Cell Phones, the 21st Century and Life-Changing Revelations

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I entered the 21st century recently. It’s a beautiful place. It all started when my husband bought me a cell phone. No one ever told me how wonderful those things are. Well, they probably did, but I’m old-fashioned and stubborn so I didn’t believe them.

Did you know that you can take Pinterest with you wherever you go? There’s a clock so you don’t have to worry about forgetting your pocket-watch (yes, I have a pocket-watch). There’s even a flashlight. And so many emojis or whatever those things are called.

And if you sit there with your phone in your lap without realizing that the camera app is on, you can unknowingly take 136 almost identical photos of your nostrils. (I discovered that exciting little tidbit at the fair yesterday).

But what I love most about this phone is my Bible app. Each day, I click on the reminder and it brings me right to that day’s spot in my reading plan.

A couple of weeks ago, my daily reading included Isaiah 7. Have you ever read Isaiah 7? I mean, really read it? If not, get out your Bible (or your phone) and check it out. It’s one of those passages that … well … honestly, I’d normally just skim through.

Honestly, I did skim through it at first.

But then I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me: Go back. I have something I want you to see.

Do you ever get the sense that God wants to speak to you through something, even though you’re initially not sure how or why? It was one of those moments. Over the last few of weeks, God has been teaching me to overcome discouragement with praise (see this post). And Isaiah 7? This is where it started. Because when I went back and read that passage again, the Lord spoke to my heart in a big way.

The passage is basically God telling the king of Judah not to be afraid. Let me give you some context. A bunch of kings got together and decided to wage war on Judah. They said, “Let us go up against Judah and terrify it, and let us conquer it for ourselves, and set up the son of Tabeel as king in the midst of it…” (Isaiah 7:6, ESV).

In a nutshell? The plan was for several groups of people to come together, ook big and use fear to paralyze the nation of Judah so it would be easy to conquer.

I know. You’re thinking, “That’s a great history lesson and all, but where is this life-changing revelation?”

I wondered the same thing at first. But as I read the passage again, I had this thought: What does the name Judah mean?

Judah means “praise”.

And suddenly, light bulb.

Isn’t it so true that the enemy wants to steal our praise—and it often starts with fear? Whenever I hit a season of discouragement, it begins with very specific thought patterns. And when these insecurities take root?

Fear defeats me.

Fear paralyzes me.

Fear steals my praise.

Fear that isn’t rooted in the truth of God’s Word. Argh.

This is what was happening in Judah. But God had a message for Judah’s king. He said, “Listen up. [That first line is my interpretation.] It shall not stand. It shall not come to pass.

Have you ever noticed that most of the things that frighten us never actually come to pass? God is bigger than our fears. He’s bigger than our confusion. He is bigger than any enemy that we can face.

And He fights on our behalf.

But we have a responsibility too. Isaiah 7:9 says, “If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.”

Ouch.

It’s not always easy to chase fear away with faith. It’s not always easy to stand firm. That’s why praise is so important. The Bible says that God is enthroned on the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3). When we worship God, we’re acknowledging His greatness. We’re putting our entire focus on Him in all His power and glory.

We become overwhelmed with awe and reverence.

God becomes big and our problems become small because His perfect love eclipses our fear (see 1 John 4:18).

So when the enemy tries to use fear to steal our praise, we need to stand firm in our faith that Jesus has defeated him on the cross. And we need to “yadah”—shoot out those arrows of praise—and watch the Lord send our enemies fleeing.

I love that.

Mounties, Maple Coffee and Consistency

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I love all things fall, don’t you? Yesterday was officially the first day of autumn, but clearly it didn’t get the memo because it actually arrived rather suddenly today. It was a gazillion degrees yesterday, so I was woefully unprepared for today’s sweater and boots weather. My poor little daughters and I were at our local fall fair in our summer clothes, watching the Mounties prance around on their majestic horses … and shivering away.

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Oh Canada. I love you.

Hours later, and I’m wrapped up in blankets, sipping maple-flavoured coffee and still trying to get warm as I sit here and write. (A tad dramatic. But true.)

It was always my goal to write daily, but I’ve…ahem…not exactly done that (although, if you regularly follow this rather sporadic blog, you already knew that). Consistency doesn’t always come naturally to me, but I want to be known as someone who is—yes, flexible—but also dependable and faithful. It’s something I need to work on. Even in the little things. Even if things aren’t perfect.

