Thursday, December 30, 2010

Year in Review, 2010

I began 2010 with this goal in my heart. Here's how I worked toward a more consecrated life for those twelve months...

January - Right from the first day of my year of consecration, God called me out on my anger issues. Sure, I had been "working" on it, but He was asking me to step it up. It was time to come to God in true submission, sincere obedience, and let Him bring real transformation.

February - I recognized that there were things I allowed to take up valuable time in my life that could better be used for Kingdom purposes. One of those things was facebook. So facebook and I took a 40 day break from each other for Lent.

March - This month began with a reminder (written largely for myself) on the importance of consecrating our finances to the Lord by committing to tithing.

April - I was convicted of the lack of emphasis we (as a western society, as a family, as a church body) place on knowing the Word of God.

May - May had me realizing how far I was (and will ever be) from holiness. But I knew that I could come closer to the Lord than I was. I was in need of some repair...

June - A tribute to my Dad, inspired by my Abba.

July - The summer months were filled with moments of family togetherness and fun. I chose to be fully there, and felt God's pleasure in each moment.

August - God worked out some hard issues in my heart while I was at She Speaks.

September - As I prepared to answer God's call to begin speaking about my anger, I began to recognize moments of true success in the journey. That transformation He began in January was beginning to bear fruit in my life.

October - It's always difficult to get back into the routine of spiritual disciplines after the flexibility of summer. I found myself starved of the Word and in need of some serious feasting.

November - Usually, getting deep in the Word gives me good fodder for writing. But I found myself at a loss in November, in spite of my feasting. So I turned to floor over for some questions.

December - This year is wrapping up with a big case of distractedness and lists, big dreams and goals, wondering what the focus for 2011 should be.

Tomorrow, Lord willing, I will have an answer.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Good Fruit: Joy

Sometimes we have joy because of our circumstances.

When an acquaintance asks the standard question, "How are you?" our reply is "Great!" or "Excellent!" or "Wonderful!" rather than the usual "Fine." We have work that we enjoy. Our family is healthy and/or wealthy. We feel on top of the world. Our joy comes from the fact that life is good.

Sometimes we have joy in spite of our circumstances.

Life is not good. Economic downturn, financial struggles, illness, troubled (or ended) marriage, rebellious children, and so on... Even though these circumstances completely stink, we do our best to find joy somewhere. This kind of joy sounds like, "We may be out of work, but at least everyone is healthy."

True joy, though, is not found in our circumstances or in spite of our circumstances. True joy is found in Christ alone.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

~ John 15:5-11 (emphasis mine)
It seems that Christ has given us a formula for joy:

1. Remain in Him (and His love). (vs. 5, 7, 9)
2. Let Him (and His Words) remain in us. (vs. 5, 7, 9, 10)
3. Bear fruit. (vs. 5, 8)
4. Give God glory. (vs. 8)
5. Keep His commands. (vs. 10)
6. Let His joy be in us. (vs. 11)
7. Our joy is complete. (vs. 11)

Call me crazy, but I don't see anything in here about our circumstances. Good or bad, they are beside the point. Our joy comes when we abide in Him.
 What do you think about this kind of joy - complete joy? Have you ever experienced it? Have you had it and lost it?

For other posts in the Good Fruit series (which, I confess, is taking much longer than 10 weeks to get through), click right here.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

When You've Lost Your Faith

There have been a couple times in my life where God has felt far, far away. It wasn't just that He seemed hard to reach, but more like He had abandoned me. Certain difficult circumstances in my life had happened - circumstances that He could have prevented - and I felt as though I had been thrown to the wolves to fend for myself.

One such time was during the pregnancy and after the birth of my third child. Early in the pregnancy we moved for the promise of a job that would have my hubby at home more often. Turns out he was away more than ever, and I was on my own with two children in diapers, pregnant, working full time, in a city where I had no friends and family. This move had also given us hope for some restoration in our struggling marriage. Instead, the battles became louder, angrier, more frequent. Not long after the baby arrived, I found my hope slipping away as I sunk into post-partum depression.

As we moved into summer at the end of a long, lonely year, I was convinced that God had forgotten me. Or perhaps I had done something to make Him turn away. Maybe it was me who created the distance. The only thing I was sure of was that I had once known God and felt His presence and His protection, but for a long time I had not sensed Him nearby.

Over time, though, I found Him again. I heard His whispers to my heart once more. And eventually I even began to see how He was using that dark year to bring about good in my life. I have some friends who are living in one of those seasons of empty heartache, wondering where God is and how to find Him again. This post is dedicated to you, because I love you and I understand. My prayer for you is that you, too, will not only experience the presence of God in your lives once again, but that you will eventually see the good that He is making from all the no good, terrible, horrible, really bad stuff.

How to Find a Faith that's Been Lost...

I can't pin down the rediscovery of my faith to three easy steps done in a special order (even though the writer/speaker in me did somehow find a way to compile my thoughts into three points, ha). Because we're all different, I know that some things that helped me won't work for you. Yet I can see now, in retrospect, that there were some things I did that drew me back to God. My hope is that some of these things will work for you, too.

1. God never leaves.

The first thing I must share, though I'm sure you know it in your head just as I did, is that God never washes His hands of us. He has promised that He will not abandon us. If we feel like orphaned children, we need to remember that this is our feeling, but our feelings do not always reflect the realities of God.

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. ~Deuteronomy 31:8

2. Go to church.
One of our instincts when we feel abandoned is to stop doing the things we've done. We convince ourselves that the reasons we did these things (such as going to church, reading our Bibles, etc.) was out of routine and obligation, thus making it easy to quit. We tell ourselves that if God has left us, we may as well leave Him. We also do it as an act of self-preservation - we know that the people there will ask us how we are, and we either become very good a lying or we are more emotionally raw than we ever really want to be.
But we need to remind ourselves of the truth - at some point in our faith walks, we went to church because it filled us up, fed us, gave us pleasure. The people there, they also meant something to us; they became family.
If you've stopped going to church, going back may be one of the most difficult steps in the journey to reclaiming your faith. Nothing is more terrifying than the thought of facing the people and the pastors who are likely to ask questions and bring up all sorts of emotions. I am tempted here to suggest trying a new church (and for some people that may be necessary), but I believe that most of us need to return to home, not just to any church. As they say, "home is where the heart is."
There will be moments of pain, moments of great discomfort, and some people who will be judgemental rather than welcoming. But your home church is filled to the brim with people who love you, who want to pray for you and bless you, who have missed you but simply didn't know how to reach out. And chances are, if you felt abandoned by God you also felt abandoned by your church - the only path to healing those hurts is to go back.
3. Go after Him.
While we know that God has not truly left, the lack of sensing His presence is one that we often don't know how to rectify. So we do nothing. But in reality, knowing that somehow we are the ones who put distance between ourselves and God, we need to do something to close the gap. We need to seek Him.
There are many ways to seek Him, but one thing that works for me is worship music. I choose a song or two that have been meaningful to me and I listen, sing along, whisper the lyrics as a prayer, and believe that God will hear me and respond.
I've tried reading the Bible, or looking up Scripture verses that are familiar or meaningful. I've googled "promises of God" and read them aloud to myself. Sadly, these things didn't bring the Word of God alive for me again. They may work for you, though, so still give it a try.
One thing that put a new spark in my heart was a particular Bible study - Believing God by Beth Moore (I am referring to the DVD study and accompanying study guide, not the book). It was not only the teaching in the study, but also the group experience of studying it together. You can do it on your own online, but if possible I really recommend doing it in a group. (If you want to borrow the DVDs for group study, email me and I'll hook you up. Well, if you're in Alberta.)
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. ~Jeremiah 29:13

My friends, these suggestions for finding your faith again are not coming from some goody-goody, happy, perfect Christian girl who's never strayed a day in her life. No, they are the words from a battle-scarred woman who has walked the lonely road of lost faith more than once, and who has fought tooth and nail to find it again. My words come from a heart of deep love for you, my dear friends, and the understanding that your hearts are broken and cannot be fixed until you once again feel the peace and comfort of your Abba. Please, don't give up. Keep on fighting for your faith. I love you.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Stuck in a Rut

We've all heard someone say it. Many of us have said it ourselves. And everyone wants to know how to get out of it. How to get moving again.

Before we can determine the best path to free us from our rut, we need to figure out what kind of rut we are in. Is it a pit of yuck? Dark, lonely, depressed, anxious, insecure? Or is it a crevice of comfort? Nice things, worldly success, security?

