Our Easter

This Easter is unlike any Easter I have experienced in my lifetime. Most people living at this point in history have never had their lives disrupted by a pandemic and had to celebrate without loved ones. Many I know have lived comfortable, predictable, safe lives. Now, many of us are figuring out first-hand what it feels like to not feel in control (we were never really in control) and not feel safe.

It’s not comfortable. It’s not easy. And we aren’t accustomed to it.

Despite how difficult the COVID-19 adjustment has been, I am inspired by the myriad of ways those around me are helping others during this crisis. Some of you are making meals for the sick, some are shopping for neighbors, family, or friends in need, others are keeping us well-informed. Some are sending encouraging text messages or emails, others are setting up prayer meetings or zoom calls, and others are checking in on their friends on the daily.

Our medical staff is using their training to care for and heal the sick, and the teachers have pivoted to teach and support our children online. Neighboring children are writing colorful chalk messages of hope on the pavements. My son’s in-laws are making fabric masks and helping collect items for the food bank.

As unique as we are wired, we will also uniquely go through this time. We will use our various giftings in individual ways, and it will be marvelous to witness humanity rising to the call. But let’s also remind ourselves that just because one person isn’t doing what you’re doing, or what I’m doing, it doesn’t mean they aren’t doing what they should be—or need to be—doing right now.

This is a collective hardship and we will each approach it differently. What appears a looming mountain for one may look like a rolling meadow for another. That might mean that doing a load of laundry and making dinner was what they could do today. If another is highly productive during this time, for them, keeping busy may be their way of coping.

For some, this break may feel like a much-needed vacation—a wonderful improvement from their former harried pace. For others, it may seem like not much has changed. For others, this may stir up feelings of unease and anxiety.

Let’s not judge one another based on our own ideas of what we deem right but accept and help one another. Let’s celebrate the myriad of ways we will traverse through this and the limitless creativity that will be exhibited by our fellow humans in the process. Let’s be kind and patient with each other’s shortcomings, and the ways we find we can—or cannot—cope. Let’s ramp up the love and care for one another and overlook the rest.

Mariana, Kiki and Monty at Cottage
We have been blessed to have my son, daughter-in-law, and grandson with us during this time.

This Easter, and this week, as we care for those around us, I hope we will also take some time to pause and reflect on the One who taught us how to love and who offers hope. One who came to heal us both on the outside but more importantly on the inside. One who gave his life to give us life. Who conquered death and rose from the grave to give us a fresh start. And though the way we celebrate may look a bit different, the reason we do so remains unchanged.

Ting
Cozy, quiet morning reflections.

“And walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” John 15:13

 

 

25 Benefits of Trials

It’s easy to grow fearful in times of uncertainty. It’s easy to lose hope as we suffer through lengthy hardships. Events such as the COVID-19 pandemic remind us how fragile our lives really are.

Like any trial, we often cannot see an end in sight and this one is no exception. When we are staying at home, social-distancing, viewing reports of daily escalating numbers, suffering through mandatory business closures and potential loss of livelihood, we worry we won’t manage.

My mum used to say of trials, “This too shall pass.” And it will. When it does, things won’t be the same. We will have a new framework out of which to operate. I imagine we will have a more thankful mindset, a greater appreciation for others as we joyfully reconnect and fully embrace our renewed freedom. Trials arrive unexpectedly and loom large, but we can move through them with grace, peace, and even joy.

Monty at the cottage
Cuddling my grandson – one of the ways I’m savoring this slowed pace.

Continue reading “25 Benefits of Trials”

Becoming Clean

I no longer recognize myself. I’ve succumbed to wall washing.

wall washing

About two weeks ago, I bought a two-pack of Magic Erasers. I thought I’d simply touch up a couple of high-traffic areas in our home, but once I began I soon realized two sponges would in no way suffice. Since Ralph was going on a Costco run for his quarantined mom and stepfather who had recently returned from Spain, I asked him to source some Magic Erasers. He valiantly returned home with two jumbo packs. I was in business!

Allow me a moment to explain how I came to this precipitous place.

