Saturday, December 28

It is well with my soul

The snow is falling again.  It began last night.  I can't help but feel bad for my son (in-law) who does snow removal and has been so incredibly busy since winter started.  It seems that snow never falls at the least opportune times!  Usually picks the same day as family gatherings are on.  And, I know he is not feeling 100% with a cold that continues to revolve within our family and their spouses and kids.  But this is winter.

There is something about this day - as I sit in the warmth of my home, with the fire on in the fireplace, and I don't have to be anywhere right now (I do have to go grocery shopping eventually, for the meat for tomorrow's post Christmas extended family gathering here) BUT I think I will wait a while - until perhaps the snow stops and the wind dies down, and perhaps there is more than just a trail to travel out on.  Worst case scenario, I will improvise and check to see what is in the freezer.

I have been doing some clean up - just the main things, laundry (which somehow seems never ending) and just puttering around.  And in my being, I have noticed something very distinctly.  I can feel that my soul is well!!  I used to have a pastor whom I loved greatly.  Pastor Herb would always give me a big hug and ask me "Is your soul well?"  I liked that - because it made me think.  It always made me feel that I needed to answer THAT question truthfully.  (Unlike sometimes when we walk into a church and someone asks us the typical question, "how are you" to which I (and I know that you do too) often just answer "good" and walk by.  Yes, I know you answer that one!

The other day I was at my kids church (which I thank God that my kids are plugged in here) and I was coming up the steps as another grandma was going down the steps with her grand kids.  We asked one another "THAT" question and we both replied "good" and then Ingrid said "well actually that isn't true " and she laughed ... and then I said "ya, I would agree" (as I was just in the throws of the cough/cold virus that is still hanging on three weeks later).  We laughed as we realized we were doing what is SO typically done in churches.  (wearing the mask)

But today, while the wind howls and snow swirls I can honestly say my soul is well.  I still have a cough that has combined with my asthma.  But my SOUL is well.  I feel a contentedness.  I feel hopeful.  I feel joy - deeply seated joy.  It does not mean that all is perfect, because let me tell you, I don't think anything in my life is perfect.  It does not mean that I do not feel sadness over the loss of family and friends who have gone to heaven.  It does not mean that I have it all together (because ya, I don't)  However - it is WELL.  And I feel that - right in the core, the center of my being where God resides!!

It is well!!  O Thank you Lord for that today!!


Thursday, December 26


A few years ago,
(actually many many years ago, because I was in my early 30's)
I was having a conversation with one of my pastors at the time and I shared with with him,
how I always wept when I prayed,
and he said, "it sounds like it is your prayer language"...
I have thought of that often.

You see, I weep a lot
I almost always weep when I pray
At first I used to feel like I had to apologize
or explain
but now, I just let the tears roll, and fall where they may
and grab a Kleenex when we are done praying

I weep over my own stuff
As I talk with my Lord about what is on my heart
I have lots of stuff to weep over - believe me!!

I also weep easily when I see someone,
or hear something
or remember some memory
that is attached to someone I love and have lost

This week - I have wept a lot
Sometimes I use my travel time (alone in the car)
to talk with the Lord
and sometimes it is a little embarrassing when stopped next to someone
I always think that they must think I have bluetooth in the car, and I am talking to someone on the phone
Oh, if only they knew exactly WHO I was talking too
at least then it would explain the tears

I called to encourage a friend who is the "hub" of a pretty amazing prayer chain.
I got their voice mail, and I was actually happy, as all of a sudden I was feeling a little weepy.
I left the message, and then heard a call coming in.
Oh shoot - now I had to talk in person and repeat my message.
So as I was "encouraging them" I was weeping.
It seems that the prayer line has been the hub for many prayer concerns lately, some very very hard ones.
Many times God answers the way people want, you know what I mean ...
when people ask for healing,
or for deliverance from depression,
or for a job interview,
or for the safe arrival of a new baby,
or for negative test results.
But sometimes -  God answers prayers by taking the person to be with Him.
GOD IS STILL GOOD even when a person dies, but oh, it is usually NOT the way we want the prayer to be answered!
Lately the prayer concerns that have gone out, have been deep and hard.
I was pretty sure the "hub" of the prayer chain was feeling the same way I was.
Sometimes you just know when another person is experiencing the deep burden for others.
So anyhow there I was weeping as I talked, explaining that really, I was just trying to encourage him.
And after I said good-bye, I wept.

I have wept over a family member
who continues to be caught in a cycle of addictive behaviours
and consequences from years of addictions.
Last week I wept again, as I wondered what kept him going,
when all that was ever important to him, is no longer in his life.
I have wept when I realized that anything I could give is merely a band aid.
Lately I have wept tears over him again, wondering and asking God what it is that I should be doing,
or being, in his life.
God? What is my role?
It is actually easier to reach out to the "least of these" when they aren't related to you in any way!
I have wept tears over and over again, but felt helpless as to know how to help.

In the last month, I have prayed with tears for friends who I knew were just days and hours away from being in the presence of the Lord.
And then have wept for those they left behind reeling from the loss.

I have witnessed the sweetness of my grandchildren and have prayed for them often,
with tears rolling down my cheeks -
especially as I give them to the Lord,
and ask for them to give their hearts to Jesus when they are old enough to make that decision.
I weep for my children and grandchildren a lot -
and that is NOT because they are in any trouble that I know of, but because of my great love for them, and the knowledge that our Heavenly Father is even more head over heels in love with them all too!

