Unknowns, Courage, and Creativity

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A photo of my author copy the day it arrived in the mail.

Tomorrow, my debut novel launches. 

I’ll be honest, a cocktail of emotions are brewing at the moment. A hearty mixture of excitement, nervousness, and outright fear of failure. It feels rather like I’m about to fling my heart out into the world hopeful it won’t get flattened. It’s always that way when trying something new, don’t you think? Maybe even more so with creative pursuits because a part of you is sewn right in with it.

Yet, where would we be without the kind of courage creating requires? Without those brave first strokes of ink or paint, our bookshelves would be barren and our walls unadorned of colourful masterpieces. There would be no music to make us merry. No architecture to take our breath away. No sculpture to stop us in our tracks. No gardens to still our souls. No chocolate—I go too far! Our beings would be bereft of nourishment without people answering the creative call.

I admire the courage of creators, those who bring life to their ideas despite the naysayers and critics. I applaud those who keep creating, keep trying, and keep overcoming obstacles to do both what they love and what gives them life. I’m inspired by the ones who continue to show up and don’t give up even when their inner critic won’t shut up. I’m grateful to those who pursue their gift as a gift to others.

But it’s not easy. 

As a recovering control freak, unknowns make me uneasy. The blank page—that sacred inhalation of breath before beginning—is crowded with both possibility and nightmarish uncertainty. And right now, I’m on a new precipice of uncertainty and in desperate need of exhaling.

But there’s hope. I’m considering reframing my concept of unknowns. Instead of attaching fear to them, I’m thinking of renaming these unknowns “new firsts” and viewing them as dynamic opportunities to explore something new. 

So let’s say it together: An unknown is a dynamic opportunity to explore something new.

Feel better? I do… for now. Ask me tomorrow when I’m standing at the book launch trying to wax eloquent about my book! I’m slowly easing into my “new first” by only inviting family and friends to the launch. I’m going to take that nervousness I feel toward introducing my book to the world, and all that goes with it, and view it as a dynamic opportunity to explore something new. 

I wonder, do extroverts require this much reflective self-talk? And at what age did I begin to be unsure of creative pursuits? But that’s another blog.

What it always comes down to is a conscious effort to hand over control. It’s not a one time fix. It’s a trust thing, and for me, there’s only one who can be entrusted with it—God. The unknowns, ahem, I mean the dynamic opportunities to explore something new are also an exciting chance to grow closer in my trust journey with my Creator.

So let me expand my definition: An unknown is a dynamic opportunity to explore something new and trust God more fully. 

Boom. There it is!

I hope you’ll join me on this trust journey. Let’s do this!

_______________________________________

  1. Do you have a fear of the unknown?
  2. What creative pursuit have you been putting off for fear of failure?
  3. Breath in, breath out, and begin that sacred journey trusting God every step.

OneMoreTomorrow_Cover_042919
Available September 17th, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4866-1537-7

Print Availability: Chapters/Indigo, Amazon, Word Alive Press, and wherever fine Christian books are sold. 

eBook Availability: Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple iBooks, Kobo, Google Play, Scribd, and in Adobe PDF format for additional vendors.

 

Don’t Give Up

shutterstock_459655336You may be tired. Tired of timing. Tired of transition. Tired of today. Tired just thinking about tomorrow.

Maybe the situation you’re experiencing is wearing and it’s getting harder to place one foot in front of the other.

You’re tired of putting on your game face. Tired of facing the next conversation in a mile of unpleasant ones. Tired of going to bed at night feeling lousy and waking up feeling the same. Tired of wondering when hope hiked off and left you alone.

Let me share a story. In my mid-twenties I joined a running group. The first night I showed up they were heading out for a 10K run. I had never run that far before. These people had. In fact, they were hardcore runners and trained almost every day. Somehow I made it through that first night. I may or may not have also made several visits to the toilet later that evening!

