Wednesday, December 3, 2014

I Choose

So much of our lives are spent waiting for that big moment.; waiting for that "when" moment.


~When I get married I will...
~When I land that job I will...
~When I lose weight I will...

But what happens when that "when" becomes reality if it ever does?  Or what happens if it never becomes a reality?  What then? There will always be another "When."  There will always be another thing to strive for, another thing to be or do or win or belong to.  There will always be more money to attain or health to have or things to change.

As soon as we reach the "when" in our lives the cruelty or the reality is that those goal posts will have changed.  And before you know it,  you have lived for five, ten, fifteen years - doing your to do lists, ticking off your days, doing the laundry, cleaning the dishes,  striving, pushing, pulling for that one moment; that one season when your "when" reaches your now.  And suddenly you look around you and you wonder when your kids grew up and what they did with their first tooth and their first love or how they managed to raise themselves.

Where did those years go when you were trying so hard; when you were trying to reach your when?  There is a tendency in each of us to be discontent, to be always reaching for that next best thing; that more and better and bigger.

There's nothing wrong with working hard towards a goal.  There is nothing wrong with stretching and working and persisting your way through until you see victory.  I believe in it.  I preach it.  But there is something wrong with trading that for the beauty of today - for the wonder of the moment.

I choose to have double vision - staring into the future; into my destiny while always keeping my eyes fixed on the miracle of today.  

Today I choose contentment.  I choose to dance to the melody in my heart right now.  I choose to take walks and snap pictures of every flower I see.  I choose to love the dandelions even though they're a pain (Okay I know that's a stretch for some of you.)  I choose to play lego with my boy and to laugh as many times as I can and sing loud and hard to love song and praise songs and silly songs.  I choose to dance while I am mopping the floor and doing the dishes.

I choose to love this day; this moment even though my life isn't exactly where I want it to be , even though my body isn't exactly where it's supposed to be.   Because I don't want to see my life pass by while I was waiting to live - while I waiting to enjoy it - while I waiting for that big moment;  waiting the "when."

Now is the "when."  Now is the time.  I choose now.

Life is about now.  Life is about enjoying today; this moment.  Its about laughing until your belly aches, or dancing until your legs hurt.  It's about capturing every moment and letting your heart be drawn to the good instead of the ugly.  It's about healing instead of hurting.  Singing instead of shouting; smiling, tasting, seeing, hearing the world around you.  What we do now matters next month - next year - years from now.  It matters.   I don't want to spend my life waiting when it's already happening all around me right now.

I want to live in such a way that if I never get to the when of my life I haven't wasted years; I haven't wasted lives.  I haven't wasted me.  I have built memories and sweet moments and sacred seasons.  I don't want to get to the end of my life and have nothing to write about and no altars in which to store my scrapbooks.  I want to build along the way.  I want to impact along the way.  I want to simply love along the way.  No more pining, wishing. longing, crying for that one season when I could be laughing, building, moulding and living.  I want to live in such a way that if I never get to the when, life was so so worth it.  Life was precious.  Life was full.

I don't want to trade my eight year old's smile for my book order.  I don't want to trade a night of just loving and being with friends or with family for a bigger church in ten years.  I don't want to trade today's miracles for tomorrows vision.

 I choose.

I choose the wonder of today over the "when" of tomorrow.


Monday, November 3, 2014

Ninety Cents



I could almost hear her thoughts screaming at me.  “It’s NINETY CENTS lady.  Give it a rest!”  I had gone through the till at Walmart and she owed me ninety cents but forgot to give it to me before she shut the drawer of the cash register.  She was slightly embarrassed and I was equally embarrassed waiting for so many minutes for someone to come and open her till.  But ninety cents is ninety cents.  Add a few dollars to it and you have a big jug of milk.  Or find it on sale and you have a loaf of bread.  As I was calculating this in my head,  I became more and more determined to wait for my ninety cents even though a few minutes were stretching into many minutes.   Besides,  what if she was conveniently doing this with all of her customers - by the end of the day she would get quite a nice tip.  I was beginning to wonder as she was decidedly annoyed with me,  telling the other customers behind me,  “Sorry, I can’t help you.  I am waiting to give this customer her NINETY CENTS!” as she carefully put the emphasis on NINETY CENTS. 

“I ONLY owe you NINETY CENTS,” she had said when she looked at the receipt.  “Yep, and that ninety cents matters to me,” I said with an edge of sternness in my voice as I stared her down.  She sighed inwardly as she realized that I had really bonded with the ninety cents and I wasn’t going to back down too easily.   She kept calling back on the phone and to be honest,  I did feel a twinge of sympathy for her- but not enough to give up my ninety cents. Also,  because she was far more annoyed and bothered with me than sorry about not giving me my rightful change. 

Finally after about 10 minutes, lots of finger tapping, impatiently shifting her weight from one foot to the other and several calls to her superiors,  I got my money.  I heaved a sigh of relief,  thanked her and was on my way to my car. 

And suddenly I realized - only after I went back and got my groceries because I forgot them after all of that - that this is a profound thing that just happened.

 I sat stunned in the car, as I got this image in my head.  This is just the way that God looks at us.  He stares us down as we say,  “But we are so insignificant.  We are so small.”   And he says,  “I want my 90 cents.”  He doesn’t back down either.  He doesn’t pass on, realizing that  maybe you really you are just one small person - just one insignificant human being and there will be lots of them;  lots that He will lose. 

NO,  he stares you down.  He says,  “You may be 90 cents but you are MY 90 cents and that makes you worth a lot..  Some day you will buy something with your life.  Your life matters.  Your story matters.  Your feelings matter.  Your paintings, your music, your dancing, your mundane job, your exciting career -  it all matters.  Deeply. To Me, it matters.”

Because you know,  Jesus died for us.  No matter how much you feel that you are worth,  he died for you.  Jesus died for that 90 cents and he wants YOU.  He wants all of you because he can see what He can do with your life.  He can see the potential that you have in your music,  in your words,  in your paintings,  in your friendships and in your life.  He sees you in a way that you don’t even see yourself.  He sees so much more than ninety cents.  He sees so much more than a small life and unimportant thoughts.  He sees you and he sees VALUE.  That's right - and he isn’t leaving, my friend until you see it too. 

 You may be 90 cents.  You may be someone standing beside someone you feel is so much greater but let me tell you that Jesus Christ is staring you down right now with those eyes that look right through you to your soul. He is not moving and  - and he is saying,  “I don’t care if you are 90 cents.  You matter.  And I want you. ”

Sunday, October 26, 2014

A Weekend of Promise

It’s hard to believe that it has been a month since our conference with the leaders of the churches that we are involved with.   Our little church belongs to a community of several churches both in England and in Canada.  What does this say to me?  It says that i am not alone.

We had three great men from England join us as leaders to talk to us.  When Mike crossed the border,  he was strongly encouraged not to preach to us.  While to me that is shocking - we DO live in Canada and we experience freedom of speech and freedom of religion - he stood by that restriction for the duration of the time that us as leaders got together.  He did this out of integrity and I appreciate that.  But even in that restriction,   God had other plans.  We prayed.  We prayed for the community.  WE prayed for those with hurting hearts and broken lives.  We prayed for those who don’t know Jesus.  We prayed for those who do know Jesus and need a closer walk with him.  We prayed for his grace and his love to be revealed to our friends and to us. 

We did a lot of praying that weekend.   It was a beautiful time. And what came from that is a rich, deep founding of friendships - a knowing that each of us live so many miles from each other but that we are not alone.  We carry the same burdens, we are all on similar journeys.  

Pastoring and shepherding can be a lonely road, but as we spent the weekend together, as we prayed for each other's and looked each other in the eye  and said, I am praying for you, suddenly we knew that we were in this journey together.  And if our eyes had been solely focused on our own lives and our own Church, we suddenly focused on a wider path - a path where churches stood on either side of us - each of us with the same vision, with the same heart, with the same passion for the people around us.   It is our bond.  And it makes us a tribe.  We found our tribe in each other.  And when we went back to our churches to work and to dig and to plant, we knew that there were others doing the same things, praying the same things and feeling the same things in nearby towns or provinces.   None of us are alone. 

