Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Why

My nerd - mama heart got such a shivery rush today.

Sam read.

Our calendar has a Christmas themed picture and Sam looked up at it and sounded out the letters.  "Hhhhh ... ooooo .... hhhhh ... ooooo ... hhhhh ... ooooo. Ho Ho Ho. What is that?"

I got goosebumps. He read.

I'm so glad I got to see it.

And then he lost his first tooth and didn't it just grow in a few days ago and can you please tell me how he can be almost five years old? 

Was I actually the person who wrote about the grace of time passing just yesterday?

:)

But it's just as true, even when the days whirl by and you ache to hold on, to slow the beauty down, to savour the goodness.
And I don't want anything bad to happen and I want to freeze time and keep them safe and glad always. 

But ... sadness and hurt and suffering will come.

It will.

All that extraordinary Christmas joy - angels and heaven-sent baby and a star of wonder - wasn't the whole story.
Eight days after that glory, Simeon told Mary that Jesus would suffer - and a sword would pierce her own soul also. And He did.

Because some things are worth it.

Adult teeth are worth losing baby teeth for.  Months of learning letters is easily worth the lifelong bliss of being able to read.

And you - and I - were worth the agony of the cross.

We're the why.

We're why he came to earth, why he knew sorrow from the inside out, why he ached and suffered and His mama's soul was pierced through.

He looked at us and shouted, "worth it!"

And I'm pretty sure Mary agrees.

The most staggering Christmas gift of all is that He thinks we're worth it.

Oh, tidings of comfort and joy! Merriest of Christmases, friends!
Xo.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Ordinary Grace

My morning started out rather worse than usual.

Sam left the lid up and neglected to flush the toilet, and Kachi thought it was a perfect place to splash. After that mess was cleaned up,  Vava was hyper at breakfast and spilled her orange juice in a big spray all over the place.  Again, Kachi thought it was a great place to splash.  So everybody ended up in the tub, and Kachi promptly pooped in it.

And it wasn't an ordinary day. It was my last 8 hours before holiday company, so there was a lot of bedding and laundry and vacuuming to do already, without these bonus labours.

So of course Kachi would poop in the tub and Sam would put Vava in a chokehold because he wanted the toy crocodile and Vava would have a huge meltdown because I called her Vava when she was pretending to be Brown Horse a.k.a. Filly.

Right? Because life.

But it's Christmas and the world is ripe with grace.  And grace came in its usual way: moment by moment, with each tick of the clock.

(The grace of time passing is one I usually overlook. I look for bolder graces and more extraordinary miracles; interruptions in the soul.)

But time passes and messes are cleanable and chokeholds can be replaced with hugs. 

Time passes.  Time passes.

And in the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son ...

He's still doing that. Sending forth His Son in the fullness of time. Into my life, into yours.  And maybe you're feeling trapped and looking for a miracle and begging Him to come, save! And maybe I'm knee-deep in the frazzled middle of a sticky morning, praying, "help!" And maybe the incredible, ordinary miracle is that we aren't trapped, we aren't stuck, because we are flowing through, flowing with ... time. 

Straight to Him. Every one of us.

And that's the promise of Christmas. God sent Him, in the fullness of time. In God's time, He is coming back. And grace moves us inevitably closer to Him with every passing minute.

Even when some minutes seem longer than others ;).

Time passes. For aching hearts and tired bodies and weary hands. Take heart this Christmas in an ordinary grace.

Time passes.

Merry Christmas, friends.
Xo.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Fullness of God

This afternoon, I took a nap. The littlest two were sleeping and Sam was playing with Lego, so I laid down on the couch and pulled a blanket up to my chin.

I couldn't seem to turn my mind off,  so I asked Sam if he could help me fall asleep by singing me the cozy song and drawing a heart on my face (that's how I cuddle him to sleep at night).

There just might be nothing sweeter in the world than the voice of my tender Sam singing, "go to sweep, pwe-ciss mama; go to sweep daw-wing mama," while his little paw sketches a heart around my face.

(And it worked ... I had a great nap.)

And it gave me that spiraling feeling of time folding in on itself, because for so long I've been the one taking care of Sam but suddenly he was able to take care of me.

And I wonder what it was like, for Jesus to lay aside His might and glory and lie, helpless, in the care of the mama and papa he'd created. I wonder what it was like to look up at those faces and see them full of care and love for him. To be held, Almighty God, in the trembling love-wracked arms of his own dear creation.  To receive care, to be handled and cuddled and swaddled and kissed and fed and comforted and treasured: a baby, in the arms of his children. (Did he know how scared they were? How overwhelmed and unqualified they must have felt?)

I just love that he came as a baby. That he came to us vulnerable and needy. That he knows what it's like to cry for someone else to care for him.

Take this gift, friend: our Saviour knows our weaknesses. He is touched by them. He remembers we are dust ... because He became dust, with us. 

Fullness of God in helpless babe.
He's sweet, isn't he?

Merry Christmas, friends.
Xo.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Brother

Today was Sam's first official Christmas vacation day.

It was so fantastic having him at home.  We've missed him this school year, our bright Sam,  gone every day during the good parts. Evenings and weekends just have a different flavour than the long playful hours of a toddlery weekday.

I was surprised to find him so nonchalantly independent. He and Vava wanted to make a cushion-slide on the stairs. I used to make those almost daily, last winter, so I was ready to get to work when somehow they'd already done it ... and they'd made it taller and steeper than I used to, too.

Kachi and Vava seemed to expand - growing brighter and braver - as if his unique qualities spread to them through the air, from laughter and shrieks of delight.

They adore their big brother.  I adore their big brother :).

And Jesus - well, it's kind of like he's our big brother, and he's away. And when he returns to take us home to our Father, how bright and brave our hearts will be! How we long to be like him!  And while we wait, we re-read the story of His adoption, when he adopted flesh and came into this world. We share stories of His courage and goodness and tell each other how he has loved us, and we adore him and try to imitate him in the way of small siblings the world over.

And on his birthday, we all get to blow out candles and exchange presents.

Merry Christmas, friends.
Xo.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Ways to Say I Love You

When I sang the cozy song to my kids tonight, I didn't get to sing "go to sleep, precious Vava." No, she was indignant and emphatic about that.
"I not Vava! I a mama unicorn."

So I sang the cozy song to Mama Unicorn.

And then I didn't get to sing "go to sleep, precious Sam." He was wearing his race car driver costume to bed, and he wanted me to sing to his hat.

So I sang the cozy song to his hat.

Because when it comes to saying I love you, the best way to say it is in the language of the listener.

If I had refused, and insisted on singing it my way, they might have heard the correct words with their ears, but their hearts would have heard you don't matter.

So I entered their imaginary world and played along. I sang goodnight to a unicorn and a hat, because that was how they were able to hear I love you.

It's kind of like Christmas.

I am sure God could have spoken His Word of love to us in a beautiful language that we don't understand. 

But He chose to speak to us in the simplest Word, and become one of us. A baby. He entered our world and lived as one of us and died for all of us and declared, blood-red, it is finished! And rose again in triumph to take us home to our Father.

God, veiled in flesh.
With us.
For us.

Because the best way to say I love you is in the language of the listener.

Merry Christmas, friends.
Xo.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Treasures

My kids are such precious little goons. I love the silly, sweet, surprising things they do and say.
Today Kachi told Patrick, "I love you!"  That's one of the dearest things to hear.
And Vava told me she's glad my hair is turning white because she doesn't like it brown. I'm glad someone is happy about it hehe ;).
And when we went outside to play this afternoon, Sam told Vava to get on the sled so he could pull her around the yard (her favourite).
I know these are pretty unremarkable moments, but I love them, and Patrick loves them. They're treasures to us.

Twice in chapter 2 of Luke's gospel we read that Mary treasured things in her heart. He writes that she treasured the shepherds' testimony of the angel's announcement, and she treasured Jesus' assertion that He must be busy with His Father's work.

The repetition of that phrase makes me wonder if Luke sat down with Mary, and she opened up her heart to him and poured out her treasure trove. I wonder if she unwrapped each story like a precious gem, each moment of delight and wonder and revelation.

I picture tears rolling down glad cheeks as she shared her stories of Jesus, of God's son, her boy.  I'm sure Luke would have lost track of time, just listening.   There's something so warming and filling about sharing true stories of the Lord's goodness, something so precious when we hear of Him being kind and generous and beautiful to someone.

We always want to hear things about the people we love.

I will never get tired of hearing people tell me about my kids. When I come home from an evening out, I want the babysitter to tell me everything. And when Patrick and I are alone together, you know what we talk about?  The kids.  We unwrap the tiniest details and share them with each other.

I think God loves it when we do that too; when we unwrap our treasured thoughts and memories and moments with Jesus and thank Him for His Son.  When we share with each other the things we've seen and heard and known of Him, the treasures we keep in our hearts ... we're giving good gifts to each other, and to Him.

I wish for you a few moments of treasure - sharing this Christmas. I hope you take a quiet time to unwrap your thoughts and memories of Jesus in God's presence,  and thank Him for His gift, His darling.

His treasure.

Merry Christmas, friends.
Xo.