Months later, one of the runners suggested I come out on Saturday morning for a long run. That Saturday I dragged myself out of bed at some inhumane hour. It was mid-January and terrifyingly cold—minus 22 degrees Celsius cold—and still dark. I had neglected to ask exactly how far the “long run” would be. I learned too late that it was 22KM long. Again, somehow I made it through. I may or may not have experienced mobility issues the next day.

From there I decided to begin training for a marathon. I figured I’d managed to deliver three babies—also rather painful and lengthy—so how hard could running 42KM be? I started with Around the Bay, a race in Hamilton, Ontario. It was the furthest I’d ever run… 30KM. There are rolling hills near the end of the race that culminate in a rather large and long incline—think escarpment—before the flat to the finish.

I remember the feel of my wobbly legs after that final hill and how they began to lose the purpose for which they were made. I was nearly delirious, my brain willing my body to keep going, and saying things aloud such as, “Not far now. You can do this! You’re almost there!” Once again I made it through to the finish line, this time to be enfolded in a thermal blanket and the arms of my husband and kids. Five months later, I was able to reach my goal of completing a marathon.

So here’s how this ties together. Sometimes our hardship seems endless. We’re tired. Our legs are unsteady and we desperately want to stop, to give up the race. But we know we can’t reach the finish line by standing still. We need to keep going, to move through this place—however painful—to reach the other side.

In trials, I need to remind myself that this struggle won’t last forever. This isn’t my permanent location. I’m just passing through. I’m climbing the hill, I’m taking the next step and the one after that. I will myself not to stop, I ask God to help me not to give up. And even if I feel tired and weak, I trust I’m getting stronger with each step. I’m building spiritual fortitude.

I may have questions. I may feel discouraged, but I need to show up for the long run. No matter how dark, how long, or how far. I must keep going even when my legs aren’t cooperating. Whatever I do, I can’t quit. Every hardship I face, every escarpment I scale, makes me stronger to face the next hard thing. The same applies to you.

You are more resilient than you think. There’s more grit inside you than you know. Sometimes it means talking yourself up the hill when your body is screaming for you to stop. Sometimes it’s simply taking the next step, the next breath. But don’t give up now. Neither be content to just get by. Dig in. You still have things to do.

Your voice, your influence is valuable. You make a difference every time you show up. Don’t be lulled into lethargy. Don’t be tempted to quit this hard thing you’re facing. Your character, your growth, depends on it. Train through the tiredness—or the wilderness— knowing that it’s making you stronger and more beautiful. Afterward, you can run alongside another or cheer a fellow runner along.

You will make it through this long run to the finish line to be enfolded in the blanketing love and comforting arms of your Saviour. And you’ll be a light to others struggling on their journey to do the same. Don’t give up!

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“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.” (Hebrews 12:11-13)

Coming Sept 17th, 2019

OneMoreTomorrow_Cover_042919

ISBN: 978-1-4866-1537-7

Print Availability: Chapters/Indigo, Amazon, Word Alive Press, and wherever fine Christian books are sold. 

eBook Availability: Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple iBooks, Kobo, Google Play, Scribd, and in Adobe PDF format for additional vendors.

Visits Home

69880890_898957227127775_3111926164998848512_nTwo months ago, my eldest daughter moved to Toronto. Somehow, like all of life’s upheavals, I survived this transition. That hollow ache—the result of the vacant space her colourful personality and limitless energy occupied—hasn’t been quite as insurmountable as I imagined it would be. I’m happy to report that it’s not all tears and pining, and I haven’t yet succumbed to numbing by chocolate! I may, however, be guilty of calling or texting her daily.

Last September was the first time in eighteen years that we didn’t return to homeschooling. A lot has transpired in a year. My eldest was married, my second-born began film school, my youngest went to “real school” and—as I mentioned—my eldest daughter moved out.

Despite being with my kids for untold hours over the years (people used to ask me all the time how I did it), I managed to reserve some space during our time homeschooling for personal pursuits such as writing, painting, and gardening. I understood that once my children launched I would have time to pursue these passions. That time tumbled upon me last September.

