Friday, 20 January 2012

I Know the Plans...

The rings
I'm planning a wedding.  I met a man.  We shook hands for months.  I finally noticed him.  We went on a date...and haven't looked back.  Exactly a month later my mom passed away.  He was by my side the whole time.  And now we're getting married.  I can't begin to put into words how I feel...

"I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future..." (Jeremiah 29:11, TNIV)

This has long been my mom's verse and one she claimed for me, gave to me.  She believed in this verse for herself and for me.  And if she ever wavered in that I never knew it.  But I wavered.  Many many times I wavered.  And in my wavering I made poor choices.  And I began to believe that no good would ever come into my life.  I wanted more and I hoped for more but I stopped believing it would ever really happen.

It is no accident that I met this man, fell in love, and am now going to be his wife.  God knew exactly who my heart needed. And I may not know what our future holds or where this is going to take us but I know that whatever is to come He's already got under control.

"I know the plans...plans to prosper...not to give hope and a future."

Thank you God for never wavering even when I do. 

Monday, 19 September 2011

Don't Say It...Even If I Am

It is incredible to me how strong the desire to live is inside each of us; that even when we know that HEAVEN is what waits for us on “the other side” there is still often a reluctance to let go and just go, to move from life here on earth to life in Heaven.  I don’t quite understand it and I don’t know that I really realized how strong this will to live was, to keep on going, until a couple days ago when I went to visit my mom.

I see this in her.  My mom is dying.  We really cannot deny it. I am sure she knows it too as her body is slowly emaciated by pain, by the tumor, by the effects of death.  Yet the other day, the idea that others would say she is dying made her angry.  It was as if she could keep it from happening as long as it wasn’t said or like the person saying it is giving up hope, losing faith, by saying it, “Don’t say it…even if I am” were the words she spoke.

I can’t help but wonder: have we given up hope?  Have I given up hope?  By accepting what is inevitable, what I can see happening in front of me, am I losing faith?  Am I not trusting or believing in miracles?  Or am I accepting that sometimes the miracles simply don’t happen when we are here on this earth?  I have had moments when I have felt guilty over the last couple months as I have prayed, not for her to be healed here on earth, but for God to end her suffering and restore her body by taking her home quickly.  I have felt guilty praying this way because I know we are told to pray for healing, believing that He will do it, and He will….and so often we think that means He’ll do it here on earth.  I am not denying that He does choose to do that sometimes….but I wrestle with this.

I wrestle with this not because I don’t believe God can heal her but because I don’t want to pray believing He’s going to work in a specified way.  So often I hear people pray “God, if it is your will, please heal this person…but if it is not, please take them home to you quickly” and I just want to yell “It IS His will to heal them….here or in heaven….either way they are healed!! DON’T YOU GET IT??”  How can I pray for a person who is suffering from a horrible disease for which there is little hope of recovery here on earth, how can I pray for them to experience a complete physical recovery here on earth when I know they are Heaven bound?  Isn’t that rather selfish of me?  Why do I want them to be healed here on earth?  Simply because I want to experience more of life with them….and I am not saying that desire is a bad thing.  It’s not.  It’s natural and fitting when we love someone to want to have more time with them and to be sad when we no longer have that.  However when we think of what it is that they have to wait for when we ask to keep them here longer…well, to me it seems so selfish.  It is me that will be missing her….she won’t be missing me.  She’ll be dancing with Jesus.  How do I ask for her to wait to do that??

So I wrestle.  I pray.  I continue to trust.  I continue to believe in miracles but know that sometimes they don’t look quite like I think they should.  I continue to say "God this really really sucks.  I don't want to not have my mom around.  But I am trusting you."  And I continue to hold on to the knowledge that some day I'll see her again after she's gone...and she'll be happy and whole and dancing and cracking jokes and loving everyone around her just as she did before she got sick.

Gotta say though this inbetween time is really hard.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Love is in the Little Things

