  That’s life.  I realize sitting here, that if we let the bad go, the good does endure.  Through it all, as I remember, I believe that nothing happened that surprised God. That every step was taken with Him present. Many in the different places we have lived, have moved on and grown. Some of the journeys have been very difficult but here we are. Still standing. For some of us, we’re leaning on others but we are still standing. There is abundant hope in that.

Healing. Pictures of little boys smiling. Eyes dancing. They made me think, “We did have some fun, those boys and I.” I wouldn’t have said that a few years ago or even some months ago. For a long time I could not look at photos of the tiny boys because they made me sad. I didn’t like the person I was at that time. All I saw was a bad mom. Today I didn’t see that. I saw the good. Forts and campfires. Endless days of Thomas. Play dough. Days filled with play. Yes there were some really hard days but they are starting to fade. Today I found some truth to hang onto. A realization that it wasn’t all bad. Today I believe that.

Gratefulness. I found some thank you notes for serving in ministry. Reading them made me feel grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to do some pretty amazing things in ministry. I feel grateful for the many fabulous people I’ve worked with and gotten to know. Their belief in me when I didn’t have faith in myself, was such a gift. It pushed me to do things I would have run away from. We had some fun. Boy, did we!

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Purpose. Those thank you notes also opened my eyes to the fact what we do makes a difference in other’s lives too. It’s easy to forget. We often don’t realize how our actions and words can make a positive difference to someone else. How God takes our gifts and uses them in ways we can’t even imagine. Too often, and I’m so guilty of this, we like to hide our gifts and ignore our purpose because it’s just easier to do so. We can’t give in to that. We make a difference in our spheres of influence. Big or small.

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Goodness. I found some tickets and conference notes. Pictures of new places. I was blessed to be able to go to some really good conferences back in the late 2000’s. MOPS near Dallas, National Pastor’s Conference in San Diego and Just Between Us Pastor’s Wives’ Conference in Nashville. All three had significant impact on my life at that time when kids were little and leaving was hard. But worth it. They were gifts to me. Gifts of friendship, of learning and of travel. The gift and hope of seeing a better future. In some dark times, these were good things.

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I hadn’t planned on taking a walk down memory lane today. Sometimes we find ourselves in unexpected places. It might be a chance to remember and reflect about what has played out in the past and what we hope for the future. Maybe you are at that place. It’s time for you to take a little trip of remembrance. Or maybe it’s time for a new perspective. Time to see the good and give thanks. Wherever you are today, I hope you remember the good and it fills you with hope for a better future.

Remember the things I have done in the past. For I alone am God! I am God, and there is none like me.
Isaiah 46:9 NLT

A Beautiful Life

It’s one of the hazards of being married to someone who’s job requires you to move around a lot. It’s also a blessing.

You meet a lot of people. The problem being, you only get to spend so much time with them and then, you move on. So do they. That’s life.

But these last few days it’s been hard to be away from a place we once called home. A Beloved of ours went home to be with Jesus. It was only three weeks ago that she texted me to tell me that awful disease had returned. It didn’t look good but I didn’t think it would take her so fast. All I wanted to do was somehow get out to the East Coast. I couldn’t.

It’s been twelve years since we last saw each other. I thought I’d get to see her again.

Wendy and her husband, Dave embraced Mark and I like family when we lived in Fredericton, NB. They were our family away from home and when we had our first son, out there on the East Coast on our own, they became our East Coast grandparents. East Coast Nana we’d joke. They loved Ian and it’s my biggest regret she didn’t get to see him again. And meet Ben.

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Ian’s first time in the Atlantic.  He got a bit blue and Wendy warmed him up!

Ironically, a few weeks ago the topic of moving came up with Ian. He said he wouldn’t want to move again because he’d already grown up without his Windsor friends and he didn’t want to grow up without his Kitchener friends too. I know how he feels. Because he didn’t get to grow up with his Fredericton friends either, although he can’t remember them. But I do. I know what he missed out on. Because we miss them too.

