Sunday, June 26, 2016

Rich

You know how there are stories - events, moments, incidents - that just somehow stick with you?  And long after they happen, the weight of them is settled in your soul, where they press and shape and influence you much more than you'd ever imagined they might?

Well I've had one of those stories lurking in the back of my mind for a few weeks.  I've probably blogged about this man more than once.  His story is so unexpected and beautiful and filled with hope and gratitude.  Maybe I hold it so close because I want those qualities to rub off on me. I'm not sure.

It was a hot sunny Sunday in Zambia.  I had walked to church on a path of fine, soft, incredibly dry dirt; the sound of rich, joyful singing growing louder with each step. Butterflies swooped and trembled in patches of shadow and sunshine, and army ants marched in strict formation.

If it wasn't for the gorgeous singing I'd have been hard pressed to go inside. But there is nothing - really nothing - like Lunda harmonies. They just get into my heart and make it soar.  In Zambia I really began to understand the verse that says God inhabits the praises of His people. He is right there in the living rhythms.

Because of the number of short-term volunteers in the area, there was often a translator, but not this day.  I enjoyed the chance to practice my Lunda a bit, but I wasn't sure I was following the message.  The speaker was an elder, a short old man with tears glittering in his eyes and an unmistakable joy on his face. His text was Ephesians 3:8, so I was expecting a message on the riches we have in Christ Jesus. I tried to pick out words I knew, but I just kept hearing him say death, dying. His sermon was punctuated by heartfelt amens, hallelujahs, and vigorous nodding from the congregation.

The missionary beside me leaned over and explained the gist of his message. He's all alone, she told me, his grown children have all died, his wife just died, and he's rejoicing in the riches we have in Christ.

I looked at this man, this old man who clearly had no earthly riches - not even the comfort of having his family around him in his old age. And he was standing there, fiercely rejoicing in the sureness of the riches in Christ.

His wife and children are all in heaven, my friend continued, they are suffering no longer. He has peace and joy in the confidence that he will see them again, and that they are now happier than they could have ever been on earth, because they see Jesus' face. He is encouraging us to remember the riches in Christ that we have now, and to set our hearts on things to come.  He's praising God for the hope He gives His people.

I was deeply stirred and challenged by this.  If I lost all of my darling family, would my testimony be one of hope and gratitude? Would I stand and proclaim His excellencies with fervor when my heart was overwhelmed?

And it stuck. It plays in my head and echoes in my heart and pulls my soul to dig deeper - to push away the shale and pebbles of transient comfort and seek the rich soil of this sureness: my riches in Christ.

This past week was rough. Patrick was away and I was parenting alone for six long days. We had spills and upsets, forgotten appointments, tantrums, storms, and just the plain old wear and tear of a long week without the one we all love.  Hearts were tired and tempers short. Braxton Hicks decided to move in permanently and that isn't my favourite.  I found myself grumbling an awful lot.

But this story kept beating in the background like a distant drum, and when I finally paid attention to it, I heard its message.  Why am I complaining? I have a husband who works hard for his family and loves us like crazy. Our hearts are lonely for him precisely because he's so wonderful. I'm tired because I have three busy kids with healthy bodies and vivid minds and they need me to keep them that way.  My burdens might take a lot to carry, but they are worth carrying. I am rich.

And when it's all over and I find myself empty-armed and exhausted at heaven's gate, I will see Jesus. I will walk into His heaven and be welcomed as a daughter. Entirely because of His mercy and totally apart from anything I've done, I'm forgiven, chosen, loved, blessed.

Rich in Christ Jesus.

I don't know what kind of storms and loss are breaking around you these days, friends, but I pray that your hearts will be planted firmly in the joy of the Lord. I pray that you will stand strong with tears on your face and a heart full of hope that every one of your burdens is a good gift.

And when all around you is swept away, I pray that your heart will sing and blaze, knowing you are so rich - and the best is yet to come.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Do You Hear That?

