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.

 

Dreams and Goals: Preparing for a Fresh, New Year

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Is there anything more beautiful than an empty page waiting to be filled with fresh hopes and dreams?

Almost 10 years ago, I started what I call my “Dream Book”. I love this book. It’s filled with short-term and long-term goals. Some dreams are for the immediate future. Some dreams are carried over from year to year, as circumstances change unexpectedly. Some dreams have grown much, much bigger over the years. Others have faded or disappeared completely.

But no matter how things turn out, every New Year, I look forward to reviewing the previous year’s successes (and failures)

and then turning to a crisp, white, empty page

and dreaming new dreams for a new year.

I get out my paper punches, my markers, and my favourite patterned paper. Sometimes, I simply write things down. Other times, I dig through old magazines and cut out pictures. Sometimes, I pour myself a big cup of coffee and sit at the kitchen table, music playing softly in the background. Other times, I climb onto my bed, scraps of paper strewn across the covers.

There is no set formula for this sort of thing.

Once my page is laid out the way I like it, I dream. I dream about my husband, my children, my health, my job, my finances, my purpose in life. I dream about my friends and family that need Jesus. I dream about writing.

I dream and I pray. Because I don’t just want to dream me-dreams for my life. I want to dream God-dreams.

Once I’ve dreamed and prayed and dreamed some more, I set goals.

Practical, bite-sized goals.

Every big dream starts with small steps. Those steps can be anything. A day trip to take with the family. A practical way to work on a character trait. A person to invite to church. Articles to write. Friends to make. Dietary changes.

Anything.

From time to time, throughout the year, I pull out my dream book and take a look. I remind myself of my dreams and of the steps I need to take to achieve those dreams.

At the end of the year, I evaluate my goals again. I celebrate the successes. I’m always surprised at how many there are. And the things that get missed? Either my dreams need to change or I need to change.

So I pray about it. Ask for grace and wisdom.

And then turn to another beautiful, crisp, white page.

And start afresh.

Plaid-Wrapped Grace: A Christmas Story

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It was a lesson in grace wrapped in cheerful plaid paper. The knock on the door was unexpected. The present was even more unexpected. Unexpected and undeserved.

A friend stopped by and pressed it into my hand—a gift from a whole group of our friends, my husband’s and mine. And I felt so unworthy as I stood there staring at the brightly wrapped package. It had been a hard year and, many times, my attitude towards circumstances and situations and people had been terrible.

And yet I held in my hands evidence of a love overwhelming.

Later, as my husband and I opened the package and saw how people had pooled together to bless us in a difficult season, the tears flowed unchecked. I had been struggling so hard to understand grace. Unmerited favour. An undeserved gift.

And there in my hands was a tangible expression.

I believed in Jesus. I knew that He loved me and died for me and forgave my every wrong. I was so grateful for what He did, but I often wondered why. Why does He love us so?

As I looked at the gift, His still, small voice whispered to my heart.

This is it. This is grace. You’ll never deserve it. You’ll never earn it. You’ll never understand it. It is a gift that is given to you anyway, no strings attached, given purely out of love. It’s why I came.

Grace brought a baby to a dusty, hay-filled manger. Grace brought shepherds, grimy from sleeping in the fields, together with kings to kneel before the King of kings. Grace rang clearly through angel voices: Peace on earth and goodwill towards men.

Goodwill towards men. God’s heart is a heart of love.

Grace brought Jesus to that cross where blood and mercy flowed. And grace softly calls us to kneel before the cross. Like shepherds and kings on a starry night in Bethlehem, grace calls us to kneel before the King of kings so we can be made whole. Every mistake erased. Every sin forgotten.

We’ll never deserve it. We’ll never earn it. We’ll never merit it. But it is a gift that is given to us anyway, no strings attached, given purely out of love.

I will always remember that Christmas. Always. Because that Christmas, a red plaid box opened my eyes in a new way to the most beautiful gift of all.