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about love the last few weeks and what it looks like.  I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not the big things….it’s the little things that show me and tell me that I am loved, that others around me are loved.  As I watch my dad love and care for my mom in these, her last days, I am overwhelmed by the look of adoration and pride and love that he looks at her with and the willing heart to serve her that is evident in all he does.  When I see my own man look at me with that same look I am reminded that love is in the day to day, in the moments we often take for granted. 
I used to be a girl who needed flowers and jewelry to believe that a man loved me but I have learned that those are easy things to do for someone…anyone can do them.  Would this girl love to receive flowers and jewelry from her man?  Sure.  But I’d trade all of the flowers and bling in the world for the intangible loving acts that happen every day throughout the day…Little things like…
-          Fixing my bike so we can go riding together, while I take a much needed nap…
-          Cleaning up the remains of the many “presents” my cats like to bring me that they leave laying around the yard.
-          Heading to the store early in the morning to get me real cream for my coffee because he knows I don’t like the powered stuff
-          Making the drive out to my place at the end of a long day of work simply because he can’t wait until the next day to see me
-          Talking with me for hours about whatever crosses our minds
-          Fixing dinner for me at the end of a day of work because he knows I’ve had a hard day
-          Texting me goodnight every night and good morning every morning so our day starts and ends with each other
-          Being affectionate with me no matter who is around….holding my hand, etc (appropriate PDA!!!)
-          Being proud of who I am and letting others know he is.
-          Praying for me and thanking God for me and for our relationship
These are just a few things of many that he does that tell me he loves me.  They are the day-to-day things that are hard to really describe sometimes and maybe on their own wouldn’t mean much but when you put them all together, add them all up, they spell a whole lot of love.  When you appreciate these things and recognize them for what they are they are the things that keep the love alive through the years.  It’s in serving each other and appreciating the opportunity to do so that makes these things special. 
Because love really is in the little things. Wouldn't you agree?

Saturday, 27 August 2011


My Mom (on left) 2008 on the beach in Spain.
“Just be glad you can.”
Those were the words of my mom to me today…as I complained briefly about not wanting to do housework. 

She said them as she lay on her couch, pillow propped under her knees, another cushioning her feet.  She’s always been a small woman, but these days she’s smaller than she ever has been.  She is wearing cotton pajama bottoms, a t-shirt. Her face is lacking any makeup although one doesn’t really notice that.  As she lays there, propped up with pillows, there is a table next to her with her laptop, another with a bowl of fruit and a couple glasses, one with water and the other with juice.  At her far side, resting between her side and the back of the couch is a machine, with a tube, that is constantly pumping medications into her body, medications that are designed to keep her comfortable.

“Just be glad you can.”

As my mom spoke those words, her face grimaced with pain, as she fought against it and I could see a greater pain in her eyes than just that which her body was putting her through. And then I recalled my response to her “Yes, I know.  I remember well what it was like to lay in that hospital while I was pregnant with Isaac, unable to clean or cook or do laundry for myself. It was a great day when I could finally wash my own laundry.”

And I realized that what I felt during those days is nothing like what my mom must be feeling as she says those words.  My mom is dying.  She won’t ever do any of those things again.

I cannot begin to imagine what it must be like.  As I have thought of my mom’s passing, I have thought of the many occasions she will not be a part of, the big moments in the lives of myself, my sister and my children.  I have thought of the many mundane moments we won’t have with her.  I’ve thought of how much we will miss her and her sense of humor, her jokes (even if they are sometimes really corny).  I’ve thought of how much I will miss being able to cry my heart out and to hear her say “It’s okay.  I love you and it’s going to be okay.”  Those things are all so incredibly hard for me to think about.

It never occurred to me how hard it must be for my mom. 

“Just be glad you can.”

There are days when I complain about having to get up and go to work.  There are days when I do everything I can to avoid having to do the laundry or housework that desperately needs to be done.  There are days when I am so tired that the last thing I want to do is get up in the middle of the night to attend to my child.

“Just be glad you can.”

There are moments when I am exhausted and don’t feel like I can give one more bit of myself to anyone else and a friend calls needing me to be a friend.  There are moments when the last thing I feel like doing is taking another step up that trail that doesn’t seem to want to end with my children at my side, even though the end of that trail, never explored by us before, could be just around the corner.  There are days when I complain that I can’t afford the big vacation to somewhere tropical.

“Just be glad you can.”

I find myself grateful for the dirt on my floor, dragged in by the cats, the dog and the kids, that I will vacuum up…not because I have to….but because I can.

Thank you, Mom, for reminding me of that.  And thank you for the many words, the many lessons, the many moments you have given us through the years just because you could.  And even now doing as much as you can when you can…because you can.  I love you.

What things do you take for granted and wish you didn't have to do?  Which of those things, if you couldn't do them, would you miss doing?  How can you begin to apply the idea of doing everything all for the glory of God....a verse my mom has endeavored to live out every day for as long as I can remember?  In what ways does your perspective need to change?