The path out of any rut is virtually the same, except for the starting point. I dare say dragging oneself out of a vat of despair is somewhat less difficult and painful than launching oneself free of the quicksand of coziness.

In the pit of yuck, we need to recognize that we are stuck, desperate, and unable to free ourselves. Then we must turn to the only One who can free us, reach a hand up out of the pit, place it in the hand of the Master, and lift our faces toward the light.

To get unstuck from this rut has us moving from an undesirable place to something better. Stepping forward brings hope. And so our feet are no longer trapped, but move out onto the path. The path, though, is a lengthy journey with feet dragging weighty mud clumps along the way.

The crevice of comfort is a rut we are reluctant to recognize. The first step in acknowledging that we are stuck is the nagging sense that there is something more than this, something missing. There needs to be a humbling of the belief that we are the makers of our success. The first step out of this rut is more like jumping off a cliff. It means being willing to give it all up. Rather than seeing our first step as one of hope, it brings trepidation, fear, doubt, worry, and resistance.

Getting unstuck means stepping down from our self-made pedestal and bowing prostrate before the only One who can free us. This first step is agonizingly slow - crawling hand and knee in His footsteps until the weight of our success tumbles from our shoulders and we can stand on the path - but getting through it places us on a road of joy and exhilaration.

No matter the rut, the path is the same. It is a journey of revival. We turn our hearts away from our circumstances and toward our God, who is above and beyond our experiences. We are sojourners on the path to change. The only thing constant is continual transformation, brought on by an abandoned love for the Guide.

And so the only question really worth asking ourselves is this...

Am I on the path of transformation or am I stuck in a rut?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Bumped off Self-Centre

I started reading a new book this morning. I am in the midst of a couple, but they were boring me, so I decided to crack a fresh binding. I've had this piece of literary handiwork gathering dust on my desktop for a couple months, certain that, while it might be a good read, I was not really in need of the message it purported.

I am on page five, and am now thoroughly convinced that this book will be one that marks a turning point in my life.

The book begins with a science lesson of sorts... The world was flat and the earth was the centre of it, until Copernicus and then Galileo began challenging the status quo.

[Copernicus] tapped our collective shoulders and cleared his throat. "Forgive my proclamation, but," and pointing a lone finger toward the sun, he announced, "behold the center of the solar system."

What Copernicus did for the earth, God does for our souls. Tapping the collective shoulder of humanity, he points to the Son - his Son - and says, "Behold the center of it all."

"God raise him [Christ] from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from his rule. And not just for the time being but forever. He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything. At the center of all this, Christ rules the church" (Ephesians 1:20-22 MSG).

When God looks at the center of the universe, he doesn't look at you. When heaven's stagehands direct the spotlight toward the star of the show, I need no sunglasses. No light falls on me.

Lesser orbs, that's us. Appreciated. Valued. Loved dearly. But central? Essential? Pivotal? Nope. Sorry. Contrary to the Ptolemy within us, the world does not revolve around us. Our comfort is not God's priority. If it is, something's gone awry. If we are the marquee event, how do we explain flat-earth challenges like death, disease, slumping economies, or rumbling earthquakes? If God exists to please us, then shouldn't we always be pleased?

*Max Lucado, It's Not About Me: rescue from the life we thought would make us happy (pp. 4-5)

Maybe it's just me, but I suspect we could all use a good, healthy bump off self-centre these days.

Does the message of this work seem "not applicable" to you (as it did to me)? Or maybe you want to read it, but not until January?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Living Life with Purpose

I received this in my inbox today, and knew I had to share it... First, because his words impacted me so. Second, because I read his book several years ago and it did, in fact, change my life.

You will enjoy the new insights that Rick Warren has, with his wife now having cancer and him having 'wealth' from the book sales. This is an absolutely incredible short interview with Rick Warren, Purpose Driven Life author and pastor of Saddleback Church in California .

In the interview by Paul Bradshaw with Rick Warren, Rick said:

People ask me, What is the purpose of life?

And I respond: In a nutshell, life is preparation for eternity. We were not made to last forever, and God wants us to be with Him in Heaven.

One day my heart is going to stop, and that will be the end of my body-- but not the end of me.

I may live 60 to 100 years on earth, but I am going to spend trillions of years in eternity. This is the warm-up act - the dress rehearsal. God wants us to practice on earth what we will do forever in eternity..

We were made by God and for God, and until you figure that out, life isn't going to make sense.

Life is a series of problems: Either you are in one now, you're just coming out of one, or you're getting ready to go into another one.

The reason for this is that God is more interested in your character than your comfort; God is more interested in making your life holy than He is in making your life happy.

We can be reasonably happy here on earth, but that's not the goal of life. The goal is to grow in character, in Christ likeness.

This past year has been the greatest year of my life but also the toughest, with my wife, Kay, getting cancer.

I used to think that life was hills and valleys - you go through a dark time, then you go to the mountaintop, back and forth. I don't believe that anymore.

Rather than life being hills and valleys, I believe that it's kind of like two rails on a railroad track, and at all times you have something good and something bad in your life..

No matter how good things are in your life, there is always something bad that needs to be worked on.

And no matter how bad things are in your life, there is always something good you can thank God for.

You can focus on your purposes, or you can focus on your problems:

If you focus on your problems, you're going into self-centeredness, which is my problem, my issues, my pain.' But one of the easiest ways to get rid of pain is to get your focus off yourself and onto God and others.

We discovered quickly that in spite of the prayers of hundreds of thousands of people, God was not going to heal Kay or make it easy for her- It has been very difficult for her, and yet God has strengthened her character, given her a ministry of helping other people, given her a testimony, drawn her closer to Him and to people.

You have to learn to deal with both the good and the bad of life.

Actually, sometimes learning to deal with the good is harder. For instance, this past year, all of a sudden, when the book sold 15 million copies, it made me instantly very wealthy.

It also brought a lot of notoriety that I had never had to deal with before. I don't think God gives you money or notoriety for your own ego or for you to live a life of ease.

So I began to ask God what He wanted me to do with this money, notoriety and influence. He gave me two different passages that helped me decide what to do, II Corinthians 9 and Psalm 72.

First, in spite of all the money coming in, we would not change our lifestyle one bit.. We made no major purchases.

Second, about midway through last year, I stopped taking a salary from the church.

Third, we set up foundations to fund an initiative we call The Peace Plan to plant churches, equip leaders, assist the poor, care for the sick, and educate the next generation.

Fourth, I added up all that the church had paid me in the 24 years since I started the church, and I gave it all back. It was liberating to be able to serve God for free.

We need to ask ourselves: Am I going to live for possessions? Popularity?

Am I going to be driven by pressures? Guilt? Bitterness? Materialism? Or am I going to be driven by God's purposes (for my life)?

When I get up in the morning, I sit on the side of my bed and say, God, if I don't get anything else done today, I want to know You more and love You better. God didn't put me on earth just to fulfill a to-do list. He's more interested in what I am than what I do.

That's why we're called human beings, not human doings.
(emphais mine)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Waiting for January

There has been a nudging in my heart, telling me that some things (many things, actually) need to change.

Food has been allowed to take up a place of control in my life once again. The physical evidence speaks loudly: my weight, the fit of my clothes, my less-than-cheery disposition, the heartburn, the stomach troubles... But the spiritual evidence speaks even louder: lack of focus, lack of direction, lack of satisfaction... It would seem that I've been attempting to fill my empty places with yummy tasting junk food. Again. Still.

But there is this part of me that keeps trying to convince myself to wait. Wait for the new year. Wait to get through Christmas. Wait until the season of temptation has passed.

As a family, we are functioning. Not struggling, but not thriving either. The bickering never ceases. The time-out chair is seldom vacant. The parental voices are too frequently raised. And the Word of God is rarely shared (as a family). It couldn't be clearer that saying grace at mealtimes and prayers at bedtime are not enough to impart Kingdom truths into the hearts of children. Daily family devotionals would be a good place to start. Turning off the mind-numbing box nothingness would likely help. Developing a family mission/vision/values would get our hearts and minds turned in the right direction. And so many more ideas come to mind...

But I tell myself that it will all work better if we start on the first. Fresh month, fresh year, fresh start. My lazy self says that there's no point in starting now, during vacation time, when the regular routine is not routine at all.

Even now, as I write these words, and I know that they are lies... I think I'd still prefer to wait. Am I too lazy to do the work to make the changes? Is it that I'm afraid to fail, so I put off starting? Perhaps I'm simply too selfish to make all the sacrifices necessary to transform myself and my family. Or maybe it's a lack in self-control.

