Tuesday, January 28

time ~ my friend, and my worst enemy

helping my dad

playing outside - lived at 1190 Inkster Blvd.

With my siblings (1997)
(as you look at the picture:  Brian, Mary-Ann, Tim, Heather and me)

me and my girls, Ashley and Leah (2009)

Oh my, where does time go? (this was what I wrote in my journal the morning of my son's 32nd birthday)

Time ~
You are my friend and my worst enemy.
You grow me, mature me, bring wisdom
But you also make me feel old!
You speed by - a blurr of days...
And other times - drag along, like a wounded snail.

Time ~
You've made me who I am
     by giving me more teachable moments than I could count
     more laughter than at times I thought I could handle
     more tears than at times I could wipe
     more conversations that made me depend on God.

Time ~
you've brought strength,
and joy in my life.
You are my friend.

But, you've also been my worst enemy,
as you've brought
     unexpected pain - strong enough to literally bring me to my knees in sorrow
     unexpected and unwanted loss -
     lives taken before their maturity
     my grandson
     my friends
     my niece
Young, but taken
Time ordained by God.

Time ~
you've been my worst enemy
as my body ages
     and NOT so gracefully I may add!
All of it losing its shape to your effects of time passing
day upon weeks
upon months
upon years

Time ~
best friend
worst enemy
And yet, it's all the middle part to an eternal story
A middle part of continual loving and learning
of going and growing
of becoming and being

Time ~
a combo of who I was
who I am
and who I will become

Time ~
my friend
my enemy
my life, my time
"ordained by (MY) God, before even one day came to be."

you are actually all in all
my friend.


Since we were in Mexico last week, I did not post anything last week.  So here it is today - belated, but nothing changed, except I love my kids even more than I did a week ago!!  

My son.
My firstborn.
You came into the world early, on the coldest day of that year.
But you warmed our hearts with this indescribable love
We knew it was going to happen
But didn't realize how much we would be smitten
You grew and grew and grew
You had a zest for life - one that I see in your own kids now
So much in fact that sometimes I think my mouth is hanging open as I watch them play
You loved everything about life
You loved to read (which is still something you do alot of)
You loved to perform (hmmmm... where did that come from)
I remember your first performance as Santa Claus in your school program.
You loved to make people laugh
And we noticed that whenever you would attempt to do this whether it was to tell a joke or anything that would make us laugh, your eyes would water.
I think that still happens.
I watched you grow.
I loved hearing you tell me how much you loved me.
I picked you up when you fell
I encouraged you as you grew
I sang you songs as I rocked you (some of the same songs I have sung to your kids)
I tickled your back, and told you stories
I made your teddy bear "Ricky Klassen" come to life
And mailed him to you when you lived in Brandon and went to fire school
Sure, there were some hard times
Doesn't every kid grow into their teens and become adults forged out of the "forming years"
Sometimes I didn't agree with what you did
But you always always knew I loved you regardless
Because you see my firstborn, my son - I loved you with a love that is quite unique between a mom and her child.
And I think the mother/son relationship is unique just as a mother/daughter relationship is also.
You have grown...
Fallen in love and married the love of you life.
You have grown and matured more
Followed God with an insatiable thirst
You have taught me alot about following Him.
You are a husband, and a daddy to some sweet kids.
You are a brother and a son
You are a co-worker who is dependable and hardworking
You are a friend who is loyal and trustworthy
You are YOU ...
And I say to you my son, my firstborn -
From the day we found out we were expecting -
To the day we held you in our arms
To the day I had the privilege of hearing you give your heart to Jesus
To the day I saw you walk down the aisle with Leah
To the day we knew you were going to be a dad
Through the deepest sorrow, through the greatest joy
Through the sleepless nights (that are not over yet for you and L)
Through each season of your and my life ...
I just want you to know dear Son
This momma loves you!!
More than you will ever know.
Happy Birthday Son.

Wednesday, January 15

unexpected visits - changed plans - hard but good conversation

It was a drop in visit.  I knew it may happen, and I had the birthday card ready to give.  My overnight retreater had left just a mere hour before the knock on the door.  I greeted him.  A hug.  A hello.  A "come in and have supper with us, I am just making it" comment as I proceeded back to the kitchen.  A quick supper.  Simple.  Pizza perogies and garlic sausages fried to perfection.  (if sausages can ever be perfect!! lol)  Not the typical birthday supper, but a hearty one, and a welcome one.  I really was glad to see him.