Now a full year has passed and after dedicating the year to my writing, I am earnestly awaiting the launch of two books, my novel, and my devotional/journal. Being a writer is a dream I’ve had since childhood which is now becoming a reality.

As precious as reaching this goal is to me, when compared to the depth of joy I have found in being a mom, the two don’t reside on the same scale. However much I adore writing, however cathartic I find painting, or pleasing I find gardening, I’d trade every page, canvas, and blossom for those conversations, those hours, and those moments of togetherness with my kids.

Maybe I’m being melodramatic. I probably am. My kids might say so and so might their dad. I know they need to make a life for themselves, but this heart stuff gets me every time. It’s not like I don’t see them anymore, it’s just that (apart from one) they don’t live here anymore. It’s the infrequent time we muster that makes me hang onto hugs too long, drive absurd distances to be with them, and take time for projects or events they deem worthy.

But that’s what love does. It gives. It sacrifices. It pours itself out.

Nothing is greater than love.

69700975_2340269146225248_8967045386447355904_nSo in the past few weeks since she moved (I make it sound like forever instead of just two months) when my daughter has arrived home for a visit, you can imagine the kerfuffle. The rush to the door, the exclamations of glee, the suffocating hugs, the kettle promptly warmed for tea, the over-attentive lean into a conversation, the questions so as not to miss a detail, a photo or two.

It strikes me that this is God’s posture to us when we come to him for a visit. If I’m this ecstatic to spend time with my kids when they arrive home, how delighted is God to spend time with me? If I listen attentively to all the details of my daughter’s life, how much more does God listen to me? If I treasure these visits, how glad God’s heart must be with ours.

Psalm 139:7-10 reminds me that no matter where I go, how infrequent my visits, how far I am from God, how poor my choices, how desperate my circumstances, or how destitute my soul, God is faithful. He never leaves me.

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.

If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.

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The love I have towards my kids is but a small reflection of God’s love toward me, his child. Even before I knew God, even before I arrived for regular visits, He loved me. His poured-out, sacrificial love was first demonstrated through his Son’s death on the cross. God gave all to have a relationship with us. That’s how much we meant to him and may be one of the reasons he so desires to spend time with us.

When was the last time you arrived for a visit? You can be sure that God already has the kettle warmed.

Coming Septemeber 17th, 2019

 

OneMoreTomorrow_Cover_042919

ISBN: 978-1-4866-1537-7

Print Availability: Chapters/Indigo, Amazon, Word Alive Press, and wherever fine Christian books are sold. 

eBook Availability: Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple iBooks, Kobo, Google Play, Scribd, and in Adobe PDF format for additional vendors.

Weddings & Love

69263302_487623432028438_1628037293765820416_nTwo weekends in a row we have had the privilege of attending weddings. Last weekend our nephew Robbie was wed, and yesterday we attended the wedding of our dear family friend Sarah who our son Kurtis stood beside attending as the Man of Honour.

It was heartwarming to witness Kurtis handing a tissue from his breast pocket to absorb Sarah’s tears of joy and then shoving the dampened ball back in his breast pocket after her use. He held Sarah’s bouquet for the signing of the registry and smoothed her trailing veil as she returned to her place at the altar. I didn’t see what else Kurtis did that day, but what I did see was a touching display of a loving friendship.

At each of these weddings, I also witnessed evidence of deep joy and love between the bride and groom. At the altar stood two different people courageously undertaking the mystery of becoming one. They said “I do” to a lifetime of two, entwining their years together, attesting to disallowing the world and its ravages to rip their love asunder.

Our friendship with Jesus bears some similarities to our friendships and especially our marriage relationships. Jesus stands beside us in our most joyous moments but also in our most difficult ones. In times of turmoil, he smooths out the ruffled material of our lives and helps carry the things that are too cumbersome for us. Psalm 56:8 says, You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” Jesus is gentle and kind to us, sensitive to our needs and diligent with his care. His love and affection toward us never fail.