Why is it that I put off the things that could and should be done today?

Today never "feels" like the right time to start changing my life. Like me, do you often prefer to wait until: Monday, next week, next month, January...before doing what you know you need to do? More importantly, have you found a way to overcome this struggle?

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Numbers Game

Important numbers in my life these days...

0. The number of Christmas gifts I have yet to buy.

1. The number of children still asleep at 8:15am.

2. The number of hours I spent at the clinic last night with Megan (7), awaiting an official diagnosis of what we already knew - another ear infection.

3. The number of loads of laundry I need to do today.

4. The number of performances (including dress rehearsal) we did of the Christmas story at church this weekend. Megan was an angel, Shea (5) played the handbells, and I was one of the many hands on deck.

5. The number of sleeps until Christmas morning.

10. The number of times the children have asked about going out and having fun. Some of their favourite requests are: Chuck E. Cheese, Kidz Quarterz (indoor climbing centre), the movie theatre, and swimming.

12. The number of people who will be in our home overnight for Christmas Eve and here for turkey dinner.

14. The number of hours Braeden (12) hopes to spend playing video games today.

16. The number of times Kai (3) has asked if Santa has brought him a monster truck yet.

18. The number of books Abbey (8) intends to read over Christmas vacation.

20. The estimated number of gifts I have yet to wrap.

Thanks for the idea, Bobbie! :)

Friday, December 17, 2010

To have eyes of Wonder

I had the pleasure of being parent helper at Kindergarten yesterday. It was a good day to be signed up to help - the kids had chapel, then library, snack, all wrapped up with a carol sing in the gym. I wasn't so much a helper as I was an observer.

During chapel, the grade five class acted out the Christmas story. They had quite a few scene changes, which resulted in some loud chatter from the audience. I caught myself wishing they'd "get on with it, already." But the Kindergarteners' attention did not waver. Their eyes were transfixed on the stage, even during scene changes, soaking it all in.

Oh, that I would come to the greatest story ever told with the eyes and heart of a five-year-old! With a heart of amazement and excitement...

It is a sad thing to realize that you have lost your marvel at the miracles: virgin birth, angels appearing, a guiding star hung in the sky, God in a baby's body, salvation come to earth. Somehow, after years of retelling and hearing, the marvel was lost.

But to hear young Joseph share the words that the angel spoke to him, "All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 'The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel' - which means 'God with us.'" To see that ten-year-old Mary holding her pretend baby, looking upon him with adoring eyes, treasuring these things up in her heart. To watch the wonder in the faces of children to whom the story is not yet familiar...

I felt again the joy of His salvation. I was struck by the plan He fulfilled, detail by detail, to save the world through a God-baby. I, too, treasured these things in my heart.

Father, never let Your story grow old to me. Help me each year (each day) to look at the elaborate plan of Your salvation with amazement and great thankfulness. Remind me to use the eyes of a Kindergartner, so that I will not miss the significance of a familiar story, but will continue to experience it as miraculous.

Has the Christmas story grown old and familiar to you? It had for me, until my eyes were made young again...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Things my Grandma Taught me

What does a family give to a Grandma who isn't fond of the frivolous, who doesn't like attention, and who has more dish towels than any one person should ever need? This year, our family (I mean our large, extended family of 6 aunts/uncles, 4 spouses, 9 grand-kids, 4 spouses, and 6 great-grand-kids) decided to give Grandma the gift of memories. I thought you might get a kick out of my contribution. (Language warning!)

1. Me: “Grandma, I’m bored. There’s nothing to do.”

Grandma: “Go shit in a shoe.”

2. If you fall down and hurt your knee, your wrist, your dentures, or smash up your whole face… Get up and keep on walking.

3. Liquid dish soap is not to be used in a dishwasher. (Actually, that lesson may have been taught by my older cousin, at Grandma’s expense.)

4. Even in your eighties, you can still play chase with your great-grandchildren.

5. Never waste anything! Old cereal boxes can be cut down and used for holding spice jars. (Evidence of her frugality can be found throughout my kitchen today.)

6. Socks don’t come clean unless you scrub them by hand, in the sink, with bleach.

7. There is a special way of humming that soothes fussy babies. This method works for all babies throughout the generations.

8. You’re never too old to work hard!

9. Low German lullabies are often morbid.

10. You can be thrifty and generous at the same time.

11. Mennonite food. Mmmmmmm good!

12. Measuring ingredients is for the birds.

13. Aging causes you to confuse someone offering you a cup of tea with them asking if you need to go pee.

14. It’s always appropriate to stick your tongue out at the camera. No matter how grown-up you are.

15. Phone people on Sundays when it’s cheap.

16. Removing a full set of dentures and “smiling” frightens small children.

17. It is possible to conceive six children without ever allowing a man to touch you. ;-)

18. Butter goes on everything.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Sick kids in our house these days. Last night was a doozy. Rather than boring you to tears or completely disgusting you with details, I'm going to have a nap.

Be blessed. Stay warm. And hey, while you're here, why don't you share you favourite family Christmas tradition?

For years, I bought each child a new ornament to hang on the tree in early December. I think this tradition went by the wayside for a couple years when life got crazy busy. I would like to renew this tradition, though. Perhaps I'll pick it up again this year. (If I'm ever able to leave the house again!)

Monday, December 13, 2010


I had thoughts to share this morning, things I was contemplating during my quiet time. But they've evaporated into thin air.

You see, I started some laundry. Then making a meal plan and shopping list. Next I reviewed my calendar for the week. And balanced the budget.

Oh wait, the dryer just finished.

Now, where was I?

Distracted...right. I also spent a few minutes daydreaming about shopping for some new clothes because I have so few that fit. Which led to fantasizing about losing weight. And then I began to wonder if I'd ever find time to exercise. Which reminded me of the multitude of unfinished projects in my life (photo albums, painting the house, etc.).

I believe I have a case of writing ADD. If I don't stay focused and get my thoughts down first thing (read: by 7am), they are forever lost. But that's not actually the point of all this rambling...

The point of my rambling - I need a list. (Yes, I know what you're thinking! Pat always says I spend so much time making my lists that I run out of time to actually complete tasks.) The fact is, I find great satisfaction in crossing items off a list. So rather than merely thinking about all that I want to do (and yet putting it off for another year), I am going to create a "top project" list for 2011. My goal: Complete at least one project each month for the entire year.

I have been avoiding some projects like the plague, because I fear they will never truly be finished. But maybe they can be, if only I were focused. Because you see, my ADD issue carries over into other parts of my life, too. For example, I'll start uploading photos from 2003 (yes, that far back, people!) only to realize I really ought to defragment the hard drive. I'll pull out the painter's tape to begin staining the windowsills only to discover how badly the windows need to be cleaned.

Am I the only one who struggles with this?! Or do you have home project ADD as well? And if you don't - for goodness sake, tell us your secret!!!

Friday, December 10, 2010

What's Your Calling?

I dont know what stirs great passion and restlessness in my soul. How does one figure it out? This question, from Bobbie's heart to my inbox, is a question that keeps many a church member firmly planted in their pews when a call for volunteers is put forth.

In ministry, we need to find strategies to help our volunteer force discover their callings. If we don't, the result will be unhappy volunteers, people serving in ministry areas that drain them, others feeling as though they don't fit anywhere, and a general lack of passion throughout the church.

I once listened to a friend espouse the merits of serving in children's ministry. She spoke of the fun, the connecting, the joy of being a part of a child's faith walk. She concluded her passionate monologue with the words, "As far as I'm concerned, children's ministry is the most important ministry of the church! Without it, we are nothing." By the time she finished, my heart was pounding, my palms were sweaty, and I was fired up! I was nanoseconds away from signing myself up to teach Sunday school. That woman - she had found her calling! (Thankfully, I stopped and asked God before I jumped in the boat with her. Because children's ministry - while arguable the most vital of all aspects of the church - is so not my calling.)

Unfortunately, the majority of people in the church do not know where their calling lies as this friend did. As leaders in the church, we have a responsibility to help these wandering souls find their passions. Not only to fill all those gaping volunteer holes, but to get the body fully functioning in the way it was intended to.

So, how do we know what we're called to do?!

#1 - What gets you fired up?

Is there a cause that you cannot help but champion? Is there a people group that makes your heart swell with love? What topics of discussion inevitably draw you into debate?