Good conversation.  Some pauses as each of us likely was thinking of the next thing to say.  Sometimes our conversation is like that.  That is just how it is when you have not only gaps in conversation, but gaps in our lives where one did not fit into the other's life.  Not by choosing to ignore the other, but by the consequences that follow bad choices that lead to addictive lifestyle.  Lifestyle that takes down everything good.  Family.  Friends.  Jobs.  Health.  Home.  Finances.  Relationships everywhere - disintegrated, destroyed, thrown aside for the sake of the next drink, or the next fix.  But then in a moment of desperation that came while living on the street - a moment of clarity so real that he decided that he needed to get help.  I remember that phone call.  The "I don't want to die on the street" acknowledgement said to me over the phone a few years ago.

Years have passed, and the addictive behaviours still have their icy grip on him.  Some would think that when a person has given their heart to the Lord, all those things would vanish.  I know people have told him as much. He loves the Lord. But the addictions are strong. (I don't know those addictions, but I do know the addictiveness of food and my struggle with eating right and losing weight, so I can only imagine in part the struggle with his addictions.)

Today he looks good. Very very good actually.   Today I would go as far as thinking it has been a long time since taking part in the life sapping mix.  Perhaps he just looks better.  Perhaps he has not partaken in a while.  Perhaps I am just trying to convince myself that he is doing better.  However, I believe he is.  He sounds like he is.  Although I know it is one day, actually one hour at a time I am sure.

With my husband having to leave to go to a meeting, my guest and I go and sit in the living room.  The dishes and the clean-up can wait.  My heart is happy, that he has landed a job outside of the city.  He is just in today, on his birthday and with the blessing of his new boss, to tie up a few loose ends in the city.  We had something for him, for his job which is why I knew he would be by our place.  The job is truly a gift from God for him.  He believes that, and so do I.  God does give us gifts.  He is happy.  He tells me more about his job.  But the conversation goes from one thing to another, and soon we are talking about his life as a child.  As a child that, along with his other siblings (many) they are abandoned.  Some put in foster care.  Some adopted. He experienced both.  I can't imagine how hard it must have been.  I can't help but think the worst about his parents - who abandoned him, but then came back in his life for a while, assuming they could just pick up where they left off.  Oh were they wrong.

He told me what came along with finding his bio parents.  Things like finding out that "aunts" and "uncles" are involved in lives of addiction and some really bad lifestyle choices, some extended family even involved in dealing drugs.  He talked about the emotional gut wrenching stuff that came with finding them, and the tough part about even thinking of his past now. The reasons he lets those sleeping dogs lie.  (or sleeping relatives he has chosen to disassociate from pretty much right when he found them.)  It would be ever so easy to blame his addictions on his parents.  Ever so easy.  Seriously what parent abandons their child.  But then again, knowing the family that adopted him, while not at all perfect in any way, they offered stability, and love, and a christian home and family.  Plain and simple.  Things he did not get growing up in those first five years of his life, or in the foster homes where he was put in a closet and beat up often, and starved.  He said his bio mom thought he was the lucky one.  I would call it God's intervention in his life.   My heart aches.

We talked for a few hours.  Honesty.  Tears.  Pain.  I felt his pain actually.  My heart ached several times.

We talked about not only his early family abandoning him but how the consequences of his addictions caused a chasm in his family life now.  Actually no family life really.  Just memories of what was there in the happiest of times for him, and what he is missing out on, and what he wishes there was.  My heart ... oh my heart.  It feels raw.  At times I wonder if I should have asked some of those questions.  And yet he talks, and talks and talks.  I feel like they were God-ordained moments.  I also feel like I was supposed to be in that chair, at that time, with that person... listening, talking, watching.  I encourage him to write letters to his kids, so that at some time they hear part of his heart too.

A few hours later, the wind has whipped up.  A discussion about street life, and about Union Gospel Mission, and about Siloam.  Missions.  A bed for the night.  A safe place.  A "family" that he knows well.  And ... a Breakfast in the morning.  Not that he is homeless now, he does have a suite that came with his new job out of town, but where do you go when you are homeless in the city and new to a job out of town close to the west Manitoba border, and in the city and ready to go to bed?

He talked about being thankful.  He talked about what he has learned.  He talked about God in his life in the midst of the hardest things like being a dad but not being in his kids lives, about broken marriage.   About failure.  I asked if that was how he felt, and he said yes.  He said that all of it, as hard as it was and is, made him lean into God and grab onto Him because he literally had nothing BUT God.  He talked about answered prayers, again, including his recent job hire.  (I can't help but pray, O Lord, help him not to lose this one, it seems so good).  And then looking at the time, decides he needs to get going, It is warm out, and the doors would almost be about to open for patrons to come in for the beds at Siloam.  And I knew I needed to say, "do you want to stay with us for night?"

