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God, my Provider

There are so many people right now who are struggling financially. Many have lost their jobs and are unsure what their next move is. Thankfully, my husband is still working, but it’s still financially hard to keep up with all our bills.

There have been times where I have been so overwhelmed by our financial situation. I think we’ve all been there, where we’re so anxious about money; we don’t know how we’re going to pay our bills or buy groceries. Sometimes full on panic attacks start and we do everything we can to try and calm ourselves down. Tell ourselves it’ll all work out… somehow. I’ve tried to surrender every part of my life to God, and trust that He’ll work things out, but sometimes, it’s just more than I know how to handle.

But I suppose that’s exactly where God wants us, a place where we feel like we’re in way over our heads, so we have no choice but to completely hand it over to Him, and not try and handle it at all. I feel like I’m drowning in some financial stress, but mostly marital and family stress that I don’t know which way is up. Which again, is right where God wants me. A place where I can do nothing apart from him. Absolutely nothing… but that topic is for another day. Back to finances…

A few months ago I spoke at church about being diligent to remember the things God has done for us. I talked about what God wanted from the Israelites in Deuteronomy, where it says “You shall diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, His testimonies, and His statutes which He has commanded you” (Deut 6:17, NKJV). God uses the word “testimonies” because He wants us to always be giving our testimonies, telling people about what God has done for us. The more we share, the more our faith is built up. Then I shared about how Jesus fed the 5000 men, plus women and children, with just a few fish and a little bit of bread, (written in all 4 of the New Testament Gospels), and then how He fed another 4000 men, plus women and children (written in Mark 8 and Matt 15). And after these huge events, the disciples were worried they wouldn’t have any bread for their one particular voyage (Mark 8). Jesus gets after them and says, “Don’t you remember what I’ve done for you? I’ve fed thousands of people, multiple times, with just a couple loaves of bread and some fish. Do you think I’d let you go hungry now?” I think if they would have remembered the miracles they witnessed firsthand, they wouldn’t have been so worried.

So that caused me to think, God has done so much for me. He’s provided so many times, why would I think that He’d leave me hanging now. I began to recount out loud all the times He not only rescued me out of financial trouble, but He also provided things that I were simply a ‘want’.

Honesty, I don’t even know where to begin. Over the last 4 years, there’s been so many times!

1) I really disliked the vehicle I was driving and really wanted a new one. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to afford my dream car, but I found myself looking at one at the dealership anyways. The car I took a picture of a few years prior, and texted to my then husband saying, “one day I will have this car.” I looked at it in the lot, got the price, and came home defeated. It was way out of my price league, of course.

A couple weeks later, my ex came over to put together the girl’s playhouse and overheard me talk to his family about looking at this car. I had no idea he was even listening, but the next day he texted me and offered to pay extra money on top of his child support to cover part of the payment. So back to the dealership I went, and came home with my dream car!!

2) After being in my house a couple months, I realized that my dark hardwood floor was very unforgiving and the tiniest speck of dirt made it look so dirty. So you can imagine what having 3 little girls made it look like on a regular basis. And I didn’t like that my kitchen cabinets were so dark, and my kitchen island was so awkwardly big and dark. I started to really hate my flooring especially, and prayed for a way to pay for my flooring and kitchen to be redone. I wrote it on my “Miracles I’m Waiting For” list and prayed about it often. One December, I wrote down my miracles again and prayed that some of them would be fulfilled the next year. Some way, somehow, I really, really wanted new flooring.

A month later, in the middle of January, my dishwasher leaked one night and completely wrecked part of the hardwood floor and the wood panels in my island. The insurance adjuster came and decided that because they couldn’t match the colour of the hardwood, which was on my whole entire main floor, I’d have to get all new flooring. She also had a couple different cabinet companies come and look at my island. One of the companies said the entire island needed to be replaced, the other said just the panels needed replacing. Miraculously, the insurance adjuster agreed with the first company, so we went with them. It was a small family run company who made everything from scratch, so I asked them if they could redesign my island to be more practical and white, instead of dark. No problem, they said.

Because it all went through insurance, everything took a while to get done, and the whole main floor was a disaster for almost 4 months. BUT, I got brand new flooring, a brand new beautiful white kitchen island, and it only cost me the insurance deductible and a little bit extra to the cabinet company. A $34 000 job cost me $1900 bucks! Seriously, God is so amazing!

3) My sister and her husband go to Florida for a month or two every winter. If I can, I try and go and take a kid or two with me. The first time I had enough money to take my oldest daughter, but I really wanted to take my middle daughter with. She was only 5 at the time, but I thought it would be really fun to have them both with me. I wasn’t sure how I’d pull off paying for her ticket, but after some prayer, I decided to ask my ex-husband for the money to cover her flight. Miraculously, he agreed, and she was able to come with us!

3.5) The second time I went, I decided to just take my oldest daughter with me and have a mommy-daughter trip. My middle daughter would get to come the next time (which, she reminds me, has yet to happen). I tried saving up any extra money I could so that I wasn’t paying for the trip after the trip itself was over. I spent some time praying about it, and God gave me some really cool business ideas to make more money selling my homemade cupcakes. Before I knew it, I was super busy baking away and putting a lot more money towards our trip! Sometimes God provides actual money, sometimes He gives us more ways to make it ourselves. He’s so amazing!

