Wednesday, May 24

the mangled mess of my thoughts at 3 am in the morning

Its late.  Or, I guess its early.  I need to be up and ready to exercise with my personal trainer at 7:30 but somehow my body just doesn't want to go to sleep.  Yes I know ~ I should not be at my computer but instead I should just somehow try to sleep.  But after tossing and turning for over an hour, I figured why fight it? And just come upstairs and sit by the fire for a little while and then try again.  Besides most of the time I can get to sleep with the snoring, but tonight it has not been easy. SO here I sit.

My thoughts are a mangled mess it seems.  I found a picture that could describe them!!

Yep - this picture does it!! For a while I thought perhaps it would be helpful to write down my thoughts.  So the light went on and I wrote about six things down.  Clicked off the light.  Then I wrote something by feeling for the pen and paper.  Then I wanted to pray - but when my thoughts are so overwhelming, I need to pray out loud, but Alvin was sleeping ... so I tried to pray from my heart in silence.  I lifted the names of my friends and family before the LORD and thanked him that HE knows my heart, he knows the unspoken, and HE also knows what I have spoken aloud to Him in prayer before.

So up I came, trying not to turn on too many lights.  Just because I am awake doesn't mean I should wake my sleeping man up.  And here I sit.  Wide awake.  Yep ... 2 am.

But as I laid in bed tonight for that hour, there was something that I was thinking about.  I have had several conversations lately about "religion" versus "relationship".   I hear people say "I'm not a good christian" or "I try to be a good christian".  I have known people who have tried to adhere to the 10 commandments.  People who have thought that they didn't want to become a believer of Jesus because it would mean living a life of rules and no fun.  People who have struggled because they just can't "measure up" to what they feel God wants them to be.  I think the biggest problem with all the above is that my friends have seen Christianity as RELIGION/RULES/RITUAL and have not lived in the full grace that Jesus gave by going to the cross for our sin.

But my thoughts lately have been on RELATIONSHIP with Jesus.  On walking a life WITH Him.  On walking a life with Jesus as my FIRST love.  And as I laid there trying to fall asleep, and feeling the breathing of my sweet man beside me, my question was this:  How do we fall in love more and more with Jesus.  And I began to think back to falling in love with Alvin.  How did that happen.
Well ~ first I heard about him.  My best friend talked about him and others, and I was intrigued.
Then I met him.  Then we began to spend time and build a friendship.  Then we began to talk more.  To spend more time.  To laugh together.  To talk about our day(s).  To realize that love was there, and to nurture that love by spending more time together.  I knew the sound of Alvin's voice.  The sound of  his laugh.  And then we got engaged and began to plan life together.  And then we got married which then took us into the intimacy that we looked forward to and longed for.  And intimacy grew.
And now 39 years of marriage later, we know one another.  We can finish sentences for one another.  We don't even have to finish them and we know what the other is thinking.  We dont' always have to be talking.  We can just spend time in one another's presence.  

My prayer is always that I would fall more in love with the LORD with each day.  And I realize it is an even better relationship than a marriage with Alvin.  But falling in love with Jesus has the same components.  Spending time together.  Recognizing His voice. Knowing that Jesus knows my thoughts before I speak them or even if I never speak them.  Falling in love with Jesus is about spending more time with him and doing that out of love for Him, not out of obligation.  It is about looking forward to my QT with him.  It is about planning time to just be in His presence.  It is about laughing when I see something that He has put there for me to experience! It is about laughing at some of my own quirks fully knowing that He created me to be the woman I am.  My relationship with Jesus is about falling more and more in love with Him, about getting to know Him more through Scripture.  It is about actually feeling that He IS first in my life.  For many years, I believe He was IN my life, but not FIRST.  Falling more in love with Jesus is about HIM consuming my thoughts, so that spending time with HIM, experiencing His presence is as common as breathing! Its about talking with Him, and looking ahead with Him.  It's about growing in intimacy with my LORD.  Now, I know some people think that is a weird way to put your relationship with Jesus.  Because why?  I think it is because people always associate intimacy with sex.