Our churches matter.  Each of our churches matter and we are going to pursue everything that God has for us and we are going to encourage and pray for each other to do the same.

For me personally, I was challenged to pick up a dream that I had put on the shelf many many years ago.  I was born and raised in Japan.  Japan is one of my passions.  I have always wanted to go back there and to see fruit from what my Mom and Dad planted so many years ago.  God so profoundly spoke to my spirit that the passion I have for Japan is intentional.    He isn’t done with me or with us in the nation of Japan and that excites me.  

Around the table of Tim Hortons, between meetings,  we as team leaders shared our hearts.  Mike Betts asked a question that stuck with me.  He asked each of us what we love, what refreshes us and makes us come alive.  We shared what we saw in each other.  From that, we talked about how working and journeying together will work; what it will look like.   We talked about each persons strengths and what they could offer RM Canada to make it run smoothly.  The truth is,  we always need to look at running anything we do better.  That's when we know that we are a healthy, living, vibrant entity or group of churches.  We weren't looking at who would be the leader or who would be better than who.  We were looking at strengths and how we could capitalize on those in order to keep what we are doing alive and working beautifully.  This is how true team works.  It's not about who is better or who is higher or more talented.  It's a matter of tapping into our strengths and putting what we have to offer onto the table. 
I am so excited to see where this journey of joining Churches will take us.  It’s exhilarating and scary at the same time.   Technology allows us to do so much that we could not have done years ago.  We skype, we text, we email and we facebook each other.  This is so vital in building team and in underlining the fact that we are not alone.  We are in this thing we call “life” together.  We are building churches together.  We are praying for our communities together.   When one is hurting, we are all hurting.  When one is rejoicing, we are all rejoicing.  Because it is so much better to do life together. 

 Together, shoulder to shoulder we will see the world, or at least our corner of the world set free. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

September 25, 1990





Four words that changed my world.  " Your baby is dead. Your baby is dead."  My doctor  was running along beside my stretcher, in the halls of the hospital.  He must have said it twelve times as I was waking up from the anaethesia.  " Your baby is dead.  There was nothing you could have done differently.  The cord was wrapped around his neck and his stomach. "  I still remember what he was wearing - I still remember the feel  of his hand softly on mine as he delivered the unthinkable news.  I tried to wake up - I tried to comprehend what he was saying.   No it couldn't be.  My baby was just moving around yesterday.  We were at the finish line.  The room was all decorated in brightly coloured clowns and the crib was waiting for a tiny baby to makes its grande entrance.   This didn't happen to us.  These things only happened to other people - but not us. 

One day I was planning, scheming, full of hope and vision for the future and the next day there was a nothingness that hurt more  than if someone had cut my arms off.  One week, I was standing in his bedroom holding freshly washed blankets and sleepers to put in his dresser.  The next week I was standing at his little grave site with baby roses in my hand.  In a moment,  in a sentence, my life was forever changed.

I didn't expect it and I didn't choose it.  Nor would I choose it now if I was able to go back in time and change the history of my life.    I will never fully understand and I will always miss Theodore.   There will always be a place at the table in my heart for him.

 When I look back on what I went through twenty four years ago,  there was so much going on;  so much swirling around my brain and emotions but one thing stands out.   In the midst of the pain, in the midst of the black void - in the midst of the broken pieces and the unanswered questions, was Jesus.   He was there with his outstretched arms ready to carry me through, ready to steady me and ready to make sense of my world.

And this is what I know.  I know that Jesus will carry you too.  No matter where your life is,  no matter what circumstance you are going through or what storm you find yourself in the midst of.  He will carry you.

  If only you will let him...



Sunday, September 21, 2014

Burnt Toast and Answered Prayers

I was young and impetuous and a little bit angry at God.  I was  twenty one and pregnant with my first child.  I had had a job that I loved but standing for hours on end was so hard on my back. ( Must have been those heels. )  So I quit work in order to get ready for my small miracle.

But this particular day,  I was angry.  We didn't have any money.  I needed the job I quit.  Jeremy sold insurance but even though he worked really hard at it,  business just wasn't good.

The day started out grumpy and tired and nauseous as a lot of pregnant days start.   Jer was at work and I really needed breakfast.   We didn't have any peanut butter or jam or butter left.  We had no cereal.  We had no groceries~ no food in the house at all.   But we had two crusts left from our loaf of bread.  That was it.  I slammed the crusts down into the toaster sighing heavily.

Doing something else that needed to be done around the house I returned a few minutes later to the toaster; to my two crusts.  I was just going to eat them dry.  To my horror when I took a look,  they were burnt!!  Burnt to a crisp!  My last two crusts.  Something was horribly wrong with our toaster.

I looked upwards.   "God,  I am tired and I am hungry and I am ANGRY!!  I am going to walk over to that couch and I am going to go to sleep and I don't want to wake up for a little while.  I don't want visitors.  I don't want anyone phoning. I don't want anyone knocking on the door.   I don't want any interruptions!"  (Yes, I was quite bossy back then.)

I walked over to our brown plastic couch and threw myself onto it, falling into an uneasy and fitful sleep.  I hadn't been there for longer than a half an hour when suddenly I was jarred awake by my phone ringing.  Angrily,  I jerked my head up again,   "God you can't even answer that  small simple request?!?!"  I yelled.

"Hello?" I said grumpily.

"Hello?  Faith?"  It was my former boss on the other end.  "Would you let me know your bank account number?  I have some vacation pay that I need to put in there for you.  I figured you might want it right away."  She was right - I did and it was enough to buy quite a few groceries for us.

I learned something that day.  You never know what God is doing when He isn't answering your "small, simple" request the way you would like Him to.  I am so thankful that He is a God who provides,  even when you are grumpy...

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Broken and Beautiful




It has been a year since my father in laws death.  He almost died on his birthday and God graciously chose to give us two more months with him.    A piece of me died the day he died.  Dad had such a propensity for casting vision, and for being an encourager that suddenly I didn't know who I was without him anymore.. I didn't know who we were.  The death of my dearly loved father in law, along with many other difficult things this past year, put me in the middle of a very treacherous place.  I spent a dark year trying to find myself.  Trying to find who I was without  the familiar  surroundings of the previous years; trying to understand what the "new normal" was in my life.   I met some bitter tears while I groped my way around some very dark days.

 In essence I crashed and I crashed hard.  But the good news is that I crashed hard into Jesus' arms.  I crashed hard and pieces of me were so broken and so undone I just didn't know what to do anymore. You see,  when Jesus sees broken pieces, he doesn't see ugliness.  When he sees pain, he doesn't scorn you or avoid you.  When he sees the broken pieces of a person's life, He gently bends down and begins to pick up the pieces, one by one,  making a beautiful picture; a beautiful masterpiece. 

Little by little Jesus began to remake me.  He began to rebuild me.  And those pieces that were so broken, so hurt, began to be reinvented.  I have grabbed ahold of some truths and some callings that he has on my life.  I have stepped into an authority that I had never dreamed I could hold in my hand before.  I am not the same person that I was this time last summer.  I am different.  I have stepped out into uncomfortable places and I have come back affirmed and strengthened more.  I have gone through things that I thought would make me want to throw in the towel - and while I did want to for a season - now,  I realize that I have lived through some really hard and bitter things in this last year and He has held me through it all.

 As I look around - I AM STILL STANDING!!  But I am not just barely standing.  I am not just barely holding on, waiting for someone to cut the rope that I am hanging onto.  I am standing with both feet firmly planted, holding onto life with both hands and facing the future that God has for me.  I am holding my life with passion and with joy.  I feel a strength of fortitude that I haven't felt before.  I  cautiously walked through shaky ground and dangerous territory and slowly I felt the strength of God flow into my legs allowing me to run and to leap.

  He is so good and my heart is so full right now.  Because once again,  He has taken the broken pieces of my life and I see beauty again.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Love



I debated on whether to go or not.   I was tired because I had had a busy day the day before.   But mostly because Sean wasn’t feeling well.  He was getting over a cold that hit him all of sudden and I just wasn’t sure he would be in top form to be participating in a parade for Welcome Wagon.  I talked to him and observed him and decided that we could do it.  Once we got there,  we realized that it was going to be much longer than we had anticipated,  there was no access to a bathroom and guess what?!  Of course,  Sean needed to go.  I looked at him.  He looked tired.  I though about walking back to our car to go home but decided against it.   He could sit in the wagon I was pulling if he wasn’t feeling well for a while.  That seemed to be a good idea to him as well.

