Saturday, February 27, 2010

Saturday Morning Visit - 02/27/10

Alberta, 6:45am (posted later once the Mommy had some coffee in her system)
Sucking thumbs, snuggling blankies, watching Sesame Street.
To see Sat AM in Louisiana, go here. To post your Sat AM visit - take a pic, put in a post, leave your link in the comments. :)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Start Dating Again

I can't seem to put together a post this morning because all I can think about is that I get to go out on a date with a very good-looking guy (who I kinda have a crush on) tonight.

We live for date night. Well, I do! I think that there are times Pat would rather just stay home and veg out, but he indulges me. You know why I love it so? Date night refreshes me and strengthens our marriage.

It can be easy to fall into the trap of living our two different worlds, and simply crossing one another's paths at the end of each day. I'm home with the kids, doing the homemaker thing. He's out working, doing the breadwinner thing. And when the "work day" ends, we are both exhausted. I want to run away from homemaking and child-raising stuff and do something grown-up. He wants to turn his brain off and relax.

I am so thankful that Pat resists the urge to shut-down when he walks in the door and instead engages with us. Because I know how difficult it must be to walk in the door and be "on" immediately, I resist my urge to run away. But give us a couple weeks of this hard work, and we can begin to feel pretty disconnected as a couple.

Anyone else feeling this?

About two years ago we began a tradition of having a date night on payday weekends.

For me, date night provides the face-to-face interaction I need to feel emotionally fulfilled. It gives us both time to be together and talk about any family issues without being "on duty" or being continually interrupted.

(Mom, you may want to skip this next paragraph.)

As you know, foreplay for women has a lot to do with feeling emotionally satisfied. So for Pat, date night holds the promise that the date will continue once we get home.

Date night refuels us both, so that we have renewed energy and can continue with the hard work we both do.

Are you feeling disconnected with your hubby? Feel like you are not heard? Emotionally drained? Don't date in the bedroom as often as you think you should?

Try having a regular date night at least once per month, but ideally twice per month. I suggest getting out of the house if at all possible, to eliminate distractions and your own temptation to "just do this one thing." I would also suggest that you try having a scheduled weekly date night (or morning/ afternoon - whatever rocks your boat) as my new bloggy friend Kingdom Mama writes about here. Try dating your hubby for just a month and see if you don't feel a little bit more connected and not quite so emotionally drained.

Here's the thing. I know lots of my readers (like, three out of the five of you) have small children and tight finances. You're thinking, "We can't afford that! It's so hard to find a sitter!" along with various other reasons excuses. So I'd like for today to be a dialogue. If you have a creative suggestion on how to make a regular semi-monthly date night happen regardless of sitters and finances - please share! On Monday, I'll share some cool things that we (and other people we know) have done to work around these issues.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

No one can say it quite like Lysa

You should read this. Really, you should! :)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Time Really Doesn't Heal All Wounds, But Hope Just Might

As time passes, the harsh sting of tragedy has a way of fading. At least for those of us viewing it from a distance.

Hurricane Katrina, Columbine, the Pine Lake and Edmonton tornadoes (locals will remember those), 9/11, the tsunami of 2004... These and other historic tragedies are but a distant memory for many (dare I say most) of us. Reality is, most of these events became distant memories to us the moment the media allowed us to forget.

More than a month has passed since Haiti was rocked by an earthquake, and the media has moved on to new news. Haiti's needs are no longer front and centre. It would be so easy to let thoughts of their plight retreat into the far-flung places of remembrance.

We must resist our North American urge to move on! The people of Haiti have only two sources of hope: God Almighty and the wealthy nations of the world. Truly, they have only One source of hope. But if we are His, chances are that He will use us to be hope-bearers throughout the world.

Haiti is THE ABSOLUTE POOREST nation in the western hemisphere. We live in the land of milk and honey. How can the poorest nation on this side of the earth ever recover from such destruction? There is but one answer - Y-O-U.

Sure, "the economy" is struggling. Is your stomach cramping with hunger pangs because you've had nothing to eat for more than 24 hours? Do you walk around barefoot, wearing only an old, hand-me-down t-shirt - no pants, often no underwear? Do you, along with a dozen other family members, live in a one-room 6x8 "house" made of propped up sticks and old sheets? If we answer no to those questions, we are wealthy.

Now that the fund-matching program by the Canadian government has come to an end, our donations are more vital than ever! The people of Haiti need us! Please, give with generous and reckless abandon. Give in His Name. Give hope.

(Just click the logo to give hope.)

Because this is one of the ways our family chooses to Walk with Him...

holy experience

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Loot Bag Winners

I have to be honest - drawing names had to be one of the hardest things I've done in a long time! I would think, "Oh, I really hope she wins because she is a new reader," or "Clearly she is in love with this book, so I hope she wins it." Frankly, it stinks to have a limited number of prizes. I wish I could be like Oprah (not that I'm endorsing her, ahem) and tell you all that there is a fantastic gift waiting for you under your seat!

At the risk of sounding trite, I would like to remind you all that you do have a gift to open each and every day, and that's the Word of God. (I know, there is no way that it doesn't come across as a cliche, but seriously! His Word never returns void!) I just spontaneously asked God if He had a treasure He'd like me to share with you today, and one of my memory verses from last year popped into my head:
Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in Him and He will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. ~Psalm 37:4-5, (emphasis mine)
And now, the winners of additional prizes...

