The Rhythm of Rest

 

We sit cross-legged on weathered wood and look across the lake. Gentle hills, thick with trees, rise and fall on the other side. And in the water, lily pads rise and fall too.

“Dose weaves are walking on da water!” my three-year old exclaims.

Last weekend, thunder crashed and the lake churned. Lightning lit up the sky like a strobe. By morning, although we were without electricity, there was only peace. Looking at the sky and the trees and the lake, you’d never know there had been a storm.

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And those lily pads, they just rolled with it.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the idea of rest. Psalm 4:8 says, “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Matthew 11:28-30 promises rest for our souls. Isaiah 26:3 says that He will keep in perfect peace those whose minds steadfastly trust in Him.

Time and time again, the Bible promises rest, often in exchange for trust.

The last six years have been filled with ups and downs—some big, some small. But even in the best of times, the only saving grace is His saving grace. Always. I’ve wrestled with the idea of rest, but those lily pads? They got me thinking.

Maybe a soul at rest still feels the hills and valleys. Maybe it’s not the absence of pain but rather what you do with that pain. Maybe your mind can be steadfast even as your world shifts and changes. Maybe walking on water means learning to roll with the rhythm of the waves.

Maybe it’s simply knowing that you’re held.

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Those lily pads are tethered to something that holds firm both when the water churns and when it rolls gentle.

And for us, through all the changes that life brings, one thing is for sure.

He is holding us through the ups and downs.

And He will never let us go.

 

At Least Consider It

The hallway is lined with suitcases. We’ve never done anything like this before and I’m not exactly sure what to pack for a whole month away.

So I simply packed it all.

Seriously.

Everything.

(Or close to it, anyway.)

When a friend first told me about a potential month-long opportunity to serve at a Christian summer camp, I said no. I wouldn’t apply. I wouldn’t think about applying. There were a million reasons why I thought it wouldn’t work. Mostly though, the idea seemed … large … somehow.

A whole month? With only two weeks to prepare, no less. That’s if I got the job. And what if I did get it? A whole lot of other what ifs would inevitably follow.

“Think about it,” my friend said.

My husband said the same thing: “Why not? You should at least consider it!”

The more I thought and prayed about it, the more I realized what an incredible opportunity it would be. One of our dreams has been to somehow work with kids to share our love of paddling, hiking, nature and Jesus. Even if this isn’t exactly that, isn’t it a start? And haven’t I been praying for months for God to show me ways to serve Him with my own children alongside?

We spend every moment we can up in that part of Ontario anyway. We dream of living there for good so why not move there for a month?

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And my children? They might never otherwise have the chance to go to summer camp in the Muskokas. What a blessing all around!

Over at the camp, with opening day inching closer, they had been praying for the right person to come along and fill the position.

The whole thing came together in just over a week. Every single beautiful detail. I’ll be volunteering as office staff, my girls will participate in summer camp for a month and my husband will come up as often as he can.

It’s the opportunity of a lifetime. For all of us.

Oh, and I won’t have to cook for a whole month, so there’s that too. Miracles happen, you guys.

As of tomorrow, the kids and I are off on one of our biggest adventures to date. A working vacation, a chance to serve, a dream reignited.

The moral of the story? When an outside-of-the-box opportunity comes your way, at least consider it.

On that note…

See you in a month!

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The Day I Left My Fear in the Dust

We stood on the dusty shoulder watching the tow truck driver load up the car. Transport trucks roared past. I turned to the state trooper. “Thank you for your help.” He had spent at least an hour with us that afternoon, trying to identify and solve the problem. My words seemed inadequate.

The afternoon sun was hot. It was a pretty place to break down, at least. There was a little pond and some trees in blossom. There were red-winged blackbirds, my favourite. But we were in the middle of the country—a different country, no less.

I was on my way to Cincinnati for a conference with a girl I had only met once before. Midway through Ohio, her car began to clank and the engine cut out. We coasted to a stop at the side of the interstate, smoke billowing from the hood. I tried hard to push down my panic. We were hours from our hometown in Canada and a mile from the nearest highway exit. The only building of note was an empty, white farmhouse across the fence.

Lord, help us!

I had been terrified of this trip from the second I decided to go. The kind of terrified where your heart pounds and your breath comes fast and you lay awake in bed at night silently crying out to God for what to others must seem like no good reason whatsoever. The process is a familiar one. I’ve dealt with my share of fear in my life.

But this is a story of freedom.

Less than a week before we left, back on Good Friday, I was getting ready for church when I felt the Lord speak to me: “I want to heal you of anxiety.” If I wasn’t so sure it was Him, I would have laughed outright. I’ve quietly carried this burden for as long as I can remember.

