Seeing Clearly

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My sensible, new glasses. My hubby asked why I didn’t chose something a bit more fancy.

This spring, I finally relented and got prescription glasses. Prior to that I had all the usual symptoms: blurred vision when reading, the need for increased light at night, and, most alarming of all, my arm had become too short.

I’m still getting used to these seeing fixtures now precariously suspended on my formerly unadorned nose. I should probably get a locating device affixed to them since I misplace them on a routine basis. And no one could have prepared me for the amount of effort it requires to keep the lenses smear-free!

Glasses are a perfect parallel to my spiritual life. Sometimes my vision gets blurry, I can no longer see correctly, and need help to read the way. Often, despite the help, my lenses get dirty and need cleaning. It takes both a vision aid and regular maintenance for me to see properly.

When I first met Jesus, it was as though God removed my filthy glasses—ones I had no idea I was even wearing—replacing them with a heavenly prescription so that I could see clearer. Everything appeared much brighter and made so much more sense. Even the Bible, which once was merely words I strained to understand but which held no meaning, came alive.

The old glasses were covered with the film of lies I had believed and filters I had affixed. There were words graffitied across the lenses that had, at some point, been spoken and stuck to the surface. There were the scratches of sin etching the glass and insecurity that had loosened the frame. Those glasses had become too heavy for my face and didn’t fit me. They weren’t God’s prescription.

But even my God-glasses need to be cleaned on a regular basis. When I’m with God, he slides off my glasses and polishes off the pollution to enable me to see beauty once again. He tells me not to worry that they get dirty so easily, but to simply return for a regular cleaning.

I can’t just wear the glasses, gain his perspective, and forget about them—forget about him. If I don’t clean my God-glasses by reading his word, praying, listening, and gathering together with other Christ-followers, my vision is impaired and I’m less able to see clearly. With a hindered perspective, I stumble in the dark, I grow frustrated in my own attempts, I blame others for my lack of vision.

But when I abide with God—regularly sit and chat with him—linger in his presence, soak in his word, and meet up with others who love him, my vision brightens and my outlook becomes clearer. Though still imperfect, I can read the terrain of my life a little better.

I’m also more likely to see circumstances and events from God’s perspective. I don’t feel the need to gloss things over attempting to make them something they aren’t or ignore them out of frustration. I’m more apt to love a little more fully, behave a little more graciously, and tread a little more confidently. I can see better to go to the places he’s asked me to go. I’m less afraid of the dark.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:12

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  1. Do your glasses need cleaning or maybe you need an entire new prescription? Go to God. His are the perfect fit.

 

Open Arms

66117572_586387961768378_2838857366999400448_nKonnor came home for a visit today. Any mom will tell you that when your kids no longer live under your roof, any visit home is a precious event. This was demonstrated in the way Keira bolted down the stairs, threw her arms around her brother and clung to him, starved for his presence. I too adore seeing my son, catching up with him, admiring the man he has become.

The whole thing reminded me of how God must feel when we come to spend time with him, or when we return after a lengthy absence.

Since God’s love for us is even greater than a mother or father’s love for their child—or a little sister’s love for her brother—I can only imagine how happy God is to see us. His welcome is a door-flung-wide, arms-stretched-open sort. He is always thrilled to receive us.

But for some, their image of God is more of a looming, angry, and unyielding figure with arms-crossed in a posture ready instead to point out all the ways he’s been disappointed. For them, God is unapproachable, distant, and cross.

Sometimes our children’s actions or choices upset us or ignite an angry response. Our kids make mistakes—as do we—but because we love them we forgive them and continue to champion them on their journey. God behaves likewise to us, multiplied many times. Take a moment to read below what the Bible has to say about God’s nature:

Psalm 30:5: “For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime.”

Psalm 116:5: “The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.”

1 John 1:5: “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”

Micah 7:18-19: “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.  You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”

I John 4:9: “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.”

