Thursday, November 21, 2013

Life, L'chaim, Leaning

We are alive. 
Yet at times dead inside. 
At times unable to fully live. 

One of my favourite passages in the Bible comes out of Deuteronomy. It reads as follows:

"I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them." -Deuteronomy 30:19-20

Moses is at the end of his life and the Israelites have wandered in the desert for 40 years and they are about to enter the Promised Land. The choice is laid out before them very clearly. They can choose the blessing or the curse. Life or death. Living in the land or living in exile. God had promised them the land and His blessings and the land was rich and they would be prosperous and be in relationship with a God who had a deep desire to bless, love and multiply them.

Seems like a pretty easy, obvious decision. 

They chose life at first, but after awhile, they drifted and chose death. They saw something that seemed better in the moment, yet it was those things that would lead to their destruction.  

Sometimes I read about the Israelites and arrogantly scoff at how dumb they were to live their lives in such a way. And then I am radically humbled as I see in them such a clear reflection of myself and how so often I choose death over life. I often do it without thinking, because I want whatever is easier, whatever feels good and brings me pleasure and gratification in that moment. 

God calls us to choose life. 
To choose God. 
This isn't just any old life we're talking about. 
This is deep, abundant, rich life. 

I'm learning that part of choosing life involves embracing all of life, the good, the bad and the ugly. And yes I've talked about this before, but I will talk about it again. And likely again in the future. Embracing my own pain, accepting death, welcoming sadness... these are all included in a choice for life. Avoiding and running away will only create more problems and although they feel good in the moment, they are choices for destruction and death that will ruin me in the end. 

The prospect of choosing life is sometimes overwhelming when looking at the scope of life. I was recently challenged to ask myself the question:

What does choosing life look like in the next five minutes? 

Every decision I make within the next five minutes, as small as it might be, is a choice for life or death. 

For me today, that meant taking time to get ready and do my hair and makeup. It meant cleaning parts of the house that were in disarray. It meant enjoying writing letters to friends in the company of a friend. It meant enjoying time in the hot tub while stargazing (except the hot tub ended up being frigid, so the better choice for life in this case was to avoid the hot tub and make a puzzle instead). It meant taking a 20 minute nap. 

There's no set formula for what choosing life looks like. But, in the next five minutes, how is God inviting you to choose life? What does that look like in a tangible way right now?  

As I walk this journey with my mom, I am facing a lot of these questions frequently as I see her own strength fade. Yet lately, as there have been different improvement, I celebrate the ways in which life is evident within her. Today was the first day in months that we went on a non-medical outing and it was fantastic. We took silly pictures. We laughed and joked together. We marveled in awe at the beauty of the snow-covered mountains against the clear blue sky. 

We chose life. And it was wonderful. 

One of my favourite musicals, Fiddler on the Roof, has a song called 'L'chaim, To Life'! (Okay, I don't actually know if that's the real title, but those are the main words I sing really loudly as I dance around whenever this song comes to mind). I love singing this song, and shouting 'L'chaim'! from time to time, because it reminds me of this choice that is placed before me moment by moment. What will you choose?

To Life! To loving God, obeying God, and holding fast to Him. To life! 

How will you choose life in the next five minutes?
(I'm going to choose life by posting this and going to bed).


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Pain, Presence, Perfected

Pain. It's an ugly word to many. It's something we try to avoid or fix or get rid of.  It is a topic I come back to often. Pain brings with it a lot of emotions that are quite messy and not so pretty. 

But the more I think about pain and observe it in my life, the more I start to like it and embrace it. Pain is a place where I meet God in the most beautiful, gentle, intimate way. Pain is a place where I can connect and weep with others. Pain is an experience where God's glory and character can shine. Pain is a place where God is present and where Jesus meets me. Would I wish away pain from my life? Even the most agonizing, difficult moments? Never. It is a beautiful thing and the better I become acquainted with pain, the more I desire to be in friendship with it and make the most of our relationship. 

Recently I asked the question, "Does a life of following God mean pain?" Some would suggest that to live is to experience pain. There are so many ways in which I could avoid or cover up my pain yet being in relationship with God requires me to face it. Sometimes I feel like God has created a space in my life for pain to come. 

Until I recognize the beauty and value of pain however, I will simply feel attacked by God. As I'm growing in this, I feel greatly blessed. That I can grow and be transformed. That I can meet God intimately. That the beauty and life that God creates out of my pain will be far greater than the pain ever could have been. 

I cannot allow myself to think that life consists solely of pain, although it is tempting in those moments where the hole of pain in one's insides feels bottomless. When I step back, there is so much beauty, blessing and richness to behold and celebrate that I begin to see how God is weaving my story together in a way that is far greater than my hurts and pains. I don't want to miss out on the story. 

So, the other day when I asked God if following Him meant pain, the answers I received included:

"Yes, I'm making it into something beautiful."

