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.

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 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:

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The Wooden Chest

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There’s a chest in the living room. It’s fairly small and a bit scratched and dented. On its top sits a beige table lamp and, sometimes, some coasters. Most visitors probably don’t even notice it.

But it has a special story.

Years ago, in the early part of my mid-twenties, I became friends with a young man at work. He was tall, dark, handsome, smart and sweet—I tried hard to keep my distance, but I don’t think I’ve ever prayed quite so hard for someone’s salvation. One day, he came to church with me and asked Jesus into his heart.

The angels rejoiced.

And so did I.

One Christmas, this young man gave me a chest. Inside were various objects. There was a piece of quartz, a bag of sand, a rock, some crayons—all strange and seemingly unrelated. But all very special. They were mementos of various places we’d been together.

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The quartz was from a festival we went to with friends. He had carried it in his backpack for months.

The sand was from a trip to the beach half a year prior, when his grandfather was in the hospital.

The crayons were from the first restaurant we ever went to together.

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There were other things too. Each with a specific memory attached and each very special.

Time passed and we added a few more things. Like this, from the night that he got saved – because, even though we didn’t start dating until a year later, it’s a special story of answered prayers and God’s hand on a young man’s life.

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And this, because we both love adventure.

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We’re married now and not as young. We have three children, two cars and a creaky, old house in the East end.

With the passage of time, we lost some of our romantic idealism. We don’t always get along and we have battle scars.

But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

You see, romantic idealism doesn’t keep a romance going. It takes hard work—and grace. There were times where we didn’t think we’d make it this far. But we love each other and we’re in this for the long haul. So we do what it takes.

We’re a team.

We don’t add too much to the wooden chest these days. It just isn’t possible to save mementos from everything we do together—we do all of life together.

It’s interesting how love changes as you do life together. I make sure that supper is waiting when he gets home and that the house is tidy. He does the dinner dishes and puts the kids to bed.

We still have fun. We laugh a lot. We go on dates. We tease each other.

But, mostly, love looks a lot like servant-hood.

Every now and then, I creak open that small wood-scarred chest and I think about how far we’ve come and how far we have yet to go.

And I’m glad that we chose each other—that God chose us—to walk through life together.

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The Most Humble of Things

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My daughter spotted it first, clinging to a wall beside an old railway track.

“Look, Mom,” she called excitedly. “Look what I found!”

It was just a common grasshopper. Nothing special. But as I bent close, I could see its leg quiver, hear a chirping sound. It’s called stridulation—when the inside of a male’s rear leg is rubbed against its forewing, it produces a rasping sound.

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I grabbed my camera and snapped a couple of pictures. My sister is the insect photographer. I’m not a photographer at all, nor do I have fancy photography equipment. But I like to try anyway.

It’s the detail that gets me. Every creature, no matter how tiny, is so intricate.

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Do you see the herringbone pattern on the grasshopper’s rear leg? People buy herringbone purses and jackets and yet God thought of it first. Effortlessly, this tiny insect is cloaked with beauty.

I was feeling tired and discouraged when I woke up this morning. The Lord has been working on my heart—teaching me what it means to lay down my life for others—and the lessons have, at times, been hard. As we were driving to the trails, I prayed: Lord, I’m so used to living just for myself. I didn’t realize that picking up my cross in the little things—the day-to-day things—could be so trying at times. You picked up the greatest Cross of all and I just desperately need You to help me put the little details of my life back into perspective.

As my daughter and I crouched on a railway tie in front of that low wall, my perspective began to shift. If God puts that much care into a grasshopper, how much more care does He put into me?

If He paints the butterfly’s wing so beautifully, how much more beautifully is He painting my life?

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Or, as Matthew 6:28 says, “Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.”

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God cares about the details. He sees me when I’m tired at the end of a homeschool day, when there is a sink full of dishes to wash, a basket of laundry to put away, children who need attention and an hour to make dinner and tidy up before my husband arrives home.

God sees the details. He gives strength for the day, grace for the moment, and those extra reminders of love when we need them.