We were one of the first to go.   As we walked up a little incline and then down and then up again,  I booted Sean out of the wagon because I was getting tired already and we were going to be walking a fair bit.  We were told that it was very slow but as we began walking, we realized that it really wasn’t slow at all.   When I told him he needed to walk,  I also told him that I had a basket of candy and book marks and he was to feel free to go out into the crowd and pass them out at random -  as much as he wanted.  I wasn’t sure he would.

But suddenly he grabbed a handful of candy and started weaving through the crowd handing it out.  He ran back to me for more.  He ran back for book marks and started handing them to random people in the crowd and giving them to upraised hands just like a rock star.  He kept running back to me,  exclaiming,  “This is awesome Mom.  This is pleasing me so much.  This is just pleasing me!”  He ended up running way more than all of us who were walking in a straight line trying to move forward with our wagons and not look or feel like we were going to pass out in the heat.    I looked at him as he moved in and out of crowd of people.  He was smiling, his eyes were shining and I am sure for about an hour at least,  he completely forgot how stuffed up he was and how much he just didn’t feel up to it.  He became alive doing something valuable. 

My mind was brought back to a time years ago,  when my heart was heavy about something personal I was going through.  I felt pressed in my spirit and because of that,  my whole body felt heavy.   I felt like I was walking through molasses as I was walking through my day.   I slowly walked to the photo centre in Costco, -  my mind a trillion miles away.   The lady that helped me asked how I was doing and I politely said,  “Fine.  And how are you?”  glancing up at her as I asked her. 

  I never expected an answer.  Never even wanted one - at least not a truthful one - especially since I hadn’t given her a truthful one myself.  I don’t know why,  but she thought I cared.  And she started to cry.  Right there in Costco,  she started to cry.   We moved aside to a corner and I looked her in the eyes,  now really caring.  I asked her what was wrong and she commenced to tell me that it was the anniversary of her daughter’s death -  a life cut far too short as she was just 20 when she died.  I looked at her and my heart ached as I tried to imagine that kind of grief, watching a daughter waste away from a horrible disease.   I told her I was sorry and that I would pray for her and then wiping away her tears,  she had to go back to work and I went on my way.  Her story,  however, wouldn’t leave me.  I thought about it for the next couple of hours so I went home and made a card and wrote in it that I would be thinking about her and praying for her and gave her my phone number.  I walked back into  Costco, to give it to her.   When I got to where she was working, she had already gone home.  I gave it to someone else to give to her and prayed silently that it would reach her at a time when she needed to read it (which I found out later that it did exactly that.) and then I just went home.  But do you know what happened?  I went home a lighter person.  I went home with a spring in my step.  I went home with love in my heart because I had helped someone.  I had reached outside of my pain and helped someone who was going through something far more painful than I.   It released me.  It brought some healing.  It refreshed me and filled me up.   Suddenly I saw some perspective.  

That’s what I saw in Sean that day.  He reached outside of how he was feeling in order to bring happiness and lightness to someone else.  And in helping someone else,  he helped himself more.

And suddenly I realized something.  The Bible talks about the fact that His burden is easy and his yoke is light. 

"Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. 30"For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."  Matthew 11:30 

That verse has always been a mystery to me.  Nothing about a burden or a yoke sounds easy or light.  And today I think I realize more of what it means.  I think that his burden is love.  That’s what his burden is.  If we are yoked or tethered to Him - He IS love!!  So we will become that to those around us.  His commission and life’s purpose for us has always been love.   Just love those around you.  No judgements.  No preconceived rules.  No harsh assumptions.  Simply love your neighbor as yourself - one of His highest commandments. 

  All the other things that we add to our lives that become a burden and a yoke to us are all added things and programs and busyness, when all he really wants us to do it reach out and love.  All he really wants us to do is take on His mission - take on His call and love from wherever we are to wherever they are.  Love.  When we take on that burden and that yoke, something happens to us from the inside out and we find ourselves becoming free.  We find ourselves healing.  Suddenly we are not empty anymore.   Suddenly, and I don’t know how it happens,  that the  more we give out,  the more we gain.  When we are truly motivated by what God wants us to be motivated by, it releases us and frees us and fills us, taking us to heights we had never dreamed of. 

So, today when I find myself exhausted and spread too thin, I am going to remember to take on his burden.  Because I know what love does.
Sean giving out the candy and bookmarks.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Through Eyes of Faith: God, Help Us To Truly See

Through Eyes of Faith: God, Help Us To Truly See: I don’t know why I was cut to the core so deeply when I found out about Robin Williams death.  Maybe it was because I have been looking...

God, Help Us To Truly See



I don’t know why I was cut to the core so deeply when I found out about Robin Williams death.
Maybe it was because I have been looking into anxiety and depression lately.  Maybe it’s because I have myself dipped my toe in waters of anxiety and depression.  Or maybe it’s because here was a man so loved, so entertaining, so successful in the worlds eyes,  but even so,  at the end of the day he felt the pain of death was sweeter than the pain of life.  He was completely without hope.  I was so sharply reminded that there are people all around us that are dying and bleeding and trying to live in a their shattered worlds.

What can we do?  Can we change the world?  Can we turn the tide of the whole world to see hope and peace in the midst of struggles - in the midst of pain?  Maybe not.  But we can change our neighbors.  We can change the people we work with, the people we pass by everyday.  The people we go to Church with.  We can change OUR world.  In fact, we need to be changing our world.

It’s time we give wings to our love.  It’s time we give feet to our message of grace and hands to our song of salvation.

The world and the Church need real.  We need authenticity.  The world needs us as broken and hurting people ourselves to reach out to the more broken and hurting.

We don’t really need any more programs.  We don’t really need anymore fancy lights on our beautiful stages.  What we need is to realize that there are people all around us dying - both on the outside and the inside.   And they aren’t just “out there.”  They are people literally around us - sitting in the pews next to us, staring into our eyes Sunday after Sunday.

 Let’s knock the walls of the church down and spill out into the world, out in the community, out into their hearts.  Because we live in a broken and pained world today that needs hope, that needs peace, that needs a glass of water.   We need to reach out and feed a starving child.; clothe a homeless man.

It’s all about them.  That’s all Jesus asks of us - that we see them.  We don’t make it about ourselves, and our programs and our hurt feelings and our insecurities and our betrayals,  and our questions with no answers.  But that we make it out about them - the world and those around us.  Jesus was always reaching out - his whole life about them - always them. 

We need to look at the people we see everyday.  Really look at them.. Look beyond their blue and brown eyes and into their souls.  We need to look beyond the beautiful body and see the broken pieces within.  We need to hear behind the smooth words and listen to their screams and cries for help.

Somehow in this world of beauty, in this world of technology and fake-ness,  our senses have been dulled.  Jesus looked beyond the paralytic, he looked beyond the man that couldn't move and said that his sins were forgiven him.  Why?  Because he saw a man crying out for salvation and for freedom of the soul even more than he was crying out for movement.  He looked beyond the physical needs of the woman at the well and saw that she was woman through and through who just wanted to be loved, who just wanted to be valued like everyone else.  He saw.  He truly saw.

God, help us.  God help us to truly see.


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Five Lessons My Parents Taught Me

I have talked a lot about my father in law since I started this blog a year ago.  He made a huge impact on my life and I needed to write in order to navigate the waters of grief as he was dying.

Today,  I want to talk about two others that who have made the most impact on my life - my mom and dad.  I have been one of those fortunate and very blessed people who had amazing parents and then married into great in laws.

As I contemplated what I wanted to write today I decided to talk about five marks they indelibly left on my life as they raised me.  There are so many more that I am sure I will talk about later but for today,  I will talk about these.

 1.  Never leave your passion.   My parents sacrificed a lot for their passions.  They could have had more money.  They could have led a more comfortable, a safer life.  But they never settled for less than the real genuine call that they had on their life.  They never compromised.  They have always been as solid as rocks sitting on the mountainside. 