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The Kindness Countdown – A New Twist on Advent

I fell in love with the idea as soon as I saw it. A childhood friend had found it on a blog and shared it with me. It was beautiful. Instead of cheap chocolate advent calendars or an elf on the shelf, the idea was to celebrate advent with random acts of kindness.

I’m trying to teach my children that Christmas is about giving. “We give to Jesus by giving to others,” my daughter will tell me. It’s easy to say, harder to do. The idea of a kindness countdown, in my opinion, perfectly reflects the spirit of the season.

I pulled out the paper advent cones that I had made a couple of years ago and carefully hung them on the tree. Instead of candy, however, they now contain 25 ways that we can bless others – one for every day until Christmas, including Christmas Day.

We borrowed some ideas from Coffee Cups and Crayons and The Imagination Tree and came up with other ideas on our own. In case you want to do your own kindness countdown and are looking for ideas, here is what our countdown looks like:

1 – Let’s fill a jar with 20 reasons why we love Daddy and give it to him.

2 – Let’s brush our teeth until they shine and then go out and SMILE at everyone we see today!

3 – Let’s make Christmas cards to give away.

4 – Let’s write a letter to a soldier, thanking him for serving his country (note: you can find instructions and a list of locations here).

5 – Let’s give toys to kids who don’t have toys by bringing some new toys to the Christmas Tree of Hope in Gore Park.

6 – Let’s buy something special for someone who is having a baby.

7 – Let’s find three people to compliment today.

8 – Let’s paint a picture for someone.

9 – Let’s find some clothes that are too small and give them away.

10 – Let’s make Dutch croquettes for Grandma!

11 – Let’s choose three toys each to give to children who need them more than we do.

12 – The birds get cold and hungry in the winter. Let’s make a pinecone bird feeder for them!

13 – Let’s buy someone a coffee.

14 – Let’s hand out candy canes at the grocery store.

15 – Let’s wrap up gifts for your teachers and bus driver today.

16 – Let’s call Grandma and Papa and tell them we love them.

17 – Let’s bring a letter to the fire station, thanking all of the firemen for working hard to put out fires and save lives.

18 – Let’s slip a kind note inside a library book.

19 – Let’s bake Christmas cookies for the neighbours.

20 – Let’s bring dog treats to the neighbourhood dogs.

21 – Let’s bring food to the food bank.

22 – Let’s make Daddy a special meal today.

23 – Let’s find five people to hug today.

24 – Let’s make kindness stones and leave them for others to find.

25 – Let’s give presents to people we love!

I am so excited for my children to kick off the holiday season by focusing on others. After all, the greatest way we can show our love for Jesus is by loving those around us.

 

 

 

 

Some Thoughts on Character … and a Call to Action

 

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It was early in the morning. Too early. And it was too late a night the night before. But I was awakened before anyone else by a dream. A dream that echoed longings pushed deep down in my heart. A dream so vivid that it felt real. As I lay there, a verse came to mind. I couldn’t shake it, couldn’t get back to sleep until I had written it down. “Live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (Ephesians 4:1).

And then a cascade of thoughts…

“Live a life worthy of…” Your character doesn’t grow as a result of your calling. Quite the opposite. Your ability to fulfill your calling will only ever be as big as your character.

“Live a life worthy of…” Don’t focus on calling. Focus on character. It’s the only platform you’ll ever need. Many people have crumbled in the spotlight because their character couldn’t sustain their calling. Even if your calling is to stay in the shadows, your character will shine the love of Jesus brighter than any spotlight ever will.

Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Gifts and talents may open some doors. But only a Christ-like character will unlock the fullness of what God has planned for you.

It starts at home. Some say character is who you are when no one else is watching. True. But character is also revealed in how you behave with those closest to you. Your parents. Your siblings. Your husband. Your kids. Your closest relationships are a mirror; they show you who you really are. Start at home.

Be confident in what God has called you to be. 1 Thessalonians 5:24 says, “Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.” If you have a confirmed word from God about what He wants to do in and through you, walk into that calling confidently. Don’t let anybody tell you that it’s too big, that you’ll never make it. If it’s God who called you, it’s God who will enable you.