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Manger / The Throne


"The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father, David."

I wonder if those words echoed in her ears, as they rode into the city of David.
I wonder if her heart faltered, or if it beat strong with hope,
As You were born
And she placed You
In no royal crib.

I like to think that she was the sort of woman
Who could see Your throne already
Who was not blinded by the temporary manger.

The kind of woman
To whom dreams came easily
With the kind of breadth in her soul
That comes from expecting You.

I love that our story mimics Yours
And that we, too, have an inheritance
We don't yet see,
A Word from One greater than Gabriel.

And in this Bethlehem-waiting
(This smelly stable! This helpless infancy!)
We are filled and grow in hope
With the kind of breadth in the soul
That comes from expecting You.

-
He's coming!
Merry Christmas, friends!
Xo.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Gifts In It

Today was a hard day.  My heart and body are weary.  It was a hard day ... but there were gifts in it.

Sam pushing the wagon, making it lighter as we walked him to school.

D. picking up Patrick so I could have the car.

Friends popping by with Christmas goodies.

Help carrying the tantruming kids to the car.

Kachi's delight in a bowl of strawberries.

Gifts spread out, just for me, in the drudgey trudging.  They shine like stars.

Merry Christmas, friends.
Xo.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Bedtime Prayer, for Kachi

Kachi was so ready for bed tonight.

He'd had a full day of playing, throwing food on the floor, and chasing his siblings around.

He grabbed his blankies, soother, and crawled up the stairs.

He laid down for a clean diaper, fresh jams.

Then he snuggled down while I prayed for him.

Sweet baby boy, Jesus came for you.

Came as a baby, just like you.

And lived Christmas, and died to give - well, all the forever gifts, the good and perfects gifts. He stooped so low under that tree -

I pray you will receive them and unwrap them with all the wild joy of your bright self.

I pray you will love him and that tree forever.

Merry Christmas, love.
Xo.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Especially at Christmas

Today I made such a rookie mistake. 

It was as if I thought I had no children, and had never gone shopping before.

At 430 this afternoon, I "popped into the grocery store" to "pick up a few things" before getting Patrick from work at 5.

Riiiight.

Ten days before Christmas with a cart full of kids.

It was a madhouse. It actually took us 20 minutes to weave our way around the carts and displays to grab the four  essentials on our list (and a few things we bumped into and couldn't pass up). 

Then the lineups to pay were enormous.

And Sam was beyond tired.

And after finally wrestling everything back into the cart, we were walking out at 5:05 (I'm sorry darling!) straight into a maelstrom of rushing and bad manners.

The woman in front of us drove her cart into the back of an old lady who was walking with a walker. She rolled her eyes as the old lady's husband stopped to help her, blocking the exit.

I was appalled, and wanted to stop to help, when I noticed Sam shrieking "Mama mama mama I want money!" He loves to donate to the Salvation Army Christmas kettle, but this time, as I explained to him, I didn't have any cash.

Instead of walking past and saying Merry Christmas, Sam ran up to the kettle staffer and put up his hand like a stop sign. "We don't have any money," he yelled, shaking his head, "Mama has no money left!"

I managed to get Sam out of the baffled volunteer's face and out of the store while someone else tended to the older couple ... and I had to bite my tongue as we went by cart-bully lady.

I was frazzled, angry, embarrassed, and late.

I packed the groceries and kids into the truck with more speed than grace, and proceeded to rant at every careless driver from intercity to the south end.

And God knocked on my heart and reminded me that it's Christmas.

Oh yes, I agreed, and you'd think that people would spread a little kindness and good cheer! You'd think they'd show some grace and patience at this time of year especially!

Yes, he agreed, especially those who love the manger, with its gift of outrageous mercy, of unfathomable grace.

Oh.

Yes.

Quite.

You'd think I would.

I'd been the clangiest of cymbals. The emptiest rage. My heart was jostled and ugliness spilled out. Self-righteousness, self-preservation, and selfishness were pumping out full-blast.

The manger matters. The selflessness, the extraordinary lengths to which Love went for me needs to affect my response in a late - afternoon mob. The fact that I am loved all the way from heaven to earth needs to set my feet in a quiet place of gratitude, so that when I see cruelty or thoughtlessness I can choose to give the benefit of the doubt. God's infinite care for us must remind me that I am free to care for others, to be considerate, gentle, even when I'm cut off or trapped behind slowness. It must matter in the ugliness of rush hour if it matters at all.

Especially at Christmas.
Especially to those who love the God who came into this world as a helpless baby.
Especially to road-ragey late mamas like me.
Especially at Christmas.

I'm glad it's not over yet. :)

Merry Christmas, friends.
Xo.

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Thing with Feathers

I've always loved birds in a Christmas tree.

Our first ornament as a couple was a bird that a friend made - turquoise and red, with a long plume of a tail and a pert little beak.  It seemed springish and hopeful and just right for our tree.

It's rather the worse for wear. The kids love it, and in spite of their efforts to be gentle, its tail is frayed and its beak is plain gone.

Tonight I bought six new birds to join it.  There were lots of different ones to choose from - hanging feathered silhouettes, plump purple ones with feet that cling and claw around the branch - but I finally settled on small sparkly nestlers that almost hide in the tree.

I don't really know why I love Christmas birds - it certainly doesn't come from a love of partridge, in or out of a pear tree, nor any number of french hens - but I always get a sense of lightness and hope when I see birds.

I probably owe that to Emily Dickinson: hope is the thing with feathers - that perches in the soul ...

And Christmas is a time of hope beyond reason.  Christmas movies, Christmas miracles, Christmas romances ... all testify to the fact that our weary hearts hope, and hope, persist in hope.  Who can look at that God-filled manger, and not feel a swell of hope?  We are part of a bigger story. We are not all there is. Our hearts beat like determined wings.

In hope.

I pray this Christmas finds you with an inexplicable thing-with-feathers perched in your soul. I pray that the weight of winter might be displaced with a dart of bright-winged hope.  I pray for the wild sweetness of spring, winging its way to your heart.

Merry Christmas, friends.
Xo.

God Rest Ye Merry

This evening we went out for supper.
As a family.
Of five.
To the house of a family from church. (Feel the pressure mounting?  We don't take our human tornadoes out much yet ;) )

They greeted us with boxes of the best-loved toys. They laughed at Kachi's table-drumming during dinner. And they only laughed more when Vava literally held her nose because she didn't want to smell the luscious lasagne. (!!!!)

And then their grown daughters took our kids downstairs so we could enjoy dessert and a chat in peace.

It was like a vacation.
It was wonderful.
It was kindness with skin on.

Now, it's just a hunch, but I'm betting they don't greet every guest with an introduction to their favourite old toys. I imagine they don't usually bring out highchairs and bright plastic cups.  I am pretty confident that they put thought into meeting our specific needs and carefully planned for our family's pleasure.

They didn't welcome us into their home so we could worry about serving them. They welcomed and served us in love: giving us joy brought gladness to their own hearts.

I love that we have a God who delights to welcome us, serve us, and plans ahead for our pleasure. 

He didn't send Jesus as a king for us to pamper and spoil.  He didn't send Jesus as a conqueror to terrorize and defeat us. No ... He sent Him low, to serve us in love.

We needed a Saviour.
A humble Saviour, full of compassion and welcome.
And being welcomed, though undeserving, we too have the privilege to welcome others.  To plan for their pleasure. To serve them in love, for the joy of it.

His hospitable heart shines bright in the faces of his children.

Merry Christmas, friends.
Xo.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Come, Jesus

Our little Vava got sick tonight.

I was out when Patrick texted me she was sick, and on my way home, my heart repeated one of her own tiny urgent prayers. 

"Come, Jesus! Help, Jesus!"

The cry of every longing heart.

This beautiful carol says it best.

And the answer: he did come, and when he left, he sent the Comforter.

We are so blessed.  When we suffer, it is not without hope.  When we cry out, we are heard.  When we weep, we are not alone.  Whatever sorrow we endure, it will accomplish his purpose and it will end.

Because God is with us.
(God! With us! Rejoice -- rejoice!)

However you are suffering, however you cry out, I pray for  His comfort in your heart.

Merry Christmas, friends.
Xo.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Dear Refugees

Dear Refugees:

I love seeing the pictures of you arriving. Some of you are carrying more,  some carrying less. You are all carrying in yourselves your own stock of talents and failures, shocks and sorrows, and countless astonishing stories.  You are finally here, and the sight of you is beautiful.

I am so grateful that our nation is doing for you what I'd pray it would do for me, if our situations were reversed. 

When I first heard about your treacherous journeys, I wept. My small son asked why I was crying, and I explained as simply as I could that bad guys chased you away, and now you had no safe home. He cried and said you should come here, that he wanted to share his house with you. He has remembered to pray for you, unprompted, almost every day since (he prays for you, for parents who don't have children, and for ducks).  I told him that some of you arrived today and he wants to go meet you. As soon as some of you trickle north, we'll find you and bring you warm presents.

Because ... well, want to apologize, Canadian - style, for the very cold cold.  I'm so sorry that you are arriving in winter. I hope you are given warm clothes and blankets and soup from now til May. 
But while I'm sorry you're arriving in winter, I'm so very glad you are coming at Christmas time.  My favourite Christmas Story is the one of a Middle Eastern family seeking refuge.

