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Archive for October, 2020

I have nothing left. I am just at the end of my rope … at the end of me.

Those were my words, my prayer, in the midst of a time of struggle, a time where I didn’t have the answer, the solution, the ‘fix’ for the problem.

As I spoke the words, at the end of me, an odd sense of relief was felt from within out. It was as if my verbal confession freed me from invisible, self administered chains. It was as if this was the most wise next step.

Baffled, that this peaceful feeling could accompany the equivalent of waving the white flag in defeat, I then remembered to whom I was praying.

“God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” 

1 Peter 5:5b

Pride … such a human disease of pandemic proportions! And I am not always so quick to admit that I have been infected. I think I need to do all the fixing, the solving, have all the answers. Then, along comes reality and my pride takes a hit … reminding me that there is a higher power, a greater one, who has a plan and purpose that can come of the chaos in my life … and he doesn’t need my efforts, so much as my obedience, my reliance on him.

“Coming to the END of MYSELF and all SELF effort…seems to be the very point that God steps in and shows HIMSELF to be more than ENOUGH.”

John Paul Warren

That peace that accompanied my forfeit … that was God, as I submitted my ‘power’ to him. I still was worried, I still had concerns and I still had more questions than answers, but I had been reminded that I was not alone, that I did not have to do anything … except trust, stay close to him.

“God blesses those who realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is given to them.

Matthew 5:2-3

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chocolate, and sunrises, and beaches, and writing, and lilacs, and red leaves, and piano music, and doing new things, and getting groceries (really, I do), and math (uh ha … you heard that right), and my husband, and my wonderdog, and lazy days, and snow, and …

love …

a four-letter word.

the four-letter word …
love.

It is a noun, a ‘thing’ … like pizza, or a flower, or my dog. It is a verb, an ‘action’ … like a hug, washing the dishes, sticking with ’til the end of the movie.

It is a word, made up of letters, equal doses of vowels and consonants. One vowel whispering not a peep, the other masquerading as another. No one letter taking the center stage, but all four working together to hold itself together as one. complete. word.

This word, like the word, in the beginning of the story of humanity. Like that silent ‘e’, which is never spoken … but always there … always … here.

He said “where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:3) …

who is He?
God is love (1 John 4:8)

where is He?
he (the Spirit of God) lives with you and will be in you (John 14:17)

why?
as I have loved you, so you also must love one another (John 13:34)

how?
live in me (love), and I (love) will live in you (John 15:4)

how he loves us …

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It was raining here the other day … like constant, cold, heavy rain.

Whenever rain like that comes my way I find my mind drifting back to a Sunday School song I remember singing as a child about houses built by the wise man (on a rock) and the foolish man (on sand).

And, did you know, realize or remember that it is not just a cutesy little ditty, but is based on a passage from the sermon on the mount (that’s a big deal):

“Whoever hears these words of Mine and does them, will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain came down. The water came up. The wind blew and hit the house. The house did not fall because it was built on rock. Whoever hears these words of Mine and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down. The water came up. The wind blew and hit the house. The house fell and broke apart.”

Matthew 7:24-27

My life … my actions, and words, and behaviors … not perfect … not one bit. But … since the age of six, I have been residing, while slowly building my life on the rock of Christ. Sometimes I have not appreciated it, sometimes I have doubted it, sometimes I have even resented it … but always I have had the firm foundation of the Word to guide my life, to give me comfort and a hope.

This truth I am standing on.

It has kept me steady when life has presented me with heartaches, questions, embarrassments, loss and instabilities of all sorts.

Because I have seen the evidence of God in my life, I can trust him when I cannot trust loved ones, medicine, finances, employment … because of this I can have hope and peace where the unaccepting world would see nothing but darkness.

Standing on the wisdom of the Rock of ages, for all my days …

“Right now I’m choosing to believe
Someday soon I’ll look back and see
All the pain had a purpose
Your plan was perfect all along
This is the truth I’m standing on”

Scared, oh I thought I knew scared
Now I’m so filled with fear
I can barely move

Doubts, I’ve had my share of doubts
But never more than right now
I’m wondering where are You
I’m on the edge of fall apart
But somehow Your promises
Find my troubled heart

Good, I believe You’re still good
Even when life’s not good
I will not loose this hope
The God who parts the sea
Promises He’s gonna
Make a way for me

This is the truth I’m standing on
Even when all my strength is gone
You are faithful forever
And I know You’ll never
Let me fall
Right now I’m choosing to believe
Someday soon I’ll look back and see
All the pain had a purpose
Your plan was perfect all along
This is the truth I’m standing on

My rock my shield my firm foundation
I know I will not be shaken
You remind me
Where my help comes from

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As the day of your birth approached, I was thinking about the dreams I have had over the years for you, my first born daughter.