And my heart stilled.  It felt like "yes, I thought you would never ask him."  He looked at me, and said with a smile, "sure, but I don't want to put you out."  To which I said that he wasn't.

You see for a very long time, I have been asking God - "Lord, what do you want me to do?  How do I help this person?"  It is very easy to help the homeless when they are not connected to you through family ties of any kind.  It is also very easy to help someone who is struggling when you can hand them a five dollar bill, or a cup of coffee or a meal.  It is much easier when it feels like you are not being put out of your comfort zone.  But let me tell you, tonight, when I uttered those words, there was life.
Life for him.  Life for me.  God is at work in this heart of mine.  I may not always be able to provide a bed on a cold night for someone I love even though sometimes they seem so far from us.  But tonight I could, and I am.  As I type, the table is set for breakfast in the morning.  Alvin, he and I.  As I type, the place is quiet as he is fast asleep, on flannel sheets that are cosy and freshly laundered.  As I type, I am hoping he feels the peace of this place - as only God can give it.  And, as he sleeps, I hope my brother knows how much this sister loves him.  Because I do, and it is all because of the grace and love of God.

Goodnight dear brother - sleep tight.  Oh, and Happy Birthday.  I love you.

Tuesday, January 14

Disarming the powers and authorities!! Turn your eyes upon Jesus

Colossians 2:11-15

The Message (MSG)
11-15 Entering into this fullness is not omething you figure out or achieve. It’s not a matter of being circumcised or keeping a long list of laws. No, you’re already in—insiders—not through some secretive initiation rite but rather through what Christ has already gone through for you, destroying the power of sin. If it’s an initiation ritual you’re after, you’ve already been through it by submitting to baptism. Going under the water was a burial of your old life; coming up out of it was a resurrection, God raising you from the dead as he did Christ. When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. God brought you alive—right along with Christ! Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s cross. He stripped all the spiritual tyrants in the universe of their sham authority at the Cross and marched them naked through the streets.

Today we had the second sermon in our sermon series, and Pastor Dave spoke again today.  Once again, I was struck by something that was not new, however the simplicity of it spoke to me once again.  It began first of all with Dave talking about offering up a "new habit" this year - afterall - a new year = new habits right?  Well, he encouraged us to start a "habit of thankfulness" because that will change us, and thanksgiving has a way of "disarming us", "refocuses us" and helps us gain a "new perspective".  Not only that, but Dave reminded us that thanksgiving marks a Christ follower.  (hmmm when have I thanked God lately?) This in itself reminds me of a saying I saw on a pillow that sad something like this "Imagine if tomorrow you got only what you thanked God for today".   I think we would all be quite surprised.

The other thing that spoke loudly to me today was when Dave talked about being IN Christ.  About him being the focus!  Rather than us just ranting and raving to him about things, and wanting him to figure out our junk, but instead "losing your life in Christ".  

Dave then talked about Paul using the words from Colossians 2: 15 

This is the second time within a week that I have heard that verse - about Jesus "disarming the rulers and authorities.  Dave explained how in those days - when a nation was victoriaous in battle, they would parade through the street with great fanfare - parading the goods, riches that they were not brining back, and then parading any captives, and sometimes, brining the defeated and captured King through the streets, beaten, tied or chained, and then put him in the centre court and usually kill him.  Those who won the battle knew how to "disarm" the defeated, and made great deal of it.  

Here was Jesus.  Jesus and the CROSS.  The cross, a symbol that is not at all glorious but instead a symbol of torture and death.  And yet, Jesus conquered the cross - and  as the Scripture says again, 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.[e]

He disarmed them alright (BIG UNDERSTATEMENT!!) He made the cross VICTORIOUS because He died on it for our sins, but He conquered the cross, death and the grave and rose triumphant - and lives forever more.  And because of this - what He did for US (you and I, regardless of our sin) WE CAN BE VICTORIOUS IN HIM!! As the Message said you are already IN because of what He did for us.  I guess my question to you is this - are you IN Christ?  Have you given your life to him?  So simple - but something Jesus does not push on us - but waits for us to turn our eyes and our hearts to him, and invite him in. 

Dave ended with a song that I often sing when I am alone.  It is a song I grew up with - kind of like a "staple" you know!!  It is called TURN YOUR EYES UPON JESUS.  

Listen to it.  Simple, but profound.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus/Look full in his wonderful face/ and the things of earth will grow strangely dim/In the light of His glory and grace!