Erwin Raphael McManus (Pastor/Author)  said "Our souls crave intimacy." 

I would agree and I am thankful that our God made us that way - fearfully and wonderfully made.  He also knows that we crave intimacy because real intimacy (not the act of sex)  makes us feel that someone really took the time to see into us.  And that made us feel alive because our hearts and our souls have connected.  And the greatest lover of our being - our heart and soul is the LORD JESUS CHRIST.

So after all this rambling at 2 am in the morning, I am thankful for these thoughts on my relationship with Jesus.  On falling in love more with HIM.  About an intimate relationship with the greatest lover of my soul.  I honestly can say, without a shadow of a doubt.  I love Jesus Christ first. And then my husband, my kids, my grandkids, and family and friends.  And as I know my human relationships take nurturing, time, and grow daily ... I am also very aware that my relationship with Jesus also grows daily.

The bottom line of this I believe is:  We go through hard hard times.  If you havent't - you will.  Guaranteed.  We walk through times of pressure, intense heat, intense refining, times where we may feel that we are drowning ... but we don't drown.  Times where we feel the heat of the flames, but don't burn.  Times where we feel like the rushing water is going to sweep us away, but we don't get swept away.  We walk through those times.  And that is when we realize RELIGION isn't what counts at all ... all the rules, all the ritual, all the pomp and circumstance does nothing. NOT A THING. B Our life with Jesus has to be about RELATIONSHIP.  Allowing Him full access into our life, our soul and knowing that He sees us and loves us, that He shed his blood on the cross for us, and we can love Him.  We will walk through the hard times.  We will pray like crazy (or not).  He will answer the way that is best for us. (even though we prayed He would answer differently.  (God why didn't  you heal him?  God why didnt you take her depression away?  God why did my grandson die?  God didn't you know she wants a husband?  God ???? )  Regardless of what we say/pray/walk through if we are walking in relationship with HIM - THAT is what it is all about.  He longs for us to KNOW Him better.  Give our lives to Him.  KNOW Him.  LOVE Him.  Fall MORE in love with Him.  Serve Him and become more like Him.

So, this is my prayer:  Jesus, lover of my soul.  May I fall in love with you more and more with each passing day.  You know me so intimately and oh I love you.  You have created me to become more like you.  I may not get everything or even a portion of what I pray and beg you for but I know that walking with you Jesus is what counts.  You've got me.  You know me.  You call me by name.
I am your beloved.  And that is all that counts!  Oh how I love you and I KNOW that you love me even more.  May your fragrance come from and out of me Jesus.  Amen





Sunday, April 23

my life is like the morning fog ...


 “How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? 
Your life is like the morning fog—
it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.”   
James 4:14  New Living Translation (NLT)

In the past couple months, I have sat in the seats of three funerals. 
A cousin’s husband, a first cousin, and a friend from church.  
In each case death was sudden.  A diagnosis of cancer and passing 6 days later.  The next - she went to sleep and awoke in heaven!  Just like that.  And the last was sudden - heart failure.  No time for a last hug.  But like the morning fog, here and then gone.

Our lives are but a “vapor” ... a “mist” ... or the “morning fog”.
Death is all around us, and in each of these funerals, there was hope we have in Christ of one day being reunited again.  I sat in the chairs and my mind scrolled through many thoughts.  And, I don’t think I am unlike others who I assume also think of these things when at a funeral.

Thing is, I began thinking of my funeral when my mom passed away, which is almost 21 years ago (May 5).  Somehow, knowing my mom was in Heaven took the fear out of dying.   And then a year and a bit later when my dad died, it was then that I began to pen my own thoughts on my funeral.  Now, I have to say that my ideas have been changed a little.  I used to keep it in a file on my computer desk top.  Ashley (my daughter) told me it was a little weird to use my computer and see the file named “My funeral”.