#1 - Two copies of Lysa TerKeurst's Becoming More than a Good Bible Study Girl
Bobbie from 40 Shades of Pink

#2 - $29.39 gift card for Chapters/Indigo/Coles
Shauna of Shutterbugg Mom - That's Me!

#3 - One copy of Beth Moore's So Long, Insecurity: you've been a bad friend to us
Heather from the land of no blogs

#4 - An original photocard of your choice created by Danielle of Danielle Designs, in digital file
Jenny at/of The Wagner Family

If you are a winner, you will be getting an email from me asking for your mailing address and/or gathering other necessary details to get your loot bag into your hands. Thanks again for reading, encouraging, and playing!

I have a couple interesting observations/comments about this whole process...

First, you girls are too much fun! I must thank my mom for getting everyone off to a great start by commenting on the party post repeatedly - totally in the spirit I was looking for. Ironically, she did not win a single thing! LOL!

Those who don't know me personally might not know this, but the first three winners are all people that I know personally. I realize that makes the whole drawing process sound fishy, but I promise you there was no fishy-ness involved whatsoever!

Was anyone wondering about the odd amount of the gift card ($29.39)? I will proudly confess to re-gifting. There was a book purchased that was later returned without a receipt, and the poor little cash card has been sitting around just waiting for someone to love it. Since I seldom go to the physical store to buy books anymore, I figured someone else should have it. As well, Lysa's two books were mailed to me by Proverbs 31 Ministries as a promotional tool for women's ministry - re-gift. And though I had planned to buy someone a photocard created by Danielle, she offered to do it gratis! Does it get any easier to give stuff away?!

A few people managed to get their names entered four or five times, yet two of the winners only entered their names ONCE! I guess the whole theory of increasing your odds doesn't apply when you're drawing names from a hat child's plastic drinking cup.

One last thing... It really is better to give than to receive. I mean, I am beyond excited to get these prizes sent out to the winners! Each name I pulled gave me a little thrill for that person. Total fun!

Okay, I lied - just one more thing. But good golly! Does anyone remember me saying that one of the potential prizes would be a copy of my first public talk on Mommy Why Are You Angry? Yeah, I forgot, too. Obviously. Remind me of this a week or two down the road, and I'll see if I can't find an occasion for another giveaway. ;)

All or Nothing

The song below has been on repeat this morning, while Jesus and I have our coffee together.

I believe that we make a choice each day, each moment, whether we will serve our God or serve this world (and the one who has dominion in it). He is a jealous God, and is not satisfied with any half-hearted effort. He wants our all; He wants to be our Everything. There's no middle ground when it comes to our relationship with our God. We make a choice each day, each moment, whether He is our All...or nothing.

Today, I pray that I will let Him be my everything that I do.

God in my living
There in my breathing
God in my waking
God in my sleeping

God in my resting
There in my working
God in my thinking
God in my speaking

Be my everything
Be my everything
Be my everything
Be my everything

God in my hoping
There in my dreaming
God in my watching
God in my waiting

God in my laughing
There in my weeping
God in my hurting
God in my healing

Christ in me
Christ in me
Christ in me the hope of glory
You are everything

Christ in me
Christ in me
Christ in me the hope of glory
Be my everything

Monday, February 22, 2010

Celebrating Some Darn Good Blogging

Read this post and visit these gals, but don't forget to come back to this post and enter to win...

Every now and then, I find myself feeling a bit discouraged in blogging. Maybe my visits are down (stats are not always my friend). Maybe I've been busy or uninspired, blogged too infrequently, and lost readers. Or maybe I just feel like sometimes I'm wasting my time.

When those days get me down, I can always count on my fellow bloggers to life me back up. One thing that always brings a smile to my face is receiving a blogging award. They're nothing formal or fancy, no one regulates them; they are given by the very people who read blogs - other bloggers. Honestly, nothing is as encouraging as hearing someone say, "I read your blog. I like it. And I want to let other people know just how much."

I made a decision early in my blogging days that I would always accept every award sent my way, even if I became a famous super-blogger (bwahahahaha). Not because I feel it's necessary to fill up my sidebar with my own accolades, but because I believe it's important for us to encourage one another. And nothing is more encouraging than having another blogger link to you and send her (or his) readers your way. It's telling them, "I read this blog and you should, too!"

So here are some blogs that I read, and you should, too!

Just a note to the recipients: To accept your blog award simply save the picture to your computer, then upload it in a blog post where you accept it. You may also want to save it in your sidebar (because they look purty). In the post, make sure you link to the blog where you received the award from AND link up to a few (the number is up to you) blogs you would like to pass along some encouragement to. You'll want to email the people whom you are honouring, so they know they're being awarded.

I would like to pass this first award to a couple blogs that are lovely in my eyes:

Loni at Loni Bourne Photography - her blog is made beautiful by the photographic art she fills it with; she's also a real-life friend (and did my photographs for my bio).

Shauna at Shutterbugg Mom - That's Me! - another real-life friend who blogs amazing photos and thought-provoking words of wisdom.

Thank-you to Julie, who blessed me with this award (in June, 2009). Please accept my apologies for taking an eternity to receive it. :)

Award # 2 is going to a couple blogs that inspire me:

Jen at Pearls of Wisdom - a real-life friend, a new blogger, an inspiring writer.

Sarah (aka Kingdom Mama) at Kingdom Twindom - she's hard-core, gets right down into the nitty gritty, and finds God in the midst.