A couple days ago, the 24th to be exact
I had a little bit of stocking stuffers to get still, so off I went
I was leaving the stores and at the lights at Regent and Montana's restaurant (not sure the street)
And I saw a man, with frosted beard, and rosy red cheeks.
His sign said he would take a job, or donations
Now I know, many of us have seen the show that I think it was 60 Minutes did on "professional" beggars
You may have seen the show.  It followed around a guy who begged on street corners as a job.
Yes, a job.
A job that he would drive to, and park a block or so away, change to his "begging" clothes and proceed with a sign and a backpack to a favorite corner.
I am fully aware that each person needs to make their own decisions about whether to give money to someone who is begging, or squeegeeing your windows, or whatever
And, to each their own.
Personally, I have chosen to help out when I can, whether it be hot coffee, some food, or money.
Maybe the people behind me think that "oh there goes another one being taken for a ride"
I don't believe that anyone would actually want to stand in the cold, on a winter day in Manitoba and beg if they didn't have to.
I also have another reason.
I have someone very close to me, who has been homeless often, and may just be someone who has been the beneficiary of kindness of such kind.
Anyhow, there I was, at a standstill.
I rifled through my car for some money, found the bill, and wound down my window.
"Thank you - God bless you" came the response as he reached his hand out to accept what I had to give him.  And back he trudged to his place on the corner - watching to see if anyone else was so inclined.  And I wept as I drove away.

I went into the jewellery store as I needed to get something I had seen the other day.
The young man who waited on me was just wrapping my small purchases.
I had chosen something for my sister.
I told him "I would like that, my sister has just lost her daughter this year." (choking back tears)
I paid, and he proceeded to wrap the gift, and when he brought it to me he said, "Have a Merry Christmas!"
I looked at him and said, "You too."
He smiled, and then I also said, choking back the tears once again,  "I want to thank you - in this day and age when it is not politically correct to say Merry Christmas, you still risked it and said that.  I want to thank you for saying Merry Christmas - because that is important."
I can't really remember what his response was, other than to smile.
I walked out, and wept again.

Yesterday, late in the day,
I was on my way to my nieces house to meet with some of my extended family.
I was thinking as I was driving the north perimeter - which then became the west perimeter.
I think a lot on this stretch, as it was the place my niece Keri drove the morning that she lost control of her car on the stretch of perimeter that was like a sheet of ice
As I passed by the intersection of the perimeter and Hwy 6, I slowed, looking for the white cross that was lovingly made and place into the ground as a marker.
I passed it, thinking about her and how much we miss her,
and I wept.

I have been with loved ones, who did not want to cry tears,
as they felt they shouldn't do that around people,
or that maybe people didn't know what to do with the tears.

Yes, tears sometimes make people feel uncomfortable,
but I think that is okay.
I have been with people who keep apologizing for their tears, as if they are wrong!
I think tears are healing.
I think they are important in our journey.
The Bible says "weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning."
I also think that the word "night" isn't just ONE night, but during the "dark night of the soul" when tears become our closest friend.

When I walked through my deep depression in the late 90's. I came across a verse in the Bible that blessed me so much!
Yes, it is about tears!!   It is this verse:

Psalm 56:8

New Living Translation (NLT)
You keep track of all my sorrows.[a]
    You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
    You have recorded each one in your book.

Isn't that verse amazing!!
Can you imagine - God collecting our tears in bottles!!

When I got my tattoo after we lost our grandson Jay Benjamin, the Scripture reference was from Revelation.  The verse says this:

Revelation 7:17

New International Version (NIV)
17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne
    will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’[a]
    ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’[b]

I love that one day,
God will wipe all the tears from our eyes - and there will be no more tears!!
That will be something.

However, until that day comes,
I will continue to talk with my Lord,
with words,
with moanings that the Holy Spirit intercedes with on my behalf,
and also through the language of tears!

And, if I happen to be praying with you, well, just pass the Kleenex when we are done!!

Tuesday, December 24

Missing my sweet friend Audrey, on her birthday.

I have been thinking about you a lot my friend
how you are with Jesus
and how we, who you left back here almost a year ago
we (especially your husband and son)

Often I look out my back yard
across the field and to the left
and think of the times we sat and talked
over a cup of coffee
toward the end,
Arnie always made it for us
those were sweet times
and I miss them so much.

Often I think back to the first night we met
finding out we were not only going to be in the same care group
but also neighbours
something happened in my heart that night
you instantly became my friend

It was a hard journey you had
The first year, you took it in stride
and beat that monster
or at least when we celebrated,
we thought you had
but I won't forget that time when you and I were together
and you shared about something you found in your leg
surely just a varicose vein
but then
you found out,
the monster was back
and the lump in your leg was all a part of it.

I don't think I ever thanked you my friend
for allowing me into your life
and into your life with cancer
as hard as it was
there were times when we laughed
and I came to see your "Audrey smile"
and I came to understand your wit and your sweet sarcasm

Your second fight with the monster
was harder
and took more energy out of you
and more time out of your life
and it scared the heck out of your husband and son
and the rest of us
You and I talked about how we both had this strong sense that this round would take you to be with Jesus
that was so incredibly hard
to feel that so strongly
but to continue to pray boldly for your healing.
O it came alright
the morning you entered into the arms of Jesus.

I will never forget this time last year
when I baked a cake (although it was very sweet)
you had told me once that your mom used to make angel food cake for your birthday
and Julie and I showed up, with candles in hand
but your day, your BIRTHDAY
was not such a good day, in the midst of a really bad time.
But we visited
and talked
and we prayed.
It was so hard to say "Happy Birthday" seeing you and knowing that it was going to be your last
this side of heaven

I will never forget sitting by your bed
holding hands
and often neither of us saying a word
just enjoying one another's presence
and letting the unspoken words, speak into our hearts.