5) My credit card was maxed and I had no money to buy groceries. I was in the car with my mom telling her that I was financially strapped and it was a week until any money was coming in, and I needed a few groceries. She bought me a cup of coffee, but she really didn’t have money to lend me either. As we’re talking about this, my cousin calls and says, “My aunty has thank you cards for you guys for singing at her wedding. They’re here at my house if you want to come pick them up.” We picked them up and inside each card was $50. Just enough to get me through the week until next payday!

6) There are so many stories I could share like the one above. There were countless times when I ran out of money, and just like that, money would come from somewhere. One time, I was getting ready to go to Costco because I needed groceries. I had absolutely had no money, and again, no room on my credit card, but I needed a few things. As I’m doing my hair, another cousin stops by and gives me a cheque for $200 for helping me doing some bookkeeping stuff. Talk about God-timing!

7) My ex-sister in law and her friend were going to New York for a short trip, and asked me if I wanted to come. Of course I wanted to, but financially I couldn’t do it. There was just no way. She kept trying to get me to come, I needed to get away from everything, she argued. I agreed, but there was literally no way I could afford it. A day or so later, she texts me and says “If I pay for your flight and your share of the hotel, will you come?”

“What?!?! Seriously?!?!”

“Yep!” she says, “I really want you to come!”

“Well how can I say no to that?!” So the three of us went to New York for 4 days and had the absolute best time!

I want to make a point to remember the things God has done for me. He’s given me so much and done so many things for me, I could probably fill a journal or two. So whenever I start to get anxious about incoming bills or low funds, I take a step back and think about all the times God has come through. I know if He’s done it before, He’ll do it again. I just need to trust Him.

Has God provided for you recently? Have you stopped to think about it? I bet He’s provided for you more than you realize. I encourage you to take some time and think about great opportunities or ideas you had to make extra money, or if actual money unexpectedly came your way, or even if someone paid for your coffee one morning. Whether big or small, His hands are in it all. Then take some time to thank Him for His provision. And then, most importantly, above everything else, trust Him completely… with everything.

22

I see the number 22 everywhere. I see it throughout the day on the clock, sometimes up to 6-8 times a day. I see it on license plates, phone numbers, addresses, crosswalk timers, you name it. For almost a year now, I’ve seen it anywhere and everywhere.

God loves to speak to us more than we want to hear. Maybe because we expect Him to speak in certain ways, or the ways we think He speaks are in a neat little box, never to be opened or ventured out of. The truth is, He speaks through absolutely everything. He can tell you something He wants you to know through anything He wants. He once spoke to me through a drunk man, and I knew it was Him because I knew the man, and I knew he would never say anything like that in his right mind.

I kept asking the Lord what the number 22 meant. I had a Christian dream/signs interpretation book that I studied. I went through every book in the Bible, chapter 22: verse 22. I’ve had a few dreams about keys, so I thought maybe it was Isaiah 22:22, “I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.” I thought that’d be pretty cool if that’s what God was trying to speak over my life. But no, I knew that’s not what God meant. Not for now anyways.

Then one day I was browsing through my Passion Translation Bible, just flipping pages, and stumbled on Proverbs 22:4, “Laying your life down in tender surrender before the Lord will bring life, prosperity, and honor as your reward.” I have written a book about surrender and have spent years trying to practice it, so I thought this was it for sure! I was so excited I had finally figured it out. The words on the page had just jumped out at me, so it had to be what the Lord meant! Yes!

But a small part of my heart didn’t feel right. Maybe this scripture was a part of what God was trying to tell me, but it wasn’t the main thing. What then, could it be?

One Sunday afternoon, I was really fighting with discouragement. What was my purpose in life? I know that loving on and being there for my 3 daughters, 2 step kids and husband are a huge part of what I’m supposed to be doing now. And I know they will always come first in whatever stage of life I’m in. But I was still fighting with this gnawing feeling that I am or will be called to do something more. And I don’t know what it is. Should I be doing more with my book, or my church, or my blog? Should I be trying more things with my cupcake business? Why is it so hard to not be content where I am right now? Why am I so miserable?

Then I heard these words out of nowhere, “When the time is right, I, the Lord will make it happen.” They came so powerfully to my mind that I could have sworn I heard audibly heard them. Hmm, that’s interesting. Where have I heard that saying before? Is it a scripture? I typed it into my phone and sure enough, Isaiah chapter 60. I scrolled down, only to find it in… yep, you guessed it: verse 22! I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that, that was what 22 meant. God is so funny sometimes. Scripture says He loves to speak in puzzles, Jesus even spoke in parables all the time. He does that so we will search it out, and position our hearts to hear.

I still don’t know what “it” is. I have no idea what my future will look like. I suppose none of us do, but that’s a side point. What I mean is, is that I know God wants to do something big in my life, but I don’t know what it is. I knew that before, but I actually have more peace now. I’m only doing what I know to do now, and let God take care of the rest.

So every time I see the number 22, which is still all the time, I smile and remind myself to trust God, because when the time is right, He will make “it” happen.

The Many Adventures of Sofia Evelina

(I’m writing a children’s book called “The Many Adventures of Sofia Evelina”. It is a contemplation of short stories loosely based on my middle daughter Sofia; a wild, blue eyed, blonde haired, overly dramatic, girl, whom I love more than anything in the world. Each story has a theme and teaches kids about the power of their words; practicing gratitude and making positive declarations.)