I pray the faces you meet are wreathed with welcoming smiles. I pray the hands that stretch toward you are filled with helpful gifts. And I pray that you find peace, at Christmas time and all year long.

Merry Christmas, friends.
God bless you.
Xo.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Jesus Story

At bedtime tonight, Sam had a meltdown.  He'd had a full day, with his Christmas concert, a friend over, and a trip to the store on top of his everyday busyness. 

After a good snack and some one-on-one time reading with Patrick, Sam wanted one more story.

"I want the Jesus story!" he shrieked, then burst into loud, unreasonable sobs. When he finally came tearfully into their room, Vava hopped out of bed and ran to comfort him. He pushed her down.  "Leave me alone," he snarled, then demanded of Patrick again, "read me the Jesus story!"

Patrick turned down Sam's bed, and said quietly, "you already had a story,  and what you just did was not okay. You don't deserve the Jesus story."

And then we laughed - and let Sam have the Jesus story after all. Because ... none of us deserve the Jesus story, but we get it.

None of us deserve a God who would choose to identify Himself with the poor, weak, and helpless ... but He came, babe in the manger, for us.  None of us deserve a gospel of forgiveness, while He met justice on our behalf.

That Jesus story?
We don't deserve it.
But we get it anyway.

Joy to the world, friends!
Xo.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

First Star I See Tonight

I have a confession to make.

I got so tired of reading and rereading Kachi's favourite book to him that I hid it. (Not to be mean or deprive him, but to allow myself a chance to enjoy it with him again sometime.)

And the good thing?  He brought me a new book on repeat today - a Christmas book :).

I love that God is an author, that Jesus is the Word, that the Holy Spirit breathed the scriptures through human scribes.  I love all the nerdy images and repetition and stories within stories. And I was struck afresh today by the rightness, the layers, the beauty, of the star imagery. 

In the beginning, He spoke the stars into fiery existence. 
At His birth, they testified of His deity.

A star led the wise men to Jesus.
(The light always leads to Jesus.)

The star, of course, shone bright in day and night, but it was only possible to see it in the dark.
Jesus' presence with us doesn't change ... but oh, how gladly we cling to His promised presence when darkness falls!

That star - that special star - was a radiant announcement of His life.

I saw a special star today, actually.  My heart-sister's Grandmother passed away today, and Facebook lit up like the night sky with stories and photos and memories of her. I've never met her, but I can see how beautiful and joyful and ready to laugh she was. Stars may or may not have announced her birth, but bright memories spark like fireworks in her passing.

And stars guide us home.
Home.
Where we are loved and valued and welcomed and held tight in God's arms.

Whether we're ancient wise men or modern wise women or just tired mamas longing to be wise ...

that star will guide us home.

Merry Christmas, friends.
Xo.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Fake Trees and the Incarnation

I love the scent and uneven shape of a real Christmas tree.  We always had real trees when I was growing up - no plastic pretenders for us!

My one true love, on the other hand, has no sentimental attachment to a real tree. He dislikes the inevitable sap in our car, disposing of the tree come January, and finding needles in the house til summertime.

But he knows I love it, so he gives in.  Our first few years in our house, we bought real trees. Oh, the gorgeous, fresh, natural smells!

Last year he sent me out on tree duty and told me to bring home whatever one I wanted.  In a rare moment of holiday selflessness, I came home with a fake tree -- pre-lit and slim, perfect for its little corner.

Because when Patrick told me to get whatever I wanted, I saw that I could get a real tree and make only me happy ... or I could get a fake tree, and make him happy ... which, in turn, makes me a whole lot happier than the scent of fresh fir.

It's just a silly little tree, but it kind of reminds me of what Jesus did: why He came and why we even celebrate Christmas at all.

He left His perfect holy beautiful heaven, and came here, to be wrapped up in ordinary flesh; poor and lowly and mocked and crucified.  Not because the incarnation made Him happy ... but because it purchased our salvation and brings us as adopted children into the loving arms of our Father. And He considered the sacrifice worthwhile.  Coming here, to rescue us, made Him happy.

Merriest of Christmases, friends!
Jesus came for us. ♡
Xo.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Stretching my Grinch-Heart

Sam has the biggest heart.

One of his little friends often shows up at mealtime, and Sam's first reaction is always, "can he eat with us, mama?"

And you know what?  I don't always feel like saying yes. I miss Sam, now that so many of his waking hours are spent at school. My favourite evenings are homey ones with just the five of us, being cozy and usually silly, playing on the living room floor. I want to soak up Sam as much as I can because he is growing so quickly. Frankly, I'd rather not share. So I want to say no.

But more than that, I want Sam to be generous. I want to foster his welcoming spirit. I want to create space for him to be friendly and kind and inclusive.  So I say yes, and set another place at the table, and help his friend take off his coat.

I think Christmas traditions do the same thing for me. They train my actions, regardless of my mood or short-term perspective, and they stretch out my Grinchy preset.

The traditions of decorating a tree, stringing up lights, listening to Christmas music make me inclined to celebrate with friends and neighbours, even when my heart is tired and a (discouragingly large) part of me just wants to nap, and sleep, and nap some more. 

The tradition of giving to those in less fortunate circumstances makes me remember the needy, and adjusts my eyesight to see all the blessed ways I can give all year long.

The tradition of singing Christmas carols pulls my thoughts out of my own life and sends my mind flying back to that starry night in Bethlehem, that enormous gift, that great Father-heart bursting with love for us.

I don't always feel like my thoughts are scintillating or new, but my own little Christmas tradition is to write a Christmas post daily from the 1st to the 24th of December. And maybe it's just another dumb post for people to scroll past and that's totally okay.  Because this is a tradition that trains my heart's eye away from its self-centered focus and upward to catch a glimpse of God's irresistible love.

The next time Sam asks to include his friend at supper time, I'm probably going to have the same argument in my heart: "Unnngh ... no ... but ... okay ... of course, yes."  And tomorrow night I'm going to sit down in front of my screen and think, "unngh ... this is lame ... I don't have anything new to say ... I should just delete my blog and link to Ann Voskamp instead ...." 

And then I'm going to keep writing anyway.

Because I want that glimpse, I want to stretch beyond myself, I want a heart that answers yes, a heart in the habit of loving.

Merry Christmas, friends.
Xo.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Apply to Skinned Knees, Etc.

Tonight we took the kids for groceries.

I think this was the first time Kachi rode in the cart alone - at Superstore, the carts have double seats, so he always has a buddy.  But both Sam and Vava have decided they are big enough to walk, and they enjoyed the freedom and chance to move a bit more.

As we left the store, Kachi was riding in the cart, Sam was pushing, and Vava was pulling.  (I bet you can see where this is going.)  Suddenly, Vava tripped, skinning her knee, and the cart ran right over her foot.  I scooped her up as she wailed, and tried to distract her.

"Look at the big black sky!" I pointed, "Look at the stars!"
She howled louder and pressed her face against my shoulder. "It's scary," she sobbed, "I don't like that big dark!"
"But do you know who made it?" I asked, "And who made the stars?"
"Jesus," she cried, reaching up, forgetting her injuries, "I want Him to come to me!"

And that's just it, isn't it - the whole gorgeous truth, the amazing story of Christmas - Emmanuel, God with us.  Jesus came to us.  So I told her that He really came, He was actually here, under the big dark sky He made, far away from the song of the stars.  He came to us, and He came to take us home with Him.

And when we're sad, or lonely, or scared, or crying in a parking lot with a skinned knee, that message is exactly what we need, exactly what settles the ache, exactly what gives us hope.

He came.
To us.
For us.

Merry Christmas, friends.
xo.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Christmas Present

Today, one of my very gifted friends hosted a fabulous ladies' brunch. From creamsicle punch to crispy bacon, beautiful decorations to sparkly napkins, everything was perfect.

It was such a happy morning - no kids, just beauty and yumminess and laughs.  Every single minute we enjoyed the results of her labour of love. She thought of all the ways to provide comfort and joy to her friends - the Christmasiest of kindnesses.

Another friend who was there had just hosted a neighbourhood Christmas party last night. She was all aglow as she talked about meeting her neighbours and having them in her home.

It's sweet and good, being on either side of the invitation. God's hospitable heart calls us to love ... and be loved.  To serve and be served. To labour and rest.  To give and receive. 

Wishing you His deepest joy this Christmas, dear friends!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Something Really Important

We were chatting, just about to start supper, when Vava scowled at us and said, "shh!  I've got something Really Important to say to Jesus!"

Then she focused herself - closing her eyes and opening them toward the sky, little arms aloft.

"Dear Jesus," she sighed, sinking into the moment as if she'd been waiting to say this all day, "I just love you so much."

It's my favourite prayer.

It's the minor key, the harmony to heaven's Christmas melody, when God stretched His arms down and sent His Son to us, for us, saying, "Dear World, I just love you so much."

Merry Christmas, friends!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Giant Baby

Sam and Vava's favourite game lately is Giant Baby.

