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! :)