Do You Tea?

When a girl needs some help, what better place to turn than to the internet, amiright?

I kid. But she does turn to this beautiful little online community that has formed around words she never believed anyone would read. And so, my friends, I bring you a totally unimportant question that only unmasks my ignorance but reveals my willingness to learn.

I don’t know anything about tea.

I remember going in to David’s Tea the first time with a group of girlfriends who all needed their ‘fix’. I had already purchased my americano from another well known chain but I walked in with them regardless.

Upon entering, I felt immediate shame at the coffee I was holding and turned the logo of my cup around so as to be covered with my hand. Maybe they wouldn’t notice the green mermaid girl or smell the richness of the deep brew?

I lasted all of 60 seconds in there. I stared up at the menu of teas and immediately felt all hot and stuffy and like my senses were being overwhelmed at the grotesqueness of too much choice. My eyes were darting so quickly from one end of the menu to the next that my eyes couldn’t focus on a single thing. Let alone comprehend the difference between all these choices.

There’s another reason I only lasted 60 seconds, though. This one I don’t admit quite as publicly. (so what better place than the internet for the big reveal!) The place was packed with all women. There wasn’t a single man in the crowd. This heightened my senses and I wondered if it was cause for concern. What do men know that all of these women don’t? The place was awfully girlie – from the colours to the staff to the little hearts adorning the mugs that were for sale.

I bolted. I had to get out. It was all too much.

I haven’t been back since. I imagine it’s how Tim Horton’s folks might feel in Starbucks – I just want a coffee! I just sort of wanted tea. Sort of.

A few weeks ago now I was feeling lethargic and a bit – well, ugh(!) might be the best descriptor. I wasn’t sick, I was eating just fine, sure the weather has been the pits but I couldn’t pinpoint anything major that I could change to feel better.

I started googling things, as you do and the one repeat thing that wasn’t part of my life and yet kept popping up was drinking an insane amount of water. Now, hear me when I say I drink water. I do! But I think drinking water is very different then DRINKING WATER! And these people were DRINKING WATER! I googled further to find out just how much water I should be drinking in a day and I was shocked. Of course, the reports are all over the map so I just picked a number of litres that I thought would be appropriate for me and I set to conquer it each day.

Here’s what I learned. If you want to drink an appropriate amount of water each day you need to start in the morning and keep drinking aaaaallllllll day long.

I also learned that it made me crave tea. Weird, right?

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So here’s where I admit my tea ignorance and ask for your help. I have SO many questions. Would you answer one or two if you have any insight?

  1. Are all teas created equal?
  2. Where do you buy tea that is actually good for you? By this I mean has ingredients that are beneficial to your health. I mean, you can buy green tea at the dollar store, at the grocery store, at the health food store, at David’s tea and then there’s another level altogether when you decide to order online. So which is actually good for you to drink?
  3. Is David’s tea the mecca for tea drinkers? I’m thinking no. Sure, they have every flavour a girl could ever want but I was altogether disappointed when I purchased a peach matcha and got it home and realized that there was sugar in it! This is not what I want mixed with my daily green obsession. So where do you get the good stuff?
  4. Do you prioritize flavour or health benefits?
  5. Which are your top 3 teas?

So far my fave that I’m drinking daily is Mighty Leaf’s Organic Detox Infusion. Of course I also love the Midnight Mint from Karla’s Special Teas.

And that’s all I’ve got! Help a girl out?

Birthdays + Culture + Rejoicing in Each Day

I sat on the couch in the living room curled up next to my husband of 19.5 years, looked around the room at our 4 boys who border the line of being called men gathered ’round and stated, “If this is 40, I’m a fan.”

Sure, I was only some 16 hours into this next decade of life so I don’t have a whole lot of comparisons I can make just yet but the Lord has been changing my heart over the past several years surrounding birthdays. (and a few other celebratory days too)

This year particularly it was impressed upon my heart that in this call to live counter-culturally, could there be a way for our birthdays to feel just a bit different too.

In the past, I’ll admit, I’ve boldly proclaimed to my family a month out from the big day that they have 30 days to find me a great present! They’ve heard my voice in weekly intervals breaking down the T-minus however many days until I need to be celebrated. It became a joke of sorts in our home. I patted myself on the back for teaching my many boys how to celebrate a woman well. But this year it just didn’t sit right.

In a culture that is already so ‘me’ focused I struggled to make a big hoopla about, well – me! And I assure you it’s not only the culture. My own murky sinful heart spends enough of her days self-focused – fighting against the sins of pride and self-righteousness. I daily battle the wants and longings that are only temporary satisfactions of my very human flesh. I press back against frustration that comes from self-entitlement and the feelings that I deserve more than what I’ve been given.

These all come on any given day. Often. Sin, wash, repeat.

My heart felt so unsettled as my favourite people asked what I was doing to celebrate the big day. My ever-loving husband (who knows immensely better than to plan any sort of surprised) consulted with me multiple times to see what I might enjoy. What might make me feel celebrated. Who I might like gathered around. What event or gift would make me feel entirely special.