In my college years, no matter how liberal the thinking surrounding me, I was never able to sit quietly while others discussed abortion. It usually came around to, "What about the emotional, psychological, and spiritual pain and suffering that those women will endure for the rest of their lives as a result of the decision to abort?" It always brought debate, sometimes heated, but I could not stop myself! The belief that women who underwent an abortion would suffer beyond their comprehension broke my heart. (Still does.)

I volunteered at our local Pregnancy Care Centre for several years - first as a peer counsellor, then on the crisis line, and later as a parenting coach for young and disadvantaged moms. (Can anyone say "women's ministry?")

#2 - What kinds of things are you good at?

Are there certain tasks you really enjoy? A particular type of work? When in a crowd, do you find yourself stepping up as a leader? Offering creative ideas? More willing to go with the flow? Wanting to be hands on? Do you prefer to work alone or as part of a team?

I remember a science project in seventh grade... We were put in pairs and encouraged to come up with anything we wanted. More than half the class created homemade volcanoes. But I wanted to do something different, something unique, revolutionary even. We (okay, mostly I) created a huge maze and trained my hamster to go through it. Along with one other pair, we won scholarships to attend the provincial science fair.

I recall a sixth grade writing project... There had been an earthquake somewhere in the world. We were to write a short story about an earthquake in our town. I went to my mom's workplace after school for weeks, typing out my story on the receptionist's typewriter. The result was a 10-page work of fiction that jumped scenes akin to a soap opera.

I never was satisfied with just doing "enough." I disdained the idea of simply doing what everyone else was doing. Even if I wanted to, I don't think I could have possibly found contentment in following someone else's lead. And, there was that minor discovery about how much I completely loved writing...

#3 - What are your spiritual gifts?

Spiritual gifts are more than just personality type, communication style, talents, or abilities. (Although, discovering those things about yourself will also really help in figuring out your calling!) Spiritual gifts are unique to those belonging to God's family. When we accept Christ, He gives us gifts that fit our callings, through His Holy Spirit. Many of those gifts are fitting with the skills and interests we already have, but some of those gifts we will see develop over time, as we grow in our relationship with God.

Even as a young child, I was considered the mother hen of the group. I think that was their nice way of telling me I was bossy! But I simply loved organizing things and people and schedules. I would help my friends sort their binders and choose their course options. My administrative gifts were evident early on.

You know that bossy thing, though? It was a problem (at least for other people). But my motives were well-intentioned. I wanted everyone to be their best, to do their best, to give their all. It made me mad when people didn't. It has only been in the past few years that I learned new ways - better ways - to encourage people. It was through practice and experience that my gift of exhortation was discovered.

#4 - What are your experiences?

God does not waste our pain and struggles. Not ever. If we let Him, He will use every difficult thing we have ever walked through to draw others to Him.

Is there something in your life, something that you have survived, that you just know in your gut must have a purpose?! Chances are, it does.

Those who run women's shelters are often women who were previously abused. If you are walking through a difficult marriage or painful divorce, chances are the only people you really want to talk to about it are others who have been on that same path. Support groups and recovery groups are usually led by those who share that experience. Without the willingness of those people, we would have nowhere to turn when life's trials begin to beat us down.

Perhaps God is calling you to be willing...

#5 - Sometimes you just gotta try!

There is no perfect formula to uncovering the work that God has called you to. Some people just know. Other have no clue! While I believe it is vitally important for us to serve within our gifts (that is to say, serve in ways that use our gifts and fuel our passions), sometimes the only way to figure it out is by trial and error.

Those things you find joy in, you feel challenged but not overwhelmed in, and you look forward to - they are probably bringing you closer to that calling. Those things that drain you, make you feel discouraged and disgruntled, that you dread - they are not likely to be taking you in the right direction. It's okay to try something and, when you realize it's not where you should be, to let it go.

I'm hoping my mom will share her story of "just trying" something out in the comments. (Hint, hint.)

Do you know what your calling is/ where your passions lie? If not, are you ready to find out?

* Pretty much this whole post has its basis in 1 Corinthians 12, so check it out.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


While enjoy moments of quiet and time to myself - such as my quiet time in the mornings or when I'm writing - I am largely a social person. Being with people fills me up, gives me energy, and brings me joy. Even if I'm feeling down and think that I want to hole up in my house, the best cure for a blue mood is a couple hours spent chatting it up with a girlfriend.

I think that's what I miss most about my time leading women's ministry. The fellowship and friendship were wrapped up with the work. Serving God through planning and implementing activities for women was fuel for my extroverted soul. I can't say that I've had much of a social life to speak of in a number of years. But I was incredibly blessed in that my ministry became my social life.

These past months have revealed to me that speaking and writing are completely different from what I have known. They are solitary pursuits. The unfortunate side-effect of this ministry is that I am needing to block off large chunks of time where I "go off the social grid" in order to do what I need to get done. Adjusting to the quiet is not an easy thing. This fall, I have felt loneliness more stark than I've experienced at all since we moved over a year ago.

I write for my blog...alone.

I continue to research and edit my book proposal (albeit very slowly)...alone.

I pray about, research, and prepare for a talk...alone.

I travel to a speaking engagement...alone.

While I believe and have hope that this ministry will eventually grow beyond me, and that there will be a team of women together to plan and pray, write and speak, for this season it's just me. Well, God and me. Don't get me wrong, I love having time with God! (My recent three hour trip to speak was a wonderful time of worship and communion with Him.) Nothing can truly compare, though, to the special connection that happens in friendship with women.

There are, of course, other factors contributing to this loneliness. Appointments, assorted illnesses, nap times, and more have been filling up the few free days I have. My friends have busy lives, too. They've got ministries, jobs, appointments, and illnesses just like me.

You know, I'd really like to tie a neat little bow on this post. End with something about how God is sufficient. And He is. Yet knowing that He is doesn't necessarily fill the void created by all this solitude. So as much as the writer in me wants to give you a conclusion, I can't. At least not today. All I can leave you with is reality. And sometimes reality doesn't wrap a story up in pretty paper, bringing joy and peace and closure. Sometimes reality just leaves you hanging in limbo.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Dot System

If you've been visiting here for a while, the following information may be familiar. If so (and you don't need the review), why not go check out some of the very first posts I wrote? Procrastination (I do believe I've made some progress in this area!), Out of Control (If this is my report card - almost 3 years later - I definitely get an F.), and A Day in the Life (Just reading this makes me laugh! Life seems a bit calmer now, but I guess I'd have to write it all out to know for sure. Maybe I'm just used to insanity.) are a few of my favourite "oldies."

Every now and then, a stroke of brilliance enters my brain. Since these occurrences are few and far between, I must not let a single genius idea pass without sharing it.

For years (about 3 or 4), laundry has been the bane of my existence. One factor that contributes to my overall frustration level is the sorting. Not pre-wash sorting, but the sorting of little pieces of clothing belonging to three girls who are far too close in size! The sorting is particularly difficult when it comes to those itty-bitty undergarments and socks!

About two years ago, I began writing the initial of the owner on the tag or seam of most items (mainly panties and socks, but every now and then on a shirt that I repeatedly found myself mis-sorting). While slightly genius, there was one flaw in the system - what happened when the item was handed down to the next child in line?!

Recently, another problem cropped up. There is no longer any size distinction in tops, pants, skirts (what few they have), sweaters, shoes, coats, and so on between the two older girls! While some styles clearly belong to one girl, there are others that could belong to either. Argh!

Today, I invented the dot system. The eldest girl gets one dot on every single item she owns. (Yes, a bit time-consuming. BUT, since we are doing our typical pre-school year sort, I am already emptying drawers and re-folding all items that still fit.) The middle girl - two dots. The third - three. (While she doesn't necessarily need every single piece of clothing marked the way the other two do, I've decided to dot to completion - it will still come in handy for when other people are folding and putting away laundry. You can thank me later, Grandma!)

The dot system also solves my problem of what to do with hand-me-downs. Just add a dot! Or two.

For the record, if you decide to employ the dot system, you'll need a permanent marker (Sharpie). And you'll want to be careful to put the dots on tags or on thick seams (like at the collar of the t-shirt or top edge of a sock) to avoid bleeding through. Eight-year-old girls are not too fond of having random dots on their clothing that all their friends can see.

I'd have posted a few pictures for you, but I am also sure that girls of any age do not like their undies displayed on the Internet for all to see!

Monday, December 6, 2010

To Know Him...

I want to say a special hello to the women of Mt. Olive Evangelical Free Church this morning. It was such an honour to meet you and share my heart with you this weekend! Thank you for having me. I pray that I didn't get in the way of what God wanted you to hear from Him, but that His heart for you was communicated through the words I spoke.