The Day Sofia Evelina Didn’t Want to Dance

It was the first day of ballet class for Sofia Evelina. She had been looking forward to it all summer, and now the day was finally here! She opened the dance studio door wide and waltzed in like she owned the place. She looked up and stopped. “Oh, this place is so much different than I thought. There are so many bigger girls that are amazing dancers!”

         Suddenly she felt so small and afraid. “What if I can’t dance?” she thought. “What if I’m not a good dancer? What if I fall and all the other girls laugh at me? What if I can’t learn the steps and the teacher yells at me? I don’t think I can do this!”

         She glanced into one of the studio rooms as she walked down the hall. There were girls just a little older than her dressed in their suits, tights and ballet slippers, practicing their jumps and turns. “That looks amazing!” she thought. “Will I ever be as good as them? Yeah, I don’t think me being here is a good idea.” She shook her head and said, “Mom, I want to go home. I don’t want to dance anymore.”

         Her mom let go of her hand, turned and knelt down to face Sofia. She brushed the hair off Sofia’s face and said, “Honey, I know this might be scary for you, but you can do this! Besides, you’ve committed to do this for a year, and you have to keep your commitment.”

         Holding back tears, she nodded her head, turned around and walked into her studio room. Her teacher, Miss Katie, was so nice and welcoming, which made Sofia feel a bit better. There were 7 other girls in her class. “Okay,” said Miss Katie, “today we are going to learn what first position is.”

         “Nope, that’s it! I can’t do it!” Sofia said. She turned around and walked to the back corner of the room. Sitting with her knees to her chest, she put her face in her hands and cried.

         Miss Katie called out to her, “Sofia, why are you in the corner? Come join us!”

         “I don’t want to dance! I want to go home!” Sofia sobbed. Miss Katie called for Sofia’s mom to come talk to her.

Again, Sofia’s mom knelt down in front of her. “Okay, maybe we should do this differently. Sofia, what’s one thing we always do first when we’re going through a difficult time?”

         “Say what we’re thankful for.”

         “Okay, so let’s do that now.”

         Sofia took a deep breath. “I’m thankful that I have parents that will take me to dance. I’m thankful I can go to dance. I’m thankful I have two arms and legs, and a healthy body to do different things like dance. I’m thankful that God has made me strong enough to dance and exercise. I’m thankful for the other girls that are in this class that will be my friends. I’m thankful I can learn new and different things.”

         “Very good!” said Sofia’s mom. “What’s the next thing we do?”

         “Make declarations,” replied Sofia.

         “That’s right. So why don’t you go ahead and declare.”

         “I declare that I CAN do this. I WILL be a good dancer. I WILL work hard and take ONE step at a time. I WILL be patient with myself and give myself grace. When I fall I WILL get back up and keep trying. And when I feel I can’t do it, I know God will give me strength.” Sofia kept repeating these things until she really believed them. Then, with her newfound confidence, she got up and stood with the rest of her class.

         “I’m so glad you’re rejoining us Sofia!” said Miss Katie.

         “Thank you,” Sofia replied. She paused, smiled then said, “Just one step at a time. I got this!”

Dream about the Rapture

Back in September I had a dream that Jesus had returned and taken the Christians up to heaven with him. What I saw was the aftermath of that, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.

I’ve heard it said that young children who don’t have the ability to understand salvation will be taken up with Jesus in the rapture, or if they died, they’d go to heaven. I don’t know what the cut off age would be, but regardless, I saw mothers whose children disappeared in the rapture. Mothers who one second had little ones running around their feet, suddenly vanish the next second. Even mothers who were pregnant, their babies disappeared too, gone right out of their bellies. And I saw the panic and chaos that ensued after that. The frantic searching, the screaming, complete and utter horror. It made me think of the different scriptures in Matthew and Luke when Jesus is talking about the end of days, and he says how dreadful it will be for pregnant women and nursing mothers. He may have been referring to something different, but I couldn’t help but agree. Very dreadful, indeed.

Then I saw Christians driving in cars and suddenly vanish. Car wrecks everywhere. Christian drivers taken up, leaving non Christian passengers in their seats, crashing and being seriously injured or killed. Vehicles colliding into buildings, driving off of bridges. Complete chaos, destruction and death everywhere.

I also saw young people, whose parents were Christians, but they weren’t, be left behind. Again, I’m not sure the age cut off, but let’s say they were 10-12 years old. Their parents have disappeared, they’re frantically searching and can’t find them anywhere. They’re left alone in their house, no way to buy groceries, pay bills, get anywhere. They’re afraid and completely alone. And it could be like this for years for them. Would they starve to death? Now that the Holy Spirit is gone from the earth, would people have a heart to take these children under their wing and care for them? I started to panic at this point. Will my children be okay? Are they saved? Will they be left behind? I’m pretty sure I was sleeping or trying to sleep when this happened because I remember trying to calm myself down. Telling myself that my children will be okay. They have Jesus in their hearts. They’ll be with me.