I miss you my friend
O how I miss you
and writing these words bring tears
that run down my cheeks.
but I realize they are just tears for me
because the reality is
You sweet One
are seriously having the time of your life
Heaven - I bet you could tell me some wonderful things
And there is no sickness, no tears, no death.
You are completely whole.

But for us who just really really miss you
Our hearts are still pretty broken
Although we do know
it is only for a time ....
till we meet again.

So my friend - this year, in spite of the brokenness you have left behind
I can honestly say - Happy Birthday Audrey
I can only imagine how happy you are there.
but my tears flow because I miss you so much
your gentleness
your friendship
your wisdom
I miss you so much because we became sisters
and I loved you
So happy birthday dear One - as you spend it with Jesus - the giver of the greatest gift of all
Which you have gotten to experience before any of us.
Our loss losing you
But your great gain - going to be with Jesus.

So our tears will fall
our hearts will ache
our memories will fill in great stories
until we are together again!

Happy Birthday with Jesus Audrey!!
I love you my friend
and I miss you.
More than words can tell.

This song, one of my favourites - is for you!
I will always love you my friend.
Happy Birthday in heaven!

Tuesday, December 17

slow dance of the snowflakes, deepfreeze and broken hearts

The sky is grey and overcast &
nature  around us looks bleak, 
a mixture of greys and blacks with the dark green of the pines mixed in ~
like a promise that all is not dead, but merely asleep for a while.
The freezing cold has let up a little
and I actually ventured outdoors to sweep off the deck without a jacket.
Compared to the deep freeze of the last week
it felt like a wonderful reprieve.

Although the sky is grey, and the sun is hiding~
there is a strange calm.
a peace
a tangible stillness
that makes me want to stand still and drink it all in
one frosty breath at a time.

Snowflakes are falling. 
It reminds me of a slow dance with a beloved partner
or of the snow globes I loved  to shake as a child.
(and even more as an adult)
The flakes fall and accumulate  in a fresh white and fluffy blanket
covering the dark earth below, that is asleep ~
sound asleep
for a few months.

Birds are coming to the feeder that is covered with a few inches of snow
however with a flick of their head and beak
they find and grab the seed that is hidden under the  snow
and fly away as if they have a hidden treasure.
(if He cares about these birds, how much more He cares for me)

how can it be
so silent?
and yet oh so loud
as creation sings.

do  snowflakes make a sound as they touch the ground
do frozen and barren branches play music as they rub against one another in the wind
do icles tinkle as they break or drip in the  sun
and do the birds speak in a  language of their own, as they call one another to the feeder
O how it sings!

And I
take in the sight
the sound
the feel
of winter
my heart and thoughts jumbled
and tears fall frequently
as if the emotional roller coaster is on a ride
that doesn't stop.

sometimes the awareness of such deep hurt and grief
of pain and loss
of shattered dreams and broken hearts
is more than I can bear
and He reminds me I don't bear it alone.

the pain of loved ones
stumbling through their days
with grief that is so fresh
even though months have passed by, one after another.
sometimes too slowly
other times all to quick
time  ~ are you our Friend or our foe?

my grieving has taken on a new season too
and even though it looks somewhat different than it did five years ago
it is still ever present
which I was reminded of the other day
when  I spoke of a kindness done for me
that of a young woman asking me  (in the fresh rawness of losing our Jay) 
if I would like to hold her newborn
I wept then
and I wept the other day as I shared that story with her dad

my heart is freshly broken
for family and friends~
so new in their walk of grief
that they are still just trying to stand
before they trust their legs to carry them on the journey...
trying to get up from under the incredible pain
and  likely never believe that there will ever be 
beauty or wholeness or laughter
in their lives again.

and as this snow falls
it somehow brings a tranquility
an assurance
a peace
and solitude.
there is just something about the newness of the snow
life giving.

we watch as this season of ice and snow
of winter wrath 
sometimes dumping its fury
and other times reminding us that it is winter
but spring will follow.
and for that I am so thankful

our hearts
almost dead feeling
cracked under the pressure of the season
they will experience the beauty of rich warm soil
hot sun 
and warm breezes
I know this
because it has been my experience
and because I know
for sure 
that Spring and Summer always follow winter


Saturday, November 23

Larry's reminder .... "the best is yet to come" ... "in the twinkling of an eye ..."

It has been a week since I left the very beautiful confines of Glen Eyrie and have reentered life back home.  My heart has been overflowing, and while I have been able to begin to mull over what I have tucked away in my heart, I have found for the most part, that I hit the tarmac running.  All good - but running never the less.  So it has been, that I have begun to mull over the thoughts that have bubbled out and begun to run over.  And it is good.  While we were there - we were given the gift of Monday night, when we watched Anthony Lawton do a 90 minute dramatization of C.S.Lewis' "The Great Divorce" ....  I guess it got me thinking about Heaven.  Many thoughts ...

One of those thoughts lately, since Next Step school of spiritual direction - have focused around the thought that Dr. Crabb (Larry to us :) said.  It was not a new thought, but one that struck me deeply.  He said "Never forget - the best is yet to come..... In the twinkling of an eye..."
Dr. Crabb said that the "Second Coming" seems to be de-emphasized .... that he grew up with it (he was raised Plymouth Brethren like I was) and I remember hearing my father speak on the Second Coming with a quiver in his voice.  He loved to study the last book of the Bible - Revelation.
The interesting thing is, as I had been working through reading the Bible, and had read the 1st, 2nd, 3rd John and 1st and 2nd Peter ... I mentioned the same thing to Alvin - and asked him when was the last time he had heard a sermon on the Second Coming. 