The other day, climbing into our truck way out in the country, Vava suddenly stopped me with a look of awe.

"Do you hear that?" she asked, "listen!"

The only noise I could hear was the distant hum of truck tires whirring on the highway. Nothing that would make me stand still, nothing that would make me close my eyes to hear more perfectly.

"What do you hear?" I whispered.

"It's God," she explained softly, thrilling, "singing!"

Her heart is so often tuned to hear Him, when everyone else hears traffic.

In the aftermath of the Orlando shooting, I expected to hear the ugly sound of callous judgment. I hurt over the raging hatred that pulled a trigger over and over; wept over the lives lost and the aching hearts of mourners left behind. I prayed for God's comfort and deep, gospel-peace to sweep in where evil had made itself so bloodily evident. And as I prayed I heard something unexpected and beautiful.

Not a lick of criticism.  Not a breath of self-righteousness. Nothing ugly or cruel to rub salt in raw wounds. Just tender expressions of sorrow and sympathy and practical, Scriptural love.

Love.

Like the good Samaritan, Christians are meeting needs like donating blood and making meals and praying for everyone affected.

I cynically expected the whine of trucks on cement and I heard instead the tender heart of God, mourning, and singing.

I'm sure there is a lot of hateful rhetoric flying around already. I'm sure there are people who have confused what God asks us to do (love) with what God has reserved for Himself alone (judge).  But I love that it's not the loudest sound. I love that Christians are reaching out to comfort non-Christians and to serve them in any way they can.

Do you hear that?
It's God, singing.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Ready for Jesus

I overheard a cute little conversation on Sunday. My brother-in-law (who is as awesome a dad as his little brother) was reading his Bible. His daughter came up and interrupted him, but instead of shooing her away (as I would probably have done), he told her about what he was reading - the story of Jesus and blind Bartimaeus.

It was a story she'd heard before, so he asked her some questions about it. "What was blind Bart doing?" he asked. I thought she was going to say "sitting on the side of the road, begging," but her exact answer was so much richer than that.
"He was ready for Jesus," she replied.

Ready.
For.
Jesus.

Blind, begging, and ready for Jesus. 

He meets us, of course, at the point of our need. Where we can't help ourselves. Where we're trapped and can do nothing but cry out to Him.

I always think of that place as the worst of circumstances. But my niece has it right. It's not. It's not. It's where we're ready for Jesus.

I heard a sermon a few weeks ago that's been ringing through my heart ever since. The preacher encouraged us in Psalm 4, to bring our anger to God, lay it all out before Him, confess with a broken and contrite heart, and just rest in His sufficiency and presence.

I don't know about you, but I struggle with anger as my big fat blind spot. It flares up ugly and strong when I feel unfairly treated, judged, self-righteous, tired, pressured ... so, yeah, pretty much all the time. But bringing my anger into God's presence has given me so much freedom from that. Not that I don't feel angry, but I don't suffer from the slow burn, the smoldering resentment, rehashed indignation. Because He really does give His peace to my broken heart.

My anger is where I'm ready for Jesus.

Yeah.

I can't beat it on my own. No matter how much someone tells me to relax or settle down, I can't change that blind rage into peace.

But He can.

Right there, where I'm blind and begging.

And maybe your blindness is something else, and you've begged God to take it away.  Maybe you, like me, have never seen it as the open door, an invitation to glory.

Instead of thrashing against it, I pray that you find hope in knowing that this is your roadside, and that is your Saviour, and you are not just blind, you are not just begging.

You are ready for Jesus.

Xo.

Monday, May 16, 2016

To the Tree Currently Blooming

I almost miss it, every spring:
The annual explosion at your core
Is one of such unhurried delicacy.
Like a burst of fireworks suspended,
Trembling,
You bloom in agonizing slow-motion.