I’ve begged. I’ve pleaded. I’ve wept.

And I’ve worked hard to hide my crippled heart.

Two nights before my trip, I began to tell my husband about my deepest fear—one that has plagued me for years. One that seemed silly when spoken yet still gripped my soul. One that surfaced every time I had to go away from home. A fear that God alone knew.

As I stood at the side of the interstate less than 48 hours later thanking the state trooper for his help, I was still pushing down my nervousness. The officer smiled at me. Then casually, he called out my fear—my irrational, nonsensical fear.

He called it out right there at the side of the highway as if it was nothing.

My eyes blurred with tears. I knew immediately that this was a divine appointment, a prophetic encounter, a sacred moment.

I knew I’d better listen hard.

“You need to have faith,” the officer continued. “This is a test, and you’re failing big time. You’re failing big time! You need to learn to turn things over to Him.

“Do you know why God put you with her?” He gestured towards my travel companion, now a friend for life. “Because she has faith. She knows how to turn things over to Him. And it’s not an accident that God brought me along today either.

“Someday, your daughter—Do you have a daughter?”

I nodded. I have three.

“Someday, your daughter is going to go on a road trip with her friends, just like this. And what are you going to do?”

“Turn it over to Him?” I laughed weakly. “I’m getting better at it.”

The policeman nodded. “God uses these things to make us strong. He’s making you strong.”

The car was loaded and the tow driver was ready to go. I climbed into the front seat and put my purse in my lap. God had confirmed, once again, that He is with me. That there is nothing to fear.

He brought me more than halfway to Cincinnati just to remind me of that.

Hours later, we were back on the interstate in a rental jeep. It had taken the mechanic only a few minutes to determine that my friend’s car was broken beyond repair. She sold it to the tow company for a pittance. After a bit of a wait, a local car rental company hooked us up with a ride and we were on our way. There was only open road ahead.

I settled into my seat and smiled. Something had broken in me that day.

Somewhere in Ohio, I left my fear in the dust.

Out on a Limb

The breeze is tinged with the perfume of blossoms—white blossoms brushed with the lightest blush of pink. In the thick of the apple branches, there is a flash of flame-orange, and the unmistakable song of an oriole rings through the air. Down below, a profusion of forget-me-nots is on full display in the garden. Spring is here in all its glory.

It’s breathtaking.

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A few months ago, I wondered if spring would ever come. The actual season, yes. Metaphorically as well. But the seasons always change. Spring always comes ‘round again.

Funny how we forget that.

I watch the oriole flit around from branch to branch and finally perch on a limb about halfway up. Sometimes when the Lord asks us to step out on a limb, it can be downright scary—even when that limb is laden with blossoms. There is always nostalgia for the safety of things left behind.

But there is freedom in obedience. And each tentative step prepares us for more.

There is a rustling of leaves and suddenly, with a shower of silken petals, the bird takes to its wing. Those branches, frosted with blooms, were a stopping point. A launching point. I can’t help but feel like that’s where I’m at too.

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Everything in nature right now is emerging fresh and vivid green. Also in my heart. This is a season of breakthrough. Of healing. Of peace.

Of a soul at rest.

Each step is less tentative and more sure. I know my Saviour is holding me. What once terrified me now fills me with joy. I’m in no hurry to move from this limb.

And yet, I’m waiting breathlessly to find out what comes next.

How do you want to use me, Lord?

The answer is clear. Do what’s in front of you to do right now. Right now. In this moment. It’s being faithful with the little—with each tiny step.

Because, while each step prepares us for the next, it also prepares us for more. I stepped out on a limb. But a limb is a launching point.

Someday, those steps of faith will become a leap of faith.

And I’ll hold tight to Him and fly.

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The Sparrow’s Home

 

The nest is tiny and delicately woven. The materials are simple and humble—field grass. It sits on the nature shelf in our dining room, a perfect little cup that once held the cream-and-speckled promise of life.

Even now, it holds a promise.

“Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God.” (Psalm 84:3)

We squish our way along a muddy track through the woods—the girls and I. We’re looking in the trees for flashes of colour and trills of song. Signs of spring though it’s early yet. We spy some black-capped chickadees and some large, loud crows. Winter birds. Still, they are more interesting than the sparrows that frequent our yard at home.

We barely notice the sparrows anymore. They are common and nondescript.

There are no birds of note to be found anywhere quite yet, I think to myself. I’m not interested in crows and sparrows.

But God is.

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When we return home again, I spy the little grass nest on the dining room shelf, a gift from a friend. And it reminds me just how much He loves the sparrow. Psalm 84:3 is a promise for the year and for my lifetime.