The idea of the game started back when Kachi first learned to crawl.  He would make his way over to the train track or car mat and grab Sam's car or Vava's train, then throw it across the room or shove it in his mouth.  Sam & Vava, lost in their miniature play world, would make their still-safe vehicles race away from the Giant Baby who was causing all the mayhem. Kachi, always eager to follow his siblings, would crawl after them, and they would shriek in delicious pretend-fright.

Now that he can run, and navigate stairs like a boss, they play this all the time. 

This afternoon, I was vacuuming the bedrooms, and Sam and Vava were running from Giant Baby.  Kachi was gleefully chasing them in and out of every room, clutching his ragged blankie in one hand and holding a monster truck in the other.  Sam's hair was full of sweat from running so hard, and Vava was pink-cheeked and sparkly-eyed.  The giggles and happiness and glad-we're-together-ness caught at my heart. 

I love my weird kids... especially in the way they love each other. 


And it gets me, because I have amazing sisters and a wonderful brother, and we have so many special, strange, shared moments and memories.  And I know there were occasionally times when I would have packed them up and traded them in for the peace and quiet and concentrated attention of single-childhood, but I am so glad that God placed me in my family, with my brother and sisters. 

And I feel the same way about my brothers and sisters in the church.  We get on each other's nerves sometimes, sure, and sometimes we have to have a talk with our Father, but together we have this inexplicable, beautiful, generous, joyful bond in Jesus ...

I'm so glad that God takes the lonely and places us in families (Psalm 68:6). 

Have fun celebrating Christmas together, friends. 

And if you're looking for a game to play, you probably can't go wrong with Giant Baby.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

What I've Asked God for, for Christmas

I took the kids to the walk-in clinic at the end of our street today.  It turns out that Vava & Kachi have ear infections, so I'm glad we went, but it's always a little trying to keep three busy littles at a waiting-room level of appropriate behaviour.  It's especially hard lately, because the clinic is under construction, so half of the seating area is walled off.  There isn't extra space for driving toy cars or setting up the entire herd of plastic ponies you brought.  There definitely isn't any good space for a wagon or stroller to hang out.  So you know.  It's crammy.  And people are cranky, because they're already sick.

But our walk-in has the nicest staff on earth.  I am always grateful for their kindness and warmth.

On our way there, Sam asked if he could push Kachi's stroller.  I let him, but when we had to cross a busy street, I took over.  He was so upset.  He yelled and turned his back and refused to cross when traffic thinned.  I had to pull out the big guns and threaten to take his TV privileges away for the rest of the week before he finally, sulkily, came along.

Near the end of our visit, when both Sam and Vava had been examined and only Kachi remained, Patrick knocked on the door and joined us.  (I felt an angels-singing kind of relief, let me tell you!  2:3 is a much nicer ratio of parents to kids.)  He took the big littles home, and I was left in the relatively quiet presence of just one sick baby and gentle NP.

When we were all done, I was strapping Kachi back into his stroller, and the nurse practitioner mentioned she'd been outside on our way in, and had seen Sam pushing Kachi on the way to the clinic.  Embarrassment whooshed in, I could feel the red flooding my face as I remembered his tantrum and my angry response.

"What a helpful boy.  And I could tell he really loves his brother," she continued, eyes crinkled and smiling, warm, "he was so careful to steer around every single puddle."

Ohhhh my heart. Oh my cranky tired heart.

She was right.
She was so right.

We had looked at the same thing.
I saw Sam's disobedience and demand for control.
She saw his love for Kachi and his heart of service.

This is what I'm asking God for, for Christmas: eyes that see the best.  Eyes that see joy and beauty and love, no matter what kind of package it's wrapped in.  Eyes that see out past my own blustery agenda, eyes that see His heart reflected great and small.

I want those eyes.  Those are really lovely eyes.

I walked home quickly, pushing the stroller with the unencumbered ease of a mama who does not need to wait for toddler feet and toddler legs.  I saw Patrick and Sam and Vava just about to go inside, and called hello.  Soon, Sam came running toward me in his big winter boots.

"Hey mama," he asked, "can I push Kachi?"

You bet, kiddo.
You bet.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Come Ye To Bethlehem

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem 
Come and adore Him, born the King of angels  
O come let us adore Him ...
Christ the Lord!

We sang that in church this week, and as always, it got me right in the heart.

Come to Bethlehem - come adoring - to see the arrival of Heaven's king, our king, right here with us.

That's my favourite part of this time of year.  Coming to Bethlehem, coming to kneel in starry-eyed gratitude at the feet of my Saviour.

I like to think about that little town, crowded and bursting with visitors, who had all rushed home for the census.  I can imagine it would have felt kind of like my hometown on Thanksgiving weekend - bumping into people you know, catching up on half-forgotten friends, distant relatives suddenly knocking at your door hoping for a warm meal and welcome.

The innkeeper would have been thrilled and filled and more than a little stressed out, sending servants left and right, and stretching his wits to find one more nook or cranny to tuck a bed.

I think kids would have been the first to have to give up their beds, bunking in with cousins in haylofts or spreading out blankets under the stars.  I imagine the starry sky hazed over with woodsmoke, as extra fires cooked extra meals; and the lineup at the village wells stretched long in the dark.

I can imagine myself there, distant family sleeping wall-to-wall throughout the house.  I picture stepping over aunts and uncles to check on the kids in their makeshift bed in the storeroom.  Patrick and I gave up our bed for Great Auntie, and spread blankets in the tiny kitchen, where we could enjoy the sweet luxury of sleeping alone.

I like to think that if I had wandered out into the night for a breath of cool air, and had seen that poor young mama come riding into town with birth pangs, I would have given up my makeshift kitchen bed too.  I would have lined a basket with towels, aprons, anything soft for that tiny new darling to sleep in, til morning would allow me to find our cradle.  I would have held water to her lips, and brought bread for that huge rush of hunger after the baby came.  I would have done what I could - even without knowing she was bearing the Son of God.

But if we had known?

The whole town would have shifted.  Someone bustling and officious would have arranged everyone's best things for Mary's comfort, for Jesus' well-being.  Donations would have poured in, volunteers would have thronged the place, and that mewling newborn cry would have been met with tender murmurs from a crowd of hopeful caregivers.

Of course, we didn't know.  And we weren't there.  And there was no room, no room at all, and Mary brought her baby into the world in a stable, and laid him in a manger.

The crazy and beautiful thing (one crazy and beautiful thing; there are so many) is that He counts it as if we did.  Whenever we reach out in love, in mercy, in justice, to serve the needy, He counts it as if we served Him.

Check out what He says in Matthew chapter 25, verses 31-46:
 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’  And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’  And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

In His eyes, we are in Bethlehem.  We do have a chance to serve Him, to wrap Him in warm clothes, to bring Him good food, to welcome Him, a stranger.  Every scrap of kindness, hospitality, mercy, justice we do - He appreciates it as if we were serving Him.  He aligns Himself with the needy - didn't He make Himself poor for our sake? - and honours any service we offer to those in need as if we gave to Him.

But He counts the opposite as unto Him, too.  When we choose not to give to the poor; when we ignore oppression and close our hearts to the hungry, the sick; when we close our door to those who seek refuge ... we do it as to Him.

I don't know about you, but there are times when I struggle to know what His will is in any given circumstance.  My fear, my selfishness, my laziness clouds the way.  But He leaves me no excuse when it comes to this.  It's really clear.  Keeping the Christ in Christmas looks an awful lot like - no, it looks exactly like - seeking out and helping all who need refuge.

Let that holy night in Bethlehem stir our hearts, Christians! Let us swing our doors wide and welcome the weary travelers however we possibly can.

#RefugeesWelcome.



Monday, November 30, 2015

For Topsy, in Memoriam

Grubby little treasure,
You were neither soft
Nor beautiful to behold.
Your list of accomplishments begins and ends with existence;
For no discernible reason, she loved you best.
She wore you thin with her pale hands by day
And cradled you between her long toes at night.
You, an ugly little scrap of wornosaurus
Triceraflops
Topsy, Baby, Precious Darling;
You three-horned lesson on unconditional love.



Friday, November 27, 2015

Three Ways

How To Love Kachi: Three Ways

1. Read any Dr. Seuss book aloud as quickly as you can.
2. Smell his feet and pretend they are woefully foul.
3. Let him splash unhindered in a full tub.

Kachi This Morning

My little nugget broke out a new word this morning. He walked up to the Christmas tree, reached for a light, and said, "sparkle!"
I love this smart darling.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Guest Post: The Difference We Make


Addressed to current arguments regarding Canada's decision to accept twenty five thousand refugees before Christmas.
 
Taking in twenty five thousand refugees before Christmas will not make a great difference in alleviating the suffering in the world. I could demonstrate this with gumballs. It would be more effective for us to help them where they are, you say. Those refugees should stay in their countries and work to make them better instead of bringing their problems to us.
 
But I wonder if you have considered what a difficult proposal that is.
 
Let us consider just the case of Syria. The combatants are Bashar Al-Assad’s government on one side and ISIL (or whatever) on the other side.
 