Dreams about how you would make the world a better place.

My first, and most grand dream was pretty basic … that you live. For those of us who have known loss before that first breath this basic sign of life becomes the grandest dream.

Actually, it is probably similar to your grandest dreams for those who you work with, as an addictions counsellor … that they might continue to have the breath of life.

I have watched you, heard you share stories from your work … stories that break my heart, leave me with questions that I later pour out in prayer. I hear these stories with ears of a momma … aching for the aching, for what they are missing in life, for the traumas that they have experienced that have led them to such destruction.

I see your heart most clearly when I hear you speak of those you work with in your day (and night) job. I hear your hopes for their futures, I sense the hints of your dreaming for them, for their lives.

And here, in your workplace … whether in your office, or on the streets of a ‘skid row’ (in the middle of the night … ), or over a coffee, or at a park, or as they are coming off a high, or as you administer Naloxone to save their lives …

YOU are making a difference in your world.

Matthew 25 tells us the parable of the sheep and the goats. It is the final parable that Jesus shares (final things said and done should be noted because … they were Jesus final attempt at telling us how to live).

“The King will say to them, `Yes! I tell you that whenever you did these things …

  • filling in forms for people who need help
  • finding a safe place for someone to live, to sleep
  • administering Narcan, in a drive thru, to someone who is turning blue, after overdosing on an opioid … after a long day working in a drug treatment residence
  • taking a kid to get the first food they’ve eaten in days
  • being threatened by someone for supporting a teen girl who needed to leave a dangerous home environment
  • sitting and hearing the woes of an addict, while silently suffering with your own physical pain
  • hearing the stories of sexual abuse of teens by boyfriends, uncles, fathers, brothers, foster parent and on, and on, and on again

… for one of the least important of these, you did them for me!'”

You are living the dream, girl. You have breath in your lungs and you are using what you have been uniquely gifted and called to do, in a way that can change someone’s day, their life, this world.

This work you do it beyond what I had dreamed for you … but not beyond what your Creator made you fully equipped to fulfil.

I am so proud of how you love and help those who in our society are often seen as the least.

Happy birthday sweet girl.

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I admit that I am fully attracted to created beauty.

Whether it is a sunrise, a rose, a painting, the symmetry of a home or an old piece of furniture made new … my eye will behold it, endorphins causing a euphoric feeling throughout my being.

I seek this high in creation, in creating … whether it is the beauty of a sunset, tulips pushing themselves through the dirt, an old piece of furniture sanded down to it’s original cleaned wood, or …

the joyful smile of someone.

Beauty makes me happy and when I see it, I look for it everywhere. Not only that, but, like one who needs a fix from a drug, the more beauty I see, the more I need to see to maintain that level of joy.

This (I think) is one of the reasons I struggle with the deep darkness of the winter, when our daylight is reduced. I like to say that I am solar powered and the winter’s darkness hinders my ability to see beauty.

“What if created things were never meant to make us happy in the way we desire to experience happiness? What if happiness is found by gazing into the face of God in Jesus Christ, and walking in his path of light, life and righteousness?”

Dr Derwin Gray

It is the darkness of winter that reminds me of my priorities. You see, though the reflection of the creator shines brightly through the creation …

it is the Creator who I worship, not the creation.

Though the beauty around me causes the release of endorphins that give me good, happy feelings … those happy feelings don’t last as long as looking towards and being constantly connected to my Creator.

“Jesus Christ is the same
yesterday and today and forever.”
Hebrews 13:8

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A tired and sleepless night …

How can one be so exhausted that their eyes burn, even when closed?

Yet … sleep evades.

The mind races in directions and to places that … how and why does it go there?

And you toss, and you turn and you wonder why? why can sleep not take you away to that place of rest and refreshment?

And your body is tense, it aches with exhaustion, only encouraging more and more tossing and turning with nary a place that provides a position to loosen, relax.

And the man next door (the next pillow over) is tossing and turning too, or snoring … either way, the noises and movements jar you from the entry of sleep’s door.