Today, I'd like to encourage you to take the time to get to know Him more. More personally and more intimately - the way He knows us.

Do you build a friendship with the woman next door simply by wishing to become friends? Do you fall in love because you desire to be in love? No. If only it were that easy! But just as we develop human relationships by investing time and energy, so it is true of our relationship with God. There is only one way that we can come to know our God the way He has invited us to. We need to spend time with Him.

As we visited on Saturday morning, did you wonder, "How come some people seem to really "hear" from God? And why don't I?" Maybe you found yourself wishing, "I would love to know if I am where God wants me to be in life. How do I figure that out?" Perhaps you thought, "I wonder if I've ever really known God at all..."

The answer to all of those questions is the same... Spend time with Him. Every day. If we want to know God's heart, we need to read His Word (it's His love letter to you). We can share our joys and trials with Him through prayer. We seek out His guidance by taking time to be still and listen. And if we want to learn and grow, we need to stay closely connected to a church family.

The answer is deceptively simple, because I know how easy it is to let these spiritual practices slip. Life is busy, distractions are constant, and we are tired. I think that's why they're called practices - we need to work at them daily (kinda like how our mom's made us practice the piano when we were young). My prayer for you (and me) is that we will approach our relationships with God with renewed energy and commitment today, so that we might truly know Him.

In order to truly know God, we must acknowledge Him, recognize Him, and know Him by experience.
Acknowledge - Deuteronomy 4:39
Recognize - John 1:10
Experience - John 8:31 (Msg)

Thank you for visiting today, both to those of you who have been coming by for a while and to those who are here for the first time. I treasure your company. (Don't forget to leave a comment saying, "Hi!" so that I can thank God specifically for you and your friendship. All you have to do is click where it says, "__ shared their thoughts" at the bottom of this post, then follow the prompts.)

If you would like to take some time this week with God, pouring through His Word and meditating on His Names, feel free to download the Names of God for your personal use.

May you enjoy the treasure of an intimate friendship with God our Saviour, who came to earth as a human infant, so that we would not be alone in this cold world. Immanu El, God with Us.

Much love,

Thursday, December 2, 2010

But God, I don't even like women!

I used to despise my own gender. Girls can be so unkind, manipulative, and fickle, especially in their teen years. After a few hurtful experiences, I determined that it was preferable to spend my time with boys. I hung out with them at school and work. They were my "buddies" and my confidantes. (In fact, Pat was one of my BFFs in high school.)

No one was more surprised than me when I ended up in women's ministry. How can a woman who really doesn't like other women possibly do women's ministry?!

It began as a desire to have my needs met, seeing that no one else was going to meet them, and doing something about it. It grew into a vision of wanting women's hearts to be changed, so that instead of being in competition with one another we would become sisters. Eventually, through working alongside other women for years, my passion grew to include mentoring other women in leadership.

Funny thing is, in order to lead a women's ministry, one is required to work side-by-side with other women all the time! Even funnier, I discovered a deep love for my own gender that I never thought I could feel.

Jen asked, What stirs great passion and restlessness in your soul?

The answer is: women. I think it can be summed up best by one line in my bio...
[My] desire is to see women experiencing the freedom and fellowship that come from leading transparent lives, developing strong spiritual habits, and discovering the power of Christ in their lives and ministries.

This desire is what spurred me to first start blogging, to begin writing my book, and even to launch my speaking ministry. Not only am I passionate to impact women for Christ, but ministries. In particular, women's ministries. Because if we want the women in our churches to grow, it needs to begin in the leadership.

My number one and two passions are ministry to women and equipping/mentoring for women's ministry leaders. Coming up a close third is marriage. And missions. Then abstinence/healthy sexuality. And of course, being a special needs mom. Oh, and tithing and giving. And... Okay, I tend to be a passionate person overall! This list pretty much sums it up. (P.S. Feel free to share my bio with your women's ministry leader when planning your next event. Okay? *wink*)

Since it's such a great question, I'm stealing it... So tell me, what stirs great passion and restlessness in your soul?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Good Fruit: Forbearance (aka patience)

There are some girls at the bus stop who "annoy" my girls. They aren't mean-spirited or anything. In fact, I suspect that the opposite is true. They probably lean toward the overly-friendly category. When my girls head out to the bus stop, these other young ladies shriek and holler, calling at them to "Hurry up! Come on! Get over here!" And they prattle on (and on and on) until everyone is loaded on the bus in their respective seats (which, much to my girls' relief, are far apart).

This morning, we were having a discussion about being kind to other people. We were talking about why it's important to be patient, even with (or especially with) people who you may find annoying. I explained that I don't think these girls are trying to get on anyone's nerves, and that perhaps all that's needed is a kind and gentle, "Please don't do that. It bothers me."

As the girls headed out the door, I talked to God about the situation and asked for wisdom. Some situations are clear-cut, such as bullying. But others...well, what's a mom to do? To say?

God reminded me of times in my life where I've felt annoyed with others. First I thought of the lady who always gave me advice, every single time she saw me. It was always the same, "Enjoy your children, dear. They grow up so fast." I would smile and nod, all the while thinking about how tired I was of the same old cliches. Then I thought of the "close talker." No matter how many times I took a step back during our conversation, she always ended up so far into my bubble of personal space that I felt her sucking up my oxygen. I empathised with my girls, because it isn't easy to be kind and patient with all people all the time.

Then I recalled some other times I've felt annoyed and shown it. Working in the kitchen, a child crowds in and gets in my path, and I wave my hands around and say, "Get out of my space!" Another child, looking for some attention, makes silly sounds or chatters to no one. I say, "Stop making noise just for the sake of making noise." Just one moment ago, as I typed this post, a child asked me what I'm working on. I said, "Never mind. Just do your jobs."

Conviction falls over me like rain. All the wisdom in the world cannot help me teach my children to forbear with one another if I will not restrain my own impatient and irritated impulses with them.

When I last posted for this series (ironically, on patience), I specifically avoided the word forbearance (as used in the NIV) and went with patience (used in the NLT). I reasoned that it didn't "fit" with where I was headed that day. Perhaps I didn't want to see that what Paul was calling us to was neither patience (as in the opposite of impatience) nor perseverance (as in the opposite of easily giving up), but truly to forbearance.

To forbear is to refrain, restrain yourself, abstain, hold back, or withhold. It is - in spite of one's feelings or instincts - to hold back from acting annoyed, impatient, or frustrated.

I guess my girls aren't the only ones in need of a lesson today. And perhaps, rather than offering them wisdom, it's time I offer them a living example.

For the record, one of these days I'd really like to have some "ah-ha" moments that are solely for teaching. This being convicted about virutually everything I write about, it's getting a wee bit exhausting!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

All Dressed Up

Only a month later, I figured it was time to post a few pictures of the kids in costume for Halloween.
Who wouldn't give these kids candy?!

Shea, aka Sharpay (High School Musical)

Meg, aka Rock Star Girl

Abbey, aka Angel

Kai, aka Bumblebee (Transformers)

Braeden - "I'm too old to trick or treat!" and "Don't take my picture!" (Thankfully, he did let us get him in his Air Cadet uniform.)

Monday, November 29, 2010


One of the biggest criticisms that other folks have of church folks is that we are hypocrites. I have two things to say in response to that assertion:

1. They're right.

Unfortunately, there are many Christians who don't act very...Christian. Have you ever accidentally upset another driver, had them wave their hands (or flip the bird) angrily at you and whiz past, only to see a Jesus fish on their rear bumper? Or maybe that fish-toting vehicle is yours (or mine, *cough*)? This is just one small example, but I'm sure we can all name hundreds more.

Sadly, when some Christians demonstrate actions that oppose what they claim to believe, they give the whole lot of us a bad name. Worse, they give God a bad name. Worst, I'm pretty sure I'm one of those someones all too often.

As followers of Christ, we have a responsibility to do our best to live like Him in all aspects of our lives. If we preach the gospel of love and forgiveness, we should actually love and forgive others. Our walk should match our talk.

2. They're wrong.

Often, people who aren't familiar with faith in Christ get the (incorrect) impression that all Christians think they (we) are perfect. Thus, when we fail to behave as perfect people, we prove their case. We're no better than them, our faith is no better than theirs, but because we think we are and it is - we are hypocrites. But this reasoning is false.

I don't know about you, but I don't claim to be perfect. I don't require the people around me to be perfect either. What I do claim is that Jesus Christ is perfect, and with my whole heart I want to be as like Him as I possibly can. Messing up doesn't necessarily mean I'm a hypocrite; it just means I'm human.

