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Ten years ago I could barely walk, sleep, or carry my own purse. I could no longer drive. That’s how intense the pain had become. I’d been a runner for 28 years. My motto was, “Why walk when you can run.” Now I had no choice. It was nearing two years, and over ten health care providers, but no one could help me. On top of it, I became pregnant and couldn’t take enough medication to dull the pain. It seemed I was trapped in a hopeless situation. Read the rest of this entry »

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A precious offering from a student: a reminder of the little hands I held and also helped teach how to print their names.

This past Tuesday, I spent my last day in the kindergarten class. At the end of the day, just before nineteen little humans trundled off for home, I was inundated with colourful masterpieces and priceless hugs. Working to hold back tears, I received their affectionate gestures. The teacher commented on the impact I’d made after being in the class just over a month and added, what if it had been a full year as he had hoped.

It begs the question: what about an entire lifetime?

Within such a lifetime – composed of one day piling on top of another – there exists the opportunity to make a day-by-day, moment-by-moment difference. Some of those difference-making impacts will be the result of a cognitive choice or disciplined action, but there will be many that won’t. Some impacts will occur without you giving them a second thought; the mere result of you being a living, breathing human with the potential to leave an imprint on other human beings, for better or for worse.

I think to myself, what sort of impact am I making? Am I helping or hindering those around me to be the best versions of themselves? Do my words and actions encourage and build others up, or tear them down? Am I using my resources, including my time, finances, skills, and gifts to make a difference, or am I selfishly expending them only on my personal comfort?

Some may not think it matters, but I prefer to think it does. As a child, whenever we visited somewhere, my mom used to instruct us to leave it better than when we arrived. I think that applies to people as well as places. We can leave a person better than we found them. Our exchanges, no matter how small, can leave a positive or negative impact. The ability to shift the atmosphere is ever at our disposal.

It’s easy to grumble about poor service, complain about a coworker to another, treat a server poorly, or lose it entirely. But how much greater is a simple smile, a kind word of encouragement, a well-placed compliment, a small offer of help, a show of affection, or an extension of forgiveness. All of these can make all the difference. You won’t often know the mountains another is scaling in the midst of climbing your own, but at every handhold there exists the opportunity to make that assent just a little kinder and more manageable.

Beyond all this, there’s the impact in eternity, which, though temporarily invisible, will one day be all there is left, and all that matters. Not that we do these things for gold stars. We do them out of the outflow of love and forgiveness that we each have the opportunity to receive and extend. But make no mistake, everything, whether seen or unseen, applauded or ignored, matters.

I’ll leave this last thought: Be the person your dog thinks you are, the person your family wishes you were, and the person God made you to be!

For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.

~ Luke 8:17

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  1. In what ways are you leaving people better than you found them? In what ways could you stand to improve?
  2. Look for opportunities this week to make a difference.

 

44543176_186372598907522_1288013997185957888_nRecently, and rather inadvertently, I plunged headlong into a full-time job as a Teacher’s Assistant. I say inadvertently because I wasn’t looking for a job. You might recall in my September post: “Letting Go With Open Arms” that I was celebrating my son’s recent wedding and the milestone of completing many years of homeschooling.

I enjoyed three weeks of pure bliss. By that I mean, for the first time since I can remember, I woke up without any real “musts” or necessary routine. No school to begin, no rushing to activities, and, miracle of all miracles, an empty house by 8AM! Truly an introvert’s dream!

But then it all changed. A friend happened to mention that the school where she works was looking for a person to fill a Para-educator position. I thought, I could help out…just until they find a suitable person (while silencing the “don’t even think about its” from my daughter and close friends). But since listening to others’ logic isn’t at the top of my list of strengths, I gave it a second thought.

It wasn’t terrible timing. I had recently sent the manuscript for my novel to the publishing company, and assumed I had a few weeks before the edited version would be returned. And so, I found myself crafting a resume for the first time since my teen years. And shortly after that, I landed full-time in a kindergarden class.