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Undeserving Second Chances

When I saw the NEVERBEYOND poster for this week, I cringed and not because I have anything against Mike Tyson…I don’t.  Despite all his wrong-doings and bad decisions, I don’t hold anything against him.  He has shown in recent years that he is a different person and I have no reason to think the changes aren’t sincere and true. I am cringing though…because even as I type this, I am realizing that I am basing my grace & forgiveness of Tyson on his behaviour in recent years rather than simply giving it. That’s not grace or forgiveness.  We don’t give it because it’s deserved…it is NEVER deserved!  We give it because we have received the same from the ONLY perfect person able to truly give such a gift.  We’ve been offered it and we’ve accepted it and in turn we are told to give it…unearned, unasked for, undeserving, freely and without strings.
But that’s not the only reason I have been gritting my teeth and cringing at this one.  It’s for far more personal reasons.  It’s easy to forgive Mike Tyson and not hold his past against him because he’s done his time, he’s made his apologies,  he’s owned up to his wrong-doings and has in many ways suffered the consequences of them.  He’s paid his debt and it’s easy to let him off with that knowledge in mind.  But what about those who haven’t?
I have a personal connection with rape and domestic abuse.  I was 15 when I was raped by a boy/man who I thought cared for me.  He denied it…even moments after it happened.  In fact, he bragged to all his friends how he had “scored” with me, letting it be known that I had given it up willingly and easily.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Every time he told the story, every time someone ridiculed and shunned me as a result, I experienced the rape over again. My response to that at the time was to walk away with my head down, shoulders bowed under the weight of what I now thought to be true about myself- that I didn’t matter enough to be respected when I said no…nor did I matter enough for someone to stand up in defense of me.  As you can imagine, that experience coloured much of my experience in the years following….it influenced my choices and my views of love and sex.  And because I didn’t deal with that for so many years, it affected my ability to make wise choices in terms of future boyfriends and eventually my life partner.
Long before I began to work through and deal with the hurts of my youth, I met and married my, now, ex-husband.  It was a dating relationship in which I dominated.  He was “all about me”….showering me with gifts, special trips, allowing me to have my way whenever a disagreement or difference in opinion came up.  I thought nothing of it…and that, combined with the fact that he talked a really good game, had me certain I was in love.  We never talked about the important stuff (kids, life goals, our faith…we both grew up in the church, were both missionary kids, of course we both believed the same things).  We never discussed how we would handle conflict, money or parenting strategies, nothing.  Almost immediately after we were married the control and abuse began and for 8 years I lived in an environment of uncertainty, anger, mistreatment and disrespect.
Now one cannot live in an abusive environment without, at some point, exhibiting some of the same behaviours.  I would be remiss to say that I was completely innocent of all wrong-doing in my marriage. However, the truth remains that I lived for 8 years in a home where I felt unsafe; where fights weren’t just arguments but almost always involved physical abuse or the threat of it; where no didn’t mean no…it meant torment until it was a yes.
In both of those instances the person involved has never accepted responsibility for their actions.  They have never apologized.  They haven’t done their time or paid their debt.  They have simply gone on with life…in one instance totally hating me for having left and the other completely convinced that they did indeed “score”.
I have had to fight through and come to terms with what has happened.  I have had to forgive both of these men despite the fact that, in the world's eyes, they really don't deserve it.  I have forgiven them even though I have every right to hate them, to wish them dead. 
But you know what? It’s one thing to say you forgive someone and have let go of the past and that you don’t hold those things against them any longer even if they haven’t asked you.  When you imagine them standing in front of you confessing their wrong-doings and taking responsibility for their actions, asking for forgiveness, it's suddenly not so easy.  When I replace the picture of Mike Tyson and put that of the guy from high school or that of my ex-husband…suddenly it’s a very different thing altogether….and I cringe. Because the truth is….I don’t know if I could, without hesitation or a struggle, tell either of these men that I forgive them if they stood in front of me. There are days when the reality of what has happened comes rushing back and I want to see them suffer and forgiveness is the last thing I want to give them because they haven’t changed.  That is where the beauty and total incredibleness of the grace and forgiveness God extends to us through His Son Jesus blows my mind.  HE HAS DONE THAT….HE has forgiven even the worst of us without needing to see that we have changed first.  In fact, the changes most often start to happen AFTER we have accepted the gift He offers.  And because of that, NO ONE IS BEYOND GRACE AND FORGIVENESS.  It is because He has done that for me that I am able to extend grace and forgiveness, even in those hard moments when the memories flood my mind.*
I hope one day I have the opportunity to stand in front of both of these men and say the words “I forgive you” and I hope that one day they are able to accept the gift of grace that we have all been given.  I hope that even today they are beginning to grasp the reality of what has been done for them on the cross and that they can begin to live out new lives characterized by that grace.  I hope and pray that they have the chance to make things right in their lives before it’s too late.  Because despite the things they have done that have caused me pain, I don’t want to imagine Heaven without them there. Because Heaven is home to those given second chances.
 “Everyone needs compassion…a love that’s never failing…. Everyone needs forgiveness…the kindness of a Saviour…the hope of nations…” (Mighty to Save – Hillsong Live)
 We are all NEVER BEYOND….