I love how James M. Reeves, author of Refuge: how "hospital church" ministry can change your church forever and founder/pastor of Celebration Fellowship puts it, "The church has to be a safe place for people to tell their secrets and have a safe process for people to experience spiritual and emotional healing." Reeves asserts that, rather than holding to the popular view of church as a place for "good, Christian people," we need to begin to view church as a hospital, where people of varying levels of illness and disease come to receive care.


So what are we to do? How can we, as followers of Christ, show the wold that the church isn't full of judgemental hypocrites?

I think we can:

1. Be real. We don't need pretend to be perfect, flawless, or sinless to the church crowd. We don't need to pretend to be important and successful to the world crowd. We need to be who we are - the same person - with everyone we encounter, both in front of others and behind closed doors.

Better to be a nobody and yet have a servant than to pretend to be somebody and have no food. ~ Proverbs 12:9

2. Be holy. Jesus is perfect. He is holy and righteous, and His ways are true and right. We are not and cannot be as perfect as Jesus, but we can try to be like Him in as many ways as possible (and not just at church!).

Anybody can observe the Sabbath, but making it holy surely takes the rest of the week. ~ Alive Walker

3. Be honest. When we mess up and don't act like Jesus at all, the most Christ-like thing we can do is to confess and seek forgiveness.

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. ~ James5:16a

4. Be love. We need to love people. Loving others means being kind to them, welcoming them, accepting them without trying to change them. Our job is not to point out for others their sinful ways. Our job is to point them to Christ. He'll take care of their hearts.

"Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself." ~ Tolstoy

Basically, we need to be people of integrity. What we do should live up to what we say. And if when it doesn't, we need to be truthful about how who we are doesn't always match up with Who we want to be like.

What do you think?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

I'm Just a Yeller...

An anonymous friend posed a really great question last week that I've decided to tackle this morning. I don't really want to talk about anger today because, well, I've been feeling pretty pi#%ed off with my kids all week. Which means, as much as I don't feel like talking about it, I probably should.

Our friend asked, When and how did you discover that you were angry, and not just doing what Moms have to do - yell at our kids to get them to do anything?

Can I be to-the-gut point-blank honest here? For me as much as for you? Thanks...

The fact of the matter is, we moms do NOT have to yell at our kids to get them to listen to us. While certain circumstances will require a raised voice (safety concerns, a massive brawl of 14 children that needs to be stopped, a generally loud situation), if it seems as though every circumstance is one of those, we need to take that as our first clue that something is amiss. A raised voice should be the exception, not the rule.  If we are yelling regularly, we have a problem.

If you were a fly on my wall, you would likely listen in on the odd conversation between Pat and I where one of us is asking, "Why do we have to yell at the kids to get them to listen and obey?" It's one that we revisit more regularly than I'd like. Really, though, we both know the answer... If we need to yell at our kids to make them listen and obey, it is because we have taught them that they don't have to listen or obey until/unless we are yelling.

I assure you, I am the last person who will ever pass judgement on another mother! I know how hopeless it feels, how impossible it looks. I am the queen of yelling and swearing, and I often catch myself thinking, "I am never going to be able to NOT yell!" So as you read my gut-honest words, do not feel condemned. Everyone has their issues...anger happens to be ours.

If you think you may have anger issues but are not totally sure, here are seven questions you can ask yourself:
1. Have I ever told myself or someone else, "I'm a yeller. That's just who I am."?
2. Have I ever had the urge to hurl an object across the room in frustration?
3. Whether or not I speak them, do I think curse words in my head when I'm frustrated?
4. If my child(ren) does thinks like slamming doors and shouting, "I hate you!" am I tempted to respond with those same words and reactions?
5. Do I frequently find myself feeling annoyed with my children's constant interruptions and requests?
6. Do I sometimes react in ways that are disproportionate to the situation? (For example, feeling truly angry about a spilled cup of juice.)
7. Am I a different mother behind closed doors than I am out in public?

There's no magic formula, no points system, but if you found yourself answering "yes" to a few of those questions, it's probably time to get alone with God and ask Him if you have a problem with mommy anger.

And you know that hopeless, impossible thing? For the record, that's a lie. It's a big, fat, ugly lie that Satan wants us to believe so that we don't even try to overcome this struggle. Victory is possible. I believe it with everything in me. If I didn't, I wouldn't be out here on the World Wide Web (and hopefully, eventually in book format) publishing all my shortcomings for the world to see. The only way it's hopeless and impossible is if we try to do it on our own.

For nothing is impossible with God.
~Luke 1:37 (NLT)

Because I hate to leave you hanging here with a bunch of unanswered questions, here are some posts that I hope will help...

Seven Steps to Stop Anger in its Tracks - help for the heat of the moment

How to Help an Angry Mom, parts three and four - help for the parent who doesn't know what to do instead of yelling

What to do When You Mess Up - help for those times when we "fall off the wagon"

Why I'm Writing About my Anger - to answer your other question, Why do you want to write a book? (specifically this book)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giving starts right here

What comes to your mind when you hear the word "giving?" Do you tend to think of feeding the homeless, sponsoring a child, and the like? While I believe this type of generosity is absolutely vital, I believe there is another form of giving that many of us neglect.

Giving to the local church. I'm not referring to tithing here (though we should all do that), but to the offering up of our time and talents. Do you serve within your church? In a capacity that makes use of your spiritual gifts?

We worshippers tend toward one of these two mindsets: "I have done my time, it's someone else's turn," or
"If I don't do it, nobody will." I propose to you that both of these thought patterns are flawed.

Everyone should serve in a volunteer capacity.

Yes, everyone. Those who are paid staff of the church should find a way to serve elsewhere that is unpaid. Full time mothers with fifteen small children need to find a place to volunteer. Hard working men ought to seek out a ministry to get involved with. Every single person in the church body has a vital role to fill, and without me, without you, the church is merely functioning - not thriving.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many...

Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. As it is, there are many parts, but one body...

But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

~1 Corinthians 12:12, 14-20, 24b-27

Each person should use their God-given gifts in service.

When I had small children, I volunteered in the nursery. Because I "should." Those nursery Sundays were the most mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually draining 90 minutes of my life. I would get up in the morning dreading it, and would leave exhausted and short-tempered with my family. Until I discovered my spiritual gifts, one of which is administration.

Have you ever thought about how much work goes into the oversight of the church nursery? Creating spreadsheets and name tags, writing newsletters, keeping track of sign-ins and clearances. (If you're from a smaller church, perhaps this list of "need tos" has you shaking your head. All I can tell you is that large church culture is different and requires more extensive security precautions.) Needless to say, I discovered that there were ways to give my time to the nursery ministry that used my spiritual gifts.

God doesn't call us all to fill the vacancies in church ministry (although, I won't dare say never...sometimes He will ask us to do something completely stretching), He calls each of us to serve Him in a specific way. In a way that He has equipped us to serve, to give.

In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.
~Romans 12:4-8 (NLT)

Just give!

Giving love, money, and time to the needs at home and abroad is necessary. As is giving time, talent, and effort in our local church. Doing one without the other is like...well, I don't know, exactly...incomplete. Like baking bread without yeast.

Scratch that ending - you tell me! I need a good metaphor, simile, or analogy. Go ahead and fill in the blank (in the comments). :)

holy experience

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

How to be Superwoman (or not), part two

I'm still answering a question posed to me last week. If you haven't yet, go ahead and read part one. Then when you hop back here it won't seem as though I'm starting in the middle of a thought.

Step Three: Make time.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. ~Ecclesiastes 3:1

We've all heard it said that people make time for what's important to them. It's true. Writing is important to me, so I tackle it early in the morning before doing much of anything else (besides getting the kids off to school). I won't even start a load of laundry before writing on my blog, because I know that I am far too easily distracted.

I used to give myself "Facebook time" while I ate my lunch, until I realized that I was allowing myself to waste an hour (or more) every day doing nothing! Instead, I now watch BLAST* teaching videos while I eat my lunch. (Just a note, on weekdays I don't eat lunch with the kids. I feed them, and once they're done and into quiet time/nap I sit down for mine.)

Not only do we need to make time for the important stuff and get rid of the time killers, we really need to allow ourselves to become okay with leaving some things undone (whether for today or forever). There are times when my house looks like a sty and I make the kids pull out the "cleanest" jeans from the dirty laundry pile. There are times when my desk looks like a hurricane victim and I will actually choose to throw away some things that could/should be done. I have only been parent helper at school once so far this year, and probably only two or three times last year (whereas some moms - the really good ones who I want to be like when I grow up - are there twice a month). And I have not placed a photo in an album since Megan's birth more than seven years ago. So yeah, I don't do it all! Not at all.