The work is exhausting, rewarding, eye-opening, and, did I mention exhausting? I awoke the second day and wondered how I’d managed to let my dream-like days dissolve so quickly, and if perhaps I should have heeded the counsel from my obviously wiser daughter and friends. After all, I was supposed to be writing, painting, and de-cluttering. All that to say, I’ve put aside, for just a little longer, all those dreams and goals I’ve long-held onto, to serve little people and one big person – the teacher.

So now, for the past three weeks, my days consist of bending over to decipher the sometimes not so fully formed words projected from little mouths, wiping crumbs from little tables, pushing in little chairs, and helping little souls learn their ABC’s, 123’s, and how to spell their names, so that one day they will know much more than that.

I now have a collection of painted masterpieces taped on my chalkboard at home – precious gifts from these little people. I also have a collection of memories in my heart too. I hazard I won’t soon forget the smallest of them all, a little lad who frequently takes my hand and presses it to his cheek while waiting in line to wash his hands at the sink.

On just my second day, while assisting the student’s hand washing routine, one little girl peered up at me and asked, “Are you staying for always?” And the next day, the same question from another. My heart ached because I knew I couldn’t; that my days there were to be only temporary. I’ll do what I can for the short time I’m there, care for and encourage them, hopefully make a small difference, and then go on to the other purposes for which I’ve been made.

And that’s really the essence of it all, isn’t it? I mean, the essence of our one life. Our days here are only temporary; we’re just passing through. Time is short, and we do the best we can with the short time we’ve been given, care for and encourage others, hopefully make a small difference, and then go on to the other purpose for which we’ve been made: our forever life with God in heaven.

So I’ll make the most of it all: the time with these treasured little humans, and the time I have with the precious others God has tucked into my life – both of which are laden with opportunities to serve God with the resources He’s given to us. We’ve been gifted with life, and, perhaps like you, when my days are spent I hope to reach the end and hear, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”

 “Then the king will answer, ‘The truth is, anything you did for any of my people here, you also did for me.’ 

Matthew 25:40

“His lord said to him, Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter into the joy of your lord.”

~  Matthew 25:23

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  1. How are you spending your days? Look for ways serve those around you either with a small act of kindness or a word of encouragement.
  2. Are there any adjustments you could make to serve God out of the riches and gifts He’s given you?
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My spiritual mom and I at a birthday celebration with “The Prayer Ladies”.

I call her my spiritual mom. We aren’t linked biologically but through the things of God. She’s been a constant in my life for over ten years, and we’ve shared many conversations and events. Without meaning to, or possibly knowing she has, Nancy has taught me many things. I thought it would be insightful to share these priceless morsels. It may sound like I’m bragging, but bear with me. I’m hoping one or two might be meaningful to you!

Read the rest of this entry »

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I’m thankful for my hubby.

Confession: Fall isn’t my favourite time of year. I much prefer hot, hazy mid-summer days. I adore my garden at peak performance showing off its full glory. I relish a few lazy minutes of reading on the porch with the birds’ chorus adding to the unfolding beauty. There’s the endless, sunspun blue skies, and the warm evenings begging us to linger outside and squeeze the most out of the long days of light. Even as I write this, I’m still mourning summer’s end. 

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I’m thankful for my garden.

But its fall and, in Canada, that means a few changes. And with the changing season come a few things I could stand to be grateful for. Things like: apple cider, the smell of smoke sauntering out of hundred-year-old chimneys, the blazing leaves letting go, comical gourds, pumpkin pies, fall Mums, and cosy sweaters. Maybe you could add a few of your own.

My daughter adores this time of year and makes a fall list – traditions that she keeps each year. Among other activities, she decorates her room, visits the pumpkin patch with a friend, then painstakingly carves the perfect pumpkin once home. She makes procuring a pumpkin spice latte a must, makes a fall play list, and even dresses up for Halloween to hand out candy at our door. Through her, I’m trying to increase my affection for fall.

But no matter where we find ourselves this autumn, no matter how much you cherish the changing seasons, how amazing, or not-quite-so-amazing, your circumstances may be, the truth is we can always find something to be thankful for. Thanksgiving is an ideal reminder that we really should be living each day thankful, not just one weekend.