Like earthly parents, God is capable of being angry at his children. When our behaviour defies his holy standard—and it will—it not only hurts us and potentially others, but also hurts him. But here’s the thing: God is not only slow to get angry, he doesn’t remain angry. And maybe that’s where we get stuck.

In our guilt and shame, we further belittle ourselves believing God has rejected us, that he could never forgive us, that he wants nothing to do with us. But the verses above show that nothing could be further from the truth. He loves us so much that he sent his son as the remedy for all our junk: past, present, and future. The moment we repent, he forgives us and no longer holds those actions against us. Nor does he remind us of our failings. In Christ, every moment is a fresh start.

Just as we celebrate when our children arrive home, excited to get all caught up with them, our God is delighted when we share our lives with him, tell him all of our news, and rest in his presence. He doesn’t force us to come home, but anticipates the moment we do. His love is endless, his forgiveness knows no limits, his compassion is for all. No matter where you’ve been—or for how long—his arms are always open.

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  1. When was the last time you had a visit with God? It’s never too late to start or begin again.
  2. If you’ve never received the free gift of salvation and forgiveness of sins through God’s son Jesus, it’s only a prayer away.

 

Letting Go…Again.

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She lights up a room. An extreme extrovert, she brings me out of my introversion.

Once again, my momma’s heart is being stretched. Our home, once full of bodies and books, is downsizing its numbers—again. And with it, I’m having to once again adjust as another of the great loves of my life launches.

Not yet a year has passed since my eldest got married, my second son moved into his own apartment, and my youngest started school. Now, my third born is about to plunge into one of her long-standing dreams. In less than a week, she too will fly the nest and move to Toronto to pursue her acting career.

I know we don’t have children with the purpose of holding onto them forever. I know they will eventually have to make their way in the world outside of the four walls we nurtured them within, but it still pinches the heart and stings the soul when the day comes to release them. That day always comes a little too soon.

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My little “Sussila” at ten years old.

The first day of school, sleepovers, the overnight camps are a mere dress rehearsal for the day you say goodbye for real—the day they launch not for a week but for forever.

I know how this goes. There I’ll be out on the front doorstep, where once I helped her climb, my heart suspended between aching and pride as I send her off. I’ll force myself not to over-hug lest she suspects the tears I’ll be fiercely trying to trap behind closed lids. But she’ll probably see them. I’m terrible at pretending and she’s particularly gifted at noticing.

All her zeal for life, energy, fun, and laughter will now be occasional guests in our home. The same place I often wished uncluttered and serene will now be perpetually so. The shoes I used to trip over, the clothes strewn on the floor, the discarded, damp towels (heaven help her housemate) will be replaced with floor! The debriefs over tea at the kitchen counter and the Starbucks goal-setting coffee dates will be replaced with infrequent catch-ups by phone or texts.

Everyone tells you it happens too fast but you brush them off. The days are long but the years are short they say. Listen. They are. One minute I was dragging my bone-weary body through 3 AM feedings, sweeping up countless crumbs, wearing out the knees in my jeans playing on the floor, puzzling over another math question, or nagging after something left undone. Don’t even get me started on the driving—I secretly loved it—but may have spent a solid five years of my life behind the wheel!

Now it all feels like a blink, a breath, as though I could have easily missed it for not paying enough attention. And I’m left with all those wondering whispers bumping around my brain asking, Did I do enough? Prepare her enough? Spend enough time? Teach her enough? Love her enough?

Of course I didn’t. But I sure as heck tried.

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Proud Mom. SO many dance competitions. SO many hours spent driving to dance classes. I wouldn’t have changed a minute of it.

It was all imperfect, as it will always be. A parent can never be enough for all there is in their little-grown-big-one’s life. All I can hope is that I send her off with my love securely tucked in her heart and mind, and trust she’ll take it from here. More than that, the God who loves her far better than I can ever manage goes with her, is beside her, is her biggest fan. That will surely be enough.