Saturday, January 11

sitting in the pew on a Friday afternoon in January

yesterday I sat in a big church
and I listened
and watched
and reflected
I laughed
and sang
and thought about my life

I was at a memorial service of an old friend
someone Alvin and I graduated with
someone who always treated us like good friends when we bumped into him
The service was unique, and special
filled with friends and family
it was completely about him - his love for his wife, his kids, his parents and siblings
his love for his job as a professor, his students and for life in general
It was about his love for Jesus and how he lived a life that integrated all of it.
It was truly
a celebration of his life
and yet for me, and I am sure for each one in the pew
it created a space of time
for reflection up close and personal

I guess it is called introspection
you know what I mean I figure
You have likely been in the pew yourself over the years

I looked it up - the definition of introspection
and it read:

Contemplation of one's own thoughts, feelings, and sensations; self-examination.

It has been an interesting thing lately.
I have thought alot about the fact that one day,
out of each couple - one will bury the other.
Think of it (if you are in a marriage) - unless you die together,
the reality is that one of you will inevitably bury the other one.
It is a sobering thought
and not one that I like to think of often,
However the reality is, every time I sit in the pew at a funeral of a friend (Two in the last month)
I am forced into thinking of our reality with the passing of time.

Some people would not want to hear that.
I remember very distinctly the day that Mom said to us girls
"You girls, if I go first, don't be upset if Dad chooses to remarry."
I remember at the time one of my sisters said, "Mom, we don't want to think about that"

Alvin and I have joked with one another.
I have teased him that he would eat toast for the rest of his life.
I have also told him that he would need to remarry!  (I think I have spoiled him actually)
He has told me that if anything ever happened to me, that he would buy a motorcycle and tour the states, and then he would spend all his time with the grandkids.
I guess depending on the age, that could be a plus or a minus for the grandkids.  LOL
We joke ...
But somehow, as we get older with each year - there is this unknown to our joking!
There is a reality
And as I sit in the pew at a funeral of a friend, there is this reflection that happens
And I can't help but wonder how I, would walk through losing someone who has been my love and my life for  (at this point)  almost 40 years of my life!!

I can't help but also reflect on things like - what it would be like to know that within days you will be in the presence of Jesus!
Or reflect on how you help your family say good-bye and plan for a future without you
I can't help but think the bittersweetness of saying good-bye to this earth - knowing what you are going to, and also knowing that it is only good-bye for a time.

And, then I think of what Jesus will say.
I want him to say, "Well done, good and faithful servant!!"
I want to finish well when that times comes.
I want to finish strong in the faith.
I want to leave a strong legacy of faith for my kids, and my grandkids.
I want them to know that this Mom/Granny loved Jesus with all her heart!

So I sit in the pew and hear the words spoken by children of the deceased.
Words spoken by the spouse
by the co-workers
by life long friends
by siblings
I see the pictures of a smiling face -
pictures of embraces with family and friends
of moments and memories - each one telling a portion of the story of his life
And my heart is blessed.
I listen
I watch
I laugh
I sing
I think
and I reflect ...

that is the reality of life in the pew
on a Friday afternoon in January
saying good-bye to a friend, until we meet again - in heaven.
and I for one, have been touched by his life.

and introspective

Sunday, January 5

He looks at me and He loves me!

Today in church, we began our new series, based on the book of Colossians.  The series is called Hidden in Christ.  Today it was Hidden in Christ: Victorious.   It was good to sit in the pew this morning, and to be part of the family of God that gathers Sunday mornings at Eastview.  I love it there, and continue to thank God for our church.  Today, Dave spoke on Colossians 1, but he began with the story from Mark 10.  The one where the young ruler comes to Jesus and asks him what he should do?  You likely remember the story?  He has tried to do what he knows is right.  Pastor Dave encouraged us this morning, NOT to get distracted by the money aspect to the conversation between Jesus and the young ruler.  But instead to FEEL the young man's longing, to feel his desire to want something more!!  Jesus of course wants the best thing for the young man, the same as he wants for me (and you!)
Jesus wants him (and you and I) to FOLLOW HIM!!

The one thing however that first hit me, was the verse that says, (Mark 10:21) that Jesus looked at him and loved him.  Very simple right?  Looked.  Loved.  There is something about that verse - that just warms me, and I can imagine Jesus look on his face.  I can imagine the look of love he has.  I can imagine the look of caring, of warmth, of genuine love.  He looked at him, and loved him.

And, I can't help but think of how Jesus looks at me.  And how he loves me.  So simple.  Look.  Love.
There are times that I think maybe it is harder to love me!! (especially those times when I struggle with loving myself perhaps).  And yet, how completely loved I am.  By the lover of my soul.  The one who loved me when He died on the cross for my sin, and loves me now too!!  Jesus looks at me, and he loves me.