I remember in my teens, the movie "A Thief in the Night" came out.  I remember watching it at Faith Bible Camp and being shaken - and wanted to make sure that I was ready if the Lord came.  I was never a kid that got into too much trouble, but the teen years really were years that cemented my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  It had become "more" my own than when I gave my heart to Jesus at the age of 8.  Life does that - we grow up and our faith is cemented for us.  Our life experience grows - along with our faith.  Or at least it should.

I have come to see that we really do live in the temporal - we love deeply - we live life to the fullest - we value family and friends and church and work.  It is good.  Very very good.  And we hate to see the reality of our existence - that we are really just passing through to eternity.  I know that I think often about heaven - especially since the deaths of my parents, and in-laws, and especially when our little grandson went to Heaven before we got a chance to know him .... not to mention other family and friends that I have loved deeply.  So I feel like Heaven does not hold a scariness that others perhaps feel.  (or at least I can say that now, as I am not facing any life and death situations.)

I know that I love what I am doing - and love all that God has made me to be - and I am learning more and more about embracing life.  BUT as Larry said - NEVER FORGET THE BEST IS YET TO COME!!  It makes me stop, and say, YES ... the best really IS yet to come!

So, I will go on about my every day life.  I want to be living fully in the hear and now - embracing life with Jesus and loving it - my husband, my kids, my grandkids, my extended family and friends.  I want to live a life of purpose - that will bring honor and glory to Jesus Christ.  I want to make a difference in the life of someone else.  But I also want to live with my hands upturned and open - so that I am not clutching onto things but instead live open handed and ready.  I love this life - I am not going to lie.  But I can't help but wonder about life with Christ - and that excites me when I think of the best is still to come!!  YES.  Dr. Larry Crabb, thanks for the reminder!!

1 Corinthians 15:52

New Living Translation (NLT)
52 It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed.

Saturday, November 9

Chicken, Sweet Potatoes and meaningful conversation with Larry

Tonight I sat down at a table and within minutes, Larry (Dr. Crabb) and his wife also joined the table. I felt this mix of excitement and fear!! lol.  Excitement about what the conversation may be that takes place.  Fear about the same thing.  Healthy Fear (I think)

Larry (as he would rather be called) asked how our quad went this afternoon.  I shared some of that with him.  (Quad is a time spent together with 4 other people, talking about the assignment given).  After we talked about that a little I shared a bit of what I went to bed on my mind with last night.
He had revisited the topic of "conversations that matter - because they delight the Father; reveal the Son's heart, and provide opportunities for the Spirit to do what he most wants to do."  And then he asked us to think about conversations that fail to reach that bar.

My mind went immediately back to a time, while I was in leadership, that I had shared something that was very personal, and someone I worked with said something very hurtful. (this was not new for this person, but his response this time was at a time when I was very emotionally low and really hoped that someone would be there for me - if nothing else - at least to pray with me).  I had shared how I had once almost drowned physically, and now I felt like I was emotionally drowning. Later that day, my coworker felt that we should talk (I suppose) and poked his head into my office and began by telling me "those were very strong words you used" ....   the rest of the conversation I will not reveal, just suffice it to say, it went pretty downhill from there.  And no, there was no prayer either.  So this was the conversation that I remembered immediately when Larry asked us to think about a conversation that failed to reach the bar of delighting the Father, revealing the Son's heart and providing an opportunity for the Spirit to do hat he most wanted to do.

So tonight, as we ate supper, I told Larry that when I went back to my room last night, and got ready and crawled into bed, the memory of that  conversation made me feel sad again.  And then I shared how in SSD of October 09 when I was in my triad, I began to share something hard that happened to me in Kindergarten - only to stop in my tracks and I said these words, "Oh my goodness, I just realize that what I felt in kindergarten with that teacher, is the same way a co-worker made me feel often."   I told him about my "aha" moment in the middle of my conversation within my triad.

HOWEVER, I proceeded to say to him how last night, when I recalled all this, while it momentarily made me feel that pain and sadness again ~ the overriding feeling was one of seeing where God had brought me since the rawness in Oct 09 to this point, November 2013, and all that God had done in me, and with me, and yes, in spite of me in the last 4 years.  And the forgiveness, and joy, and growth.

4 years.  A lot has happened.  God has been at work.  I resigned from pastoral ministry.  We left the church that had been our home for over 30 years.  (HUGE DECISION that was made out of alot of feelings of hurt, however in retrospect, I really believe for a number of reasons that I would gladly say over coffee, but would rather not share here - I believe we would have left regardless of dealing with the pain and hurt).    And then we moved, and lost a mother to cancer, and built the ministry house, and in between those years added some grandchildren to our family.  And now, a ministry God laid on my heart in 2000 has been in operation for 7 full months.  God has been at work, and has changed our hearts, and has brought healing, and spiritual health.  He has continued to write our/my story and he still makes the hair stand up on my arms, and causes me to loose my breath at times!  God is just like that!!

Larry and I had more conversation - and towards the end of it, we talked about how my kindergarten experience and my experience with my coworker made me feel "stupid" and "less than" and how it has shaped me in such a way that I often feel like I don't have anything to offer, or I may not want to try anything, or say anything because of the fear of being called out in front of others, and made to feel stupid.  That feeling .... it is so real. And it drives my response (or no response) in certain areas.  Sometimes I wish I could tell my past coworker this, but I really don't think he would get it. That part, for his sake, is truly sad.

Larry encouraged me to think of something as I went to bed.  He had asked how my mom or dad had responded to me as a 5 year old.  I had no memory of telling them - maybe I did, maybe I didn't.  Can't remember.  Then he asked how my husband responded when I told him of my co worker's time(s) of making me feel stupid. (yes, there were several times before the one that hurt so much)  And then he said ... as you go to bed, think of what God would say to you, that would make you simply delight in his response to you.

