Posts Tagged ‘#annvoskamp’


If we are growing and maturing, our definition of love changes as we grow older.

From when we are children and love could be defined as who makes us feel secure by meeting our needs, to when we become teens, then young adults and love could be defined as who makes us feel unconditionally accepted, special. Then, as adults, it is all about is he/she meeting my needs.

Hum … no change there really, as it would seem to be defined by what have you done for me lately.

At the mid point of life, if love is still part of your life, if marriage is still part of your life, it starts to change (ever so   g  r  a  d  u  a  l  l  y ).

It becomes more about maintaining each other, caring for each other.

A number of weeks ago I came across this quote by Ann Voskamp:

“Love is always

Not a quote one would expect to hear at a wedding ceremony! Yet, for those who have persevered through love, for love, that quote is real, truth.

We have persevered, hubby and I. Not just hubby, not just I, but both of us, in little and big ways. It has been twenty-nine years (tomorrow) of persevering through love, for love.

Twenty-nine years of inconvenient love. Love that has gotten in the way of our individual interests, love that has been daily overriding individual interests, as we each bend and sway to the other, for the other. For the individual cannot survive in love without sacrificing for the other.

Twenty-nine years of inefficient love. Love that is not slick and polished, but often unproductive and amateurish. Love that doesn’t often work like a well-oiled machine, but often one that requires time adjusting, adjusting, adjusting. So many kinks to work out … and usually, they are not his, but mine.

Twenty-nine years of … how does one say, until at the very end, that it is indestructible love? Though the definition of what love is may change, it is proven only in it’s longevity, it’s indestructiblity. Grit (a determination that is strong-willed and to the end) in love is the major ingredient determining whether or not it is indestructible.

Though it is not flowery or romantic sounding, I’d take the real thing … inconvenient, inefficient, indestructible love … twenty-nine years and counting.

“Love is never wasted, for its value does not rest upon reciprocity.”
CS Lewis

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“You’re made to do hard and holy things
— because there’s no other way to get to the happy and holy things.”
Ann Voskamp

This week my mind has been swaying back and forth, between the quote above, and a line in a song. Both quotes have a common thread … tough stuff.

Can we really experience, can we really understand happiness, if we have not experienced tough stuff?

For me, to answer that I just need to look at our three kids. Three miscarriages and an ectopic pregnancy, and the sorrow that accompanied each, make the life I get to share with my three kids so much sweeter. I know how hard and holy those times were … and make me understand the happy and holy times today.

“Earth has no sorrow,
that heaven can’t heal.”

Every one of us knows what sorrow is, knows what it feels like, knows the darkness that accompanies it, as though the goal of the sorrow were to envelope us, like a dark cloak. John 16:33 reminds us that sorrow is to be expected, but …

“Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.
But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

There is rest for the weary, for those who are in the midst of tough stuff, that shakes us to the core. But even the tough stuff is holy, and can bring us to the healing of heaven.

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To be successful would seem to be a goal (overtly or not) with all who are within the bounds of humanity.

According to freedictionary.com,

success is:

“achievement of something desired, planned or attempted.”

Who wouldn’t want for such things? To not desire achievement would be to live an apathetic life.

We are encouraged to fight, strive, conquer, overcome, use people, take, and spend time with those who do the same.

Recently I was struck by the dichotomy of what the world says is successful living, and what Jesus says is successful living. Like almost everything else that came from the lips of the Son of God, what He says of being a successful person is up-side-down teaching, compared with what our human expectation would be.

“The world says, follow the right people and be a success.
And Jesus says follow me and be crucified — and this is success.
The world says, follow the right people and be a success.
And Jesus says follow me and be crucified — and this is success.
The world says get rich now — or at least very soon.
And Jesus says give it away now — because “soon” might be too late.
The world says you find your best life when you spend it all.
And Jesus says whoever loses his life for me will find it — and if you try to save your life, you’ll lose it.”
Ann Voskamp

Reading what Jesus says of success means feeling that tightening in our throats. For success is not ours, through our goodness, our education, our climb up the occupational ladder. It is His, through His grace, and our … obedience.

Success may indeed sit in boardrooms, locker rooms and concert halls, but it also sits in prison cells, in senior’s care facilities, in homeless shelters and in ‘average’ homes.

May we all struck often by how the ultimate example of success lived his life.

“Whoever wants to save his life will definitely lose it.”
Mark 8:35

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What a summer it has been in our neck of the woods.

The sun shone brightly almost every day, rain came whenever the last hues of green were about to fade from the grass.

Our son got to work (I’m talking dishes, weeding and cleaning toilets kind of work) at his favourite earth place (camp) for four weeks … as a volunteer (aka no pay).

Our eldest has spent the entire summer at a camp (she hates camps) that makes fun and ‘normal’ for families and kids who have cancer, and loved every second of it.

