Sunday, May 24, 2015

Happy Birthday, Hunter!

Dearest Hunter,
You turned 8 last month. I look at your feet and wonder when they got so big. Your smile is full of adult-sized teeth and when you shared what you wrote in your journal that night, I knew your were growing up.

There are 5 million reasons why I love you. Remember the other week when I emerged from the bathroom with toilet paper in my hair? I was experimenting with rag curls, but in lieu of rags I used toilet paper. You looked at me, trying not to laugh, 

“Mom, what is in your hair?”

“Toilet paper” I said, trying to sound nonchalant.

“Do people do that?”

“Well, I’m a person and I do it.”

“Oh.” You paused with a thoughtful look in your eye, somewhat conflicted.

“Well, you sort of look like a flower.” You offered this with a tentative smile, and I laughed.

This conversation typifies your generous heart and an empathetic spirit. Your capacity for kindness always amazes me.
I love how your mind works. You need to understand why something works and why things are the way they are. You are not satisfied with pat answers, you like to dig deeper.

“Why am I me and not someone else?”

“If Adam sinned, then why do I get the consequences?”

You love lego and minecraft, and goofy skits in the park with your brothers. You love school and your cousins, and kale chips and dark chocolate...and really anything with sugar in it.
I loved this Mother’s Day Card you gave me this year. On the left is you and me watching Masterchef Junior which inspired you to make a delicious vinaigrette for dinner--carefully tasting as you went. On the right is a note that made me laugh. It’s so sweet and honest!
Your Daddy and I love you so much! You are truly a blessing from the Lord.







Thursday, May 14, 2015

When Trials Steal Your Joy

The date was June 20, 2013. My doctor gave me a diagnosis I did not want to hear. I thought autoimmune diseases only affected obscure, sickly people. Suddenly, I was that person. I couldn't quite wrap my mind around it. My doctor said I could go into remission, stay the same, or, worst case scenario, die. But no one could predict the outcome.

After the appointment, my husband and I drove a short distance to the neighbouring town that we call home. When we arrived, something felt wrong. The vehicles were backed up on main street like we had never seen them before. There was a roadblock up ahead. We rolled down the window to ask a police officer what was happening and how to get home.
"You're not going home."
And that was it. She waved us on, eager to get the line of vehicles moving again.
As we began to turn, we looked down the hill that would take us home. Rushing water saturated every building in sight, pulling vehicles along in its current. People were being rescued from their homes and places of business by any means possible. A boat. A helicopter. The bucket of a front-end loader.
This was the moment we discovered our house was flooded.
The authorities evacuated the town and called in the military. We were not allowed to return home. Stories of thefts, dead bodies, and conspiracies abounded. Everyone was on pins and needles for some news about their home. It felt like an eternity of waiting. In the end it was ten days.
With N-95 respirators on our faces and tentative steps, we entered our house. Light seeped through the broken basement windows to reveal thick sludge covering the floor. Patches of mold covered the walls and bedding. A solid wood desk lay on its side. A toy train hung from the ceiling. It looked like a dollhouse that someone had dropped and scattered the contents. It was completely uninhabitable.
We were displaced for eighteen months, living in a tiny mobile home with our three sons on our family's farm. With the massive amount of destruction, trades people were scarce. We were up to our necks in post-flood paperwork, and scrambling to find our way forward.
These months were extremely stressful. I felt uprooted and unstable. No area of my life was insulated from difficulty. The truth is, I am still trying to recover from the effects of stress on my health.
The other morning I opened my Bible to Psalm 30 and read these words:
"Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning."
Soothing words. But I was struggling to believe that they were true for me. I felt that joy might tarry for the night, but weeping would come with the morning. It felt safer to expect the worst. Stunned to realize I was harboring unbiblical expectations, I began to talk to God about my honest feelings, and His Word reminded me that I couldn't have been more wrong.

Why I Have Hope

God never promises us physical health, safety, or wealth. But for the Christian, doom is never on the horizon. Christian eschatology declares hope for the future. Both in this life and in the life to come.
  • I have hope in future glory when God will wipe away every tear from my eyes. Death, mourning, crying, and pain will be no more (Rev. 21:3).
  • In this lifetime I anticipate that my inner self is being renewed day by day even as my outer self wastes away (2 Cor. 4:16).
  • I anticipate that as I grow in intimacy and communion with God, my joy will increase (Ps. 16:11).
Even if our house floods again come June, I expect good things. Scripture tells me that I have concrete reasons to have hope for my future.
Christians will experience trials, yes, but this is not the end of the story. We keep persevering because "this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison" (2 Cor. 4:17). So even if my physical trials increase in the coming years, I know they are preparing me for something well worth pursuing.