Even if there’s nothing very important to say.

So I’m going to try.

It might be a photo. It might be a thought. It might be a video of Mounties prancing on horses. But I’m going to try to put something on here at least once a week. (Notice that I said try. It’s not a hard, fast commitment. I like loopholes.)

BUT…

Because I’m already almost over the standard 400-word blog limit (because who has time to sit at their computer and read a novel?), today’s deep and meaningful thoughts will have to wait until tomorrow.

So stay tuned…

(In the meantime, here are some cellphone photos of the fair. Because autumn. You’re welcome.)

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And here’s a photo of maple coffee. Because Canada.

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Unraveled

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It has been a while. Maybe because I don’t have a lot to write. Or maybe because I have too much to write but not enough time? I’m thinking that this little corner of the web should be called, “The Unraveled Life.” The other day, for example, I looked away for about two minutes and my toddler coloured herself green. Not completely green, mind you. But there were big green splotches all over her entire body. She was so proud. And in case you were wondering, washable marker isn’t all that washable. At least she makes a cute alien, I told myself.

While I was scrubbing the toddler, one of my other daughters knocked over a glass of milk (that she had been instructed to finish an hour earlier…but I digress). Milk everywhere. On the floor, on the table and on some of the school stuff. I wrote on Facebook, the way milk multiplies when spilled is nothing short of miraculous. I’m serious. Next time we’re about to run out of milk and I don’t feel like taking two hours to pack up three kids for a five-minute trip to the store, I’m just going to dump the last few drops on the floor. Voila, problem solved. Milk for days.

Truth is, I’ve been a bit tired lately. It usually hits in wintertime, but for some reason, this summer has seemed long. And although it has been filled with many, many beautiful moments, there is always that undercurrent. You know? That feeling that you’re unraveling on the inside?

Sometimes, I’m unsure of how to handle these soul-weary seasons, especially when there’s absolutely no valid reason for it. What do you do when you’re doing all the right things and yet you’re desperately struggling to hold on to your joy? As David said, “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?”

David, a man after God’s own heart, knew what it was like to become unraveled.

But what I love about David is that he didn’t stop there. In his sorrow, he declared, “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.”

Please note: David didn’t wait until he had it all together to boldly make that statement. He made it while he was struggling inside. And perhaps that’s the key. Not an empty faith declaration, but a reminder in the middle of it all that God is always faithful and that His love won’t ever fail. He is good. He is really, really good.

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“My heart rejoices in your salvation.”

Salvation from sin, most importantly. But also salvation from the tired that creeps in when you least expect it.

David did this thing called “yadah”. Yadah is a Hebrew word for praise. But it’s more than that. It’s offering yourself completely. It’s lifting your arms in surrender. In a sermon I heard recently, the pastor described it as raising your hands and launching your praise like an arrow.

Even when you don’t have it all together.

Because, really, aren’t all of us a little unraveled inside?

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been waking up to worship music. I sometimes fall asleep listening to it. I play it while I’m driving and while I’m making dinner. I play it while I’m sitting alone in my room. Yadah. Praise like an arrow.

Another act of worship—much less conventional—consists of taking photos of the joy-filled moments. When I get tired and my joy unravels, I look through those photos and remind myself that God is good. And my heart is filled with gratitude. Yadah. Praise like an arrow.

Praise is a powerful weapon against sadness and weariness. When your heart is filled with praise, your focus shifts from you to Jesus, and grace seeps into the broken places. Grace becomes the glue that holds you together. It allows you to put one foot in front of the other and keep on going.

It becomes your breath and life because it’s only in Him that we live and breathe.

Yadah. Surrender. Abandonment. Arrows of praise.

And a heart refreshed and restored to joy.

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Psalm 13

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.

And here’s one more goody because I’ve been waking up to this song every morning these days and it just gets to me (in the best of ways) every single time…

Revising the American Dream: What Homeschooling (and my Dad) has Taught Me about Life

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It was cool in the gazebo. Flowers bloomed boldly all around, cicadas buzzed in the treetops, and a little nuthatch tap-tap-tapped on the roof, looking for seeds he had hidden away between the gritty shingles.

Despite the beauty of the day, I was a little out of sorts. My dream house was for sale—and totally out of reach. I was telling my dad about it. Complaining, really.

When I had finished, my dad leaned back in his chair and spoke. I might not be getting all of his words just right, but the gist of it was this: “I was talking to someone last night. He was telling me about how much he works. He’s already replying to e-mails at six in the morning. He works long hours. He can hardly ever make it to any of his son’s hockey games.”

