Saturday, December 29, 2012

Looking Back

It seems like the end of the calendar year is a time where we look back at where we've been in the last year, and also to look forward to what is coming in the next year. There's something about the change in how we write the date that causes me (and maybe you) to think.

The last couple of days have had me thinking about the last year of writing on this blog. I've been writing for 5 years here. I didn't realize it had been that long.

This year: I wrote more than I have before. I reached the milestones of 300 posts, then 400. I never thought I would get to that point.

I wrote some of my favourite posts this year (you can find those ones here, here, here, here and here). I wrote posts I never thought I would write and actually post for others to read. I even attempted some poetry that I've shared (you can find those ones here and here).

Some other posts were favourites of those of you who read this blog. (The 3 most read posts from the last calendar year can be found here, here and here.)

I don't know what the future holds for my blog. I know I want to keep writing. I'll see where things go with the coming year.

I went back and read the first post I put on here. I wrote about service and the impact that it can have on our lives as we serve and on the lives of those we serve. Every word I wrote in that post is as true to me today as the day I wrote it. So much has changed for me since then, and yet so much is still the same.

I don't think I've written a post like this before, but I've often taken the time to look back at things I've written on my blog. It's always interesting to me to do so, but I've always wondered if it would be for anyone else.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

God Still Speaks

Once again, this post comes from an experience a few years ago, that God is using now to teach and remind me of things...

I pulled a piece of paper out of my mail slot at church on my way to find a seat. Once I was seated, I began to read it.

Women Connecting. Women's Bible studies on Monday nights.

"Well, I won't be going to that," was my first thought.

I mean, I was honestly only in church that Saturday night because it was a habit. After all that had happened in the last year, I wasn't sure I wanted to believe in God anymore.

I read the bulletin I'd been given at the door to the sanctuary. There was still a few more minutes before the service started, so I started reading the paper about the women's Bible studies.

I had no intention of going, but I figured it wouldn't hurt to read it.

Three different choices for studies. I read the first two. Your typical Bible studies.

Then I read the title for the third one: "Believing God."

As soon as I finished reading the description, I was sure I heard an audible voice, "You need to go to that one."

I looked around quickly, but no one was paying attention to me, so I must have been the only one who heard it. It was pretty clear now that it was God talking to me.

An argument began in my head: "Why would I go to a Bible study if I'm not sure I want to believe in God anymore? And why would I go to that one? I'm not going to go. No way!"

As usually happens, God won the argument and at the end of the service I walked over to where I could register for a study and signed up for it.

Fast forward two days . . .

It's Monday night and I pull my car into the parking lot. I'm not convinced I'm actually going to go yet. I turn off my car, but I don't get out.

I just sit and watch other ladies going into the church. If I wait long enough, maybe it will too late to go in.

But I can't seem to shake this feeling that I have to go in. Finally, I grab my Bible and get out of my car. I walk in and pick up my workbook.

As I begin looking for a place to sit, I tell God I'm not staying if I can't find someone I know to sit with. Across the room I notice someone waving at me.

A friend calling me over to her table.

I guess I'm staying.

Things get started. Some announcements. Some worship. Then everyone heads to the study they signed up for.

My friend signed up for the same study as me, I guess I really have to stay now.

Some information about the study we're in. Then the video teaching starts.

I can't stop listening. I don't want to take it all in, but that's all I can do. It's getting right to where I'm at - to the questions and struggles I'm having.

I guess this is where I need to be. I'll be coming back next week and every week to come.

When I look back on this, I'm amazed at how God speaks even when we stubbornly try to ignore Him. And how He will speak to someone who isn't sure they want to believe in Him anymore.

God knew I had just enough belief left to get me to the Bible study. And that's all I needed.

I just needed to get there, because once I was there, I heard what I needed to hear. I began again a journey of believing in God and believing what God says.

It really is amazing to me how God cares so much about a person who is struggling that He would go to any lengths necessary to draw them back. That's pretty cool! What a reminder of both he vastness and the personal nature of God's love.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Too Perfect?

The month of December has had a theme of Christmas posts this year. I think that might be a first for me on this blog. I get frustrated with the endless Christmas "stuff" you see everywhere you go in December and so I tend to avoid it on my blog. But for some reason, this year the Christmas posts is what came. Since it's Christmas Eve (almost Christmas day) as I write this, it will (probably) be the last until next December.

Right now I'm sitting in my living room after a busy, but really good day. Just the lights from my tree on. And one of my favourite Christmas CDs playing. It's one of those moments where I find myself reflecting on the events of the day.

Lot of different things happening. Work. Time with extended family. Laughter and puzzles with my parents, sister, and brother-in-law. Christmas Eve service at church. A good day.