The Importance of Christian Imagination

Do you have difficulty believing that joy comes with the morning? Sometimes we need to stop and seriously consider what our lives could look like ten, twenty, and fifty years from now. What will it be like in eternity?
In your mind's eye, imagine God's promises played out in your life. For example, twenty years from now you could enjoy a deep intimacy with God that exceeds anything you have experienced to date. Imagine how forty years of God working in your life could so transform you, that you will reflect the beauty of your Savior in a way that you never could now. Imagine that one day sin and suffering will not exist for you.
If you have never stopped to imagine these things, what are you striving for in life?

Trusting God's Purposes

I'm not saying it's easy. But this is the unique dynamic of the Christian life. Future hope permeates the struggles of today. When the apostle Paul says, "All things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose," we must view our circumstances through this lens.
For the Christian, struggles are not meaningless. God has greater designs that we cannot always see or understand, but we can choose to see His goodness in them. We don't have to like our circumstances, but we do have to trust that God is loving us in them.
I don't tend to ask God "Why?" these days. I know why. "God disciplines those He loves" (Heb. 12:6).
I am a sinner. And God loves me.
Instead, I ask "What sin is God exposing in me?" and "How can I change?"
Of course, none of this will mean anything to us if Jesus is not our greatest treasure. But if He is, we can be sure that joy comes with the morning. Trials hurt. There is no doubt about that. But we must trust that in God's wisdom, He is loving us better than we do ourselves.
My family and I are home now, and I am slowly making progress with my health. Both are blessings that I am deeply grateful for, but God has shown me that I don't need health and home to be satisfied. I need Him. God is good, both when He gives and also when He takes away.
Are you despairing about your future? Do you see how the trials of today could prepare you for tomorrow's joy?

When Trials Steal Your Joy was originally posted on TrueWoman.com.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A Sad Day

My Grandmother passed away yesterday. I was by her bedside when she went. It was horrible and beautiful. The ugliness of death butt against the joy of eternal life, and she transcended the boundary in the blink of an eye.

The last moments were hard. A desperate gulp. A tear. A grimace. There is a struggle to leave.  But the pain of that moment made the next sweeter. Mortality gave way to immortality. I sat crying by her bedside while she was ushered into glory, my bible still open in my hand. The last words I read to her were from Psalm 34:

“Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.”

And she let go of this world, relaxing into death.  She saw her Saviour face to face.

When I arrived earlier that morning, she looked as fragile as a porcelain doll. Breathing was hard for her. But the look on her face was so peaceful. Her gaze fell on loved ones with affection and joy. Though her body was breaking, her spirit was strong. She declared from the start, “I am not afraid to die.” Now she couldn’t talk, but the look was still in her eye.

She was a feisty lady who loved her children and grandchildren. I have childhood memories of Christmas’ at her home and of dresses she made me, of music and art and laughter. But one thing in particular stands out. She gave me the best Dad a girl could ask for. And for that, I am eternally thankful.

We love you and miss you Grandma. xoxo




Tuesday, April 14, 2015

When God Restores What He Takes Away


The other day a friend told me she was glad she knew me before I had an autoimmune condition because now, she said, my face looks sad. She could hardly get the last words out before she burst into tears. I felt touched, but also misunderstood. I don’t blame her. It’s hard for me to communicate what it’s like to struggle with long term illness.

What I Struggle With


She was right that I do get discouraged. It’s difficult to be somewhat sick all the time, and the difficult part is that illness doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It affects the people I love.

The other week one of my pastors was teaching on healthy relationships and interactions within the church community. Specifically, he spoke of Galatians 2.

“Bear ye one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ”

and also,

“For each will have to bear his own load.”

He explained how we go through periods in life where we need others to bear our burdens. This is one of the great blessings of being in a church community. But ideally we want to grow out of this neediness into a place of maturity where we are able to bear other people’s burdens.

These last two years have felt like an eternity of weakness to me. I accept help that I cannot pay back. I take more than I can give. I am forced to trust that God rewards those acts of love toward me, and to release fears that people will resent me for my lack of reciprocation. I cannot change the things that I cannot change. It is very humbling.

I trust that God is teaching me about compassion and that I will be better able to comfort others with the comfort God has given me, but most days, I wish I could be stronger.

Why I Wouldn’t Change Anything


When asked how I’m doing, I struggle to articulate the complexities of my week.  
My illness does make me feel frustrated and embarrassed at times. But I am also blessed with loving friends and family, a freshly renovated home, and most of all, by God’s grace. I have great hope for my future because I am a child of God.

In 2 Corinthians 6, the Apostle Paul describes himself as “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing”. In another place “perplexed, but not driven to despair”. Sometimes life is complicated, and for the Christian I think this is especially true. Discouragement and joy are simultaneously true for me, but they do not hold equal weight. Hope transcends my struggles.

I see God’s love at work in my life. I know that these difficult things are working together for my good and for the good of those in my life.  I see how they are preparing me for eternity and this gives me hope for today. 19th century pastor Charles Spurgeon said:

Remember this, had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, divine love would have put you there.