I couldn’t help but find it completely opposite to the ways I’ve been journeying these past few years. As the Lord has been gracious to show me my struggles, my idols, the very icky places of my heart – a day that brought all of them out – that said I deserve this, this is what I want, celebrate me – just didn’t seem fitting to the life stage I’m in.

There’s a way we think we need to do things based on culture, tradition, or instagram. But why? Everyone seemed defeated by the fact that I was letting my birthday slide without much made about it. They questioned whether it was the age I was turning that made it hard. But the truth is, the age didn’t change a thing for me. I prayed hard and asked the Lord what celebrating should look like. What it could look like to allow those who love me to show it, but not conjure up sin in my heart that I deserve things a certain way.

A verse was impressed upon my heart repeatedly in the weeks before my birthday. “Today is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Each day is one He has made. Each is to be rejoiced in. Not this one simple day that holds the number on which I was born. But, every day. And on the flip side, this wasn’t a day to NOT celebrate because I didn’t want it to be about me, but it was to be rejoiced in, to be glad in for the same reason we ought to do it every day. Because HE made it. It’s His day. Let’s celebrate!

I walked through my birthday the most content I think I’ve ever been on a celebratory day. I normally conjure up expectations and then get upset when they don’t work out. But this day, instead of seeking the glory for myself, I simply turned it back to my maker. Lord, you made this day – thank you. So every text message that came my way, simply reminded me to thank Him. The chocolate and the flowers that were gifted reminded me to be thankful for the people He’s surrounded me with and to be glad. The dinner I didn’t have to cook made my heart rejoice.

But most of all, sitting on the sofa in the living room surrounded by my people and getting worked up at the ref’s in the Golden State Warriors game, looking around and seeing so tangibly how good and gracious the Lord has been to me, to us, to our family – secured in my heart what I knew I wanted this birthday to be about. It’s not the age that matters so much, or at least it doesn’t feel like it does, it’s not even the fact that it was my birthday. But rather when we simply rejoice in another day, right where we are, with whomever He has surrounded us with, our hearts will be glad.

I’ll say it again now that I’m 3 days in. If this is 40 – I’m a fan.

Read This.

After posting this last week I’ve had more than a few requests come in for books I’d recommend so that people could do something similar. I’ve been hesitant because when I find a book that’s particularly moving, it’s often because it’s speaking to something I’m currently facing. And so, I thought – what if others aren’t facing the same things? Perhaps these books will be rubbish to them.

But then I got over it because why wouldn’t I want to encourage more people to pick up a book and spend time studying and mulling over the words the author has chosen to share. Why wouldn’t I want more people spending time in contemplation and prayer over passages of scripture. Why wouldn’t I want people to read about the journey of others and be inspired – perhaps in different ways than I was – but inspired nonetheless.

I’ve been brainstorming about books that have been meaningful in my life and turns out – there’s been a lot. Also turns out there are many that I’m not thinking about right now so I guess this will be an ongoing sort of post.

These were a few that immediately came to mind. I’m praying for you, friends, as you choose a book to read on your own journey, that God would challenge and convict, that you would find rest and joy and most of all that your heart would grow in love for our great Saviour as you seek Him through study and word.

In no particular order:

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The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer

This is the first book I remember rocking my world, opening my eyes to big things and challenging my heart to pray prayers that seemed so scary. It’s been years since I’ve read it and I’m thinking it might be time for a redo.

You can read it for free as an e-book here.

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What’s So Amazing About Grace – by Philip Yancey

If you’ve asked this question – read this book. Such a simple breakdown of why grace is the massive changer in a christians life, how it changes us, our interactions, our ability to forgive.

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Bonhoeffer – by Eric Metaxas

I’m a sucker for a good biography. I find that for my style of learning, watching the lives of others is inspiring to me. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians to, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” When someone is living a life that is a journey of following the God they know and love, I want to follow them. Of course, this doesn’t mean that we do exactly what they do or are called to the same ministry they have – but it does mean that their ways, their journey, seeing how they know God, trust God, seek God and abide in God are things I want to imitate. Bonhoeffer lived a life most extraordinary and yet even the most ordinary of us can be inspired by Him to follow Jesus in the most radical ways.

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Radical – by David Platt

Noone challenges me more than David Platt when it comes to living a life that is counter cultural. He gets the upside down kingdom language and in this book he shatters a very North American “me” centred gospel and forces us to look at what the bible ACTUALLY says about following Christ. His questions, call to actions and challenging prayers are scary in that life-transforming, am I really willing, sort of way. I was pushed to ask God for things I was quite sure I didn’t want and yet if we say we want a life lived for Christ, well then….

