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”

I’m Almost a Grandma!

I’m about to become a first-time grandma. Even as I type this, I can hardly believe it. Since our son wed a year and four months ago, it feels as though time has unfolded like a map falling open all at once and I’m fumbling to neatly fold and navigate my sped-up life. One wedding, two published books, three grown kids relocated, one child attending ‘real’ school, and one grandchild, well… almost. 

Mariana and Me
Mariana and I – Christmas 2019

And now a grandma. Me? Already? Woah! Can we dial back this getting older thing a tad? I’m honestly thrilled at the prospect of having a grandchild, although I really do NOT appreciate the title (I am currently taking suggestions for other names). It’s just that some things happen sooner than you expect. I’m feeling vastly underprepared. I thought I’d be a stronger knitter by now and possibly NOT simultaneously have an eleven-year-old child still under our roof. 

All joking aside, there’s profound beauty in the fact that Mariana, our daughter-in-love, is pregnant. Before I explain why, a small sidebar. Mariana is an absolute treasure. Oddly enough, it struck me she was possibly ‘the one’ for Kurtis even while he was dating someone else (I know that sounds weird, but it happened). On the day of this uncanny revelation, I quietly mentioned to God in my prayer journal that if she happened to be the one for Kurtis could He (God) just sort that out. Then I stayed out of it. 

Mariana Pregnant

As it turned out, three and a half months later, without my uttering a word, Kurtis and Mariana began dating. Apparently, she too, even while he was dating someone else, thought that they were meant for each other. Around the same time I was scrawling in my prayer journal, Mariana was confidently relaying to her girlfriend that one day Kurtis was going to be her husband. 

The beauty in this story is compounded by the fact that Mariana learned she had cancer at age fourteen and spent the next three years fighting for her life. That sort of near-death experience makes you approach life differently—you tend not to take it for granted. 

Mariana - Cancer Book
Mariana holding the book Our New Normal which includes her cancer story.

With this bold approach to her second crack at life, and armed from the get-go with a peculiar assurance that Kurtis was going to be her husband, she didn’t hesitate to tell him she loved him on their first date. She maintains Kurtis is her best cancer perk because if she hadn’t gotten cancer, she would never have been homeschooled and would not have met him at the homeschool co-op they attended.

It is also profoundly beautiful that Mariana is pregnant because it’s only six years since her body suffered and survived the ravaging effects of cancer and chemo. Ironically, she had her last cancer check-up while already pregnant. To me—grandmother title denial aside—Montgomery (their soon to be born baby) is a miracle—a sacred life birthed out of a saved life. 

Mariana and Kurtis
Kurtis and Mariana

And I can’t help but think this story is also our story. 

Our lives were also snatched from death’s grip. We may not have had cancer, but our sin was eating us alive. We had no hope in hell that when we die, we would make it into heaven… but for Jesus. He knew we couldn’t manage to conquer death, so he gave his life in place of ours. He was the substitute and paid our sin-debt on the cross to secure life-eternal and more abundant life here and now. 

So, I guess the question is, what are we doing with our second chance at life, and how are we making a difference to the sacred lives around us? 

While you think about that, I’ll be over here writing (or knitting) from my rocking chair with spectacles perched on my nose!

A Love Like No Other

It’s not like you’ve imagined. Probably unlike anything you’ve been told, taught, or experienced. Being with Jesus isn’t a prescribed program or a series of have-to’s. It’s not a checklist of holy duties or a list of rules to follow. It’s not polishing yourself shiny or hoping you’ve been good enough.

It’s so easy that some find it hard.

Jesus extends his arms, pulls us in, and wraps us in HIS holiness, offering us forgiveness, rest, peace, joy, love—all the things we’ve been striving for but couldn’t manage on our own. His is a put-your-feet-up, cease-striving sort of love that beckons us to just BE. Be ourselves in his company. Be still. Be undone. Be made new. Continue reading “A Love Like No Other”

The Perfection Antidote

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In last week’s blog post, I glanced back on my modeling career and, in doing so, recognized how many things have changed. I modeled during the pre-digital, pre-Photoshop era. I recall arriving on location for a particular photo shoot and the make-up artist and photographer were in a dither because I had a broken blood vessel on my cheek. 

Of course, they had reason to be ruffled since this made their job exponentially more difficult. To provide the client with the best possible image, glaring imperfections would have to be expertly covered up by the make-up artist, and the photo itself would require retouching by hand.

There wasn’t any fixing an out-of-place strand of hair after the fact, slimming a few extra pounds around the middle, or the addition of a filter for a wow-factor. Whatever was captured on film was what you got. So they took a lot of pictures and selected the best one from printed proof sheets. 

Even back in the 80s’, perfection permeated the business. Of course, we models weren’t perfect, but it helped to be as close as possible: no pimples, no scars, no visible cellulite. Young girls looking at magazines back then may have seen slightly retouched photographs but weren’t digesting expertly manipulated images. Perfection is so sought after that, these days, we don’t even know how much of what we’re seeing is real. 

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But we don’t need photoshop to serve up perfection. We regularly present a perfect facade in multiple forms. 

We exhibit Photoshop-like qualities whenever we choose to relate to others by presenting polished, untouchable forms of ourselves seemingly void of cares or troubles. Our Facebook and Instagram posts display the highlight reels of our lives, all imperfections blotted out. We present perfect when we strive to be flawless, Photoshopping away our limitations and imperfections and disregarding our human need to rest and refuel. We deny imperfection by refusing to peer honestly at our weaknesses and extending kindness or forgiveness to ourselves. 