You spread your blossoming display
Over our house like a blessing, a grace,
And the glory at your fingertips
Unfurls in your own deliberate time.

You caught my eye tonight
Without the slightest whisper of a boom
With stars and a lumpy moon
Tangled in your branches;
And your bare beauty stayed my steps.

I paused under your canopy,
Riveted,
While my heart whispered ooh and ahh
Like children on the first of July.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Guest Post: Mother's Day Blog

Mothers are some of the most underappreciated people in the world. A mother knows what it’s like to sustain and nourish another human from her own body. A mother knows what it’s like to give her body and her strength, to give up her waking hours and her sleeping hours, and even to give up her life for the care of her children. A mother knows what it’s like to deplete herself to the point of exhaustion, to give all of herself for the little people who depend on her for their very life but treat her with such disregard and disrespect all day long, always demanding more and never showing any appreciation or giving anything in return. Mothers, if this is any encouragement, God knows exactly how you feel.

God identifies himself with mothers and motherhood in at least three ways. First, in His sufficiency; second, in His self-sacrificing tender-kindness and loving-care; and third, in His unrequited love. By examining how God identifies Himself with mothers and with motherhood, we can learn a little about God and we can draw comfort from knowing more of God’s companionship with us and His care for us.

God chooses to identify Himself to us primarily in masculine terms, He wants to be known as the Father. But God, as the perfect parent, is the one who protects and provides for His children and nourishes and sustains them. Furthermore, human fathers and mothers both are created in the image of God. Genesis 1:27 says, “In the image of God, He created him; male and female he created them.” It follows then, that God’s parenting of His children has the characteristics of both fatherhood and motherhood.

God identifies Himself with motherhood most strikingly in the use of His name, El-Shaddai. El-Shaddai is the second name by which God chooses to identify Himself to man. He reveals this name to Abraham in Genesis 17:1-2, “When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty (El-Shaddai); walk before me and be blameless that I may make my covenant between me and you and may multiply you greatly.’” The name El-Shaddai is mistranslated as God Almighty in our English Bibles. The name El signifies strength, power, or might and is used through the Old Testament as the word “God” or “god,” it indicates to us the power of God Himself. Although there is still some ambiguity around the origins of the name Shaddai, it is believed to be derived from the Hebrew word, shadaim, for breast. This indicates sufficiency or nourishment. Some have made the ill-advised suggestion that the name El-Shaddai be further translated as “the many breasted One.” A more appropriate translation might be something like God All-Sufficient. God introduces Himself to Abraham as El-Shaddai with the promise that He will “multiply [him] greatly.” God also introduces Himself as El-Shaddai to Jacob, repeating the same promise to him in Genesis 35:11, “I am God Almighty (El-Shaddai): be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body.” God introduces himself as El-Shaddai and associates this name with the promise of offspring. Later, Jacob, now known as Israel, invokes El-Shaddai in his blessing to his children, most notably in his blessing on Joseph in Genesis 49:24-25:

“His arms were made agile by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob (El-Shaddai, God of Jacob) … by the God of your father who will help you, by the Almighty (El-Shaddai) who will bless you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that crouches beneath, blessings of the breasts and of the womb.”

Jacob, looking forward from the brink of the population explosion he has been promised in Genesis 35:11, appropriates the name of El-Shaddai, and calls down distinctly maternal “blessings of the breasts and of the womb” to his children and grandchildren. God, does not only provide multiplied offspring—blessings of the womb—but also promises to nourish and sustain them—blessings of the breasts. Of the Patriarchs it is Jacob who is most associated with the name El-Shaddai. Jacob himself calls El-Shaddai “the Mighty One of Jacob,” and afterwards, through the Old Testament, the name El-Shaddai is often used next to the name of Jacob. We can imagine Jacob, who was so close to his mother, having a particular appreciation for God as El-Shaddai, the God who nourishes and sustains. The prophet Isaiah invokes the same maternal imagery when he writes, “You shall suck the milk of nations; you shall nurse at the breast of kings; and you shall know that I, the LORD, am your Saviour and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob (El Shaddai, God of Jacob)” (Isaiah 60:16), and

“Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice with her in joy, all you who mourn over her; that you may nurse and be satisfied from her consoling breast; that you may drink deeply with delight from her glorious abundance. For thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream; and you shall nurse, you shall be carried upon her hip, and bounced upon her knees. As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem’” (Isaiah 66:10-13).