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Falling Free – by Shannan Martin

Shannan Martin shares the story of how God rescued her from the life she thought she always wanted and pushed her deeper into the life He had for her – which, of course, is the life she really always wanted but just didn’t know yet! Her journey spoke deeply to me in her no-nonsense way as we were walking similar paths, asking questions about what caring for the widow and orphan means (uh, it means caring for the widow and orphan) and challenging the ways we get so caught up in ourselves that we don’t look any different from the world around us. She is a beautiful soul who writes with raw honesty and pulls no punches.

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You Are Free: Be Who You Already Are – by Rebekah Lyons

This is the  book that I most recently spent the evening with. The truths in this book are not new information for a christian but rather a lovely re-hearing of the things we already know and need to be reminded of. Rebekah shares her journey with anxiety and panic attacks and striving to keep up and tackles the ways that we’ve lost our freedom as we’ve grown older. When was the last time you felt like running, arms wide open in the wind, or danced or laughed with abandon. She challenges us to look at our lives and the things that have bogged us down, the ways we are living burdened or striving to one day be free and instead speaks the words of scripture to us – free isn’t something we are in the future, it’s something Christ says we are – right now. Let’s live like it!

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Morning and Evening – by C.H. Spurgeon

If you’re looking for a devotional to go through in a year, this is my favourite of all time. Every single reading is impactful and truth-filled and just – dear Lord thank you – inducing. I’ve gone through it a bazillion times and it never ever gets old. Also, do yourself a favour and get the leather one. It’s timeless and something that may be a legacy passed down.

These are just a few, so obviously not an exhaustive list. If it was it would include everything by Edith Schaeffer, Madeleine L’Engle, C.S. Lewis and so many more. As I remember or discover more I’ll add them and if you have any that have shaped your journey, would you share those with me? If you missed my post on spending a night with a book and scripture and pen and paper and prayer – you can catch it here!

Time Alone + How to Spend It

The other night something absolutely CRAZY happened and I found myself alone in my own house for an entire 16 hours. 16 hours!

It wasn’t supposed to be, which made the gift that much sweeter. I didn’t have to plan and prep to have the other 5 members of this tribe taken care of – it just happened. I watched a few drive off, a knock on the door signified another was being picked up and then, just like that, I realized it was just me. House empty. Complete silence. Thank-you, Jesus!

My mind raced for all of 60 seconds on what I should do. I could go get groceries and cook like a mad-woman preparing for the upcoming week. I could go window-shop and poke through some stores I never get a chance to. I could curl up with a bowl of Chicago Mix and binge on some show that probably isn’t even that good.

What do you do when given 16 hours of alone? These all seemed like good options to me until I thought a bit more about what I really need right now.

What I don’t need is to cook. I mean, I do, but I can do that when teens are underfoot and picking at whatever it is I’m chopping. It’s not something I need alone time to take care of. In fact, I find it more enjoyable when there are kids sitting on countertops chatting away about the current band they’re into.

I certainly didn’t need to be out where I would most definitely be tempted with the latest in measuring spoons or the cutest succulents or – oh look! Cute dress!

TV isn’t my preferred choice of escape, though I do like to indulge now and again. I just find it more enjoyable with someone so it seemed a silly thing to waste these precious hours on.

I racked my brain for another 2 minutes and then I knew. What I don’t get enough time for is to read in silence. Really soak in the words. I also never get enough time to pray long and deep and with heart ready. Prayer these days is out loud and offered up one frantic sentence at a time. Lord, help me! Lord, thank you! Jesus, we need you. God, look at that sunset – you are amazing!

I prayed a quick, “What would you have for me, Lord,” pulled out my kindle and browsed some books when one popped out. The one I would start and finish in an evening. I chose a christian author who was writing on an area of life I wanted to dive into. Her use of scripture throughout, her love of ‘the dead guys’ when it comes to theology and her beautiful reflection questions at the end of each chapter were exactly what I didn’t know I needed.

I spent hours soaking up her words, pouring over scripture, petitioning God in prayer, sitting in the silence and frantically writing out thoughts, confessions, questions and revelations in a journal.

The hours couldn’t have been spent better. I finished the book, got on my knees and thanked Jesus for the provision of the time, the words, and Himself.

It’s been a long time since I’ve felt so refreshed. I can’t imagine that shopping or tv could have brought these feelings just now (though of course are awesome sometimes!)

How do you spend alone time? Do you hop out at the chance to do things you don’t normally get to, or have you ever spent it in quiet and prayer?

I can’t recommend it enough. In fact, I think I want to be sure to make it happen a few times a year. It really was a rest and solace to my soul and it gave me time to get my heart before the Lord and get really honest. Things that don’t happen quite as easily on the fly.

 

 

Smashing Mirrors, Building Monuments + Learning to Walk in Love

“Love and self-denial for the object loved go hand-in-hand. If I profess to love a certain person, and yet will neither give my silver nor my gold to relieve his wants, nor in any way deny myself comfort or ease for his sake, such love is contemptible; it wears the name, but lacks the reality of love…” C.H. Spurgeon

My words have been muddling up in my head and heart as of late and it’s proving difficult to string them into coherent sentences on a page. I call myself a reflective writer – I have no idea as to the accuracy of this statement but I’m sticking with it.