I sort of "get" that ... when I think of how I look at my husband, and love him.  I remember the first day we met, and I just somehow knew in my being that he was the one I would marry!  But maybe even a better example of really looking at and loving someone, would be the way I fell head over heels in love with my grandkids .... even before I really "knew" them - I loved them.  And how I love them even more with each passing day.  Sometimes I catch myself just looking at them - and heart overflows with love.  I look at them and love them.  (even if sometimes they are acting out, or melting down, or not wanting to be especially lovable at the moment)  Hey - why should these little ones be any different than us big people!!  AND  YET I still look on them, and love them.... heart overflowing, with such great incredible love - not because they have done, or are doing, or will do anything to earn my love - but because of my relationship with them.

Jesus looked on him, and loved him.
Jesus looks on me and loves me.
Jesus, lover of my soul.  Redeemer.  Saviour.

The rich man in the story from Mark - was trying to do everything he could - to do enough - but it was all about just following God - not a bunch of "do this" or "do that" or "rules and regs" but instead just knowing who you are in the eyes of God - how greatly loved you are - and in that knowledge and understanding - growing more an more to become like Jesus - living our live so that it reflects HIS LOVE and bears fruit.    It is all about experiencing the love of God - the deep deep deep abiding love, and in that love, living in the fullness of it!!    O Jesus - lover of my soul - life giver - you are LOVE!  Help me to follow you wholeheartedly and live a life that reflects YOU Jesus, and your love.

I love to think of how Jesus looks on me.  How he sees me, covered by his grace.
I am so glad that he looks at me, and loves me.

Years and years ago (late 90's) I was asking God to help me fall more in love with Him.  I really wanted to experience him as the lover of my soul.  I wanted to walk in a deep relationship with him.
One night I had a dream.  It went like this:  I dreamed that I was in a house, and a man came in.  He came up to me, and put his arms around me and walked with me.  He knew who I was and yet I was quite taken aback at how this man wanted to be in an intimate close relationship with me, and yet he didn't know me.  But then he told me, that he did know me.  He knew all about me, and he loved me with a great love.  I remember feeling his love, but still being so shocked at how he could love me so quickly, but he said he KNEW me (and it was in a deep sense of the word).  I remember waking up from this dream with this strange feeling - a combination of feeling a little weird because I had dreamt of another man other than my husband.  (In my dream, I did not see a face, but I knew it was NOT Alvin, and I also knew this man in  my dream was someone I was greatly attracted to).  It made me feel strange because the dream felt "right" even though it was about a man other than my husband.  However then I realized that the dream wasn't about another "man" per se, but it was (I believed) about my relationship with the lover of my soul - Jesus Christ.  I had been asking him to help me fall more and more in love with him, and in the dream - that was exactly what it was about.  Jesus loved me - and knew me more than I realized.  And he wanted to be in a close intimate relationship with me.
Dreams are a funny thing ... but this dream continues to warm my soul as I recall it.

So as Jesus looked at this young ruler and loved him ... I know that he looks at me, and loves me.
Over and above any love I can experience in the human way ...
Greater than any love I can imagine in my imagination.
Jesus looks at me and loves me!!
And wants me to FOLLOW HIM!!

I want to share this song with you - it has become one of my favourites (longer story) since I was down in Colorado at NextStep.  This song had a profound impact on me and my "aha" time of coming to realize how beautiful and loved I was in the eyes of my God!!  Anyhow, I want to share it with you - as I believe it is all about how much Jesus loves me, and you!!  It is called I'm Held by your Love and it is by Bob Fitts and Karen Lim.

Friday, January 3

overwhelmed by YOU

this is not one of my photos, but was taken off google images

they are constant
falling to the ground
that is already outfitted in its new white garment 

the  snow has fallen steadily since during the night
i can't help but wonder how many flakes fall
and if there are any two that may look remotely like another
snowflake upon snowflake
inch upon inch
slow dance once again

it is almost as if God knew that today I would need an object lesson
about his love
his most amazing love
and his fresh  blanket of grace that covers me
covering ever inch and corner of my being