Through the prophet Isaiah, God promises to comfort the people of Israel with the restoration of Jerusalem, “as one whom his mother comforts.” In this translation it seems the consoling breasts belong to the city of Jerusalem, but still, it is God who provides the nourishment that flows through them; God is the true comforter and here he is a maternal comforter, comforting His children like a mother. The breasts are a metaphor for both nourishment and comfort, like a mother comforts and nourishes her child with her breasts, God will comfort and nourish His people. The Bible does not use this imagery reluctantly, God is not afraid to be identified with motherhood.

As we see in the passages quoted, El-Shaddai is the God who nourishes and sustains. His power is sufficient to all His children’s needs. He provides for them abundant blessings. He uses the imagery of breasts as metaphors for the way He nourishes His people from Himself. El-Shaddai is the God who provides Manna for the Children of Israel in the wilderness. He is the God who, through Jesus, says, “I am the Bread of Life” (John 6:35) and invites us to feed on His body and drink of His blood (John 6:54). This is the God who gives life by the breaking of His body and the draining of His blood. He is the God who, by His own self, nourishes and sustains life.

In this way, God is not being like a mother, rather the imagery works in the opposite direction. Mothers are image-bearers of God, they reflect His tender nurturing heart when they tenderly nurture their children. The mother who sustains her child with her own body, who nourishes her child from her breasts, and who comforts her child with the closeness of her body until that child thrives reflects the God who is our El-Shaddai. The God who is sufficient to all our needs. The God who births us by His Spirit. The God who sustains and nourishes us from His own self. And the mother who exhausts herself for the nourishment, sustenance, and comfort of her children can be sustained, nourished, and comforted from the resources of El-Shaddai who is sufficient to all her needs. Perhaps you, mother, exhausted in the late hours with an unsettled child in your weary arms have been comforted to find yourself cradled in the everlasting arms of El-Shaddai.

God also identifies Himself with motherhood in the way He self-sacrificially cares for His children. This is expressed by Jesus in Luke 13:34; He laments over Jerusalem,

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”

He draws on the imagery of a mother hen, sheltering her chicks from danger with her own body. He points to the instinct in mothers to put themselves in harm’s way to protect their children. In His lament, Jesus is referring prophetically to the time when, by the breaking of His body, He shelters His people from wrath. In His sacrificial death, Jesus holds nothing back, thrusting Himself fully into danger to secure the safety of His people. The fact that He likens this to the care that a mother hen has for her chicks is evidence that God has purposely designed motherhood to reflect Himself. The loving care and tender kindness that a mother has for her child reflects God’s care and concern for His children. Like a mother, awake in the night with a troubled child, God is the one who “will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4) as He cares for His people. Like a mother who sets aside her busyness and her work to hold a needy child, God cares for His needy children, “In His arms He carries them all day long.” Indeed, His attention to His children, described in Psalm 121 is a kind of maternal care:

“He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. … The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all evil; He will keep your life. The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore” (Psalm 121:3-8).

We can imagine the Heavenly Father, here paying close attention to His small child’s every step as He walks beside His child, He protects His child from the glare of the sun with His body, casting a cool shade. In this way, a mother who forgets her own needs and desires to be diligently attentive to the comfort and safety of her child reflects the tender care of God for His children. Further, God is the God who “swears to His own hurt and does not change” (Psalm 15:4). This is intentional, He does not make promises carelessly, not realizing the cost; no, God weighs the cost, and considers it worthwhile. In this way, a mother who, for the love of her child, endures the pain and labour of childbearing and the personal cost of caring for her child through the day and through the night and considers it worthwhile, is an image of God’s self-sacrificing care for His children.