I usually think hard on some things, wrestle with them, ask too many questions (my husband is a saint), and then once I have some answers and can see the ways that God is working, I reflect and it comes out here.

But what happens to a writer when the answers haven’t come? When the problems sit there unsolved and the ‘in it’ time has gone on for so long now that there’s no time to reflect. And if there was, there wouldn’t be much to say other than – yeah. I’m still here.

It’s been months of seriously’s and now what’s and wow’s and repeated sighs all followed up with, didn’t see that coming.

And I wonder when it will settle. Dare I say, if it will settle. And who am I to hope that it might?

It seems as if this suburban town  can trick us into thinking that settled is what we’re owed. Comfort what we deserve. Easy the way it should be and anytime we step even a tiny bit outside of that we pine and whine and count our days until we can get back to that good life we need so much.

Every single person in this little tribe of mine has been smacked over the head repeatedly these last months with our own personal idols. It’s as if God himself just thinks we don’t get it and so – there He goes again – SMACK! If I’m honest, I’m starting to get a little ticked. I mean, I get it. I desire comfort. And rest. And quiet. And simple. And personal space. And just, easy.  What of it? Don’t we all?

And there it comes again. Smack. Sure we do. It’s what our hearts want. But should they?

We’ve gone back to the very basics in the bible study time happening ’round these parts. We’ve scaled it all back, all the theologians and deep thinkers and commentary that makes us feel smart and we’ve handed our time over to the best bible teacher around. Sally Lloyd – Jones and her brilliant little “Jesus Storybook Bible”.

I know what you’re thinking. Yes, some of us are nearing the big 4-0 and others of us can nearly vote and even the very youngest isn’t new to the teenage realm. But we need it. The very simple truth that every story whispers the name of Jesus. Our story included.

We did giggle a bit when reading “Hello light! You’re good! Hello sea! Hello sky! You’re good!” Of course we did. But we also nodded along when we read that sometimes the people in the bible make big mistakes (sometimes on purpose). And sometimes they get afraid and run away. Yeah – we do, too. Some of us might have even gotten a little teary when we read that God loves His children – with a Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love. Maybe. Just some of us. *whistling*

These words aren’t kid words they’re truth words. And sometimes when we’re in the midst of hard things in life and we’re not exactly sure which way is up, they’re just what we need. Because when we’re in the midst of hard things we don’t need deep theology or trite comments of, “It could always be worse.” We need to know that our Jesus loves us unendingly. Always and forever. That’s it. Nothing more.

We sit around our scratched up old table, dishes from dinner still strewn about and we talk about what’s making us hurt and it’s always the things that hold up a mirror to our hearts. Why is that arrogant person ticking us off? Because we want to be the best. Why does that friends habit drive us crazy? Cause they show us a piece of who we are. Why are we ever frustrated or bitter or upset? Because our idols are being held up in front of us and we’re being asked to smash them and we don’t want to.

When your whole household is seeing their idols it can get a bit much and so we’re learning together and admitting we don’t have it all together – together. We’re asking questions about what it really means to deny ourselves beyond saying so in words. We’re wondering what picking up our cross actually looks like in physical form. We’re wondering if this whole following Jesus thing isn’t harder –  a bit more – than we once thought.

We’ve sat around this very table so many times before, declaring we want to follow Jesus and yet we really like our luxury too soooooo – conundrum.

We’re learning ever so very snail-like slowly (maybe) what laying these things down every day looks like. We’re learning that we aren’t so different then the builders of Babel or the erectors of the golden calf. So quickly our pride and our fear and our self-sufficiency all swoop in and we just forget as we create great monuments to ourselves with our time and our money and our very lives.

“A willingness to be inconvenienced is the ultimate proof of love. This is what dying to live means: You love as much as you are willing to be inconvenienced…if I won’t be inconvenienced, I can’t know love,”  – Ann Voskamp.

And we wonder aloud to each other if we’re actually willing to live this sort of inconvenienced life? And we’re being challenged daily by what following Christ really looks like in our North American home. And we question if this is truly what we want and yet we all nod our head that we do. It is. We lay it down and our tendrils grasp furiously back at it and we grip with all our might until we lay it down again.

We sit silent and we let our whole selves absorb what it might mean, this death to self, this inconvenient love, this following Jesus and we brace ourselves just a bit to ensure we’re ready for the ride. And we pray and plead for help to lay it all down, to be joyfully inconvenienced and to love in large ways. This day. Choosing moment by moment to lay down our comforts and our need for ease for the joy set before us in following the one who was inconvenienced to death for us. He gave up a throne for us. He came down to this harsh world for us. He bore the cross for us.

Makes our whining about making a meal or sending a word of encouragement or feeding the poor or befriending a widow or taking in an orphan cause we’re just so tired and busy seem silly, no?