Sometimes, those reminders come through the most humble of things.

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The time I almost messed it all up…

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I got a lot of feedback from my last post. Many people live in the hard stage of waiting. I’ve been there, believe me. So today, I want to share how I almost messed it all up.

No one likes to be vulnerable about their mess-ups. Sometimes, however, I think that people need to hear. If we were all more honest about our sin and less worried about looking perfect, maybe we’d be able to help others avoid making the same mistakes.

It started out innocently enough. It probably always does. I was young but lonely, tired of being single, tired of waiting. He didn’t know Jesus, not even close. But I started spending time with him anyway and my emotions got all tangled up.

It was only my emotions, nothing more, but it was enough.

One day, I made a conscious decision. I had slowly been wandering away from the Lord so it wasn’t too much of a stretch. I decided to quit going to church, quit trying to do right.

I decided to walk away.

To trade in Jesus and for a relationship that was all kinds of wrong.

For some reason, I went to church anyway that weekend. There was a guest speaker in town, an older minister. I sat near the front with my friends, only half listening.

When he finished speaking, the minister asked the congregation to close their eyes. I don’t remember his exact words – it was a long time ago – but they went something like this…

“There’s someone here who has been walking the line. And you’ve made a conscious decision that you are going to cross over that line. But Jesus is calling you back. If that’s you, please stand.”

A few people stood but I sat glued to my seat, stomach in knots yet heart still hard. He’s talking about me. But I don’t want to stand. I’ve made my decision.

“A few of you have stood up. But I feel in my spirit that the person that this word is for has not yet stood.” The old minister’s voice was earnest. “If you choose to step over that line, you’ll be sitting in your living room years from now wishing you could go back to this day. Jesus is calling you back to Him.”

In that moment, I knew. I knew that the decision to walk away would mess up my life forever. I didn’t feel like standing, but I knew. Slowly, I got to my feet. The moment I took that step of obedience, my heart softened and tears—tears of deep, true repentance—began to fall.

It had all started at work so, when I went back on Monday, I handed in my notice. I quit. I needed to flee temptation.

To run towards the One who remained faithful in my unfaithfulness.

Song of Solomon 8:4 says, “Promise me, O women of Jerusalem, not to awaken love until the time is right.” I spent the next few months pursuing my studies, working part-time at a coffee shop and falling in love with Jesus all over again. It was a hard year in many ways. Spiritually, however, it was one of the best years of my life.

That summer, I landed a job at a bank. There was a young man who worked there named Dave. It wasn’t long before he captured my attention. But I’d learned a thing or two. So I drew the line and put some safeguards in place. I wasn’t going to make the same mistakes that I’d made in the past.

I had committed my heart to Jesus. It was no longer mine to give away.

One night, Dave came to church and got saved. A year later, with the blessing of our parents and spiritual leaders, we started dating. Two years after that, we were married. This time, I didn’t have to trade in Jesus for a relationship that was all kinds of wrong because we shared the same first love and it was Him.

As I write this, I’m sitting in my living room thinking about the words that old minister spoke over a decade ago. My husband is sprawled out on the couch next to me, reading. He is everything I ever dreamed of, everything I ever prayed for. Our children are upstairs, peacefully sleeping. If I hadn’t chosen Jesus that night, where would I be now?

Elisabeth Elliot said, “The cross as it enters the love life reveals the heart’s truth.” Sometimes, we have to ask ourselves hard questions. If God never brings me a spouse—if I am single until the day I die—will I still serve Jesus with all my heart? Will I find my wholeness and security in Him alone? Surrendering the heart—laying it down at the cross—is perhaps the hardest battle any single person will face.

Did you know that it’s a battle married people face as well? Married people have to ask themselves hard questions too. Now that God has brought me a spouse—to love selflessly and to serve sacrificially until the day I die, even when things aren’t perfect—will I still give Jesus all of my heart? Will I still find my wholeness and security in Him alone?