*Please, if you are in a relationship where there is abuse happening, TELL SOMEONE.  Seek help.  Get out and get safe.  BREAK THE CYCLE.  If you aren’t sure how to do that, or who to talk to, talk to me.  Send me a message.  Check out my “wanna get in touch?” page to see how.
This post is part of the blog series “Never Beyond.People of the Second Chance has launched the Never Beyond Poster Series: 25 posters representing well known historical, current and fictional characters who are believed to have harmed society. This campaign consists of digital and print posters and the full collection will eventually be displayed as a touring art exhibit. The campaign draws out themes of forgiveness, grace and what a pathway to a second chance looks like.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

No More Made Up Parts

“God dwells within me, as me” – Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love

I watched this movie tonight and while there were many quotable lines within it, this one leaped out at me. I remember it from reading the book…I think I might have even underlined it.
I can’t say I totally agree with what she is saying here however I do believe there is some truth to it àGod created me to be me and no one else. The world has ideas as to who I should be and what I should do but all I need to do is what God has made me to do. All I need to be is who He designed me to be. That’s it.
So who is the woman living in my home? Is she an actress simply playing a part, a part that is not really her? Or is she exactly who she is meant to be? Is she herself, living the part she is meant to live?
I honestly don’t know the answer to that question. I think, quite possibly, that I am a bit of both…A woman who, for much of my life, has lived as the person I thought that I was supposed to be, that I thought I was expected to be based on the ideas and desires of others. And yet, through those years there has always been a part of me that has fought against those things, those ideas.
“’I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord.”(Jeremiah 29:11)
“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:16)
These are just two of numerous verses found in the Bible that talk about how God knows me, all of me, knew me before I even existed, and has a plan for me. It’s not random. He’s created me to be who I am, with the personality, skills, talents, gifts, quirks and craziness that make up who I am. He’s made me exactly who I am supposed to be. The trick is taking the time, making the effort, SLOWING DOWN MY LIFE long enough to let Him show me who that is, to actually see who that is, and then to accept and live in that.
I’m not very good at slowing down, at giving myself room to breathe, to really be quiet and just listen. I’m quite miserable at it actually. But I am realizing that I need to get better at it. I don’t know if I will ever see all the parts of the whole that He desires me to be but I do know that as I take the time to listen and to just be I will see far more of them than I can even imagine possible right now. I am loving all that I see now, with a few exceptions (like that darn muffin top that I can’t seem to get rid of….and maybe don’t really care about anymore), and am excited to see more. I am excited to see exactly what the purposes and plans are that He has for me. I take comfort in knowing that I don’t have to be anyone I am not and while some may not always like who I am, it only matters that I am who God wants me to be and He’ll take care of the rest.
I am learning to live this life real, as me, no more made up parts.
How about you? Are you living as the person God has created you to be or are you playing a part? Are you stuck in a role you never chose for yourself because of circumstance or choices? If you’re playing a part that isn’t fitting, ask God for a new script, one written by Him. And if you are stuck, take comfort in the knowledge that while you may not be able to change your circumstances, you can, with His help, change who you are in them. All you have to do is want to be who God wants you to be, look to him to show you who that person is and then live what he shows you. But be ready…it’s going to be one hell of a ride!

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Copy & Paste...Join the Boycott!

“Dear Little Caylee, Tonight on ET [Entertainment Tonight] they mentioned that your mommy is gonna make lots of money off a book (her story) and a movie. Caylee, we the public promise you "WE" will not buy either one. If you promise CAYLEE, then Copy and Paste it......I did!! Lets boycott this so she won't make a dime. Re-post if you will join.”

I saw this tonight on Facebook.

This is what I really want to say in response:

“God help you if you ever find yourself in a position when everyone has decided you’ve done something unforgiveable and decides you should be punished for life for it. Have you forgotten that we are ALL sinners, we are ALL undeserving of the grace and forgiveness we have received?  Have you forgotten that without it, you are no better than she? What part of this boycott declaration is in keeping with what the Bible teaches about judgement?  Where in the Bible does it say we should only extend grace and forgiveness and second chances to the innocent?  Didn’t Jesus, as he was dying on that cross, declare the thief hanging next to him to be free of his sins?

EVERYONE is deserving of a second chance, even those you don’t think deserve one, including Casey Anthony. 

Is it any wonder the world wants nothing to do with the church when the very people who have experienced grace and forgiveness are often the last ones to give it??  WHEN will we stop judging and playing the role of God and start really being Jesus in this world?  If we say we want to be more like Him, why aren’t we?  Yes there are consequences to our actions and when we do wrong, when we sin and hurt others, we have to be held accountable.  But there is a big difference between accountability and judgement.  When will we allow God to do the judging while we do the loving?

When will we as a community start living lives that declare NEVER BEYOND to the world, when will we really be different?  When will we reach out to the lost and broken and unworthy and show them mercy and hope and love? When will I?”

That is what I wanted to say in response to that Facebook status.  But I didn’t.  Instead I said nothing…but I don’t know if that’s the right response either.

What about you?  What would be, or will be, your response if you see someone you are friends with post that as their status?  What do you think that tells the world about your faith if you were to post the same thing?  How does it make you feel when you read it?