But after all of this, I had this overwhelming feeling that nothing matters except our relationship with God. The money we work our whole lives to make, the cars we drive, the houses we live in, all of it… it doesn’t matter. We leave it all behind when we go. The ONLY thing we take with us to heaven is our family. So now, when I think of the passage, “seek FIRST the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” I take it much more seriously. I seek FIRST what God wants for me and my family, how we can serve the Lord and his kingdom, share the gospel and love others. Everything else is secondary.

Faith like a Child

The summer before last, the Lord asked me if I was willing to serve the small church I attended, in whatever ways needed. Was I really willing to give the Lord my all through this, no matter what it was or how much it cost?

“For the sake of the call, will you lay down your all?” were the words that came to me over and over.

“Yes! Yes I am willing! I’ll do whatever you ask me for the tiny church I love… just please don’t ask me to do children’s ministry! I’ll do anything except that! Please! I’m begging!”

So, I’m sure you can guess what happened. Both of the children’s ministry teachers stepped down at the same time and I had to decide if I was really going to put my money where my mouth was. “Ugh, you have got to be kidding me!”

However, over this past year I have learned so many lessons about children and my attitude towards them. I have 3 of my own, and 2 step kids, and all 5 range from 4-16 years old. So I am learning a lot about kids at home. But now I’m also learning a ton from the ones at church.

First; whatever we’re doing for the Lord is worship. When I first started having to teach, I was so annoyed that I had to miss out on the worship and message upstairs. I just wanted to be a part of what I thought was real worship. But then the Lord gave me a picture. He was sitting on his throne and I was worshipping him, alone. There was no one else joining me. It was just him and I. In that moment, all he saw was me. I had this strong impression that we are all accountable for our own worship. We give an account for what we do, not what the person beside us does. I think we all know that, but now I really knew.

Shortly after, I started to feel somewhat guilty. “Lord, I can’t worship if I’m downstairs with the kids. I’m missing out on being a part of the worship, therefore I can’t worship you the way I really want to.” But one day it hit me like a sack of bricks right in the face. Everything we do for the Lord is worship. Obedience is worship. Teaching the kids every Sunday, doing what the Lord asked me to do even though I don’t want to, is worship. And I needed to worship with my whole heart.

Second lesson; kids go through some really hard things and a lot of them don’t have anyone to talk to or answer their questions. Even in our small church, over half the kids in my class are from broken homes, including mine. And they’re hurting. Sure it’s good to teach them about Daniel and the lion’s den, but what they really want to know is, and I quote from one of them, ‘why doesn’t God answer my prayers? If he’s good, why do bad things happen?’

I’ve been reading a book about the world coming into a new era of God’s glory, and it’s amazing. One thing she talks about is trusting God with childlike faith and having that childlike awe and wonder of the Lord. Reading it put a fire in my soul. I want that childlike faith where I can take Jesus at his word and trust him completely. But I want our children to have that childlike faith too. I want that incredible sense of awe and wonder of our majestic, powerful, awesome King, and feel the love he has for even me! To be astonished and amazed with the things we see him do. And I want our kids to feel and see these things too!

 The enemy is attacking our babies, breaking up homes and forcing kids to grow up faster than they should. Stress, depression, and anxiety in children are at an all-time high. It’s causing them to leave their childlike faith and wonder behind. Nothing seems to excite them anymore. Some kids are so used to disappointment, that there’s no point in being excited for anything. Apathetic attitudes are everywhere.

My 10 year old has been questioning everything for years. She hasn’t taken me at my word for a long time. I’ve never steered her wrong, but because other adults she loves and (used to) trust have, I sometimes fall under that too. I wish she would just trust me. I wish she would just be a kid and let me be the adult. I wish she would just take me at my word. I wish she would have some faith in me.

I think Jesus wishes the same for us. I think he wishes that we would just trust him. That we would take him at his word. How can I teach my children or the kids in my class to trust him if I don’t? How can I show them that only Jesus can mend our broken hearts if I haven’t let him mend mine?

I know now that I need to teach these kids. It is imperative. If I don’t teach them about all these things, who will? One of my favourite songs says “I see a generation rising up to take their place, with selfless faith…” I want to be a part of that. I want the rising generation in the church to take their place with strong unfaltering faith.

Psalm 90:16 (TPT) says “Let us see your miracles again, and let the rising generation see the glorious wonders you’re famous for.” This is my prayer for all children. May we all be astonished and amazed at his glory, wondrous works and awesome power. Let it be done! And please, Oh Lord, let me be part of it!

Things I’m Thankful for:

Clean Sheets

CLEAN BED SHEETS

There is probably nothing better, after a long crazy day, than getting into soft, clean bed sheets. If it’s cold out, warm sheets are the best. Sometimes I put my sheets or blankets in the dryer for a few minutes right before bed time, so they’re nice and toasty when I crawl in. When it’s been a hot day (I live in the great white north so I don’t remember when that was), climbing into cool sheets is literally the best. Currently, I’m covered with 2 blankets and have 2 layers of clothes on and am still freezing, so I can’t relate to that one, I just vaguely remember it being pretty awesome.

Getting into my bed with the clothes you’ve been wearing all day, is absolutely forbidden. Many know this, and have tried, but only a few have succeeded. And with it came the screams and cries from an enraged female, which actually only made it worse (sometimes younger brothers are the worst). You should have been there the fateful day when I still lived with my parents, he got into my bed with his dirty work clothes on… the horror.