Step Four: Find your own super power.

Each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. ~1 Corinthians 7:7b
Do not neglect your gift... ~1 Timothy 4:14a

I just need to say one more thing about how I get done all that I need to... It's all about personality and giftings! I like to be busy, I thrive on a full schedule, and I function best with my hands full. It's a fine balance between really busy and too busy, but I'd like to think I'm self-aware enough that I usually pick up on the signals that I'm doing too much fairly quickly.

The fact is, I'm a deadline girl and I always have been. Homework assignments, exams, pumping gas, waitressing - all were done best when I was under pressure. Recently, as my schedule began to fill up with Heart to Heart stuff and Logos society things, Pat told me he was excited - excited for me to finally be busy because he knew he'd be fed yummier meals in a tidier house, all while I was actually (finally) getting to work on my book.

Maybe it's not even that I thrive on being busy so much as I am too lazy to be allowed to be idle.

If you're not built like me, then you'll never be the kind of non-Superwoman I am. Each of us needs to find our own super powers. If you do best with the slow and steady method, that is your super power. Work with it. Embrace it. And for goodness sake, tell me how you always seem to be so calm, cool, and collected!

Lynne, Bobbie, does this answer your question? I know I didn't include a daily schedule for you Bobbie, but I'm hoping this gives a pretty clear picture. Does it? Thanks for asking! (I can feel my brain beginning to click again.)

* If you are pursuing a ministry in speaking and writing, and BLAST catches your interest - definitely DO IT! The learning has been invaluable. And if you register, make sure you let Shannon (Ethridge) know I sent you, and she'll give me a bit of a discount on my tuition. ;)

Monday, November 22, 2010

How to be Superwoman (or not), part one

In my Just Ask post last week, Lynne posed the question:
How do you get everything done for your family, not neglect your relationship with God, and find time to write too?

Bobbie's question was similar:
I have a general question but want specific answers.... How do you do it all? I mean, really, HOW do you do it all? What practical things do you do every day to fit in all that you've got going on? What does a few of your daily schedules look like? Do you use the crock pot to cook dinner a lot? Are you super organized? I need tips to be more productive in my own life!

So I figured it would be helpful share my four-step tutorial on How to be Superwoman (or not). Because I prefer to use more words than necessary, I'll split this into two posts. You'll thank me later.

Step One: Never neglect time with God.

I delight in Your decrees; I will not neglect Your Word. ~Psalm 119:16
Okay, that's not to say that I never neglect time with God. But I shouldn't. And neither should you. Know what I mean?

In my world, experiencing quiet time cannot occur if children are awake. And given my bent toward complete and utter couch vegetation after they're tucked in for the evening, the twilight hours are ruled out. By process of elimination, I've found that my relationship with God is best fostered in the wee hours of the morning.

A number of years ago I started rising an hour before the kids so that I would have enough time for coffee, prayer, listening, Bible study, Bible reading, Scripture memory, and worship. No, I don't do all of those things every morning! But I do probably tackle each of them once or twice over a two-week period.

I also don't view my quiet time as my only time of day to be in relationship with the Lord. He and I converse throughout the day. If I'm unsure about making a certain purchase while out grocery shopping, I ask God. If I am running late for an appointment but make it on time anyway thanks to low traffic and lots of green lights, I thank Him. If I have six million things on my "to do" list that day, I ask God where to start, and what to do next all day. Whatever doesn't get done, I trust is something that He didn't need me to take care of that day.

If you ever hear me being frazzled, flustered, or stressed, you can pretty much be assured that I've forgotten step one. The tough thing for me is that all of my secrets are revealed in my writing. Although, the knowledge that you will be able to tell when I'm not in close fellowship with my Abba is a pretty good accountability tool!

Step Two: Schedule, schedule, schedule.

She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. ~Proverbs 31:27
I like to feel organized. I didn't say that I am organized, but I like to feel as though I am. One thing that helps me is to schedule everything that I can.

Social life - While building friendships is very important to me (and also one thing God has called me to do), I tend to be very particular about how I make and take time to do so. If we're going to have coffee and a visit together, we will often email back and forth a few times to schedule a date and time - frequently up to two weeks away. But when I make these dates, I commit to myself to keep them (I really, really try not to cancel). Things like girls' night out, home parties, and so on only happen for me a couple times a year. It's worth saying that I have great friends who understand my priorities and my calling. I pray that they can say the same of me.

Marriage - I book a date night roughly every second weekend (on paydays). This has been an integral part of our marriage for several years. I also try to schedule my "work" during the day, so that my evenings are free to hang out with my man. I like to sit on the couch reading a good book next to him as he watches the hockey game. (Really, there is only so much hockey a girl can take! Even a Canadian one.)

Household duties - I used to try to get all my housework done on one day of the week. A grueling five-hour day of utter exhaustion. This house is too big for that, and the laundry far too demanding! We've recently begun doing the house cleaning as a family on the weekends, and I am really enjoying it! We tend to be homebodies on the weekends anyway, so it's not cutting into anything, and everyone seems to enjoy working together. I haven't fine-tuned the laundry thing yet, but so far it seems to be working well to simply toss in a load whenever I pass by the machines. The kids all put away their own laundry (well, put away is used very loosely).

When it comes to meals, I do best with a meal plan. Having a monthly meal plan helps me know what are the essential purchases, what meat to pull out of the freezer in the morning (or the night before), and how much prep time I'll need. Planning meals means I can decide which days require crock pot cooking in advance (activity nights) and which days I can do something bigger. I must confess that I have been lacking a meal plan for months now. The unfortunate solution has been too much eating out and too many dinners of kid fare (mini pizzas, grilled cheese sandwiches, etc.).

Family time - Busy or not, it's hard to get quality time together with a family of seven. So we try to get our time where we can... Family movie night, swimming, skating, walking the dog, going to the playground (neither of those last two really happens for 8 months of the year).

Pat and I also try to take individual dates with each child once or twice over the course of the school year. What works for me is to "blitz" them - I email Pat with four occasions (we don't really need to take Kai out yet) that all occur within two weeks. I try to combine our date nights with things that need to get done anyway. For example, I'll take someone for dinner and then we'll grocery shop together.

Pop back here tomorrow, and I'll conclude my answer to Lynne and Bobbie's question with steps three and four on How to be Superwoman (or not).

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday Feast, 11-19-10

I can't believe that it's already been four weeks! Four weeks of encouraging each other to "taste and see that the Lord is good." (Psalm 34:8) I don't think I want it to end. The accountability has been good for me. I fear that my eating disorder may not yet be cured... (Maybe, if there are a few of us who want to keep going, we should continue. Let me know what you think.)

This week was a good one for me. The sermon on Sunday was inspiring, and my resolve to seek out God daily was renewed. I was in the Word every day this week (not yet this morning, but I'm on my way).

But I seem to be in an unusual season, in that I don't really feel as though I'm hearing much from Him. I know He's here, I know He loves me, I sense His presence and His desire for me to seek Him. Yet He is strangely silent. My times of listening prayer are fuzzy (like static on a radio), and I'm lacking new revelation when I read my Bible.

Maybe that's why I don't want to stop our weekly get-together. I know that my tendency is to let myself drift away when God is quiet, especially if I am only accountable to myself. I am also aware that these times are the ones when it is most important to remain.

How did you do this week? Did you dine on the Bread of Life? Did God speak to you or give you a new revelation from His Word?

Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.
~ Luke 14:15b

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Just Ask

Want to know the #1 lesson I've learned about being a writer?

Writers write.

Complex, I know. :) But this simple message pushed me to move from being a once-in-a-while blogger to a 4-ish times per week blogger. While I might not have time to work on my book every day (and frankly, there comes a point when seeking publication that it's better not to write much more; publishers like to see enough to know that you can do it, with enough work remaining to be assured that they will have some say in how the book develops), taking time to jot down 500-1000 words a few times each week is good exercise.

Have you ever worked out at the gym diligently for a couple months and then taken a week-long hiatus? Returning can be a bit painful and difficult, and you essentially have to re-train your body in doing all the exercises. Taking a break from blogging is kinda like that.

Last week, with the kids all home on break, I slacked off here. This week, I am retraining my mind. Want to help me get back in shape?