A mother who gives of her body, her spirit, her attention, and her energy out of love for her child and finds her love unrequited knows something about the love of God. Motherhood is a thankless vocation. To a child, a mother's sacrifices are expected and demanded; her desires are meaningless or nonexistent. Her child openly believes in his own supreme importance: mother is of no more value than a dispensary. Her commands are taken as idiotic suggestions, or completely ignored. She rescues her unwitting child from danger and is thanked with screaming resentment. Her child repeatedly returns to the danger and ignores her mother's warnings. A mother knows exactly what God means when He says, "All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people" (Romans 10:21). God holds out His hands in grace, giving and giving. Each moment of life is a gift from God, each breath, each new day, the food that sustains, these are the least of His gifts but if He withheld any one of them no one would survive. How like small children we are. We depend on God's grace but give Him so little thanks. We complain about the good gifts He gives us because they are not precisely to our liking. We grow bitter towards Him when we don't get the things we want, the way we want them. We often remark on the foolishness of the Children of Israel when they complain to Moses in Numbers 21:5, "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” "There is no food ... and we loathe this worthless food," how ridiculous, how like small children they are. But how like them are we? There is no love like God's love, no one could give more than He gives. But His love is unrequited every day. Arrogantly, we receive His gifts with no regard for the giver. Still, God gives. He gives at such cost, He gives His greatest treasure to win us. Jesus, God's great gift, for us. But His gift is largely ignored or rejected. We fail to value it, we don't appreciate the cost. We treat God with the disregard of small children for their mothers. Still God loves us, He chooses to see past our unreceptive hearts and He loves us with the kind of tender love a mother has for her small children. The mother who smiles at her children's petulance, who patiently serves her children with a love that makes her forget their unkindness, reflects the love God has for His children. Our God is kind.

Today is the day the world sets aside for the appreciation of mothers. We should appreciate mothers all the more for showing us something of the great love of God for us. He is the God who, like a mother, nourishes us from His own self, gives to us at such great cost, and whose gifts we receive with indifference and contempt. We should appreciate mothers for reflecting the kindness of God in their care for small children.

Sorry I Didn't Send a Card

On Mother's Day, I can never find the right card.

Not for my mom -
There are a million sappy rhymes, but not so many that say "thank you for tearing yourself open from the inside out for me" -literally and metaphorically, ongoing.  Not so many that say "thank you for giving me the hook in my nose that I am loving more every day because it is beautifully yours."  Not so many that say "I wish I could go back and erase every obstacle you've faced but God has used them to craft you into this amazing person and I pray every day that my daughter grows up to be as fun and wise and elegant and generous as you."
You know. Those kinds of things.

And it's hard to find the right card for my mother-in-law - something along the lines of "thanks for giving me your son, with all the good qualities you prayed and laboured into him ... I daily reap the rewards of your hard work without even realizing it."

And I can't find the right card for my friends, sisters, sisters in law -
There just aren't a lot of cards that say "thanks for helping me realize I'm not the worst mom in the world if my kid maybe tried to eat a frozen dog poop." I haven't found one yet that says "thanks for sharing wipes and diapers when I show up to the park with poopy kids and a bag full of shrapnel that somehow doesn't include those two items."  I'm still hunting for the one that says "I love you for hanging out with me even when I obviously haven't showered in days."

I haven't found a good card for my friends who are currently facing infertility, who long for the days when they might find themselves complaining about boogers on their shoulder and bags under their eyes from a week of no sleep.  Who maybe feel alone in their struggle but aren't - not by a long shot.  There aren't a lot of cards that say "hope you can get through this day with a minimum of heartache as you celebrate your own mom without bursting into tears in public (but it's totally okay if you do!)."