"Yes, and I am with you, Emmanuel."

"Yes and I am doing something beyond anything you could ever fathom"

"Yes and I will weep with you"

"Yes and I'm holding you tightly and carrying you."

"Yes and you can trust me." 

"Yes, but your life is not limited to pain-there is a depth of richness and beauty present therein"

So I will continue to grow in embracing pain and lean into God fully and completely, trusting that God is doing an incredible transformation in and through me, as God is glorified and His character revealed. He is making something beautiful.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Jesus. Fully Divine. Fully Human.

Remember those times when you said you would never do something? And then you end up doing exactly that? Presently I'm attending seminary and the thought of it is continually baffling to me, but I am so blessed to be a student again, but also as part of a great community. I appreciate being challenged in my thinking as I continue to grow and be transformed in relationship with God. So, this is one of my posts where I process some of the things I have been thinking through from class. 

Jesus. He's the crux of my faith, yet I don't really have a great grasp of who he is. Sure, I know the stories and can tell you a lot about it, but it has never really clicked with me until recently. Over this last year, I have been struggling through who Jesus is and praying that I would come to a greater understanding and revelation of the person of Christ. So... here's some thoughts...

Last year I taught History of Christianity and it was fascinating to me to look at all the different groups of people that cropped up as heretics that were against the church. The main area of contention was the humanity and divinity of Christ. It's a tension that is very difficult to reconcile and accept, so most groups would choose one over the other. In reading about this, it seemed crazy that people would cling to one extreme to the point of leaving the church. Yet, recently upon deeper reflection of my own views of Jesus, I have come to realize that my own views are heretical in that I focus on the divinity of Jesus and discount the humanity of Jesus.

There were things that Jesus did not know (Mt. 24:36-the coming of the Son of Man), things he could not do (Mk 6:5) and his miracles were performed by the Spirit of God (Mt. 12:28). This would reveal the humanity side of Jesus. In Philippians, it talks about Jesus emptying himself, and it is suggested by some that "in becoming like a human being, the Son of God willed to renounce the exercise of his divine powers, attributes, prerogatives, so that he might live fully within those limitations which inhere in being truly human" (Gerald F. Hawthorne). So it is possible that the divine attributes were still present in Jesus but not exercised (for example, as seen in the gospels, he was not omnipresent or omniscient).

In this case, as I often assume, perhaps Jesus' understanding of his identity and mission were not pipelined into him, but rather they were developed through his life, through revelation, intuition, crisis, prayer and communion. Jesus was not able to sin, but was he aware of it? When Jesus went to the cross, did he know 100% that he would rise from the dead (before going to the cross, Jesus prayed that if it was possible, that the cup be taken from him, Mt. 26:39, suggesting that he didn't know). I read the gospels with the assumption that Jesus was born with all the knowledge of Scripture and who God is... but what if he learned it?

Here's another quote from Gerald F. Hawthorne to think about:

"God the Son, who became flesh in Jesus, became a real human being, and as such he needed the Spirit's power to lift him out of his human restrictions, to carry him beyond his human limitations, and to enable him to do the seeming impossible….to be sure, the Spirit met with no natural resistance in Jesus as in those of us whose lives have been hardened and scarred by sin"

There are moments when Jesus' divinity shine through, but I think I focus on those and read with the assumption of his divinity, neglecting his humanity entirely. If Jesus had everything pipelined into him and was able to do everything on his own, this is a Jesus that is difficult to follow. Perhaps even impossible to follow.  But... if Jesus, in his humanity, learned these things and built a relationship with the Father and depended FULLY on the Father, realizing he could do nothing without the Father, this is a Jesus a can follow, because he lived a beautiful life of full dependence on the Father and as a result had an intimate relationship and was a reflection of God's glory and image on earth.

Furthermore, as I have been experiencing lately, the humanity of Jesus, along with the pain and suffering he experienced, can meet my humanity and my pain in a real, tangible way. That's pretty powerful.

Jesus. Fully divine. Fully human. Just some food for thought-would love to hear your thoughts. And please don't call me a heretic as these are things I'm processing and thinking about, not putting out there as absolute truths.

May the humanity of Christ meet your humanity in a profound way today.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Home, Heart, Happiness

Home. It's a word that conjures up a variety of feelings, memories and thoughts. Some positive, some negative. Some filled with great happiness, others filled with great sorrow. Where is my home? This is something I have been reflecting on of late. Last week, as I prepared to leave Portland and return "home", I had mixed feelings because in a way I was also leaving a new place that has become home.

The dictionary defines "home" as, "the place where one lives permanently." In the last few years, that location has been scattered because I don't feel a permanence in any one geographical location. In some ways I feel tossed about and unsure as to my sense of placement because it all seems so transient. Yet, I realize as I make memories in different places, have new and repeated experiences, and deep friendships, I am continually creating a space of home.