“…true love must be measured by the degree to which the person loving will be willing to subject himself to crosses and losses, to suffering and self-denials. After all, the value of a thing in the market is what a man will give for it, and you must estimate the value of a man’s love by that which he is willing to give up for it.” – C.H. Spurgeon

 

 

The Gift of With

We know by now that navigating the world of social media can be tricky, yes? But recently I’ve been thinking about it beyond just the realms of simply discontentment from seeing everyone else’s perfect or that need to keep up or fit in or have all of your backgrounds a gleaming white.

I’ve been chewing on the thought that perhaps we like social media so darn much because we choose who we let in. We surround ourselves with only the things we love, the things that are easy, the things that inspire. As I scroll through my personal instagram feed in particular, it’s decorating feeds that hold exactly my same style. It’s healthy living feeds that eat just like I do. It’s outfits of the day that I would always choose to wear. It’s funny humans who make me laugh. Inspiring humans who make me want to be better. Self-deprecating beauties who show off their ‘messy’ living rooms just to be real. Bottom line – my feed is who I want to be in picture form.

Here’s what my feed is not. It’s not needy or annoying. It doesn’t talk too loud or too long. It doesn’t have an embarrassing laugh or smell a little off for lack of showering. My feed does not believe things that are different then what I do. Doesn’t cook food I wouldn’t eat. Doesn’t take up my time or my energy on things that I don’t want to do. My feed never argues, never complains and never disagrees with me. My feed doesn’t require more energy, time or money than I want to give it. Ever.

No wonder it’s easier for us to hang out with our phones then with real people – real people can be annoying and real relationships take work and real moments mean our very real feelings may end up hurt or stretched or any number of other emotions, none of which Instagram feeds that we curate can do.

I’ve been playing the thoughts of Pastor Judy Peterson over and over in my head since I heard them well over a month ago. She’s not on any form of social media, hasn’t written books and doesn’t do podcasts. But she did walk across the United States with one mission – she wanted to stop doing things for God and learn to be with . She contends that it’s really easy to learn how to do christian things and really hard to learn how to be with Christ.

I think it’s something we can get caught up in. Doing all of the things that we think God would have us do. Good things, even. And there’s nothing wrong with it. But so many of us really don’t have an understanding of what it means to be with God. To abide. To be near to Him. Instead we end up being busy for Him.

Pastor Judy walked across the entire United States because she wanted to simply live alongside whomever God placed in her path. She wanted to stop choosing who she surrounded herself with and instead allow God to bring people into her life.

How vastly different from our online lives, no?

When we’re on our devices in the grocery store line up, we don’t have to acknowledge the people around us. People who may be standing a little too close or may be lonely and in need of some conversation. When we have our heads buried in our twitter feeds in the waiting room of an office, we get to hear the one-sided conversations that mesh with our hearts (and if they don’t we can have the most brilliant arguments back in our heads). What it doesn’t offer us are moments to see whom God has placed around us in that waiting room. It doesn’t give us a chance to engage with those who could be our new friends, our next dinner guests, our next person to pray with and for.

Our devices are so easy because they cater to our comforts and personal preferences. The real world is hard because it involves actual opinions and circumstances.

On top of our own preferences for our social media feeds, these sites have created algorithms to feed us more of exactly what we want, think or feel. So if we read a certain headline, it will feed us 5 more articles that say the same thing to make us believe that this must be the right opinion because look at all these articles!

We’re becoming…”more controlled by an algorithm online than a God on high.”

When I consider the life of Jesus and wonder what it would have been like if He had a phone in His tunic that He whipped out every time He had a moment, would he not have missed Zacheus, the woman at the well, the person in need of healing?

Who are we missing? Who is there right beside us that we’re giving no attention to? What sort of moments could we be having? What sort of excitement could there be?

If we’re bored it’s simply because we’ve created a perfect unreal world inside of a gadget and we’re never challenged to be bold, brave and even a bit nervous as we enter into relationship with those who might be different then us. Those who might make us think deeper or challenge our views. Those who might lead us to our knees because we lack the wisdom or the energy or even the desire to give.

It’s hard to be with people. It’s rare that we feel like giving of ourselves. It’s not a natural desire. Our natural desire is to serve ourselves, but it’s a willingness – a yes – that allows us to serve others.

There are people placed right next to us that we don’t see. I think there is a work  to be done amongst these people that God is placing around us. Along with Pastor Judy I say, let’s enter those relationships and see what God has in store for us here. Let’s give people the gift of with.

 

The Ideal Woman

11 years ago now, back when magazines called me and asked me to write stuff for them, or shoot covers for them, I received one particular call about International Women’s Day.

This magazine asked me to write a blurb about who the ideal woman is in my eyes. I was honoured then to be able to write this alongside so many differing views. I know we can argue all day long, especially today, about gender equality, about political views, about social status and whether or not we should take the day off work. But today I just want to repost what I wrote so many years ago. In a society that emphasizes so many things that really need no emphasis, this is my view.