2.  Never stop giving.   My mom and dad are the biggest givers that you will ever meet.  No matter how much money that we had or didn't have as I was growing up,  my dad NEVER missed giving to the church his tithe.  At one time in my life,  that bugged me.  But now, as I look back on it,  he taught me a principle that is carved in my soul - you can't outgive God.  Always give to God because he will take care of you, he will see that you are provided for and he will see you through.  It isn't only God that Mom and Dad gave to.   They were always quick to give of their time, their food and their money to family and those they loved.
 
3.  Never stop praying, believing, hoping.   I owe my passion to my parents.  No matter what our lives were going through, no matter where our journey led, they have never given up on the values and beliefs that they hold so dear.  If they believed it, they were propelled by an incredible passion to go forward against all odds. 

4.  Never give up on each other.   My mom and dad have had their share of disagreements and arguments.  Sixty years together shows a tenacity, a fierce loyalty even in the face of shaky ground all around.  Even as all their peers were separating, they found ways to work it out.  Sixty years together is something to truly celebrate!

5.  Never, never give up.    I think my dad’s favourite phrase in Japan was “gambate” (I am sure that I am spelling that wrong).  What it means is “keep on keeping on.”  There were literally seasons in their lives when they planted one foot in front of the other day after day, week after week, because that was the only option.  Keep going, keep believing, keep making the right choices, keep walking - one foot and then the next.  I applaud solidity like that.  It has taught me to do the same in my life when everything in me wanted to give up and walk away.


I am forever grateful to my parents for their love, for believing in me, for investing in me and for walking with me.  I know that this is a day late but  Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad!!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

A hero remembered



Today would have been my father in law's 76th birthday.  His fierce loyalty and compassion - first to
his family and then to his God was undeniably his greatest strength and an amazing inspiration to thousands around the world.  He was man small in stature but a giant in spirit.  

I miss him so much and love him so very much.  Everyday. 

Today I am going to do something that I have never done before on my blog.  I have a guest blogger.  My 8yr old son who understands deeply the healing and transformation that comes from writing from the heart, has asked if he can write a post on my blog  about a man that had a deep impact on his life - his Grandad.  

So my friends,  meet my son,  Sean Hazell. 

sean here.
This is about my granddad, aka poppa keith
Memories:  me and him were in safeway and got donots . sorry if my spelling is wrong . any way it was sad when he died. i wish that he could stay longer even tho he was 75.  but it was for a good propose so i would be a man of god. Thats what his death made me want to do.  his death made me so sad I rely wanted to be a man of God.

i loved him.  today I’m bringing flowers to his grave.

  we don't know if it was the infection or the cancer that made him die.

anether memory:  he always went to church and i think i listened to him always. he always prayed relly loud and I think his unknown language passed to me.

when he died and i held his hand i prayed for him to stay alive the next day.

 this is anether memory:  when i was in the hospital he said god bless you, my son.  When he said that, he made me have more of God’s presence in me.   It changed me a lot.

he was a very great man and i think if he didn't have any those things
[illnesses] he would still be alive today.

peace out.

I miss him.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Our Mini Vacations



Last summer was a rough summer.  My father in law was dying and that was taking most of our days and most of our attention.  We didn’t go away.   We stayed close to home.  We didn’t have a vacation.   We didn’t go to the zoo or go camping or go to Waterton or any of those things that we normally do in the summer.  We didn’t even go swimming or to the water park.  Most of our days were spent at the hospital and a lot of Sean's (my eight year old son)  days were spent with friends playing at their houses.  The summer went by swiftly.  In fact,  when summer was over,  I sort of blinked my eyes and said,  “I didn’t even have time to find my sunglasses.”
   
I felt like I didn't see Sean that much.  It felt like the time I had with him was fleeting and rushed and lined with deep feelings of sorrow and grief.  It didn’t feel so right.  But we started something that was perfect.  We had “mini vacations.”  I am pretty sure that he penned the phrase.   Sean and I were faithful to take our mini vacations.  And this is what they were.  I had blank canvasses and everyday,  when we had five or ten minutes or sometimes three,  we would splash color on them. We would use bubble wrap and kleenex and mesh, and bottle caps.  We used sponges, cups and pieces of wood to put different textures on the canvas.  And yes,  we used paint brushes.    It was just the escape we needed - it was the vacation we could afford and it was so so so good. 

We weren’t painting anything in particular and didn’t have a plan when we started  - they were truly abstract - works of the heart.   We both looked so forward to running downstairs where my painting is and painting some pretty colors.    This is how they turned out.   I think that they are lovely. 
  
This summer,  as soon as the last day of school came,  he asked me,  “When are we going to start our canvasses?”  You see, to him,  this wasn’t less of  a vacation than camping was.  It was every bit as good as a real vacation  because he was spending time with me.  He had my undivided attention.   He wasn’t sacrificing.  I asked him if he wanted to do another one this summer and he exclaimed,  “I think we should do one every year - make it our tradition!!”  




Saturday, July 12, 2014

I am Enough




When my husband and I were dating in Bible College,  we began to  talk about the future a lot.  We talked about our dreams,  our goals, our thoughts, our destiny - as most do when they start getting serious with each other.  We had similar views on what we thought our destiny and our calling in life would be. 

I remember getting together with him in the school cafeteria one day over a cup of coffee.  He always tried to get me to drink coffee without cream and sugar but he never succeeded.   I remember saying that I knew that I would travel one day,  I knew that I would go to the nations and that I would speak and that I would go on mission trips and that I would always be in ministry in some sort of way.  But one thing I would NEVER do is Pastor a church.   He agreed emphatically.  That was our way of making a “decision” about our future without actually talking about it in the sense that it was “our” future.  I am pretty sure that I reminded him of that when we got engaged,  although he doesn’t remember that conversation.  (Selective memory I am sure.)

Many years later,  I was sitting with Jeremy in the living room,  and he told me of his longing to start a church.  He wanted me to pray about it too.  I looked at him.  This wasn't our "plan."  This wasn't what we had discussed.  We both knew that starting a church was hard and painful and sometimes devastating.  I wasn't sure I was up for the task.   But most of all  I  just remember feeling deep deep insecurity.

It’s easy to travel and speak into people’s lives when they don’t see you day to day.  It’s easy and it’s fun.  It’s easy to encourage other pastors and leadership to keep going, don’t give up.  It’s easy to sow into other places and reap instant rewards without having to pick the weeds in between the processes.  I had had experience with planting churches and I have to tell you that they weren’t my fondest memories. 

I am not your typical pastor.  I am not musical, although I love to sing and worship with all my heart.  I don’t play the piano or any instrument, so I don’t lead songs which is a prerequisite of any pastor,  I am sure.  I am not a super dynamic person - when I speak,  I just really share from my heart.  Most of the time,  I cry a little,  even if I try not to.   I am not thin.  Pastor’s wives should always be thin.  And wear very high heels and lots of make up.  And be very polished. And dynamic and authoritative.

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t hate myself.  In fact,  I am quite a confident person naturally.  I feel quite secure in who I am.   I just don’t think that I “fit” into that "Pastor's wife"  category.  I have had several talks with God about that.   I want to get behind “those” people, roll up my sleeves and be  150% supportive.  I just don’t want to BE those people.  At least,  I didn’t.

Until one day,  I felt the Lord ask me something.  He asked me if I loved people.  And I have to tell you - my greatest strength is loving people.  In fact, getting involved in peoples lives,  running along beside them,  holding their hand while they are going through a difficult time,  I have done that since I was 8.  No kidding.  That is when I feel most alive.  That is when I feel most fulfillment - when I am helping others in some form or another.  I am not afraid to get my hands dirty right up to my elbows; to swim the stormy waters with them.

 I felt the Lord direct me to the story in the Bible where he used the boys lunch to feed 5000+ people.  Most of us know the story well.