He knew
because HE is God and well,
God knows everything
He reminds me of my favorite Psalm
God, you know it all about me
where I sit
where I stand
when I rise
when I lay 
you hem me in

oh, sweet Lord - giver of such fresh grace each morning
I take it for granted 
forgive me for that
each morning you know when I rise
you give me a new start
a fresh unmarked unspoiled day
more grace
more and more
and more
kind of like these snowflakes that dance down from heaven
and land one on top of another and on top of another and on top of many more

you are using them as your object lesson to me
and as you know where I am now
sitting and thinking and writing while watching the Snowflake Dance 
you know that I am getting it 
this teachable moment
I am getting that you love me so incredibly much
and all it took was a snow day, and trillions of falling snowflakes
to remind me of your love
your goodness
your grace
your presence
in my life

they are constant
falling to the ground
that is already outfitted in its new white garment 
and me?
I am just overwhelmed by YOU O Lord

i love you  Lord

Thursday, January 2

so, I am thinking of writing a story :)

"Fear isn't only a guide to keep us safe; it’s also a manipulative emotion that can trick us into living a boring life … the great stories go to those who don’t give in to fear.” 
― Donald MillerA Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life

I have been thinking lately about what makes a story.
But more than that, what makes a story something you actually would want to read.
What makes a story great?
Perhaps I am thinking even more about this, since I am reading a new book my son gave to us by Donald Miller.  (same book as the above quote is taken from)

Reality is, I have been thinking of writing my story. BUT ~  That is not a new thought, but one that began with the death of my mom.  I wrote quite a few pages, and then put it down.  With the death of my dad a year and a bit later, I picked up my pen again, and began to write some more.  My mom passed away in 1996 and my dad in 1997 so you see, writing my story has been on my mind a lot!

I have no idea who would read my story, but I feel that it is one that I want to put down in print.  Perhaps for the sake of my kids, or mores for my grandkids.
I think part of my desire to do so, comes from wishing I knew more about my heritage.
My dad began writing his story a short time before he passed away.  I have those chapters that were edited.  I heard my dad was not impressed with his editor.  I am thinking that perhaps my dad's style of writing needed some work.  Kind of like mine.  I know that I put too many dashes into my writing.  And I also put too many dots ....
And sometimes I don't even have a proper sentence structure.  One person who just lately proofed something for me said that she didn't want to proof too much, otherwise it wouldn't "sound" like me any more.  Funny hey.

So I want to write my story.  I have even thought of a title, something to the effect of "Just an ordinary Girl"  I feel ordinary.  And then I feel extraordinary for Jesus.  Not an either or.  Just the joint reality of who I think I was and am.  I have likely totally confused you.

A story.  We all have a story.
So, how to we tell it?
Year by year
Experience by experience
Moment by moment
Encounter by encounter
Teachable moments
Hard moments
Joyful moments
Moments of fear, and risk.  (that would be a huge part of my story)

What makes up a story? And why would I think I have something that is worth writing down for someone else to read?

Personally, I know my story is one that begins with someone very ordinary (Me) born into an ordinary and very loving family, grows up to be an ordinary teenager (whose most rebellious thing was to smoke a couple Players cigarettes while I was in grade 8).  And this ordinary girl fell in love with an ordinary but very exceptional guy (my husband) and got married and had ordinary (okay, scratch that one!!) NOTHING ORDINARY about my kids :) ... and it just gets better with my grandchildren!!

Thing is - while I think I am just an ordinary girl, I see how God's hand on my life, has made me extraordinary and beautiful and He has written a story of my life that only God could have written.  Somehow I just want to capture a bit of that on paper!! SO that is one of my goals for this year.  To write my story.  Complete with dashes.  Complete with dots.  Complete with unstructured sentences perhaps.  But it will be my story.  And maybe no one except my kids will read it.  I am okay with that.  All I know is that it is begging to be told, and well, I know that when God does something - the glory is all his.  So Lord, I am thanking you in advance for whatever you do with my story - whether I give it verbally in a Sunday School presentations, or Ladies Group talk or whether it is my story told over a cup of coffee in my favorite coffee shop.  Wherever - God - I give you my words, my story - which you have written - and I ask you to use it - each word, each sentence, each page, each chapter - for your honor and glory Lord.  All. For. You.

Just today's thoughts, from one ordinary woman!

Wednesday, January 1

looking back at 2013 before looking ahead!!