First and foremost, my home is in God. I abide in Him and God's presence is ever with me, ever before me and behind me. It surrounds me. Nothing is a surprise to God because He is there. I can rest assured in that permanence.

 I have a home with my friends, new and old. They have a place in my heart and I in theirs. In that case, I have a home all around the world and all across Canada and the US. When I am with my friends, I am at home.

I have a physical home in places where I have lived, but also places where I have visited and had profound experiences with God, growth and transformation within, and have experienced community with those around me.  

So, in the last two weeks I have been deeply reminded of this. As I traveled down to Portland for school, there was a profound sense of coming home. As 18 of my American friends gathered around a table with me to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving, I was home. As I went to Edmonton to visit friends for the weekend, I was home. As I came back to BC to care for a woman I love deeply and count as one of my closest friends, I am home. Despite sadness, hurt, pain, God is there and I can rest in Him. Through happiness, laughter and joy, God is in my midst. To take the time to recognize this, amidst the tension of juxtaposed emotions and experiences, there is a richness in the fullness of life that can be experienced and shared with those around me. I am home.

 I love the song, "Home" by Phillip Phillips (and not just because he has the best name ever). As I re-read the lyrics this morning, I felt God singing the words to me. I can cling to Him, through the familiar and unfamiliar, and where I am, I am at home in Him and will have experiences of home with physical locations I visit and the people I encounter along the way.

Hold on, to me as we go
As we roll down this unfamiliar road
And although this wave is stringing us along
Just know you're not alone
Cause I'm gonna make this place your home

Settle down, it'll all be clear
Don't pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found

Just know you're not alone
Cause I'm gonna make this place your home

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Fall, Fotos, Fantastic

I never understood it when people would use their cameras as phones.. but to my own dismay, I realized recently that I have become one of those people. I always have my phone with me and it takes pretty great photos. 

But there is a difference when you're behind the camera and you hear the shutter inside opening and closing.. the other day I took some photos of my niece and it's as though something rekindled within me.  

My camera has been lying dormant far too long in my camera bag (partly because of a lens that needs reparing, but I have two others to use!).

Lately I have been missing the fall colours in Quebec and then I look out the window and realize that we have some pretty amazing and vibrant colours here.

So I took my camera, got creative and started snapping photos.  

And oh was it ever inspiring! There is something wonderful about being surrounded by breathtaking creation. I love that the leaves change colour when they die and fall. They could have just become brown and fallen, but our Creator designed them in such a fashion that they would be breath-taking and awe inspiring and reveal His glory. 

And in turn, there's something wonderful about being behind a camera and capturing that beauty in a small little frame, catching glimpses of who God is through the evidence of His handiwork.  

I love cozy, rainy, windy fall days, but I also love gloriously blue sky, sunny days. I'm thankful for this weekend. I got to play outside with little ones, go swimming, fly kites (which also meant simply running really fast and cheering the kite on). 

Days that start off feeling a bit blah and discouraged, yet as you engage in life and stop to notice God in the details, you are inspired and left feeling hopeful.  

So, whether it's pouring rain, cloudy or sunny, take a moment. 
Step outside. 
Be inspired.  

Secondhand, Snoring, Sobbing

 This Fall has been the perfect blend of rainy days and sunny days. I love being able to stay cozy in my pj's at home while hanging out with my mom when it's rainy and stormy outside. Yet, the mornings when you wake up to hints of blue sky amidst the fog, foreshadowing a gloriously blue sky, sunny day ahead!
I love rainy days but also love waking up to Fall days like this.
Last weekend I was so thankful again for my wonderful aunt who comes out so I can have a break. A friend and I went down for a double musical day (which we have decided to make a more frequent tradition). And on that note, I have decided to amend my list of 35 by 35. I don't know if it's allowed, but I make the rules, so I think it's a great idea. Instead of going to an underwater hotel (maybe that will make the 40 by 40 list instead), my goal is to attend 100 different musicals (update: I'm at 83.. so for the next 17 new ones I see, I will post reviews. And then maybe I will list the 100...).

Rabbit trail over. Anyway, the two musicals we saw were Secondhand Lions and Xanadu.  Secondhand Lions is based on a movie that came out in 2003 that I absolutely loved. As the program for the musical said, either people claim it as a favourite or have never heard of it. It was full of bright colours, dramatic scenes, moments for laughter and a few tears and was just fun all around to watch (hoping it goes to broadway in new york!). 

The story is about a little boy who gets dropped off at his great uncles' farm in order to try and get all their money. The boy has been lied to a lot of his life and through hearing antics and stories of his uncles' lives, he comes to a place where he realizes he needs something to believe in and chooses to believe the stories and builds a really meaningful relationship with his uncles. It struck me as they were dancing around on stage that we all need something to believe in. In Proverbs 29:18a, it says, "Where there is no vision, the people perish." As the old and wonderful hymn says, "Be thou my vision". God, who is love and is faithful and gracious beyond measure is where I need to place my full belief. The God who does not sleep or slumber is where my vision needs to be fixed. And I know that as a result of my belief and pursuit of God, transformation and growth will occur. Not sure if you follow my thought process from a musical to that, but those are my muddled thoughts. 