“The ideal woman is faceless; it’s not her beauty or flaws that define her. She is formless; her shape simply doesn’t matter. Through my eyes, an ideal woman is one whose body is definitive of noble character. Her arms are strong, not for appearance’s sake, but rather so her work is accomplished diligently. Her hands are not identified by perfect nails and pushed-back cuticles but rather for her extension of them to the needy. Her mouth isn’t known for the colour of her lips but for the wisdom and faithful instruction that she speaks. Her clothes are strength and dignity.”

What I’m Reading

Hey Pals! Two blog posts in one week. Hollah!

It’s been an intense last four months for us and while I’m not able to share the intricacies of that on here (to tell a story without telling someone else’s story is a dance I’m not quite ready to take on just now) – I will say we’ve added a new kid to our clan and leave it there. For now.

Part of my journey of coming up for air in the past two months has included placing a serious focus on certain aspects of life that I love but have gotten lost. When life comes at you full force, I’m sure you can agree, there are things that just get set aside. But we can only maintain the crashing waves for so long before we gulp up for air.

I’ve found those gulps of air in books. For all of my life books have been my place of rest, of entertainment, and of relaxation. Books have been the place I learn the most – be it biographies, novels, theological truths – it doesn’t matter the genre, there is learning happening.

But then came the internet and everyone seemed to be an expert on something and it became much quicker to just google whatever and find a 200 word explanation and not have to pour hours and hours into books.

Sadly, my attention span has shortened in the last 8 or so years. 800 word blogs became perfect reading, 1,500 words annoying, and an entire book – sooooooo long.

The second I noticed it happening I knew I wanted a change. It’s not how I want to live, in a fast paced, instant gratification way – but I was slipping there without even realizing it.

I resolved to get back to books at just the right time because over the past few months of needing a place of quiet and solace, books have been the hero of the story.

So what have I read in the past few months? I’m glad you asked.

I admit my book choices started from desperation as you’ll see from their titles. But slowly, they’re becoming more varied. I’m a work in progress people.

When I read the title of Jennie Allen’s new book, “Nothing To Prove: Why We Can Stop Trying So Hard” I bought it instantly. Her words are life giving to a striving and weary soul. “To the degree that I am able to receive the unconditional love of a God who has adopted me into His family will be the degree that I can reflect that love to Cooper.” (her adopted son) were words this mama needed to hear.  “We do not change the world with might and power and creative strategies. We watch God change the world when we pray and abide and believe.” For a girl who was trying to be all things to all members of her newly formed family, this was an intoxicating drink that taught me to truly trust that our God has us, and our kids – running ourselves ragged isn’t the answer and giving up control to our Heavenly Father just might be a better option.

Chasing Slow: Courage to Journey off the Beaten Path” by Erin Loechner was the next title I gravitated to. Are you picking up a theme? This book was by no means revolutionary. It was an easy read about a life journey and probably the simple that I needed. But truly, chasing slow in life doesn’t feel like it’s off the beaten path anymore. It seems more like the current trend. As a life long slow chaser as well as minimalist, I heard her heart but also appreciated her take on being a minimalist in a household full of humans who value collections and stuff. One is not better than the other (except my way totally is. ha!) and somehow in families we need to figure this out. I want nothing in my house except what I love. Turns out my husband and kids have the same goal except with what they love. And some of us just love more things than others. I’m still working all of this out in my head.

After learning that I had nothing to prove and getting back to the life of slow that I long for, there was another book that was calling my name. Ann Voskamp’s, “The Broken Way”. Because if I’m anything, it’s broken, this I know full well. I prefer Ann’s talks to her books. Her books are flowery and use too many words for my minimal mind but given the season, I thought flowery and lots of words and slow journeys and learning more of living and breathing Jesus in our very messes was something I could use. As always, her points are strong and much needed in this culture of instagram perfection. “We aren’t merely called to get to know Christ; we are called to participate in complete union with Christ.” As if these aren’t the words we all need to hear on repeat.

And in case you think I only read churchy Jesus books – you’re wrong. But I sure do sometimes. When my soul needs truth and rest, they usually offer that. (except the ones that rile me up, but that’s a different post for a different time)

A woman I’d just met sat across from me at a table while I blubbered through tears about life and how I felt like I was drowning. It wasn’t my finest moment, to say the least, but if anyone could understand – this beauty of a woman could. She spoke life to my soul over the next hour and I marvelled at how some people are given so much wisdom and I thanked both her and the Lord that she was using it to pour into others. What a gift. She also recommended a book that isn’t a churchy book called “The Language of Flowers” by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. This book – wowie. Of course, part of it sucked me in because of where we’re at in life, but the other part became drawn to the misfit characters and their deep stories. I wish these people were my friends. I wish I could sit across a table from them and learn from their life – if only they weren’t fictional!

Two months. Four books. I’d like to say I’m back on track but it’s only been two months. We’re still in the honeymoon phase. I’ll keep you posted after two more.