It appears Jesus loved weddings too. His first miracle was performed at a wedding when he turned water into fine wine. In this, we see a display of Jesus’s intimate care and provision to us, and his desire to be present in the everyday experiences and details of our lives. Jesus’s presence welcomed and celebrated within our marriage—and every aspect of our lives—brings blessing, comfort, strength, joy, peace, and love to our marriage and our broader relationships.

Knowing that Jesus celebrates with me during my joy-filled moments and holds me during my soul-crushing ones is a source of great comfort to me. He is a faithful friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). I can look to Jesus for wisdom and help at every turn, hand him a burden too heavy, or ask him to smooth out the wrinkled messes of my life. With Jesus, I’m never alone.

In this, there is not only deep security but also deep joy. Whether married or single, we can take comfort in knowing that in Jesus we are not alone. In Isaiah 41:13, God assures us, I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’” and in 1 Peter 5:7 we are invited to release our troubles by casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”

Perhaps the most astonishing and differentiating part of our relationship with Jesus compared to our other relationships is that he was willing to die for us. “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8) Jesus’s love toward us was so great that he took the punishment of our sin upon himself, giving his life in place of ours to secure eternity. 

Jesus’s love relationship transforms our lives and our future. You need only say “I do.”

Coming September 17th, 2019

OneMoreTomorrow_Cover_042919

 

ISBN: 978-1-4866-1537-7

Print Availability: Chapters/Indigo, Amazon, Word Alive Press, and wherever fine Christian books are sold. 

eBook Availability: Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple iBooks, Kobo, Google Play, Scribd, and in Adobe PDF format for additional vendors.

5 Ways to Reject Rejection

shutterstock_1173699898When we are rejected our immediate reaction is often to reject back.

We feel rejected so we reject.

Rejection is insidious. It cuts deep. It attaches itself to bitterness to gain strength. It can become a relentless cycle: rejection, bitterness, rejection. It makes us miserable and eventually affects our other relationships.

Hurting people hurt people and rejected people reject.

Let me explain how this can play out. I get rejected. Once rejected, I feel hurt. Once hurt, I want to hurt back. I grow bitter in my hurt, angry at having been rejected. The next time I see that person, I ignore them (aka. reject them). If I marinate in bitterness I end up rejecting others. By pushing them away I am further rejected.

In rejection, we become like frightened porcupines with extended quills. With our prickly exterior, you’d never know that all we really want is to be loved and accepted.

If we don’t break the cycle, we become habitual rejecters. Because we live in a state of rejection, our default is to reject others. Perhaps the worst part about this condition of the heart is that we send out a rejection vibe. It’s written all over us. We live on the outskirts of life, playing it safe. Anticipating rejection, we end up living bitter, cross, critical lives, keeping others at arm’s length. It’s ugly stuff. It’s lonely as heck. And it’s bondage.

It might surprise you that rejection also has to do with fear and control.

A source of rejection is the fear of what people think. I am much more prone to rejection when I’m caught up in how others perceive me or am trying to fit in. If I’m trying to control others’ perceptions of me, fearfully worrying whether or not they’ll like me, afraid of being rejected, I won’t engage fully and care for the needs of others. I’ll hold back and won’t be present engaging as my best self. I’ll control my behaviour and surroundings by disengaging. Assuming this posture, I’m more likely to be rejected.

What I should be thinking is, Who am I to think others should bow down to me? Why should I worry about impressing them anyway? What I should be doing is engaging fully, loving unconditionally, and caring deeply.

The truth is we will be rejected. In fact, life is full of rejection. We may not be able to control when or how often, but we can acquire skills to manage when it occurs. 