Anyways, back to the topic on hand. There really is something amazing about clean sheets. But not cheap sheets, a good set. The 1 million thread count ones… which I don’t have, but the Costco sets are a pretty close second. I’m only guessing because I have no clue what 1 million thread counts sheets would feel like: probably heaven, I’m guessing. I wonder if my mansion up in heaven will have them… Seriously though, the Costco sets are pretty fab. Perfectly fitted on top of my pillow top king sized bed = glorious, magnificent comfort. Now just to get my sleeping kids out of my spot and on to their own side.

Sigh, I had so many things I wanted to get done tonight. But writing this just made me super excited for bed time… ah bed time, another thing I’m beyond thankful for. My first and foremost favourite part of the day. We’ll save that one for another time. It deserves more thought and affection than I can currently give.

For now, I can hear my clean sheets calling… I’m on my way!

MY GARAGE

I lived in a couple houses where it didn’t either have a garage, or it was impossible to park in it in the winter. So when I moved in to my current house, I made sure I could park in the garage. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t say to myself or out loud that I’m thankful for my garage. Something many wish they had and others take for granted.

My morning consists of making lunches and yelling at children to get ready for school. But when we leave the house, it could be -1000 and I still don’t put a winter coat on, or even get out of my slippers. Why? Because I parked in the garage.

I thought about letting the girls take the bus. But the bus stop is down the street… I’d actually have to go outside and walk them to the bus stop. Yeah… I’m not doing that.

Think about it this way, a few weeks ago it was super cold and snowed over 2 feet in a period of a week. I didn’t have to start my car or brush the snow off of it once. I’m not bragging, I’m just trying to be thankful for everything. So many people park in their garages and don’t even think twice about it. Not everyone has this luxury. And yes, it is a luxury.

Things I’m thankful for.

TOQUES/HATS/BEANIES

Girls, we all know the same truth: washing our hair is a huge pain. You know that meme of the girls who has to wash her hair but isn’t emotionally ready to do it… yeah, that’s me. It’s not just washing my hair, it’s blow drying, straightening, etc., etc., etc. And while I am thankful for shampoo, conditioner, my blow dryer, and especially my straightener (I would be lost without it), sometimes a good ol’ fashioned hat, is a perfect way to cover up the fact that my long locks need to be washed.

Not only am I thankful that it covers it up, but it’s super cute. “Awe, you look so stylish with that hat on! It goes perfectly with your outfit!” “Oh thanks! I just kind of threw it on.” Meanwhile, you’re really thinking “thanks, I didn’t feel like washing my greasy hair this morning, and I’ve used all the dry shampoo I can, so I needed something to cover it up.”

In fact, it’s so stylish that even my 7 year sort of compliments me in it. I picked her up early from school the other day, and she says, “I thought I’d be embarrassed when you came to my class, but I actually wasn’t.” Thanks Olivia, that means so much.

So I’m thankful for the option of a touque or hat or beanie. Some days, really, really thankful.

SWEATPANTS

If you’ve ever come to my house, 99 percent of the time, you’ll find me in sweatpants. That’s because as soon as I wake up, I put them on. And as soon as I get home from anywhere, I change into them. There’s really nothing better than a good old fashioned pair of sweats.

I have 3 pairs that I rotate. My oldest pair is 19 years old, and I can only wear them because I cut the string out. For some reason when I was in my early 20’s I tied a knot in the waist string because I thought I’d never get bigger than that, and if I did, life was over. When I could no longer get them over my thighs and butt, I put them away. But a few years ago, I accepted the fact that I’d never get that small again and cut the string. Such a good life choice, if I do say so myself. I’m wearing them right now actually.

My second pair is about 18 years old, and falling apart. But I still love them and wear them, all the time. I just have to be careful because there’s a big hole in the crotch. Haha.

My third pair is from my first year of university. They’re also falling apart, but I still love them too.

None of them are flattering, in fact, they’re the exact opposite. They look horrible. They’re not the fashionably cute ones that my sisters wear, either. They’re so frumpy. I always used to put my feet in them and step on them, so they all have huge holes in the heels. But I don’t care. I love them all. They’re all so comfortable. Pair them with a hoodie and no bra, and all is well with the world. Considering I’m in such an uncomfortable stage in life, I need to at least dress comfortably when I’m home. Home is where we should be comfortable, whatever that means to us.

So today, and pretty much every other day, I’m thankful for my sweatpants.

Enough

My whole first marriage I was either not enough or too much. I wasn’t skinny enough. I didn’t wear enough make up or wear my hair down enough. I didn’t dress nice or sexy enough. I didn’t take care of myself enough. The house was never clean enough, or if it was, I used the wrong smelling cleaner. The chicken was usually over cooked or the nachos didn’t have enough cheese. The dishes or laundry was never done often enough. We didn’t have sex enough, and when we did, it wasn’t good enough. I talked about God too much. I ate too much junk food. The list goes on.

I realize now that he just wasn’t happy in our marriage, and no matter what I did/didn’t do/could have done, none of it would have mattered.

Now, even though I’m out of that environment and much happier, I still find myself reverting to that mentality every so often. I don’t work so I feel like I don’t contribute enough. And a big one for me right now especially, is that I feel like I’m not spending enough time with God, and doing enough for him.