At the service tonight, the kids acted out the story of Jesus' birth, and another kid read the story as they did. It wasn't perfect, but that didn't matter. They were definitely cute as they acted it out.

Honestly, the birth of Jesus wasn't perfect either.

A stable. Surrounded by donkeys and sheep. Greeted by shepherds.

A scandalous story of how his mother became pregnant with Him.

Two people who trusted God when given a challenging task.

I wonder if sometimes we get so caught up in trying to make things perfect that we miss the point. We work so hard at trying to make sure everything about Christmas goes exactly as we want it to.

The right gifts for every person and lots of them under the tree.

The perfect meal prepared and everyone gathered around the table.

A house decorated just right. Nothing out of place. Everything clean.

But, in our pursuit of perfection we miss it. We miss that Jesus didn't come for the perfect. He didn't come for those who have it all together.

Jesus was born in the furthest from perfect scenario you could imagine. To the "wrong" people. His birth was not the birth of a King.

But it was exactly the way He needed to come into the world. He came in humbly. He came to save everyone, no matter the circumstances of their life.

Maybe we don't need to be so focused on everything being perfect this time of year. Maybe what's important is to remember the birth of our Savior - a birth that changed the world.

There's nothing wrong with the rest. But it can't be all we focus on. We have to be careful no to get so caught up in trying to make things perfect that we miss the point.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

We All Have a Story

A few nights ago at my staff Christmas party, I was looking around the bowling alley where we were gathered. People talking . . . laughing . . . enjoying time together outside of work. The same was true of dinner afterwards.

As I drove home later that evening, I started reflecting on the quality people I get to work with. They have roles at work that can be very challenging at times, but they keep showing up to do the same thing. And I hear the stories of the ways they help people - the way they show people someone does care.

It makes me grateful to have the job that I do. I can't imagine doing anything else. I'm behind the scenes in what I do, but I get to call some great people who are on the front lines co-workers. And to me, that's pretty amazing.

I still remember the first time my heart was stirred to be a part of something that helped people. At the time I had no idea how it would play out in my life. I didn't know if it would be volunteering. Or if it would be a job.

I was in grade twelve and was on a missions trip working in Seattle. One evening we were on a street where a lot of homeless in the city, talking to them and getting to know what their experience was like. It was more than I little bit out of my comfort zone, but I was with the rest of the people from my youth group I'd come with so I figured I wouldn't have to say anything, I could just listen.

There was one guy we started talking to and he started sharing about his life story. I don't remember the details of his story, but I remember walking away thinking that he really wasn't much different from us.

Sure he lived on the street. Sure he had made some choices that had resulted in him being where he was. Sure he had a lot less material possessions than any one of us who had been talking to him had.

But, he had a story that brought him to where he was. And it was a story full of choices he had made and others in his life had made that affected him.

I have a story too. A story full of choices I have made and that others in my life have made that affected where I am now.

The same is true of you as well. It's true of every person who had ever lived.

And so I know that people taking time to show someone they care makes a difference. And that is what I see when I look at my co-workers. People who are giving their time to show people someone cares. It's not always easy. And the difference it makes may not always be obvious or even know. But they keep doing the job and I want to acknowledge them for that. The work they do is important, and I'm grateful to play an unseen role.

So, if any of my co-workers are reading this, I just want to say thank you for all you do. I feel privileged to work with you. You do great things in all the things you do.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Why Advent?

Walking into church one early December weekend, I saw the familiar Advent candles set up on the stage. It was the first weekend of Advent.

Would it be a bad thing to say I kind of dreaded the next four weeks?

The truth was, I'd lost sight of why we lit the same four candles during Advent year after year after year. It had become nothing other than something we had to do. I'd lost sight of what it was all about.

The expectation of the coming Messiah.

The waiting for Jesus' birth as prophesied long ago.

I'd heard it all before. I could recite it for you.

Four candles. Hope. Love. Joy. Peace.

We light a new one each week.

Then on Christmas Eve, you light the fifth candle - the one that represents Christ come as the Light of the World.

But that Advent, God decided to remind me of why we take that time each year. I was being reminded of the purpose of Advent - at least, the purpose God had for it in my life.

Those four short weeks represent a very small season of waiting. The Israelites had waited hundreds of years for Jesus to come to earth. And then when He did come, most of the missed it because it wasn't what they expected.

Taking four weeks to focus on waiting for Christ to come is s good practice in our lives. It makes us focus on Who Christ really is and why it's important to celebrate that He came.

Hope . . .

Who couldn't use some hope in their lives? Jesus came to bring hope.