I believe that as wonderful as it is this side of Heaven, that the best is yet to come.  Sure, I don’t want to hurry death in any way.  I love spending time with my husband, kids and grandkids, family and friends. However, I also know that one day I will be reunited with those who have gone on before - and especially looking to one day talking with my grandson Jay Benjamin, and other family like my Mom, Dad, Niece Keri, Granny, and other grandparents that I never got to meet yet.  

Our life is but a vapor ... in God’s time, I believe it.  One day to him is like a thousand and a thousand are like a day.   Psalm 139 tells me that God knew the number of my days before one of them came to be!  He knows.  Yes, I can do what I can to take care of myself, and live a healthy life, but the reality is, my life is like the morning fog!  

So, how am I living that vapor out?  Am I living my life fully and with intention?  Apparently my friend from church used to say “remember who you are representing” when a person left to go somewhere.  Does my life represent Jesus?  Is there a sweet fragrance of the LORD left lingering behind after I have been with someone?  Will my life leave a legacy of faith to my kids, my grandkids and my friends?  Will Jesus say “well done good an faithful servant” when I come into his presence?

Alvin and I have talked about death a bit.  Usually it is me telling him “I will never remarry, but you would have to!!”  Or joking that Ashley says “dad would be able to have toast and eggs, and could live with us and hang out with the kids”.  Not sure if everyone jokes that way.   Or does it just happen when the “vapor” or “morning fog” seems like it is lifting (as we age) and death seems eventually inevitable?  I remember my mom talking to me about if she were to go first ...   I hated talking about that with my mom.  In fact the thought of losing them made me cry.  However, I have had some conversations with my kids, and I think it is in a healthy place.  Who are we trying to kid?  Our life is but a morning fog!!

And the weird thing is, no matter how we talk, or write out plans.  No matter how much we wonder about the length of our lives - only God knows.  
He knows when the “morning fog will lift” and in the meantime, I know that HE is the one who holds the vapor/mist/fog of my life in his hands.  I believe HE is the one who has it all under control, amidst the unknown, and He will give whatever strength/grace is needed for the days/years ahead.

I realize I have NO CLUE what my life will be like tomorrow.  I think I may know, but that can change in an instant ... I have been at the celebration of life services which attest to that.  I can have all the best plans for tomorrow.  I can have the greatest insurance plan for my life.  But it is God who has determined it all.  

I have talked about living life full on - about “going big or going home” - about living fully for Him.  I can do that, because it is Jesus who gives me the full and abundant life.  He said, “I have come to give life and give it to the full.”   That life is not about fear of tomorrow, or about worry about how or when I die.  That life IS about giving him today, tonight and tomorrow and entrusting each breath to him.  

Fog is a little eerie.  Dense.  It can create a little anxiety when driving.  We experienced this a couple months ago while driving up a mountain trail.
I was a little anxious.  I could not see hardly in front of our car.  Thing is a mere mile before there was no fog.   But we were in the thick of things, not knowing when it would life, and when we could exhale again.  (Alvin was driving and he didn't seem as anxious as me, but he was glad when we were out of it.)    That is an object lesson of our lives.  Here and then gone.

NOT so that we worry.
NOT so that we weep unnecessarily because we are afraid.
NO, it is to help us understand the mystery of our lives that have been created by our Sovereign GOD.  And because of Him, and the “cloud of witnesses/saints that have gone on before” I am not afraid.   I know who holds my future - and He gives me peace.

Sorry, this is not profound or anything - just the ramblings of this “country mouse” as she runs through each day.  Living fully.  Living life all out.  Trusting.  Day in, day out, day in, day out - until my LORD calls me home.

These funerals have made me consider what would be said.  What would be sung?  What Scripture?  Would there be a lot of people. Would there be enough pictures for a slide show??  (this makes me laugh because truth be told, I take most of the pictures, so there may not be!! Joking)  Has my life had impact for Jesus?  It is all about HIM.  Every breath has to be all about my Jesus.  Here on earth, until the fog lifts, and I find myself with HIM and my loved ones gone on before, in Heaven.