Xanadu at Village Theatre in Issaquah
 In the evening, we went to see Xanadu at the Village Theatre and it was great. Very different from the one we saw in the afternoon. Set in the 80's, it's about a bunch of Greek muses that try to inspire an artist (there may have even been some roller skating involved). In the musical (spoiler alert), the meaning of xanadu is true love and the ability to create and share art. The one muse is struck by the fact that humans die and yet they strive to create even though they are mortals. It struck me that creativity is such a beautiful thing because it speaks of life and looks beyond the present to an eternal life.

My niece truly does love me, but I absolutely love this picture and realize the only thing that would make it better is if we had matching hair... (and when I came back to this post a couple days later, I wondered why part of the title was 'Sobbing' and then I looked at this photo and remembered)
Secondhand Lions, world premiere at 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle!

So, there you have it. Two new musicals and a great weekend (and a very delayed blog post since I started this days ago...)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Thankful, Thinking, Thanks

Life. I'm thankful for it. When emotional tsunamis threaten to drown, I'm thankful for the reminders of life. Not just little reminders, but those moments that smack you in the face and even though part of life suck, it's okay. Within the tragedy of loss, there is life. In the pain of loss, there is a reminder of the existence of life, joy, love. If these didn't exist, there would be no pain.

I'm thankful for the vibrancy of colours when I look outside. For the moments when it is pouring rain and windy to the gloriously sunny, blue sky days. Each makes me appreciate the other as I bask in the wonder of what is in that present moment.  I'm thankful for hockey and the fun of cheering alongside others and rooting for you team. I'm thankful for tears. Thankful that with each tear that falls, there is an element of healing that occurs and in each tear shared with someone else, there is a sense of deep connection and communal healing (although I'm still in the process of letting myself cry with others).

And I'm thankful for children. And babies. Oh boy. To laugh and enjoy the antics of little ones and their curiosity and wonder concerning everything around them.  To snuggle newborns and be in wonder and awe at the softness of their skin and the freshness and innocence of new life. To watch smiles light up their faces and their smiles erupt into giggles, warms the heart.

I never fully understood why Jesus placed such great value on children. But now as my heart overflows with love for so many of the little people in my life, I see it. I get it. There is a wonder and deep-seated joy in watching them, engaging with them, cuddling them. A sense of pure delight. And a glimpse into the way our Heavenly Father delights in us. 

I love Fall. And the leaves. The other day I was thinking about the amazing, vibrant colours of Fall in Quebec and it made me a bit homesick. Yet while walking outside, I came across the most perfectly situated leaves, with water droplets accentuating each vein of the leaf and was struck by the intricate details. What an amazing Creator who did not spare any details, even in a simple dead leaf that has fallen to the ground. 

I'm thankful for the celebration of life. For every day we live, there is a richness to be celebrated and how wonderful to be able to celebrate with those we love who are all weaved into the story of our lives. 

And because they're awesome and light up my life, once again, I'm thankful for children. And for photos that allow me to capture the most precious moments and remind me of the value and preciousness of life and enjoying every moment. While tempting to see my life as "on hold" for the moment, I am reminded that this is life, the good, the bad and the ugly. And the beautiful. The more I look for it, the more the beauty emerges. 

Sometimes (okay, often) I get the urge to burst into really loud singing. And then I realize people are sleeping. So I let my internal song burst forth within and it makes me smile. Oh that my life would be such a song... one that is constantly being sung and attesting to the One who gives me life and creates the song within, the slow parts, the fast parts, the intricate harmonies, the sad and happy parts- a beautiful masterpiece for all to hear, not of my own doing, but rather a testimony of the Giver of Life, who is faithful beyond measure and delights in every note. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Stop, Shop, Sex

First of all, I figured putting a bit of scandal in my title would draw more curious readers. haha. tricked you. But I figure if I am going to be honest and transparent, I need to share the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. So this is where I'm at.

This week I have been faced with a couple disappointments. They weren't huge, but they were unexpected and altered my plans and the things I had been anticipating were dashed in a way. And with an already heightened sense of emotion, they seemed bigger. I haven't felt this sense of disappointment in a long time and mixed with it has been anger, frustration, bitterness, hopelessness and some depression. Yes, a wide range of emotions. And so all day today I have been slightly grumpy and on edge and kind of feeling down. (Yet in the midst of this, I had a fantastic lunch date with my cousin-sister-friend and her adorable son who is my favourite cousin-nephew-friend and had fun playing with my niece this afternoon...) But through it all was this nagging deep down disappointment and sadness that I couldn't shake. 

