Starting Small


She sits on the floor, carefully placing socks, toothbrushes and snacks into bags. Her eyes shine with excitement as she creates little care packages. My eyes shine with unshed tears. She humbles me, this little one who is growing up too fast. She humbles me and convicts me and reminds me that we can do better.

We must do better.

It started a few years ago when she was just five-years old. It was a rainy afternoon and she was snuggled up against me as I scrolled through social media. Her sisters, four months old and three-years old at the time, were sleeping or playing. Days tend to roll into each other when you have little ones, so the details are hazy. What I do remember clearly is my little girl’s reaction as I scrolled past a Facebook post showing bare shelves at a local food bank.

“Why is that fridge empty?” she asked.

What followed was a lengthy discussion about homelessness, poverty and food banks. It was not something that, in her five years on this earth, she had ever really encountered before. And it struck deep in her heart place.

“We’ll get Daddy to stop at the grocery store on his way home,” I reassured her. “Or should we go now?” I said the words slowly, hesitantly.

“Mommy, they need food! We need to go now!”

With three children ages five and under, how would I navigate the grocery store? What if, despite the warm temperatures, the baby caught cold in the rain? I could think of a million reasons why this was a terrible idea, but my daughter was insistent.

What would I be teaching her if I ignored an immediate need simply because meeting it was inconvenient?

By the time we got to the checkout, the rain was coming down in sheets. I had the littlest one strapped to my chest and did my best to hang onto our bags and the other two kids as we ran through the parking lot to the van. We were soaked and dripping, but my oldest daughter was ecstatic. She was making a difference—helping someone—and it gave her joy.

A burden for the poor and the downtrodden began to grow in her little heart that day. She began to pray for the homeless almost daily.

It should have been a no-brainer at that point—to take my daughter’s enthusiasm and run with it—but what followed was a battle. What do you want me to do, Lord? I wondered. Perhaps volunteer at the food bank together? But what if that’s not Your will for us? In retrospect, this is utterly ridiculous. But I’ve wasted far too much time paralyzed by fear—fear of circumstances, fear of people.

Mostly, fear of doing the wrong thing and disappointing God.

It has taken a long time to realise that His love for me isn’t shaken by my failures.

In his book You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity, Francis Chan says, “Sometimes people … are so afraid that they might do the wrong thing that they do nothing. We need to err on the side of action, because we tend to default to negligence. So many won’t do anything unless they hear a voice from heaven telling them precisely what to do. Why not default to action until you hear a voice from heaven telling you to wait?” (p. 16).

I’m guilty of defaulting to negligence. It’s not just fear; it’s complacency too.  We ended up volunteering at a food bank until the youngest began to toddle around, but then we stopped. I’ve never really been sure what to do or how to help effectively. I get caught up in homeschooling, church activities, carting the kids to their extra-curriculars, going out with friends and family, and just life.

Activities aren’t bad in and of themselves, but we must always remember that there’s a higher purpose overarching all of it.

We sit on the living room floor, my daughter and me. This girl is a gift. She challenges me to look beyond myself.

“Bibles,” she says. “We need to give them Bibles. They need to know Jesus.” Carefully, she places a small Bible in each bag. So Loved is emblazoned across the cover.

We’ve only given out a handful of her care packages to the homeless, and it seems so insignificant—the tiniest of ripples in a vast ocean of need. But it’s something.

It’s a place to start.

The Bible says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35, NIV).

“Why are these packages so important to you?” I ask my daughter. I’m curious to hear her perspective.

“Because it lets people know that we care about them,” my daughter responds. “You know the Bible verse that says, ‘Love one another’? We need to love everybody.”

We’re taught to dream big and do big. To make our lives count. To be world changers and planet shakers. These are wonderful things, but what if, in aiming to make a big difference, we forget that the big things are always just a compilation of a series of smaller actions?

What if living out our love for Jesus is as simple as looking around for an immediate need and then doing our best to meet it?


Disclosure: As an affiliate of the Christianbook Group, some of the links on this blog are affiliate links, which means that at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. 

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


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.




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.”


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.





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.




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.)

Parents, You Need More Than a Dream


Don’t you just love to dream? Over the weekend, my pastor talked about how children don’t put limitations on the dreams they have for their lives and neither should we. He’s right. But what really struck deep was my five-year old’s reaction.

“Mommy!” she leaned over and whispered earnestly. “It’s like how, when you were little, you wanted to be a teacher. And now you are!”

Although I’m not a school teacher (dreams change), in a sense, she’s correct. I do homeschool my children.

Her comment brought me back to a conversation we had about half a year ago. We were snuggled on the couch, talking about childhood dreams.

