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.

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, look 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.

When Jesus Says Shine {Overcoming Fear}

God has not given usa spirit ofFEARbut (1)

Jagged strips of earthy potato skin fell onto the counter. Such a mundane task, peeling them, but my hands were clumsy. I checked the clock. Four more hours and then it would be time.

You have to do the thing that you are afraid to do, I told myself sternly. Tomorrow, it will all be over. And after that, it will be a distant memory. Besides, it’s not about you. It’s about Jesus.

Part of my nervousness stemmed from the front row. I wore my highest heels, stood up as straight as I could, and thought tall thoughts. It didn’t work. I still ended up in front. I wanted to hide in the back.

That’s the problem. I’m not naturally an extrovert.

But Jesus says shine.

A few years ago, I asked God to break the limitations off of my thinking.

I prayed.

Then I waited.

I waited for God to miraculously break fear. I waited for Him to break insecurity. I waited for Him to put bigger dreams in my heart.

There was one fear that was broken in an instant. You can read about it here. But more often than not, I’ve learned, fear is overcome through actively stepping out.

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” It was Nelson Mandela who said that.

Sometimes, the only way to conquer fear is to do the very thing you are afraid to do. Instead of praying for fear to miraculously dissipate, sometimes we need to pray that God gives us strength to take that timid first step.

So I changed the way I prayed. I began to systematically tackle my fears, one by one.

And I am overcoming them, one by one.

God has not given us a spirit of fear.

My fears are not particularly “big” but there are things that make me nervous. Speaking in front of people. Choir—the front row. Praying loud. New friends. Writing the hard things—the heart things.

Someday, all these will come easy. There is no fear in perfect love. And I have a perfect Savior offering me perfect love. But until I’m made completely perfect in that love, I’ll continue to push the limits.

Little by little. Step by step. Victory by victory.

And I will shine

because I’m shining Him.