Jenny at The Wagner Family - homeschooling mom to five blondies, chalk full of wisdom on marriage and parenting.

sent this award my way a while back. (She created it herself! Isn't it beautiful?) Your visits and your encouragement are a gift to me, Traci. Thank-you.

The third and final award, to those who brighten my day:

Danielle (aka Mama Bird) at Mama Bird Muses and Babbles - seriously, my day is not complete without a visit to her blog; I heart Danielle!

Bobbie at 40 Shades of Pink - a blog friend made real-life friend whose blog is full of her zest for life (and cooking and gardening - amazing).

Christine at Passionate Homemaking - my long-time (nearly 12 years) BFF; she took a little blog hiatus, but is finally back at it. I missed you (and miss you)!

Julie, I don't know why you keep on blessing me and encouraging me (when I'm such a slow recipient), but again I thank you! You are too kind.

This concludes my 500 post party (but there's still time to enter to win). Thanks again for stopping in!

Celebrate Good Times, Come On!

Welcome to my little space on this here world wide web! Grab your coffee, have a seat, and visit a while.

In honour of the fact that I have been here for the writing of 500+ posts, and especially the fact that there has always been one or two of you reading and cheering me on, I'm having a little party. I don't know about you, but one of my favourite things about parties (besides the non-stop visiting) is the party favours!

For the 500 post party, we'll be sticking with the theme of "fives" all the way through. I'll tell you my five favourite topics to blab blog about, there will be five fantastic party prizes to be won, and you will have the chance to get your name put in the draw five times...

So, without further ado, my five fave topics of conversation (in no particular order, and excluding my family - because they are absolutely, unequivocally #1)...

I love talking about marriage. In particular, how we wives can single-handedly change our marriages (from bad to good or from good to great) by giving our husbands the respect they not only desire, but NEED.

Many of my posts talk about ministry to women. I heart women! The unique way that women have of relating to one another, the need they have to be in relationship with each other, and seeing women using their gifts to serve God - these are just a few of the reasons I will never be able to not do women's ministry in some way, shape, or form.

If you've been around this place a while, you also know that I write about anger in motherhood. I wouldn't say that I "like" writing on this topic, but I don't believe I have a choice.

Though you've only seen it mentioned a few times, you can expect to hear more from me about Haiti. It's inexplicable, but Pat and I have discovered a love for the Haitian people that is unmatched by our love for any other people group of God's beautiful world. And unless God says otherwise, we hope to be a part of the blessing of that nation - both financially and through hands-on work - for the rest of our lives.

You will also find that a good portion of the posts I put up have to with how God is working in my life. I talk about the tough work He does on my heart and I chronicle the many ways I see His hand in our everyday experiences. I need to write what I live and learn, because it is through the recording that Truth and experience take permanent root in my soul.

I bet you're wishing I'd hurry up and get to the party favours...

It will be my great pleasure to give away the following five gifts to Y-O-U:
1. Two copies of Lysa TerKeurst's latest book, Becoming More than a Good Bible Study Girl;
2. A gift card for Chapters/Indigo/Coles in the amount of $29.39 (for my Canadian friends);
3. One copy of Beth Moore's latest book, So Long Insecurity: you've been a bad friend to us;
4. A photocard design of your choice - in digital file so that you can print it at your convenience - created by the fantastic and talented Danielle! (Just a note that you cannot place your order until after Easter, as Danielle is shutting down her computer for Lent.) (Just a new note to let you know that Danielle is still taking orders. And get this - SHE IS DONATING THE PRIZE!!! So you can see why I heart her.)
5. Three blog awards to be passed on to bloggers that I love!

You can be entered to win one of the first four prizes by simply leaving a comment letting me know which one you hope to win. This comment will get your name entered ONLY in the draw for that prize.

If you would like your name put TWO draws, leave a 2nd comment telling me your second choice of the prizes. But, there's a catch... Your 2nd comment needs to include the answer to this question: what topic am I writing a book on and speaking to women's groups about AND why? Hint - the answer can be found by following up on my five favourite topics.

But I really would love for you to be entered in all four draws. I mean, how much fun is that?! If you really want that, too, you just need to love me. :) Leave a third comment letting me know that you have subscribed to the blog feed from Titus 2:3-5 (or that you have added yourself as a "follower") OR that you have sent a few friends to visit and join in the party by linking to this post in one of your posts (don't forget to leave me the link in your comment). If you happen to do BOTH of these things to love on me, I'll love right back on you by tossing your name in a fifth time! I will add that one to your first choice, increasing your odds of winning the gift you really want.

Because I love to blog and I love to read blogs, I'd also like to send you to look at a couple that are near and dear to my heart. I will save that for a post later today, though, because we've been partying here long enough (I'm sure your coffee is either cold or empty by now) and I really, truly want you to go say "hi" to a bunch of great bloggers.

Thanks for celebrating with me! I can't begin to explain the impact that writing for my blog and getting to know a few of you from this blogging world has had on life. I'm hooked for good!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Saturday Morning Visit - 02/20/10

Alberta, Canada

My laundry front living room.

To see Saturday morning in Louisiana, visit Bobbie. To join in, post your own Sat AM Visit and leave a link in the comments. :)

Friday, February 19, 2010

I'm Throwing a Party, and It Just Wouldn't be the Same without YOU!