Love . . .

Who couldn't use more love in their lives? Jesus came because of His great love for us.

Joy . . .

Who couldn't use more joy in their lives? Jesus came to bring us joy that isn't dependent on our circumstances.

Peace . . .

Who couldn't use more peace in their lives? Jesus came to bring us peace in the midst of our worries and the hard things in life.

And taking the time to focus on this makes the celebration of Jesus' birth that much more important. It reminds us why He came.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Peace on Earth?

Over the last few days there has been one Christmas song that has continued to come up in different settings. But always with reference to the state of the world today.

Many Christmas carols speak of peace on earth. That Jesus came to bring peace on earth.

But, when we take a look at the world we live in, peace seems far away.

Nations are warring against nation. Or against the people within their own nations. Shootings happen in elementary schools and shopping malls. And conflict occurs regularly in everyday life.

Peace on earth . . . it kind of seems like a dream.

I love the words of this song that has kept coming up. It acknowledges the mess in our world and still holds out hope that all will be right in the end. That peace on earth is possible.

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play
And mild and sweet their songs repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men

I thought how as the day had come
The belfries of all Christendom
Hod rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men

And in despair I bowed my head
There is no peace on earth, I said
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead, nor doth He sleep
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men

Till ringing singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men

Saturday, December 15, 2012


My soul lifts up the Lord!
My spirit celebrates God, my Liberator!
For though I’m God’s humble servant,
     God has noticed me.
Now and forever,
     I will be considered blessed by all generations.
For the Mighty One has done great things for me;
     holy is God’s name!
From generation to generation
     God’s loving-kindness endures
     for those who revere Him.
God’s arm has accomplished mighty deeds.
The proud in mind and heart,
     God has sent away in disarray.
The rulers from their high positions of power,
     God has brought down low;
And those who were humble and lowly,
     God has elevated with dignity.
The hungry – God has filled with fine food.
The rich – God has dismissed with nothing in
          their hands.
To Israel, God’s servant
     God has given help,
As He promised to our ancestors,
    remembering Abraham and his descendants
          in mercy forever.
(Luke 1:46-55 The Voice)

Mary's song of praise in these verses has always been a passage I loved in the accounts of the Christmas story. She had accepted a message and a task from God that would have been hard to take on in the culture in which she lived. And then she praised God because of Him fulfilling His promise.

She declared Who God is and what He had done. How He had kept His promises. How He had cared for His people. How great and mighty God is.

Over and over in her song, Mary talks about how God lifts up the humble and brings down the proud. This is something that plays over and over elsewhere in Scripture as well. Jesus modelled this time after time in His ministry.

Even Jesus' birth in humble circumstances speaks to how God raises the humble and brings down the proud. Instead of being born in a nice place withe the appropriate welcome for a King, Jesus was born in a stable.

Jesus' welcome in that stable was by animals and shepherds. Hardly the people you would think would welcome a King. But the humble shepherds heard the message from the angels and went to welcome the King. Then they spread a message of the birth of the King as they went.

The humble person is the one who can be used by God. The humble person is the one follows God's plan not their own.

I don't always do it well, but I pray that I learn to walk humbly before God better every day.

What about you?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Recapture the Wonder

Sometimes I find myself stopped somewhere in awe of the beauty that surrounds me. Usually this happens when I'm outside somewhere.

It could be overlooking a lake.

Or looking down from a mountain top.

Or looking up at the night sky.

Or watching a sunset.

Or standing in the middle of an open space in the snow or rain.

Usually the place is quiet - at least from the noise of people or vehicles or TVs or phones. All I hear is the wind and the birds in the air.

In those moments I feel a sense of wonder. A sense of awe as I do what I can to take enough in to never forget the moment.

That sense of wonder isn't something I feel often. And it's often fleeting. A few moments and then I'm back to all that's going on in life.

But this Christmas, I want that sense of wonder again. The sense of wonder that comes with the story of Jesus' birth.

It's a story I know well. I've heard it read hundreds of times in my life. But I want to look at it with fresh perspective this Christmas.

I imagine there was much wonder at it all that night all those years ago when Jesus was born.

Wonder for Mary and Joseph as they looked at this tiny baby they had been told was the long-awaited Messiah.

Wonder for the shepherds as they saw the angels and heard their message.

Wonder for the shepherds again as they too looked upon the tiny baby in the manger who was supposed to be the Messiah.