Here are some things I’m thankful for: a simple breath of outside air, the late-day sun on my face, a flock of migrating birds crossing overhead, a sip of warm coffee, the bite of food in my mouth before thinking of the next, and a moment of stillness in my home (like this one when no one is making a sound). I’m thankful for my dear friends who love and cheer me on, my children who encourage me to do big things, and my husband who still loves me after 26 years of intimately knowing my every fault. And I’m thankful that God, who knows me even better than that, gave His Son because He thinks I matter.

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I’m thankful for my kids.

This act of being thankful has a way of brushing the cobwebs of ingratitude away. Like the way we gripe in our childish entitlement, or the way we have mini-fits when the world doesn’t give us all we asked for. Thankfulness acts as an automatic attitude-shifter, and the everyday, moment-by-moment practice of it helps us approach our minutes with a healthier, life-giving focus.

There are times so bewilderingly dark, so emotionally or physically painful, that it seems virtually impossible to find a single thing to be thankful for. But even when the light is scant, look hard. There is always a small ray of hope shining in that darkness and lighting something of which to be thankful for – even if it is that next breath.

And, like anything, the more we practice thankfulness, the easier it becomes. What if this weekend we start, and then just keep going – this month and this year – and develop a solid habit of finding something to be thankful for each day, and especially in times of difficulty? I have an inkling we might experience an increased dose of contentment, peace, and joy.

     “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”                      1 Thessalonians 5:18

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  1. Have you made a “Thankful List”?
  2. Develop the practice of finding things to be thankful for each day and even each moment.

 

1

In our youth, we race headlong into this one life filled with idealistic optimism. The world is an expansive unknown stretching far beyond us and filled with unending possibilities waiting to be harnessed. At this stage, there are no limits to what can be accomplished, no unforseen roadblocks or impending disasters, and no reason to believe our dreams will not be realized.

But then, as it’s prone to do, life happens. Some of it by our choosing, and some coming upon us as an unexpected downpour, and we discover that life isn’t perfect. After some repeated saturation, we may look at our life and declare, “This is not how I expected things to turn out.”

At this point, we often choose a pity party, sometimes even a tantrum, stomping and flailing about how unfair it all is. Or, we can towel dry our hair, gather courage and hope, and discover ways to dance despite the downpours and drink of the falling drops. Because here’s the truth: the most fragrant beauty radiates after the rain, and sunsets are most spectacular as the storm clouds recede.

Even though you never asked for any of it, even though you thought you would be further along in your journey, or imagined your life differently, this is it. No matter what has passed, or what you thought it would look like, you cannot change one single bit. This is your one life. And you have a choice. Will you let what has happened this far shape you – rearrange you if needed – to grow, to overcome, and to fully flourish?

We ignore the blessings we’ve been given when we focus on how our lives failed to unfold how we imagined, when we linger on the wreckage of what went wrong, the injustices enacted against us, or the ways we’ve let down ourselves or others. In our misperceptions, we forget this place isn’t meant to be perfect, and neither are we. This is a rehearsal, of sorts, for things to come. When the last curtain is drawn, and we arrive at our final destination, then and only then will all be as it should.

I rather adore this verse:

“The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” ~ 1 Samuel 16:7

It reminds me that using the world’s measuring stick to determine success is rubbish. That God’s measurement for a successful life looks dramatically different. It’s possible that the very place we find ourselves, and the very person you and I are right now, is just where and who God would have us be, however inglorious, unattractive, desperate, downright ugly, or devastating it may be at present. That’s meant to be encouraging!

However disappointed we are with this patch of life so far, God doesn’t see your journey in any way wasted. However hard we buffet life’s storms, however unwelcome we make trials, even downpours can usher in beauty, refine character, and construct in us an enduring peace and patience the likes of which we had yet to know, not to mention prepare us to walk with added fury – a true force to be reckoned with – for the next leg of our journey.

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I like to think God looks at us – and our lives – rather like we used to as a child: full of possibility and hope, and without limits. And maybe, just maybe, from here on in, we would take His outstretched hand in ours, be led through the storms, navigated through the roadblocks and disasters, and follow Him out the other side, joining Him in puddle jumping, reclining by His side mesmerised by the sunset, while drinking deeply of the fragrant beauty of His love. Maybe then we will see our one life for the truly miraculous gift it is. Besides, by now you realize the best is yet to come anyhow.