Without so much as a nod of my head, I wrote and posted my 500th post in this little internet space. I am disappointed that I allowed a special moment (to me, anyway) slip by without fanfare. But, given that I seem to run a couple days behind my blog plans on a regular basis (birthday posts, The God Chronicles*), I have decided to hold a celebration.

So on Monday, in honour of you - the rockin' few who keep on reading my babblings - there will be a par-tay!

There will be a few "best of" posts going up; there will be some long-overdue awards handed out; and there will be prizes! You are welcome to bring your own coffee and snacks. :)

Clearly, I don't have 500 things to give away (oh, but I wish I did - wouldn't that be fun with a capital F?!). How about 1 prize for every 100 posts? Count 'em - 1-2-3-4-5 things for you to win. Just for F-U-N! Prizes may include Lysa TerKeurst's latest book (two copies), "Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl," a CD of my first (and so far, only) talk on mother anger, a gift card for Coles/Chapters/Indigo, and a few other things I'll think of over the weekend.

Therefore, you are cordially invited to attend my 500 post par-tay on Monday, February 22. Come prepared to visit too long, drink too much coffee, laugh (or cry) too hard, and win too many prizes.

* Regarding The God Chronicles... I have decided to give this blog carnival its wings and let it fly away. (Yeah, I'm not so great with the metaphor.) I think it's fair to say that my carnival suffered from chronic lack of participation. Don't worry - I'm getting over it. It just no longer seems reasonable to host TGC as a carnival, given that my heart breaks each month when no one links up. (I said "getting" over it, not "gotten" over it, okay?) I will still post the God sightings in my life under the tag for TGC, and you are always welcome to join in by posting your own TGC and putting your link in the comments. But it will no longer be a regularly scheduled event (no longer, ha, it hasn't been since October) on this here blog. For those who did participate in TGC this past year - THANK-YOU!!! I love you all just a little bit more than my other readers. Kidding. Sort of. ;)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Season of Sacrifice

In considering the season of Lent and doing a little bit of research, I have found it interesting to discover how many people believe that Lent does not apply to them; that it is purely a Catholic practice. Interested and intrigued, but not surprised. You see, in all my years as a Jesus follower I have attended some form of protestant evangelical church, and as far back as I can remember I have heard the word "Lent" during the Sunday sermon on the week just before Ash Wednesday. I must confess that I, too, believed that portion of the sermon as not applicable to me and my life.

I have begun to realize, though, that Lent is more of a mindset than a tradition.

Many people up give something for Lent, but it seems that they often choose something a little bit self-serving. For example, I cannot count the number of times I've heard people say, "I need to lose some weight anyway, so I'm giving up chocolate/sugar/soda pop/etc. for Lent."

The mindset of Lent does not look for self-serving, but rather for self-sacrificing.

On a tragic day in history, roughly 2000 years ago, the ultimate sacrifice was given. Jesus Christ, Son of the One True God, allowed Himself to be brutally beaten and murdered. He hung from a cross - the God-man who was perfect and flawless - and took the punishment for our wickedness, sinfulness, selfishness, pride, arrogance, hatred, greed, and cruelty. Praise be to God that Christ's death was only temporary (which is why we celebrate Easter) and He was raised from the dead.

As we come into the season of preparation for the ultimate sacrifice, should we not be preparing our hearts? What better way to prepare our hearts to receive the gift of Christ's death and resurrection than to sacrifice something in His honour?

Lent, as a mindset, asks the question, "Lord, what can I give up that will better help me to understand what You gave up?" It asks, "What is in my life that keeps getting in the way of me being like Christ?" It asks, "Who can I give to, out of love and obedience to my God, as an act of remembrance for what He gave for me?"

What we give up for Lent should not serve the purpose of "killing two birds with one stone." We should not look for "side benefit" results. Rather, what we give should inconvenience us. It should make us uncomfortable. Maybe it should even hurt a little bit. After all, while Christ hung dying for our sins, I do not imagine that it was convenient, comfortable, nor painless.

The result or side benefit we should seek after is to be sanctified (made more like Him, and less like the world). The mindset of Lent is all about the heart.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Changing Old Patterns

I have a fairly routine life. I like it that way. In fact, I need it that way. If I don't have a schedule, nothing gets done!

There is a time in my day - each day - that I tend to leave blank on the schedule. Nap time. (No, I don't typically nap - but I have a stinkin' adorable two-year-old who does.) I feed the two youngest kids lunch, I put Bam-Bam down for his nap, I set up a movie for his older sister, and then it's "me time."

Around 1pm each day, I make my lunch and sit down at the computer to enjoy it. The plan is to do some blog reading and/or facebook surfing while I eat and digest, then to get up and be productive again. But I really have nothing scheduled for that time slot... So most days I surf blogs and facebook until 3 or 3:30pm. That's two-and-a-half hours of which less than one full hour is being used well.

And that is why I've decided to give up facebook for Lent. (I even had Pat go on and change my password last night, because I know I am weak and too easily give in to temptation.)

I don't know that fb causes any separation in my relationship with God. But I do know that it keeps me from being productive. I am not taking care of my home, I am not writing, I am not exercising, I am not really even thinking. Therefore, it is successfully preventing me from doing two or three very key things that I KNOW are God's will in my life.