So.... this is on my mind as I get ready for bed ... and will be no doubt as I drift off to sleep.

God, you know about my experiences with people who have made me feel stupid.  You know all about me, and how those experiences come out of a core terror.  (A core terror is a deep fear still living within that seems to require and justify that which makes us present as more together than we are)
God you know that I hate to be made to feel stupid.  And because of that, you know that it limits me in many ways - and it also makes me stifled from feeling fully alive for you!  Lord, I ask that you would work within me - and help me to hear what it is YOU want to say to me - O Lord, I want to be living a fully alive life!!  Please Lord, speak.

feeling surreal

I got on the plane yesterday morning and started my journey back to the Glen.  I met D and J at the airport and we got out car, made a pitstop at Walmart and then after getting a little lost (although we did get to travel through the Garden of the gods) we got to our final destination - Glen Eyrie.  We got our rooms and I brought my stuff down to my room, shut the door and that is when it hit.  I am back at the Glen, and in Next Step Class #5.  I have thought of it for a while, and prepared but it feels very very surreal.

I will be honest, I have come here very tired.  My life has been full, and starting out on our new ministry also has made it full.  IT'S GOOD but FULL, sometimes overflowing.  I am an introvert by nature, and I am finding it hard to figure out how to figure that out.  I love people, but I know that I need my alone time, and I especially get energized by being alone with God.  And lately, praise God, we have had many more people coming, so my life has been full with people. It somehow still seems a little bit complicated but I have great confidence that I will figure it out.

I have been tired too, and struggling with pain, so that has made it complex.  I am really really excited about the possibilities of this week - in many ways, one of them being that I have literally stepped out of the traffic (as the Message puts it) and I am waiting to see what God does because this gal is desiring all that he has for me, and I feel a little like a sponge.

Last night, in our first session, Dr. Crabb (although he likes being called Larry, somehow I find that hard lol) ... anyhow Larry said about this week ahead together that he wants "to play in the truth" ...
So Father - thank you for this most amazing setting that you have allowed me to come to again to learn and spend time with others, but mostly with you.  Thank you for this time of learning.  Lord, please enlarge my heart for all that you have for me.  Please refresh my physically weary body. Please open the eyes of my heart to learn more of your truth as I study and read the Scriptures.  Please make me teachable as I study under Dr. Crabb, so that I can use what I am learning in ministry with others.
I ask you Lord to bless my family and grandkids while we are apart.  Lord, may your will be done in my life - I am willing Lord.  Refresh this vessel, and pour into it till it is bubbling over.  May your will be done in my life.  Amen.

Monday, September 16

a word from one of my pastors - on FAITH

I love my church.  Absolutely love it, and thank God for the family of God that we worship with on Sunday mornings.  I am realizing that doing retreat ministry has changed our weekends, or especially MY weekend - a lot - and so I am just delighting in every Sunday that I get to physically sit in the pew.
Today was one of those Sundays.  (next Sunday I will be home with a retreat-er so will not be in church).

Anyhow - the sermon series is called "Essentials by Design" and this Sunday Pastor Delbert spoke on "Faith".  (Last week it was LOVE)  The scripture he used was from 1 Timothy 1: 12-16 where Paul is writing to young Timothy.  Paul talks about how God "considered me trustworthy" or other words would be "judged me" or "sized me up" AND God put Paul into serving Him!! Paul - the one who was the great persecutor of Christians - was stopped dead in his tracks - and for the very first time, with blinded eyes - he (as Delbert put it) "gets to see Jesus!"

Delbert explained the difference between "believing in God" and "faith" which is "acting upon the things you know that are true about who God is!!"  Jesus says - "Joy (insert your name instead) - have faith in me - and that the things I have done for you (going to the cross for your sin) - those things are true!!"

But Delbert also challenged us to move away from "strictly believing" and "act upon what we know!" And also to let Jesus go deeper with us!!  It is important to share our story with others - and "when you tell your story - there is an eruption of praise that comes out of you!!" (as Delbert said it)

An eruption of praise!!
Oh my goodness - what joy - what delight - what praise - all to the One who has redeemed me, and made me one of His own!  A sinner saved by grace.

Somehow - the sermon was so very simple - and yet so very profound!  I left pondering the words that I heard.

I believe that we all have a story.
But perhaps not all of our stories include Jesus Christ - redeemer - Saviour - Rock - Comforter - Counsellor - the great I AM - ....
I am so thankful Lord - that you are my Saviour - my beloved - and you love me SO much.
You have given me a story to tell - and may my life be an eruption of praise!

Sunday, September 15

You Surround Me

For some reason, I was thinking tonight of a song that I loved the first time I heard it!
It is by one of my favorite musicians - Brian Doerksen and the son is called You Surround Me.

Lately, there has been a lot on my/our plate.  
It seems that since January 1 of this year - there has been a lot on everyone's plate.
A buffet of emotions for us to chew on ...
A plate overflowing most of the time.
There has been tons of good stuff
But there has been tons of hard stuff.
Really HARD stuff.

Lately we have been praying hard - for many things
And we have seen God answer in some amazing ways.
But we have also seen people and friends going through some really really tough times

So I am reminded again - YOU O Lord, YOU SURROUND ME!!
You will never let me go
I can't live my life without You

oh such beautiful words
such a timely beautiful reminder

I am glad that I am listening to this song just now - as I get ready to get to sleep
The words can resonate in my being while I fall asleep ... (I especially like the Gaelic)

The words go like this:

You surround meYou indwell meYou're beside meEver present always nearYou're the whisperCalling my name gentlyLove eternalReaching to me jealous for me
(Chorus)I will stay with You foreverArm in arm we'll walk togetherYou will never let me goI can't live my life without YouMy whole will to live is for YouYou've awakened me to know
I can't live my life without YouI can't live my life without YouI can't live my life without You

Thursday, August 29

there is just so much .... so.very.much.

we likely could all say this at one time or another

I feel like I am eating my own words these days, as I look around me and see so much pain
well maybe not eating my own words, but definitely putting my own words to the test
(having just delivered a sermon a couple weeks ago on suffering and pain)
there is just so much
so much suffering
so much cancer
O Lord ... there is just so much.