Jesus had been talking to a group of people all day.  When it was time to eat,  he turned to the disciples and told them to find the large group of people something to eat.  Talk about hosting!!  That is one big party to feed!  There were more than 5000 people there and the disciples had really no idea what they were going to do but they decided to humor Jesus anyways and ask around.  All they found was a little boy who had five loaves and two fishes.  That's it.  I wonder if they kind of jokingly brought it to Jesus?  Or maybe they were kind of scared to bring it to him knowing that there was only one person who was willing to give up his lunch.  At any rate,  however they felt,  they were not prepared in their hearts for what was to happen next.   Somehow, someway, Jesus blessed the food and fed everyone!!   Well,  when you think about it.  Jesus can do anything so of course that could happen.  He could have commanded the stones nearby to turn into food.  But actually he wanted to use a little boy's lunch. 

 I realized something when I read that. I didn’t need to be the "typical" pastor.  I didn’t need to be any certain way actually.  All I needed was to be willing to give what I had.  Because no matter what I did,  what I had,  who I was - it wasn’t enough without God.  But with God,  I was enough.  It wouldn’t have mattered if the disciples had found twenty lunches,  it still wouldn’t have been enough to feed the multitude standing there.  A hundred lunches wouldn’t have either or even a thousand.

But because I serve an amazing God,  because he is my friend,  living, working, breathing through me,  I am enough.

You see, it's not MY church.  It's God's.  I am not building it.  I am not blessing it.  I am not in charge of it.  God is.  I am doing what he wants me to do.  No more.  No less.  And my willingness with his power,  will build Mosaic Christian Fellowship.  

I am enough for the task that lay ahead.  I am enough to do what he wants me to do; to take steps, to walk, to leap into the calling that he has for my life.  That’s what God told me that day.

I am enough.  And so are you.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Is Depression a Sign of Weakness?



Is depression a sign of weakness?  Is anxiety a symptom of being inferior?

I want to talk about something I haven't talked about a lot on my blog. 

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blogpost called "He Sees Me."  The response I got from this simple post was amazing.  But what surprised me was that the responses I got were from people who experience anxiety, people who have been there in that place where I was when I was a child and experiencing debilitating panic attacks.  When I wrote the post,  I didn't feel that I was writing about anxiety or depression, actually.   What I  felt I was writing about was how God sees us in our dark time,  He sees us in our times of deepest need.  He sees and he cares.  But what resonated with my readers was that they too have gone through the pain of anxiety.  That was what they could relate to.

This is what you don't know.  That night,  I went to that place again.  I had the biggest panic attack that I have ever had since I was a little girl.  At first I thought it was because I allowed myself to go back to that place as a little girl when I wrote my post.  I allowed myself to live what it felt like to experience fear.  I wrestled all night with debilitating fear.   How it broke,  is for another post as it would make this one too long.  When it finally broke and I fell into a fitful sleep,  I dreamed that a man came to me and prophesied to me and he said this.  "The reason that you were attacked so viciously tonight with fear is that Satan does not want you to go there.  You touched a cord in peoples lives and he absolutely does not want you to explore that place in your life or in others.  He doesn't want you to go there.  So... go there."

When I lost Theodore 24 years ago,  I went through another time of anxiety that knocked me off my feet.  In fact working with many families that have gone through losing a child,   this is very common.   But we don't like to talk about it.   It wasn’t until years later when I was going through another traumatic event and I started to take medication for it to get over the hump, that I realized that I should have had medication when I lost Theodore.  But I didn’t.  And why didn’t I?  Because I bought into a lie.  I bought into a lie that if I admitted my fear, if I admitted my terror at night,  I would be admitting that i was an inferior person.  I would be admitting that i was weak.  I would be admitting that I just couldn't do it like others can - that I needed a crutch.   Somehow I would be saying that I was lesser of a  person because of what I was going through.  I bought into that lie big time. 

There is so much shame surrounding this issue.  And I believe that the longer we stay in this shame,  the higher our walls are and the stronger our prison is.  Its only in talking about  this shame that we will be able to be set free.

I am convinced that it is not fear itself that is the biggest problem.  It is the shame of fear.  It is the shame surrounding the subject.   Fear hits doctors and businessman and lawyers and painters and housewives and pastors.   It does not discriminate.  It hits us all - poor, rich,  old and young.  None of us are exempt from its grip. 

Its like the elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about.  It's there, it's staring us in the face, but maybe, just maybe if we don't talk about it, it will leave. 

I want to be a part of a growing lot of people that expose this lie for what it is.  But I am convinced that I need you, my readers to help me expose it.  I need your stories.  I need your experiences.  I need what you did to get out of your prison or what you ARE doing.  I need stories and I need solutions.  I realize that this is a sensitive subject.  I won't expose who you are and what you have told me.  I will keep everything completely confidential.  I just believe that I have touched a cord that needs to be addressed more.  Please private message me or comment or whatever.  I would love to hear from YOU. 

I am not an expert on this topic.  I am not an authority.  But I have been there.  I have walked the deep waters of anxiety and depression so that gives me a voice, a voice that needs to be heard. 

Even now as I write this, I am terrified.  However,   I have people around me that are praying for me about this particular blogpost, that I won't experience any backlash.  The thing with terror is that it’s terrifying.  Fear is frightening.  You never know when it is lurking around the corner.  You never know what is going to trigger it.  You never know when the bony fingers of fear are going to curl around your throat - making it hard to  breathe; making it hard to live.   So we live in fear of fear.  We live in shame of fear.  And then we live in a prison. 

 I don't know where this will take me.  I don't know if I am supposed to write a book or if I am supposed to write some blog posts or take some speaking engagements on the subject or what.  But I know that I am supposed to be writing this right now.

 I know that I am "going there," my friends.  Will you go with me?

Monday, June 9, 2014

Kisses in the Wind



He stood there blowing more kisses as I drove away.  I was late.  I needed to make my appointment.  It was a domino effect.  I was late getting up and then I was late getting Dylan to the bus stop and then I was late getting Sean to school and I knew that that would make me late for my next two appointments.  When I dropped him off he got out slowly and sauntered towards the school door.  He wasn't depressed or trying to be slow,  he was just enjoying life as he walked.  When he got there he turned and waved at me.  I waved back.  He waved again and held the door open for two kids scurrying to class.  He stood there in the door way and blew a kiss at me.  I blew one back and then put my car in reverse,  he blew another kiss so excited by this game,  I blew one back and started  to back out.  Once more, he blew a kiss and I turned.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw his face fall that I didn't return the kiss.  He was late and I was late.  I started to drive away with a twinge of guilt.  I looked back to where he had been standing and he was gone.  A stronger twinge of guilt.  And then panic swept in, a big massive wave of panic.  What if that was the last I ever saw of him? What if something happened today at school and the last time I ever saw him was backing out and denying him that one last kiss? Would  I ever be able to live with myself?  I knew that I could not.  I started to cry.  Clutching the steering wheel, crying, I circled the school with an internal struggle inside of me.  Should I park the car and cancel all my appointments today and make sure everything is okay in the school?   One should never give in to panic of every day life.  But one should always give in to the leading  of the Holy Spirit.  But which was this?  Life always seems to be a dance of " did He say… or am I just thinking..." I decided that it was the latter because of how it caught my emotions.  If it's God it usually catches my spirit, but not my emotions so deeply. 

I started to proceed to my appointments for the day but it got me to thinking.  Sean knew that he had school to go to and he loves school and he loves his teacher.  But he knew what he wanted in the moment and that was to blow kisses to me. He chose to be present instead of hurried.  He was in his own little “not rushed and peaceful” world.  In his mind, he has school all day every day for 12 years.  Today, school could wait just a little bit while he blew kisses in the wind at me. I applaud that. 

When I was was young teenager, I knew a lady in our church.  I really looked up to her.  I really aspired to be like her.  She was always busy, always in a hurry, always running late.  When she came to the door to pick something up, she would  be insanely  rushed -  massive, thick ,curly hair blowing in hand wind as she whisked out to the car finishing up her story as she ran to her next appointment.  She was always on the go and had several projects going at once.  She seemed to have several balls up in the air and she was  desperately harried and busy and loving life.  I pictured my life like that years from that point.  I pictured a baby in tow with little kids at my feet, talking on the phone while I was baking cookies.  I pictured talking on the phone to person after person giving them advice and comfort and prayers while I was making supper and vacuuming the floor getting ready for company that night.  I romanticized that busy life.  It's exactly what I aspired to do and when I got married that is exactly what I did.  Being in the ministry all of our married life,  juggling ministry, home life, and work life and volunteer life and friendships, that's exactly what my life looked life for long seasons.