I love the Lord so much. I’ve tried to dedicate my entire life to him. To do what he wants me to do and be what he wants me to be. But I feel like it’s never enough. I know this feeling of not enough a lie from the enemy, and that God loves me and is so proud of me, regardless. But because I spend the majority of my day wandering around aimlessly, wondering what I’m doing with my life, praying and asking God what he wants me to do, I struggle with not being or doing enough. Am I praying enough? Am I reading the Bible enough? Do I watch too much TV instead? Am I talking to my kids about God enough? Am I worshipping enough? Am I grateful enough? Again, the list goes on.

I know this will pass. It always does. I tell myself that I’m doing everything I know to do and have given God my heart as often as I can. I trust him with everything in me. Most of the time. And when I struggle, I encourage myself in the Lord. Negative feelings come and go, and I know that it’s okay when they do come, as long as I don’t dwell on them for long. I know I’m in a season where God is working on my soul, pruning what shouldn’t be there. Crushing, pressing, making new wine. And he’s been so patient while I go through all of these thoughts and emotions. I just wish I was patient enough with myself as he is with me.

My Version of Genesis 22

I spoke at church a few months ago. Well actually, I read a story. My version of when God called Abraham to sacrifice his son, the one He had promised him. If you’re not familiar with Abraham, he was basically the first Jewish person. God promised him offspring that would be as numerous as the stars in the sky, and would be a blessing to the whole world. Him and his wife, Sarah, were barren and didn’t actually have any children together until they were almost 100. Then a few years later, God asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son (Jewish people weren’t ever required to do that, but many other religions in Old Testament days demanded child sacrifice. Crazy, I know). Anyways, if you want to read the actual story, it’s in Genesis 22. I do go back and talk about things that happened in prior chapters, too, if you wanted to check that out.

Here is Abraham’s Story:

The sun was just starting to peak over the mountains. Day was breaking, and so was Abraham’s heart. He had been up all night praying. Pleading with God to take back what He had just asked him to do. Arguing with himself that he must have heard wrong. Surely God would never give him promise after promise of a son of blessing, and then ask for him back. How could he do that? No, I’ve surely been mistaken. He lay in his tent, tossing and turning, pleading, sobbing quietly as not to wake Sarah. “Lord, you can’t possibly take this child away from us. Away from her.”

His mind went back to the day, the first time the Lord promised him a lineage of blessing. After years and decades of trying for a child, God finally promised him and Sarah a family. It wasn’t without a call to leave his homeland and place of comfort. To set off for somewhere new and unknown. He recalled how God had told him he would make him into a great nation that would be a blessing to the whole earth. But that promise required obedience first. It always did. He always did what God asked him to do. At first, he would doubt God’s commands, because most of the time, they didn’t make much sense. But by now, he knew not only God’s voice, but the results of obedience. They were always so good. God was so good to him. But this time, this time it was different. Moving away from home, fine. Being obedient in everything else, fine. But this! “God, why are you asking me to sacrifice my son, the very promise you gave me? How could you do this to me?”

Again, his mind went back to the time the 3 angels came to him and how Sarah laughed when they said by that time the following year she’d be pregnant. He was a bit embarrassed when she did that, but he also didn’t blame her. Lineages have always been important, and the longer they went without having a child, the more depressed and useless Sarah felt. The first few years were okay, he remembered her getting antsy every time her cycle was a day or two late. But every month was another disappointment for her. That disappointment turned into depression, which turned into downright anger. From there, hopelessness. She blamed herself more than I ever did. True, I also struggled with strong disappointment, sometimes even jealousy because my siblings were able to bear children and we weren’t. I prayed all the time, for years, begging God for a son. We were upright people who did what was right to the best of our abilities. Not only that, we would have made wonderful parents. Sarah, especially, would have made an amazing mother. She is so loving and nurturing and caring. What could possibly be wrong with us, that we couldn’t be blessed with children? That’s why Sarah laughed. She had long lost hope for a child but still fought with bitterness and resentment. And those men saying we would have a child was like rubbing salt in an open wound.

He could barely see the sun rise through his tears. He knew he had to obey. All the arguing and pleading proved void. He had pleaded with God for Sodom and Gomorrah, and if there would have been any righteous people, he would have prevailed. But this was different. He knew there was no point anymore. The only thing left to do was obey. He was sick with dread. Might as well get up and get this over with.

As his two servants got everything ready for the journey, he went to Isaac’s bed and leaned over to wake him up. For a moment he watched him sleep, breathing in every last detail of his face. He had Sarah’s big beautiful eyes, so full of light and curiosity. Her old age may have dimmed them a bit, but he could still see them shine when he watched her interact with her son. Even now closed, Abraham could see his eyes twitch a little bit and wondered what he could be dreaming about. He watched as Isaac smiled in his sleep, he was such a happy boy. Abraham smiled to himself through his swelling tears and thought, I will never love another child as much I love you. My promise. Coming to himself, he gently called Isaac’s name. Time to get up. We are going on a big journey today.

Thankfully Isaac didn’t ask many questions of where they were going or what they were doing. He wouldn’t know how to answer. Dodging Sarah’s questions the night before were difficult enough. She was so protective of him, rarely letting him out of her sight. She was the definition of a mother bear once she held him in her arms. And she must have sensed something was off with Abraham. All colour had left his face, he was completely sombre, and she knew he was trying to hide something from her. Isaac would not be leaving her side without a fight.