The west has been engaging in two ways: first by finding and arming groups of “moderate” insurgents and secondly with airstrikes. There has not, so far, been the political will in the west to fully engage on the ground. Add to that the fact that western military interventions have a history of making things worse and there is very little reason for refugees to stay.
 
The airstrikes are not enough. They may be disruptive and annoying, but they will not, by themselves, neutralize ISIL. Arming the “moderates” has proved difficult since they are now becoming increasingly difficult to find. Many “moderates” are now fighting on the side of ISIL while others have themselves become refugees, leaving their American supplied weapons in the hands of ISIL. It seems that Russia’s pragmatic strategy of supporting Bashar Al-Assad’s military against ISIL is the only coherent option in the muddle but the west finds this option unsavoury and politically untenable. Western allies have teamed with Iraqi Kurds to fight against ISIL, which is an attractive option because supporting the Kurds does not strengthen Bashar Al-Assad’s government. What many forget, however, is that while the Kurds are allies in Syria and Iraq, the United States government considers Kurdish groups in Turkey to be terrorists because of the PKK’s independence movement in that country. Without getting too deep into it, supporting any Kurdish groups indirectly supports terrorism because the Kurds in Syria, Iraq, and Turkey all have the same goal: an independent Kurdish state carved out from the territories of those three states (of course, nobody cares about the territory this Kurdish state will carve out of Syria and Iraq). Furthermore, the Kurds are no friends of the Syrian people, and will not move into ISIL-controlled Syrian territory as “liberators”.
 
So Syria’s “Moderates” are caught between the government of Bashar Al-Assad, supported by Russia on one side and ISIL on the other. Also consider that some of the other actors in the area are Iranian proxies and the Iranian-supported terrorist organization,Hezbollah. Do you propose that Syria's "Moderates" arm themselves with sticks and stones to fight against both their government and ISIL? Even if they were armed and supported by the West, their chances of success are slim. These are civilians—even the men among them—not trained soldiers. The more fanatical or the more steadfast among them might fight but even making contact with representatives of the West to procure weapons and training is difficult and has its own risks. The rest, if they stay, risk having their neighbourhoods bombed by government airstrikes, bulldozed by government tanks or ravaged and burned by terrorists. Or maybe they already have lost their homes, maybe they have already tried fighting. For many—not all, certainly, but many—the options are few; they see leaving the area as the best they can do.
 
What would you do? Would you stay and fight, knowing your wife and children would have to stay too? Or would you send your wife and children alone to risk the journey across thousands of unfriendly miles by foot and boat while you stay behind to fight for your country—even though you don’t know what a good outcome might be in that fight or that one is even possible? You might stay, but you certainly could not fault your neighbours for leaving.
 
You say we should help them where they are, but how? Do you want your government to move the ground forces and machinery it would take to beat back ISIL? And even then, we’d still have the miry problem of Bashar Al-Assad’s government, supported by Russia. So far, the overwhelming majority of westerners do not want their governments to engage on the ground. Canada’s government has decided to remove its fighter-bombers from the fight, choosing instead to send more trainers on the ground to team up with the Kurds. Both the airstrikes and the training are token measures. Nothing we’re doing so far is helping the Syrian “Moderates” and there are no good options for us to begin to help them where they are—at least none that are politically viable. Airstrikes are not enough, as stated previously, it would take a comprehensive ground war to make Syria safe again. So Canada’s decision to remove its fighter-bombers from the fight is just as good a decision as any. Especially since Canadian airstrikes have been blamed for causing civilian casualties.
 
Do you oppose the decision to remove the fighter-bombers because you are not interested, really, in helping anybody, you just want to feel like you’re doing something without having to give them refuge here?
 
Do we really want to be on the side that turns away those who seek refuge? We’ve been there before—in the 1930s Canada turned away boatloads of refugees from Europe who later died in the ocean—and it is an embarrassment to us. In the 1930s Nazi Germany offered its unwanted to any country that would take them and all the countries of the west politely declined. In our defense, you say, we didn’t know what was going on! Yes, we didn’t know because we didn’t care to know.
 
There’s so little we can do in the form of effective solutions for the Syrian people in Syria. The best we can do for them is let them come. We are a country of immigrants. It makes no sense for us, who happened to have the good fortune of coming here earlier, to turn away those who would come after us.
 
To take in the refugees may not make a great difference compared to the many, many millions who will remain suffering outside our borders but it will make a vast difference for those we let in and it's the only option that makes a permanent difference without engaging the military.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Booka Booka Booka

Kachi loooves books.  He walks around the house with them, saying, "booka booka booka!" He's even started taking them to bed. ♡
That's my boy!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Twilight Milestones

What do you do when your brave daughter decides today is the day she is getting rid of her soother, because she is a big girl and it's Twilight Sparkle's birthday?
You make a cake and celebrate and maybe you cry a little bit when she's not looking because growing up is hard and she makes it look beautiful.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Make Me A Sammich!

This afternoon, Sam asked if he could make himself a sandwich ... and made one. It was the first time he's done that, and it hit me like a ton of bricks ... my baby is growing up.
Here he is, goofing around with his very own sandwich.
And Vava had a tea party with her "pony pones." Natch.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Gotta Have Goals

Tonight I asked Sam what he wants to be when he grows up.  His answer is so perfectly him:  "I want to be a big police officer, who catches butterflies so the mean guys can't get them."

And Vava, "I'm a pony unicorn, who grows up into a WO-bot!"  
Because Vava :).

Monday, November 2, 2015

How You Know

Sam, to Vava, on falling in love:
You will smile and they will smile and their eyes will start to shine and you just  know that you love them so much.
And you will love each other forever.

Monday, October 26, 2015

My Sexy Halloween Post

Halloween's coming up.  As a Christian, I'm not into the gory scary evil side of things, but as a Christian, I'm definitely into the neighbourly friendly candy side of things! It's the neighbourliest night of the year - a chance to open our door to the people we live with, chat with parents and kids, give generously, and get to know each other.

(I understand people who don't want to participate at all due to the way Halloween can be a celebration of evil, and I totally respect that for them.  I just choose to see it as one more way to love my neighbour.)

But I think Halloween is really interesting, culturally.  It uncovers the pretense, the facade, the stories our culture tells itself about what we value and who we want to be.  And nothing does this more obviously, in my opinion, than the Sexy Nurse (or Sexy Fireman, or Sexy Stewardess, or Sexy Anything etc.) costume.  

It isn't that society really believes a nurse should wear a miniskirt or modify her uniform to reveal a plunging neckline.  But in a deeper, constraining sense, we believe -

No matter what I do, I would be better if I were sexy.  

Halloween just puts it all out there - shows us that, as a culture, we believe in a religion of works, where sexiness is our god and goal.  We really think that the skinniest, perky-boobsiest, whitest-toothed people are the happiest and most likely to be in sexually fulfilling relationships.  

Be a nurse who saves lives, eases pain, delivers joy, softens loss, yes ... but make sure you lose weight, cover your grey hairs, hide your wrinkles, get breast implants, whiten your teeth, and eliminate your thigh gap.  

And it sounds, well, shallow, at best, when it's all written out like that. But still somehow I find myself feeling inadequate because I'm not a "sexy" mom, or a "sexy" blogger, or a "sexy" anything.

But when I sit alone with God and read the truth, I rest.

Isn't it enough, to do my job well, to serve others, to build a home with my husband and kids and joyously worship God with thanks? Isn't it enough for one life?

I know it, deep down in the quiet places of my heart.  It's enough.  I'm enough.  I don't need to strive for someone else's standard of sexiness to be happy, or to be appealing to my spouse.

You, me - we're already enough.

Because sexiness isn't actually shape of a body, and it doesn't come in one particular bra or bicep size.  It would be really hard to truly dress up as a sexy anything, because sexy looks different for everyone, and doesn't have a particular look at all.  Sexy (defined by dictionary.com as exciting, glamorous, arousing) is not elusive or expensive or tangible.  It's found deep in the heart of commitment, security, freedom, comfort, and kindness. 

It's the delicious tenderness of sacrificial love, the gluey sort of oneness in the silence after a rich laugh, the spark and flare of intense conversation that keeps you up at night.  

It's found in the ordinary run of an everyday life, and (thank you, Jesus!) is not reserved solely for those svelte few who manage to achieve a thigh gap.  

NB, I'm not at all saying that I think it's wrong to be fit, to strive for any particular shape or to love being beautiful. 

But I am saying that physical shape and size isn't the road to sexy ... because sexy is thankfully reserved for all of us.  

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Headway, Painfully

Dear Little Sister,

I see you, rowing hard.
 
I see that boat tossing on the waves, see you struggling with stretched arms and stretched courage and stretched patience to stay up and on course.

I see the frayed edges of your heart, the way your hope is rubbed raw.

You are beautiful and brave,
With that hard knot of persistence clenched in your belly.

I see you.

You are not alone.

You are never, never alone.



Mark 6:48 - And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. 


Thursday, October 8, 2015

Vava, almost 3

"I love God," she sighed, climbing into bed.  "I'm going to draw him a picture.  And He will grab it and hold it up and say 'what a precious pink unicorn.'"  And then I will ask Him if I can pet His white horse with a pink tail."