I have a tendency towards procrastination and laziness, so I am aware how easy it would be for me to find another mindless task to fill those afternoon hours. To prevent that from happening, I plan to establish a new routine. I will still sit down for my lunch and read the blogs I love, but once I am done I will walk away from the computer and go to the solitude and sanctuary of my room. There I will take some time for intercessory prayer (which I don't do near enough of anyway) - I will let God direct how long I spend there. And following my prayer time I will do one of the three above-mentioned activities: exercise, write, or care for my home. Five days a week for a little over six weeks.

Hopefully, at the end of the season of Lent, I will look just a little bit less like me and a little more like Him.

holy experience

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What is Lent all about?

Every year, I hear people talk about what they are giving up for Lent. And I think to myself, "What should I give up for these 40 days?" To be honest, I'm not sure I've truly abstained from anything for the entire Lentin season. In part, I think, because I've never really understood what Lent is all about.

So I went to one of my favourite, trusty sources of information - wikipedia - to find out what this Lent thing is really about. Because we all know that the internet is never wrong...

Given that I am insatiably nosey, I decided that I need to know if you folks out in blog world practice Lent (which I understand can involve abstaining/fasting from something OR adding in a spiritual discipline). So please, do my snoopy little heart a favour and answer my poll. And if you pick the first option, would you mind telling me what you are abstaining from or adding (in the comments section of the post)? Please? :)

Monday, February 15, 2010

(Belated) Saturday Morning Visit - 02/15/10

To see what Saturday morning looks like in Louisiana, visit 40 Shades of Pink.

Alberta Winter
Saturday, February 13th, noonish...

Friday, February 12, 2010

My Valentine

"Love, love will keep up together..."

I don't know about you, but I grew up believing that love was this special feeling we had for special people. I believed that being loved by someone special would make me happy. And yes, I believed that love was enough to keep us together.

I could blame the media, the Harlequin romance novels I read by flashlight under my covers, or the fact that my father was out of the picture and I was desperate to be loved. Combine those factors together, and the result is one reckless teenage girl. The sad thing is, no matter what I was willing to do to make a boy love me, none ever did.

Eventually, this one boy/man came along. We became a family. We thought we were "in love." And when it got so hard and hurt so much to be together, I kept asking myself, "Why isn't love enough?" The special feeling of being in love was rarely there, happiness was out of reach, and it seemed there was nothing we could do to stay together.

Somewhere in the midst of our mess of a marriage, I looked elsewhere to find a love that filled my heart and brought me little glimmers of happiness. I began to realize that I was wrong all along - my husband loving me enough to make me happy would never happen. There was only One who could answer my heart's desperate plea of, "Won't somebody love me?" As I spent more time in church learning who He was, I noticed that my aching heart was being soothed. I realized that it was okay for my husband to not make me happy. That wasn't his job. And I turned that job over to the Lover of my soul, Jesus.

Our marriage did not miraculously get better. Much time had past as hurts and resentments built up. We continued to talk of divorce - giving up. It seemed hopeless. Though we knew we loved one another, we just didn't feel in love anymore!

Again, somewhere in the midst of the mess, we resolved to make it work. How would it work? We didn't know. Would we remain unhappy forever? We hoped not, but thought it possible. Could we get past the damage we had done? We had no clue. The only explanation I have is God. The God that my husband did not yet know, the God who soothed by broken heart - He spoke to us. Miraculously, my man and I both heard the same message. Love is not a feeling, love is a choice.

We chose to love. When I felt overwhelmed as a young mother and he was away for work, I chose to love him for sacrificing that he might provide well for our family. When he came home and just wanted to relax and I hounded and nagged and begged for him to do what I wanted, he chose to love me for holding down the fort while he was gone. We chose love, and deleted the "d" word from our marital dictionary. We chose to say, "I love you" even though, more often than not, we didn't really like each other. Over and over, through five years of pain and emptiness, we just kept choosing to love.

The choice to love is not choosing to feel in love. It is not pretending to be happy when things are bad. It is not being a doormat. The choice to love is a choice to THINK loving thoughts, SPEAK loving words, DO loving things - regardless of where your feelings lie (and often, in spite of those feelings).

Ten and a half years ago, my valentine married me. Seven years ago, my valentine chose to love me - in spite of the fact that I did not and could not make him happy. My valentine and I have been "happily" married for about five years. (I put the word "happily" in quotes, not because we're not happily married - we are. But I believe the phrase happily married is a misnomer. We are happy that we are married to each other, absolutely! But even now - in a good marriage - we are not always happy. And that's okay.)

And I would not change one single moment of those ten years. If not for those years of mess and hurt, we never would have known how amazing it feels to be in love because you chose it.

Thank-you for choosing love. Thank-you, my valentine, for choosing me.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

In Which I Almost Burst into Tears in a Room full of Men

Megan is what some might refer to as a "spirited" child. She is oodles of fun, has the best giggle and the brightest smile, she loves to help, she rocks out to all varieties of music, she taught herself to dance hip-hop style. The thing is, every little bit of that must be on her own terms. If someone else attempts to dictate their terms (even, or should I say - especially - her parents), her heels dig in so hard they leave little dents in my hardwood floors. When I ship her off to her tenth time-out in an hour, I say this little mantra in my head, "Having a strong will is good. No one will talk her into doing anything she doesn't want to do. She is a leader." And I know in my heart all these things are true.