My dad worked hard too, before he retired. He would get up while it was still dark, do some work at home before leaving for the job site, come back and eat dinner with the family, and then work in his home office well into the evening. He is an amazing father, but it couldn’t have been easy for him to try to balance it all. I guess that sometimes, when you own a business, it sort of owns you too.

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A red squirrel scurried into the gazebo and then darted away as I shifted in my chair.

My dad continued. “I told the neighbour about you and Dave. You might not live in as big a house or have as much money, but you have a really good quality of life. You homeschool your kids and take them all kinds of places. You’re able to spend time with them. Sometimes, giving up things can make you happier. Quality of life isn’t always measured by material things.”

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Quality of life isn’t measured by material things.

It was a gentle reprimand. You see, I wrestle with this concept. I always have. In a world where success is measured by the size of your bank account and money is everything, living as though it’s not is counter-cultural. My husband and I make ends meet—but life could be so much easier if we shifted our emphasis even a little.

But what would that look like? What if we both worked long days? What if, instead of sacrificing money for time, we sacrificed time for money?

We’d miss out on God’s plan for our lives, plain and simple. It would be impossible for me to do what I’m called to do right now—homeschooling my girls. I wouldn’t be there to celebrate as they sound out words on a page or finally grasp those hard math problems. We wouldn’t be able to learn more about history and science and nature by exploring museums and beaches and farms.  We wouldn’t be able to build solar systems in the dining room or go on hikes when we need to just breathe.

There wouldn’t be enough time for any of the things that really matter to us right now.

 

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There are hard days. I lose patience. The kids fight. There are spills and messes. Sometimes, while changing diapers and scrubbing toilets, I think about people in power suits making their mark on the world and I feel a twinge of envy. There isn’t much glamour in sweeping up Cheerios and picking up toys day after day. But right now, I have an incredible opportunity to savour the fleeting days of my daughters’ childhood.

And I’m making my mark where it matters most—right in the centre of God’s will for my life.

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This is what I’m called to do. Not everyone is called to this. But, for some reason, I am. So instead of wishing away the days, I need to be grateful. I’m right where God wants me to be, and I truly wouldn’t have it any other way.

Because quality of life? It has nothing to do with the size of your bank account. (It doesn’t have anything to do with homeschooling either.) It’s about priorities. It’s finding out what God wants you to do—and doing it.  

(Thanks, Dad, for the reminder.)

The Gift of Community

 

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An unfamiliar car was parked out front. I could hear the sound of a vacuum through an open window. The front door was open too, and the house looked so … empty.

It’s a house accustomed to being full. Full of childish voices, full of friends popping in and out, full of life.

I’ve spent many an hour there, visiting with other moms while children play. Talking long on the front steps after Bible study. Meeting in the driveway for walks and outings. Hurriedly dropping off my girls so I could rush off to work.

It’s weird how something so small—a friend moving to another neighbourhood not far away at all—can make you think so deep. And perhaps it’s because two little girls kept me up most of the night and I’m tired, or perhaps it’s because I’m naturally prone to emotion, but I got a little misty-eyed as I walked by that empty house today.

It seems kind of silly, right?

The same thing happened when my favourite neighbourhood shop closed down. There were many memories attached to that place—story times with the kids, long chats with the owner, hours spent browsing gently-used clothing. I choked up then too.

But maybe it’s not actually all that silly.

You see, the more I think about it, the more I realize that it’s not about buildings or places but community. The ability to create an atmosphere of community is a special gift.

I often feel like I need to get everything perfect before I can invite people into my heart space or into my home. I’m embarrassed by the grittiness of life. But in order for people to feel free to come as they are, I need to first be free to come as I am.

It’s something that both my friend-around-the-corner and my shop-owner friend have demonstrated beautifully. My friend’s house was more than a house. It was a hub. Same with the little neighbourhood shop. There was nothing fake about their hospitality. By inviting you into their space, they invited you to live life alongside them. No excuses, no pretenses. Come as you are.

Although it has been a while since I’ve wandered over to my friend’s house, that community atmosphere is something that I’ll miss having just around the corner and something that I need to be better at creating in my own home.

If we’re honest, in a world of Instagram filters and Facebook highlights, it’s something that many of us probably need to be better at. We need to worry less about perfection and focus more on simply loving others where they’re at—and where we’re at.