Everything was packed and they were set to leave. Isaac kissed his mother goodbye. Fighting tears, she smiled at him, wrapped her arms around him and kissed both his cheeks. She looked at her husband, face still pale and eyes red and puffy. He looked at her with the most heart breaking look she had ever seen. “If anything happens to my son on this trip, so help me…” He turned and walked away before she could finish. There was no point anyways.

They walked for three days. Isaac tried not to complain much because his dad was so down and lost in thought the entire time, but he was tired of walking. He didn’t even know where they were going or why. And for some reason, there was an uneasiness in the air that even he could sense.

Abraham spent the entire 3 days, pleading with God to change his mind, reminding him of his promises. At night, they would build a fire, eat dinner and sleep. But Abraham neither ate nor slept. He was starving and exhausted, but his heart was far too broken to do either. The war inside himself was almost more than he could bare sometimes. Over and over again he would plead, “Lord, I have been faithful and obedient. I have trusted you over and over. And you have kept your promise over and over. But I don’t understand what you are doing here. And I don’t doubt that you will still keep your promises. That you will provide. That you will continue to bless me. But I just don’t understand.” The question was no longer, did he hear correctly. He knew that much. There’s something deep inside of the very core of your being, when you know God has spoken to you. Sometimes it consumes you and every aspect of your life until it comes to pass. Other times, it gets put to the side until the right moment, but it’s rarely forgotten.

They were almost at their destination, tomorrow was the big day. While the others were sleeping, Abraham looked up at the night sky, remembering the time the Lord had promised him offspring as many as there were stars, through a son of his own flesh and blood. He took a deep breath, “I believed you then, and I believe you now.” Something inside himself broke as he said that out loud. Flooded with peace that surpassed his understanding, under a beautiful starry sky, he stoked the fire for the last time of the night and drifted off to sleep.

The next morning came much earlier than Abraham wanted. Although surprisingly, he felt more rested than he had in a while. They cooked breakfast over an open fire, and for the first time in quite a few days, he ate. The other 3 stared at him in confusion, but no one dared to ask questions. His 2 most trusted servants that had come, knew Abraham well enough to know that this journey was out of obedience to the Lord, as many of their journeys were. Although for some reason, this one seemed a bit different. Isaac was still too young to understand true obedience, but he soon would.

They walked for a few more hours until Abraham stopped them. Looking away, he told his servants to stay and wait for him and Isaac while they went ahead. “We will go and worship and then we will come back,” he said. He believed that both of them would come back, but he did not know how. The look he had on his face told the servants that there was much more to the story. But they dare not question their master. Isaac, carrying the wood, and Abraham carrying the knife and torch of fire, left the two servants behind. Something was missing, they thought to themselves. Suddenly, the realization of what was really going to happen came, and their eyes widened and they went white as ghosts. Surely the Lord isn’t asking our master to do what we think?? Surely not!

Each step Abraham took was heavier than the last. The peace that was there earlier that morning was starting to fade quickly. He was deep in prayer, begging God to change his mind, when Isaac broke the silence.

“Father?”

“Yes, my son?”

“The fire and wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

 Abraham answered him the same way he’d been answering his own question for the last 4 days, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” For Isaac, this answer was sufficient. Abraham wished it was sufficient for himself.

When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built and alter and slowly, through his tears, he arranged the wood on it. Why was father crying? Isaac thought. And where is this lamb God is supposed to provide? Not a moment later, before he knew it, Isaac’s father was tying him up. Wait. What’s happening? “No father! Did I misbehave? Why are you doing this to me?”

Abraham couldn’t hear Isaac’s pleading through his own sobs. And Isaac couldn’t break free from his father’s old, but strong arms. “I don’t understand what’s happening!” he cried, as he was being laid on the wooden alter. Isaac squeezed his eyes closed in terror and held his breath as Abraham, through his weeping, reached out the hand that was holding the knife to slay his son.

Just then they both heard a thunderous voice, coming from what seemed like heaven. “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied, as he slowly put down the knife with one hand and wiped his face full of tears with the other.

“Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” Abraham looked up and saw a ram with its horns caught in the bush. He let out a loud cry and heavy sigh of relief all at the same time. Then quickly untied his son, kissing his face over and over, drenching him with yet more tears. He ran over to the ram and when it was loosed from the bush, he laid it on the alter and sacrificed it. Isaac sat there numb and not really sure what to think of what just happened.

As Abraham was overcome with relief, Isaac struggled with the feeling of betrayal. He couldn’t believe that after all his parents had went through just to have a son, that his own father would even consider ending his son’s life! Now he was the one lost in thought, struggling with overcoming heartbreak.

“Isaac, my son,” Abraham said, interrupting Isaac’s deep thoughts.

“Yes father?”

