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. :)

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.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Why The Church Needs Struggling Members

I have a confession to make: fellowship is hard for me lately. My life these past 16 months could be described as unsteady and complicated. My instincts tell me to withdraw from people until I feel more steady and secure. Social pleasantries feel trite, and honest, nuanced answers are exhausting.

I know I am not the only one who feels this tension. So many dear friends have difficulties in their lives that don’t make for good small talk. They feel about as useful to the church as a clock without batteries. And the fact that they make it out at all is God’s grace.

It’s tempting to retreat from people in these times, but we must keep coming back because God warns us against quitting fellowship (Heb. 10:25). The opposite of our instinct is what we really need most, and when it comes down to it, our trials are not always about us. Sometimes we go through them for the sake of others.

Keep reading here.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Is Politeness Killing Your Prayer Life?

Christians in North America are generally polite pray-ers. We tend to pray correct, respectful words that we think God wants to hear. But let's be honest, many of our prayers are tentative, repetitive, and somewhat boring.

I'm all for politeness with acquaintances. But real relationships require more. If my husband only spoke distant and polite words to me, our relationship would wither and die. I want to hear his struggles, his fears, his anger, and his joys. I want to process with him, not just hear his conclusions. I want him to trust me.

Intimate relationships require authentic feelings. Our innermost thoughts—however wrong or immature—are shared in trust. So why do we keep God at arm's length? Are we trying to be something we are not? Are we afraid to trouble Him? God is our Father, yet we often treat Him like a distant relative.

Read the rest over at True Woman.

Friday, October 31, 2014

From Awkward to Awesome: One Hockey Mom's Journey

Every parent of small children can testify that going anywhere alone feels like a holiday. Life becomes slow motion. You don’t have to be alert at every second. You notice your surroundings more. You feel like you are expending 20 times less energy. Of course, if you are like me, you may be missing your little mischief-makers while simultaneously enjoying the benefits.

But lately it’s getting easier. My boys are 7, 5, and 3, and each year, parenting feels less intense. Whether at the grocery store or the play park, I notice the change.

This year I marvel at my transformation in the hockey dressing room.

Rewind two years. My oldest son is doing his first ever hockey camp. There is a new maturity about him. He feels it too. Mostly he doesn't need my help. Although, getting ready for ice time is one exception.

The dressing room is a nightmarish rite of passage for me. It is incredibly hot. I could almost close my eyes and imagine I just stepped off the plane in Cuba, except the air smells like musty, sweaty hockey equipment.

I help Hunter locate his bag in the ever busier room. We open the zipper, and I take a moment to feel overwhelmed by the sheer number and variety of equipment pieces. What do I put on first? What if I miss something essential and then have to take if all off and begin over again?

I decide to copy the others. I look around. The other boys are already half dressed...half dressed! How did they do that? I hear some mothers mutter something about getting done before the older boys come charging in. I am totally starting to sweat. "Ok. Let's start with the protective shorts."

Somehow I manage to get him mostly dressed despite my one year old's continual attempts to get at the urinal, my three year old's demands that I peel his banana, and the onslaught of the "older boys" coming off their ice session. In the back of my mind it's starting to register that my littlest is crawling around on the floor amidst a bunch of boys in skates.

Fast Forward to last Friday. I head to the rink with all three boys. I carry nothing but my purse. My 7 year old mostly gets himself dressed. I quickly throw some equipment on my 5 year old while my 3 year old entertains himself quietly.

We watch the game, I visit with some parents, it is kind of...enjoyable.

I have moments of sadness because my babies are growing up, but this new stage has its perks. Now--due to no credit of my own--I can leave the dressing room feeling calm and smug at my adeptness with a shin pad.