Don’t get discouraged by what you see with your natural eyes. Romans 4:18 says, “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him…” And then, “He did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had the power to do what He promised.”

Are you fully persuaded? Do you really believe that God can do what He has promised? Do you really believe that He can bring to pass the dream that He has planted inside of you?

All this in the wee hours of the morning. Encouragement, a challenge and the reigniting of a dream.

And one last thought. Hebrews 10:39: “But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.”

A call to faith. A call to action.

 

Dates (Falling In Love All Over Again)

My favourite dates were the early morning ones on a cliff overlooking Hamilton. The sunrise would stretch rosy fingers across the sky and push back the starry night. The city was soft and sleepy and bathed in pink, and the lake shone quietly in the distance.

The lake. There’s something about water that calms the soul.

He understood that, and there were other times that we met at the beach in the evenings as the sun was setting. I squished my toes in the cool sand and watched the gulls wheel through the air, looking for food. Waves gently splashed the shore and a steady stream of boats moved across the horizon, slowly making their way to the harbour for the night. There was peace.

But there were also messy dates. The ones where I would drive for miles down the highway, pouring out the tears and agony of a disappointed heart. He would silently listen. And that was okay. I didn’t need him to say anything. His presence was comfort enough.

I haven’t gone out on a date with him in a long time. I’ve gone on dates with my husband. I’ve gone on dates with my kids. But, somewhere along the way, the most special dates of all have fallen by the wayside.

Sure, we talk. I read my Bible. I pray. Maybe not consistently, but I try. But it’s not the same as it used to be. Several years ago, things changed.

I changed.

I asked Him about it last night in church. “What happened to us? Where have I gone wrong?”

And I heard Him whisper. Words that were hard to hear but needed to be said. You’ve let disappointment affect the way you view Me.

And these beautiful words: I am near to the broken-hearted.

Jehovah Shammah. God is there. Emmanuel. God is with us. I am not alone. Jesus is walking this journey with me.

I will never leave you nor forsake you. I have inscribed you in the palm of My hand.

It doesn’t matter how long I’ve pushed him away. He never stops calling. He never stops wooing my heart. The truth of His love flows into the deep places—the places where I feel ugly and small. And there, beauty grows.

I have loved you with an everlasting love. You are Mine.

Yes. I am His.

This afternoon, we had coffee together, He and I. The younger girls napped and the oldest went out with her dad. It was just me and Jesus in the quiet of the house. I sat on the couch and sipped my coffee and just enjoyed His presence. And I felt again what I have been longing to feel—the deep-down assurance that I am loved.

And there was peace.

Wax Hearts

Ordinary things. Crayons and wax paper. My daughter and I sat down and sprinkled the crayon shavings onto the paper. We melted them and cut out hearts. Ugly, mottled hearts. Yet, in the window, light ignites a profusion of colours. When the sunbeams hit, the hearts glow.

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Sun catchers.

We just got back from Huntsville and I haven’t had a chance to put away the laundry. And the night before, I was up too late working on an art project and haven’t put away my supplies. It will be a busy day, with three kids and all the housework. There is much to do. Still, I pause to look at hanging wax hearts.

Small things. Insignificant things. Ugly without the light. Yet they capture my attention.

Sometimes, the Holy Spirit whispers through the small.

Do you ever look at yourself and wonder how God could use you—a common, ordinary vessel—for His glory? I often look at myself and wonder. It’s easy to get caught up in the work left to do and miss the work that has been done.

In the shadow of sin, our souls lack beauty.

We need Jesus. We need His presence. We need the light. Because when the light hits—oh, when the light hits!

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But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)

His light ignites a glorious profusion of colour for all around to see. The common becomes uncommon. The ordinary becomes extraordinary. Ugly, mottled hearts become beautiful.

And the world sees and wonders at the light that can set lives aglow.