So once again I find myself in this uncomfortable celebratory mourning. A conflicted state of I’m-so-happy-for-youwhy-do-you-have-to-go-so-soon. Not one or the other, but both. So I’ll sigh, surrender, and sink into another new normal while thanking God for all we shared, all the sweet memories I carry, and anticipate the visits—and texts—to come.

Bye sweet girl. You’re a wonder and a joyous gift. What a privilege it is to be your momma.

 

A Broken Togetherness

19059562_10155076822815091_6085062570885595610_nTwenty-seven years of together. That’s a decent amount of time—a length I could hardly grasp when I said “I do.” Even now I can barely believe that span of time, even with the years stacked behind us, a beautiful bundle of children—all of it a blur of too fast.

It’s not for the faint of heart this thing called marriage. The years are uncertain, difficult, tumultuous, breaking. They are framed with laughter, stained from tears, and cushioned with faith, hope, and love—without which they’d crumble to certain death. But all of it is the making of a marriage and the making of us, together and individually.

It goes without saying that marriage is the choosing of a life lived alongside another. That recession up the aisle represents side-by-side living, saying no to selfishness, and no more going it alone—physically, emotionally, and even spiritually.

It’s a door flung open into your interior life, and the wider it remains, the better off you’ll be. Shutting the door in unforgiveness, complete self-reliance, or self-preservation isn’t an option. You signed on for a double passage.

It’s not a give and take mentality either. It’s a give and give again. Forgive and forgive again. And love—inside of imperfection—again and again.

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It’s not just proclaiming love in word but in being. In doing loving acts, speaking love out, responding in love, listening in love, sitting quietly in love when you’d rather tell him or her a thing or two. It’s staying when you’d sooner leave. It’s working to fix broken.

And to be honest, you’ll probably get wounded. Love fiercely and there’s a decent possibility. But it’s far better to love than to close yourself off in protection and precaution. That only serves to stifle vibrant love in all its various forms.

I’m no poster child for marriage done right. Ralph and my kids will tell you. Even so, I like to joke that because of him my crown in heaven will be too heavy to carry, and I’ll be assigned a full-time Seraphim flying overhead to hold it up. But he’s the realist and will tell you I’m no angel either.

But marriage isn’t I love you because you’re lovable. It’s closer to I love you in spite of the fact that you often aren’t. To know one’s faults and failings thoroughly and still love brings us closer to the heart of Jesus who loves us this way. To be wounded by that same person, forgive, and continue to love grows us to be like Jesus.

In this imperfect world full of imperfect people, love and marriage will likewise never be perfect. We are two broken people becoming less broken only now we do it together. Yet we often arrive in our marriage in this semi-broken state expecting perfect. So when life gets messy and our expectations of perfect go unmet or completely unravel, we think we made a bad choice. Instead of digging in and shoveling out of the chaos we concur the job is too hard and throw the shovel down.

But what if we agree that marriage isn’t perfection, nor is it the place where all our needs and desires will be met, but instead a broken togetherness.

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It’s not I love you because you’re beautiful, you complete me, you say and do the right things, and show up with chocolate and flowers (though that’s never a bad idea). It more closely resembles, if we are blessed with years I’ll love you until your skin sags. I’ll hang on to your hand over the hospital bed rail until your breath runs out. I’ll stay until the us becomes one again, and all that remains is the beautiful memories and the slightly less broken me once again.

So, here’s to another year of us—of we—amid our imperfections. May we love longer and larger than expected, and leave each other better than we found us.

 

 

 

This Is Not Heaven

61555202_676562199467770_2025329413687607296_nThis time of year is spectacular in Southern Ontario with its breathtaking array of flowering trees. There’s magnolias in all their splendor, the heavenly scent of lilacs, and cherry blossoms that take your breath away. The birds join in nature’s show adding songs that span daytime and reach into dusk.

Yet however fragrant the blooms, however sweet the birds’ chorus, all of this is just a mere scent of heaven. Anything of any beauty we experience here is only a small taste of things to come.