I haven't found a good card for the mother whose selfless love made me a mother.  I'd like to find one that might say "thank you for nourishing that baby with your heart and soul and mind and strength and then giving him to me and I love him with everything I've got. I am trying hard to raise him well in gratitude to you and God but I feel woefully inadequate every day."

I haven't found a good card for Patrick, because they seem to save the dad cards for Father's Day. I'd really like to give him one that says "thank you for enabling me to be a functioning mother, instead of an exhausted bag of stale air.  Thank you for working your butt off every day so that my mothering isn't just survival, but joy."  And even that wouldn't cut it.

I haven't found a good card for my aunts, who love me with that unconscious bias and goodwill that makes being in a family so cozy.

I haven't found a good card for my best friend's mom, my other mother, who raised my heart-sister and loved me through my unlovable teens.

To all the women who have mothered me - to the friends who mother alongside me - and to the people who have made me mother:

Thank you. I'm trying hard to live up to your examples ... thank you for your grace and commiseration when I fail.  I love you all so much.

PS Sorry I didn't send you a real card. I went to the store with three kids last Friday at 430pm ... not only was it impossible to find the right one, but I probably scared away the other shoppers with my traveling circus and scary-mom-voice and they didn't send you one either.

Xo.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Sidewalks, Poop, and Flashlights

Patrick and I are having an awesome getaway. We spent the day prowling around Toronto: buying presents for the kids and enjoying the sunshine. Today I'm wearing a beautiful blue sweater from my mom, and I feel gorgeous in it. It makes my belly pop, and I'm pretty happy about this baby, so I kind of like that I'm obviously showing these days.

Just as we were walking back to the hotel so I could enjoy putting my feet up a bit, we passed some people sitting on their front step. I smiled politely at them like a good Canadian, and suddenly one of the women shouted at me, "Oooh biiiig woman!"

Yup. She was calling me fat.

We kept walking. I wanted to tell her off, to call her on her rudeness, to dismiss her as trash. I wanted to say lots of mean things, because I was hurt.

I've always been sensitive about my size, but on this day when I was feeling especially lovely and evidently pregnant, it seemed to hurt extra.

My sister's yoga instructor recently encouraged her class to practice walking outside with their hands turned - palms up, 'to receive what the universe has to give.' So the next time she walked her dog, my skeptical sister decided to give it a shot. She uncurled her fists and flattened her palms toward the sky. And when she looked down to see what she'd been given, she had to laugh. In her hands were two unsurprising items: a flashlight and a bag of dog poop. Her life tools, perhaps?

And it keeps sticking in my head because it's funny - and kind of true in a big simple sense. The things people give us can either make it easier to walk our path - like flashlights - or they can make it harder - yep, like piles of dog poop.

And when I'm walking along minding my own business and someone hands me a big stinky glob, I just want to hurl it right back. Which, I know, is precisely the opposite of what Jesus wants me to do.  Because He gave me His lamp - His word - and it says to do good to those who are unkind to me. 

So I get to choose. Every time. Do I return evil for evil, or do I turn on my flashlight and step around it instead?

Today, turning on my flashlight looked like walking by without retorting.  Even though I'm pretty fiery of temper.  Even though she was mean.  Even though I felt my face burn with a pretty harsh combination of anger and embarrassment. 

I get to choose.  And sometimes I do let my temper reign, and find myself regretfully cleaning it up later.  But for every stinky mess I encounter, God quietly reminds me I am not without light. 

God bless you, friends. May your sidewalks always be clear - and if they aren't, may your flashlight be bright.

Xo.

Friday, April 8, 2016

I've Got You

It has been a rough month. The ten-day flu made its way through our house, and after that, a week-long cold - and I'm pregnant, so sick and unmedicated and extra tired anyway. Kachi is bringing in four molars all at once, so that's fun too.