 “How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? 
Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.”   
James 4:14  New Living Translation (NLT)







Tuesday, April 4

peanuts

I sit here in the early part of the morning, breathing in, breathing out.  Thankful.  Feeling blessed amidst any of the anxiety that runs across my heart and in my mind.  And the blue sky, the sunshine and the creation on the other side of the window pane absolutely warms my heart.  God does that.  In the midst of it all.  "Your will be done, your kingdom come, here ~ the midst of my life, my world ~ as it is in Heaven."

I sit here, cozied up in the big white chair.  (Do any of your remember the friendly giant TV show, when his hand would come and arrange the miniature chairs in front of the fireplace and say "and here's a big chair to curl up in" ... well that is me this morning.  I am waiting for a retreater to come for a day retreat.  She has done this before several times.  She knows the ropes, and so I get to relax too.  My favourite gluten free scone recipe are baked and on a plate if she cares to enjoy.  And me - I have one too, along with my favorite tea.  It is a good morning and I am thankful that God does allow his will to be done, and his kingdom come here, in my life, as it is in Heaven.

Outside of my window, on the post of our deck is a square plate that was full of peanuts in the shell.  I heard this from my friend Gisele, who told me about her husband Ron feeding the Jays.  And so that year I began buying peanuts in the shell. Not just little bag but a HUGE SACK full, and have bought a few sack fulls since!  I love watching them - they come and sit on the plate, pick up a peanut, shake it, drop it, and to this over and over again until they select the one they want.  I have always wondered if they are checking to see the weight, or if they can tell if it has one or two or three peanuts inside.  And sometimes they put one in their mouth and tip their head back and try to get another one in.  I have read that they take them as far as two miles away.

Peanuts.  Who would have thought that a mere peanut.  Not roasted.  Not salted.  Not barbecued lol
Peanuts in the shell - would be the thing that would bring them to the feeder in a flurry - one after another - waiting in line at times.  Reminds me of how planes at a big airport sit in a holding pattern ready to take off, one after another after another.  This is the Blue Jays that are occupying my time this morning, as I sit in the big comfy chair.

But unlike any other day, one of the Jays is sitting on the hand railing doing down the steps to the walkway.  He has een sitting there for a long time.  Every so often he turns his heard as if he is gazing at me.  I notice how the white and blue markings on his wings that are tucked in, make a beautiful mosaic, like a stone glass mosaic.  And I marvel again at the way God has created all the bird species different and oh so beautiful.

He is sitting, watching.  Not clamouring at the dish for peanuts.  Perhaps he has already had his fill.  I am intrigued by this other than ordinary behaviour as usually they come, pick up and flit away.  But he is just sitting.  Retreating lol  only now to fly up, look around, pick a peanut treat and fly away.

Peanuts.  Simple.  Brown.  Unassuming. Peanuts in a shell.

I realize a lot by watching the Jays outside my window.  If you have read my blog posts since 2008 you will know that when we lost our grandson Jay Benjamin, we adopted the BlueJay as our family logo (for lack of a better word).  We named our business Blue Jay Family Works.  Alvin, Josh, Ashley and Michael had tattoos of blue jays done.  (my tattoo did not include a blue jay but it was Jay related).  At that time, I had not seen any Blue Jays in our yard in Anola, and they began coming - steadily.  Story after Story I could relate, and I began to call the Blue Jay sightings "kisses from God" to me.   Thus began our intrigue and love of the Blue Jay.  A raucous bird and somewhat aggressive - but oh I love them.  God has used them greatly in my life.

So here I sit, having just welcomed, talked with and prayed with my day retreater.  I am reminded over and over of God's presence in our lives, in the deep deep places.  And I see the peanuts that bring us joy along our day.  Simple yet profound JOY.
As I sit here, with each peanut that is scooped out of the feeder.  With each call of the birds, I am reminded that I am so greatly loved, carried and blessed by our LORD GOD.

So LORD today, may YOUR kingdom come, your will be done on earth (in my life, in my family, in my home) as it is in Heaven.  I love you LORD.