Maybe my face looks sad these days, but I hope you can see the joy too. I have no desire to rewind time or go back to how things were before. My trials have changed me, but what God has taken from me, he has restored in better ways.

So, friend, I’m humbled by your tears, but I would not change things if I could. God is loving me, even in sickness.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Happy 6th Birthday, Knox!

Knox, you are strong, funny, compassionate and generous.The reasons your Dad and I love you are many, but our favourite thing might be your hair smile.



You are loud like your Dad and you have a strong sense of right and wrong. You are eager to forgive, quick to share, and you return your little brother’s tackles with surprising gentleness.



Your Dad and I marvel at how quickly you make friends. You instinctively understand people and social situations in a way that we never could at your age.


May [the Lord] grant you your heart's desire
   and fulfill all your plans!
May we shout for joy over your salvation...


Happy Birthday, Knox. Our family is better for having you in it!
xoxoxoxoxoxo...ok, I’ll stop.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Travel Adventures and Home Again

Shortly after Christmas, we began our road trip south. Three kids in tow, we traversed 1600 miles in four days, frequently stopping to explore and enjoy the changing landscape.  

When we arrived in Arizona, my health took a turn for the worse. I was bedridden for four days with a nasty case of strep throat. Clint convinced me to visit the local hospital and get help. We joke now that this particular hospital is becoming our second home because Clint stayed there last year when he had pneumonia.

Despite a rough start, we felt very blessed. My in-laws graciously let us stay at their beautiful home near Phoenix and it was a wee bit warmer than the -25 celsius everyone was enjoying back home. 

The following days were filled with family, good friends and sundry adventures.


------
At one point, two little boys came bursting into the room.

“Mom, I just had the ride of my life!”

The older one said, referring to his quad ride in the desert with his dad.

“Was it fast?” I ask

The younger one chimes in. “I was scared. But Daddy told me to yell “Yee-haw” as loud as I could when I felt scared.”

“Did it work?”

“Yes. But it may not work for you. It think it only works for men.”

I’m trying not to chuckle because my 5-year-old thinks he’s a man.

“I’m pretty sure it works for women too.”

Two days later I find out first hand.

The engine rumbles beneath me and I push the accelerator with my thumb. The cool desert breeze caresses my face and the warm sun cloaks my back as I carve out a path through the desert terrain. My calm heart opens up like a flood. The wide open space, the rugged beauty and the speed at my fingertips, I feel exhilarated.

In the past I’ve been afraid of speed, noise and grit. But today I feel free.

I see how God is working in my heart, transforming my fear to trust, and although I still have a long way to go, my heart echoes the Psalmist's words:


The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid? (Ps. 27.1)


-------
The kids had their own adventures and fears to overcome. I was especially proud of my eldest getting back on a horse after his horrible accident last spring.  Roasting marshmallows over an open fire and pretend gunfights in the desert were also favourites for our aspiring cowboys. 








On the way home our family made a small detour to southern California.



An afternoon spent reveling in the ocean’s beauty was followed by a day at Disneyland--a Christmas present for our kids. Their joy was infectious. So were the measles, but we came out unscathed.

And it doesn't get much better than this for a 7-year-old. :)
video

---
Coming home was so much better than last year. We still have loose ends to tie up, but the lion’s share of post-flood work is behind us.

Speaking of home, my Valentine's gift this year:

We have affectionately named these three young bulls Hunt, Knox & Win. :)

Saturday, December 13, 2014

We're Home!

We moved home last Saturday. It's been a week of unpacking, organizing and shopping for needed items. Everything feels new, but also like deja vu.


Yesterday the weather was beautiful so we rode bikes to the park like we used to. It was the same, but different. The monkey bars at the park felt lower, the bikes went faster and there was no toddler threatening to fall off the play structure. A year and a half is a long time.




The boys feel both happy to be here and also sentimental about leaving the trailer. I was somewhat surprised by their sentimentality, but then again, things don't make a home, people and memories do. Winston spent half of his life displaced and I wonder if he even remembers living in High River. So with each passing day we make new memories as a family, and each day it feels more like home.






Clint is enjoying his new office space although at one point he commented on feeling isolated. I think we are all adjusting to the idea of having personal space again.

My favourite room is the kitchen. We knocked down the wall that used to divide the kitchen from the dining room and I love the openness.




We are very thankful that my health seems to be improving. I still have flare ups every few months, but my energy levels are much better. So I continue to watch my diet, take my supplements and thank God for His kindness to me.


Everything I've gone through this past year and a half has solidified for me that Christ defines me and gives meaning to life. Circumstances and things don't matter as much. So I am enjoying this beautiful home, but I am especially thankful that God's goodness is unchangeable in both difficulties and blessings.