We have run into a couple unfortunate incidents, though, where Meg's little size 11 heels have dug into someone else's floor - specifically, her teacher's. You see, there were certain activities that she did not want to participate in. So she didn't, doesn't, wouldn't, won't. Because of her spirited nature, our instinct as parents was to break her will (along the lines of breaking a horse in order to tame it). Unfortunately, Megan's response to our tactics was more akin to that of a mule than a horse.

So we began praying. (Yes, we probably should have done that much earlier on.) God, as He is faithful to do, answered. He had me in the right place at the right time in order to witness Megan's withdrawal and refusal to participate. And when I saw it, I knew that we had overlooked something much more insidious than a strong will. I saw shyness, discomfort, lack of self-confidence, fear, and anxiety.

So, we decided to try karate. Megan took to the training right away. That girl can punch!

In the class, because it's a parent-kid class, we also play games. The games, well, let's just say she didn't really take to those the same way. Thankfully, the Sensei didn't push and was fine with Meg standing back and watching us do chicken fights (not the kind you're thinking of!), play tag, bear crawl, and so on. She was also not particularly fond of doing the keyai (I've no idea how to spell Japanese words, but that is the word used to describe the shout that accompanies a punch/kick/block).

Last night, I had the incredible opportunity to witness God answering another prayer.

Halfway through the class, we took a little "fun break" and did some bear crawls and crab walks. By we I mean the whole class - including Meg. Later on, as we were practicing our kata (routine) I heard her keyai beside me. The Sensei wrapped the class up with a good ol' round of chicken fighting. Two boys went, then two men, then he called up Megan and another little girl. I held my breath, clenched my teeth, and used every ounce of will power I have to resist turning and looking at her. My Megan, she jumped up onto the mat, bowed to her opponent, and promptly kicked her butt! Well, technically she just knocked her off balance. She got paired with a boy later on, and I noticed only a millisecond of hesitation before she stood.

As I sat beside that blue gym mat watching my six-year-old daughter chest bumping an eight-year-old boy, it was all I could do to hold back the tears of joy.

I am certain that our Sensei, his helper, and the four dads in the class are all very appreciative of my restraint.

I now notice that my left punch is totally NOT about to hit my opponent in the solar plexus. Clearly, I have a bit of work to do on my form.

Just look at her! Is that not the face of a confident girl?!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Email Q & A

Occasionally I get an email asking a tricky theological question. Because I was a ministry leader, there comes with it an assumption on the part of others that I must know my Bible better than they do. (And I guess if they are not reading the Word regularly that may be true.) More often than not, though, when faced with a tough question I have no idea what the answer is, and I work hard to find it! I would encourage you to do the same - if someone asks you one of those difficult questions that seem impossible to answer (such as, "Why do bad things happen to good people?"), pull out your Bible with a concordance, find Bible commentaries that have been put out by reputable publishers (Zondervan, for one), and try to find an answer!

Now, before I go any further, please be aware of the following caveat: I am not a theologian and have not been trained in theology, Biblical studies, seminary, or any such thing. Any thoughts, ideas, opinions that I share on this blog may possibly be theologically incorrect (and I do welcome correction from those who know more than me - lovingly, of course). But I do give you my assurance that, when faced with a theological question, a great deal of prayer and Biblical research goes into any answer I offer.

This week's Q & A:

So I am dealing with a lot of questions I have about death right now and the more I search through the bible the more confused I become - I'm hoping you have a minute and can share your thoughts on this with me. Please? Do you believe we die and go to heaven or do we just die and that's it, we're dead, until Christ returns and THEN we're resurrected and go to heaven? Everywhere I search I can find scripture supporting that when Jesus returns living Christians will be transformed and the dead will be resurrected - but does that mean that when we die we are just dead until Jesus returns? I don't know why that makes me so sad! I guess it's because I really truly would like to believe that my loved ones who are gone really are 'in a better place', not just dead.

My Answer:
I believe that we die and immediately go to Heaven (Matthew 7:21 talks about entering the Kingdom of Heaven, which says to me that we can and will go there). (Also, when on the cross and the thief hanging next to Jesus asks to be saved, Jesus says, "TODAY you will be with me in paradise. Luke 23:42-43) A few others I found to support my belief are: Philippians 1:23, 2 Corinthians 5:6-8, Hebrews 12:23.

And my understanding is that the dead who are resurrected when Jesus returns are all those who were believers but died before Christ's death and resurrection. Now, I'm not sure about this, but I THINK that for Jesus's 1000 year reign on earth, those of us in Heaven also return to earth to reign with Him.

So here's my best explanation of why I believe this way... Prior to Jesus coming, there was really only one way for people to ensure their salvation - they had to live virtually perfect, sin-free, Godly lives. The only one I remember reading about was Elijah (2 Kings 2:11), who was so godly that God just took Him up to Heaven one day - he didn't even die! [I have since remembered that Enoch was also simply "taken to Heaven" - Genesis 5:24.] The others, who loved God but were also sinners, like David, Abraham, Noah, etc. - they are the ones who (I think) simply died and are waiting for Christ's return. (Just thinking out loud here - I guess there is always the possibility that they were taken up to Heaven after the resurrection as well. Not 100% sure.)

But when Christ came, His blood gave us a New Covenant. The old law (that's the Torah, or the first 5 books of the Old Testament) was gone (Romans 7:6, Luke 22:20, Hebrews 8:13 and 9:15), and the only law that remained was, "The only way to the Father is through the Son." (John 14:6) So I believe that if we go through the Son (accepting His gift of sacrifice for our salvation) we will go directly to the Father when we die.