That's something I don't want to miss this Christmas. Wonder over how God chose for His Son to enter our world to save us. I think it's something needed in the midst of a busy season. It makes us take the time to reflect on why we celebrate.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Promised Messiah

"Hope of all hopes, dream of our dreams,
     a child is born, sweet-breathed; a son
          given to us; a living gift.
And even now, with tiny features and dewy
     hair; He is great.
The power of leadership, and the
     weight of authority will rest on His shoulders.
His name? His name we'll know in many ways -
     He will be called Wonderful Counselor,
          Mighty God,
Dear Father everlasting, ever-present never-failing,
     Master of Wholeness, Prince of Peace."
                                                                     Isaiah 9:6 (The Voice)

This is probably one of my favourite verses in Scripture that prophecies Jesus' birth. I know it well. But earlier today when I read it in a translation I had never read it in before, I found myself slowing down to pay attention to what was being said. It truly describes something amazing and the reason we celebrate this time of year.

"For unto us a child is born,
     to us a son is given,
     and the government will be upon His shoulders.
And He will be called,
     Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
     Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."
                                                                   Isaiah 9:6 (NIV)

That verse out of the NIV is probably more familiar to many of us. But I read that one more quickly and move on without really thinking about it. A different translation often makes me pay attention again.

In one verse the prophet Isaiah says a lot about the coming, promised Messiah. It's a great prophecy. And it describes Jesus so well.

The hope of the world in a tiny child come down.

But no ordinary child. And certainly no ordinary circumstances for His birth.

Just stop and think about what Isaiah's prophecy says His name(s) would be:

Wonderful Counselor
     The One who will always give the best guidance in our lives.
     The One who will always listen when we need to talk.

Mighty God
     The One who is all powerful.
     The One who has control of all creation, because He created it.

Everlasting Father
     The One who is "ever-present never-failing."
     The One who will always be there for us, waiting for us to come back to Him no matter
          how far we wander.
     The One who we can always count on to be there, even when everyone else fails us.

Prince of Peace
     The One who is the "Master of Wholeness."
     The One who came to bring peace in the midst of the chaos life became with the fall.

Isn't is amazing what we're privileged to celebrate this time of year?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

why Christmas matters

Sitting in my living room, looking at the tree. Lights and decorations that reflect that light.

I turn off the rest of the lights in the house to just enjoy the lights on the tree. It's not enough light to do much, but that's okay, I just want to enjoy them.

As I sit, I start to think about the holiday this tree is named from - the day that we'll be celebrating soon.


I've had many years when I've dreaded all that comes with this time of year. The sappy music. The pressure to buy more stuff that we really don't need.

But, the last few years, I've looked forward to this holiday. I stopped letting everything the world around me says it's about impact my thinking.

To me, it's about celebrating Jesus come to earth as a baby. The day Jesus was born is a day that changed the world.

And whether all care to acknowledge it or not, Jesus coming to earth is acknowledged in many things in history today.

As much as Jesus' death and resurrection changed our relationship with God and sometimes I feel like we need to make a bigger deal of remembering and celebrating that day, that never would have happened if Jesus hadn't come to earth first. It's important we celebrate the day that Jesus was born, because it is a day that changed the course of history.

And so, as I sit here by a tree and think about this holiday, I can't help but look forward to it.

What about you?

What does Christmas mean for you?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Christmas traditions that really matter to me

With Christmas quickly approaching, I've found myself reflecting on various Christmas traditions in my family. What they are. And what it is the makes them special.

As I've reflected on them, I've noticed that most of the traditions I see as special are that because they involve people I love and care about. The other things are nice, but it's the people that make them special.

Things like Christmas day brunch. My mom, my sisters, and I in the kitchen together. It's always crepes with fruit and whip cream. And sausage or bacon or maybe both. We've done it for so many years, we work efficiently together. Other people stay out of the kitchen so they don't get in the way. Everyone has their job to get it ready. And the fun part is working together to do it. I can make crepes any time I want - it's special on Christmas because we do it together.

Or things like the big family dinner. It's work to make it happen. But having all of us together as extended family is what I like about it. Even in the imperfections of us all and how we sometime drive each other crazy, I love it. Because they're the most important people in my life and I want to spend time with them.

And decorating the tree and the house at my parents. My mom, my sister, and I usually do it together. We turn on Christmas music and get started. We laugh. We make it fun. And time goes by quickly while we do it together.

What about you?

What are your favourite Christmas traditions?

What makes them special?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

learning to be me

For the last while, God has been using things I've experienced in my life to remind me of or reveal to me things He has taught me. This post is another one of those memories. It's sometimes strange to me how clear a memory becomes, but then I see what God is saying through it and it makes sense. With that, on to what the post is actually about...

The drive seemed never ending. Field after field of the same thing. A few houses and farm buildings dotted the fields.

As darkness fell, I found myself watching the sky. The stars. The moon. A clarity I wasn't used to. No city lights obscuring.