Because even the overlooked and insignificant are seen and welcome in the most holy of places—the place where heaven meets earth.

Because I’m invited to make my home at the altar too, close to the Father’s heart—yes, even me, a common sparrow.

Because His Presence is life and I want our lives to be infused with His. He also wants our lives to be infused with His. My heart and my desire is to raise my little ones in His shadow, and He makes room for me there.

He desires to be with us. It’s a beautiful truth that changes everything. We don’t have to chase Him. He’s not playing hard to get. We don’t have to try to be anything other than who He has created us to be.

We’re invited to simply come and dwell with Him.

When I see this tiny grass nest, I am reminded. The little brown bird trilling its song is seen by the Father. It is heard. It is loved.

I, too, am seen and heard and loved.

I, too, have a place close to His heart.

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There’s something you need to know…

There is an incredible truth that has become so real recently. Something I struggled to grasp for years. Something that I caught hold of at times, but that other times eluded me. Something that has finally made it from my head to my heart for good.

This changed my life, you guys. Are you ready for it?

It’s simply this: God is for us.

I was thinking back on it yesterday and then I saw the words come across my Instagram feed this morning, and I knew I needed to give voice to some thoughts, even if the words aren’t flowing as beautifully as I’d like today.

So here goes…

God is not standing there with His arms crossed, disappointed and waiting to angrily berate us when we can’t “do all the things.”

Did you know that? I mean really know that?

God is not waiting for you to mess up so He can beat you over the head with a Bible.

And grace? Grace is not saying a prayer once in order to secure a place in heaven … and then wearily and hopelessly slogging through a list of things to accomplish for the rest of your days in an effort to maintain that place. If you’re doing that, you’re missing the point. (I spent many a year saved but somehow missing the point, just so you know. Some of us aren’t as quick on the uptake, and that’s okay.)

Grace is not only for salvation; it’s divine enablement each and every day of your life.

The Cross is just as much for today as it was for the day you were saved.

Yes, you will fall. Yes, you will sin. Yes, you will need to repent—over and over (and over and over) again. So do it. Then get up and move on. Stop living in the past. Stop living in condemnation. You are forgiven. You are free.

There is grace for you.

God is not against you.

“If God is for us, who can ever be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

“The Lord will fight for you, you need only be still” (Exodus 14:14).

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God” (Isaiah 41:10).

Here’s what especially blows me away…

God loves us so much that He WANTS us to succeed. He tenderly dusts us off when we fall. He cheers us on with each step we take. His incredible Spirit is working in us and through us, enabling us to run the race—and victoriously taking us from glory to glory.

Go read 2 Peter 1:3, Hebrews 13:20-21 and 2 Corinthians 3:18 for a minute. I’ll wait.

Okay, are you back? Now let me reiterate that last part: The Holy Spirit is working in us and through us, enabling us to run the race—and victoriously taking us from glory to glory.

Typically, I’m a wallower. When I mess up, I feel so awful that I stay there. But y’all, we don’t have to live in defeat. (This had me dancing around my kitchen, in case you were wondering.) This fills me with such gratitude, such awe, such confidence, and such HOPE!

No matter what battles we face, no matter what weaknesses we struggle with, no matter how far we’ve fallen, God is FOR us. Let that sink in for a moment. The God who created the entire universe is for YOU!

When we grab hold of this truth, our lives will turn upside-down.

Walk confidently in His love today!

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P.S. Here’s a song. Because it’s on repeat around here at the moment and because it’s good:

Stepping Out

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Her eyes are closed but she’s still awake. I’m cradling her in my arms, although she’s far too big to fit comfortably anymore. She’ll be three in May, this little one. Wide awake, yet she doesn’t slit her eyes even the slightest to see where we’re going.

My feet creak heavy on the stairs and she’s heavy in my arms. But she keeps her eyes tightly shut, content simply to know that I’m carrying her.

That she’s safe.

A friend posted this verse a couple of weeks ago: “The steps of the godly are directed by the Lord. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will not fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand” (Psalm 37:23-25, NLT).

I’ve been thinking about Abraham lately—how he had faith to obey the Lord, to pick up and leave everything he knew, even though he didn’t know where he was going. Sometimes, God calls us out of what we know and into the unfamiliar.

And when He does? We can rest confident that He is holding us by the hand. We might make mistakes. We might stumble. We might miss a step or five. But God never misses a single step. He is steady, faithful and unchanging.

In seasons of transitions, that steadies my heart.

I can close my eyes and breathe deep, content simply to know that He’s holding me.

Carrying me safe.