I hope this helps, but I would definitely encourage you to do more digging on your own. I find Bible gateway a helpful tool for searching certain topics in the Bible, and I'm sure there are some books on the matter by respected theologians at your local Christian bookstore.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Proverbs 31 Wife

Want be the best wife you can be? The wife God called you to be? I know I do! And I found a little help...

Part I.

Part II.

Part III.

Thanks Jenny!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Grit and Determination

While we were visiting our friends in Louisiana, Pat and I got comfy in their living room and shared in the watching of an NFL game. Now, we've never really been NFL fans (nor CFL, for that matter). Hockey is more our (by our, I mean Pat's) sport of choice. But this game was a big deal - the winner was going to the Superbowl. As it turned out, for the first time in nearly a zillion years, the New Orleans Saints had made it to the big game.

It's funny how that little piece of relationship made such a difference for us. We (by we, I mean Pat) were glued to the TV set yesterday afternoon. There was a little bit of hootin' and hollerin' going on in our living room. Shouts of, "Who Dat?!" (The NO Saints have a whole song based on that little phrase.) Our whole family was so intent at watching the game that we completely forgot to don our Who Dat t-shirts last night. Don't worry, we'll all wear them today to rub it in just a little bit. ;)

Those of you who were watching probably saw video footage of the French Quarter after the game. Can I just express my great relief that we visited two weeks ago when everything was MUCH quieter around there? But here's something I bet you didn't know - the celebration is by no means limited to the city of New Orleans. From what I hear, most of the state is having a 24-hour long statuatory holiday in honour of the Saints' win. Businesses all over the place are shutting down so their employees can spend the day paying homage to their champions.

Wouldn't it be cool if we celebrated God's victories in our lives with a day-long party? I think we need to start a new tradition, one where we buy cake, wear beads, and pop the champagne open when God does something awesome. We can even run around shouting, "Who Dat?!" to everyone we see for the next several days (or weeks).

In the meantime, though, I will also celebrate with my friends. Because I watched portions of that game, between bits of housework and parental refereeing, and their our team worked hard for that victory!

Another little spiritual parallel comes to mind... Our victories in life, over our sin and struggles, are also won with hard work. Tenacity in seeking after God, perseverance in our time with God, fortitude in choosing to resist temptation, commitment to prayer. The things worth having in this life - like Superbowl rings and victory over the enemy - are won only through grit and dedication.

Now, without further ado, let's celebrate!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Saturday Morning Visit

Sleepover Aftermath

Alberta, Canada

To see Saturday morning across the world, go visit Bobbie.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Things That Make You Go "Hmmmm"

Question posed to Grandma while we were away...

"Grandma, do I have to love satan?"

"Um, no sweetheart. Satan is evil and the Bible tells us that we should hate evil."

"But the Bible says I have to love my enemies."



This is not the end of the conversation (which I think was handled quite well - thanks Grandma!), nor are my quotes likely to be completely accurate. Sorry 'bout that. Nonetheless, I'd like you to fill in the blank with what your response would be. I need some material for future trick questions.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Inner Turmoil

Okay, perhaps turmoil is a bit of a strong word. Maybe struggle or confusion would fit better. But turmoil made for a better title. ;)

There is this inner battle going on inside of me (duh - inner battle) between jumping in and doing what I'm passionate about and waiting to hear clearly from the Lord.

Here is what I think I know:

- God called me to write this book that I have not been diligently working on, though I know I should. Whether or not I get a positive response from a publisher or agent, I must write this book. At the very least, for the benefit of my family, and hopefully for the benefit of other women and their families.

- I did some of my best and most diligent writing in the spring as I got ready for She Speaks. At the same time I was leading WOW and dealing with everyday life. Through that time (and other life experiences) I have found that two conditions exist to elicit quality writing (I don't know how quality in comparison to others, but it's my best quality). One is that I am in the Word and having my morning time with God daily. The other is pressure - it can be the slight pressure of having a number of tasks on my plate or time constraints. I just work better under pressure.

- I am wildly passionate about women's ministry. Over several years of being involved in virtually all aspects of WM, from serving at to planning events, from leading teams to mentoring leaders, I believe I have discovered my "calling" as it relates to WM. The thing that gets me so fired up that I can barely contain my excitement is the grassroots work. Setting the foundation of a ministry. Establishing a good, working organizational structure in conjunction with mentoring/equipping strong leaders (which includes helping those leaders develop a deepening passion for relationship with Jesus and the various skills needed to lead others effectively - such as diplomacy, prayer, knowledge of Scripture and its application, administration, relationship-building, and so on).

So I know I have been called to write. I know the conditions under which I do my best writing. And I know my heart's deepest passion.

What I am uncertain of is this - can I (or should I) pursue two callings and passions at once? Will I become overwhelmed? Will I neglect my duties at home? Will I end up more irritable and impatient with my children? Is there even a need for the skills and passion I have to offer at our new church? These questions have been constantly bouncing back and forth, up and down, like a handfull of little rubber balls has been dropped in my brain.

The biggest, most important question, though - the one that echos loudly above all the others - is this: What is God's will? Because more than anything in this world, more than my passions and personal desires, more than my hopes and dreams, I want the absolute assurance that I am walking in His will for my life.

But I do not hear Him on this. I am not getting a clear sense. And for some reason, I have not straight-out asked Him.