I’ll leave you with this reminder:

“Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in the world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and the saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.” ~ Ephesians 2: 7-10

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  1. Start a list of things you can be thankful for.
  2. Ask God to help you redirect your heart and thoughts to thankfulness. Develop a habit of replacing disparaging thoughts with thankful ones.
  3. Pray over each disappointment/disaster, handing it to God to make beauty out of. This may take time, but it’s worth it!
  4. Memorize a passage of scripture as encouragement during the downpours.

 

 

 

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Elanna’s Graduation – June 2018

Eighteen years ago, I embarked on an unlikely journey of teaching my children at home. I only planned to continue until they reached high school, but the three oldest chose to home school through grade 12.

We learned a lot of things during those years, but what sticks with me the most isn’t the multitude of things we gleaned from books, but the things we discovered about life and ourselves. Those years weren’t always easy. Life still happened. And though I was far from a perfect teacher or mother, we came out the other side loving and respecting each other. Today, I am humbled and blessed by the close relationships we share.

Below is a random list of some things I learned. I’m sure I can’t think of everything, but these are a few that easily came to mind. Although it refers to our home schooling journey, I have a feeling you’ll be able to relate, or at the very least, may find it an encouragement!

52 Things I Learned From Home Schooling:

1. Show up, even when you don’t feel like it.
2. Any effort is better than none. It all compiles.
3. Bear with one another.
4. Patience is necessary – it grows when exercised.
5. If it’s not working, try harder. If it’s still not working, try a different approach.
6. Meant to and actually doing the job are two very different things.
7. It’s hard, but nothing worthwhile is ever easy.
8. Quitting isn’t an option. Redirecting your effort is.
9. There’s no such thing as perfection, but hard work, perseverance, and a good attitude are a close second.
10. Don’t compare yourself to others or you risk feeling both inadequate and missing what you were created for.
11. Laugh. Cry. Start again.
12. Speak truth when needed.
13. Don’t worry about what others think.
14. Character, integrity, and wisdom are more valuable than all the knowledge in the world. There are plenty of intelligent jerks.
15. Figure out what your passions are and build on those.
16. Nothing is wasted. No effort, trial, or experience.
17. Put down the books, leave the work, and go outside.
18. Play often.
19. Be kind. Speak gently. Smile freely.
20. Not everyone will agree with you. That’s okay. Accept your differences.
21. Make your encouragements more prolific than your critiques.
22. Those entrusted to you rise to your expectations. Set the bar achievably high.
23. Forgive yourself and keep moving forward.
24. Even if it’s difficult, monotonous, or thankless, you are still making headway.
25. Nothing stays the same forever. Cherish now.
26. Life has seasons. Learn what you can from each one.
27. Read beautiful stories out loud to your kids.
28. Besides God, be your child’s biggest cheerleader.
29. Expect the best in others.
30. Catch your kids doing good.
31. Tell your kids what you like about them, and about the good you see in them.
32. Keep hugging your children even if they appear to no longer appreciate it.
33. A little mess won’t kill you.
34. Say sorry when you’re wrong, then ask for forgiveness.

35. What you do speaks louder than what you say.

36. Talk your kids openly about your faith and failures.
37. Let them work alongside you so they learn from you.
38. Help your children see the beauty in nature and in other human beings.
39. If possible, travel with your children. These experiences offer priceless bonding and provide hands-on experience they won’t get from books.
40. Teach them to serve others so they won’t be self-serving, but compassionate.
41. Guide, don’t control.
42. They aren’t you. Don’t try to make them be. Give them ample space to be who they were created to be. Celebrate their individuality.
43. Take each child out on one-on-ones. You get to know them better this way.
44. Love your spouse.
45. Set clear boundaries and stick to them.
46. Help them form strong habits to achieve their goals.
47. Champion their dreams.
48. Let them make mistakes.
49. Don’t do for them what they can do for themselves.
50. Pray.
51. Let your children go and be the miraculous humans God made them to be. It was always the end goal.
52. Choose love first, always.
“Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.”
~ Colossians 3:14

 

Konnor and Kurtis’ graduation – 2014 & 2016
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1. What could you add to this list?
2. IS there one you could work on this week?