In the meantime, what are you reading that I should check out?

 

Take off the costume of Love

When I think about the moments I can still feel the daggers. The way my heart started to pound, the way my eyes cast down. The gross feelings I already felt being awakened again.  I sat … quiet, listening. I listened to the words spoken. You are not enough. I nodded in agreement. She was clearly right. You ought to try harder. You need to be better. You just aren’t getting it right.

We’ve all had moments of judgement in our lives. For some of us it’s been so often we get particularly good at brushing it off. The callouses so thick we don’t even feel it. Turns out, no matter how thick the skin – there are a few times that sting especially deep and long and hard. Those ones we remember. In fact, we remember it all – the noise in the background, the look in the eyes and the exact words spoken straight to us.

I hear the words and I feel the shame and I see the finger point and all I can think is –  do they think that I think I AM enough? Because I never feel like enough. Do they really need to point it out like this? I know I don’t love enough or give enough or use just the right words often enough. I know I’m not patient enough or kind enough and I don’t reach out to strangers enough. I know that the ways I love my husband aren’t always right and I tend to get snappy with my kids especially when they’re snappy with each other. I know all of this. I feel it achingly on my own without anyone else pointing it out.

The dagger pierced my heart when I was new to this whole gospel thing, a tiny babe in the ways of loving our Lord who gave His all for my freedom. A finger pointed straight at me and told me all of the ways I’d hurt, harmed, and damaged.

I know! I know I have. What more was there to say? But knowing wasn’t enough. I had to hear it from the lips that sat there across from me. Just to make sure, I suppose.

The knife twisted years later, as I was gaining footing and learning about loving Jesus with all of my heart – though failing to do it well, naturally. Turns out my ways of loving the Lord weren’t quite right. They weren’t enough. I needed to conform. There was a way to do this Jesus thing and I certainly wasn’t doing it. I needed to cozy up to particular theology and never question. I needed to speak in certain ways to get it just right. There was a mold and my misshapen self was not fitting into it.

The tears came as I nodded in agreement. Yeah. I get it. I fail on repeat and daily I repent and I know I’m not the model for christian lady magazine.

My heart was defeated as I sat in this place again, listening to the words describe my failures. I know. I’m never going to get this christian thing right. The attacks might as well keep coming. I’m a mess.

Years later my roots had plunged much deeper into the soil. Or at least I had a bit more understanding of grace and mercy and the gospel and my sinful heart. I also understood that perfect was not something I needed to be, yet the words came again. I sat there and listened as I was told my words didn’t honour God and I’d be right to change them for how can we honour God if not with our lips and our words.

I cursed in my head right then and there and walked away.

There’s a costume worn sometimes that resembles love. It can be put on over top of self-righteousness and power. It can be worn as a layer on the outside when underneath is need for control. This love disguise can be used to feign concern, care and worry. It’s almost as if those wearing the love costume are actually interested in our well being. But they’re not. Because love doesn’t point fingers and heap shame. Love actually says, I love you. Love says, my heart is for you. Love says, I’m with you and how can I help.

As difficult as these moments in my life were, I know that they’ve grown my character and faith. They’ve taught me what love is and what love isn’t. I know now that words of love are ones that draw us in but harsh words only point with fingers that push away. Words of love share with us who Jesus is and desire to disciple us to live and love like He did. Harsh words show us who people are and their desire for us to live and love like THEY do.

The kingdom of God is not about manipulation. It’s not about shame. It’s not about speaking perfectly or living righteously for all to see. It’s not about putting on your Sunday best or polishing up your act. It’s not about assimilation to christian culture but to have a heart that yearns for Jesus and a desire to follow what is laid out for us in scripture. If the kingdom of God is for everyone, and it is – for everyone – then it can’t be about speaking our culturally-canadian-christian words or failing to measure up.

Loving and following Jesus in obedience is not living a perfect life and pointing out the faults of those who may not do it just the same.

Loving and following Jesus means coming alongside people – all people – and speaking words of love. It means not having a preference for one type of person over another in terms of who we choose to share our love with.

Loving and following Jesus means not placing undue emphasis on lives that look shiny and polished but rather on hearts that are lowly, sackcloth and ashes, understanding  that we know we keep messing it up! WE KNOW! It’s the very reason we need a Saviour.

Loving and following Jesus means loving people as they are. My friends, listen for just a moment? There is a difference between loving people as they are and wanting people to be just like you.

My goodness is it ever hard to love people who are different, isn’t it?  And it’s easy to think that our ways are THE ways and it’s hard to not want people to conform to our very simple, suburban, white, middle-class way of life. It’s so much harder to trust that the Holy Spirit is leading and guiding all of those who love Jesus and so our lives may look different. The places we hang out, different. The music we listen to, different. The place we lay our heads at night, different.