Marriage isn’t a quick fix to all of life’s problems. As beautiful as marriage is, it is a metaphor for a much more perfect relationship. In other words, the longing to be loved—truly loved—can never completely be fulfilled by another person.

Yes, God created us with a deep desire for love and companionship, but it’s a longing that only He can fully satisfy. Married or single, we’ll never feel complete until Christ makes us whole.

Perfect love can only be found one place—and that’s Jesus.

Praying for Mr. Right

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I’ve been thinking about the singles lately. Maybe it’s because there have been several engagements and weddings in the church. Or maybe it’s because we prayed for all the single people during a Saturday night service a few weeks ago.

About that…

The pastor who was preaching that night said something along the lines of, “We need to pray that God brings your future spouses into the church!” Those words, they were so very familiar.

It has been over a decade now, since that sunny Sunday afternoon in June…

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“Ugh. It’s not fair.” My friend and I were sitting on the patio of a coffee shop lamenting our fate. “There are absolutely NO guys in the church! How are we ever supposed to get married?”

We were doomed to be single forever.

My chair was facing the street. Although normally busy, the road was closed off to traffic that day and a makeshift stage was set up in the middle. It was the first year of the Westdale Music Festival. A young couple was performing—he was playing guitar and she was singing.

As my friend and I sipped coffee and chatted, my attention was caught by a dark-haired, young man sitting near the stage.

What kind of a guy goes to something like this by himself? I wondered. That’s just weird.

I turned my attention back to my friend.

“We need to pray them in,” she was saying. “We need to pray that God brings our husbands into the church.”

The couple on stage finished their song and walked over to the young man who had been sitting alone. They smiled and chatted and then the three of them left together.

Huh. I guess he knows the performers. That explains it.

“You’re absolutely right,” I said to my friend. “We’re going to have to pray them in.”

I went home and began to ask God to bring my husband into the church. How I got impatient and almost messed everything up is another story for another day. It took time and a series of events that only God could orchestrate to bring me and my husband together, and a few years later, my prayers were answered.

It’s easy to tell the singles not to despair when you’re on the other side. But I know God hears those prayers. And, even if it takes years, God has a plan.

We were chatting one time, my husband and I. He started telling me a story…

It was a story about how he went to the Westdale Music Festival, the very first year it took place. Some high school friends were performing—a young couple who played guitar and sang. He sat by himself near the front until it was over and left with them afterwards.

Honestly, I don’t remember the point of his story. All I could think of was how, on that sunny Sunday afternoon in June—the day I started praying my future husband into the church—

I had unknowingly been staring right at him.

When Love Needs Truth

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Everyone’s talking about the big change. A man becoming a woman, his new identity splashed across the pages of Vanity Fair.

(Yes, I’m going to go there.)

Our society is hailing him as a hero.

Why?

I think it’s because he embodies the tenuous hope that, somewhere out there, happiness is possible. But, as Matt Walsh pointed out, brokenness in a surgically and hormonally-altered casing is still brokenness—and no matter how much you change the outside, your inner self is still your inner self.

Seeing people wrestle with themselves like that? It wrecks me.

Know what else wrecks me?

The church.

I love my pastor because he does not compromise truth. But there are many churches in which the definitions of gender, orientation and identity are not being shaped by the Word of God. We live in a society in which the global church is increasingly adopting “progressive Christianity”. Here’s the thing. Progressive thinking becomes regressive thinking when we become so focused on promoting love that we forget truth.

I’m all for grace and mercy. Believe me. I breathe it every day. But it was John Lennon who said that “all you need is love”, not Jesus.

Jesus, the embodiment of love, said, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

Love and truth are intertwined.

So when we say that black is white and white is black? Or when we ignore both black and white entirely?

We end up with people in the church who are just as lost and confused as they were before they joined the church because they still don’t know why they are broken. The church might throw out a lifeline of love but if that love is not anchored by truth then we are all just hopelessly drifting.

If that doesn’t break your heart, nothing will.