Our baby girl spent time visiting the family on the East coast, walking red dirt, learning to make Grampie’s biscuits, loving and being loved. She also spent a week at camp, wishing she had planned for more, and worked a bit extra picking roses at her workplace.

I have painted three rooms, carpeted two rooms, painted a bed, a bed table, a dresser, two tables, moved a child to a new room, installed a backsplash in our suite, and loved every second (well maybe not at 3am) of the bodily pain caused by physical and creative activities that have fed my soul.

Hubby has rested, not so much doing as undoing, purging and cleaning his office at home and church.

And now the mental ‘readying’ begins, as the fall schedule and all that it brings, creeps into our consciousness. And I constantly ask,

how do we maintain this living and thriving when September hits?

Ann Voskamp had a post this week that had me amen-ing out loud.

It is called, “What We & Our Kids Need to Know About the Work – Life Balance & How to Thrive” and you can find it at http://www.aholyexperience.com, and you can keep reading here, as well.

Enjoy her words …

“Our Miz Hope-girl, she kicked me out of the kitchen, out of the house, while she made the cake.

While the girl grinds up flour, I go out to wheat fields.

Ride a few rounds with the kid in the tractor.

While he tells me about all the mistakes he made, tells me about how he’d jammed the grain buggy auger and they’d spent 27 minutes unplugging it (he timed it, because the boy knew that getting it done mattered and we’re not playing games here) and how they had to pail up the wheat that spilled like his blatant failure there at the end of the field. I get it, boy.

He’d bit his lip hard when he told me all that. Trying to stop what he could feel coming, but I could see how his eyes brimmed anyway.

I turned away — give the boy time to be brave.

He said it himself, how after he’d been in too high a gear going uphill, with not enough throttle, and how he’d stalled it and the tractor and him and one heaping full wagon of wheat had started slipping backward down the hill —-

and I’d closed my eyes tight at that point in the story, as if that could somehow ridiculously stop the whole mess from happening —-

and he’d pressed all his paltry weight of 11 years down on those brakes, but he ended up jack knifing the wagon and tractor real bad by the bottom of the hill. I nod but I don’t say it what I’ve felt right up there under the lung:

Go in high gear without enough soul fuel will stall and jack knife your life every single time, boy.

Sure, it can look like you’re harvesting a wheat crop but the point is that we’re raising men here. We’re raising future men who know how to work and future women who know how to dig deep and kids who know that you’ve got to have dirt under your fingernails to plant good things and procrastination can be a sin that sends you only a lot of sorrow.

Malakai’s working long days and into the night, running the tractor alongside the combine and his Dad and Shalom’s running the auger on the home farm, and Levi’s hauling wagons full of wheat from each farm back to Shalom and the bins.

It’s worth living a life so you’re kids can see it: there’s a lot of happiness in this world that depends on being brave enough to keep working when it’d be easier to quit.

Nothing good gets started without getting to work. And nothing great gets finished without staying at the work.

And no one express-ships the prize to you. You have to actually work to win it.

We work this many hours getting a harvest off and the kids know it not at a cerebral level but in their aching muscles: Laziness looks like a friend, but only work can invite you home.

Most opportunities come to you dressed in a pair of thread-bare Wranglers and sweating like work and you’ll miss them if you’re too afraid of callouses and plowing through like a horse.

And none of us here have really got time for being bored. There is only time for work and time for love —- and that is usually one in the same thing. There is no time after that.

“I don’t know if I can be a farmer, Mama —“ Malakai leans over from the steering wheel, whispers it to me quiet as the tractor idles. “Don’t know if I’m tough enough for everything that you get wrong.”

Don’t I know that, son. And I lay my hand gently on the back of the boy’s slender neck. Sometimes somebody says only a handful of words and they reach out and touch you not with their hands but their heart.

Yeah, kid —- we work but not as ones who do not know the relief of grace. We work hard but not as ones who grow hard. We work with our hands but what we’re ultimately always working out is our salvation.

“You know —“ I run my hand through Kai’s mop of hair. “We all get things wrong, Kai — we get things wrong, things seem to go wrong, even — or mostly —- we are wrong. But it’s not about growing tough enough to take life… It’s about staying open enough to life to receive it.”

Future men, future women need to know how to work —- and they need to know how to work out their salvation. It’s not about growing tough — it’s about growing open to life as it comes and simply growing.

How do you tell a farm boy that one of the most important things in life is this: To thrive is to surrender to a kind of openness. To surrender control and trust One who is in control —- though you will be taken beyond what you can control and into a kind of brokenness, a brokenness that will hurt and yet be kind. A painful grace.

This is the essence of really living, what it means to essentially be alive: surrender unshielded to the unknown — because there is a deeper Love that is Knowable.

And it is only possible to know the touch of His deeper love when you live without armour, when you live a vulnerable exposure. Work hard, boy — but don’t grow tough. Because at the end of the day? Jesus wants our worship more than our work.