Fear? Pride? Selfishness? Laziness? I don't know. All I know is that I need to get over what it is and ask. Because the sound of all these little balls boinging around is making me a little bit crazy...

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

It's What You Do

I have seen examples in my children that the things I do hold much more weight with them than the things I say. Some instances are eye-opening and reveal to me changes I need to make (ie., when I hear my kids yelling at one another, I know that they are echoing my actions, and often my very words). This morning, though, I received the gift of seeing something I do right (not always, but apparently often enough that it's had an impact).

Wrapped in a blanket, cup of coffee in hand, Bible at one side and study book across my lap, I was having my morning quiet time. A little person emerged - far too early, in my opinion - and sat on the other couch. My little people know that mommy's quiet time is not to be interrupted, and that they must wait until I'm done or taking a break to ask me a question (and they must wait until I've moved to the office to blog before the TV gets turned on). For a minute or two, my child sat silently.

The next time I looked up, I noticed that the little person had sneaked away so quietly I hadn't noticed. I smiled, and assumed that there was some reading or colouring going on elsewhere in the house. Only a moment later, though, my offspring reappeared - plunked on the couch, opened up a children's Bible and one of my old Women of Faith study guides. Looking over, I noticed that the study guide was turned the the second chapter, and it appeared that chapter one had been completed in childish script.

Together, we spent the next half hour in silence, each completing our respective Bible studies.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

She's Special

Yesterday, my first born girl-child celebrated eight years of living.

Do you remember when you were young, how the year-long wait between each birthday seemed to stretch into eternity? But now, as the mother of that child, I feel like I've barely had enough time to catch my breath since the last birthday.

I am struck by how much change can happen in a year, yet how much of the same remains.

Abbey is taller and her face is losing the roundness of a little child. While still slightly shy and reserved, she is growing into a confidence in who she is. She is growing up.

She continues to have a tender and sensitive heart, and is a bit more on the emotional side (not unlike her Mama). She still takes great pride and joy in being a helper, but now instead of following me around and begging to help she takes initiative on her own to do things that will bless her family members.

So different, yet the same. I am filled with delight at the person she is and the person she is becoming. And I am in awe of what a gracious God we serve - One who continues to work for the good of my children in spite of my mistakes. He asks me to care for them, love them, teach them, train them, but then He gently reminds me that He is ultimately in control.

He lets me follow Him around, doing my best to help, much like Abbey did with me when she was a small child. I remember her helping me bake something one time (yes, a rare occasion) and she made quite a mess. I knew, though, that her heart was fully in the act of helping me, so without a word to her I just reached around her and began cleaning up the mess. I didn't want her to be focused on the mess she had made, but rather on the special job she had done helping me. I am so grateful that God does the same for me.

Though I am often impatient, Abbey is one of the most patient children I know. Though I tend to raise my voice too often, Abbey has a gentleness in her spirit. Though I sometimes get so busy with daily living that I neglect to nurture her relationship with Jesus, Abbey is deeply in tune with the Holy Spirit. Though I left the work of teaching her to read solely on the shoulders of her school, she reads voraciously.

Through her, God shows me the glimpses of good in me. And even though all I've done is follow Him around and fumble at helping, He smiles with delight when I take all the credit for who she is.

Thank-you, Lord, for Abbey - she is so special! And thank-you, Father, for allowing me to take part in her growing up. Being her mother is a treasured gift.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Purify My Heart

It feels like a million years since I've been here. Sitting in front of my computer with my Blogger dashboard open is like coming home to my writer's soul.

Through an anointed teaching on Saturday evening (we were at the Breakforth conference), God spoke to my heart. He affirmed my desire to make this a year of consecration - a year dedicated to purifying myself to bring greater glory to His name. Anne Graham Lotz taught on her book, "I Saw the Lord" in which she relates a journey of repentance that the Lord took her on.

I realized that any effort I make to sanctify certain parts of my life will be wasted until my heart is fully right with the Lord. It's not necessarily that I feel that I am wrong with the Lord so much as I know that it's been a long time since He and I have had a soul-cleansing purge.

Therefore, my morning times will be spent getting things right with Him. I am asking God to reveal to me the unconfessed sins in my life, and one by one I am writing them down. I am not only writing down what my sins are, but the true name by which God calls those sins. For example, what I call overeating is - in God's Word - called gluttony; I also see it as disobedience (for I know that He has called me to stop my destructive eating habits) and as desecrating His temple (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Once each sin is confessed, I commit to repent (turn away) and ask the Lord to help me and guide me in my new path. Then I read the words of Isaiah 6:1-8 and envision a searing hot coal removing that stain from my life.

It has been two grueling mornings thus far, and my list has 5 areas of sin. I suspect there will be a few more mornings yet (like a million!). But I know that it will be worth it.

For I cannot go out into this world, being salt and light, inspiring my children and others that I encounter to pursue Jesus, if I remain unholy, immoral, sinful, and stained. No, I don't aspire for perfection. I don't want to be "holier than thou" (I know how unappealing that can be). But if I am to grow in Christ, to bring Him pleasure, to bring glory to His name, and to be more like Him, I cannot continue where I am now.

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 3:14

This post has been linked up to Kingdom Twindom's Bold Blogging Challenge. Thanks to Kingdom Mama for hosting us and encouraging us to seek boldly after the Kingdom of God!