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Among Wishes Wished

And if you should find yourself graced with a glorious October day, I hope you step out of all your obligations onto a beach.  Laugh free in sweet air, take your fill of joyous sunshine, eat something simple while wind whips hair into your mouth. Let your kids strip down and feel sand against their skin for the last time in a long time.
Revel in the last generous glimpse of summer, and hold your grateful cup high.
This is a good, good day.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Dear Pregnant Mama

Ohh, there you are, friend.
Prisoner of hope.
Waiting, inevitably.
Waiting for that inside, outside change.
And you -

Well, you will change.

You will change

You will change
Diapers, and more
Diapers, and even more
Diapers - maybe six daily, for maybe three years ... or more.

You will change
Into a sleep-walker
Into a cheerleader
Into a five-minute-expert on dinosaurs and space and unicorns.

You will change
Your mind again and again on the same topic
More pairs of sheets in a night than you ever thought possible
Outfits three times before leaving the house.

You will change
The number of souls on this planet
And the bent of those souls to hate or to love
And for them, you will change
Everything.

Oh my brave friend:
You're about to change
The world.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Dear Little Labelles

Dear Sam & Vava & Kachi,

My darling darlings, you are growing up so quickly.  I feel like every time I turn around, you're hitting new milestones and leaving me baffled.  

Vava, you potty-trained yourself.  On Sam's first day of school, you decided you wanted to wear underpants and you haven't looked back.  I don't even know what to say.  After the absolute agony of getting Sam out of diapers, I was resigned to a real stand-off.  I was ready to bribe, cajole, entreat, and threaten our way from pampers to potty.  I was not expecting your calm capability.  You have made yourself some adorable little rituals, and you are just so quietly happy, going about your big-girl business.  I am so proud of you.

Kachi, you decided to walk.  You took a few wobbly steps in August, but in September you really ramped up the effort.  You spent a few weeks determinedly practicing, staggering from the front of the house to the back, plopping down on your bum every few moments.  And now ... you're so steady.  You can even reach down, pick up your toys, and keep on trucking.  I am so proud of you.

And Sam.  You valiant trooper.  You have the unenviable task of trying every thing first.  Stepping onto the schoolbus first, learning classroom routines first, being away from home all day first ... and you are doing great.  You can write so many letters, you have learned songs and poems and silly dances.  You are a learning machine. And I love sharing a picnic on the front step when you get off the bus.  I love sitting with you while you wolf down a snack and all your leftover lunch.  I love when you tell me about helping kids in your class, talking with your teacher, playing in the schoolyard.  I love reconnecting after a whole lonely day without you.  (I love that you give me a kissing hand in the morning, to keep close while you're away).  I am so proud of you.

Little Labelles, I love you.  Thank you for being you <3 .="" div="">

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Guest Post: We Are All...

I like to browse the comment section in the news stories that I read. Well, I don't like to do it but I do it. I don't know why I do it because it always leaves me feeling grumpy and dark and like I need to take a shower.

Reading the news this week and the comments afterwards has been particularly painful. I like to think that the people commenting are ordinary, decent Canadians and it's just that the comment sections brings out the worst in them.
A screen grab of the comment section.





One comment, posted on a story about the refugee crisis, was arguing against bringing any refugees to Canada: "I work hard for my house, my car, my cottage," it began.

I couldn't help but think of Amos 3:15: "'I will strike the winter house along with the summer house...,' declares the Lord."

We think that we have the things we have because we earned them and we fail to realize that so little is earned and so much is gifted.

My son throws up his hands and cries, "It's not fair!" when I refuse to buy him a new toy. "You want to know what's not fair?" his mother quips. Because his mother has lost more sleep taking care of him than he can imagine. His mother has cleaned up most of the poop and vomit and pee that his body has produced so far. He probably won't realize what his mother has done for him until he has children of his own some day.

this is what your co-workers are doing while you're working.
I remember grumbling about the chores I had to do when I was a kid, never realizing that the small amount my parents wanted me to contribute paled in comparison to how I benefited from the work they did.

I'm a self-sustaining grown-up now and I still benefit so much from the kindness and the hard work of other people.

On the radio today, I was listening to an interview with a Vietnamese-Canadian who fled Saigon in the 1970s as an eleven-year-old. Her parents sent her, by herself, on a crowded boat out into the ocean to find refuge because they knew it was the best chance she had to have a good life, to have liberty. The boat she was on was boarded by pirates who took all the food and gasoline. They continued on by sail until they landed in Malaysia. She was put in a refugee camp with thousands of others. And she just had to wait for somebody to pick her.

In those years, Canada took in tens of thousands of refugees from Vietnam. We call them the boat people. I've met some of them, in Toronto, and I've seen how we haven't suffered at all from taking them in, in fact they've enriched our country.

The woman who was being interviewed told about how she was told one day that a Canadian family was going to sponsor her to come to Canada. They brought her to Canada and then they sponsored her mother and father, and later, her brother, so her whole family was able to come.

Now, this woman is spearheading an effort among the Vietnamese immigrants to sponsor more refugees to come to Canada.

t-rex could be anybody-could be your grandmother.
That story made me think that, fundamentally, we are no different. We are all refugees.

I don't mean to make light of anybody's hardship when I say that.

But we are all born helpless. We rely so much on the kindness of others. We take so much for granted. We know this is true.

The Vietnamese-Canadian woman's story is a metaphor for all of us. When she left Vietnam, she had no prospect, she was setting out in hope. In hope that somewhere, somebody would have compassion. There was nothing else she could do. She couldn't work to earn passage to anywhere, she was put in a camp and she couldn't leave until somebody picked her. Until somebody paid so that she could come to Canada. Somebody she didn't even know, somebody she'd never met before.


We are teaching our children this verse,

"God ... saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works, but because of His purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began." (2 Timothy 1:9)

We are dependent on God's grace. We can't do anything to save ourselves, in fact, we'd sooner run the other way. We like to think of ourselves as self-sustaining grown-ups, but God sees us all as infants. Infants that he snatches out of danger. Just like refugees we don't choose to be rescued, we can't. We rely completely on grace. I am the recipient of grace.

Not just in Salvation but in everything. Everything is a gift.

That's why I care. Because I am--we are all--in need of refuge.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

There Is Room

Today I went to the beach.
With my kids.

Not to pay a smuggler $4500 to launch us out in 5-foot waves on a rubber raft.
Not to gather the body of my son, washed ashore.

Just to play.

And afterward, we came home.
To our house, where every one of us has a bed to sleep in, clothes to wear, and (too much) food to eat.

And when the babies were napping peacefully (without ragged breaths of fear that someone might kill us for whatever they imagine we're doing wrong) I clicked mindlessly onto the internet.

And people were arguing about how many refugees we can take because there isn't enough room.  And people were putting up walls in hearts and ballot boxes with the lie that there aren't enough jobs to share.  

And I don't have any magic solutions but I'm looking around my house in the heart of the true north and I think what are we strong and free for, if not to welcome the oppressed?  

What's the good of an extra bed, if it never welcomes someone in need?  Why not share these extra calories with someone who needs them?  Could we stretch our budgets in a different direction -  to say Refugees Welcome instead of Merry Christmas this year?

I know I'm not the only one who cried in front of the computer screen today.  I'm willing to bet that a lot of guest rooms would be made ready in a heartbeat if the government waived some red tape and asked Canadians to step up to the crisis. 

There is room in this inn.  Refugees Welcome.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Repentance: A Prayer for Sam & Vava & Kachinvya

It's no secret that one of my favourite things about parenting my own children is the chance that I get to see, in the tiniest way, a sliver of God's perspective as He loves His exasperating children - as He loves His exasperating me.

When my kids are disobedient, ungrateful, forgetful little punks, and I love them anyway and keep on caring for them even when exhaustion is straining at the seams, I am reminded to look up into the face of my Father and see Him smile knowingly as I finally understand the lesson.

When they cry in the night and need me and my feet have wings as I run to their room to take care of them, my heart curls in close to the Indwelling Spirit, who never leaves me, never forsakes me.

When they need to be fed, bathed, changed, held - are utterly helpless but for my care - I bow and acknowledge that I, too, can do nothing on my own and need saving.

Usually, looking at my kids reminds me to look to God, to praise Him for His tender care.  

A few weeks ago our pastor was preaching on repentance, and he shared a quotation that took my breath with its loveliness.

The only way to flee from the wrath of God is to turn and run right into His loving arms. 

And it made me pause and consider how I behave when I discipline my kids. I can't exactly say they always find my heart their safe harbour.  I encourage them to apologize, and I forgive them, yes (sometimes with less enthusiasm than others!) - but I have caught glimpses of my still-upset face in the mirror even after the apology and it is not a comforting sight.

Their punishment must spur them to repentance, and then it should not be scary or intimidating for them to repent.  The struggle against their own desire is hard enough; I don't want my stern eyebrows or ranty words to bear heavily on them.  No - I want them to find no greater shelter than my own arms, my own heart, like I find in my Father.  I want them to find, as I do, that the brief sorrow of repentance leads to the great relief of forgiveness, and the joy of oneness restored.