Saturday, January 21

You've Finished Well - Captain Klassen



I  will never forget the day.  It was a day that we were getting ready to go on a holiday to Banff.  
To be honest, I am not sure why or how I found the ad that said the City of Wpg was hiring.  But I remember bringing to Alvin’s attention.  He was currently working at a lumber yard, and in charge of the hardware dept.  I should note that up to this time he had never expressed any interest in trying out for the fire department.  However this news brought some excitement.
We went on our trip, and came back and began to get things in order for him to apply.
Driver’s Abstract, and his report card from Grade 12 (not so great I might add!)   He went to apply, and then went through the physical testing, and then the stress testing, and then an interview.  We prayed that if this was God’s will, he would move forward in the steps toward hiring.  Then we heard in late fall that his file was being put on hold for the time being, as they had filled the class.  While we were disappointed, we trusted God and continued on with our lives.  

Fast forward to the next summer.   My sister had come over to our house (we lived side by side in the country) and our phone rang, so she answered it.  She told me she said she was the housecleaner!  She quickly called me to say that Alvin had been put into the next class to begin in September, and that he needed to call.  We were so surprised.  We had pretty much thought that we would not hear from the department and had just carried on with life.

At that time, back in 1986, he didn’t have to go away to Fire School in Brandon like our son did.  No, the city outfitted each person, and they were put on payroll the first day that their school began.  Quite different than now.  Alvin studied hard.  I remember those days, as I was working, and also studying myself for my ECE III.  AND we had a four year old and a one year old.  When he graduated, he was honored for being the top of his class!  WOW, who would have thought with the report card evidence from grade !2!!  The night we celebrated with the class at  Mother Tuckers, we were so surprised to come out a couple hours later and find a full blown snow storm happening - November 6, 1986.  We barely made it home. 

Alvin’s career has been full, like every other firefighter.  But there were a few things that I think made Alvin stand out.  One thing was that he had this thing about him and he was often teased in those days about being the guy who was seen reassuring the little old lady by holding her hand, or by talking out life with an inebriated person, or just chatting with people who had needs.  I witness this myself often, as people would just walk over to him.  I believe it was because he was kind, loving and fair.  Years of being in the inner city could have hardened him, but yet he continued to do his job with the love of Christ shining through him.

I know that each family, and each firefighter may deal with what they see in different ways.  Some drink to deal with the hard stuff.   That was never Alvin’s thing.  I don’t believe there was ever a day when I didn’t ask him how his day was, and that he shared.  I did not mind hearing the stories.  Not that they were always easy to hear - because they weren’t.  However, I knew that the fact that we were married, we were in this all together.   And the stories were hard.  His first suicide.  Suicides were always hard.  Accidents that happened because someone was drunk.  Those were hard especially when the drunk walked away, and the inn cent one died, or was in critical.   I remember him talking about the hard calls - those that involved babies.  Those were never easy.  NEVER.  And after we lost our Jay, these calls took on an even harder time.  

When Josh was five, he said he wanted to be a firefighter.  At the age of 20 he graduated as a Fire Medic (I hope I have that right) and I was so proud!  Two men in blue shirts ... two men that were serving others.  Thing is, never would I have expected that there would be deep pain either, as both Josh and Alvin were involved in accidents that were tragic.  While they were 8 years apart, both included someone being hit by a firetruck and killed.  Both accidents happened on the same street just a block or two apart.  While Alvin was there for Josh in 2003, in 2011 Josh was there for his dad in the same way.  What are the odds of that happening - two tragedies involving two firefighters in the same family?  

You know, I never worried about the boys.  It was their job, and God knew about them.  I didn’t worry.  Okay, maybe once in a while, but not normally. They saved lives, fought fires.  They rushed in when people would be rushing out.  Yes, I prayed for them, but I didn’t worry.  I just entrusted them to the LORD.