This morning after my quiet time I was really encouraged and yet the moment disappointment struck, it's as though I completely forgot the things God had been speaking to my heart earlier on. Rather than turning to Him and pouring out my heart (thought about it but then went on to distract myself with something else), I trudged on in my misery, trying to fill it with other things. 

Tonight I went to pick up some milk. I hadn't had dinner yet. And since all day I have had an insatiable desire to devour everything in sight, I decided I would go pig out at KFC. I pulled over into the neighboring parking lot to eat my popcorn chicken and poutine (didn't even get through most of it in the end). My car was parked so it was facing a sex shop that is in a little strip mall. While I was sitting there stuffing my face with chicken, fries and gravy, I watched a few people go in and out of the shop. A couple of times, while watching people go in, my thoughts ranged from disgust to sadness. It seems to come down to a mix between seeking satisfaction and gratifying one's desires. In a place where only God can satisfy and meet these individuals, they were seeking after other things to fulfill those desires and fill that empty space in their lives (maybe some other motivations too but this was the main root reason I was pondering at the time).

As I sat there judging the people I didn't know, I was struck mid-bite. I was doing the exact same thing. Perhaps with different ramifications and end results, but with the same heart motivation. Not able to properly deal with my emotions for the day, I let them fester inside of me and spent the day restlessly going about trying to fill that spot within. And here I was, numbing pain and emotion with food, seeking some sort of satisfaction as I temporarily satisfied my appetite's lusts. So I stopped, threw the rest of my food into the garbage can and drove home, praying and bringing it all before the Lord.

I still have this sense of disappointment and a feeling of being overwhelmed that comes as a result, but I know I need to be intentional to enter God's rest. And to be completely honest with Him, sharing my disappointment and sadness and the overwhelming emotions. To cry before Him and let Him fill that empty space that sex, food, or anything else will fail to fill in the long run.

Moral of the story... next time you're driving to KFC (or the mall, or the gym, or to check your email, or to check facebook, or wherever else you might go or do), check your motives... (okay maybe there's more to it than that, but you can figure the rest out).

Abijah, Asa, Admonishments

As the light began to bathe itself over the mountains and trees outside this morning, I was encouraged and struck anew by a king named Asa. It amazes me that even though I have read through the Bible multiple times, there are still stories, that although slightly familiar, stand out anew as though I had never read them. Then again, I can re-read a book two years later and have completely forgotten most of the details of the story (and I'm not even 30 yet! ha!). But moreso than that, I think it is a result of the richness of the Word of God and how different things stick out to us at different times in our lives.

Anyway, back to Asa. Asa is the son of Abijah, who is the son of Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, the son of David.. so not too many generations after David. Asa is a king tucked into the line of Judah and yet is not always remembered because he ended badly, yet God did some amazing things on his behalf.  In 1 Kings 15:14b it says "nevertheless the heart of Asa was wholly devoted to the Lord all his days." Interesting statement, but his actions don't show it, but his drift away from depending on the Lord is a slow and steady one.

Asa encourages Judah to seek the Lord and acknowledges the rest that the Lord has given them. When faced with an Ethiopian army of a million, Asa fully acknowledges and pleads for God's strength to prevail amongst their weak and smaller army. It's not entirely sure how the Lord routed them and caused them to flee, but it happens.

Later a prophet named Azariah comes to warn them to continue seeking God lest they be forsaken. In 2 Chronicles 15:26, Azariah says, "the Lord is with you when you are with Him. And if you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you." Later we see the truth of this in verse 5, "But in their distress they turned to the Lord God of Israel, and they sought Him, and He let them find Him."

Asa leads a reform in Judah and in verse 15 it states, "All Judah rejoiced concerning the oath, for they had sworn with their whole heart and had sought Him earnestly, and He let them find Him. So the Lord gave them rest on every side."

Later on in Asa's reign, he depended on a king for his deliverance rather than on God. It's as though He forgot the incredible deliverance God had given them before. Another prophet, Hanani, comes to remind Asa of the time God delivered them in battle. The other army was massive and "yet because you relied on the Lord, He delivered them into your hand. For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His" (2 Chronicles 16:8b-9a).

What a beautiful picture of God's desire toward us! Sadly, in the end, Asa gets angry rather than repenting, throws Hanani into prison, gets diseased in his feet, doesn't seek the Lord in his diseas and eventually dies. Sad ending of a heart that was wholly devoted yest slowly and gradually drifted away from having His focus and dependence fully on the Lord. 

My prayer this morning is that I would have a heart that is completely His. That my attentions would be undivided, that I would enter the rest He has given and that I would seek Him, knowing that He will let me find Him. 

