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

 

 

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”

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?

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.

 

 

 

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?

 

 

Learning to Fight

My husband and I learned how to fight. This seems like a bad idea, but there are some substantial advantages to mastering techniques for conflict resolution. By virtue of being human, there will always be possibilities for disagreements with others. It seems marriage is full of such opportunities.

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Ralph and I have been married for twenty-six years, but while dating, we had to overcome contrasting upbringings and approaches to conflict. I was raised in a polite British philosophy where I often heard, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” In theory, this is rather lovely, but when applied to conflict resolution, it results in generous amounts of “sweeping things under the rug”.

My husband’s family is German. They got things out in the open, forgave, and moved on. During a conflict, my silent treatment, or disappearance from a tense room, shut down communication. Eventually, I saw that my tactics were ineffective, and began communicating by facing things head-on. Generally, for most things to improve, it takes undoing poor habits and mastering new ones. Such was the case for fighting well.

Whether a spouse, family member, colleague, or friend, we will be confronted with opportunities to fight and forgive well. When we face disagreements, or experience hurt at the hands of another, it’s easy to become offended and get angry. The key is to not grow embittered, carry that wounding around with you, or worst of all, shove it under the rug.

Fight for relationships that are worth fighting for. Instead of withdrawing or rebutting with silence, develop the habit of forgiveness. This doesn’t mean we excuse the behaviour or pretend it didn’t happen. We acknowledge the wrong done, communicate how it made us feel (if possible), and then forgive—independent of whether an apology is offered.

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Ralph and I – 2010

Forgiveness is a loving act both toward ourselves and others. It’s saying, what you did hurt me, but I refuse to let it rule me. In a fearless act of love, you forgive and in doing so, it’s as though you’ve covered over their fault so that it’s no longer visible. It’s probably the only time it’s a good idea to cover up something. In the meantime, you’ve secured your freedom. You’ve freed yourself from the weight of carrying anger and bitterness and can move forward in soul-settled peace.

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8)

This courageous and almost contradictory behaviour—just as learning to fight appears at first glance—brings us close to the heart of God. Christ’s death meant we were loosed from sin and fully forgiven. When we behave in like manner, laying ourselves down for others, and beautifully offering a cover of forgiveness for their shortcomings, we are behaving like our Father in heaven. Here’s some helpful instruction: 

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous… If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?… Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48)

Forgiveness doesn’t mean giving others a license to repeatedly mistreat you. You still need to set healthy boundaries and remove yourself from toxic people or harmful situations. Forgiveness simply means you release offenses, and, as a result, remain free from others’ baggage.

Forgiveness isn’t easy. It’s not a one-time effort either. For me, forgiveness often looms like an unscalable mountain threatening to block my journey. But nothing worthwhile happens without fighting for it, or at least applying focused effort. Sometimes we need to reset our default button to bypass unhealthy mindsets or patterns of thinking.

It helps to remember that we needed mercy too. And don’t we continue to need it? We aren’t faultless. There will come a time when we hurt another—either purposely or unintentionally—and what a relief it is when this same forgiveness is extended to us. It also helps to remember we’re forgiven by God who never reminds us of our sins. The least we can do is love the same.

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  1. Make a list of those you haven’t forgiven.
  2. Pray and ask for God’s help to forgive.
  3. Go the extra mile and bless them (wish well for them).