 But I am writing a new story.  And in that new story,  I am not so rushed.  And I won't make back to back counseling appointments in the evening like I did for so many years.  And I won't make that calendar so full that I forget to be in the moment.  I am beginning to learn not to jump every time I get a text message or notification on my iPhone for Instagram or Twitter or Facebook,  those things can wait.  They can wait.  While I enjoy the moment.

Now before you think that I am advocating becoming a hippy and being late to all your appointments let me clarify.  I understand that there are jobs and there is reality and there is the clock and all those things are important.  But what I am advocating is to rethink our lives a bit.  Because sometimes what we thought was so important aren't really the important things at all.  And the things that we thought weren't that important are really the most important things in our lives. 

It seems like in today's society, or at least in my mind, it seems that the more demands you have, the more people calling, texting, writing you,  the more things you have to do or go to or speak at or be in charge of,  the more you are IN  demand - the more loved you are; the more valuable you are; the more important you are.  My new story says that I am important even if my phone never rings,  I am important even if I never come to anyone's rescue today, even if I didn't save anyone's life.  Even if I didn't run myself ragged by running here and there trying to get way too much accomplished in a day,  I am  valuable, I am loved, and I am so important. 

Yes I am writing a new story.  And in my new story, I have time to blow kisses in the wind to my son. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

He Sees Me

This post is very personal to me. I don’t think that I have ever shared this story with anyone.  Which is odd - specifically because it was one of the most pivotal points in my life.  It was a day I will never forget. 

When I was younger,  I  received a very high electrical shock.  I think I was 4 or 5.  We were in Japan and something was wrong with the electrical system in our washing machine.  I don’t remember a lot about it except that there was terror and there was pain and I couldn’t let go of the faucet that I was holding onto at the time.  And I was screaming.

We were not a family that went to the doctor so it’s not a surprise that we didn’t go to the doctor to make sure that everything was okay with me.  Mom just cuddled me and prayed for me.   But something happened to me from that time.   I was a child with severe nervous problems.  As an adult,  I can only describe them as panic attacks.    There were episodes where my stomach felt sick and I was afraid I was going to throw up but it consumed me.  I was  terrified of throwing up.  And it wasn’t just every once in a while.  There was a season in my life that it happened everyday.  And if I didn’t call my dad to pick me up from school,  I wanted to because I always thought I was sick.  It wasn’t always that.  Sometimes I would think that I was going to pass out or faint or die in front of everyone.  I would be humiliated and ruin everyone’s day doing something so far out and so horrible that it would be etched in their mind forever. And I would have no control over it.   Its a hard thing to describe but as a child those were very real fears that I combated daily - sometimes  hourly.  

 There were chunks of my childhood that literally passed me by as I was dealing with whatever was going on in my head, or my body or my emotions.  I learned to deal with the debilitating fear.  I learned -  but that fear was never far from me.  It was easily called upon and I never really knew when it was going to come out of nowhere and consume me or wreck my day.    

There was one day in Japan… I was really excited.  A minister from the States was going to come and speak to our little church in Japan.  I was so excited.  But there was a problem when i got excited.  Excitement almost always triggered that debilitating fear.  It was always a fear that I would ruin it somehow.  I would throw up or faint, or lose control. However irrational, the fear wasn’t something that I could just talk down.  It was very real and  very terrifying and it overtook me.

I was eleven.  I went to the bathroom,   and I fell in a heap on the floor,  crying.  I remember this as vividly as I remember yesterday.  Feeling the cool tile on my legs.  Lifting my hands up to the sky in desperation, I cried,  “Lord,  when are you going to hear the cry of my lonely soul and see the desires of my heart?”   The cry of my soul was to be free.  The desire of my heart was to be free.  I just wanted to be free.  With all that I had within me,  as a child of eleven,  I just wanted to be free. 

During an episode,  my right hand would shake violently.  This day was no different.  I couldn’t control it.  I sat there sobbing for a bit.  I waited until it subsided, until my hand stopped shaking, until I could face the world again.  No one would know the moment that I had in the bathroom.  I got up and splashed water on my face and walked cautiously out of the bathroom.  I tried to busy myself  so that I wouldn’t get another episode like this.

That night,  we went to the meeting and I was sitting in the front row, as I always did.   The minister walked up to me, looked me in the eye and pointed his bony finger right at me.  “The Lord wants to say something to you.”  I looked up at him,  for a moment terrified that I would have another episode but a peace settled on me as I met his stare.  “ The Lord says,  ‘Daughter,  I hear the cry of your lonely soul and I see the desires of your heart…”   Word for word what I had cried out to the Lord in sheer desperation just hours before.   It was in that moment I knew that I would serve the Lord forever.

  My nervous episodes didn’t disappear immediately, as you might suppose.  I was not delivered from them that night instantaneously.  But there was something about the fact that God knew me.  He knew me so intimately that he quoted word for word what I had said - I knew that I could make it.  I knew that it was going to be okay.  God knew me. 

There was a woman in the Bible that said the same thing.  Her name was Hagar

She was carrying Abraham's child and although it was at Sarai’s suggestion,  she began to be a bully to Hagar.  She wasn’t treating her well.    Hagar couldn’t take it anymore and she ran away.

 I can imagine what she felt like -  afraid, devastated and totally alone.   But while Hagar was on the road an angel of the Lord met her.  He gave her a message from the Lord.  He told her she was going to have a boy.  He told her the future and he told her to go back to Sarai. 

What the Lord told her was hard.  They weren’t easy things to hear and he had asked her to do something incredibly difficult.    But suddenly her world was different because God knew her.  She built an altar and said,  “The Lord sees me.”  You see,  God didn’t change the circumstances in Hagar’s life.  But the revelation that God saw her, changed her life; it changed her perspective.    She was justified in running away.  She was going through some  awful things.  She wasn’t just being weak.  But she could obey God in returning home, she could live in those circumstances again and bear it,  because God saw her.  Really saw her. 

Today, as you read this,  God sees you.  He sees you if you are lonely.  He sees you if you are terrified.  He sees you if you are broken.  Even if no one else sees  you.  Even if you feel like you are carrying your burden completely by yourself - you are not.  Because God sees you.   

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Spring

I knew this would happen.  I knew it would.  I have been through enough seasons to know that eventually it will come. 

After such a long winter, after so much loss, so much pain, so many unanswered questions, uncertainty, hail and storms and bitter bitter, icy cold,  it is spring outside.  The cold did not overtake me.  It did not kill me.  Even though it felt like it would surely swallow me up,  it didn't.  And today it's spring.

And I feel the newness of spring.  I feel it in my bones.  I feel the change and the reshaping and the redefining and I am not terrified anymore.   Maybe tomorrow I will be again, but I am not today and I will take it.  I will take it one day at a time.  I won't waste time worrying about what tomorrow will bring,  because today it's spring.

Spring speaks of newness.  It speaks of hope and beautiful warm days.  Spring embodies new life and leaving the old behind.  This morning I was reminded of Saul on his way to Jerusalem to capture Christians.  He was full of passion.  He was propelled by the certainty of the vision that he had within his soul.  And then on that day, on a lonely road to Damascus, riding on a black Stallion, clutching a sword at his side, sure of everything in his life,  God literally knocked him to the ground.  He completely changed the course of his life.  He redefined who Saul was.  In a moment he was changed from being a man who despised christians to being one of them.  In a second, he was changed from being passionate to kill the Christians to being fiercely passionate about bringing everyone into the Christian world.  On that day, when Saul's life was so certian, when Saul knew what he was doing, knew what he had to do and knew what his life's purpose was, he became a man who was rattled to the core.  Everything that he lived for, everything he fought for, was reduced to nothing and he became, for a season, a man vulnerable, weak and completely blind while God himself took His big Hands and reinvented him.

What a beautiful picture of God's redemptive love.  What a beautiful picture of God coming to meet, to change, to revolutionize.  It's never to late to change.  It's never too late to be reinvented.  When God says it's time, then it is.  When God puts a finger on you - it's never too late.