For years, I prided myself by saying such things as, “An impeccable home is a sign of a wasted life.” If you’re one of those people, I’m afraid we cannot be besties. During the years we homeschooled, I sometimes bemoaned my girlfriends’ perfect homes. There wasn’t going to be that level of perfection around here. What with a Science project on the kitchen counter, an entire paper village dominating the kitchen floor, a homemade board game under construction (and its assorted pieces) littering the schoolroom floor, a tray of sand on the schoolroom table for letter formation practice, and books covering multiple surfaces (to mention a few examples), I was lucky to find an open area to dust.

Don’t worry, we didn’t exist in total squalor, but I did cling to the sentiment that had I spent my time cleaning ’til it was gleaming, I would have missed the point. We did clean as a family, all pitching in for regular maintenance such as vacuuming, mopping, dusting, and bathrooms, but I can assure you that I was not disposed to washing walls—or any manner of spring cleaning—until now. Continue reading “Becoming Clean”

What a Difference a Week Can Make

It’s staggering how much change can occur in one week.

Just over a week ago we were still meeting in-person—albeit cautiously. We stared incredulously at the empty grocery store shelves formerly housing untold brands of toilet paper, antiseptic wipes, and fresh meat. We began to pay closer attention to what the COVID-19 pandemic was going to mean for Canada.

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Grocery store shelves void of all toilet paper.

Conversely, this week, when it should have been non-stop hangouts with friends due to March Break, we were diligently social-distancing. Our extroverted nineteen-year-old daughter, Elanna, came home from Toronto to hunker down at our place. Our equally extroverted 11-year-old, Keira, couldn’t fathom why I was mandating a no playdate policy. In an extraordinary act of self-control, I kept myself away from our two-month-old grandson the entire week. Continue reading “What a Difference a Week Can Make”

Prayer for Today

Today has been declared a National Day of Prayer in the USA. Prayer is powerful. Imagine a whole country—a whole world—collectively praying. I have witnessed the power of prayer in my own life and in the lives of others. Though I’m Canadian, I join our neighbors in the US and share my offering below. Won’t you join me in praying in the midst of this health crisis?

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Lord our God,

We come into your presence with thankful hearts for your tender mercies and lavish kindness. We are grateful for your unfailing care and love. We are thankful that you never leave us or forsake us, and will never do so, especially in our time of great need. 

Despite the chaos we see and hear and experience in the natural world, we also understand and are reminded that you are still in control and haven’t left us or forsaken us. 

We confess our fear and worry and release it to you. In its place, we take your peace and find our comfort and rest in you. Please fill our troubled hearts and minds with your presence. 

We are grateful that you are our provider and have given us all we need. We confess that we have so often taken your provision for granted, behaving self-sufficiently as though we are the ones in control. Please forgive us and have mercy on us. Teach us greater trust in you. Continue reading “Prayer for Today”

An International Women’s Day Blessing

I wrote this blessing for a dynamic group of women who are courageously and purposefully living out their calling while championing others in their midst. It is inspiring and contagious and marvelous to witness. I thought to share the blessing here as an encouragement to you. As we celebrate International Women’s Day, may we be ones who help others rise and ‘stand’, particularly other women.

Journey Girls IWD
Standing together, fittingly, on International Women’s Day. The hosts had these words made for us as an encouragement to STAND. P.S. I’m all in even though I am not holding one!

An International Women’s Day Blessing

When you look at yourself or look over your life—past and present—may you be blessed with a sense of God’s great love and approval over you. May you know you are thoroughly accepted in the Beloved, that He is pleased with you and cheering you on. 

…to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. ~ Eph 1:6

The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” ~ Zeph 3:17

Be blessed you as you tread through the hard places—the lonely or unpopular places—as you extend yourself for others and for Christ knowing he is with you. When you grow weary or feel lost on the journey, may God impart wisdom, strength, and hope from his vast storehouse. May you ever answer his whisper to trust him and continue onward in faith even when you cannot fully see. 

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. ~ Isa 40:31

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. ~ Heb 11:1

I bless you as you pour yourself out in the places, and for the people, God has given you, giving of your time, resources, energy, and love to profit others. May you find time to be still and hear from God and then mobilize to do only what he has asked, refraining from the temptation and distraction of too much. 

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” ~ Ps 46:10

Wherever you find yourself, may you know that you are equipped by God and his Spirit for everything you face, that you are never alone, and that he is always with you. May he flood your fears with his peace, turn ashes into beauty and mourning to joy, so that you are encouraged and can celebrate that you are victorious in Christ.