It was the beginning of a new journey for me. As I sat in the backseat of the car watching the sky, I felt a mixture of excitement and nervousness.

Bible college.

A small prairie town.

A sixteen hour drive from the only place I'd ever lived.

I could hardly believe it was actually happening. I'd thought about going to this school for a few years and never felt the time was right, or had the courage to actually go. But now it was reality.

New town.

New roommate (and back to sharing a room after years of not).

New friends.

The chapel was visible from a distance. It's how we knew we were getting close. Finally, we turned into the two that would be my home for the next eight months.

New student registration.

Pick up my class schedule and other important information.

Find my dorm.

Moving my stuff into my room seemed almost surreal. My Mom wanted to help me unpack it all right away. I wanted to do it myself . . . later. But, I did let her help a little, then left the rest for later.

It seemed like doing that myself was a necessary beginning of my new adventure. The beginning of a journey of learning to be me.

At home everyone knew me (at least it felt that way). Here, nobody did . . . yet.

At home everyone knew my family. Here, a handful recognized my parents' names, but didn't really know them.

At home it felt like I had been put in a specific place where I was supposed to serve at church. Here, I could do what I wanted.

Those things excited me.

They also scared me.

I like the comfortable. I like to know what to expect. But I knew I needed to learn who I was. And this was a place to do that.

I knew God had led me here. I knew it was the right place for me to be right now. I had to trust Him.

Following where God leads us. It's not always the easiest thing, but it's always the best thing. When we go where God wants us to go, He does great things in our lives because we let Him in.

Sometimes He takes us away from what is comfortable and familiar to teach us who He made us to be. That's what going to Bible college was for me. For you it might be something different. What is important, is that we follow God into those strange and uncomfortable places so we can learn.

By the end of two years, Bible college had become a comfortable and familiar place for me. But those two years had served their purpose. I had a better idea of what God had for me and how He had created me. And I was sure enough of it that I could go back to a place where people had known me for a long time and still be who God created me to be instead of anything else.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

the beauty of the family of God

A room full of women. Laughter. Conversation. Food. Games. Enjoying one another's company.

Different ages. Different things that fill our lives.

But one thing in common - we all love God. And we serve together.

As I sat at the table and listened to the conversation I was struck by how odd this may be in the world we live in today. All of us from different walks of life brought together by what we do have in common.

We may not be family in the normal way we think of it. But, we're family in so many other ways. The family of God.

And I felt blessed because of it. My life is richer because of them being a part of it.

As I drove home earlier this evening after spending time with these women, I began to think about how that time had been just a glimpse into how things should be. We need each other. And we need to learn from people whose lives look very different than ours.

They can teach us things we would never learn otherwise, and the women around that table have taught me things just by being a part of my life.

I truly believe that is the way God intended for us to live. Not always dividing ourselves up by age or life stage (although there is a place for that as well)), but learning together and learning from each other.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

a God of beauty and love

Laying in the middle of a field. Watching the night sky. Lost in what we see.




Nothing but those brief words were exchanged. The rest of the time spent in silent awe.

Lights dancing in the sky. Greens. Blues. Yellows. Purples. The Northern Lights were putting on quite a show that night. They filled the sky as far as we could see.

It didn't matter that it was cold. We stayed huddled close together.

It didn't matter that it was late and we should have been sleeping. We would go to class in the morning tired.

We were captivated by what we were watching. By the awesome beauty of a sky come alive. We didn't want to miss a moment of it.

Finally, we got up and headed inside to get some sleep. The cold had become too cold and we had to move. Even then we walked in silence back to the dorm enjoying the last moments of what we had been watching.

Sleep didn't come easy for me that night. I lay in bed wondering at the God who had created what we had just watched.

What kind of God would take the time to create something like that?

What kind of God would cause light to dance across the sky at night?

What kind of God would care enough about the details to create something so incredible, yet so small in the midst of all creation?

A God of love.

A God of beauty.

A God who loves to create beauty.

That is the God Who would do that.

And that is the God I serve.

What an amazing reminder of Who God is. A glimpse of His character.

With those thoughts I finally drifted off the sleep. A sleep that seemed much to short when my alarm went off. But I didn't regret that lack of sleep. The beauty of it all and the revelation that God gave me made it worth it. I wouldn't change anything about that night just to get more sleep. Sometimes other things are more important. This was one of those times.

The evening I've written about here happened just over eight years ago, but it's a night that I've never forgotten. There was something about the beauty of it all and the reminder of Who the God I serve is that I don't ever want to forget. Sometimes life has moments like that. Moments we don't want to forget.