What it boils down to?  Wakeful kids, exhausted parents, and extra laundry. 

In the middle of the night last night I was up for the fourth - fifth? - time. Kachi was crying again, 'owie owie owie mamaaaaaa,' and Patrick (who is the Kachi whisperer) was already cuddling a stuffed - up Sam,  helping him blow his nose and holding him as he went back to sleep.  I climbed wearily out of bed but couldn't quite face Kachi just yet.

I stood in the hallway waiting for the dizziness to clear, willing Kachi to miraculously fall back asleep, gathering my energy to open his door and comfort him, when the best thing happened.

I felt God's presence suddenly, warm and vivid in the dark, right there with me. And He spoke so clearly to my heart.

It's okay. I've got you. This is good for you. I've got you.

It washed over me like a wave.

It's okay. I've got you.  This is good for youI've got you. 

Not I'll make it stop.
Not buck up.
Not well, you prayed for this.
No.

Just the deep assurance that this - even this - was planned for me, for my good. That in every moment, He's got me.

And wouldn't you know it, like a bow on top of this gift, Kachi did fall back asleep and I crawled gratefully back into bed. 

Next week, my super pro mama is coming to man the kids and Patrick and I get to take a little trip together without them, and I am so excited to sleep - sleep - sleep like I used to before I ever had kids.  Sleep whenever I want, lie in bed late, get out of bed and lie around again if I like ... and I am so grateful for the chance to get away. But if I had to pick between a decade or two of rotten sleep with my kids, and a lifetime of good sleep without them, you know what I'd pick.  :)

When Kachi woke up again an hour later, I cuddled him close and brought him a drink. 

"It's okay," I whispered, "I've got you."

Know what, friend?
He's got us.

Whatever your night is - He's got you.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Pray for Mine

Tonight Kachi barfed in the tub.
Probably from slurping soap, maybe from getting right into the water after eating supper.
And nope, Patrick and I aren't sure which, because we don't have our eyes glued on him every waking moment. 
This afternoon I helped a neighbour carry her groceries into her house. Sam followed me outside, and played in the snow in our front yard while I popped inside with the bags. When I came out of the house, he was on the street corner throwing a snowball at a passing car.
My heart breaks when I read about people judging Chase Marten's parents for not watching him in the few moments it took for him to wander out of sight. That could be me.
That could be my child.
Parenting is a constant guessing game of what is the best choice for an entire family at any given moment. Does the off chance that someone could get hurt stop us from living life? No - it can't.  It can't.
Pray for the Martens.
Pray for your family.
And pray for mine.
xo.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Why Are You Following Me?

For the first time in their young lives, Sam is starting to want some occasional space from Vava.

March Break stretched long after a week off school from illness, and Sam was missing his friends and big kid activities.  Vava, on the other hand, was over the moon to have Sam around all day again.

After asking permission to go to the basement to play with his small Lego  (we try to keep it out of Kachi's reach, so it's not with the rest of the toys), Sam opened the basement door and found Vava hot on his heels.

"Why are you following me?" he asked.

"Because I just love you so much," she explained nonchalantly, pulling the door closed behind her.

I didn't hear the rest of the conversation but I couldn't help grinning.

The word of God, right there in her mouth.

That's why those of us who love Jesus will find ourselves singing about the cross, come Sunday.  Why we will open and retell the bloody story of the crucifixion. Why we will contemplate the holy transaction - Jesus suffering in our place for our sin, granting us His own place as free children of God. Why we will weep for gladness as the truth of the resurrection sweeps over us yet again, that glorious triumph of Life over death. 

Yes. In the face of His love, His sacrifice, His shattering power, we have only one answer when He asks -

Why are you following Me?