Here are 5 thoughts on how to reject rejection:

  1. I can change my response. Instead of taking offense and assuming mistreatment, I can make room for the idea that the person may have not meant to hurt me or even realized they have.
  2. I can realize that I am accountable for how I react to rejection. I’m not responsible for another’s behaviour, only my own. There’s no way to control the way I am treated or whether or not others enjoy my company. I’m only responsible for my response.
  3. I can keep myself free from bitterness by forgiving. Doing so also reduces the temptation to further reject. When I keep a tight rein on my thought life and refuse to let it percolate in bitter thinking, there is a greater chance my relationships will be fruitful.
  4. I can move from bitter to blessing and come in the opposite spirit. Instead of putting up walls, or rejecting back, I can show grace and love, engaging as my true self and blessing others with kindness independent of how I am treated. (Luke 6:26-27).
  5. I can remind myself that Jesus was ruthlessly rejected and yet he loved fully, engaged completely, and gave entirely. He gives me the wisdom and strength to do the same. I can remind myself that I don’t need to take my cues from others, but from God.

These are tough. They don’t come naturally. We won’t be good at them. They take determination, regular practice, and Christ’s healing and help. But with regular use, we come closer to the heart and mind of Christ and step further into freedom.

I love these verses from 1 Peter 2:23-25 from the Message translation:

“This is the kind of life you’ve been invited into, the kind of life Christ lived. He suffered everything that came his way so you would know that it could be done, and also know how to do it, step-by-step. He never did one thing wrong, not once said anything amiss. They called him every name in the book and he said nothing back. He suffered in silence, content to let God set things right. He used his servant body to carry our sins to the cross so we could be rid of sin, free to live the right way. His wounds became your healing. You were lost sheep with no idea who you were or where you were going. Now you’re named and kept for good by the Shepherd of your souls.” 

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  1. Who can you forgive and move from bitterness to blessing this week?

Shielding Ourselves From Hurt

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The bad news is that we’re not going to be able to protect ourselves from getting hurt in this life (but you already know that). But boy, do we try! 

We dislike pain and avoid it at all costs. We don’t care to repeat it—ever. Though we may not articulate it, in order to protect ourselves from getting hurt again, we often manufacture a protective piece of armor. We use these shields in an attempt to keep others out, or at least keep them from getting too close.

Our shields take different forms. We might assume an arms-length shield where we keep people at a safe distance. There’s the tough-guy shield nothing can penetrate, or its close model, the overconfident shield that exudes control. Some hide behind a porcupine shield, ready to expel missives at the slightest hint of hurt. While others hide inside a box shield becoming disengaged, closed-off forms of a former self. Others assume the surface shield emitting an everything’s-perfect false facade.

Each shield is a fearful and futile attempt to protect ourselves from facing the uncertainty and vulnerability needed for authentic relationships. No matter which model of shield we assume, it blocks us from the exact thing we most need. Love and intimacy. 

The hurts we experience rip us wide open. Like a sucker punch in the gut, they rock us to our core and bring us to our knees. We think we won’t manage the next breath, let alone the next step. But our shields don’t help us. They hinder and hurt us even more. Not only do they steal from the fulness of relationships they also keep us from finding healing.

A shield is a lie that prevents us from the freedom to be found on the other side of our pain.

When we are torn open, light can pour in. And though perhaps not the reason you ended up on your knees, it is a pretty decent posture for prayer. The tears washing over your cheeks could be the start of a soul-cleansing you would have never thought possible.

But not if you refuse comfort. Not if you shield yourself from love.

Because no matter what has happened. No matter how horribly you’ve been hurt. Despite how used or abused or rejected you’ve been, or how much you’ve inflicted harm on others as a result of your own hurt, there’s a place for all of that pain.

It’s found at the foot of the cross.

It’s found at the feet of the one who loved you so entirely that he died for you. The one who loves you more than anyone ever could. Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “The Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

All the pain you’ve ever experienced as a result of the thoughtless or intentional actions of others can be brought to Jesus. He won’t undermine the pain or treat it carelessly. He understands it intimately because he died for all of it—all the sins of humankind—past, present, and future. 