“When I was little, I wanted to be a writer and a teacher,” I told her.

“But now you can’t do those things,” she replied. “You have kids.”

“Being a mommy doesn’t mean that I can’t do those things.” I told her. “Right now, I’m doing those things. All of them. I write every day. I teach you girls. But being a mommy is my favourite thing of all.”

It hit me then and again this weekend. It’s important for our kids to see us dream. But it’s equally important for them to see us fulfill dreams. Telling our children that God has a plan for their lives rings hollow if we are not stepping out into the plan that He has for our own.

That doesn’t mean that everything we dream will come to pass. I knew a three-year old who dreamed of becoming a flying pig. It was hilariously sweet. Even as adults, there are some dreams that might be a little left field.

But God dreams? That’s a whole different story. When God gives us dreams, there are no limitations. There are no impossibilities.

Teaching was a God-dream. It didn’t unfold the way I thought it would when I was a child, but better. I love homeschooling my children, even if it is temporary. I love watching as new concepts click. I love their eagerness to learn about the world around them. I love finding teaching methods that complement their learning styles and unique personalities.

Writing was a God-dream. There are few things more satisfying than watching thoughts unfold on a page. As I’ve watched this little blog grow over the last few years, I’ve been humbled. I write because I need to but also because it’s my expression of worship. Some use their voices to glorify God. Some use instruments. I use my words.

I have other dreams, ones still unfulfilled. I dream of short-term mission trips. I dream of Africa—Kenya, Uganda and South Africa. I dream of seeing my children fulfill their God-dreams.

As they watch me fulfill mine.

I asked my 20-month old the other day, “Who has big plans for your life?”

“GOD!” she replied emphatically.

I need her to understand this. God has big plans for her. But even as I tell her that, I’m conscious that there are three little pairs of eyes watching to see if I really believe it’s true.

So, you see, what I do with my dreams is of the utmost importance. By walking into my destiny, I encourage my children to walk into theirs.

When You Feel Like It’s Too Late


This is for the one who feels like it’s too late. You’ve missed too many opportunities. You’ve made too many mistakes.

When you were young, you were full of passion. You were full of idealism. You dreamed many dreams and they were big dreams.

But it takes time for dreams and reality to converge. And during that time, life happened. School. Children. A house. A career. These are all good things. They are great things. But still, when you step back and assess where you are, you realize that even though you are happy, you are not fulfilled. There is a difference.

You want more.

Because even though your dreams have changed, there is that one. The dream that is not just any dream. It is a God-given dream that seemed impossible then and seems even more impossible now.

You want to make a difference.

It has been so long. You’ve wasted time. And you can never get that time back. You wonder if you’ve missed the boat. So you try to tell yourself that the status quo is sufficient. But it’s not. Deep down, you know it’s not.

Because deep down where no one can see, the dream still flickers.

Is that you? Then there is something important that you need to know.

It’s not too late.

No matter who you are, no matter what you’ve done and no matter how much time you’ve wasted, it’s not over until it’s over.

Are you still alive and breathing?

Then it’s not over.

You still have purpose and you still have destiny. You are still a vessel that the Holy Spirit can work through and you are still a vessel that He desires to work through.

You have gifts and abilities that are yours alone. God wants you to use them so ask Him, “Lord, where can I use them?” And then, step out.

You have a story to tell that is yours alone. God wants you to tell it so ask Him, “Lord, who can I share with?” And then, step out.

One tiny step. Once you’ve made the step, ask Him again. “Lord, where? Who? What next?” When He shows you (and He will), take another step.

Step by step by step. That’s how dreams are fulfilled. That’s how destinies are reached. Not overnight. Not with one giant leap.

With a series of small steps of obedience.

Don’t let discouragement stop you. Don’t let regret hold you back. People need Jesus and He’s living in you. Someday it will be over. But until then, it’s not too late. Small steps make a big difference.

So do it.

Take a step.

Make a difference.

And watch those God dreams come true.


God’s Word says:

  • “Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old is gone; the new has come.” (2 Cor. 5:17)
  • “I will restore the years that the locusts have eaten.” (Joel 2:25)
  • “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future.'” (Jer. 29:11)
  • “In all your ways, acknowledge Him. And He will direct your paths.” (Prov. 3:6)

Make It Count

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI sat in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, holding my newborn daughter close, her skin soft against my cheek. We’d been discharged from the hospital just the day before. So new, this little one, and so precious.

The door to the street creaked open and I watched idly as an old woman shuffled in. She hobbled over to the reception desk, a sweet smile breaking up the deep lines on her face.

“I’m here to pick up a requisition,” she said. “I was awake at 7 a.m. but it took me a bit to get going.”