And so you pray (because, why not). Yet your prayers lead your mind to even more places and you begin to feel as though your mind might explode for all the places it is wandering in these wee morning hours.

And you rise from your place of no sleep … wandering, trying a cozy chair (devoid of present coziness), the sofa (with the attractive, but not so pillowy, pillows). In frustration you recline, close your eyes …

wet … my fingers are wet …

My eyes open into the stare of my furry buddy, to the lightening of the room. I smile, not because I am rested, but because I am glad it is over that light has come, that there is one nearby to lick my weariness …

day has come, the long, dark night is over.

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Old Man in Sorrow
(On the Threshold of Eternity),
by Vincent van Gogh

I remember years ago hearing of the delays of children who had been in orphanages in Romania (known as dictator, Nicolae Ceaușescu’s children). They spent their days in cribs, where they were kept alive with bottles and diaper changes. What they were deficient in was physical contact, stimulation, love.

The impacts of their growing up in that environment went beyond the fact that these rooms full of babies and toddlers were without cooing or crying. These little souls were impacted in their physical, mental, emotional, social and probably every other area of their health and development … all because they were deficient in that which all humans need … human contact, interaction and love.

Now, thirty some years later, another group of humans is experiencing a type of failure to thrive, brought on, not by a nation’s dictator, but by the Coronavirus pandemic.

The news this week had been of a report finding that loneliness is impacting the mental health of Canadians (no doubt others as well). But if we, who are able to go to work, who have the ability to get out of our homes, who have human interaction every day are struggling with our mental health due to loneliness …

what about our seniors?

what about those who are living in isolation?

I have been reading lately that loneliness is a greater fear to those who are alone than Coronavirus. Read that again …

And, some studies hint that during our current pandemic more people may die of the effects of loneliness than of the virus itself.

For those who are isolated from human interaction, stress of this pandemic as well as the the loneliness that accompanies it can mean that they may be at greater risk of heart attack, stroke, depression and even premature death.

“I very much feel my solitude.”

Renata Cafferata (87, Italy)

What that says to me is that this is a need human need that we need to address … and I don’t mean that we need to write to our government officials.

What we need to do it to check in on our neighbors, friends and family who may live alone. Offer to pick up their groceries. Stop by for a visit on their porch or deck, or in their garage (make sure they are bundled up warmly). Take them a meal, drop off flowers, make a call to them, write a note, a letter … make contact with them!

These connections could save a life! This is important … it could be life or death for them!

In an article in The Atlantic, Charles H. Zeanah, a child-psychiatry professor (who was part of a study of orphaned children in Bucharest in 2000), said,

“Imagine how that must feel—to be miserable and not even know that another human being could help.”

He was speaking of babies, or children, who knew no better. They had been born into a world without their need of human interaction and attachment being met.

During this duel pandemic of Covid19 and loneliness, those who are miserable DO know that another human could help … but they are alone.

It is up to the rest of us to ensure that they do not feel the weight of that loneliness … that it does not reach down to the depths of human despair.

This, my fellow humans, especially to those of us who claim the name of Christ, is our opportunity to be the hands and feet of God.

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It’s when I see a leaf fall, flowers fade, the sunset after dinner, feel the chill in the morning air. Autumn is here in more ways than just the change of calendar … and I feel sad.

Autumn was once my favorite season, with it’s red leaves, sweater weather and talk of Thanksgiving. It is the season hubby and I met and were married, the season when two of our three were born. It was my favorite season …

Then, for some reason, unknown to me, I began to see it, not as the start of something new, but the end of something loved.

Don’t get me wrong, I do still take delight in the cool breeze and changes in the color of the leaves, but … the seasonal change … it also seems to herald endings.

The older I get the more I embrace the heat of summer, daylight stretching into the night, bare feet, leisure time.

I recently read a verse that made me ponder these feelings about the autumn.

“And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither and whatever he does will prosper.” Psalm 1:3

Maybe that is it … maybe it’s the withering that is partially to blame for my apathy towards this once favorite seasonal change. Maybe I am starting to see myself as withering and fruitless.

It is so easy to feel less fruitful once the house is quiet of the daily noise of kids in the house. It can feel a bit like you’re a leaf that was blown off the tree.

Yet, if my hope is in God, if I stay planted near him (in prayer and in reading of his word), this Psalm assures me that I will still produce fruit in my life, still be used by him to do his will.