We will never fully understand the redeeming power of Jesus without understanding the destructive power of sin. Angry confrontational protests do not show love. But love that does not bring freedom is not really love either. Jesus died for our freedom but until we realize that we are bound, we will never be able to embrace the fullness of the cross. 

We need both love and truth.

Sometimes, I sit in my living room and weep. I weep for the world and I weep for the church. And I weep because I want so badly to be brave.

Why are we afraid to stand for truth? I don’t know if there has ever been a society so lost and confused.

I truly believe that God wants to bring freedom to our land. I truly believe that He wants to sweep across our nation and ignite hearts with His love and His truth. But the church needs men and women who will stand for what is right. Only then can lives be changed. People are not looking for conformity. They are not looking for compromise.

People are desperate for the freedom that only Jesus can bring.

In the confusion and brokenness of today’s world, God is calling the church to rise up strong. Full of love? Yes. Yet uncompromisingly strong. Even when it’s uncomfortable, even when it’s unpopular, and even when no one else gets it.

Whom shall I send? Who will go for Me?

The need is great; the call is great.

Here am I. Send me.

Christmas Kindness Countdown: Week One … AND a Giveaway!


This year, instead of the usual chocolate advent calendar, my children are counting down to Christmas with acts of kindness. Why? Because Christmas is about our Savior first and foremost. It’s so much more than presents, so much more than toys. I want our children to really understand this. To be selfless. And to fall deeply in love with Jesus as they learn to reflect His heart.

Here are some of the principles we’re trying to teach our children throughout our advent countdown:

1. Giving doesn’t always have to break the bank. It’s important to give sacrificially. But it’s also important to learn selflessness as a lifestyle. There are many intangible things we can give to others.

One day, for example, the girls carefully brushed their teeth until they sparkled. Then they shared their very best smiles with the world. Something as simple as a smile truly is a gift. Mother Teresa once said, “Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.”

It’s so important not to overlook the little things. Anyone can give a smile away.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA2. Giving starts at home. The girls’ very first act of kindness was to make a jar filled with reasons why they love Daddy. It ended up being absolutely hilarious. And Daddy was thrilled!

Who in your home can you give to today?

3. Add a personal touch. Homemade Christmas cards, notes, pictures, cookies – all of these are sweet ways to express love!

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4. Use your child’s interests as a launching point. What is on your child’s heart? This question heavily influenced our kindness list.

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5. It starts with Jesus. Giving doesn’t always have take a lot of extra effort. It doesn’t always have take a lot of extra time. It just takes Jesus filling our hearts with His love. Because as He pours love into us, it always spills out into the world.

And….

As part of our Christmas Countdown, we want to bless our readers with something special this week! You could win this set of four beautiful hand-finished Christmas ornaments.

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All you have to do is tell us your favourite thing about Christmas. Click here to go to the Rafflecopter and enter! Contest closes December 14, 2014 at midnight.

PS If you have time? This is worth a watch.

Modern Day Cinderella

It began with a phone call. I had landed an interview for an absolutely amazing job. After I got off the phone, however, I walked into the bathroom and looked at my reflection.  This is the opportunity of a lifetime, I thought. But there is NO WAY that I can go to an interview looking like this.

My hair was awful. Thin. Limp. Lifeless. I called a salon and booked an appointment, knowing full well that we couldn’t afford it. Sure enough, when my husband and I sat down and looked at our budget a few minutes later, I had to push aside a twinge of guilt. There wasn’t room for the kind of overhaul that my hair needed.

Half an hour later, I got a phone call that blew my socks off. I had won a make-over. Cut, colour, highlights … the works.

When it was all over, I couldn’t believe the transformation. I’ve always felt like a bit of a wallflower, but I feel so beautiful now! More than anything, however, I’m amazed at how God cares about the little details of our lives.

Luke 12: 6-7 has taken on a whole new meaning for me. It says that God never overlooks a single sparrow. “And he pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head!” (The Message).

He doesn’t just care about the big things. He doesn’t just care about the spiritual things. He cares about the little every day things. Things that are so important to us but that, in the grand scheme of things, really don’t matter. Yet because they matter to us, they matter to Him.