It took a moment for that to sink in – it was now 2 p.m.

The elderly woman continued talking. “It takes a lot longer than it used to. Age just sort of creeps up on you when you least expect it.”

It was then that it hit me. This woman, weathered by time, was a baby once, just like the tiny bundle in my arms. There was a day, years ago, when the doctors placed her in her own mother’s arms. Her mother would have snuggled her close, inhaled her newborn scent, kissed her soft cheek.

As she grew, her mother would have cleaned her sticky toddler hands. Packed her lunch on her first day of school. Helped her dress in layers of white at her wedding and then cried as she walked down the aisle.

Her mother is probably gone by now and the woman’s own children grown.

It’s a lesson to hold onto in the busyness of life. Things are constantly pulling, tugging, begging for attention. The washer buzzes – it’s time to change loads. The oldest child needs help getting a toy off the shelf. The middle one needs help putting on her shoes. The baby is crying because, although she has been up all night feeding, she’s hungry again. Suddenly, it’s already time to get supper on the table.

Where did the day go? Where have the months gone? And the years?

Life passes in the blink of an eye. The soft, downy skin of a newborn is traded in for the sticky hands of a toddler, who all too soon is old enough to climb on a bus and head to school. Then there is university, weddings, grandkids.

Age creeps up on you when you least expect it. Time is precious. There is one short life to live here on earth.

How will you make it count?

Stepping Out of the Zone


The tiles in the change room were slippery and the air was thick with chlorine fumes. I tried not to think about much of anything as I squeezed my body into a bathing suit left over from my first pregnancy. I’m not pregnant, by the way. But I’ve gone up almost five sizes in two months and the bright orange-pink piece of spandex is the only bathing suit that fits.

Well, it sort of fits.

I nervously made my way into the pool along with a group of seventy-year old Eastern European women. A lifeguard put on an upbeat CD and instructed us to grab some foam “weights”. I clumsily tried to keep up as she led us through a series of exercises but my feet and legs kept cramping up and my muscles wouldn’t cooperate.

Okay, let’s be real, it was also because I’m a bit out of shape.

I was embarrassed until an elderly lady caught my eye. She was having trouble too. Suddenly, we were both laughing uncontrollably.

The rest of the class was incredibly fun.

Whenever I’m on kidney treatment, I fight the same battle. It’s a big but silly battle. I get embarrassed about the way I look—the weight gain, the clothes that don’t fit and (most especially) the “moon face”. I become paralyzed by insecurity.

Forcing myself to take a fitness class is one way I’m fighting back.

I’ve also been taking my children to the local literacy centre once a week so I can meet and develop friendships with other moms. I’ve been striking up conversations at the park. I’ve been inviting people over for coffee or for dinner.

Why? Because Jesus has a calling and purpose for my life—and for those around me—that goes beyond what I feel like on any particular day.

There are people out there who desperately need to experience His love. There’s a lot at stake—their eternity. I’m not going to get to share Jesus’ love with anyone if I’m at home hiding under my covers because I’m tired or because I’ve gained (more than) a few pounds!

Why am I sharing such a personal struggle? Well, a few weeks ago, I wrote about “Breaking Limitations”. Here is what I’m learning: You don’t break limitations off of your life by praying a one-time prayer. You break limitations off of your life by actively stepping out of your comfort zone on a daily basis.

Every day, I have been looking for ways to step out of my comfort zone. It has been life changing!

So now it’s your turn. What is one thing that holds you back? And what is one step that you can take today to overcome that issue?

Unprompted Gratitude

We were sitting around the table eating spicy taco salad the other night (yum!) when my two-year old daughter piped up.

“Daddy, we watched Cars today. I liked it. There was a truck named Mack.”

My husband paused, a forkful of food halfway to his mouth. “That’s great! I thought you would like that movie!”

My daughter continued. “Daddy, thank you for boughting the DVD from the liberry for me.”

It was sweet and unprompted, this gratitude. No one nudged our little one to say thank you.

She has been doing this often lately.

It started at Christmas, while my husband and I were busy cleaning up shreds of wrapping paper. Our daughter had already said thank you while unwrapping each gift, but later she turned to us again and, surrounded by a little mountain of presents, said, “Thank you for giving dese to me.”

It’s normal for a toddler to say thank you in the moment (often with prompting … at least, in the case of my child anyway). But it’s unusual for a child to go back to someone after-the-fact and say thanks. Every time my daughter goes out of her way to express gratitude, my heart melts.

I’ve been doing some thinking about thankfulness. It was a conversation with my older sister Elaine, however, that really got things going.

“Have you read One Thousand Gifts?” Elaine asked.

“I’ve only read a little bit of it,” was my reply.