My hope is that by understanding the love of Christ, I understand that He loves me. Me! A wretched, awful sinner who wants to follow Him with all of my heart but is wooed so easily by the things of this world. Me! A hypocrite who tells my kids to be patient and peaceful and kind and self-controlled and then within moments yells at them that we’re late and it’s time to go, NOW! Me. A simple girl who can’t get it right and has learned that the years don’t change that.

I don’t know all that much but I do know that if God loves me in all of my mess then it is my privilege to love others in all of theirs.

We aren’t meant to be pretty or perfect or polished or poised. We’re meant to admit that we’re a mess and that our darkened hearts need One who is greater. We aren’t meant to simply place love on as an afterthought to our motives, but we’re meant to be love to all.

I’m a mess friends, but I’m a mess who loves Jesus and wants nothing more than to say to those who cross my path – come. Come taste and see that the Lord – He is good.

Just Show Up

I was told a story recently about one woman saying to another woman, “Let’s get together for coffee sometime!” To which the other woman replied, “Please don’t say that if it’s not actually going to happen. It’s hurtful to me if you say that and then it never happens.”

I was first struck by the boldness of this response. It felt a bit much to me. As if to assume that everyone’s intentions aren’t genuine. But the more I thought about it the more I want to be the woman who speaks with such honesty.

We are a culture of platitudes. We know just the words to say to come across as thoughtful, charming, insightful. I’ll call you. I’ll pray for you. Oh girl, I’m here for you. I just want to support you.

And while I believe that the heart behind these words is right and good – intention doesn’t really get us anywhere! I’ve long told my husband that it is certainly NOT the thought that counts. It is action that counts every time. You may not simply think about my birthday gift – I want the actual gift!

We can talk ourselves up all day long about all the things we will do – we want to do, even. But then, we just don’t. Life gets busy and things happen and those prayers we really meant to pray get forgotten. We all have enough going on in our own lives to worry about the happenings of the family next door, right?

It turns out – talking about something enough actually confuses our brain into producing the chemical response which makes us feel as if we actually did the thing we’re talking about! So talk all day long about how you want to help the poor, and you  start to feel like you’re actually helping the poor though you haven’t done a single thing! Strategize all day long about that business you want to start and you have the same great feelings as if you’d have started the business – except you haven’t.

It’s a tricky business, this sort of talk.

In our lives we’ve had tons of people offer their support through various seasons. I’m so grateful for it, for the thought, for the intention even. Except I’m learning that it doesn’t actually do anything to help. I’m starting to think the woman in the initial conversation had it right. To people who say, “We want to support you,” I sort of want to say, “Please don’t say that if it’s not actually going to happen. I know you mean well. I know you want to. But it’s hurtful to me if you say that and then nothing ever happens.”

So how can we actually support the people around us? Show up. That’s it. Just be there, literally though – not just in word.

Be right beside them when they have to trek up to the hospital room. Barge into their home and scrub the bathroom they haven’t been able to clean. Send the text AFTER you pray to tell them what you just did. Leave a bag of green apples and nail polish on the front step. (You know who you are!) Drop off a dinner. (You know who YOU are!) Schedule a coffee and just show up. Make the soup. Drive the kids. (Thanks, Mom!) Pick up the groceries. Lend the book. Give up your half used gift card. (Love you!)  Steal them away for a movie out.

I’m endlessly thankful for the people who have simply shown up for us. In a million ways – big and small. It has allowed us to show up for the broadened circle of people in our life. Which in turn has allowed them to show up for their people. It’s a beautiful cycle, really.

I want to be a show’er upper. Talk is cheap, so they say – and I’m thinking whoever ‘they’ are – they’re on to something. I learned from that bold woman that talk is more than cheap, it’s hurtful. Talk can lead people to believe in something that will never occur. Dare I say, this type of talk is just a lie?

I sat with a woman a few days ago who told me evangelism was easy. I looked at her with my head tilted slightly and my facial expression saying something like, “Huh? What now?” Evangelism and easy wouldn’t be two words I would string together.

So easy, she went on. You just show up. You show up and you sit beside. You show up and you listen. You show up and you bring the meal. You show up and you hold the hand. You show up and you just sit – silent. You show up and you let the tears fall. You show up with paint brush in hand. You just show up. Evangelism is just about showing up. Once you’re there, once you’ve done the showing up, Jesus just makes sense to people.

All of the pieces of the puzzle started falling into place.

Don’t just talk – show up.

Evangelism is easy – show up.

What would Jesus do?  – show up.

Jesus didn’t send a text to the woman at the well telling her they should grab water sometime. He didn’t mention in passing that he would pray about the storm stopping. He didn’t tell those who were sick that he really wanted to support them and then carry on.

No, he showed up. He showed up and said drink. He showed up and commanded the storm to stop. He showed up and told the lame to walk and the blind to see.

Just. Show. Up.

Not sure where you can show up? Pray! Ask God to show you who needs you, who needs something, who needs your time or your resources or you hand. There are people on every street in town that need someone to show up. Maybe that someone is you.

Let’s be world changers. Just show up.