My new breath prayer for now is "Lord, let me find you today."  That it would be a continual reminder for myself to seek Him in all things, whether that be while preparing food, cleaning or doing schoolwork, and that I would approach in humility, knowing that it's not even my own efforts that will find Him, but rather it is the Lord, in His grace and desire for me, that would allow Himself to be found by me.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Whimsical, Wonder, White

 I am so thankful for weekends. Respite and rest have taken on a whole new meaning of late. I am so thankful for my aunt who comes out faithfully every weekend to care for my mom.

And this weekend has been epic. There are so many adjectives I could use to describe it. A celebration of life, a return to the wonder, awe and delight of a child, a moment to gather with friends and create magical and whimsical moments... and so much more.  

 I am so thankful that in the midst of intense pain and grief, God is continually surprising me with joy. And happiness. And delight. And it is made all the more richer by the pain and is such a beautiful thing.

While my mom was in the hospital a little over a month ago, I made a special bucket list. 35 items by the time I'm 35. As I journey through the valley of the shadow of death with my mom, I am reminded of life eternal and life abundant. And as long as I have life to live on earth, I want to embrace it fully. I want to engage with people, I want to have fun, I want to feel all my emotions. Jesus said He came to give us life and life to the full and as I live in Him and Him in me, I want it to be true that "in Him we live, move and have our being".  Not that that means it's all about experience, because it's not, but I'm so thankful we can have moments of adventure and moments of being like children and enjoying life and delighting in the little and big things.

One of the items on my list was to host a chinese wish lantern party. At first it was to go to a festival, but then I thought, why not host one myself and invite people I love to join in and enjoy it together?  So we gathered. I got people to dress in white (inspired by dîner en blanc) and we had picnics as the sun set. And then as it was dusk, it was time to light the lanterns.  And it was magical. Whimsical. 

I loved hearing the "oohs" and "ahhs" of those gathered, as you could hear their delight and excitement.  We lit the lanterns, waited for them to fill and let them go at the same time as the sky filled with glowing lights.  It was beautiful. It was as though time stood still as we stood there. Lighting mine, I was sending up prayers as well and it seemed watching them all go up, they all symbolized prayers for my mom, who was at the window watching. 

 I love that moments like this unite old and young, male and female.. no matter who you are or your differences, in these moments, there is a sense of community as we all join in together to create a beautiful memory.

Photo credits to Ron Peters (he took the ones with his copyright on the bottom right corner.. he did a fantastic job of capturing the delight and whimsy of the evening!)
So,  number  26 on the 35 by 35 bucket list went off fantastically and will be remembered for years to come. I'm thankful for moments that return you to the simple awe and wonder of a child's delight in discovering the world around them and enjoying those magical moments.


And in case one amazing event wasn't enough in one weekend, I thought I would take a stab at number 2 on the 35 by 35 list: 5KM race. 


A few of us signed up for the colour run in Vancouver today. You run and as you go through different checkpoints, they throw paint powder at you. There were four different colour stations and then they give you pouches of more powder as you cross the finish line. So fun!! Once again, it was such a neat and unique event and fun to enjoy it with friends. 

So.. this weekend, I am thankful that life is full of juxtaposition and different tensions. I am thankful that in the midst of sadness, there's happiness; in the midst of death, there is life. And I will celebrate and live in every moment and am thankful that eternal life doesn't simply commence when I die, but it is now, today. And I'm thankful that God is behind, before, beside, over and underneath me on this crazy journey of life.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Suffering, Sleeping, School

 As everyone was posing on their front porches with backpacks ready to go to their first day of school, I lay on my mattress, clinging to the little amount of sleep remaining from the night before and thought I would take a picture of myself on my first day back at school... sleeping. (okay, obviously I wasn't actually sleeping if I was taking a photo of myself.. shh!)

But seriously, although the picture above doesn't show it, I am so stoked to be going back to school. I have been wanting to get my masters for a while now and have been enrolled in different programs that never felt right... until this one. And it's online. I'll be getting my Master of Divinity with a certificate in spiritual formation (side note, every time I try to type spiritual, I write spiritural.. i should probably create a new word). I have no idea where this will lead, but I'm so excited to be stepping out in total faith, knowing that as I continue walking forward, the Lord will continue transforming me and guiding me... a bit nervous as to where it will lead, but so excited at the same time!  And I get to be a student again! I think the thing I love most about studying in an official school setting is that first, it forces me to study, read, think, write, etc... and secondly, I learn so much about who God is and meet Him in so many wonderful ways.  I cannot wait.

And the photo above is just because it's one that's been lying around lately of my brothers and I when we were little and I love it. And I just don't think I would look as cute now wearing the outfit I'm rocking in this picture.

Lately I've been grappling and wrestling a lot (surprise!)... and those are two words you might get tired of hearing on this blog, but it's where I'm at. 