And TODAY, as I look outside,  my soul matches the weather.  Today it's spring inside too.  It's been a long bitter winter but as my friend so aptly puts it, spring will be glorious indeed. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Words

The other day a friend of mine sent me this picture.  Immediately I smiled.  I remember when I slipped it in her Bible.  She had left her Bible at my place so before I gave it to her,  I slipped a few notes in her bible like this.  And suddenly I remembered all those words I have written to people.   There are literally people all over the world that bare my words on their heart.   You see,  I decided a long time ago that I wanted my words to carry life.  I want my words to carry healing.  I want adults to remember a woman when they were children - I want them to remember a woman with a flowing, crazy sparkling dress and flower in her hair that said,  "You can" when they lived in a world of "you can'ts."

Do you remember those people in your lifetime?  Do you remember those people who believed in you;  who encouraged you to not give up and to dreams big dreams?  I have those people in my life.  I remember one such lady in my 8th grade.  She was my English teacher.  I can't even remember her name.  I loved that woman.  I was going through a difficult time in my life at that time.  She picked up on it.  I don't remember why.  I don't remember if my grades were slipping or if I shared something in my journal writing or what.  But she had me stay after class so that she could talk to me.  And really she just listened.  She just listened to me tell her everything in my life that was upside down right at that moment.  She listened and she encouraged me.  She encouraged me to write.  She encouraged me to dream.  She told me that it would be okay.  I won't ever forget that.  I have never told her how or what that meant to me.  She may never know.  But she touched a chord in my heart.  She made a difference in my life.  I want to be her - I want to be my English teacher to other people around me.

I've thought of people in the states, in Japan, in Canada, in the Philipines, in Thailand - that I have spoken words of encouragement to; words of hope.   How many of them still have those pieces of paper, those text messages, those cards, those emails?  How many still remember?

We have to remember that our words hold life or death in them.  We have to remember the power of those words.  Because what my friend didn't know is that the exact time when she sent that picture to me,  I was asking God if I had made a big enough impact; if I had been enough, if there were enough people changed and healed and loved through my actions and through my words.  She doesn't know (until now) how much that one text message impacted me.

This is gold.  This is what the Christian life is all about.  This is what community is all about.  Life giving words.  I believe that this is what Jesus meant when he said,  "Your faith has made you whole."  He was encouraging - he was saying "good for you."  He was patting them on the back for a job well done.

I want to leave in the wake of my life,  people impacted by my words - whether or not I ever knew it.  At the end of the day,  I want a line-up of people clutching little pieces of paper; holding text messages, remembering words spoken like gold; like treasures.

In this crazy mixed up world that we live in, everyone needs to be loved; everyone needs to dream; everyone needs to believe that they are worth it.  I want to be that voice; I want to be that whisper into their soul:

You can do it.
You are worth it.
You are loved.

Who do you need to encourage this week?  Who do you need to speak words of life to?  Close your eyes.  Ask God - he will tell you.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

We grew up together and together we learned.

We were just kids when we got married; hardly dry behind the ears.   We were young enough to know nothing, but believe that we knew everything.

I married Jeremy,  obviously because I love him deeply, but also because I knew that life wouldn't be boring with him.   I never wanted to be one of THOSE women.  You know the kind -  the kind that most girls dream of becoming.  I never wanted to be the woman who got married and had kids and lived in a sweet little house with a white picket fence and did laundry and made meals and lived happily ever after.   That sounded boring to me.  I wanted adventure;  I wanted the unexpected; I wanted big dreams.  I must admit, on a side note,  that since I married Jeremy,  I have indeed prayed for" boring" just a few times for a little while.

I remember when I first started dating him - he took my breath away.  I could hardly stand when I was around him.  You can ask everyone who went to Bible College with me - my heart would melt when he played the piano or sang.  I would end up laughing giddily while I clutched my heart.  I was a mess.  I would pay people to drive me across town where he worked at Farrells Ice Cream Parlour -   even though there was one much closer to where the Bible College was.   And he never got to sit with us.  He was too busy.  He only got to wave.  That's all.  I paid people so that I could see him wave.   He really got me.  I absolutely knew that he was the one.  Who cares that neither of us knew how to do anything but preach?  Who cares that we didn't have a dime to our name and he didn't have a job in his home town?  We were in love. 

When we first started going out we were both cautioned - both of us separately;  we were told that this wouldn't last; that this wasn't wise.   I had just (and when i say "just" I mean two weeks prior) gotten out of a long term relationship and really they were right - for the typical couple, it wasn't wise or the right timing.  But for us,  it worked.  It's not something we would ever advise anyone to do but for us it was perfect.  We were perfect.

When the year at Bible College was over,  he came back to Lethbridge and I went back to California where my family was living at the time.  Now keep in mind that this was before the internet and before iphones and before skyping and facetiming and twittering and instagram and all of the other wonderful things that keep us connected now.  We did snail mail and we did 20 minutes on the phone weekly.  He called one week and i called the next.  And yet we survived.   We survived during our dating, during our courtship and during our engagement.

I remember Jeremy telling me about our apartment that we were moving into.  Tiny, run down in an edgy part of town.  But it was perfect for us.  One of the times he called me he told me about the brown couch that was given to us.  That tacky, brown fold out plastic couch was what we had for the first four years of our marriage until God miraculously provided for us the couch of my dreams.

In essence,  Jer and I grew up together.  Together we learned the value of life.   Together we learned the value of commitment and together we learned the value of budgeting.   Together we learned to trust God when we didn't have money for our rent or for our groceries and for our toilet paper.  And boy did we see God provide - time and time again.  We were raised in families that lived by faith; now we were growing up together - learning first hand what our parents had taught us from tiny children.  

We may have had nothing when we got married and yet we had each other - so we had everything. Our lives were full and rich.  I would never advise a couple to get married so young - so fresh out of high school.  And yet,  more importantly,  I would never advise NOT to either.      It was the right time for us.  I don't regret a minute of being married.

 Marriage is a challenge anytime you do it - whether you are 18, 20 or 45.  Each age brings its own special challenges.   Marriage means you can't store up your arguments or the hurtful things you said to each other or the disappointments you have in each other inside your soul and stack them up to make a fortress for protection.  Marriage means you have to learn when to let go or when to hold on for dear life.  Marriage means you have to have a soft heart and thick skin at the same time.   It means you have to be willing to stay up into the night and with tears streaming down your weary cheeks,  talk about some really hard things.   It means you have to really invest and fight for what you hold dear because you know that good things are really hard work.  Good marriages don't come easily. 

Jeremy and I have been through moves, and church splits and losses, and pain and job searching and identity searches and rebellious teens, and terrible twos and crazy, scary pregnancies,  beautiful grandkids, lovely vacations and treacherous vacations. We have been through it all together.   Now, we look at each other and we know what the other person is thinking.  We can finish each other's sentences most of the time or start in the middle of a thought we were thinking months ago because we know what we are talking about.  Because it's been 30 years.

There were times in our lives when all we knew was that we had each other and we had God.  And that was enough - for a time, that was enough.

Thirty years of watching those around us moving on,  getting divorces, having affairs - and yet we have been the lucky ones.  We have been the ones who got dealt a very good hand - and that was each other.

Together we learned things about each other.  I learned that I was NEVER to call the waitress back and have her bring his dish back if it was wrong (did I say NEVER?) and he learned to NEVER tell me that my tears were "just my period."  I learned that if he punched me in the middle of the night,  he was truly just asleep and would never remember in the morning - therefore he wouldn't know why I wasn't talking to him.  And he learned that he should never write new music and or look up new things on his computer when I was trying to share with him the deep issues of my heart.

We learned that we may be really angry with each other today,  but tomorrow was coming and if we didn't forget about it entirely,  it just might not matter so much anymore.

We learned that being rich didn't always mean having money in our bank account and being happy didn't always mean having our ducks in a row.   We learned that we could have peace in really tough situations and we could give even when we had nothing.