I miss her big heart. Her sense of fun. There was always a silver lining to be celebrated. I didn’t really like brownies until I ate Wendy’s. And her chocolate marshmallow squares. A little slice of heaven.  I miss her beautiful spirit. And the fun times we had whenever we were together even though some of the circumstances weren’t really great.

I remember looking at each other across our family room, during the Superbowl and the infamous wardrobe malfunction. “Did we really just see that?” and laughing about it later. I remember campsites and painting Easter eggs at their dining room table.

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But it was their example of what a real Jesus follower looks like that left the biggest impact on our lives. They lived it. They belonged to our little church. They stuck it out when things got hard and followed God’s leading rather than anyone else’s. It’s rare to see that in church today. But if you come across people like Dave and Wendy, it’s a beautiful sight to behold. Their example of following Jesus, has probably spurred our family on these past years in ministry. They gave us hope that there might be others. Those who follow Jesus no matter what. That ministry is worth it.

Finally, I love how she and Dave love each other. Always evident. Always real. Something else to aspire to.

Thank you for sharing your life with us for those three short years Wendy. Because that’s what you did. You shared your beautiful self. It was a gift. I will always be grateful for you.

TURN Things Around

Family is where your story begins. The sign was on the mantle at the cottage I stayed at a couple of weeks ago.

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I have a similar saying posted in my kitchen area. Instead of family, it says Home is where your story begins.

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Either way, the meaning is the same. Our homes, our families, that’s where it all begins. The potential that exists in a family or home at the very start is staggering. No pressure there for young married or young parents, right?

I think we all feel that pressure. I hear it all the time from moms. I said it enough as a young mom myself. “I’m afraid I’m going to wreck my kids.” It’s got to be up there in the top five things we fear most as parents.

The thing is we don’t need to be afraid. We aren’t going to be perfect with our kids or our spouses. Ever. We’ll do some things right and others, we are going to mess up. Because of grace, there still is hope. We are given second chances. It’s not second best either.

Sometimes we think that, right? That a second try is second best? It’s not. Sometimes it’s better.

Thankfully that potential is always there. Waiting to be tapped. Even if it gets messed up. As Brene Brown says, “It often takes just a single brave person to change the trajectory of a family or of any system, for that matter.” (from her book, Rising Strong. Yes do read it!!!)

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Do we want to be that single brave person? Even if our own stories were horrific, or disappointing?  We can still be the one to say, “Enough.”  Write a new ending.  For ourselves.  For our children.  TURN things around.

A TURN ABOUT can change everything and every outcome. I have lived it. I have been witness to it. I’m sure we all have at some point.

Even in the beginning, after Adam and Eve sinned and it looked like things couldn’t get more messed up, God TURNED things around for us. Did He have to? No, he could have just started all over again. He had that ability. But He chose to redeem rather than start over.

He still does today. For us. Redeem rather than start over. He takes those things that we think are irreversible and He TURNS them AROUND. He TURNS them UPSIDE DOWN. Or RIGHT SIDE UP. You might be the person He’s going to do it through.  It may take a journey to get there but it’s worth it. The journey brings about the change needed and the end result is a story to be told. Stories beginning one way and ending in a way we never imagined or hoped for.

Adam and Eve were the first family. They were also the first messed up family. But that was not their ending. It doesn’t have to be ours either.

I posted that saying to remind myself that I wanted to change how my boys’ stories were going to play out. That I had a say in how their stories would unfold. That the potential is always there, waiting to be let loose. That grace does bring second chances. That love and courage can TURN our stories around.

Journey To Hope

Hope: a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen or want something to happen or be the case. (taken from Google online dictionary)

What are you hoping for? Who or what do you put your hope in?

I heard somewhere that the absence of hope equals despair. If you have no hope, there is no point. Why do anything? There is no purpose. It’s hard just to get out of bed.