In the ordinary things, His extraordinary love is revealed.

Confidently into Glory

The wooden pews in the sanctuary and the grey stacking chairs in the overflow room were full. The crowd spanned several generations and many denominations and yet, as we rose to our feet to sing, we stood together as one body.

In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light my strength my song

As the music swirled through the air, I looked up to the front of the church, so different from my own. No flashy lights or oversize television screens. Just a plain wooden pulpit and a large, rough-hewn cross.

My grandfather, a simple farmer, had helped make that cross. A reminder to all of grace.

As He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ

Beneath the cross was a casket. My uncle. It was a home-coming of sorts, a sinner turned saint who has gone to meet his Savior.

No guilt in life no fear in death
This is the pow’r of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny

As we sang and as I looked at the cross, I could feel the Holy Spirit whisper His peace into my heart. So many worries. So many troubles. So much uncertainty in this life.

But Jesus commands our destiny.

My cousin Teresa got up and spoke beautiful words about her father: “He worked hard, loved harder, and walked confidently into glory.” And those words, too, burrowed their way deep into my heart.

And then 2 Corinthians 12:9. My grace is sufficient for you. Nothing more, nothing less. Just clear, beautiful grace.

‘Til He returns or calls me home
Here in the pow’r of Christ I’ll stand

Isn’t all of that what all of life should be about? To stand in the love of Christ with our eyes fixed on the cross and a song in our heart. To live covered by grace and for that to be enough. To work hard. To love harder.

And then, when all is said and done and we’ve accomplished all that God has for us to accomplish, to walk confidently into glory.

Beyond the Great Wall

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I was thinking today about a woman I used to work with … Let’s call her “Brenda”.

Brenda was not very outgoing. She wouldn’t say hi when she passed you in the hallway. She wouldn’t smile when she saw you in the lunch room. She kept her head down at all times and, if she needed to engage in conversation, she was terse. It was like she had a great big wall around her heart.

One day, as I was telling my husband about Brenda, I vowed, “I am going to befriend this woman!”

From then on in, when I would pass Brenda in the hallway, I would smile and say, “Hi! How are you today?”

If it was a Monday, I would ask about her weekend.

If we bumped into each other while waiting to use the photocopier, I would ask how work was going.

If we were in the lunch room together, I’d go and chat – even though I was the one doing all the talking.

It took months, but as Brenda started to warm up, she also started to open up. Here and there, in bits and pieces. She told me that she was working two jobs, that she lived alone, and that she had a daughter who lived in another city who she didn’t see much.

What she didn’t tell me was what I could see in her eyes and what lay unspoken between her scattered words. Somewhere, at some point in her life, she had been hurt. Deeply.

One day, Brenda came over to my desk. “I need to tell you something,” she whispered furtively. “Only one other person here knows this. I’m retiring. Today is my last day working here.”

Only a couple of people knew that she was retiring. But why me? Why would she tell me?

“I wanted you to know,” she continued (I had to strain to hear). “Because you are one of only two people who were ever nice to me in the years that I’ve been in this office. I know that people talk about me. But you … you’re different.”

Please, don’t get the wrong impression. I’m no saint. Sometimes, I’d get discouraged. What is this woman’s problem? I’d think to myself. A couple of times, I gossiped about her. I wasn’t perfect. Not by a long shot. But I did my best to love her because Jesus loves her and because it was obvious that she needed to be loved.

It wasn’t until the day she retired that I realized that it meant something to her.

I don’t know what happened to Brenda, but I’ll never forget her. She taught me something important. She taught me that love breaks down walls. We don’t always know what’s going on in someone’s heart; we don’t always know a person’s past; and we don’t know what their future holds. One thing we can be sure of, however, is we are called to love.

“Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” (John 13:34)

God calls us to break down barriers with love. It doesn’t matter if someone rejects it or if their defenses are thicker than the Great Wall of China or if we love them for years and years and they never respond. God calls us to love.

Freely. Unconditionally. And with abandon.

The way He loves us.