Jeremy and I are totally opposite in just about everything in life.  I am actually not kidding.  If i look at some type of food or furniture or vacation choice - if I love it,  I can almost guarantee that Jer wouldn't like it at all.   I am a people person - my refreshing time is being in the midst of a loud party and people everywhere - his refreshing time is being alone with his guitar.   I think a meal is not a meal without meat.  Jer is a vegetarian when he can be.   I love to shop - especially at christmas time when all the lights and music and people and bling - so much bling everywhere.   At Christmastime,  Jer is on stimulation overload when at the mall.   He loves vanilla icecream and I just can't think  of why anyone would even like vanila ice cream when there is "chocolate with nuts and caramel and marshmallows and whatever else you can stick in there" icecream.

 One of our biggest differences is this:  I need to get things done RIGHT NOW and he needs to get things done RIGHT.   When we dieted,  I exercised 2 hours every day (no lie) and he did ONE MINUTE of jumping jacks perfectly.  The sad thing is,  he lost way faster and way more than I did.  What's up with that?!  Now this is the way we are in EVERYTHING in life.    We are so different.  And this is what we learned about our differences.    Instead of judging each other for our differences.  Instead of criticizing or mocking (Ok,  we mock in fun sometimes still)  we have learned to not only accept our differences but to celebrate them; to actually appreciate them.  At the end of the day I need his differences and he needs mine.  I need him to stabilize me.  I need him to be my rock.  And he needs me for inspiration.  He needs me to go shopping and buy stuff - otherwise we would still have that same tacky, brown, plastic couch that we had  30 years ago. 

We learned forgiveness - not just of each other but of ourselves as well.  Forgiveness for immaturity, for mistakes,  for wrong choices, for being imperfect; for being human.

Together we learned to give and give and give.  And we learned when it was time to take and take.  WE learned the rhythm of life together and with each other,  however  beautiful, painful, lovely and hard it is.  We learned it together as we grew up together. 

That was then and this is now.  We are still learning.  We are learning about life and God and each other and pain and laughter.   We will always be learning and there is no one I would rather learn with but Jeremy Hazell - Happy Anniversary!!!!

 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

God and Vacations

It was what I needed.  I needed a vacation.  I remember saying that I needed a pause button in life and I really and truly received exactly that.  I would almost say that it was life changing for me.

I met God on that cruise.

I met God through my mother.

I met God through the ocean.

I met God through the beautiful music, through the sunrise, through the sand.

And this is why.  I was so parched and dry and so lost and I was so so ready to feel God.  I was so ready to feel his presence and his life pulsing through me again.  I feel like God poured into  me the oil of his healing  and his life and his presence.  It was as if water and refreshing were poured out onto a really thirsty land.

Did I go into battle as soon as I got home?  You bet I did!  The second I got home actually and it felt like my world was falling apart.  But because of the pause, because I met God, I was strong enough for the battle.  I could carry the heavy sword onto the battleground.

The last day I was there, I remember sitting with my Mom in Central Park reveling in the beauty around us and the cozy spot that we had just discovered and a thought crossed my mind, "I wonder if this is the calm before the storm?"  And I realize now that it was a prophetic thought but that because of the peace and the joy and the laughter that God surrounded me with, I could weather this storm.  I could fight this battle.

So if you aren't lucky enough to go on an amazing cruise, if you aren't lucky enough to go for a week, set aside a day or a morning or an hour to sit and push the pause button.  Sit and breathe.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

Breathe in the goodness of God and breath out the bad thoughts, the lies, the pain.  Breathe in his grace.  Breathe out condemnation and fear.  Pretty soon you will be breathing in and out his goodness and his love and his grace and  his joy.  And it won't hurt to breathe anymore.  It will feel good to take in big gulps of life.

Find out how you can push the pause button today.








Monday, March 31, 2014

Did I really just turn 50?




I don’t know if it’s because I just turned 50 recently.  I don’t know if it’s because my father in law who I was so close to,  passed away far too early and far too quickly.  Or maybe it is because of betrayals that I have felt so deeply or the shrinking church instead of the growing church or my growing body instead of a shrinking one.  But somewhere along the line,  I feel rattled.  I feel shaken.  Like the ground under my feet is not solid and I am trying to catch my balance. 


The other day I sat staring at my computer screen for a long time.  I was supposed to write a resume.  What was I supposed to write? 
Dear Whomever it May Concern,  I don’t know how to do anything.  I am not good with Microsoft Word.  I don’t really know anything about the computer.  I haven't done a cash register in years.   I epically fail at any type of directions.  I don’t learn fast and when I do I am certainly not guaranteed to have learned it forever because I may forget tomorrow.   You will need to provide me with lots and lots of paper and pens because I have to write absolutely everything down.  And I can’t for the life of me even know why you would hire me because there are so many out there who could learn so much faster and better than me.  But you could hire me because I really need a job.  And when everyone else around me was going to college and university to learn SOMETHING,  I was having children and raising them.  And when all the others started watching their children grow up so that they could start or continue their careers,  I had more children.  And in between that,  all I have ever done is ministry.  All I have ever done is tell people about Jesus and tell people about how to tell people about Jesus.  That’s been my life.  It's been my single passion.  But please,  oh please, oh please PICK ME!”  Not a very good resume is it?

Before you start feeling sorry for me and for my self esteem,  I really really do know that anyone who hires me will not regret it. The truth is,  I have traveled the world - or a lot of it at least - speaking to churches and praying for individuals and linking arms with communities.  I have walked through muddy waters with people.  I have counselled those with crumbling marriages, abusive situations, those going through tremendous loss and grief.  I have walked with people as they watched their world falling apart around them.  Any employer would be privileged to have me as their employee.  I am conscientious, committed and caring.  I have amazing integrity and I would take a bullet for those that I care about or am entrusted to.  There are a million reasons to hire me and a thousand reasons why any person will be happy they did.  However,  I just don’t have that on a paper of any kind.

  And I am not good at selling myself.  Simply because I haven’t had to up to this point.  I have just lived life.  I am much better at PROVING to someone what an asset I am to the world - or to their world.  I have always been relatively comfortable in my own skin and confident with who I am.  But lately I have found myself completely out of a comfort zone that I have safely built around myself. 


My whole married life,  I have supported my husband in what he has done in the ministry.  And I have been raising my children. And while I have not regretted or resented this,  I am terrified of the next step.

But now I look around me and I realize,  it’s time.  It’s time to turn the pages of my life.  It’s time for the next chapter.   In reality,  I am petrified of the unknown.  I hate change.  And although I have experienced it a lot - I also don’t like it a lot.  I am experiencing a lot of change in these days.   My church is changing.  My personal life is changing.  My work life is changing.  Everything around me is changing and I don’t feel ready.  But I know that I am because God says that I am. 


I am reminded of a man named Moses who ran into the desert after killing someone.    He was tending his sheep when God came to him in the form of a burning bush and told him to do something that was really hard.   Really really hard.  God wanted him to go back to the place that he ran from, face the man that was trying to kill him and tell Pharaoh  to let his people have freedom.  Pretty crazy.  And Moses told God that he couldn’t possibly do it.  What was God’s response to him? It wasn’t  “Moses,   you can do it.  You have got this.  You have got the goods - the talent, the integrity,  the bravery.”  No,  this is what he said,  “But I will be with you.”

There was another man in the Bible and his name was Gideon.  God told Gideon to form an army and go after the Midianites. Gideon said,  " But God, My clan is the weakest and I am the least in my household."  From the outside with the natural mind, it seemed that Gideon was a really wrong choice.  It seemed crazy.  But do you know what God said?  He said, “But I will be with you.”

You see,  when it comes right down to it,  I don’t think that God needs me to have talent or strength or  credentials or the piece of paper in hand saying that I can do all of these things.   He  just wants me to be willing to step into the next adventure of my life.  He wants me to be willing to do the things he asks me  to do; to answer his call.  He will take care of the rest.

  If God is with me,  I can do really hard things.  If God is with me,  even if it looks silly and impossible and crazy and wild,  I can do it.  If God is with me it - whatever IT is -  will be okay.



When my body is weak at the loss and grief I feel,  I hear God whisper,  “But I will be with you.”  As I stumble into a business with resume in my trembling hands,  I hear God whisper,  “But I will be with you.”  And when my heart gets overwhelmed  with loneliness  I hear God whisper,  “But I will be with you.”

 All I need to be is willing to do my best and as I stare out into the dark empty chasm of the unknown,  I can jump because I hear God whispering,  “But I will be with you.”