Here's what you can do (please, please do it!)... In the comments of this post, ask me questions. Lots of questions. Any question you ever wanted to ask. You can ask about my personal life, about anger, about ministry, about raising kids, marriage, or any other topic that strikes your fancy. I'm going to take your questions to build up my muscles - some answers may be entire blog posts, some may get answered in a Q & A style post.

Okay, so who's gonna help motivate me to get back in shape? Fire away!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

How to Change the World

The needs of this world are great. Sometimes, the idea that my little bit of help can't possibly make a difference discourages. We can't all go on missions trips, and even those of us who can may wonder if what we've done can truly change lives in the long run. We can't all volunteer at our local shelter, and for those who can, they must sometimes wonder what it will take to stop seeing the same faces in the lunch line, day after day, week after week, year after year.

But our God did not call us to fix all the world's ails, He simply calls each one of us to obedience. Imagine every single person listening and doing the one thing He asks of them. What might the impact be?

It was a bitingly cold February morning, and the four of us walked the downtown sidewalks between our warm, comfortable hotel and the luxuriously equipped conference centre.

At the halfway point, about two-and-a-half frigid blocks into our trek, we ducked into the coffee shop to soak up some warmth and drink down some fortitude. Armed with steaming paper cups, we ventured out for the final couple blocks. I opened my lid and sipped burning liquid into icy cold lips while we tromped the snowy concrete.

There he was, up ahead, hunched forward against the piercing wind, clothed in heavy coveralls designed for snowmobiling. All his life's possessions carried over his shoulder in a black plastic trash bag.

He must be so cold. I really should give him my nice, warm coffee. But I already drank from the cup. Too bad. Lord, bless this poor man who is without his own four walls of shelter, without a bed, without hope.
The morning worship was moving, the speaker inspirational. I think. I can't be sure because the whole time my heart was distracted. I heard His voice whispering to me, "You could have been his hope, his blessing. Oh how I wish you had listened to Me. Don't worry, someone else will hear my prompting and obey, and he will experience the soul-deep joy that only comes from obedience. He will know that he is making a difference."

Over lunch (convenience food served in under five minutes, purchased with pocket change, consumed in the heated food court of a shopping centre rife with opportunities to spend more) I shared how I felt compelled to give away a cup of love and how I ignored the voice of God. My story was met with the echo of three voices sadly confessing, "Me too."

No, our obedience would not have given world peace or brought an end to world hunger. Armies from many nations try to bring peace and fail. Organizations pour out missionaries to feed the hungry from here to the ends of the earth, yet people starve. All that our meagre gift could offer was hope for a cold and lonely man who had none. Perhaps changing the world is about giving what you have, when you have it, when God tells you to do it. The cure to all that ails this earth might be as simple as a little cup of hope.

A few days later, when I heard His voice again, I listened.

What do you do to change the world?

Today, at A Holy Experience, we're having a conversation about giving, how we give, and how to give thanks.

holy experience

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Good Fruit: Patience

"Hurry up!"

"Come on!"

"Let's go!"

Phrases I exclaim to my children daily. More than daily.

I often think of patience as having less of that. Less rush. Less hurry. Less "go, go go." When I pray for patience it is usually because I have been dealing with discipline issues impatiently. I want to feel more patient, be more patient. Somewhere along the way, we have come to understand patience to mean serenity and calmness.

What if we've got it all wrong, though? What if the word we use to define patience isn't really what God meant in Galatians? Perhaps that type of patience (calmness) is really more of a self-control issue, and God had something else in mind when He used Paul to exhort us to have love, joy, peace, patience...

I looked up patience as it is in the context of the letter to the Galatians, and it is defined as: endurance, constancy, steadfastness, perseverance, and slowness in avenging wrongs. Am I the only one a little bit surprised to find that patience actually means staying power, persistence, and lack of vengefulness?

Can you think of a time when you exhibited this type of patience? Go ahead and share it in the comments.

Frankly, I'm a little relieved. No more striving to feel calm about everything! Well, until I get to tackling that self-control thing...

Monday, November 15, 2010

Friday Feast (on Monday), 11-12-10

Oops! In the chaos of having everyone off school for a week, I completely missed our date on Friday! Please accept my apologies. :)

So how 'bout we pretend it's Friday, and talk about how we've been filling up on the Word of God in the last week. (November 6-12)

My week, passable. Again, I think I was 6 for 7 (Seriously, what is it about that one day per week I think it's better to sleep?!) but if I'm honest, only 2 of those were of any quality. Four times I opened my Bible to read a chapter of Exodus with kids already awake, and if you asked what I read I probably couldn't tell you. I did it because I knew I had to report in here. But then I couldn't honestly just give you numbers and pretend I had such a good week...

School days, with the routine and the schedule, are so much easier! I need to figure out how to stick to my commitment to spend time with the Lord and reading His Word on weekends and holidays. Because frankly, those are the days I most need His strength! Any tips?

How did you do this week? Is there any passage that spoke to you? How about you share it (I'm sure there is someone here who will be encouraged by it).

This week, I am excited for a fresh start! Our Pastor delivered a stirring sermon about prayer and fasting, and I am all fired up for some deep times of fellowship with the Lord!

In case you're wondering, Friday Feast is our own little group of accountability, encouraging one another to feast on the Word of God daily. There are no rules. Join in any time (or re-join). We're here for each other!

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Morning of Character-Building

I sometimes wonder why God saw fit to bless me with five children. Children who I feel utterly unequipped to raise, teach, train, and even love.

It's silly, but at moments like this, I wonder what Beth Moore would have done. Were her girls kind and gentle, always obedient and loving to one another? Maybe. I'm sure there are a few kids out there like that. But if they weren't, if they had sibling rivalry moments - where one child destroys another's artwork, and child two retaliates by kicking in the gut, and when reprimanded the first child is unrepentant and disrespectful to the mother (hypothetically, of course) - how did Beth deal with it?

My discipline strategy this morning was to send child one to the bedroom for half an hour of reflection, to be followed by a letter of apology. Once disrespected, the consequence was doubled to an hour in the room. Child two was sent for a time out and will also be writing a letter of apology.*

Here's the thing... I didn't lose it. No foul words escaped my lips, nothing I will later regret was spoken. While my voice was raised to be heard over the yelling of the disrespectful child, I would not consider what I did to be yelling. Essentially, dealing with this blowout was a victory for me. Yet, I feel far from victorious. Rather, I feel weary. Confused. At a loss.

There are mothers out there who are so good at this. They see it as a challenge and an adventure. Wouldn't one of those mothers be better? Better at this job? Better for these kids?

I know that these feelings and questions are unwarranted. I'm pretty sure that, no matter how Godly she is, Beth Moore probably felt some of these same things. In fact, if I weren't so darn sure that about 99% of mothers struggle to some degree, I wouldn't even dare to write about my own struggles. When I wonder if God made a mistake by entrusting me with the physical, spiritual, and emotional upbringing of five people, I know that I am believing lies whispered by the enemy.

As I push back against the liar, I make room for truth.

I cannot do this job in my own strength. That's why I so desperately need Jesus. With Him, in His strength, I can be a good mother for these children.

God doesn't make mistakes. Each one of those children was soul-matched with me, by the Creator of the Universe, for His good purposes.

Walking where God has called us isn't usually easy to do. Typically, it involves hard work and a high level of dependence on Him to help us.

Sometimes, parenting is less about raising our kids than it is about building our character.

I'm not sure why I wrote this today. I often need to write out life's experiences in order to process them and let them settle in my soul. But I'm also pretty sure I wrote it for you - one of you, two of you, more? Please don't worry about filling the comments with words of encouragement for me (I'm okay :)). But if you needed to hear about my morning, and if the truths God reminded me of are truths you needed to hear, please let me know (either in the comments or by email). Because I want to spend my day praying for you. And hey, feel free to do the same for me! A week off school is enough to undo even the most energetic of mothers.

* In the process of writing this post (which, incidentally, took nearly two hours!) I also asked each child to find a Bible verse that applied to the situation. That verse was not only to be written in the card, but also on an index card for memory work. Child 1 needed a bit of guidance (I pointed to a page and said, "Try reading in here.").

Child #1's verse: Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not want what belongs to others. It does not brag. It is not proud. It is not rude. It does not look out for its own interests. It does not easily become angry. It does not keep track of other people's wrongs.  ~1 Corinthians 13:4-5

Child #2's verse: Jonathan and David became close friends. Jonathan loved David just as he love himself. ~1 Samuel 18:1

P.S. Now that it's all said and done, I am actually feeling a little victorious.