"I am with you"

Yes Lord, I know that
But sometimes, just sometimes, I wish I could see you
and I wish I could talk to you - face to face
I wish I could see your eyes!!
I wish I could ask you the hard questions that just always seem to rise to the surface
You know Lord ...
all those "why God" questions
that there are no answers for ...
at least not on this side of heaven
and I have a feeling when I see you in heaven - my questions won't mean a thing any more!

"Trust Me"
Lord.  I do.
Or at least I THINK I do.
It really is called "blind trust"
because I am choosing to trust - even when I can't see
I am choosing to trust - even when it looks dark
I am choosing to trust ~ even when it feels like there is no good answer coming
I am choosing to trust - because I know that you are GOD and YOU are in control!

"Do you believe it though?"
Of course God - of course I believe you are in control
Of course I know I need to trust you with all my heart
Of course I believe!!
But well, sometimes God - I feel like I am going through motions
And I hear my words coming out but sometimes I feel like my heart is trying to catch up
But I do believe
O Lord, help my unbelief at times!
O Lord, strengthen my faith!

"Will you trust me in the dark too?"
Lord, I think I have trusted you in the dark
I called it the dark night of the soul
It was so dark - so incredibly black.
I trusted you because well, because I felt like I had nothing else!!
Nothing but you!!
I know that.
You are truth, and life
beginning and end
rock, shelter, refuge, provider,
creator, guide, shield, King, judge,
Almighty, beautiful Saviour, the Door, Eternal One,
faithful and true, the Good Shepherd,
I know that you are just and good, that you are loving and kind
that you are merciful and near to the brokenhearted
I know that you are the RISEN LORD, and that you alone are GOD!!
So yes Lord, I will trust you - even in the dark.

"Then give me you family.  Give me your friends.  Give me your journey...
Entrust each one you love, each one you are praying for ... along with your own life...
Entrust it all into my care!!"
Lord, there is so much - like I said - with cancer alone, it feels like there are so many suffering
(trust me)
I wake up at night - and think of them - and pray
(trust me)
Sometimes I feel like I have my kids, my grandkids clutched tightly in my hands
(give them to me completely - trust me!)
And my friends ... O God, there is just so much!
I see their facebook status, I talk with some on the phone
I hear about them through mutual friends
(trust me)
O Lord - help me to lift them before your throne

"And you too!!!  I am here - give me your stuff too"
Yes Lord, I am just feeling a little out of sync
A little tired - and in need of some good quiet time with you
Feeling a little overwhelmed with how full life is at times
And with the pain around me
It just seems deep and like a surrounding circle
It just seems like so very much...
that I just seem too tired to even talk out loud to you...
I am so glad Holy Spirit that you are living within me - and you speak -
with groans that can not be expressed in words ...

hmmm... maybe that is what I can hear if I am really really quiet!
just before I fall asleep
I am so glad Lord - that you are here for me - always
and you... you never slumber or sleep!!
I love you.

This is the scripture that just came to mind - it is one of my favourites!!  This is about my/our God!!

Psalm 121

A song of ascents.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

Saturday, August 24

the sermon

It feels like it has been forever - and well, I guess it has been a couple weeks.  My thoughts have been tied up in sermon prep for a sermon that I presented today, at our home church (Eastview Community Church).  It was a sermon on When Life Hands You Lemons - or "living well when life isn't" ...
or the bottom line - it was a sermon on pain and suffering.

I struggled through sermon prep.  Now, I love the prep part as there is always something that I learn when God has me preparing a sermon.  I cut and paste, cut and paste... add something here - delete - save - print - read it out loud - and on and on.  However it was right around Tuesday of last week - that God made it clear, that the sermon was done - and now I just needed to read it out loud a few times, so that it would flow well on delivery day.

Delivery Day - it was last Sunday - and in both services.

I get asked often - "do you get nervous?"  I do get nervous.  Actually pretty nervous.  However, I also think that if I didn't - then I would be doing it in my own strength - now in God's.  Usually after the first few lines - I feel like God just unfolds it.  And then - it is done.

I was very conscious last Sunday - of the pain within our circle - within our congregation at large - and within our friendships - and as I shared last Sunday - it is so obvious - that life is NOT an easy stroll - but instead - it is hard work. That Jesus never promised our life following him would be easy - NO - he told his disciples in John 16:33 - that in the world there would be troubles but that He has overcome the world!!

Our church it seems, has gone through hard stuff - pain and loss - since the new year.  On Sunday - I was VERY aware of pain and suffering within the congregation as I saw tears flowing after.
I also feel like we have - within our little family - the pain and loss - losing my sweet friend Audrey, and then my oldest niece within weeks later.  Lately, I have been struggling with some physical suffering - with the same old fibromyalgia issues.  My sister has been having some health issues - and my close friend is waiting to go through chemotherapy after a double mastectomy.  And then add to that - hearing about friends from school who are battling their own cancer fights ...

Looking at the pain and suffering - could paralyze us couldn't it.  Sometimes it seems like even cancer alone - is crowding into our inner circles - and it is just plain ugly.  And I have come to realize that there are times when I can become very consumed with my own pain that I can get into my own little pity party quite nicely - and well that isn't good for me or anybody.