…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. ~ Isa 61:3

…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. ~ Romans 8:37

May God protect you from jealousy and the sabotage of the enemy who seeks to stir up strife. May you have peace in your relationships as you love and serve others, continually freeing yourself by forgiving your offenders, just as the Lord richly forgives you, and praying for your enemies.

But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you, that you may be sons (daughters) of your Father in heaven. ~ Matt 5:44-45 

May your life shine as a beacon to others, a safe harbor, imparting hope for their journey and a welcoming embrace to join the fullness of God’s rich kingdom. May you live filled with God’s peace, joy, hope, and love, and lavishly pour it over all those around you. 

I bless each of you in the name of Jesus Christ.

Amen 

 

 

Spring Cleaning… Sort of.

One of my least favorite tasks is sorting, yet by some form of a miracle, I have dedicated the past several days to just that. You’d think after this manner of torture, I would be uncharacteristically difficult to be around, but I’m delighted to report quite the opposite is true.

Approximately three years ago, I stumbled on Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up, and shortly after, Joshua Becker’s book, The More of Less. I began minimizing my wardrobe and removed three-quarters of my clothing. I took each piece off the hanger, held it or tried it on, and kept only those articles that ‘sparked joy’.

Next, I set to work on my bookshelf. It was packed full, dusty with books I’d inherited, a few of my personal favorites, and some textbooks from our university days. I took every single book off the shelf and saved only the ones I adored. I have since done this two more times and recently transferred some keepers to my new ‘studio’ space (formerly the homeschool room) now dedicated to writing and painting. That same bookshelf, located in the piano room, now looks like this…

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Note the stray leaf on the floor messing with otherwise sheer perfection.

Continue reading “Spring Cleaning… Sort of.”

The Mystery Club

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Mystery Club Cottage Weekend – 2020

This weekend, a precious group of our friends gathered at our cottage for a couples’ weekend. This isn’t just any group, and this isn’t the first time we’ve weekended together. We call ourselves the Mystery Club and have been together for years.

Formed in January 2003, during the SARS outbreak, this group of twelve (six couples) began with the idea of creating mystery events for each other. One couple would oversee the evening, and the rest of us would show up at an arranged location knowing only how much money to bring and the appropriate attire to wear.

Our first event was dinner at Marche and an evening at the Senator, a Toronto Jazz Club. Since then, we’ve planned numerous events for one another. We’ve attended a play at a local theatre, participated in our own Amazing Race at the local mall, braved a group Swing dance lesson, and occupied a studio at the Cambridge Centre for the Arts to paint our own original masterpieces.

We’ve engaged in a retro movie/games night, an African themed dining extravaganza, a ‘Nine and Dine’ golf event, and an evening of outdoor skating where one of our members nearly passed from this life due to a head injury while couples skating with yours truly (there remains a bald patch on the impact site where no hair grows!). Continue reading “The Mystery Club”

Sacred Motherhood

It may not feel like it, but what you’re doing is sacred.

It doesn’t feel like it during the 3 AM feedings, or when you’re changing the seventh diaper before noon, or when you’re comforting a wailing baby while wailing yourself.

Kurtis, Konnor, and Elanna – 2003.

Motherhood doesn’t feel sacred when your two-year-old is asserting their freedom of speech at the grocery counter, when your three-year-old just completed a crayon masterpiece on the living room wall, or when your five-year-old just bit your best friend’s daughter’s arm.

It doesn’t feel sacred when the teacher calls home about misbehavior twice in one week, when you lose count of the times you’ve corrected for this misbehavior, or when you’re completely at a loss on how to fix it. 

It doesn’t feel sacred when your teenager is distant, when they impart that they just backed the truck into your neighbor’s Porche, or when you happen to notice cut marks on their wrists.

Mostly motherhood feels messy and raw. Like you’re wearing your heart outside your chest while walking in the wilderness without a compass. But it’s also brilliant, beautiful, and sacred.

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Our Family – 2010

Because mothers change the atmosphere. They change it with their love, their laughter, their prayers, their protection, and their presence. The countless times you walked through ordinary, produced extraordinary. All your unseen and uncelebrated actions piled one on top of the other, day after day, bumped into eternity.

