Monday, November 23, 2015

Who Sinned?

Last month I sat down to write 4 short meditations on illness and spirituality. (Ok, the truth was I was lying down most of the day, because of an exhausting lupus flare, so it wasn’t much of a stretch to place the laptop on my lap and start typing.) The flare stirred up questions that I didn’t want to answer, and while I’m feeling a little better now, I thought I would share what God taught me in those hard days. Here’s part 1.

It’s been 2 years and 4 months since she gave me the diagnosis I didn’t want to hear. I sat on the paper-clad table in my doctor’s office, sweaty palms clenched in my lap, waiting to hear my fate. The open-ended uncertainty of my disease unnerved me then, and it still unnerves me today. On the bad days, like today, aching joints and deep fatigue cling to me. I feel weak and slow, like I’m moving through water.

And it is in these low moments that the questions plague me. Questions not so different than the one that Jesus’ disciples asked him about the blind man,

“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Is this illness a spiritual battle? Is it my fault? One author I read believes we cause our own illness. Another believes we can heal ourselves. Opinions blow in from every direction. I look to God’s word for clarity and I find Jesus’ words:

“It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (Jn. 9)

Most days I can’t see past the end of my nose, but Jesus’ words remind me that It’s not about me. Or at least it’s not only about me. I am not an autonomous creature looking to find my best life now. I live my life under God’s authority and in close connection with other people. God may have purposes for my life that extend beyond me.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Are You Too Busy?

Two years ago I experienced some health trouble that awakened me to the fact that I don’t have superpowers. It turns out that you can’t live however you want without paying the consequences. This may seem obvious to you, but I was genuinely surprised. Stress, sleeplessness and trying to live up to everyone else’s expectations had depleted my health and energy. Naively, I thought that to be selfless and godly, I needed to be busy. But in the end, it was just pride talking.

Keep reading here.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Cultivating Masculinity in a Houseful of Cowboys

I am a mother to three precious cowboys. I could also describe them as walking tornados who love adventure, sports, and rodeo. Now aged 4, 6 and 8, these boys stretch me in ways I didn’t know I could be stretched. And while I delight in their boyish antics most of the time, I also see a great need to shape their masculinity in ways that would honor God.
Whether your son is a wild child or a sensitive soul, all boys have one thing in common: they need biblical truth and encouragement to practice godliness.
Keep reading here.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Spiritual Training for Weary Souls

I walk hand in hand with the man I love. Golden evening sun warms the flowing barley field, and we circle around it in contented quiet. My husband knows me well. My sensitive nature has been bruised, and I still feel the effects of it. Sometimes I wish I had thicker skin, but I'm reluctant to form calluses that shut people out. What I really want is to be able to forgive when people hurt me. But I'm weary, and it feels hard.
"It's like a muscle you have to train," he said gently. "You just keep practicing until it becomes easier."
His comment got me thinking more about training for godliness. Each choice—no matter how small—is like flexing a muscle. The apostle Paul encouraged his spiritual son, Timothy, to "train yourself for godliness" (1 Tim. 4:7). And I wonder if training looks more ordinary than we imagine.
As strange as it sounds, sometimes we need to think smaller. Our longings for extraordinary experiences can blind us to the opportunity right in front of us. Even good ambitions require little steps first. Before you climb a mountain, you have to do your push-ups. And sometimes finding the motivation to "train yourself" is harder than you imagined.

God's Grace Is More Than a One-Time Blessing

Do athletic metaphors for spirituality make you feel deflated? Maybe you are struggling in your spiritual life and can't imagine how you could run harder.
Christians feel the pull of sin because we live in tension between what is sometimes called "the now and not yet." Christ's sacrifice for our sin has made us "perfect" and yet we are "being sanctified" (Heb. 10:12–14). Our position before God is holy, and yet in practice we still struggle with sin—both our own and also the sins of others.
Paul describes it by saying, "For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. . . . Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" (Rom. 7:19, 24).
We all feel this tension of not being good enough and a frustration with struggles that we can't seem to conquer. Remember there is grace for this moment. God's grace is not exhausted by justification, but overflows into sanctification. So we can respond with Paul, "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Rom. 7:25).

Where Do You Find Hope?

Scottish pastor, Robert Murray M'Cheyne, once said, "For every look at self, take ten looks at Christ." In other words, however long we analyze our struggles, we need to spend that amount of time—times ten—meditating on Christ and His promises. When we read God's Word, listen to preaching, and pray, our minds are transformed and our spirits are renewed. These disciplines feel ordinary, and even boring at times, but God uses these ordinary means of grace to do an extraordinary transformation in our hearts.
Far too often our struggles blind us to the hope in front of us. Like a millionaire who acts homeless, we have a wealth of resources in Christ but can't see past our circumstances to take hold of it. But when we look to Christ, we find hope, because in Him we have everything we need for life and godliness (  2 Peter 1:3).
Does godliness seem like an intimidating goal? Do you know that there is hope in Christ when your heart feels weary?
Spiritual Training for Weary Souls was originally posted on

Monday, July 6, 2015

Love, Romance and God's Eternal Purposes

12 years have passed since God joined us together on that cloudy day in May. I have learned that marriage is not about romantic highs, so much as it is about unconditional love. As the years pass, there are highs and lows and everything in between, but we love each other anyway.

Hollywood tells us romance is about desire, chemistry and fate, but that’s only half the story. Until we do the deep work, it’s all superficial.

The deep work is knowing and being known. We must own both flaws and grace in ourselves and each other and choose to embrace them. We must love and believe we are loved.

It requires seeing God’s eternal purposes for each other. As C.S. Lewis said, there are no “mere mortals”. We are eternal creatures, created in the image of God for divine purposes.

This does not heighten the expectation for perfection in the other, but rather extinguishes it. Lewis says:

“This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously - no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.”

There is no ideal for the spouse to live up to. Rather, sincere, humble, unassuming love is given--love that sees the authentic other, and delights in them. A sinner and saint. A mortal being swallowed up by immortality (2 Cor. 5:4).

We need a lifetime to learn to love this way. Thank God for His wisdom in creating the lasting bond of marriage. We are far too selfish and sinful to love well without His loving boundaries to help us.

I have known the privilege of being loved well. Affection and loyalty have been my portion and I am eternally thankful for the enduring love of my husband.

Together we have explored Toronto, farm life and small town dynamics. Brandings and operas. Tragedies and glorious days. We’ve birthed three young souls that changed our lives forever and by God’s grace we are bound so tight that only death can undo it.

In covenant love, two souls merge. My ‘other half’ has enriched my life in ways that I didn’t know I wanted or needed. A human reflection of divine reality. His love blesses me everyday.

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