Of tears and kitchen sinks …

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I stood at the sink. Hands wrist deep in suds. Tears streaming down my face. Heart conflicted. On one side, grace, mercy and blessings beyond measure. On the other, grief, pain, dreams unfulfilled. There was no choice but to wrestle with them both.

 

I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:13-14 (NIV)

I’m sure now I’ll see God’s goodness in the exuberant earth. Stay with God! Take heart. Don’t quit. I’ll say it again:  Stay with God. Psalm 27:13-14 (MSG)

 

I poured out my heart. The longings that are not buried as deep as I think they are. The dreams of my soul that are rarely admitted out loud. The heart-soreness that is skin deep and always present. It all came gushing forth. Not in bitterness but just statements. Not in questioning His presence but in the wonder and hurt of pain. I am so grateful I have a God who listens.

I laid my heart bare.  I needed the reminders of who my God is.

He is good. Full stop. No change. Regardless of circumstance. Even with the current state of my dreams and longings, He is good. His goodness does not ebb and flow but rather it is constant.

He is faithful. Full stop. He does not change His mind. He does not tire of me. He does not throw up His hands in despair over me. He is there in every part of the journey. The parts I love and am proud of and the ones I’d rather hide away in the darkest of cupboards.

He is present. Full stop. I might pick the spots where I show up. My God is not like that. Instead, He is there for all of it. A constant presence. With me in all of it – the tears both happy and joyful. The happy bits and the ones filled with sorrow. He does not come and go at will. He is with me.

Through tears coursing their way down my face, I chose to speak the truth of who my God is. I needed to hear myself say it. He is the One I need. I crave His presence. I am desperate to experience His ongoing faithfulness. I hunger to see His goodness. Somehow, speaking the truth over my life altered my perspective.

The pain of the unfulfilled is still there. But even more than that, my God is there. At times I have great confidence in His presence and provision. Sometimes, that foundation has gaping holes and water rushes in. But I know the sandbags of God’s goodness are there. Shoring up the weak spots. Preventing the water from spilling over even more. His goodness is on display if I am persistent enough to look for it. To pursue it. It requires a “don’t quit.” Admittedly, I would like to quit. The middle is hard. It is uncomfortable. It hurts. But my God understands the middle parts and the pain. He is good. He is faithful. He is present. I need no more, no less.

 

Pat Barrett’s Sparrows and Lilies

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Life and love …

 

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We recently gathered to celebrate a life. Ninety-six years of living – childhood, family, brothers and sisters, work, war, marriage, children, grandchildren, great grandchildren. It was a life well lived. Full of adventures and experiences. Laughter and tears. Games and night lunch with ginger ale. Late evenings with bedtime stories read out the bottom of the glasses (bifocals were a complete mystery to me). A life characterized by the Fruit of the Spirit. Precious memories tucked away in hearts.

 

As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children – with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts. Psalm 103:13-18 (NIV)

As parents feel for their children, God feels for those who fear him. He knows us inside and out, keeps in mind that we’re made of mud. Men and women don’t live very long; like wildflowers they spring up and blossom, But a storm snuffs them out just as quickly, leaving nothing to show they were here. God’s love, though, is ever and always, eternally present to all who fear him, Making everything right for them and their children as they follow his Covenant ways and remember to do whatever he said. Psalm 103:13-18 (MSG)

 

I am so glad God is my Father. He understands and know me better than I know myself. He’s watched my life from before my birth. He knew my unique-nesses even before I discovered them. Each one a testament to His creativity and His imprint on me.

He knows my life is short. Time flies by faster than I understand. Little ones are now half grown. Other littles now step back into my life as taller-than-me adults with an eye on their professions, a step closer to “all grown up.” It flies. I often wonder where it’s gone and could I possibly get a few of those moments back.

I am struck by the comparison of life with the flowers. They bloom wild and proud in all sorts of out of the way places. A striking beauty in something so dainty. Completely changing a landscape from stark and barren to plentiful and lush. They bring their beauty with them. A bouquet a centrepiece, foliage on a mantel. A delicate fragrance filling a room. But all too soon (at least at my house) it’s gone, faded, wilted.

Life can be just like that. It’s full of vim and vigour. Plenty of activity and things to do. People to see and be with. Changes spring up where they are least expected. Getting older. It is a part of the experience that seems wonderful when you are less than 10 and altogether different after 40. Illness. The cold that will not go away. Surgery. Cancer. The complications of old age. None of these are a desired part of the journey of life. But they sweep through. Changing our perspective. Hopefully, pushing us deeper into Jesus. Reminding us that good health is a remarkable gift.

Death. That uncomfortable ending. Grief. Tears flow. Sorrow. It hurts. My Father knows my days. He has given me each one. He knows when they will draw to an end. Each step on the journey of my life a part of His plan. My Father has it all held in His hands.

