To the moms whose kids are grown…

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“Older women … are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.” (Titus 2:3-5, NIV)

I feel it acutely. There’s my mom, of course. She is an amazing, godly woman who is filled with the kind of wisdom that can only come from the years behind her. I’m lucky to have her. But other than that? There isn’t too much interaction between generations, much of the time.

Sometimes, I wonder if the lack of older mentors is the reason my generation—the generation of young parents—seems so lost. There are parenting books, of course. Online home management courses. Sermons and podcasts.

But few pour into us on a personal level.

We discuss it amongst each other—how to love our husbands, raise our children and manage our homes.

How to be self-controlled.

Pure.

Kind.

But there is something to be said for the wisdom that comes from long-life experience. Yes, we glean from those alongside us in the trenches, but we also desperately need those who have already fought our same battles and won.

(Or even lost. Because every scar tells a story.)

Last night, I drove 30 minutes down dark country roads to a complete stranger’s house. A friend had invited me. I parked on the street and stumbled up the driveway in the inky blackness, towards windows spilling warm light.

The woman who owned the house welcomed me graciously. Although her children are grown, she opens her home on a regular basis to younger homeschooling moms. Her heart—her beautiful heart—is to pour into the next generation.

Women from all over came—some drove longer distances than I did. She put out carafes of coffee, tea and dainty, floral cups. We packed into her living room to pray and learn together.

And she explained to each new, shy face how the Lord has called her to provide support, encouragement, and to live out Titus 2:3-5.

The Church needs people like this.

Older women, we need you.

We don’t always know how to say it, but we need you to open your lives to us. To open your homes to us. To offer advice. To come alongside us and tell us that we’ll make it through the hard days. To smile with us on the joy-filled days. To teach us what it means to be good wives and mothers.

You see, there’s a lot at stake.

Our families, yes. But according to Titus 2:5, how we manage our families and homes also affects people’s perception of the Word of God.

According to Titus 2:5, the gospel is at stake.

You, who are on the other side, have so much to offer.

And we, who are in the trenches, want to learn.

 

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 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.

What if blessings come through raindrops?

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My husband and I had planned to go mountain biking this afternoon. But it was raining. Hard. We dropped our children off at my parents’ house anyway and tried to come up with an alternate plan. Nothing.

And then, a stroke of pure brilliance.

“Let’s go hiking. In the rain. We have waterproof jackets and waterproof boots. Why let the rain stop us? We can even pack a picnic to eat in the car afterwards.”

Honestly, I didn’t feel like doing much of anything. I was tired and not feeling well. But I wanted to push through. My husband and I needed a fun afternoon.

A little while later, we found ourselves scrambling up the Hamilton escarpment in our rain gear. Mist curled around the trees and the slippery, moss-covered rocks.

At the top of the hill, a meadow stretched before us. My husband suddenly stopped and grabbed my arm. There in the field, shrouded in fog, were four white-tailed deer.

We watched them for some time, hardly daring to move. They were beautiful. Everything was beautiful. The pitter-patter of rain on the leaves overhead. The spacious vale in front of us. The vivid colours of the undergrowth in the valley behind us.

We followed the trail into the forest. A waterfall splashed down the side of the mountain. It was raining harder now and the mist was thickening. I was dizzy and struggling a little. My husband held me for a few minutes while I caught my breath. Then, arm in arm, we continued our walk.

We stopped to look at some holes that a woodpecker had bored into a tree stump. We found ferns nestled in a bed of moss under a rocky outcropping. We saw the flash of a chipmunk as it scurried behind a tree.

We soaked in the beauty like the ground soaked in the rain.

We were only gone about an hour with frequent breaks along the way, but it was worth it. Every second. We both agreed that this was the best date that we have ever been on.

So often, we let the rain stop us. I’m not just talking about the physical rain. I’m talking about seasons of life. We see only the limitations of our present situation and forget the beauty that lies within.

I came across a song the other day that spoke deeply to my heart. The chorus says, “What if Your blessings come through raindrops?”

What if?

Today, mine did.

Give it a listen.

Stealing Kisses in the Woods – Why I’ve Decided to Start Dating Again

“Look!” my husband whispered. “There’s a deer over there.”

We were on our favourite kind of date – a hike in the large expanse of protected forest that spans Ancaster and Dundas.

The sun was setting, and the deer blended flawlessly with the golden-orange patches of sunlight that were scattered across the forest floor. We stood perfectly still, our eyes on the deer and his eyes on us. After a few moments, he bounded away and we continued walking.

We didn’t talk about anything important. Not the children or our finances or the list of chores waiting at home. As we strolled hand-in-hand, we talked mostly about the beauty of the woods and the happy memories we shared. And we paused every now and then to steal a kiss.

It’s so important to prioritize time with your spouse. To deliberately push aside the friction that can arise as two humans struggle to live as one, the busyness of raising children, and the stress of day-to-day life. To take some time to focus on each other.

To remember why you fell in love with this person with whom you’ve committed to spend your life.

This is why, after almost five years of marriage, my husband and I have decided to start dating again. We never should have let it slip; it truly makes all the difference in the world. Regularly, we set aside time for each other. Nothing elaborate. Snacks and a movie after the kids are in bed. Hot chocolate and a game of scrabble. A video game. A shopping trip. A bike ride.

Or a few beautiful hours where it’s just us, the golden-orange sunlight, and stolen kisses in the woods.

Canoeing the Desjardins

“The blessing of the Lord makes rich …” (Proverbs 10:22)

We had dinner out on the water yesterday. It was spontaneous and special. We threw the canoe on the car, packed the girls in the back, and drove off into the Hamilton wilderness. (That would be Cootes Paradise, for those of you who are scratching your heads and wondering where on the earth a canoe-worthy wilderness exists around here.)

I spoon-fed our seven-month old as my husband steered us down the Desjardins Canal with all the skill (and good looks) of a gondolier. Our two-year old, who was sitting behind me, splashed her very own toddler-sized paddle in the water while munching on a peanut butter sandwich.

As we glided along, two otters came and swam alongside the bow. Deer crept softly to the water’s edge and stooped to drink. They bounded into the woods with a crash when my daughter began to talk. A choir of songbirds sang, and frogs called to each other with voices that sounded like the twanging of a banjo. The music of nature is always the most beautiful.

Everywhere we looked, there were birds. There were swallows dancing through the air, pairs of swans nesting in the reeds, and red-wing blackbirds flitting among the bulrushes. Terns dive-bombed the water with a splash and then took to the sky again. Geese flew so low overhead that we could hear their wings slapping the air.

A man and his son canoed in tandem with us for a while, strangers, but with the instant camaraderie that is common among paddlers. They told us that a pair of bald eagles was nesting in the area. We swapped wilderness adventure stories while scanning the treeline for the iconic birds of prey. We didn’t see them.

The sky grew rosy as the sun began to sink on the horizon. It was long past the girls’ bedtime. Tired but happy, we paddled back to the car and drove home. Another day over. Another memory to cherish.

As I lay in bed last night and slowly drifted off to sleep, I couldn’t help but think that life is full.