I know God is good. And sovereign. And yet I see my mom suffer and in pain and I wonder why He allows it to continue.. Either He can heal her, or not, but if not, then why the pain?  Yes, I could talk about purpose and there still being a plan and reason for her being here which is nice and all, but in the face of suffering, that doesn't seem to cut it.

And that got me thinking about God's glory and how it is displayed in this situation. Maybe He's using all this to teach me something (which He undoubtedly is), yet it seems unfair to do so at the sake of another's sense of well-being. Maybe it's because she's an encouragement and joy to those around her because of what she represents. Maybe it's to shine God's glory through her to others.. And then sometimes I take a step back, and realize that maybe all these reasons and things are only a tiny bit of the bigger picture.

Isaiah 55:8-9 says,
"For My thoughts are not Your thoughts, nor are your ways y ways," declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."

My thoughts are a tiny portion of the Lord's and so the best I can do in the midst of all my wonderings and wrestlings is look up to Him and trust Him. That He is good. That He is faithful. That He loves me, my mom and everyone around me. And to realize that even those realizations are only a tiny glimpse of what really is. There's so much I don't understand. 

So I will continue to grapple and wrestle and go deeper with God, discovering more of who He is and growing in intimacy with Him and sharing His life with others along the way.

Stay tuned for more grapplings. Thanks for the listening ear.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Fun., Family, Friends

The other night a friend texted me the verse, 'Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11)
In a period of time where there are moments when the burden seems far too heavy to bear and the task ahead seems so overwhelming you might drown in the emotions, I am thankful I can stop and rest. To sit and place everything in the Lord's hands, breathe deeply in and out, confident of the fact that He's got it. He's taking care of me. Sustaining me. Strengthening me. Giving rest and energy when I'm exhausted. What a beautiful thing. So I will continue to rest and abide in Him, knowing that I could not do this without Him. 

I am continually so thankful for the prayers and thoughts of so many people. I am reminded that we are being prayed for across Canada, the States, in Europe, and probably a few other places too. It kind of blows me away. It is such a declaration and testimony of the faithfulness of God. He reminds me continually that He has not forgotten me and is with me. So thankful for support and still trying to figure out how to allow myself to express my needs and be helped and supported even more. :)

I get weekends off and this weekend was one that was greatly anticipated as my two cousins and I would be spending the weekend in Vancouver. My cousins (one from my dad's side and one from my mom's) are good friends and so it's a blessing that we are all friends and can have great meaningful times together where we laugh until we almost pee our pants, share together, cry together, and everything in between. I'm thankful for times of renewal and refreshment.  

And I'm also thankful for how many awesome and amazing people God has placed in my life. Seriously. I am blessed.  Because who doesn't want to go to places and dress up for photos?  Or buy kites and fly them beside the ocean. Or go to outdoor concerts (the band 'Fun.' and you know a bandi is awesome when they name themselves fun.) and dance and sing along at the top of our lungs?  (maybe there are people who wouldn't want to do these things and that's okay, because I had a lot of fun doing them this weekend!)

So, tonight I'm thankful for family and friends, for music that touches the heart, for kites, the ocean, beautiful sunny blue sky summer days and much more. But even more than all of this, I am so thankful for the Lord who created all these and is moment by moment meeting me where I'm at and sustaining me every step of the way. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Learning this more and more each day. 

On a side note, if anyone wants to go fly a kite (up to the highest height), Lyle the giraffe (who is the one pictured on the kite) and I would be happy to join you! :)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Crochet, Crazy, Chan

Today was the beginning of what will hopefully lead to the end of one of my '35 by 35' items.  I taught myself to crochet. Now I had to ask myself what 'Learn to Crochet' actually means.. and I decided it will be when I have successfully crocheted something (and you can tell what it is).  My first goal is a scarf. My first attempt failed seeing as it looks like a rainbow. The second attempt is going much better!

Years ago when I was a bible school student, my roommate tried to teach me how to crochet (I was really good at making the first row, so proceeded to do so with the entire ball of yarn). Needless to say, I never made it past the second row. I find it ironic that now that I'm no longer a Bible School student and no longer a staff at a Bible School, I am learning to crochet. Had I only done this a year earlier, I would have had endless people to crochet with.. I suppose I will simply have to start my own crocheting community here at home.

A few years ago, I was trying to get a picture for pain, loss and grief in my life.  The image that kept coming to me was a ball of yarn. But it wasn't a neatly raveled one.. it was hundreds of individual pieces of yarn all tied together, resulting in knots and a general mess and virtually impossible to unravel.  The picture God has given me over the last few years as I have intentionally grieved and healed is that He has been untying the knots and taking out each individual piece. He's unraveling the mess.  And today as I was struggling to crochet and find out where in the world the hook should go, I felt the Lord telling me that He is taking all those pieces of yarn and is creating something absolutely beautiful out of them. He is weaving my joy, my sorrow, my loss, my gains, my victories, my defeats into something beautiful. A beautiful image that I will continue to remind myself of. 