Have you ever been in that space where hope slid away into nothingness and life had a hollow feel to it? The emptiness was an abyss that mocked you. Definitely not in the fuzzy warm feeling category! Some people might not get it if they’ve never been there or they might think you’re lazy or selfish.

Let them judge. I think it’s something we all experience in some form or another. We have to lose our hope to find it. To begin to understand it and own it. I know you’ve heard that from someone, somewhere. I’m just starting to realize the implications of that statement.

Some people know their hope from day one. But for others of us, it’s a journey (sometimes a really long road trip) to finding our hope. I’m not sure it ever finishes. It’s no surprise that our hope, is really Someone. Getting to know Him, the author of our
souls and trust Him, that’s the journey and it doesn’t happen overnight.

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Like any good relationship, it’s going to take some time. Some travel time along the high points of life or the mudslides that trip us up and threaten to drown us, that binds us together. It’s how all friendships are moulded and are shaped over the years. Those friendships that stick to us through thick and thin. Why do we think our relationship with Jesus would be any different? Why do we treat it so foreignly?

We try to replace Him with other relationships in our lives. Spouses, BFF’s and the opinion, praise and thoughts of other people. We switch out Him, for houses,careers, promotions and things. These things can add to hope, but they are not the main Hope.

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If we push Him away, there’s gonna be a void. Without God there is no purpose or hope to our lives. We live out a selfish existence that ends in meaninglessness. What was it all for? With God as our Hope, life takes on purpose. I’m just starting to really understand that as well. I guess there’s just a little too much pride rolling around in this head. There’s still a part of me that thinks I can get along just fine without Him, thank you very much.

But what if you feel like He’s let you down? Abandoned you. Hope fled out the door along trust. Unfortunately in my experience, there’s no magic solution. It’s a hard journey back. It’s not optional if you want to find Hope. It’s like driving with a child who
is motion sick. You think you’ll never get there and when you do, you can’t get out of the car fast enough. All you want to do is plug your ears, close your eyes and scream. (Not that I’m talking from experience or anything!)

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Sunrise from our front window. His mercies are new every morning.

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However God in his grace and wisdom, He lets us find our way. I’m not promoting we ditch our hope or our trust just because. Certainly not. But if we find ourselves on this particular road, I believe He understands that sometimes we have to go on this journey to discover Him. To go into an even deeper relationship with Him. Isn’t it the people in our lives, who wisely gave us the long leash, the grace and time, to search and find the answers to our questions, that we sing the praises of? Aren’t they the people we respect and love the most? These people are reflections of God’s grace, love and wisdom. He allows these detours because it’s part of the refining process for some of us. He knows that when we come out the other side, we’re going to be golden. Shiny. Bright. Reflecting His glory. Singing Hope.

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What are you hoping for?  What kind of hope journey are you on?  Love to hear your stories.

The Lie of Dystopia

It’s no secret I love to read.  I once heard a Christian writer speak a number of years back and her advice was to read and read and read some more.  She encouraged us to read everything under the sun.  At the time she was reading Stephen King.

One of the genres I love is young adult fiction.  I never outgrew it.  There’s something about the innocence of that period of life that is refreshing.  So I’ve been reading a number of those books the last year.  I started partly because my son is an avid reader and reads well about his grade level.  He began to ask to read some of these books and I said, I’ll have to read them first.  (The hardships of parenting!)

Lately I’ve been reading some of those popular dystopia novels.  There are some brilliant writers out there because they had me hooked.  I felt like I lived and breathed with these characters.   I took the plot lines personally.  The books are packed with action.  Dystopia is not a happy place.  I have been emotionally traumatized.  It bothered me.  A lot.  I know I’m sensitive but this was a little ridiculous.  I couldn’t figure out why.

I knew much of it had to do with the brilliant writing.  To be able to reel a reader in like that and twist their emotions; man I wish I could write like that!  But there was something else.

I finally figured it out last night, talking to a friend about these books.  It’s this: In these books there is no hope.  Some would disagree with that but I would argue right back.  These stories begin in a dismal place and by the end I’m not sure the world is any brighter.  There’s so much loss and wreckage.  Can one recover fully? I felt robbed because the reality is the world we live in today is filled with bad stuff.  Just watch the news.