A number of days ago, hubby was beckoned to an elderly lady. Originating from Southeast Asia, Canada has been her home for many years. Now into her nineties, she spends her days praying.

all. day. every. day.

This is what she says is her calling, her purpose … and she fulfills it beautifully.

When hubby walked to her, she said, “I am going to pray for your family” and immediately proceeded to do just that.

“It was just beautiful. Something so special,” he said, when he told me at home later.

This woman, though very much withered physically, has stayed near the living water and she has not withered in spirit or purpose one bit. She is still, very much, producing fruit.

Kinda makes me want to go play in the leaves.

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Dumpster fire … that is what I have heard most to describe 2020, our world.

It seems like either the world is coming to an end or the journalists and reporters are so hyped up on bad news that they can deliver nothing else to us.

What is the antidote, the cure for everything that is so … 2020?

gratitude is the antidote

It may seem so simplistic, but giving thanks, being appreciative, not only are nice things to do, but they are also actions that change our brains. Odd as it may sound the more gratitude we practice in our lives, the more positive our thoughts become.

This would be the real life, there are studies with evidence behind them, working out of a biblical proverb:

“as a woman/man thinks, so is she/he”

Proverbs 23:7

In Canada this weekend we celebrate Thanksgiving. We decorate with pumpkins and colored leaves, gather with family and friends (or not … thanks Coronavirus), we roast a turkey, we wear our stretchy pants. But it is more than just a long weekend, for it is also an opportunity to be thankful in our thoughts, our actions and our words.

It’s the perfect opportunity to make eye contact with someone and say the words, “I am thankful for you,” or give someone a gift and just say, I was thinking fondly of you and wanted to show you I care, or write a letter, an email a note and just say I am thankful for you.

Just last week I had the opportunity to be on the receiving end of a gift from a stranger. When I approached the drive through window to pay for my steeped tea, the person working there said that the previous person had paid the $1.62 for my tea. I was shocked, speechless. Honestly, the way I felt was as if the cost paid was much, much more. I think it was because it was unexpected, undeserved. All I could do was feel the gratitude.

I just wish I had thought to pay it forward, covering the cost of the next person’s order, to keep the gratitude flowing. But … hindsight is 20/20.

As gratitude realigns our mind to focus on the positive, I hope that we might be able to respond to the negatives of 2020 with gratitude, offering thanks for who and what we have in our lives, rather than adding more fuel to the dumpster fire that is currently burning up the good in our minds, our world.

Happy thanksgiving to you, reader. I want you to know that, though I may not know you, I am thankful that you have taken the time to read my ramblings as I wander and wonder.

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Twenty one years ago I was only nine years older than you are now, when I pushed, you emerged, took your first breath and wailed.

Where did those twenty-one years go?

All parents ask the question, but the reality is, we know where they went.

They went through all hours of the night for the first weeks. The most precious middle of the night wake ups are when a woman knows it’s the last.

The years were used up living in the imaginary world of Thomas the Tank Engine as well as collecting, building, tearing apart and building with Lego.

They were spent in the pool wearing your ‘pissers’, kicking the can with the neighbor kids, trying to catch the dog as she raced through the field behind our house.

They were passed quickly on the football field, the stage and playing video games late into the night with your fellow gamers, at youth group events and at friend’s houses.

Days, no weeks were spent travelling all the way to Florida … and back, ingesting a daily diet of hot dogs.

Sweet times of ‘snugs ‘n nugs’ with the girls. Giants games or Subway (“eat flesh”) with your dad. Sushi dates with me.

So many shared movies from Marvel to DC to Harry Potter, Star Wars and The Rings.

Drives to camp and back … so many drives down that highway.

Travels to Cannon Beach, Mexico, ALL of the south states, the East Coast, Ontario, New Zealand, Thailand.

Where did those twenty-one years go?

Time flies, my son. In a blink you grew from a newborn to starting kindergarten, to high school graduation, to flying off down under, to right now … where you stand at the cusp of another stage.

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us”

Gandalf

This precious gift of life is filled with an unknown amount of time that we can never recapture. Once it is lived it is in the past … gone.

Colossians 4:5b tells us to “redeem the time” or make the most of your time. See the value of not just your years, but the days, even the minutes. Consider how you will spend your time … for it flies ever so quickly.

Happy 21 … may the next twenty-one be as memory-filled.

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