The times you wiped a nose, a bottom, or wiped away tears. The times you got on your knees and played even though the house looked like a tsunami passed through, or later got on your knees to pray for the strength to clean up said tsunami. The times you administered hugs, Bandaids, advice, desserts, medicine, money, drives, and driving lessons—all selfless, sacred acts that had a profound impact.

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My kids and I – 2019

Because right now, right beside you, these little humans are becoming big humans. All you do for them and choose not to do (for their own good), is helping them grow into the person God envisioned from the beginning of time. The same child you helped learn how to walk, will one day run headlong into their own future and, eventually, into eternity.

Make no mistake, this is sacred work.

The way you love them, serve them, speak to them, look at them, and the time you spend with them has a profound impact. God chose you for the task. He has entrusted you with these little people, and when you trust him, he gives you all you need to accomplish this sacred work.

It won’t be easy—you already know that—but it will be worth it.

Kurt and Konnor
Our first year homeschooling. Kurtis (JK) & Konnor along for the ride. I apparently didn’t know how to spell tomorrow back then!

The years I raised and taught our four kids at home took more than I had. Some days it felt anything but sacred. But I believe that you too will one day look back and marvel at the impact of your selfless, sometimes mundane, day-to-day, imperfect, accumulated acts. That you too will see that every strand of your love wove a rich, strong, safe nest for those babies who are now, sooner than you imagined possible, ready to fly and soar on their own.

We get one crack at this thing called parenting. Let’s slow down, be present, and love them ridiculously well. Not one second of that time will be wasted! xo

“But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” ~ Isaiah 40:31

All the kids with Monty
Our kids and first grandson – Jan 2020.

Click here to purchase my 31-Day Devotional Soul Focus – Trials

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30 Things You Need to Hear Today

Dear Fellow Sojourner,

I’ve made a list of some things I want you to hear… you know how I love lists! Maybe it’s the additional introspection of recently becoming a grandmother that incited the list (in case you’re wondering, I’m warming up to the name Nana).

Holding Monty - 11 days old

It could be that I’m a mom and can’t help but bequeath my vast wisdom to my children, and grandchild! Of course, the obvious is that my blog’s purpose is to offer encouragement to those—you included—who may stumble upon it. Whatever the case, I’m hoping this list will provide a few important life reminders that we can all stand to hear from time to time.

Here goes, in no particular order except the last one!

  1. Stop stressing.
  2. You have overcome 100% of your worst days.
  3. You will get through this.
  4. Don’t be so hard on yourself.
  5. Stop worrying about what other people think of you. 
  6. Start caring about what God thinks of you.
  7. Don’t ignore your pain. It has tons to teach you.
  8. Write down your worries then hand them over to God.
  9. Pray all the time, even about the smallest things.
  10. Courage is not the absence of fear, it’s walking forward despite the fear. 
  11. You don’t have to feel happy all the time.
  12. Feelings aren’t always an accurate representation of reality.
  13. You’re going to make mistakes. 
  14. Forgive always—yourself, others, and, if necessary, forgive God.
  15. Look for beauty. If you can’t find it, create it.
  16. Cheer for, pray for, and bless others—especially those you dislike.
  17. Be thankful for everything—even the hard bits.
  18. Comfort rarely builds character (or anything for that matter). 
  19. Be patient. Change doesn’t happen overnight. 
  20. Talent only goes so far. Nothing replaces effort.
  21. It’s better to try and fail than to never have tried at all.
  22. Just start.
  23. Don’t judge. Everyone is scaling an invisible mountain.
  24. Be kind to everyone, including yourself.
  25. Don’t underestimate the power of a kind word.
  26. Give hugs. Receive hugs.
  27. There’s only one you.
  28. Keep going.
  29. Find things to celebrate!
  30. Trust God.

Now you’ve read the list, why not start at the top and pick one a day to focus on during the next 30 days! And if you’re looking for me, well, I’ll have my hands full.

Holding Monty 2 - 11 days old

Oh, and in case you were wondering, you’re amazing! Imagine what God thinks of you! xo

Click here for a copy of my daily devotional, Soul Focus.

Click here for a copy of my novel, One More Tomorrow