It’s an old and universal truth: You are made of dust because you are made to grow.
You are made of dust because you are made to move in this world like a reed, not like a rock.
You were made to feel, you were made to bend vulnerable in wind, you were made to have the courage to reach for the sun.

It’s what the fields of wheat tell you: You were made to grow and that only happens if you are fragile and brave enough to break.

Sure, they’ll go ahead and loudly tell you need to be like a rock, that you’ll need to harden up to live in a harsh world, that you’ll need to be impenetrable, that you’ll need to be unmoved, but no one ever felt any of the really living that way. Live as hard as a rock long enough and there’s hardly any point to breathing. Rocks don’t. They’re dead.

It’s thin-skinned reeds that bravely breathe in their own way. It’s tender reeds that are deeply rooted. It’s only reeds reach for sun.

Rocks are formidable and reeds are fragile — and one is perfectly dead and only the other is exquisitely alive. Humanity’s particular beauty is only possible because of its fragility.

Your Beauty is not in your formidableness but in your fragility.

I tell Kai this. The boy brims and nods and the boy’s a mess like his mother but I’ll take him anyway, keep taking him anyway.

The thing is —- when you already have a rock, you can live the beauty of a reed.

Malakai hauls wheat wagons till 9:30 on a Saturday night, then heads to the barn and feeds a couple hundred sows.

The Farmer and Levi finish up in the field, get the wagons away, the auger down, the bin sealed up, all the tractors home and in the shed, and drag in the back door sometime between 11:50pm and the Lord’s day, a 20 hour day for the man and his boys.

Come Sunday, our Miz Hope-girl, she’s fills bowls up of her chicken salad, and a heap of fresh kale chips that she taken straight from garden to oven to plate, and these pans full of sweet potato fries that she’s made late into the night for a picnic of 17, 12 kids and a grandma, 2 sisters and our good men. It’s a thing to watch how she moves over her offering.

Humble work always becomes a work of art when signed with love.

We eat her cake.

There is cake and kale chips and vulnerable laughter and celebrating the way the work of all the people can be given for the harvest.

That all the people together can do hard and holy things and change the world, that all the people together can break and give themselves like bread and they’re the ones whose lives are a feast, that all our small work together is what does big and beautiful work in the world.

That all the people opening up rock hard places and giving into the wind of the Spirit, however it blows, are the reeds that make their lives yield the most.

After I finish my plate, after I wink and tell Malakai & Hope that when we get to heaven I want to sit at the table where they’re just serving kale chips –

the Farmer, he pulls me in.

And we laugh — because there is still hope to do the good work we’re called to and to bravely love and let ourselves be loved and trust enough to open up to life as it comes. We are called to move through life as reeds not rocks.

And yeah, we linger in a hope like that, like courageous fools, till the light ebbs out of the sky and the moon opens in its willing surrender.

You can see it in all the ditches along all the roads, all the way Home —

All the fragile reeds reaching and thriving in the silvered light.


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Living in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia, I am well acquainted with Hope … not with a small ‘h’ but a big one.

Hope is the community East of Chilliwack. A small town with a picturesque view of the Fraser River and the mountains. A town more familiar to people who stop and keep going.

For our family it is the home of the camp of church family retreats, as well as the summer camp of our son.

The signs indicating the approach to Hope offer much opportunity for jesting …

“almost to Hope”

“don’t go beyond Hope”

“lets visit Hope”

But when we say those things we are not referring to Hope as a place, but hope as something to hold.

Don’t we all want that hope-thing to hold tightly in our hands? in our hearts?

I recently read a post by Ann Voskamp, called How to Keep Hoping for the Things that Seem Impossible, and she told a story of hope … unexpected hope.

The following are only segments of that post, but it is SO worth it to click on the link and read the entire story.

Who believes in dreams anymore?
Who believes in unseen things,
in impossible things,
in the things you can’t measure and control and deduce and reduce and wrap up in a reasonably neat and timely package
and who in this cynical world remembers how to find  Hope?”

Time can’t dictate dreams or hijack hope or determine destination.

Time may have hands on the clock but it’s arms are too weak to rob anybody of hope, steal anybody’s prayers, destroy anybody’s joy.

And So what if time’s got hands on a clock — it’s God who has His Hands on the universe. Every little thing is going to be okay because God is working good through every little thing.

All that’s happening is just happening to make miracles. There are miracles always unfolding under the impossibles. 

Joys are always on their way to us,” writes Amy Carmichael. “They are always traveling to us through the darkness of the night. There is never a night when they are not coming.”

Because there is never a night where joys are not coming to us, there is never a road that can’t arrive at Hope. Circumstances can go ahead and run out of time — but the courageous refuse to run out of hope.

We can always hope because there is always joy traveling to us down the unexpected roads.

And because the thing is: Hope always has a cost and hope is always worth it, because who wants the cheap and deadened alternative? Hope fuels the soul to impossible places.”


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