We may even deliberately or subconsciously grasp for the retouching tool by expecting perfection from those around us. By placing unspoken or unattainable expectations on others, we withhold grace and forgiveness for others’ pimples and instead substitute distant, unloving shadows of our true selves in such relationships. 

What is the antidote for this perfection crisis? A reality tool that enables a reversal allowing us to see what is real and true.

Here are a few truths that can act to reverse our perfection problem:

  1. You are loved as you are this very moment. (Romans 5:8)
  2. You are so precious to God that he gave his Son for you. (John 3:16)
  3. You are imperfect but have been made perfect through Jesus. (Hebrews 10:14)
  4. You are forgiven. (Ephesians 1:7) 
  5. You are free. (John 8:36)
  6. You have all you need to live a Godly life. (2 Peter 1:3)

Jesus is our reality tool. In Christ, we can release our notion of perfection and receive his grace and love, extending the same to others. We can exchange our striving—and just surviving —for his gentle leading and perfect peace. We can draw on God’s power and strength to be transformed and to live the Godly life he purchased through his death and resurrection. Using cover-up to mask our imperfections loses its allure as we settle into God’s love.

I’ll leave you with The Message version of Romans 3:21-26 as a truth summary:

“The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ. God sacrificed Jesus on the altar of the world to clear that world of sin. Having faith in him sets us in the clear. God decided on this course of action in full view of the public—to set the world in the clear with himself through the sacrifice of Jesus, finally taking care of the sins he had so patiently endured. This is not only clear, but it’s now—this is current history! God sets things right. He also makes it possible for us to live in his rightness.”

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  1. In what ways are you masking your true self in an attempt to present perfect?
  2. Do you think letting go of the cover-up would enhance your relationships?

 

Coming Nov 12th, 2019: SOUL FOCUS – Trials

New Release: One More Tomorrow

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.

Why Are We Still Starving Ourselves?

modeling picIn the mid-’80s, when I was fifteen years old, I decided I wanted to become a model. A Toronto agent agreed to represent me but explained that I needed to lose weight. I had been a cross-country runner for five years and never in my life had I given a second thought to the scale. This particular year, I had discontinued running and had stopped growing. I was 5’7” tall and weighed 127 pounds. Now, for the first time in my life, someone was telling me I needed to consider what I ate.

I hadn’t a clue how to diet so I went to my family doctor for advice. He gave me a pamphlet that explained how to count calories, and so I began to figure out how to limit my food intake. Each Friday, I had to call into the agency to let them know how much weight I had lost. They wanted me to lose a pound per week. It was no small thing to change my eating habits since spending time with friends usually included things like ice-cream, candy, chips, pop, and McDonald’s visits. 

After managing to drop fifteen pounds, I was booked for a fashion show at Harbourfront in Toronto. I had been hard at work figuring out how much food I could eat and still lose weight. My agent had come to watch and afterward commended me on how well I had done in the show but told me I still needed to lose more weight. So I ate even less and landed at 108 pounds. For me, that meant virtually starving myself. 

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Penny Noble Model Management – the agency I modeled under for 8 years.

I’m not sure how, but my sixteen-year-old brain realized that this wasn’t going to work. That not only did I dislike such a restrictive eating behavior, but that this lifestyle wasn’t realistic for me. I met with my agent and told her that I didn’t want to diet anymore or be a part of her agency. She told me that was a shame, but that if I could ever keep the weight off she’d be happy to have me back. After months of sometimes eating as little as 200-400 calories per day, it took nearly two years for my metabolism to return to normal. I’m thankful I chose to put a stop to the strict dieting before developing anorexia.

Two years later, and twelve pounds heavier, I decided to give modeling another try. I met with two agents who both extended invitations to join their agencies. Neither one mentioned my weight. I continued to model for several years after that in Toronto, Montreal, and on contract overseas. I realized that the problem with the first agent was that she was trying to make me something I wasn’t. She wanted me to be a thin, high-fashion model when I had a more girl-next-door commercial look. 

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Don’t misunderstand me, I endorse exercise, healthy eating, and self-care, but just like my initial modeling experience, when we attempt to become something we aren’t—when we go to extreme lengths to be accepted but deny our true selves—we run into trouble. We become trapped on a treadmill of never-enough’s, people-pleasing while attempting to fill a soul-hole that can never be satisfied with the things of this world. 

Because here’s the thing, there will never be enough weight to lose, enough money to gain, enough compliments to receive to make us feel full. We’re starving and seeking to fill the emptiness with junk food. The lack of nutrients leaves us feeling even more depleted, but thankfully there is a remedy.

The Bible says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6) When we seek God, we are satisfied. When we desire God, the other fixes fade in importance. Our taste buds change, and we see the former things for the empty calories they were. No longer trying to be something we were never made to be, our identity grows secure in Christ and his love, and we partake of his rich blessings.  

The apostle Paul put it this way, “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)

We find that all we ever needed and wanted—all that satisfies—is found at the feet of Christ. There we discover security, acceptance, healing, love, forgiveness, hope, peace, and joy—all the things we searched for but couldn’t find. In Christ, our true identity surfaces and an internal work of growth and transformation begins that no amount of earthly accoutrements could foster. From here on in, we are fueled by faith and nourished by the word of God secure in his promises.

I’ll leave you with this verse to ponder:

“And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” (Matthew 16:26)
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  1. In what ways are you starving yourself trying to fill the soul-hole that only Jesus can fill?
  2. You can gain the whole world and lose your soul, or you can find Jesus, save your soul, and gain eternity.

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

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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.

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.

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