So my goal this summer?

To provide a haven for the broken, the whole and everyone in between. To pretend less and love more. To open my heart space and my home space, and to offer the gift of gritty, come-as-we-are hospitality—the gift of community.

Will you join me?

 

The Importance of the Small

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Everyone was so out of sorts this morning that we almost didn’t go. It’s Wednesday, and we hadn’t been hiking yet this week – and if you know even a little about us, you know how strange that is. But the temperatures some days have been past the uncomfortable mark … and with three littles, well, you know.

Sometimes, I’m just not brave enough.

It was cool this morning, however. Cool and refreshing. And perhaps because everyone was so tired and cross, I packed the girls in the car and headed over to a local trail head.

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The older girls carried snacks, water and their nature journals in matching pink backpacks. They held hands and chatted happily as they set off down the trail. I followed behind more slowly, my youngest toddling by my side.

I used to sometimes get envious of other people’s big moments in life – big vacations, big accomplishments, big promotions. But these last two years as a stay-at-home mom have taught me something important: As wonderful as big things are, there is so much joy to be found in the little things.

blog0000RSCN9956We get so busy chasing after the big things that we often forget to stoop low and wonder at small. The intricately created insect scurrying across a leaf, for example. The butterfly sipping nectar from a wildflower. The deer hiding in the forest clearing.

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We need to slow down, breathe and just be grateful.

Life is a gift. No matter how hard it is and no matter how much we sometimes want to give up, it is a gift. Each moment is given to us by a God who loves us more deeply than we could ever imagine. And when we hurry from one big thing to the next big thing? We miss millions of little love-wrapped moments.

So let’s pause and look around sometimes.

And let’s be grateful for the small.

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Evening Meanderings

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The day is long. They often are. Being home with my girls—homeschooling them—is a huge privilege. And yet, I have to be honest.

It’s hard.

I don’t often admit that. I try to make it look easy. The truth is, as much as I love it, this is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. Things worth doing usually are.

Today is particularly trying. I meet opposition at every turn and I’m exhausted.

My husband arrives home just the girls are finishing dinner, and I am out the door in a flash. I push aside a twinge of guilt—the niggling feeling that I should be doing something more meaningful with my time. I remind myself: You can’t give when you’re empty. Tonight, I’m empty. And besides, the whole reason I’m going out is to meet up with someone who can help.

And I know just where I’m going to find some uninterrupted time with Him.

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I park the car at the end of a gravel road. The sun is beginning to set and the woods are bathed in the early evening glow. I grab my camera and begin to walk. A narrow side trail leads through a bed of ferns and into the bush, and I carefully pick my way over protruding roots and rocks. At the end of the path, nestled in a small valley, is a stream.

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I crouch beside a fallen tree and watch gray field slugs feast on mushrooms. Some might find this repulsive, but I’m intrigued. I learn later that some slugs solely subsist on fungi during certain stages of their development. Nature is a fascinating thing.

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I go back to the main path, past the frog pond and towards the meadow. Another side trail leads to a bench overlooking the valley and the view leaves me breathless.

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A little further on, in another meadow, three deer eye me suspiciously. I stop to stare back. I’m in no hurry.

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As the sun slinks behind the horizon, dusk emerges bold. Something dark flaps low across the path. It lands on a branch and I peer through the thicket to see what it could be. An owl. I watch until it flies away.

The air fills with the yips and howls of coyotes—the music of the night. I slowly make my way back to the car, rested.

I’ve done what I’ve come here to do. I’ve met the One I’ve been seeking.

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These days, I often find myself scrambling over rocks, pushing my way through tall meadow grasses and wandering deep in the woods.  I often find myself needing this change of scenery—time away, just me and Jesus. No little feet creaking down the stairs when I’m trying to pray in the early morning. No demands or pressures. Just uninterrupted time with the One who can soothe away the frustrations of the day. Here, in nature, I see reflections of His glory. Here, He speaks to the deep places.

Through silken spider strands glistening in the sun, He whispers.

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Through the ebony jewelwing that rests on a cool, green leaf, He whispers.

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Through the forest carpeted with flowers, He whispers.

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Each of these things, a gift from a Father who longs to draw close. Each of these things, a whisper of love. Love expressed through beauty.

“For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see His invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.” (Romans 1:20)

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.” (Psalm 19:1)

I come home and my heart is full. I’ve met Jesus.

And I’m ready to give again.

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