Today, Alvin finished.  He shared that there were a few times this morning when we were taking pictures, that it felt pretty emotional.  Of course it would. You don’t leave a long career without feeling emotional!  This was his life.  This was his crew.  This was his decision that now was the time.  He was not yet retirement age, but he wanted to finish well and after talking about it for a year, he finally picked a date and got the ball rolling.  It was his choice but still, it was a hard choice.  He was leaving a “family” behind, and would not live through the stories of his son from here on in.  He will see firefighters from time to time, but it would be different.  Life carries on.  The sense of belonging changes.  He has moved from 2 Platoon to 5 Platoon.  He will see firetrucks rushing to calls and know that he has finished rushing.  He will go to bed knowing he will never be woken up during the night by another gong just when he was deep in sleep.  He will never have to revive a child, or go to the scene that involved shattered lives and tragedy.  That will not mean that those memories fade - they will always be there.
The good.  The bad.  AND the ugly.  This was his calling.  But now, he has hung up his helmut, given back his turnout gear, and walked out of the hall just after the firetruck left on a call.

It was a choice to retire now.  While still healthy, and young.  It was his choice, but that doesn’t mean it is an easy one.  

It has been a great 3 decades of service.  A number of halls, and a ton of firefighters who he worked with and got to call comrade.  A number of calls and a number of hours spent talking with people and lately writing reports on the computer.  He knew he wanted to leave while things were good.  I have a feeling that even if he had stayed for a few more years, thing would have been good then too.  

But today he finished.  We took pictures.  The kids brought smiles to his face.  The name was taken off his turnout gear, and his city of Winnipeg tag was put into a bag along with everything else that was to be handed in.  Captain Klassen chose to finish his firefighting career at the age of 58, and only God knows what is ahead, but he is looking forward to the next adventure, after a few tears are shed!  

Alvin, my sweet man, you have finished well.  
And I am so proud of you!
Go forward to the next adventure - with God, with me, and with your family by your side.
I love you - 

You’ve served well Captain Klassen!!




Monday, January 16

Give me Jesus

Morning came early as my Sweet Man gets up early.  I am learning to love early but my body isn't always as convinced.  But I got up, and made his lunch to take to the job site today.  And then sat down in my favorite space in front of the fireplace.  Bible - Journal - pens/markers/ etc - and began to read.  I have been following an app on my phone called First5, and loving the study through Joshua.
God gave me these verses many years ago, when He began calling me to retreat ministry.  Believe me, leaving a carry of 20+ years to follow Him on an adventure (I had no clue how much it would be an adventure!!) Well, I needed those verses to tell me to be strong and courageous!!  I needed to read them over and over and over again.  And well, here I am again today.  So strengthened by the Father's love, mercy, grace and strength in my body, soul, mind and spirit.

At this point in time, I feel ready for my day - only three hours after I sat down.  I have read, journalled, meditated on the word, worshipped through song (and doing a little flagging lol)  (Ya, you heard it right, but now you are wondering what in the world flagging is right!!)  And then I went and worked out all the while listening to my friend Cathy Hardy's latest CD http://cathyajhardy.com/product/and-i-heard-the-sound-of-laughter/

And then I spent some face down time with the Almighty.  I can weep before Him with joy ... and with pain.  I can weep before Him and give him my messy junk and KNOW that He has it all under His control.  I was reminded of that today as I did my QT with the LORD.  I saw today how God gave Joshua instructions that seemed overwhelming and terribly daunting.  And Joshua usually just obeyed "no questions asked" ...  
Joshua Trusted
Joshua Obeyed
and Joshua Followed God's Lead.

So with those words, with the songs of Cathy still in my heart.   With time spent in face down prayer, surrendering all to HIM ... I feel I am ready for this day!!  I have asked for MORE of Him, more songs in my heart, more thoughts of Him, more of the Holy Spirit in my life so that others will see not Joy, but Jesus through me.

What I love about the LORD is that if we ask, He is so willing.  If we seek Him, we find him.  If we want MORE of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we will get more!  He is the ONE who loves to lavish his love on us.  And I am not sure about you - but I want MORE.  

In the morning - when I rise .... Give me Jesus!!
Have a great day!!