Because maybe ... maybe in the same way that God uses them to point me to His heart, maybe He will use me to point them to His heart too.
And they will be captivated by its beauty.
And they will ache over their sin.
And they will tremble over God's just wrath.
And they will repent.
And they will flee
straight into His wide-open arms.

And walk in the warmth of His presence forever.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Guest Post: How Belzoir Saved My Life

In the summer of 2009 Janelle and I had our second miscarriage. Our baby was stillborn on July 15, 2010, only eleven weeks old. Today, we would be celebrating the sixth birthday of our child.

We've moved on. We've adopted a bright boy and gave birth to a lively little scrap of a girl and another happy little boy and I treasure them.

We've moved on: grief buried deep below the surface. Now I like to remember our missing child with joy and a little bit of sadness because the event of Belzoir's stillbirth and what we experienced before and after were so transformational for me. I think in the future I will look back and see it as one of the foundational experiences of my life.

So I just want to re-share a brief blurb I wrote to commemorate the first anniversary of Belzoir's stillbirth. (I'm a writer, so that's what I do.)


*editor's note: a birthy-deathy sort of graphic.


The last time I saw Belzoir was through a window in a door dividing the examination room from the hospital's inner sanctum. The window was covered by a blind, which I cracked with two fingers to peek through.

And there sat Belzoir on the counter. He was floating in a jar of formaldehyde about six inches tall. Whenever I think of Belzoir now, that's how I see him. Floating upright in jar of yellowish fluid. Probably heading for a grisly dissection at the hands of some med students at Dalhousie.

The truth is, I don't know what the truth is. People said, Maybe it was better this way. People said, Maybe he would have been born deformed or ... or something. But I don't think any of that would have made any difference to me: I would have loved him all the same. I already did love him. More than I knew that I could. Deformed, whatever, I wanted him to be born. I wouldn't have chosen anything else than for him to be born and for me to love him forever.

But the thing is, the baby is dead. What do I make of that? Is there a reason for it? There has to be a reason for it. What I make of it is this: Belzoir saved my life.

She was sitting on the toilet. I came running to the washroom, barefoot and rubbing sleep from my eyes, I couldn't see anything without my glasses—I was in such a hurry that I left them behind. It was 5am and she was yelling.

So, there she was, on the toilet, pushing this thing in my face. My vision was so blurred that I couldn't see what it was and I didn't know whether she was in trouble or what. And if so, how badly? I was actually really annoyed at having my sleep interrupted.

I had to bend down and squint a little to see what it was that she was pushing at me. I saw a pee stick and I recoiled in disgust when I saw how close I put my face to it and then it slowly came to me that the pee stick was a pregnancy test. And that she was yelling because she was excited. Which meant that the result was positive.

Okay, so, first thing in the morning, I'm a bit of a bear. Well, more of an asshole than a bear, really. My first reaction was relief. I was relieved that everything was okay and I could go back to bed and get some more sleep before waking up in the morning. So it took a minute or two to really get excited about it.

We'd been wanting a baby for a long time. We'd been trying to get pregnant for more than a year by now. The little plus sign on the pee stick was an answer to prayer.

We named the foetus Belzoir. The name came from a dream she had, in the dream the name was embroidered on a quilt along with the line: "The morning rang with laughter and ours was naked and seamless." Cousin Bekzor remembered the dream, and started calling the baby Belzoir. (Bell-Zo-Ear.) It stuck.

We didn't know whether it was a boy or a girl: it was too soon. But we always thought of it as a he.

We knew from the start that it was a risky pregnancy. Doctor Graves told us it wasn't properly attached to the wall of the uterus (or something like that), so we got to have ultrasound pictures taken every two or three weeks. The first one we took home with us, there was nothing to see. Just a flash of light the size of a grain of rice. But we stared at it and hugged it and talked about it and showed it to all our friends and talked about how beautiful the baby was. And in the subsequent pictures we got to see the baby grow from the size of a grain of rice to about the size of a plum.

And then she started spotting. Right away I felt sure that we would lose the baby and I was angry. Doctor Graves put her on bed rest and medicated her to try to prevent the loss. Doctor Graves was pretty optimistic with us, too. But I got a little bitter because this was something we had been praying for for so long and now we had it and we were going to lose it. I was angry at God, like he was playing a mean joke on us.

When we first found out, we decided to tell everyone right away about the baby because we wanted them to be happy with us. We shared all our hope and joy with our friends.

And then, at a regular check up Doctor Graves showed her the dead baby in the
ultrasound. In the picture, it looked as though all lights were out. Even though we were half expecting it, it came as a bitter surprise. That was the only appointment I wasn't able to go to; she had to walk all the way home by herself with the emptiness inside her.

I accepted it with a kind of fatalism and the next few days were tough and not a little bitter. Belzoir's death was a huge loss. We didn't just lose our baby, we lost his infancy, his childhood, his growing up years. We lost all that we were hoping for. We lost a real person that we loved dearly and earnestly hoped to get to know.

Our friends came to us with comfort and they shared our grief. We found friends that we didn't even know we had. People who we had regarded as only casual acquaintances showed us that they cared very deeply for us. It was touching.

It felt a bit strange to grieve over a miscarriage. I felt like, to everybody else, I was grieving something I never had. But I did have him, he was mine and I loved him so much.

That same weekend her brother and his wife came from Vancouver to spend a night at our place while they were in the area for a wedding. We had supper together but towards the end of supper she began to feel pain in her stomach and retired to our bedroom. I found her there later, she was curled up in a little ball holding her stomach. I rubbed her back for a few minutes and then rejoined our guests in the living room.

A little later she called me to the bathroom. Tentatively, I opened the door and stuck my head around it to see what was up. (You see, I'm terrified of vomit and stuff like that.) She thrust this little red blob nestled in a bunch of toilet paper at me all the while yammering excitedly.

Startled, I yelled, "Flush it! Flush it!"

"We can't flush it!" She exclaimed, horrified. "It's our baby!"

Only then did I take a good look at the red blob she was holding. It was a squishy sphere surrounded by a transparent membrane. Inside was Belzoir, floating in a cloudy fluid. I was transfixed. Emotion surged through me, seeing this tiny body with arms and legs and hands and feet and little tiny fingers and toes--even fingernails and toenails, and an elongated head with a little nose and mouth, lumps for ears, and tiny eye-holes. He was almost completely formed. A little person.

It's difficult to describe what I felt then. I was filled with love and joy, just to see the body of our baby. It was no longer an abstract idea of a person I would see someday. I was seeing him now. This was Belzoir's body. We huddled together in the washroom and admired our beautiful little baby's body, wondering at how perfect and complete it was. And then we wrapped it up in toilet paper and brought it out and told our guests what had happened. I don't think we would have done this with anyone else, but we unwrapped the body and showed it to them and even took photographs of it. Then we rewrapped it and tucked it into her purse and the four of us took the body to the hospital together. In the waiting room at the hospital, her brother took a picture of the two of us and the purse with the baby's body inside. We smiled widely. The picture got posted to Facebook with the caption, "proud parents."

It was a happy night. We won't see our child grow up and we won't get to know him yet, but we saw him born and he was beautiful and we loved him. It was affirming, seeing the body.

 Now, when I think about Belzoir, I see him in my head, his little body floating in that jar of formaldehyde and I can't be bitter. I am sad that we've lost him, but I am so glad for the time that we had him. The weeks of our pregnancy and the day of his birth are some of the happiest days of my life, now. We shared so much joy and hope because of him. Belzoir is God's gift to us. He will always be.

The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1.21).

Because of Belzoir I can never be bitter again.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Guest Post: A Father's Day Blog

I never understood what it meant to be a child of God until I had children of my own.

As a young adult, I thought of my relationship with God as a relationship between a Father and his adult son: while I saw that God was deserving of my respect, I thought we were at a comparable intellectual level. I assumed that we understood each other the same way my father and I understood each other.

I became a father in 2011 with the adoption of our firstborn, Sam. Over Sam’s first year I slowly realized the arrogance of my assumption but at the same time, I came to treasure God’s Fatherly tenderness more than anything else in all the world.

Consider Matthew 7.7-12. Jesus says,

"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you, for everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!"

I thought that Jesus was teaching here that God answers prayer, and that’s true, this passage does teach that God answers prayer but, what’s more important is that it teaches us how God answers prayer. God answers prayer like a Father caring for his children. Jesus isn’t trying to teach us about prayer so much as he is trying to teach us what God is like. God is like a Father. God is a Father. Our Father.

It's not a chore for a father to give his children the things they ask for and the things they need. It's not burdensome; it's something a father delights to do. A father—a good father—doesn't delight in harming his children; doesn't delight in withholding from his children. God is not an abusive father. And he's not cold and distant and unapproachable either. God engages with His children, He wants to be known by them, He cares for them. God is really tender towards us, like a father is toward his child.

Consider Romans 8.14-17. The Apostle Paul writes,

"For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God, for you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him."

When we became Christians we “did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear.” We did not exchange our bondage to sin for a new kind of bondage but our bondage is gone entirely. We are adopted into the family of God; we are His dear little children.