One thing remains constant in all of it – the love of my God. It’s deeper than I can understand. It surrounds, filling in the places in my heart where I am weak and burdened. It is that hug at just the right moment. The whispered words – I love you. It cannot be outrun. There is no end to it. It goes on and on and on. It cannot be gotten rid of. My choices cannot remove it. God’s love sticks. It is with me. How precious! How marvellous! The Maker of it all loves me!

I am grateful beyond measure!

A different kind of Mother’s Day

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It’s my toes, well the pinky toes, that are the most obvious link between us. (That seems like the strangest line I’ve ever written.) But if you were to look down at my feet you’d find that my pinky toes don’t point up to the sky but off to the side as if they missed the memo about where they were meant to be looking. They’re also the most obvious physical link to my grandmother.

There’s other connections as well.

The woman was competitive. Even in her 90’s there was no game that she didn’t play to win. She was known to play 6 games of Yahtzee at once. At once! I struggle to play one game of Yahtzee at time, but 6 for her was no big deal. The best way to spend time with her and have a good conversation was at the table in her house, cards in hand, chatting away with a little trash talk mixed in for good measure. And lucky, she always seemed to have all the luck. She didn’t mind reminding you about that either!

The woman loved Jesus. She faithfully read her Bible. As her eyesight failed, others read for her. As her hearing left her, we all read it slowly and louder than we thought we should. She never stopped wanting to learn about her Lord. Faithful church attendance was an essential part of her life. If she could be at church, she was. Part of her walk with God was to read the Daily Bread. Those Devotionals were an important part of her day. More than just routine, each time we sat down to read it, there was a connection with family and her Heavenly Father.

She was an ardent Blue Jays fan. I’m not really into baseball. There’s other sports that I’m much more passionate about, but my grandmother passed on the love of sports to me, too. She had her favourite players. She knew about things like strikes, outs and balls. Home runs made her smile. I can only imagine what she would have thought had she been able to actually go to a game.

She loved her garden and had an eye for beauty. Flowers were her joy and delight. The more the better. The more vibrant the colours the more fantastic. It was only right if her house was in the middle of a bower.

She loved her family! There were lots of us. 11 children. Spouses. 36 grandchildren. Great grandchildren. Great-great grandchildren. She saw 5 generations unfold before her eyes.

This year she celebrated a Mother’s Day none of us anticipated. She celebrated with Jesus. 96 years were given to her on earth and they were full. Work, a husband, children, moving, a Centennial project, a child buried in infancy, grandchildren, more moves, games, laughter, tears, the death of a spouse, two grandchildren and two sons-in-law, health, sickness – these were all part of that journey.

On Mother’s Day she was more home than ever before. She saw Jesus’ face. Her journey on earth finished – her ardent desire for more than a year.

No one saw it coming. The night before, she read the Daily Bread and played Chinese Checkers with family. All seemed fine. At some point in the night, she was ushered into the presence of Glory. She is exactly where she wants to be. We mourn. She does not. We grieve. She rejoices. We don’t wish her back. There’s just a hole there now that’s Grandma shaped. We will celebrate her. A life well lived. A woman at home with her Saviour – the best kind of Mother’s Day she could ever have imagined.

Each tear …

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There was a service today. A memorial for one who lived life full. Who loved travel and adventure. Who had a crazy sense of humour and deep and abiding passion for God and His people. Her arms were always open and hugs were just part of spending time with her. She love worship and her flags waved often as the words were lifted before the throne.

Her life was celebrated. Tears. Laughter. Joy. Pain. Precious words and memories shared.

I couldn’t help it. The tears leaked out. Those she loved and who loved her are left behind to ache.

Another service is on the horizon. Another who has entered Jesus’ presence. This goodbye has been long. What was once a vibrant mind and body was slowly stolen by Alzheimers. Where joy and vibrancy used to dwell, silence slowly took over. Where eyes once twinkled over a snarky comment or a great joke a gradual dullness invaded. Her home going is the last goodbye, one that has been coming for a while. I anticipate another round of tears. It simply cannot be helped.

I sometimes feel that my tears are a waste. The tear ducts work well. That’s been duly noted on multiple occasions. But the demonstration of that emotion seems like something I would love to be able to control a bit more effectively. However, that doesn’t seem to be God’s intention for me and my tears.

Psalm 56 has been one on which I’ve felt hung up. What, God, do you have for me in that Psalm? David’s a little vengeful at times. He’s plenty accusatory. He reminds himself on multiple occasions that God’s worthy of his trust and that He is the One who is in charge. And then today, on this day when my eyes feel swollen and tired, the Psalm hits home.