The year that we lost our little Jay - I had begun the year - as I do EVERY YEAR in my journal - with giving it to God - from January 1 to December 31st - every single day.  Of course we don't know what the year will hold - we found that out in 2008 when the year looked like it was packed full of celebration!  (no one ever thought of our little grandson's silent birth would be part of our year) Thing is - this is how we live - in really - blind trust - taking one step and then another - sometimes trying to plan - sometimes flying by the seat of our pants.  But all along - we are walking a journey with Jesus leading/walking with us/carrying us/rejoicing over us/singing over us/delighting in us ...  Jesus must be the main part of our days!!  Keeping our eyes FIXED on Jesus - oh YES!!

ANYHOW ... those are some of my thoughts - some of you had asked about the sermon - and if you want - you can go to our church's website and click on the link and listen/watch for yourself.

Sunday, July 28

For such a time as this...

I love these two!
My sister, and my niece

Today I wept.
It was unexpected.
I was just asked if I would say grace.
But I was not just saying grace for food that I had prepared and put on the table
I was also asking for God's grace on my sister and niece, who I have the pleasure of hosting
"For such a time as this"
Those words, from the book of Esther, have been running through my mind often lately
God knows
He knows the times
So here I was this morning, asking God for his peace
His grace
His healing
His tender mercies
over my sister, my niece and their families.

For such a time as this.
I believe that when God called 13 years ago
and spoke His vision for women's retreat ministry to me
entrusting it to me, and to us ...
He knew.
He knew that the ministry would spring out of utter despair and sorrow
when we lost Jay
it is NO surprise in retrospect
that it was in those days that God spoke ...
and that he gave more plan, more details to our kids

For such a time as this ...
I believe that when God spoke this vision to my heart
He also knew that there would be a branch to the ministry
that back in 2000, I would NOT want to hear
O GOD please don't speak to me about starting a ministry that would provide a place
for peace
for healing
for retreat
for renewal
for quietness and solitude
for those walking the journey of intense grief.
O GOD please no.

Back in 2004, one of my friends with prophetic gifting, spoke into my life.
She told me of the dream God had given to her
But back in 2012 she told me a part that was missing
A part that she said she saw, but could not share
She said "Joy, in the dream, the grief on your face - was so intense"
She told me that after I had shared with her that I felt our journey in grief, would also be something that would be a part of who comes here.
O Lord ... for such a time as this.

Back at the end of January, I was showing someone the bedrooms
And I shared with them why we called the one room RESTORE
And I said - that anyone can stay in this room, but we felt it would have a ministry of its own.
I think my words were this:  "Who knows, but perhaps women from all ages/all walks of life will find this room a place of solace, whether they have lost a baby, or a child, or a grown adult child.'
Within a couple weeks, we stood around my niece's bedside, as she was taken off of life support and into the arms of the Almighty One.
And I immediately thought about my sister.

So it was this morning, as I prepared breakfast for Heather and Melissa (mom and daughter/sister and niece) I prayed ...
I have prayed for their stay here.
It has been a deep plunge into grief, and well, life has a way of making us so busy
that we don't get a chance to step out of life, into a place where we can just be with God -
They invited me to have breakfast with them, and to say grace.
And I did
but there were some long pauses in an otherwise short prayer.

O Lord - you are the healer of broken hearts - of shattered pieces.
I know that
You are the redeemer of ashes - for joy
I know that
Your mercies are new every morning
I know that
You are faithful.  You are Sovereign.  You are in control.
I know that, even though at times, my head and my heart fought over this!

It is very special to be able to offer this space, for my sister and niece
For such a time as this.
I have thought about my niece Keri alot today
And well - I know she is experiencing the fullness, and the wholeness, and joy that we can't describe
But O Lord, how we miss her.
O Lord ... how we wish we could have given her one more hug
One more I love you
One more little bit of teasing as her uncles loved to do
One more compliment

I know that we will be together again - all of us - grandparents, parents, our grandson Jay, my niece Keri ...
I know that with God - time is measured much different
And while it feels like forever - it is merely a breath.

So, in such a time as this,
I praise you for being the God of all comfort - of all healing - of abounding love and grace
And I thank you that your mercies are new every morning
O Lord - may that be what my sister and my niece feel today ...
and tomorrow
and the next days after

And may the pieces of their hearts, and my brother in law, and nephew through marriage, and their family - may those pieces come together in a way that only YOU can do GOD
because THEY NEED YOU to do that.  WE NEED YOU!!

Lamentations 3:23

The Message (MSG)
22-24 God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
    his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.
    How great your faithfulness!
I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).
    He’s all I’ve got left.

Thursday, July 25

thoughts from yesterday ...

It has happened every year since our little firstborn grandson's birth.  The days leading up to his birthday are hard ones.  They are a reminder that we will celebrate Jay's birthday without Jay.  They are a reminder that our lives stopped that day, and new lives began.  Yes, with remnants of the old us, but new lives with changed people.

When our little grandson was born - we prayed... and prayed.... and prayed.  Minutes passed ... more minutes, and then it became very real.  Jay was with Jesus, not with his mommy and daddy, or with us. Even writing that, the "feeling" grips my heart and the cold feeling washes over my being.  I will never forget that day.

I realize now, that people did not know how to enter into the deepest pain of our lives.  And now, five years later, I get it.  Let's face it, losing a baby is not something we ever want to be able to be used to ... I still think it should never happen.  I still want to know WHY GOD?  However, I also have come to see that losing babies, happens more than I ever knew.  I am very aware of pain of loss in many young couples arms.