In dying for this sin, he defeated it and offers each of us freedom from not only the harmful sins of others but from our own sin. God’s love is pure and trustworthy. When you give him your heart he will not damage it, he will renew it. He is both able and faithful to heal the broken bits of our lives. His miraculous love soaks into the deepest places and reaches our deepest needs. Nothing to compare to the limitless love of Jesus.

Deuteronomy 31:6 also tells us, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them.” It seems we have a part to play. And so we take courage. We set down our shields. We turn our backs on our fearful hiding.

Ironically, the lowering of our shields ushers in the kind of love we desperately long for—complete, unconditional, unearned love—the kind of love only God provides. When we drop our protective measures, admit defeat and our desperate need for this soul-saving love, God meets us in our pain, he joins us in our wrecked and ruined circumstances. We no longer have to suffer or survive alone.

Since God has promised to go with us and never leave us, we can take his outstretched hand and move forward into the hope, healing, and wholeness Jesus died for. We only look back to see how far we’ve come. Instead of our fearful shields, we’re engulfed and secured in God’s healing love and protective peace.

Now, when we’re mistreated and rush to raise our shields, the balm of his heavenly love soothes us and reminds us to be courageous and keep our guard down. We feel the hurt, but we also understand how it feels to be forgiven, and so we forgive others just as he forgave us. God’s remarkable love gives us the courage and strength to love others more fully and unconditionally, and to be loved more fully ourselves. 

Little by little, and sometimes all at once, our pain dissipates. And somehow, God miraculously takes all that was broken and makes beauty.

In the end, we don’t need the shield. We need the Saviour.

_____________________________

  1. What sort of shield are you using to protect yourself from getting hurt? Is it working?

 

 

 

 

Illuminating the Dark

shutterstock_301363406Who of us has never doubted?

We could easily insert the word dark in place of doubt. When I doubt my circumstances, myself, or God, it’s a lot like stumbling around in the dark. I can’t see where I’m going, and I can’t find my way.

How do we find the faith to trust God when we can’t see? What will get us through the dark days of doubt? How do we keep going when there’s no sign of either the direction to take or a shift in our circumstance—some of which truly bring us to our knees?

When our finances are stretched. When our loved one’s health is failing. When life as we know it is crumbling around us. When what we’ve prayed for remains unfulfilled. It’s easy to wonder if God’s promises were meant for us personally. It’s easy to believe He has forgotten us.

But will we only believe if things go well with us?

In such trials, I need to be reminded that God is faithful. Rock-solid. No matter what, He is loving. All that He does, how He acts, is an outpouring of his love. No matter if all that’s happening around you is falling apart, no matter how hopeless it looks right now, no matter if you feel utterly alone, God is still with you. He still hears you. He can make beauty from the ashes (see Isaiah 61:1-3).

What we must decide is whether we will only follow him, love him, and believe in Him if all is well in our lives. Faith is most itself when we can’t see with our eyes. When life gets hard, when we can’t find the answers, and when our prayers don’t seem to be answered.

Trials have the hidden potential to help us see properly. When the superfluous falls away, the things that matter most crystalize. We realize the degree to which we trust the one who can fully be trusted with everything.  We learn our God is the one who can lift us up and can help us to walk through the darkness. We relearn that he is faithful.

Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” It appears that God’s word, the Bible, can help to enlighten the darkness and help us find our way. It makes sense that this spiritual practice, taken up regularly, will remove doubt, provide encouragement, and bolster our faith.

If you’re in the dark right now, take up the lamp of God’s word. Read it and be reminded of his faithfulness, his love for you, and how, time and time again, he rescues. Notice how the darkness is transformed by the light of his word, even if your circumstances are not. Note how his word stirs up heavenly hope, peace, and joy to dispell the darkness within. Watch and see how the darkness of doubt is illuminated enough for you to take the next step in faith.

You don’t need to see the entire path; the journey is taken one step at a time.

______________________________

  1. When was the last time you sat still and soaked up God’s words?
  2. Set aside time each day this week to read the Bible to be filled with God’s promises and reminders of his faithfulness.