It’s a lie.  To say there is no hope.  To live with no hope means you are already dead, inside.  It’s hope that keeps us going.  The days I feel hopeless are the ones I want to go back and hide in whatever escape I can.  Bed, busyness, food.  To numb myself to the senseless world around me.

This isn’t what we were created for.  We were given life to go live it.  The child who was born two thousand years ago brought hope to the world.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:10-11 NASB

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The baby in the manger brought hope because he brought life.  In a world that was a doomed dystopia, he pushed the darkness aside, ripped the veil in two and ushered in a new and brilliant hope.  Eternal life. Relationship with God that didn’t require sacrifices and priests.  We were now able to approach the throne, freely.  The gift wasn’t for the elect few.  It was for all people.  Everyone.  No one left out.

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A beloved babe, the one and only son, was sent as a messenger of hope and everlasting love by the Father.  He looked past what we were and saw what we could become.  His love sent forth life.  Hope.

In the light of His Life, we too should shine our lights, especially as we enter this Advent season.  We know the hope but others don’t.  Shine His light into this world of darkness and fear and grief.  In the places where people think this stinking world is as good as it gets.

I think that’s why Christmas transcends race, religion and social status.  People are looking for a hope they can grasp with their world weary fingers.  All they want is to stop the insanity.  They desire something real.  It doesn’t come brightly wrapped with a pretty bow.  The babe in the manger.  The man-God on the cross.  He came crying as a newborn and died on a gory, bloody cross.

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The world around him went dark but He was not defeated.  The victory He won on the cross brought us hope, not just of eternal life but abundant life here on earth.  So we could say, even in the dark, “Joy to the world” and mean it.  And the world would know it.

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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.

 

 

The Whisper of Hope When It All Seems Black

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There are days, seasons where it seems that the darkness outweighs the light.  A good friend and I have been talking over the last couple of days.  She said, “There is nothing new under the sun.”  She’s right but it doesn’t make the world any less crazy, scary.  Hard to understand.

Sickness, war, cancer, death, to name a few, all crowd in, vying for our attention.  They’ve got mine these last few weeks.  Even the weather is making people wonder what is going on.  I watched a documentary on climate change the other night and I felt frightened for the world and for my kids’ future world.  It wasn’t even news to me.  I like to keep a close eye on the weather and climate change because the fact that the world is warming up is of great concern to me.  I hate hot.  I hate summer.

Doom and gloom.  With a late spring we are still waiting for, the world seems dirty, tired and just plain mean.  It’s hard to feel grateful.  I just want to go back to bed and pull the covers up.

Maybe while I’m lying there, I will think about some of the things that I’ve been reading about in Ephesians, and Colossians during the LentChallenge.  A theme that has been running through these epistles like an overflowing river.  Whispering hope.  Amidst all the distractions, it caught my attention.  The words IN CHRIST and the idea of Christ filling things.  Let me give you just a few examples I’ve come across:

Ephesians 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us in the heavenly realms, with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

Ephesians 1:7 In Him we have redemption through his blood….

Ephesians 1:13 And you also were included in Christ

Ephesians 4: 5-6 One Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Ephesians 4:10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens in order to fill the whole universe.

Colossians 1:17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

Colossians 2:9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.

Colossians 3:11 Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.  (emphasis added)

Those are just a few I’ve picked out.  If there was a focal point of the whole earth and everything in it, it would lead right back to Jesus.  In Him we are saved, we are blessed, we are redeemed.  He is in charge of all because he created it all.  All things – every thing that is assaulting you and me today, either good or bad – bow to Him.  He is before it and He is holding all things together.  He is all and in all and we can never get away from Him because He won’t let us go.  He’s got hands big enough to hold us.  To hold the world.

Where can I go from your Spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence?  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.  If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.  Psalm 139:7-10