Since that day - 5 years ago yesterday - I have come to forgive the hurtful and insensitive things that were said to us.  And I have just said, "O Lord, they have never encountered this, and hopefully they never will."  Since that day, I have wept so many tears, that I am sure God has many bottles stored with them.  Since that day, I am convinced that He has wept with us too.  Since that day I have taken many flowers and laid them on the little gravesite.  Since that day we have also encountered joy in the grandsons that Josh and Leah have also had, and their births have brought much joy.  MUCH MUCH MUCH joy.

I have seen that God redeems the broken pieces of our hearts.  And he puts them together.
I have been able to forgive those who I felt stepped on the pieces as they lay shattered around us.
I have been able to pray for others who have gone through such heart ache.
The prayers for my kids - I can't describe that.
Honestly, there is NOTHING like the pain of seeing your kids in such deep pain, and not knowing how to help.  There is no way to help - besides a bit of practical help, other than that ... oh man, I prayed.

Since that day - I have also seen how God redeemed the ashes for joy, and has brought new mercies.
It was during that time - God said to get the ball rolling on the ministry.  What I thought was "bad timing" on His part (not now God, don't you see that we are mourning?) but soon realized He was also speaking to our kids about the ministry too ... and the reason we built how we built, and where we built and all of that ... is because of how God laid it on the broken hearts of our kids, and they shared that with us.  So, in this ministry Women Refreshed at the Well ... I see how something beautiful did come from the greatest sorrow we have ever experienced.

5 Years ago - I made phone calls to important people in our lives.  Family, and a few close friends.
Our friends wept with us.  Our friends asked us to come over to just cry, or talk, or sit in silence.
One pair of those who were there for us were Al and Jan - and we will never forget those phone calls.  The reassurance of people praying.  The reassurance of their broken hearts for us.  Within minutes - Al had gotten a prayer chain - stretching all over the world - praying on our behalf.  Family prayed.  Friends prayed.  Strangers prayed.

So it was good, that this week - from Monday to yesterday, we were hanging out with Al and Jan at their cottage.  We got to talk about those phone calls ... and they let us talk again, about remembering our Jay.  One friend on facebook put it this way when I put something about missing Jay, on my status. She said this:  you will never forget...and that's a precious thing. Jay is so blessed to be born into your loving family. I love that although his time with you was short, he left such an imprint on your hearts

You see - yes - we only got to know Jay as he was growing inside his Mom ... but we dreamt about him  - what he would be - who he would be - how we would grandparent.  And then we got to hold him, and let the tears fall from us, onto his little blanket.  His imprint on our hearts is huge ... and always will be.

I sometimes imagine how he is in Heaven.  Alvin dreamed about Jay just after we had his little burial service.  I imagine the joy of his great grandparents - all of them - and I believe they knew exactly who he was, and I think they are spending their time with him.  Sometimes I have asked the Lord to tell my little grandson just how much I miss him.  I realize that once I am in heaven - all the "WHY GOD?" questions that I have here - will no longer be a question I will care to ask.   I know that one day - we will be together - and what a day that will be!  

Till then I will thank God for the time we could hold our little grandson ...
I will thank him for walking/carrying us through the hardest times, and for continuing to bring healing and joy again.

Yes, it was a short time, but the imprint on our hearts is huge!
We will never be "through it" or "over it"  (why do people say things like that?  "Are you over it yet?)
No ... losing Jay is part of our story - a story that God knew about, and knows about still.

And our hearts continue to get stronger where the breaks were.
And we will always remember.

And, I continue to thank God for the dvd Jer put together for us.
Jay Benjamin Klassen

Sunday, July 21

weathered. worn. wrinkled.

my hands

hands that love my grandkids 

these were my hands when I was months old
not weathered
or worn
and certainly not wrinkled

hands with a story
I thank God for that!

I look at the hands 
oh the story they could tell
the places they have been
the things they have done
the hands that have been clasped in them
the tears that they have wiped
the ticklish spots they have tickled

oh the story they could tell
the things they have made
crafts they have created
baking they have baked and delivered to others
knitting they have done (purl one, knit one)
counted cross stitches they have stitched

of the story they could tell
of mission trips
and holidays
with family and with friends
of folded laundry
and ironed clothes (before everything was wash and wear)

oh the story they could tell
of hugs around children’s necks
and applying bandaids on scraped knees
of turning pages of story books
and tickling backs of sleepy children

of ring around the rosie
and skipping rope
of playing tic tac toe
and helping little hands write their names
of smoothing hair
and touching an arm for assurance
of holding hands while crossing the street
or just because holding the hand of someone you love - feels so good
of caressing the love of your life
and gentle touch on the little loves of your life
and all the touches in between, given to children who have blessed you

oh the story they could tell

of turning the pages of Curious George
but also turning the pages of her favorite book - the Bible
of writing letters
and penning poems
of journalling and blogging
hands that have given direction to children
have picked loved ones up when they need a hand
hands that have made a cup of coffee
and opened the door to entertain friends both old and new

oh the story they could tell
stories of her hands being used
to love
to care
to help
to guide
to work
to teach
to craft
to have fun
and to serve

touching the hands of another
who has the whole world ahead of them
O the stories their hands will tell.

I look at the hands
and I see the hands of my mom
who has been with Jesus for many years now
I remember her hands
and realize that her hands helped me become who I am today

but I realize that the hands I see
and wrinkled


O Lord, please make these hands to be an instrument of your peace and your love.  
May you give me strength to serve you with my hands.  
Please Lord, give me the strength to use them for your honor and glory.  
Help me to bless others with my hands.  
O Lord, may you use my hands to bless my husband, my kids, my grandkids, 
my family and friends - both old and yet to meet.  
Thank you for the stories my weathered, worn and wrinkled hands tell.  
To you O Lord, I give praise, and thanksgiving and glory!