In Luke 11, Jesus' disciples ask him: “Teach us how to pray,” and Jesus says, “This is how you pray,” and he begins with, “Our Father.” God doesn't think of this as just a metaphor. He actually is our Father and He wants us to approach Him like He’s our Father. His heart is tender toward us. I never realized the tenderness of God's love for me until I became a father myself and I can't help thinking: If I love my son this much, how much must God love me?

The Apostle Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit inside us causes us to cry out to our Father, “Abba!” or “Papa!” That tells me what kind of relationship God wants: he wants me to put my arms up to Him and cry out, “Papa!” Because, really, that's how much I need God: the same way a little child needs a father. God thinks of me the same way I think of my daughter when she stretches out her arms for me to lift her up and says, “Cue me, Papa.” And I fold her tiny little self into my arms and she puts her head against my chest and she knows she's taken care of. What more could a father want from his child?

I really think that's all God wants from us: to just let Him be our Father; to let Him hold us and take care of all our needs. He wants us to know that all we need is Him because if we have Him, we have everything.

Consider 1 John 3.1-4. The Apostle John writes,

"See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure."

See what kind of love the Father has for us? We are God's children, not by some mistake, not by accident. But we were chosen, we were adopted. God chose to set His love on us and bring us into His family, to make us His own.

So, what are we really like, as children of God? For most of my life I thought of myself as a grown-up child of God. I thought I could understand my heavenly Father, I thought I was independent. Having my own children reversed my thinking: I’m not like a grown-up, independent son who can move out of the house and get a job and drive a car, no. In my experience as a child of God, I’m more like a wee baby or a toddler.

It didn’t take me very long as a new father to learn that there's this kind of annoying quality about ba- bies: Everything is a major emergency. One minute everything is fine and the baby is happy and then suddenly the baby realizes he's hungry! And now we're in a major crisis situation, like, we've got to get on the phone to FEMA and get the army here and maybe some helicopters and get some food into this baby, NOW!

So, I start to get the bottle ready, and this whole process only takes about a minute, but it's a minute too long for the baby who's behaving like the food's never going to come, he’s just wailing and screaming and thrashing around, he’s behaving like I'm never going to give it to him—even though, here I am, get- ting his food ready in plain sight—he's behaving like he’s in the depths of bitter despair because he real- ly believes that I'm just going to let him starve to death, the poor thing! Even though, we’ve done this before, we’ve done it every single day of his life so far! He got hungry and he got fed. Sometimes he even got fed before he knew he was hungry. So, what’s with this complete lack of faith?

So, I see that I'm a lot like the baby. My faith in God goes about as far as the baby's faith in me. I know I'm not going to let the baby starve to death—I'm not going to let anything bad happen to the baby if I can help it. And what we just read is Jesus telling us that if we can take good care of our babies, how much more can God take care of us?

But I still act like it's all up to me and I get bitter and upset when things don’t go the way I’ve planned or I don’t get the things I want. So it kind of helps me to think of myself as the baby throwing a tantrum. God's ready for me, he's got everything under control. And most of the time I just don't see it; I don't trust that God cares and that what God has to give me is better than the things I want.

As a baby, Sam hated getting dressed. Getting him into a pair of pants was a real struggle. He'd scream until his face turns red and he had these veins that popped out on the side of his head and he'd fight and fight so that had to pin him to the floor with my legs. And he was a pretty strong baby. I had to wrestle him into his pants, and into his shirt and his sweater. I’m his father; it didn’t please me that dressing was such torture for him. I dressed him because I didn’t want him to be cold. He would go out into the snow naked if I let him, and he’d freeze. But getting into his clothes would make him so mad, he’d scream and thrash and fight. And it never ended well for him, you know, he never got his way. I never threw up my hands and said, ‘OK, Sam. You go out and play in the snow naked.’ No, I was stronger than him, I out- weighed him by about a hundred and sixty pounds, he never had a chance of winning against me but he still tried with every ounce of his strength. You have to admire his courage, but he was a little stupid.

But I can see how I’m just like that, wrestling against God. I can't win, fighting against God, but I try any- way. I hardly ever just surrender and say, ‘Okay, I trust you. You know best. I'll go with you on this.’ In- stead I've got to try and do things my way, I've got to fight and fight to have things go just as I’ve planned them, just as I want them to go and all the while I'm praying to God to let things go my way be- cause I've got big plans, you know, and I'm going to do everything I can to make them work out. My plans are that I'm going to get out of my clothes and go play naked in the snow, or run in traffic, play chicken with the cars, torment the neighbourhood dogs until I find one that'll bite my face off, or else just wander off and get lost. One of the reasons I think God gives us babies is so we'll see how foolish we really are.

Jesus teaches us to pray, ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done.’ Your will, not my will. I want God to help me with my plans? That's foolish. The Bible says that I can't even imagine what God has planned, and he wants me to be a part of it. When I pray, “Your will be done,” I’m submitting to God's will, I’m saying ‘Not my plans, your plans.’ I’m letting God use me in His plans.

I don't pray because I have to remind God to take care of me. When I pray, “Give us day by day our daily bread,” I’m not reminding God that I need to be fed. God already knows. I think Jesus gave us this prayer to remind us where our daily bread comes from. It comes from our Father. I don’t think prayer is so much about getting things from God as it is about getting to know God.

At Matthew 6.25-34, Jesus says this:

"Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yetyour heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."

Here Jesus is teaching about God's tenderness. God is tender towards his Creation: He feeds the birds, He makes the flowers beautiful. And Jesus says, ‘Your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of much more value than they?’ He's saying, 'See how well your Father cares for the birds and the flowers? How much more does He care for you?'

The flowers and the birds don't do any work, they don't do anything to provide for their future, they don't store up food, or plant gardens, the lilies don't make themselves clothes, they don't manufacture textiles. And yet both birds and lilies are remarkably beautiful because God made them this way. It's the way they are. We don't value birds and flowers because of anything they can do for us, we value them because of what they are. They show off God's great glory just by being what they are. Just by being.

Same with us: God does not value us because of anything that we can do. Is there anything we can do that will impress God or make Him value us more? Is there anything we can do or fail to do that will make God value us less? No. We're like babies; we can't even do anything for ourselves. Why do we be- have like we can impress God with what we can do? God values us because we're His Children, not be- cause of anything we do for Him.

I love being able to do things for my babies. It’s so satisfying to meet their needs. And when they just trust me, like when they’re too tired to fight and they let me carry them and they just put their head on my shoulder and hold me, nothing can make me a happier father. Sometimes, they just want to be with me, they’ll want to snuggle, or to sit on my lap, or one of them will walk up unexpectedly and give me a hug and a kiss. Nothing makes me happier than that, and I’m just so ridiculously pleased to be their father.

God gives us opportunity to show His glory by being His Children. Jesus teaches us that we should not worry about material things because we have a Father in heaven who cares for us. And when we trust Him and rely on Him and when we say, ‘Your will be done, not mine,’ we're showing the world that God is real, that God is dependable, and that God is tender and kind. If we just let ourselves be God's little children, God gets glory. And that's really what we're all about, glory to God.

The relationship we have with God is a familiar one. God is present, He cares for us, and He loves us. I never understood how much God loves us until I saw God’s care as a Father in the verses we read and realizing, this isn’t just theology, Jesus is talking about God’s Fatherly tenderness—as MY father, mine! I used to think that it was right and good to approach God thinking poorly of myself and telling Him how undeserving and worthless I am. But God, our Father, does not delight in pious self-abasement. He values us. If my son, Sam, came to me hanging his head and started telling me about how bad of a boy he is and how he doesn't deserve my love and how he's completely worthless to me and he doesn’t understand why I ever adopted him, I wouldn’t get any pleasure from that. That approach is no basis for a relationship. I love and value my son, and I want him to know me. I want him to know who I am and how much I love him. If he thinks he's too undeserving to be in my presence, he's never going to know me and he's never going to enjoy my presence. And, really, that's all I want from him. My love and my esteem for my children is not conditional on anything they can do or accomplish, it's just that I love them, no matter what. God's love and God's esteem for His children is not conditional on anything they can do or accomplish, He just loves us, no matter what. We can't change His love for us.

I'm convinced that God wants me to know Him, wants me to be familiar with Him and to enjoy His presence. I should approach God with humility, yes, and confess my sins with the confidence that God already forgave my sins and that my sins are put away. I won’t earn favour by reminding God about my sins. We approach God like children entering a father's presence. Hebrews 4.16 says, ‘Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need .’ We can come boldly to the throne of grace because it is our Father’s throne and he delights in giving us grace.

My Christian experience was a miserable one until I learned God’s Fatherly tenderness. I felt that God disapproved of me—how could he approve of me, seeing as I am such a miserable sinner who can’t stop sinning? I didn’t enjoy God’s presence because I thought of God as a stern, distant, disapproving, and unapproachable parent. Before we’re saved, it is right to see God as unapproachable and stern because we are His enemies. But, once saved, once born again, we’re born into God’s family and He is our Father. And we know that He is a good Father, a tender Father, a kind Father, a Father who loves His children tremendously. I never enjoyed God until I saw Him as my Heavenly Father. His presence isn’t fearful but enjoyable because I know that He loves me, He cares for me. His heart is tender towards me. I know that I can trust Him.