Amid these fleeting pockets of beauty and moments that take our breath away, we’re aware that the here and now is not heaven. Alongside the beauty, there’s heartache and hate, pain and poverty, tears and turmoil. There’s darkness that displaces light and depravity that dipells hope. Sometimes, despite the fragrance of heaven, the next breath is difficult and painful.

The world aches and our hearts throb, yet we try to replicate heaven on earth. We seek comfort, perfection, and beauty while desperately avoiding pain. We numb ourselves to distract the discomforting soul sores or the courage that it would take to face them. As a result we’re addicts clinging to cheap imitations of heaven while trying to break free of our various pacifiers. We reach for anything that will displace the pain for a while, silence the desperate cry of our hearts, or fill our empty places while running from the very thing that offers us the heaven we seek.

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No matter how beautiful the flowers, how idyllic a moment, how much a vacation feels like paradise, or a person like perfection, all pales in comparison to the real deal: knowing Jesus. It’s that friendship that fills the heart holes, heals the hurt, wipes away the wounding, and purchases the paradise you’re longing for. But to find it we need to release our misguided grip on the here and now, stop trying to fabricate heaven on earth, and reach for the promise—the person—of Jesus.

When we do, all that once seemed so important will lose its shine. All that we use to deal instead of heal will lose its lustre. This is how the apostle Paul put it: “Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:8)

Strangely enough, heaven comes down—bursts right into the imperfection, heartache, futility, and falsehood, answering the groans of humanity with a healing love. A kind of love that makes room for the mess of this place, while cleaning up the garbage in our lives. In Jesus, we find the answer to our deepest needs, peace in the imperfection, deep joy despite circumstances, and the promise of a heavenly home.

What would it take for us to loosen our grip on the things of this world, to trade in the comforts we’ve tucked around our lives attempting to buffer the blows and ease the pain? In an act of faith we can reach for—or return to—Jesus and let him be the peacemaker and joy-giver of our lives.

This week’s song: “What a Beautiful Name”

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  1. What are you doing to numb the pain, fill the void, or find happiness? Is it working?
  2. If not, try Jesus. He’s been the answer to my deepest needs.

 

 

 

 

Making a Marriage Work

shutterstock_589431530Yesterday, I attended a wedding shower. The bride-to-be asked the guests to write words of wisdom on cards that she would collect and keep. It was a wonderful idea and each of us scrawled our advice across the card. I wish I had read a few besides the ones the ladies on either side of me wrote. Next month it will be twenty-seven years for Ralph and I, and it’s never too late to learn.

Being a fairly verbose person, I surprised myself by writing only one word: Forgive. 

I realize I could have filled the card, not because I’m so wise or wordy, but because there are so many things that a couple needs to learn to make a marriage work. Things such as communication, prioritizing time together, respectfulness, faithfulness, and selflessness. But for me, if I don’t forgive, the others fall apart too.

If I suffer from a bitter heart—as I’ve been known to at times—it chokes out my ability to fully tend to my marriage. The anger that comes from withholding forgiveness disables communication. The bitterness can cause distance, inhibit respect, ignite selfish behaviour, and, if I’m not careful, can dissolve faithfulness or faith in my marriage.

Anything you want to thrive takes hard work, and a healthy marriage is no exception. There are a host of things that conspire to dismantle a marriage. The lack of the things previously mentioned can be factors, but other tensions beat at the door too. Things such as sickness, financial trouble, long work hours, and constant travel. The relationship may be may strained by putting the children first, extended family issues, living for self, or passing blame. A refusal to take responsibility for their part in the marriage issues, differing interests or ideas, unrealistic expectations, or infidelity can tear a marriage apart.

Marriage is hard work; extending forgiveness makes it easier.

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I would be amiss to fail to mention love with regard to marriage. If love is the glue, I imagine forgiveness is a strong element of this cementing factor. And just like love, forgiveness is a deliberate action. It’s easy to say you love a person. It’s easy to love when the relationship is new and exciting and you feel loving, but as the years press on and the hardships press in, that feeling may wane. And so there are times when you make a choice to love even if you don’t feel loving, just as you forgive even if you don’t feel like it. Both are a deliberate act of the will. Both do wonders to keep your marriage alive and thriving.