20 Questions to help me reflect on yesterYEAR :)

1. A highlight in 2013?
My highlight for the past year (oh man, there were several) but well, it has to be seeing our ministry begin, after a 12 year journey with God, since receiving the call to ministry.  (read blog at www.womenrefreshed.com  - go back to the first posts for the info)
2. Hardest part of 2013?
Spending time with my sweet friend Audrey as she was slipping from this world a little more each day, and nearing Heaven.  The morning I was by her bed, and was able to see her released into the presence of the Lord, was so hard - but so wonderful.  
And within two weeks - getting a phone call from my sister, rushing to the hospital, and then within mere hours, watching as my firstborn niece left us to be with Jesus.  Totally unexpected - so incredibly hard - but beautiful to be there to support my sister and her family during this time.  Seeing someone I love in pain, and not being able to take it away - is one of the hardest things in life.
3. One of my unexpected joys?
It continues to be my grandchildren - who bless me over and over and over again - in ways I could never have ever imagined how wonderful being a Granny would be.  Another unexpected joy has to be the fact that our kids live within a stone's throw from us - totally unexpected when we built where we did - but absolutely amazing and a gift from God to have them all so close!!  
4. An unexpected obstacle in 2013?
My fibromyalgia was at a high that I have not experienced in a few years, which makes moving around, housework, etc - a lot more work than it should be!  But God continues to bring grace for each day - and strength beyond measure.  
5. Three to five words to capture 2013!
Beauty redeemed from brokenness!
6. Best family moment for me?
I don't think I just have one!  My immediate family mean everything to me - they are my all!  I thank God for them.  My best extended family moments are the times that in the depths of our despair, we were there for one another - to wipe tears, to hug and to help the other stand, and to help recall the faithfulness of God.
7.  A travel highlight in 2013?
Alvin and I made a very greatly needed vacation trip to Mexico and it was wonderful - walking the seashore, meeting new friends and just spending time listening to God.  
However, my other travel highlight was when I went last November - to Glen Eyrie retreat center in beautiful Colorado Springs, Colorado - for NextStep School of Spiritual Director with Dr. Larry Crabb.  My heart overflows with these memories.
8. The best book that I read in 2013?
I had to read through the Bible cover to cover - as part of my getting ready for Next Step and my certificate in Spiritual Direction/SoulCare.  The Word of God - amazing - absolutely amazing!  Okay, yes, I sloughed by way through a few of the Old Testament books, I will admit - but you have to read through the Word of God!!  I also needed to read 66 Love Letters by Dr. Crabb along with the reading of the Bible!!  
9. With whom were your most valuable relationships?
My most valuable relationships were with my husband, and my kids and grandkids.  I will never stop pouring into their lives as God gives me strength and breath.  These kids and grandkids are my legacy.  I have come to see the man I married in a whole new way this past year, and thank God for him!  I am so greatly blessed.
I thank God for my siblings - who make me laugh, and also who share the legacy that we were left from parents who were not perfect, but who loved us with a great great love!!
I also thank God for my friends - you guys know who you are - the ones who are there for me - and have been so helpful and supportive in our ministry.  One of you I talk to almost every day - and I am thankful!  You have walked through some tough stuff - and continue to - and I have learned alot from you during this time you have gone through.  I also thank God for how blessed I am to have friends who love me through thick and thin!! 
10. What was your biggest personal change from January to December of this past year?
My biggest change has to been becoming a morning person!! By the grace of God - seriously - only through HIM.  Also by becoming more of a MARTHA person while still being a MARY at heart.  Also, finally beginning the road to losing some very very unwanted pounds!!  Just the beginning - but 17 is better than nothing!  on to more!!
11. The way I grew emotionally?
I cried alot this year.  It is hard to say good-bye to those we love.  It is hard to walk along side of another.  I have also grown emotionally - and have been learning that sometimes I take a different meaning from something that is said, but was not intended that way.  Emotionally I am feeling stronger - and I am thankful.  I still remember the days of depression, but they are what serve to give me "red flag warnings" when I get a little over extended!!
12. Spiritual growth in 2013 included:
oh Lord - I am so thankful for all you have done in my heart - and in my soul this past year!  I have grown in leaps and bounds as I have seen God at work, and continue to literally stand amazed over and over again.  I have heard God speak - and I continue to thank him that He does speak - and he speaks often.  I have seen God at work.  I have been a partner with him in ministry and I am so thankful that He doesn't call the equipped but that He equips the called - like me!  
My "aha" moment that brought me to a weeping mess, was on the Tuesday night, after our session at NextStep with Larry Crabb.  Upon returning to my room, I barely opened the door when I was overwhelmed with such emotion, and weeping. I won't go into it all - but it hinges around what I feel is my prophetic burden as Larry described it.  I believe it is to help women feel how precious and beautiful they are in the eyes of God - who created them, and sent his son Jesus to die for them.  It was that night, that I realized that I was having my own trouble believing that .... and yet I wanted other women to experience it.  I wept, and wept, and cried out to God, and fell asleep with tears rolling off my cheeks and onto my pillow.  In my debriefing with Larry, I came to see more aha moment stuff - and I am forever thankful! A couple days after, I got a Starbucks coffee with a note on it, from someone within my quad.  Cal made me cry!  I had to take a picture to remember!! 