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Last weekend, our first born got married to his perfect match. As if this weren’t enough emotion for this momma’s heart, on Monday of the same week we crammed the contents of our second born’s room into our van and moved him into his own apartment to continue his college education. On Tuesday, our littliest started school for the first time. I homeschooled our kids for the past eighteen years, and she is the first to go to “real” school. The same week, my third born left for New York City for a big audition. Read the rest of this entry »

Mustard-seed

I read these words the other day: Doubt does not discredit faith – disbelief does.

If we’re being truly honest, I hazard it’s impossible to be human and live without doubt. For some, the admission of doubt may seem unholy. I prefer to think that it’s impossible to have faith without it. Indeed there would be no need. But we mustn’t confuse doubt with disbelief. If, on occasion, we are assaulted with uncertainty, it doesn’t equate to a complete lack of faith.

I love this passage where a father brings his son to Jesus to be healed. The father’s honesty is striking:

…the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

~ Mark 9:24

His words seem so contradictory, but we can just as easily echo his sentiment. We believe not because we have all the answers, not because all the things of God make perfect sence, or because we have seen Him with our own eyes. We believe because we came to a point that disbelief was no longer an option. That enough of this love story stretched across the dividing line between reason and experience and penetrated our hearts, that whatever else was left (the doubt) became secondary. Then, we leaped from disbelief to faith.

For some, that leap requires much more effort. The gap to God can seem so vast. It’s often blockaded not only with a plethora of doubt, but others things too. Things like hurt, pain, pride, reason, disillusionment, and distortions of God’s true character. It makes finding – and often keeping – faith an extraordinary act of will. But it took more than that. It took an extraordinary act of love.

Jesus broke through the hurt, the pain, the pride, human reason, disillusionment, distortion and doubt to reach us. Into all the confusion, He injected love. Love so pure, so real, so sweet and unconditional that our hardened hearts and stiff resolve softened. All the things that seemed so dear, so certain, so important, paled in significance. That’s where faith had a fighting chance.

It didn’t mean we had all the answers, but rather that what we did have was enough. Enough to understand the truth of our circumstance and what could be done about it. And so, with our mustard seed faith, we reached out to the open arms that were there long before we were: arms extended on the cross, and then wide and waiting with massive expectation. All at once we were enfolded, engulfed, consumed, and filled.

It didn’t mean that we would never doubt again, that we had all the answers, that our faith was rock solid, or we ourselves were unshakable. It didn’t mean that some circumstances wouldn’t bring us to our knees, or to the brink of a darkness so complete our eyes of faith grew dim. It simply meant that, at one point, we began a journey by placing our trust in the One who can be trusted. It meant that ever since, we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor 5:7) by putting one foot in front of the other to find firm ground beneath our feet, even when we can’t see one foot ahead.

Some questions will be answered. Others will remain a mystery this side of heaven and preside in the wobbly area of faith. Even now, we may have doubts, questions, and confusion, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have faith. It means we require it. It means if we don’t let it go, our faith will grow.

So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.

~ 2 Corinthians 5:6-7 

 

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  1. In what ways has your faith been tested? What has made it stronger?
  2. It’s okay to doubt. God is not threatened by our doubts and questions. Bring them to Him knowing some will be answered and others will require faith this side of heaven.

 

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Right before the Canada Day long weekend, along with a sizeable crowd of hardcore people, I completed an exercise challenge called Rebellion. At the party to celebrate our achievement, I bought this t-shirt. The saying on the front resonates with me. The two obvious reasons are that it includes words from Canada’s national anthem (the country of which I officially became a citizen 33 years ago), and secondly, by working out and completing the challenge, I grew stronger and free from indulgences that might otherwise keep me off track. But a less obvious and deeper meaning for me began 29 years ago at age eighteen. Read the rest of this entry »

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