“I know you don’t understand what just happened. And I know how hurt and betrayed you must feel. Sometimes the Lord asks us to do things that are beyond difficult. Sometimes He tests us to see how much we not only love him, but trust him. Sometimes he asks us to give our promises back, so we depend more on the promise giver rather than the promises themselves. Isaac, my son, I love you more than anything else in the world. But I cannot be disobedient to the Lord, no matter what he asks of me. It is in the very fibre of my being that I be fully obedient to him. I cannot do otherwise, no matter how difficult it proves to be. Everything God has asked me to do over the years have been difficult. But nowhere near as difficult as this. And every time I’ve been obedient, he has provided me with much more than I ever thought I needed. When I told you that the Lord himself would provide the sacrifice, I didn’t know how he would, but I knew he would. I had to be obedient first, because it is only in our complete trust and obedience that the Lord makes provisions for the promises to come to fruition. And when he does provide and fulfills his promises, he also takes us farther than any of our expectations could ever reach. He does more than we could ever ask or think. You will understand this more and more as your own faith in God matures and you submit to his calling.”

Isaac thought for a moment and supposed that one day he would understand his words. For now, he would just be grateful.

“One more thing, Isaac.”

“Yes father?”

“Do NOT tell your mother about any of this!”

A Loving Heart

When we see ourselves as God sees us; His babies, we automatically start seeing others differently. We realize that the only reason we can truly, unconditionally love others is because Christ loved us first. And then we begin to love the Lord with all our heart and soul, and love our neighbour as ourselves.

So many of us know 1 Corinthians 13 because it’s probably quoted at every wedding we go to. But what does it mean? Most of the time we associate it with romantic love between a husband and wife. But then how patient or kind are we really with them, when push comes to shove? Are we willing to let go of the record we’ve made of all the wrongs they’ve done to us? Did you know that despite everything we’ve done wrong, God keeps no record of any of it? When we ask His forgiveness, He not only forgives, but also forgets.

Lately I’ve been asking Him to show me how to love like He loves. Shortly after, the Lord woke me up in the night, started talking to me about a loving heart and gave me this:

A loving heart is patient because it understands how our Father is so patient with us.
A loving heart is kind because it has experienced the kindness of the Father.
A loving heart does not envy because it is grateful for the things the Father has given it. A loving heart doesn’t boast because it knows it’s validation doesn’t need to come from anyone other than our Father.
A loving heart isn’t proud because it knows it can do nothing apart from the Father.
A loving heart doesn’t dishonour others or seek itself because it can’t do those things and love others at the same time.
A loving heart isn’t easily angered or offended because it would rather address the root of the issue and help that person heal.
A loving heart does not keep record of wrongs because it knows the Father has never kept a record of our wrongs.
A loving heart always rejoices in the truth because it’s just reiterating what the Father would do.
A loving heart always protects the people near and dear to them, just like the Father.
A loving heart always trusts, because even though we’ve given our Father many reasons not to, he still always trusts us.
A loving heart always hopes because no matter how dark things may seem, it knows that as long as we still have breath we can still have hope because our Father is a miracle worker.
A loving heart always perseveres and keeps going, because it knows that all things work together for good.
A loving heart never fails because it knows that our Father will never give up on us. He’ll leave the 99 sheep just to come rescue us.

Stained Glass Windows

There’s a big beautiful church in Los Angeles called Angelus Temple. It is quite old and has withstood numerous natural disasters, etc. Honestly, there is so much rich history about that building, it’s definitely worth learning about. I had the privilege of going to an amazing conference there in February, 2018, and what struck me the most about this building was its stained glass windows. I’m sure they were 2 stories tall (I haven’t actually checked), but stunningly beautiful, each carefully depicting a significant moment in Jesus’ life.

Shortly after I got home from this trip, my then 8 year old daughter was struggling with questions about life. “How come I’ve prayed so much for my mommy and daddy to get back together, and God didn’t answer my prayer? What’s the point of praying for things if he’s not going to answer? Why did God let this happen in the first place? Why do things have to be so hard? Why is my heart so broken?”

I sat there with my eyes closed for a minute, not knowing what to say. “Jesus, what do I tell my child? How can I answer her questions when they’re the same ones I have?”

But Jesus, being the ever so loving and faithful Father he is, gave me the words and wisdom to answer both of us at the same time. “Olivia, I want to show you some really cool pictures I took while I was on my trip.” I showed her the pictures I took of the big beautiful stained glass windows in this large church, including the one above. I zoomed in and pointed out all the little details of each window. She thought they were so pretty.

“Olivia, to make a stained glass window, you first have to take a big piece of coloured glass, and break or cut it into a thousand smaller pieces. Then you take all the different pieces of the broken or cut, coloured glass, and fit them together to make a picture. I know you feel like your heart has been broken or cut into a thousand pieces. Mine has to.  People make choices, or things happen beyond our control that break our heart, and sometimes we feel like there’s just no way our heart will ever be the same. And in most cases they won’t. And that’s ok, because we can give the pieces of our broken heart to Jesus, and he will not only carefully pick them all up, he’ll also lovingly put them back together in a way that will make the most stunning picture. Anything we give him, he makes beautiful. I don’t know what the future holds for our family, but I do know that no matter what it looks like, it will be wonderful and beautiful, just like these stained glass windows.”

I gave her a big hug and kiss, wiped the tears from her eyes, then mine. “Does that help a bit?”

“Yes,” she said, with a smile on her face. “Ok, I’m going to go play now.”

We’ve had many conversations before and since then, but that is the only one I can really remember. Maybe because it helped me just as much as it helped her. Now every time we see a stained glass window, she always smilingly points it out to me.

“But I will give all my thanks to you, Lord, for you make everything right in the end.” Psalm 7:17a   (Passion Translation)