We just love You so much.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Leaning

Vava is a fearless jumper. That kid will climb and leap right along with her big brother, scamper up a ladder and stand on top of slides and jump to the ground instead of sliding down.  At home, she is allowed to jump from the fourth step - and she regularly asks if she's big enough to jump from the fifth, promising me cheerfully that she'll be careful not to die.  I love it.  I love that she's brave and bold and determined. I value the skills of risk management that she displays - she's aware of her physical limits but instead of being fearful, she's challenged by them. 

Not in every way, though. She is not an upside-down fan. She has always hated being held upside down, leaning too far backwards, or feeling at all like she's about to learn practical gravity head first. (She comes by it honestly - I can't stand the disorientation of being upside down.)

Every time she needs help in the bathroom, I hear a little gasp of fear when I ask her to lean forward and rest against my legs so I can wipe her little backside. Tonight she sighed with relief as she hopped off the toilet. "That's the scariest feeling in the world," she explained, "leaning."

And I felt like God was holding up a mirror in front of my soul.

Leaping? Climbing? Doing sudden and big things when He makes it clear to my heart that He wants me to? No problem. I  can make that jump. Like Vava with high places, I know Him. I've tested some of the big ladders and I know what happens. Trusting Him in big circumstances is a whole lot of thrill. I can jump from that fifth step and remain confident that He will be faithful. I can hurl myself off a ladder, because I've landed gleefully on that pile of cushions at the bottom before.

When I felt that God wanted me to volunteer in Zambia for a year, it wasn't hard to say yes. He had been preparing my heart for an adventure, for the cost, for being away from my family. That kind of jumping is dizzying ... but delicious.  It's got direction and speed and the difference it makes is huge.  And it's fun.

But leaning? Trusting on someone else to hold me up? Choosing to let go of control for an uncertain length of time and depending on them to make sure I'm okay? I'm not so good at that kind of disorientation. I'd prefer to be the boss of which end is up, to see where I'm going and decide just when my feet leave the ground.

Leaning is that everyday kind of faith, the kind that obeys the ordinary command in scripture to discuss offences with the person who offended you instead of gossiping about them with everyone else (won't that be awkward?). It's the faith that prays for a gentle heart in the face of irritation and misunderstanding (it would be such a relief to roll my eyes or snap some sarcasm right now!). It's the faith that trusts that God is there even when you haven't had any thrilling little hints of His presence (oh sure ... like He really cares to hang around while I'm making a casserole *zzz*).

Leaning is boring and difficult and scary.  And the temptation to give up and just stand on my own strength is a lot bigger than when He invites me to jump.

But there are some things that require leaning.  Logically, if I can trust God when He asks me to leap, I shouldn't find it hard to trust Him when He asks me to lean. 

But I do.

I start to worry the leaning won't end. I start to fear what might happen if He decides not to hold me up. I - not intentionally, but unconsciously - think I'll be better at holding myself up than He is. 
And instead of remembering those everlasting arms, I just think about falling. And that ... that's the scariest feeling in the world.

My little mirror is right. Jumping is exciting and fun. The scariest feeling in the world?

Leaning.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

And Unicorns

There are things you have taught me, sweet daughter -
Like how to juggle two kids at once,
That tiny babies can love stuffies from the beginning,
And how to forgive freely -
Things that only you could have taught me.

You have shown me how to talk to God -
With arms stretched up to heaven,
With twirling and clapping in celebration
For a blue sky or for that rainbow that splashes on the carpet every afternoon -
You talk to Him openly, freely, with a full heart.

You point me toward Him, you curious arrow,
When you seem to be aiming in much the wrong direction.
Your angry eyebrows and fury when you stub your toe,
Your need to vent rage before you seek comfort,
Shoot my heart straight up to Him
Because He allows me room to be angry too
Before He folds me quiet in His peace.

You want to see His great white horse
And pet it, if He says you may,
And you have a steady expectation
That in His house you will be able to hug Him,
And unicorns.

You vivid spark, you teach me so much
About loving and hoping and being.
You sit at my feet and
I sit at your feet and
Together we sit at His feet
And love Him.