Record my lament; list my tears on your scroll – are they not in your record? Psalm 56:8 (NIV)

You’ve kept track of my every toss and turn through the sleepless nights, Each tear entered in your ledger, each ache written in your book. Psalm 56:8 (MSG)

The aches are part of this life. As much as I do not wish to experience them, they are part of what living is all about. Yes, there are joys – moments of sheer delight. But pain and its accompanying hurts and griefs is a distinctive part of the journey too. God’s love is demonstrated again to me in the ways that He pays attention to the tears that I cry. They are not in vain. They are not purposeless. Instead, they remind me that my God rejoices with me but He also aches with me too. This is the God who pays more attention to me than I can ever understand. Each tear is entered in His ledger…

How long?

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How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Psalm 13:1-2

We all have a “how long” question for God. I have met questioners wondering about jobs – how long until I have a job again? Other questioners have wondered about home – how long until I feel safe and I can move home again? Many question about their health or the health of someone they love – how long until my loved one is well? Others are in the thickness of grief – how long will it take for me to get used to this new emptiness in my life? Others are in a place of anticipation – how long until this baby arrives?

I have wrestled with God over a “how long” question for most of my life. It was the kind of question that caused my faith to waver, my heart to doubt and my identity to be hijacked. My “how long” has centred around my marital status – how long until I get married? And the question burned into the heart of who I was. Every bridal shower was an exercise in stiff upper lip. Every wedding invitation with my name and a plus one felt like a stab to my heart. Every wedding was salt in the wound stinging with intense ferocity. It seemed that I went to a lot of weddings. At each one, I pasted a smile on my face and asked the question “How long until its my turn?” “Why haven’t I met the person for me?”

Look on me and answer, O Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall. Psalm 13:3-4

Those questions became so deeply a part of my personhood that it rocked my relationship with God. My prayers felt like they hit the ceiling. It seemed that spending time in God’s Word was an exercise in futility. I had become an expert in the stiff upper lip and the everything is fine facade. But inside I was torn to shreds and absolutely nothing was right.

Then a pastor dared to ask me the question that began to turn my life on its head, “Might it be an unanswered prayer that has left you feeling disappointed with God?” True to form I burst into tears. This was absolutely the case with me. I had become to be defined by my “how long” question and because God had not answered to my satisfaction therefore it was His fault. I did not doubt that He existed, but I was deeply disappointed in Him. He hadn’t lived up to my ideas of His provision and therefore He was grossly inadequate. I lived in the place of the overcome and all those married around me seemed to live lives full of rejoicing and happiness.

But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation, I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me. Psalm 13:5-6.

I don’t know exactly when it all changed for me. I don’t know exactly what words were shared with me that changed my perspective. I haven’t stopped asking “how long” questions because they are all around me and they affect those I love in deep and profound ways. In fact, I ask along with them. But somewhere along the journey that is my relationship with Christ, my “how long” question was gradually replaced and has even felt like it has been deleted.

And no, I’m not married. My single status hasn’t changed at all. But my attitude towards my single-ness has changed. For too long in my life, I attached my identity and my worth to the label of single or married. In my mind, single was an absolute failure. Married was the benchmark.

Instead, my faithful Father has been revealing Himself in the middle of my journey. It is not about being single or married at all. For me it has been about my identity. Yes I am single. But more importantly, I am a beloved, beautiful daughter of Christ. One who has had her sin washed away by the precious blood of Christ shed on the cross for me. One who is loved with a deep and abiding love. One who has been forgiven much and is called to live a life of deep devotion to Jesus. One who has discovered that obedience to my Lord is more important than anything else. One who knows with certainty that Jesus speaks to me and desires for me to listen and engage in conversation with Him. One who knows that nothing else is as important as the relationship I have with my heavenly Father. I have learned to trust that the Lover of my soul has known me intimately all along. His love is unfailing and therefore my heart can rejoice exactly where it is.

For me, that means my heart rejoices in the midst of my singleness. And I choose to sing. I choose to find the joy. I choose to see the blessings that my life offers me. I choose to be grateful for the experiences that continue to be poured into my life. No matter what, my God is so good to me. His goodness will never end.

At some point, I am sure another “how long” will surface in my life, but I choose to fix my eyes on the Father who walks with me. He knows my “how long” better than I ever will and He will never leave my side.

How Long – Al Gordon

How Long Oh Lord (Psalm 13) – Brian Doerksen

Journey

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The map collection sits on a shelf. Opening each one reveals a path highlighted in some neon colour outlining where I’ve been. Some lines are short – a straight line connecting two different cities. Others are convoluted, even circular, tracing journeys that have been far from straightforward.

I am a destination person. I need to be at airports early. My stomach prefers that! I will gladly sit and wait for a long time if it means I am sure I am in the right location. Many times, the getting there – the queues for security, navigating my way through airports, the taxi rank – these things add stress and steal joy from the experience. The travel isn’t necessarily the happy part of the trip for me.