Finished reading the book 'Crazy Love' by Francis Chan today.  Enjoyed reading it but also was really challenged again to examine my life and look at how I am living it and looking at what the Bible says rather than weaving together what I would like to hear so that my life is a bit more comfortable and easy. 

Here's a couple quotes that have set me to ponder. And rather than comment on my thoughts, I'll let God speak to you as you read them:

"I wrote this book because much of our talk doesn't match our lives. We say things like, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me," and "Trust in the Lord with all your heart." Then we live and plan like we don't believe God even exists. We try to set our lives up so everything will be fine even if God doesn't come through. But true faith means holding nothing back. It means putting every hope in God's fidelity to His promises."

"Most of us use "I'm waiting for God to reveal His calling on my life" as a means of avoiding action. Did you hear God calling you to sit in front of the television yesterday? Or to go on your last vacation? Or exercise this morning? Probably not, but you still did it. The point isn't that vacations or exercise are wrong, but that we are quick to rationalize our entertainment and priorities yet are slow to commit to serving God."

"Lukewarm people don't really want to be saved from their sin; they want only to be saved from the penalty of their sin. They don't genuinely hate sin and aren't truly sorry for it; they're merely sorry because God is going to punish them. Lukewarm people don't really believe that this new life Jesus offers is better than the old sinful one."

"But the fact is that nothing should concern us more than our relationship with God; it's about eternity, and nothing compares with that. God is not someone who can be tacked on to our lives."

Happy pondering!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Spices, Sky, Seeds

Side note: I love the sky. So dispersed throughout this post are some lovely photos with lovely horizons for your personal enjoyment :) End Side Note.

 I love organizing. Some may call it OCD.. but I call it a love for organizing. 

Today I started the task of organizing the pantry in the kitchen, because
a) it stresses me out and overhwhelms me every time I open it
b) it bothers me that the items in the pantry aren't in proper categories on differing shelves
c) I want to know what's actually in the pantry

I'm about a third done, but the thing that brought me the most joy today was organizing the spice drawers. Because in it, I found four jars of mustard seed, four jars of dried mint, three bags full of nutmeg (in its original form) from some Caribbean country, seven different types of sea salt, five different flavours of black peppercorns, six packs of different thai blends... I could go on, but you get the picture. 

The reason I took such joy in this was mostly because it's such a beautiful representation of my mom. She is one who loves to try new things, introduce others to new things, take every opportunity at living life to the full as she can, making things as tasty and pleasurable as possible and blessing others. All this from some spices. In the mix of items she has, not only in her spice rack, I see again the confirmation of her generous and loving spirit, ready to bless others and take care of them. Whether it's cooking an incredible feast or sharing her latest new spice with a friend at the kitchen table, my mom has always been right in there.  Great reminders today as I spent time in the pantry.. now if only I can figure out what in the world to do with four jars of mustard seed... 

My schedule used to be crammed full. Too full. I was always super busy, whether it was working, school, hanging out with friends, travelling, going on adventures, or perhaps even a combination of things. This season of my life is completely different in that I have no plans every single day of the week. I used to have to book coffee dates with friends two months in advance. And now I'm home with no plans and people can drop in whenever. And it's nice. My body and mind are taking a while to get accustomed though. Every night I feel stress rising and think to myself "what are all the plans I have for tomorrow".. and then I remember "nothing" and that my day will be at home with my mom and what a beautiful thing.  In the midst of caring for someone else, it's such a huge blessing to have so much free time and down time, to read, write, pray, make puzzles, blog, enjoy cooking, clean out the pantry... Continually challenging myself to be intentional with how I spend my time. 

On my quest to read all my books (35 by 35), I have been reading (go figure).  One book I just finished (but know I will keep coming back to) is 'A Grief Observed' by C.S. Lewis. Such wisdom as he gives us a picture into his own grief journey. Very rich indeed.  I will leave you with a smattering of quotes to ponder:

“It doesn't really matter whether you grip the arms of the dentist's chair or let your hands lie in your lap. The drill drills on.”

“I thought I could describe a state; make a map of sorrow. Sorrow, hoever, turns out to be not a state but a process.”

“We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, 'Blessed are they that mourn,' and I accept it. I've got nothing that I hadn't bargained for. Of course it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination.”

“God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn't. In this trial He makes us occupy the dock, the witness box, and the bench all at once. He always knew that my temple was a house of cards. His only way of making me realize the fact was to knock it down.” 

”Grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape. . . [but] not every bend does.Sometimes the surprise is the opposite one; you are presented with exactly the same sort of country you thought you had left behind miles ago. That is when you wonder whether the valley isn’t a circular trench. But it isn’t.”

“We cannot understand. The best is perhaps what we understand least.” 

“Feelings, and feelings, and feelings. Let me try thinking instead.” 

 ― C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed