Learning Who I am from I AM.

I’m a mess. Chaotic. Muddled. Disorganized.

I’m weak. Unsteady. Uncertain. Definitely not brave.

I’m imperfect. A lousy friend. An agitated mother. A heartless wife.

We say these things about our lives with a shrug and a laugh. We wear our self-deprecation like a crown and hail the almighty voice of sarcasm where we put ourselves down and sneer against those who seem like they might just have it altogether.

I’m not sure when it happened but at some point striving became a character flaw and honest and authentic meant taking up a this-is-just-how-i-am mantra.

In recent days I’ve noticed it seeping into my own repertoire, this script of self belittlement. I can’t help but think it’s soaked into me from the culture at large. That this is how we’re expected to speak. Because heaven forbid we actually admit we’re good at something. The words arrogant and self-promoting quickly follow behind the backs of anyone who might actually dare to speak that.

We’re a culture so quick to judge. Sure, we hide it behind the guise of our instantaneous wit but it’s there in our hearts, nonetheless.

This judgment saturates our minds. Infiltrates our thoughts. And soon enough we’re speaking these unkind words, not only to others, our kids, our spouses, but to ourselves as well.

Are we a people known for encouragement and support? Unfortunately the answer to that is rarely an exhubarent yes.

Are we individuals who allow the words of the Lord to permeate our own thoughts about ourselves? If you’re like me – not really.

But here’s the thing. Scripture doesn’t call us a mess. It does mock us by holding up the worst picture of ourselves and comparing it to Suzie Sunshine down the street. It doesn’t shame us for our imperfection. Weight us down with the guilt of not measuring up.

I don’t mean to get all #itstime on you, but I think it’s time. Not for women to fight men. Not for belittlement of those who may have done wrong. Not for our voices to be the loudest in the square. I think it’s time for us to believe who we are in Christ. To bathe our minds and our hearts in the words Scripture speaks over us. To let them wash over our very soul until we can no longer make jokes of the fact that we’re angry mom or lazy lover or the most unpinteresting human on the planet.

Do you know who we are, Church?

Isaiah 62:4 says, “You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her…”

My Delight Is in Her. If only we could believe it.

When we think of our position before the Lord is that what we see? Do we stand knowing that He delights in us?

More often than not we take the position of messy and broken and not enough. We carry the weight of must try harder and must pray more and must use bigger theological words.

It is crushing our souls to hold the position of grimy. It crumbles away at our hearts to hear our own voices speak that we are smudged and spotted and stained. The heaviness of these lies become too cumbersome to carry and they bring out the very best in our cynicism, bitterness and doubt.

Do you want to know what Scripture actually calls you?

A delight. (Isaiah 62:4)

Accepted. (Romans 15:7)

The Righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

What might happen if we speak these over ourselves instead?  There’s more.

We are Chosen (John 15:16), Holy (1Peter 1:16), a Child of God (1John 1:3).

How often do we think of ourselves as Royal, Holy, a Special Possession of God’s. (1Peter 2:9)

Do we ever feel as though we’re Treasured, Blessed, Set Free, Complete, Beloved, God’s work of Art and oh so Valuable. We are a Light, a City set on a hill, a Citizen of Heaven, a Saint and a Servant.

How might our perspective of ourselves, our lives, our world change if we soaked these in each day? How might we combat the enemies lies that we believe if only we knew exactly who we are?

We are Heirs of a King, friends. And while that makes me want to talk like Lady Mary and Dress like Her Royal Highness, the Duchess of Cambridge – the truth is, all I need to do is live my life, the one I’ve been given, believing these things are true and encouraging my brothers and sisters to believe them, too. They are the most empowering words we could ever hear.

We don’t need to do more to change the world. We simply need to take God at His word and believe we are who HE says we are. That’s the world changing stuff, right there.




The Power of And

Over a decade ago we lived in a little apartment building in the middle of our suburban ‘city’. We somehow felt like if we lived near the heart of it all it would somehow be reminiscent of the days we lived in the actual city. It was and it wasn’t, but none of that is the point.

I got into the elevator one day and a neighbour who I had spoken with many times before said hi and asked if I was new to the building. I looked at him puzzled. Was I that unmemorable? We had for sure had actual conversations.

I laughed and shrugged it off and stated I was in 403. You could see his confusion and surely mine was evident. I couldn’t fathom what was going on in this painfully awkward moment.

I’ve since realized that the world is distinctively more comfortable being just one thing. Having just one look, one passion, one voice.

Yes, he usually saw me in yoga pants and nikes surrounded by children and this day my hair was actually blow dried, I had jeans on and maybe even glasses, with not a child in sight. But did he not realize there’s more to me than work out gear and kids?

This focus happens in our online spheres as well. Beautifully curated feeds using just one filter, just one colour scheme, or just one way of living. It’s like there’s this feeling of having to choose. Are you whole30 or coffee first? Nikes or blunnies? Yoga or fashion? All white or vibrant colours?

It seems that multiple feeds are needed for the various facets we wish to portray as well. Because heaven forbid you give voice to the product you sell on your personal feed or share about your family gathering on your health feed. (what the…?!)

Have people never had a salad and chased it down with a few gummy bears? Just me?

What I’ve found is that I’m really terrible at being just one thing. I have no basis if this is a positive or negative in my life – it just is.

I can’t just be work out girl or eat healthy girl cause I also want to be sit on the couch girl and let’s eat a lot of cheese girl. I can’t just be one filter on instagram for the perfect looking feed because some photos need to be dark and brooding and others bright and eclectic. My house will never look cohesive because the truth is I like modern, and rustic and really really old things that tell tales of years gone by. And I can’t be ripped jeans every day and nor can I be all of the heels.

Of course I’d love to say that I’m party mom but the truth is I’m way more quiet and thoughtful than I am fun, but that doesn’t mean I won’t die laughing when I freak someone out on their way out of their bedroom. (try it. so funny.)

I use to feel a bit chaotic about this multi-faceted nature of myself. Like I was doing it wrong because I lacked focus on just one thing.

But then I realized it’s okay to like books AND tv. Kale AND cheesecake. Rap AND worship music. Missions work AND fancy date nights. White AND red. Broadway AND sports. Crowded cities AND forest hikes.

This world makes us feel like we have to choose. Pretty feeds make us feel like we aren’t worth a follow if we aren’t cohesive. But they’re wrong.

I prefer real to curated any day of the week and so as I did my New Years “unfollow” (do it – unfollow anything that makes you crave more, feel judgy, or jealous) I looked at each feed and thought about what they brought to my life.

My criteria was not beauty or perfection but diversity. Can this person inspire me to try something new, watch something different, think about something in a way I may not have before. Are they honest enough to show the joys and the hard places, the perfect meal and the time the edges got a leeeeeetle bit crispy. I really wanted to ask – is there a heart and a human behind the feed or just a bunch of perfect photos?

While I’ve wrestled with my own heart on being okay with multi-faceted (my word for ‘all over the place’) I spent some time thinking about who Jesus was and how He lived his life.

Jesus didn’t ONLY hang out with prostitutes and tax collectors. He spent time with the religious elite in the temple and had a close community in a few of his disciples. He went to the places that were edgy AND safe. He had emotions that were angry AND gentle. He spent time with crowds AND in solace. Went to big parties AND gathered quietly in homes. Knew joy AND sorrow. Happiness AND tears. Fought for people AND called others out.

He wasn’t just one thing. Wasn’t only one filter. Only one emotion. I can only imagine that had He taken photos along His journey that He might have had one of the most eclectic feeds that ever existed and I love that.

We’re very quick to judge a person by the places they shop, the church they attend, the circle they roll with. But what I’m finding is that there is never ending joy in the surprise of being proven wrong in our judgements. When the people you least expect to like show you the beauty of their heart and soul and you can’t help but scold yourself for the fact that you had already categorized them.

Our God is a masterful creator as evidenced in the big and beautiful world He made. I can only imagine that we’re but a tiny reflection of that. Not all oceans or all trees but deserts and jungles and great underwater reefs and every other thing in between.

Let’s live boldly into the many ways God has created us to be, the things He’s laid before us to do, the passions He’s impressed on our hearts and allow others to do the same. For the kingdom of God is not North American, not city or suburban, not pentecostal or baptist. It’s every tribe and nation. I can’t imagine a more chaotically beautiful sight.


Christmas: it’s more than a feeling

CD68D912-51AF-4E19-817A-353BD604AD09.jpegIt just doesn’t feel like Christmas.

I’ve heard this thought on repeat since the first carols began somewhere near the beginning of November.

It came from everywhere. All around me. The grocery store clerk, all amidst my social media feeds, even from within my own home.

It doesn’t feel like Christmas.

We live in a culture hooked on a feeling. Transfixed by what feels right and good. So much so that we’ll go to great lengths to follow what we think will produce the feeling we long for.

Spoiler Alert:

it never does.

I began to question all around me, friends and strangers alike – what does Christmas ‘feel’ like?

Oh, the pat answers came quickly. Joy and wonder. Cozy warm vibes with family. The right cookie that mom use to make.

But as I pushed further for the answer, the ‘feeling’ it seems that everyone is chasing is more.

More family. Missing the ones who’ve left or wishing for a spouse or child.

More traditions. Maybe if we see one more light display, make one more gingerbread house, play one more Christmas album or host one more party – that’ll do it.

More stuff. Perhaps a few more decorations this year, a bit more twinkle, more gifts will surely get the kids fired up!

It seems, as a culture, that we’ve tapped into very specific aspects of the Christmas feels – none of which can be remotely true.

Let’s be honest, we are not giving our children more gifts because the wise men brought such luxurious ones. We can’t even compare what we do to that. Sure, it’s a nice excuse to up the Christmas budget but Jesus wasn’t a child with a room already full of toys. He wasn’t a teen connected to every electronic on the planet. He wasn’t a woman with a perfect kitchen and just the right wardrobe or a man with … I dunno a garage already packed with toys?! (Forgive the stereotypes)

Jesus was a newborn baby and the gifts were not to surprise him. They weren’t to build excitement. There weren’t more so he’d feel more appreciated. They weren’t luxurious to bring about that wonder and joy.

They were gifts of worship. I promise you, in our culture, our kids are worshipped enough. It is not another gift they need.

And mamas, hear me for a second while I explain the Instagram cycle.

1. Oh, the wonder of Christmas! Tie up all those presents and put them under the tree! This will be the merriest of christmases!

2. Christmas morning comes and hot cocoa and matching jammy’s abound. THIS! This is Christmas!

3. Someone cries. Someone wants what their sister got. Someone sleeps in too long and doesn’t respond to their gifts with the joy we thought they would. Someone says something rude. Someone didn’t even say thank you.

4. Ah, the food will make up for it. The traditional breakfast. The working tirelessly to have all ingredients on hand, to whip up the meal to perfection. All of the effort put forth to have that moment of joy. The laughter around the table. The heart felt appreciation from your family around you. But more likely someone spills all over the perfect white setting, no one is hungry because they snuck all the candy from their stocking, someone’s over tired because naps don’t happen on time and right in the middle of it all someone throws up.

5. Fast forward 2 months: the same gifts that were perfectly ribboned and wrapped under the tree and were to bring such joy are now cluttering up every corner of the house and your kids rooms are making you crazy because #minimalism and you get all of the Instagram applause when you pack it all up and ship it off to goodwill and have a spotless house back!

It’s madness, this search for a feeling. It’s illusion and it’s destructive and it’s making us all sorts of crazy. (Merry Christmas?!)

Christmas isn’t a feeling. It’s not something to strive for and chase.

Christmas is a truth. A truth!

A historical happening.

A, bust out the history books and study when Quirinias was Governor of Syria, kind of deal.

Its not a fantastical story that makes for a great movie script. It’s actual events. Actual timelines. Actual humans – some good, some evil, many confused.

I’m not really sure when this Christmas ‘feeling’ became our goal. I can guess it might be around the same time that Coca-Cola hijacked St. Nicholas but I don’t know.

Christmas can’t be about snow because much of the world doesn’t have it. It can’t be about shortbread because vast nations have no concept of what that is. It’s not about gifts because the majority of the human race can’t afford the luxury of one gift, let alone the masses we North Americans place under the tree. It can’t be certain songs with a jingle bell beat, or a weather pattern or how many family members gather together!

When we view Christmas for what it is – a truth and not a feeling, when we study deeply the time and the place and the events that went down, it’s here that we find wonder and awe and joy.

Angels appearing. Prophecies of old happening. Stars guiding. Humble hearts willing. Long treks. Birth pains. Angry rulers. New mothers – young and old. Faithful husbands. A baby born to save us from our kingdom of self. Born to save from all the ways we’ll chase feelings instead of truths. Born to set us free from striving and performing and working so hard to attain.

Find the joy, find the wonder, find the awe in our Saviour. Not a moment, not a feeling, not another trinket under the tree.

I promise when you do, the instagram pictures may not look quite as good, but what our hearts get, how it changes our lives, will be worth so much more.

Merry Christmas.

From our family to yours.

How Do You Wrap Up Your Heart?

When I asked them this year what they wanted for Christmas they shrugged. “I don’t know, Mom,” they floundered. “There’s nothing we need.”

And it’s true. There’s very little any of us actually need in terms of material possessions, but there’s so much that each of us need beyond what can be wrapped in plain brown paper and tied up with the simplest of bows.

How do we wrap up  love?

How do we give honour?

Can we put a bow on eyes that say, I see you?

A pretty little tag that says, you are enough?

There’s no box big enough in all the world for the forgiveness we all so desperately need, I know that full well.

But the wise men came with the finest of gifts for One who needed nothing.

The woman used her hair and tears to wipe the feet of the One who had no use for gifts.

It’s our very human nature to want to give something tangible to show what’s in our heart, though it never quite encompasses it just right.

So my children need nothing this year. I still love them beyond ways there are to show it, so what do we do? How can I take out my heart and wrap it and place it under the tree to show them just how valued they are, how respected, what a gift they are in my life each day?

To the hurting in our world to which a trinket from the mall can never bring back the spouse they loved or the child they never got to meet – what can we give?

To the lonely, the weak, yes even the bitter and angry – is there a store from which we can purchase a golden ticket that will take it all away?

God gave us the only gift we’ll ever need in his Son. Wrapped up as a gift cradled in His mother’s arms that night and later wrapped again, bloodied and scarred, after He gave the gift of His life and was placed in a tomb.

When we’ve been given the greatest gift what more could we possibly need?

God gave Himself and the only way I see it is that we give the same. We give ourselves.

To the hurting, the weary and broken, we give ourselves.

To the orphan, the abandoned, the alone, we give ourselves.

To those struggling with questions, why disease, why loss, why me? To the ones shaking their fists, we give ourselves.

To our own kids this Christmas let’s give just the same – let’s give them us.

Yes, presents that will make them smile but also being present with them.

Let’s give the gift of pursuit, the way our Heavenly Father pursues us. Let’s pursue their hearts and their minds and foster relationship in new ways. Asking the questions and listening attentively for the answers, relentlessly chasing them and where they’ve gone astray woo’ing them back.

Let’s gift them eyes that say I see you and you are enough. Can we put aside the ways they’ve let us down, the ways they’ve messed it all up, the ways they never seem to learn? It only takes one quick look at my own wretched heart to see I’m just the same. Yes, they’re likely different than you thought they would be and life might look far from the way your mind imagined it – but this is it. These are your gifts, these children. Do they know that you see them with the same eyes the Lord see’s you with? Not disappointment or frustration. Only love. Always love. Patience. Kindness. Overwhelming goodness.

If each of us gave the gift of ourselves, to the Lord, to our families, to the neighbourhood we live in, across the oceans far and wide – consider what that might look like.

It might look like shoeboxes stuffed to the brim, or donations to clean water. It might be adoption or fostering or making meals for those without family. It might look like new shoes on feet that have never worn any or safety and counselling for the children just rescued from violence or slavery or trafficking. It might look like a plate of cookies brought next door or a simple smile in the grocery store line. A kind word on facebook instead of harsh. Making one more invitation instead of exclusion. Making eye contact with that person ringing the bell. Answering the door. Kneeling at bedsides in the quiet of the night. Washing feet. Serving meals. Going. Serving. Staying. Giving.

Would you dream the dream with me this Christmas season? Find one small place to give yourself. Buy all of the gifts and decorate all of the things and laugh and be merry at all of the parties. And give yourself. Somewhere. Anywhere.

The impact of God giving God is so much greater than anything we can fathom. I have a feeling that if we all gave ourselves, the same might just be true.

Looking for a place to give this season? I have some ideas…

Casa De Luz Scholarship Fund – Help single mom’s finish their education and break the generational cycle of poverty ($2000 of $5000 goal currently raised)

Operation Christmas Child – Fill a shoebox with toys, love and the gospel of Jesus

The Salvation Army Centre of Hope – Provide food hampers, emergency shelter, gifts for children in need and Christmas dinner for those who would never otherwise have it.

Mercy Canada – Help young women break free from life-controlling issues, including eating disorders, self harm, drug and alcohol addictions, unplanned pregnancy, depression, sexual abuse, and trafficking.



Give a Gift with Purpose

The gift season is upon us and in our striving to not have it turn into an all out frenzy we’ve been thinking through how we’d like it to be different.

There are so many ways we can shake things up. Giving experiences over more stuff that just clutters up our kids bedrooms. Ever buy a gift and then only months later want to chuck it in the midst of yet another kids closet purge?

Ensuring that gifts are something that can be used up is another way to go. Whether it’s food or a favourite product – something you know the person loves but won’t end up in a landfill is a nice idea. It also never leaves the receiver with the guilt of making sure to display that vase/candle holder/trinket the next time you’re over!

I truly love the idea of supporting that Mom at school who sells a product, be it oils or spices or cleaning products or body wash. Whatever her reason for selling, it’s contributing so directly to the life of someone you know. Maybe it’s  because working from home allows her the flexibility to be with her kids more and contribute an income to their family. Maybe it’s a second income because a ‘regular’ job just doesn’t pay all the bills these days. It could be contributing to an adoption fund or so that her kids can play sports. Whatever the reason – each sale is directly impacting her life and that’s really cool.

But I think my favourite purchases for gifts in recent years have come from places that I know add quality of life and so much value to the maker. Gifts that are using skills that women have to create beautiful products, clothes, jewelry, bags – so that they are gainfully employed. So that they can work and earn and provide for the ones in their care. So they don’t have to rely on hand outs but feel the accomplishment of doing it – for themselves.

There are so many organizations that produce incredible goods and some of my favourite items I own come from these. Sure, it might be easier to head to Winners and buy a purse – but why not use our dollars to help small villages thrive and become self-sustaining instead? Yeah, I know the necklace might be cheaper at that place in the mall – but some of these come with a name attached so you know the exact woman who worked hard to make that beautiful piece you’re wearing.

There’s something really special about this and I’ve compiled a list here of just a few of my favourites. I would truly be ecstatic to receive anything these organizations offer as a gift, so I have a feeling some of your family and friends might too.

Would you check them out?

ABLE – “ABLE is a lifestyle brand focused on ending generational poverty by working with women who have often overcome extraordinary circumstances. If we are to end generational poverty, society must create jobs for women lacking opportunity.”

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Who wouldn’t love to unwrap one of these beauties from ABLE?
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I have the above tote from ABLE and it is the most gorgeous leather I have ever owned. I use it daily for all of the things!

Zuri – “We firmly believe that sustainable economies develop from businesses that operate fairly and ethically and create products that people want…We hope that by paying fair wages, sourcing locally, and making a product that our customers truly love, we will be helping to support a long-term, sustainable economy in Kenya.”

And if you want to know who makes them? No problem.

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One of these dresses from Zuri has been on my wish list forever. I’m waiting for my favourite print to be back in stock. A loose fit dress with 3/4 sleeves and pockets? Come on!


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SOKO is focused on creating sustainable livelihoods and an alternative to prostitution and poaching in a region of Kenya with the country’s highest rates of unemployment.

Amazima – “Every week, a group gathers. Benches form to make a circle. Ladies come carrying their little ones, out from their homes, up from their mats, leaving their cooking saucepans. They gather to sell their necklaces, but more importantly, they gather to see their friends, share their hurts and victories and hear about the Gospel. These 31 ladies have become our friends, and they all have a story. Our desire is to empower these women, to provide hope for their families, and to see the Gospel to take root in their lives.”

See the beautiful faces who make up this beading circle and tell me you don’t want to wear one of the necklaces they’ve made while gathered there. I don’t think it’s possible.

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Amazima is the ministry started by Katie Davis Majors. If you haven’t read her books, Kisses from Katie or Dare to Hope – you should add them to your Christmas List!

These are just a very few organizations that are working to help end generational poverty. Help women escape abuse and prostitution. Breathe life and hope into families through the gospel.

Making a purchase from these places is so meaningful and I have no doubt the receiver of the gift will be endlessly thankful that you spent your money in such an honouring way. Even if the gift is for yourself 😉


When The Weight Feels Too Much

I’ve never felt such a longing for Christmas before. I know, it’s not even Halloween and I’m not talking about putting up a tree or decking the halls or playing the music or any of the trinkets we’ve made Christmas to be about.

I know I’m not the only one feeling the heaviness of living in a broken world. It’s all around us if our eyes are open to see it. If our hearts are raw to feel it. If we’re willing to take the risk of walking right up beside it and let it affect us. Katie Davis Majors, in her new book Dare to Hope, says it like this, “The reality of living in a fallen, broken world is that there is always a storm.”

Can you feel the storm? Is it pressing in a little too close? Is it hurting in ways you can’t understand. I think if we’re feeling the storm we’re paying attention. One of my favourite bloggers calls it, ‘the ministry of paying attention’.   It resonates, doesn’t it? Because it’s not always about heading far and wide across oceans (though sometimes it is) and it’s not always about big, bold moves (though sometimes that, too). I can’t help but think that more often than not it’s just about looking up. Raising our eyes to look into the faces of whomever God has placed right in front of us. Look right to the close friends and family He’s given you. Look left to the people you normally just walk right on by. Stare them in the face. Know they are created in the image of the Almighty and ask about their story. If you dare.

Chances are it involves a storm. It just always does.

I don’t know where your boat is being tossed just now but I think what I want you to know is mine is, too. Cancer diagnoses all around me. A new one last night and I can’t help but ask – dear Lord, why?! Our family is seeing so much devastation at the hands of addiction. Drugs, alcohol, pornography, self-glorification, pride, food – you name it. The result is never only left to affect the addict themselves but every single person who walks near enough to them to feel the ripple of their decisions. Wives, kids, care workers, family, those brave enough to say, ” I see you. Let me journey with you.”

There’s divorce and there’s fires and there’s hurricanes and guns. There’s mental health and there’s trauma and there’s deep rooted anger. Hurt. Betrayal. Miscarriages. Death. Misunderstandings that divide for years. Misconceptions that make us judge and build walls. Bodies aching. Children scared. So much weeping.

It should never come as a surprise to us. It is a fallen and a broken world and we’re a mess of a people. But Christmas brings a certain longing in the depths of all the hurt, the tears, the deep, deep aches.

Christmas feels like a light of hope. A timely reminder all is not lost. All is not despair. Quite simply, all is not as it should be.

But a babe sent. A Mama willing. A Daddy just wanting to get it right. A humble entry. The hope for all of us bundled up with the sweet, sweet smell that comes with newness of life. The fragrance of hope we can inhale deep inside of us and can’t leave us feeling overburdened, overtired and undone.

Instead we know, though broken and messy, the babe came to make all things new. Came to set a twinkle in our hearts and shine in our eyes. Came to give us courage to step right up to the broken. Came so we might not be afraid to get too near. There is no too near. In the wake of the tossed boats, in the very midst of the storm, that babe came so we might wrap our arms around the hurt and offer everything we have to ease the earthly burden. We can. We can because we know this isn’t the end of the story.

It might look bleak right now but hold on. Hope is just around the corner.

Teach Your Kids That Others Matter

I’m not one to be doling out parenting advice at all. Over the years we’ve, by the grace of the Lord alone, done a few things right but we’ve also made some monumental errors. No two kids are alike. No two families are alike. No two set of circumstances even come close to comparing. Personalities are vastly different. Sin struggles are varied and many. There are more days that I feel crazy as a parent than I feel sane.

So hear me when I say I’m not bragging here. The lists of triumphs are there, but behind every victory is a million I’m sorry’s, a thousand mess up’s and hours and hours and hours of pleading with the Lord.

But there is one piece I’m extremely thankful we did, as parents. It was a bit scary the first time but has proved abundantly worth it. And of course, we don’t know the end of our children’s story but we do know, for now, that what we see in them because of this is worth the scary!

It began when our oldest was 13. No wait, it probably started before that. If I rewind the rolodex in my mind I’m thinking that it  started when our kids were around 5, 3 and 2. Or at least that’s the story I’m going with.

It all started with getting our first sponsor child through Compassion. Like many churches do, we had the table with packets holding photos of the most beautiful little faces. Of course, after hearing about it our oldest simply knew the right thing to do was choose the packet and make this child’s life better.

We took time, though, to explain it a little more. We didn’t pick a child that particular day but we went home and talked about what we could give up as a family in order to help a child. While $30 a month wasn’t a ton, the learning opportunities were abundant. We wanted our kids to know that giving to others means sacrificing of themselves. Because we aren’t simply called to give out of our abundance (ie. parents bank account) but we’re called to give sacrificially. We wanted them to be a part of this in a real way. And of course, thirty bucks being auto withdrawn from our bank account had very little impact on their lives – if that’s how we would have gone about it.

So we talked with them and offered suggestions as to what they could give up that might equal $30 a month. We settled on juice. At 5, 3 and 2 juice was a luxury item. Those boxes of apple juice were something my kids loved and yet, we decided together, that giving up juice in order to help a child was something we were all willing to do.

The next week at church we let the boys choose a child together. I can’t even handle this process because how do you choose one and leave the others? It’s too much for my heart so I was happy to let them do it.

They chose a small boy right about their age. They chose him because he was wearing pink shoes. They definitely felt that giving up juice was worth it in order to get this boy out of his sisters shoes! We laugh about it now. But for whatever reason, it’s who they were drawn to and who we supported.

I just want to own the fact that we were the worlds worst sponsor family ever. Yes, we gave up the juice, and yes we sent the money, but we only sent a letter to this child once when it was new and novel. Then we just sort of forgot.

We would get a reminder that his birthday was coming and so I’d check the box that allowed for an extra donation so that he could get a birthday gift, but we never went out of our way for personal connection with this boy. When I look back now I’m sad about it. But also, we were learning and it’s part of our journey.

Fast forward a few years to when we learned about the Joshua Project. Through their website we signed up to receive an email once a week. This email held the name of one unreached people group along with statistics on where they live, how many people belong to this group, what obstacles there were to ministering to them, and how few of them knew Jesus.

Each week we would read through the email together, giggle at the name of some of the people groups (which I’m sure we weren’t even saying correctly!) and write it up on a chalkboard in the boys room. Each night for the following week we would pray for this unreached people group, as well as the other groups that were already on the board.

It’s a small thing, but it’s also huge! Our kids eyes were opened to groups of people they would never hear about otherwise. We were all shown how many people there are in the world who have never heard of Jesus and maybe never will. We prayed that people would be brave enough to go to these tribes and nations. We prayed that one day maybe we would be the ones brave enough.

I think these conversations about  people around the world are what planted the seeds in our children to even care. How would they know what existed around the world if we weren’t talking about it? How would they know that people needed to go and spread the gospel if they thought everyone lived just like them? How would they fight being entitled simply because we live in such a rich nation, without grasping that this here – this is not ‘normal’.

So, at 13 our oldest boarded a plane and left us for 5 weeks. He jet-setted across the ocean  to be part of a youth outreach mission called Impact Ireland. It was made slightly easier by the fact that we have family in Ireland but still, he was 13 and he was out of our clutches for 5 weeks.

But what he learned that summer was more than we could ever teach him. He learned about service work and how yucky it can be and yet joy can be found there. He learned about street evangelism. He learned about setting aside what may be considered “uncool” and diving into that skit in the park because children are watching and listening to the gospel being presented. He learned about feeling oh-so-tired. He got to know older teens whose life had been transformed by Christ and he got to hear them share their stories and watch people be moved by it. He was young, yes. But he learned big things.

Our next boy went when he was 14 and he did it a little different. He moved right in with a family we didn’t know. He spent his time being someone else’s child and learning from them. He served, he prayed, he heard words from street kids that he still to this day won’t repeat to me because they’re so bad. I got messages from his new mom saying how impressed they were with him – his willingness to serve, to ‘take it’ when things got tough, and the maturity they saw in him as he reached out to a rough culture.

These things mean so much more than playing video games all summer.

This past summer we had the opportunity to go and serve in Mexico as a family and I was blown away by our kids response both during and after. It’s currently the only place they want to go – ever, and the conversation of family vacation will never exist because it will only and forever be Mexico. (at least for now!)

Our oldest boy, now 18, just hopped a plane a few days ago to head back for 2 months to serve. We couldn’t be more pleased.

I’ve heard parents say they can’t imagine their kids leaving. I’ve heard the worry in their voice about heading to unknown lands.

As a parent, I can honestly say there is nowhere I’d rather my kids be than giving up the comforts of home to serve the Lord. I haven’t for one second wished he wasn’t going. I haven’t for one second wish he’d be back. Do I miss his goofy antics around the house? Of course. But there is little worry of what if’s. What about university? What about money? What about the danger of an area? What about fires that are raging nearby? What about hurricanes and earthquakes? What about it?

Following the Lord is never a promised easy road but it is one of assurance. We know it’s where our boy is supposed to be and we’re so thankful.

Christian Mama’s and Dad’s, I urge us to introduce missions to our kids early and often in ways that we can – even when they’re small. Talk to them endlessly about the world and its people and the love that God has for all of it! Teach them about first world privilege and riches and what it means in light of scripture. Teach them daily about what giving of themselves sacrificially actually looks like.

Yes, it might mean that one day they’re going to move away from us. But shouldn’t that be a place of rejoicing, not mourning? When we teach our kids that other people matter, it shouldn’t shock us when they want to do big things for people. Nothing has made my Mama heart happier! Whether it’s contributing to IJM, taking on a sponsor child of their own through Casa de Luz, or going and being hands that serve and a voice that shares Jesus love – it’s worth it!

Slow living and calmer mornings

As the seasons shift and new routines get put into practice, I’ve been wondering how I can hold on to some of the feelings summer brings. Summer has always been my favourite. I like sunshine and undone hair and flip flops and slow, unstructured days. Of course, those aren’t a reality all through the year – at least around these parts – but I wonder if I can hold onto just a bit of summer throughout the year. The parts that mean the most. (And I’m willing to try my hardest to make it so!)

My very favourite part of summer is the slow starts. Waking up and not having to dart out of bed and rush, rush, rush into the day. I like being able to lay in bed for a few minutes without a rolodex of to-do’s flipping through my mind.

I like to get up and make my coffee while everyone else is still sleeping. To sit outside on our covered deck and sip slow with a book or my bible in hand.

I like sleepy headed kids that saunter out with not a hint of frantic in their pace.

I know that mornings during school and work days can’t be exactly like that. But I do think I can adopt a few new practices to keep things slow. To not fall prey to the mad dash of the busy – at least for a bit of the morning.

So, this is what I tried on the first day of back to school for the kiddo’s and back to work work for me. I set my alarm for 45 minutes earlier than I would normally get up on a school/work morning. I know, I know. Some of you can’t handle the thought of losing 45 minutes of sleep or rolling out of bed while it’s still dark. I think it might be worth it. Even though it’s EARLY!

I think pace and tone are everything. I set both of these for my whole family in the morning. If I’m stressed, they feel it and become stressed too. If I’m rushing about like a crazy woman, they get a bit rattled and crazy too. But if I’m calm, they’re calm. If I’m pleasant and happy, they’re so much more pleasant and all around happier. Dare I say there’s even a feeling of joy – even though it’s morning and we’re all preparing for our day!

For the first 15 minutes I stayed in bed. Not falling back asleep and waking from the  snooze alarm again and again, but just laid there. I thought, I prayed, I told myself I didn’t need to be anywhere else just then but right where I was. Comfy and awake and just enjoying the moment. Y’know, like summer!

From there I mozied into the kitchen to make a coffee, grab a book and just like the summer mornings I love, I headed outside to cozy up in a chair and read. On a work and school morning! (Can you even believe it?!) I sipped my coffee, read some good words, watched a few hummingbirds dart in and out of our flowering trees and asked the Lord to prepare me for the day ahead.

By the time the clock hit my normal wake up time I had relaxed in bed, enjoyed my coffee, finished a chapter in my book and marvelled at nature. What a great start to the day!

I did it all week and I’m doing it again next week, too. I hope to keep it up all through the fall! Sitting outside felt weird and wonderful on a school/work morning. Almost like a guilty pleasure. Though there was nothing to feel guilty about. I hope I keep it up through the rainy months and even the snow. I have a feeling it might become something special and very possibly my very favourite part of the day. But I’ll report back when I’m more than one week in.

By the time we had to leave for school drop offs and for me to head into work, (this happens at 7:30 am) I had already thoroughly enjoyed my day! Do you think losing 45 minutes of sleep is worth it? Or does it sound crazy to you?


Vacations Don’t Build Memories, People Do. (and people are everywhere!)

There’s a social protocol heading into summer around these parts. We ask every person we meet the same questions. “Any plans for the summer?”

Most summers I fumble with niceties around our personal answer to this question. Oh, we’re just sticking around here. I mean, it’s so nice in the summer why would you leave?

But the truth is, we didn’t leave in the fall either. Or the winter, or subsequent spring. Most people gasp when we tell them we don’t vacation. But it’s true. We don’t.

This isn’t to say we’ve never vacationed. We have. As a family we’ve done a few vacations. My parents took us to Hawaii back when there were just 4 of us and our kids were very tiny. My mom took us to Disneyland the Christmas after my dad died and we road rollercoasters on Christmas Day instead of having turkey dinner with an empty seat at the table. Only once in our history have we paid for a family vacation. We went to Whistler. Which is under 3 hours away. This was big for us!

Of course we’re endlessly thankful we have family with property we can camp on only 20 minutes from home. It’s what we’ve done every summer for the past 17 years. A few days surrounded with trees 20 minutes away. It’s glorious. And we’ve done a night in a close by city here and there so it’s not like we never go ANYwhere. We move within a 2 hour radius. ha

But people look at us dumbfounded. You NEVER vacation? They ask, staring.

Um…nope. Not really.

But what about family memories? What about relationship building? What about relaxation?

I contend that if a week on a beach is what it takes to build memories then the state of our families are in trouble. Memory making is more than a hashtag on an instagramable photo. Memories are something built daily in our family. Our kids don’t ever feel deprived for not having seen vast parts of the world via vacation (they have seen parts of the world for the purpose of missions work) and we certainly don’t feel like the strength of our family has been weakened by never experiencing a cruise ship buffet or staring at the Mona Lisa together.

Would all of those things be wonderful? Probably. But are they necessary for memory making? Not a chance. (This is my point, people. I’m not judging where you went this summer)

Of course I’m not implying that family vacations are a terrible thing. Of course they aren’t. We have our reasons for not taking them which revolve around how we spend our finances, the timing of being self-employed and most importantly, what we speak and practice in our daily life and walk with God lining up with how we spend our time off. We simply don’t want to operate one way in ‘normal’ life and another way on vacation. I know every families ways are different and I’m simply sharing ours – not judging yours. (Can you tell I’m feeling like some opposition may come?)

In our home we decided well over a decade ago that if we believe what we say we believe, then it meant our lives would involve sacrifice. We started in small ways including our boys in what this would look like. For example, if we are going to fund the schooling for a small child in a poor country – what were we willing to give up so that we could do this. We’re called to give sacrificially and that’s what we wanted to impress upon our children.

We all agreed it would be juice. If we stopped buying juice in our home or juice boxes for lunches it would add up to enough to have a sponsor child. And those funds, from our children’s sacrifice of juice, could pay for another child’s meals and clothes and education. So, we gave up juice.

There have been many other ways we’ve done this over the years. It’s become a normal part of our family culture, assessing what giving looks like and wondering what we can sacrifice to do so. It’s influenced many of our family decisions, including where we live, foster care and how we vacation.

But back to the question of no vacations and building family memories.

When we look back with our boys over their lives there are things I want them to remember more than a monument or a certain city or how great a tan they got on vacation. Memories don’t just happen away from home. In fact, we want their strongest ones to include our home – the place we spend our most amount of time.

I want them to remember the kitchen table that we sat around. How we ate dinner together and told ridiculous stories. How we played games and laughed our faces off. How Mom and Dad got in a fight over Monopoly and have decided never to play together again – because we like being married. How there were always extra people at the table, another plate added, another table grabbed from the garage. I want them to remember sitting atop the table while I cooked dinner and they played guitar, or peppered me with questions, or we chatted about that thing that happened at school that day.

When they look back at our family memories I want them to remember important conversations that happened in our ‘coffee shop’. I want them to remember how we challenged them, how we cried alongside them, how we read the bible together here in these chairs, how we prayed on these couches more often than we can count about things we were so thrilled about, things that terrified us, and things that had our eyes stinging with the threat of tears. How we yelled and said all of the wrong things and then sought forgiveness in the very same spot.

When they look back I want them to remember the smells of home, the ritual of bedtime, the feelings of safety and love. I want them to remember our mistakes, how mom would go into rant mode and they might as well just listen until she was finished. I want them to remember the jokes that came later about that very same rant and the apologies that followed and the explanations that we don’t have a clue how to do this parenting thing right, but thank the Lord we have prayer and forgiveness.

I want our memories to be the journey together. The calm of reading books aloud. The jokes about Dad always taking forever to make a coffee before we could begin. The music that we sing loud to even though not one of us can sing on key.

Vacations don’t build memories, people do. Intentional practices do. Laughing together does. Taking time to enjoy one another will. Fighting and making up can. This can happen on the other side of the world, sure, but it can just as easily happen across the street at the park, or in your very own living room. The culture we’ve built into our home, the way we live our every day lives, is what we want our kids to remember most.

So if you can’t afford to vacation, be encouraged. Build memories into your every day and your kids will be just fine.

If you can afford to vacation, be challenged. How do you spend your time, money and energy while you’re away. Does it line up with the things you preach and practice at home? Or does it suddenly become all about self?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Don’t Just Act Like You Know Where You’re Going

I recently had the privilege of sitting in a meeting with someone 4 bajillion times smarter than I am. I’m not kidding. This woman knew stuff.

I use to find myself quite nervous in situations where I knew there was a vast chasm between my knowledge base and that of the person I was talking to. My mind would tell me I wasn’t good enough, smart enough, or have enough letters behind my name. (FYI: I have zero) My posture would overcompensate for my lack of college degrees and I would follow the advice a random stranger gave me while I was wandering the streets of Chicago with my camera many moons ago.

“Just act like you know where you’re going. Act like you have every purpose to be where you are and you’ll be fine.”

It hadn’t crossed my mind to be worried about where I was going but clearly the gentleman saw a naive girl nearing territory she may not want to be in and felt compelled to warn her. I thanked him and stuck to the main streets from then on.

Act like you know where you’re going might be decent advice when you’re lost and don’t want to fumble in dark alleys with a map. I can see that. But as far as wisdom for life, I’ve come to learn it’s pretty terrible.

If we pretend like we know where we’re going, how on earth do we know where we’ll end up?

If being in a certain place at a certain time is all about acting like I belong there, faking it to fit in, impersonating those who’ve figured it out – then all I do is a sham.

I know it sounds high school-esque and trying to get in with the popular crowd but it goes so far beyond that. I know, we like to believe we’ve advanced as we head out into the real world post graduation, but how often have we soaked in the culture of a work place and made it our mission to fit in. Or maybe we’ve taken part in a bible study and been worried about speaking out loud for fear our words might not be big enough or christian enough for those listening. We stay silent until we know which words the culture in that room uses and then we spout forth our wisdom once we know we’ll get it right, once we’ve assimilated enough.

It can happen in any setting even as adults. We like to fit it, to belong, to be a part of and this can become a lot of acting when our minds or our hearts don’t know the right notes to sing with a particular group just yet. We’re not so great at harmonizing with a crowd, each of us taking on our part. Instead we long to sing the same note that everyone else is singing because at least that way we don’t stand out quite so much if we happen to get our part wrong.

Over the years I’ve learned that the older I get the less I actually know. Turns out, the less I know the more I need to learn and the more I need to learn the more open I had better be to dropping the disguise and getting on with the business of asking questions.

If I take one man’s advice and act like I know where I’m going, sure it might keep me safe this time. But is it not wisdom, rather, to ask some questions and learn which path I should actually be on? Isn’t that what will keep me safe in the long run.

It’s taken time but I find myself rarely intimidated by those who possess much greater wisdom than I do. Instead, I want to sidle up next to them and ask them all of the questions I have no answers to. I want to sit with them for hours and pick all of the facets of their minds and hearts and like a toddler pepper them with a thousand, “but why’s.”

If we look at the world, our country, our cities, our schools, our churches, our neighbours, our spouses and our kids and we stop pretending like we know where we’re going and in humility admit we don’t have all of the answers does it not force us to ask a few more questions? To find the people who know more and ask them why without simply assimilating for the sake of looking smart or fitting in or whatever our excuse is. Would we not know so much more if we opened our hearts to hear some answers as to why instead of waxing poetically all the live long day but never really understanding the truth.

Before I left the meeting with the woman whose mind knew so many things, I looked her straight in the face, craving one last nugget of truth, and asked, “Do you have any more wisdom for me?”

“No,” she said. “But if you have any more questions you may ask.”

I laughed. Of course she didn’t. She had already given me everything I needed. Because sometimes there’s no need to belabour a thing you’ve already been given the answer to.

She told me to walk forward in confidence. Right. I could use a dose of that just now. I’m learning the pattern, slowly slowly slowly learning the pattern. Obstacle. Humble heart. Ask questions. Petition God. Rely on His Spirit. Move forward in confidence. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

The Lord’s justice will dwell in the desert,

his righteousness live in the fertile field.

The fruit of that righteousness will be peace;

its effect will be quietness and confidence forever.

Isaiah 32: 16-17

(Read the whole chapter for context here)