Elaine began telling me about how writing down God’s blessings is transforming her life. She then shared this verse with me: “I’m thanking you, God, from a full heart. I’m writing the book on your wonders” (Psalm 9:1).RSCN6434

Inspired, I found an empty burlap-covered journal and began scribbling my own list of thanks. After all, what harm is there in giving it a go? My sister was right. It is life-transforming.

I’ve discovered that gifts – what I call “moments of grace” – can be as simple as sitting in a coffee shop on my work break and slowly sipping a latte while waiting for the love of my life to arrive so we can go home and eat lunch together.

Most of the time, when I blog, it’s about the more large-scale moments of grace I’m experiencing in my life – grace during times of trial and faith lessons from everyday life challenges. I thought it was fitting then to rename the blog … for the third and (hopefully) final time.

Lately, as my fingers fly across the keyboard and as my pen glides across the pages of my gratitude journal, I often think about the way my heart melts when my daughter, unprompted, says thank you. And I can’t help but wonder if, as we express our gratitude for His gifts, God’s heart melts too.

I never want to take any of the grace-filled moments of my life for granted. I want to melt God’s heart with never-ending thankfulness. And so welcome to the latest blog redesign: Moments of Grace.

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.

Tea, Cookies and a Little Child

My husband and daughter walked down the street, a foil-wrapped loaf of banana bread in hand. Evelyn had been talking for two days about the “banana bwead” for the neighbour. Already at two-and-a-half, she loves to bake things for people.

They knocked on the door and the old man answered, a smile lighting his face.

“Would you like to come in for tea?” he asked.

Although it was past Evelyn’s bedtime, they followed the man into his kitchen. He gave them tea and chocolate chip cookies. Evelyn sat on my husband’s lap and nibbled her cookie slowly.

The neighbour told them his name and that he used to be an engineer with the school board. He showed them some of his woodworking, which was beautiful.

He told them about big old wooden doors that had gathered dust in the school basements after steel doors became all the rage. The fire department had informed the school board that a basement full of old wood is a fire hazard, so our neighbour took the doors home. He cut them into thin strips and made his own hardwood floor.

The cutting, sanding, polishing – it must have taken forever. There is always so much more to things – and people – than meets the eye.

When my husband and daughter came home, she was exhausted and covered in chocolate. But she was happy. I don’t think she understands that God is using her to reach the lonely old man down the street, but that’s okay.

It always amazes me how the Holy Spirit can work through our children – even the very young ones. As parents, we need to encourage it. We need to involve them, direct them, focus them.

I don’t enjoy baking the least bit, but when my apron-clad two-year old is standing on a kitchen chair, wielding a spatula and covered in flour, my heart swells. I’ll bake every single day if it means that she is learning to do things for others, to be a blessing, to show Jesus’ love.

At night, she prays, “Bwess the neighbour; keep him safe; and help him know Jesus” and I’m positive that her simple, heart-felt prayer carries as much weight as hours of spiritual warfare.

“Train up a child in the way he should go…” This is what it all boils down to. Encouraging your child to love others the way that Jesus loves.

It’s not just so that our children will become better people. It’s because the old man down the street is lonely. It’s because the waitress across the road is hurting. It’s because the family next door is broken.

It’s because God wants to lavish his unconditional love on each of these people.

Who can demonstrate that kind of love better than a child?

What’s in Your Hand?

Isn’t this cake beautiful? The young woman who made it took hours to handcraft each butterfly. She is constantly blessing others with her gift of hospitality. Whether it’s a cake, a dinner party or a breakfast for five-hundred, this young lady makes sure that every little detail is perfect so that people feel special.

1 Corinthians 12:4-7 says,

“God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits.” (The Message)

You see, a gift of hospitality shows who God is. One way that God expresses His love for us is through beauty. So people who can create an atmosphere of beauty are using their gift to reveal the Father’s heart.

I definitely do not have the gift of hospitality. If you eat dinner at my house, you’ll be eating off of mismatched plates, drinking out of mismatched glasses, and wondering what that mound is under the rug (it’s my daughter’s cheerios that I hurriedly swept under there while you were walking up the driveway because I had been so busy writing that I lost track of time and didn’t get around to properly cleaning).

We all have different gifts. My husband is always cooking and baking for people who are going through a rough time and then checking up on them to see how they’re coping. Some of my friends are able to paint beautiful pictures that capture the imagination and speak to the soul. Others are always encouraging people, telling them, “You can do it!” Others use their tech skills to bless others. Still others work with children, pouring into little lives with endless patience and love.

The Bible says that each person is given something to do to show who God is. What is in your hand? And how are you going to use it this week to bless others?