I believe that U turns are a necessary part of a journey. The turn off was overshot and a retracing of steps is required to get back on the desired path.

I require a GPS or Google Maps or something. I am seriously directionally challenged. I know how to get places because I follow the directions my mobile chirps at me the first time. That whole initial journey, my eyes are frantically searching for landmarks. What’s on the corner? What significant item makes this easier? The next time I head to that destination, I’m watching for every landmark I’ve programmed into my head and pay little attention to anything else.

I believe in getting lost. I don’t like getting lost. But knowing me and how I travel, this is part of my experience! I’m better with getting lost in countries that speak my language. It’s a little more complicated when English is a hindrance.

I like stumbling on “tastes of home.” I am a firm believer that when I am experiencing somewhere else, I need to live like they do. I want to dry delicacies that I will never find at home. I want to be stretched to try the unique. But somehow, stumbling on something that is familiar always warms my heart. It adds a touch of homesickness but it’s comforting nonetheless.

But the journey I have been on this year was one I wouldn’t have chosen. This was no road trip. Instead, my feet found themselves on a path that wound its way into the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4). I didn’t like this journey. I liked this destination even less! I didn’t like it for any of my loved ones. I didn’t want to have to play piano at any of these services.

I wanted to and still sometimes wish to make U turns. My loved ones are dearly missed. While memories are cherished, I would really love to have another conversation, another hug, another laugh. I can’t make this U turn.

I would have loved a map to help me deal with grief. I have cried buckets of tears. Kleenex and I are familiar friends. But, am I doing it right? Is there a prescription for how to grieve correctly? Intellectually, I know about the stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. And while I’ve experienced bits of all of them, I’m not sure where I’m at.

I’ve felt completely lost. There were no landmarks to guide the steps. A map would not have solved this. This wasn’t lost because of a missed turn or not knowing where I was. This was lost because this territory is the place where no one signs up to live life. Grief is the land no one chooses to live in.

But there are are “tastes of home” found all over the place. I am more and more convinced that while this earthly home is one I love and cherish, my eternal destination is much grander than I can imagine. My Heavenly Father has known each step of the journey I have been on this year. None of it has caught Him off guard. Instead, He continues to call out to me with His love and compassion. As my eyes have cried in sorrow, His heart has hurt along with me. And He is more tender than I had ever known. I have seen His face in the care and concern of friends who have prayed for me. I have known His touch in the arms that have pulled me into warm embraces. I have known His pain as others have cried along with me. And I know I have been carried in His arms because my strength was sapped in ways I had not anticipated.

I didn’t choose this journey. But it was mine to walk. I am slowly becoming accustomed to what this destination looks like.

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. Philippians 3:20, 21 

Shepherd

Journey

A season of …

I look back on this year and am blown away by what this year has held. I did not see any of this coming and that is definitely a good thing. If I would have known, I may have run for cover and stayed there!

It is a season of reflection. As my life is tied so closely to the school year, June often feels like the last week of December. What has happened over the course of this year of my life? How do I feel about it? What could I have done differently? What steps do I take next year so as not to repeat some of things that occurred this year?

It has been a season of fun. I have been able to travel and have plans for this coming summer that I am looking forward to. I have checked items off my bucket list. I have made new friends and tried new things. I have smiled and laughed. I look forward to repeating this season!

It has been a season of sorrow. I have grieved more deeply this year than I was prepared for. I knew there were those in my family who were not well and who I would need to say goodbye to in this life. But grieving has been a hallmark of this year. The illness and subsequent passing of one of my mentors was completely unanticipated and unexpected. My heart has been so sore and my eyes have cried many tears. It has hurt deeply because those I have lost have been much loved!

It has been a season of learning. New things continue to come across my plate. New challenges have sparked a desire to understand. Some have been for my own enjoyment. I knew I liked curling, I just didn’t know how much! Others are work related. I’m looking forward to getting my hands on that camera!

It is a season of see you soon. This year’s group of learners will soon be former students. Colleagues are transitioning to new positions. Another key mentor is moving on to a new call of God. These are the bittersweet moments of life. They are good, I know that in my heart, but they don’t feel particularly good, my heart is sad about it too!

I look forward to a season of rest. Less of a schedule. More time for reflection and restoration. More spur of the moment plans, less of a routine. The joy of summer and all that it holds.

I don’t know what season is next awaiting me. It will undoubtedly have surprises that I am delighted by. The possibility of further sadness is the tension of the life we live. Parts of it will be busy. Other pieces will allow me to put my feet up! Each one will become a part of my story that my Father continues to weave through my life. Therefore, each season is one that is a blessing regardless of the emotion attached to it.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. – Romans 15:13