When I left, Larry signed my name tag with the following, which I will cherish forever.  "To Joy ~ may He continue to release your beauty to reveal His to many"
13. Physical growth or challenges:
Physical growth - the mirror continues to remind me that this body is getting older.  Somehow my face is such a reminder - as I notice the pillow creases take considerable longer to disappear from my cheeks, and there are lines that have formed around my lips!  Oh such is life and age!!  
My challenge is to get going on losing weight - now or never - and I am into the challenge by a month - and having lost weight so far - I have enough still to go - with a hopeful date around summer.  I am not doing it for vain glory - but to be able to run and play and get on the floor (and up again) with my grandkids.  The Lord is with me in this - and he says that "with him I can scale a wall" so I figure I can also beat the scale literally as well!!
14. In what way(s) did I grow in my relationships with others?
I have come to see that life is fragile.  I have been greatly impacted by words of friends who have left for heaven - far too soon!  I have been impacted by my relationships with my family - who continue to teach this old mom about life - and about faith in Jesus.  I have come to value relationships in a new way - and cherish each one.  I feel like all of a sudden I don't have time for triteness .... or for frivolous things, or for "conversation about the weather" but instead want to have meaningful conversations that count - that change us - and encourage us to live all out for Jesus!
15. What was the most enjoyable part of my work (both professionally and at home)?
Continue to have such amazing memories of the job I resigned from in January with Canadian Blood Services.  Loved that job and the people.
Now my job is at home - and in minsitry - and following God in this is exciting and meaningful - and makes me feel challenged and joyful.
16. What was the most challenging part of my work (both professionally and at home)?
Likely the most challenging part of work - is the fact that our home is also our ministry house - and trying to figure out the boundaries not only on time, and for family time, but also with people retreating here.  All good - but a process.
17. My single biggest time waster in your life this past year?
Facebook - hands down.  Hate to admit it - but it is.
Or just the computer in general!  Or even the iPhone (sorry to say)

18. My best way I used my time this past year?
The best way I used my time was in helping my kids with the grandkids!!
Also, the ability to write and send real notes via snail mail.
Also in doing some work with inner city ministry.  Blessings abound!
19. What was biggest thing you learned this past year?
This is going to sound silly - but  I learned that when people "unfriend" you in Facebook - it is likely because they are mad at you for something - and life is way bigger than having friends on facebook!!  LOL  
ALL JOKING ASIDE (although that was something that happened) .... this is really what I have learned:
Life is short.  God is in control no matter what.  He is also good all the time, even when it seems he didn't answer you prayer the way you prayed.  I learned that we can't wait till all is perfect, or we have the money, or the time, or energy - but that we need to live all out - full - head on - for Jesus NOW ....
I have also learned that too many people my age are looking for freedom 55 and counting down days to do what they want in retirement.  I am remeinded again that no where in the Word of God does it talk about retiring from being used by God - so here we are - instead of ramping down as the world encourages us, we are ramping UP and having the time of our lives for Jesus..... yes we are more pooped than we were to years ago, because we are older - but we are feeling like following God - there is NOTHING LIKE IT!!
I have also learned to appreciate and love the honesty and openness and closeness of my family.  I have come to realize that not all families operate this way, and I am sad for them. I have to come realize that the relationships my kids have with one another and with us as parents, are rare - and I try not to take this for granted.  I love the way my kids encourage one another, and challenge on another to living greater for the Lord.  But even more than that, watching them - challenges me.  I have seen them stand up for what they believe, and for all they believe to be right - regardless of what that may cost.  I have not always been so brave in my life as a Christ follower.  I am thankful, that God works with us, as messy and broken up and needy as we are.  I am so thankful!
20. Create a phrase or statement that describes this past year for you.
During this past year, I have seen how God has continued to make broken things new, including me and my family.  I have seen how he redeems beauty from ashes and how he does bring joy eventually from mourning.  God is in the business of redeeming brokenness.  That being said - the best is yet to come, and I have been reminded of this again and again, as I have said good-bye to loved ones family and friends who have gone home to be with Jesus - many who were way too young!!  We are just passing through - this is just a middle ground for us - and the best - oh my friend - the best is yet to come - and WILL come in the twinkle of an eye.
Are you ready to meet Jesus?  Don't wait!!  And hey if you need to know more about making him Lord of your life - I am here to talk!!
Thankful for 2013
but happy for 2014 - a fresh new start!
Happy 2014!!