Feelings come and go and aren’t always a reliable reality. You have a choice as to how you will behave within your marriage and toward your spouse. You can choose unloving actions or loving ones, you can choose to remain bitter or forgive. And all these deliberate choices can either dismantle or build up your marriage. Your “I do” was an agreement to work hard at something nearly impossible without forgiveness, and fairly impossible without love. But if you learn to persevere and work through each struggle, there’s a greater chance your marriage will grow stronger having overcome them.

This summer many couples will find themselves proclaiming their love at the altar. Since neither one is perfect, I hope their vows include a promise to forgive the offenses of the one they profess to love—as many times as needed. And if they find themselves at a loss, I hope that they seek help from others when needed, and learn how to craft a strong marriage graciously padded with forgiveness and love.

I’ll leave you with this song: Fight For You – by Grayson Reed https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lY0cdhDbmt0

Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

~ Colossians 3:13

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

~Ephesians 4:31-32

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  1. What is one thing you can think of that needs work in your marriage?
  2. Is there anything you need to forgive?

 

 

Fireworks, Fears, and Finding Freedom

photo-1521478413868-1bbd982fa4a5It’s the May long weekend in Canada, and for many that means frenzied gardening and fireworks. Last night, after a gruelling day of gardening—and a decently grueling 8 AM workout—once happily tucked into bed I could still hear fireworks firing at 11:30 PM. My dog, Angel, is frightened of fireworks, so when she heard the explosions she crawled and hid under the side table next to our bed.

When faced with something fearful, I’ve been known to behave like Angel. Instead of bravely facing it, I hide. Like the fireworks for my dog, often the thing I’m afraid of isn’t really that scary and won’t hurt me at all. It just sounds scary, or I build it up in my mind to be larger than it is, put roadblocks where none exist, and delay facing it altogether.

Facing fears is hard. They come in the form of a conversation you know you need to have but are putting off for fear it will cause conflict or remain unresolved. It may be that task at work you’ve been given but are avoiding because you don’t know where to start or exactly how to do it. It may be the goal you’ve been holding close to your heart but are afraid to start for fear you’ll fail. It may be that you’re afraid of what people think of you so you avoid social situations. Or it could be a life change that would benefit you, but you’re afraid of the unknowns. Fear often makes us hide from the very thing we need to face to move forward.

To counter this, we need to give our fears a good stare down. They’re what stand between our goals and dreams and even our freedom. Like anything, you can’t get good at something you don’t work at. Every fear we fight and conquer makes the next fearful challenge easier, and brings us closer to the person God made us to be and the things we’re called to be doing. Facing fears gives us confidence to move forward and reach further. Soon you’ll develop a kind of fear-confidence where you find you’re no longer hiding from your fears but boldly and regularly facing them.

Start small. Tackle one small fear at a time. If it doesn’t go well, instead of giving up, assess what went wrong and try again. As much as depends on you, don’t quit. Every failure is growth, and the more you grow the stronger you become. With enough practice, you’ll find the thing that was formerly fearful has become a lot easier and maybe even a strength.

Pick one thing you know you’ve been putting off or hiding from then write down one concrete thing you can try to tackle it. For instance, you’re terrified of public speaking but the job you really want involves speaking to audiences on occasion, so you muster courage and sign up for a public speaking course. Whatever it is, choose one thing and start. Then choose the next, and don’t give up. Facing fears is hard, but so worth it. You never know what you can do until you try. Write down your achievements. When you look back in just a few months you’ll be amazed at how far you’ve come!

No matter what age, it’s never too late to learn and grow, and it’s never too late to face your fears. Freedom awaits!

“’For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.  Do not be afraid, for I myself will help you,’ declares the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.” ~ Isaiah 41:13-14