Stop and reflect: October

IMG_20171027_080843_207
One day you’re waiting for the sky to fall. The next you’re dazzled by the beauty of it all.  – Bruce Cockburn

The start of October 2017 was full of tragedy. The world felt very dark. As the month went on, more cracks of light started shining through. Here’s some short reflections from the month:

Music: Switchfoot was my go-to (in particular, their Beautiful Letdown Album was my anthem for the month).

Reading: Rob Bell’s “What Is the Bible?”, Steven Curtis Chapman’s Autobiography & Brene Brown’s “The Gifts of Imperfection.”

Writing: examples of some of my thoughts shared on Instagram & Facebook that received meaningful feedback:

October 5th – on loneliness being the worst type of poverty
October 8th – a confession and encouragement
October 12th – on getting to know our literal neighbours
October 13th – on allowing people to change
October 19th – forgetting about numbers and helping one person at a time
October 29th – what the heart knows by heart, heals the heart

Travel: we took advantage of good weather days and did a couple day trips. The picture above was from visiting Brockville for the first time.

Theme: Today will soon be GONE (Switchfoot) & am I living scared or brave? The latter has been a new thought that arrived at the end of the month. Going to chew on that some more.

Tip: If you’re hungry for community, be willing to put yourself out there. Example: ask someone new to go out for coffee.  You just never know when it will be the start of something beautiful.

What was October like for you? Would love to hear your reflections. Ready or not, November is here. Together, we can face it and maybe even have some fun.

Letter to my daughter after the Las Vegas shooting

Dear Daughter,

On Sunday, we asked you how old you are and you happily replied, “I’m two years old!” Later that same day, a mass shooting occurred in Las Vegas at a country music festival. Many lost their lives and many were injured.

You are only two years old. As you grow, you’ll begin to understand things like hate and tragedy and injustice. You may wonder if it’s better to “stay home/play it safe” or live your life and risk being caught in crossfire (these hate shootings have happened at school, at a movie, at a concert, etc). And how do we respond after tragedy? Baby, your momma doesn’t have all the answers. But I want to share with you what I do know to be true.

After first learning of the shooting and through out the day, I couldn’t help but cry. As Glennon Doyle says it best: “you are not a mess. you are a feeling person in a messy world.” That describes me well. Your momma feels things deeply. You may too. Despite what society may tell you, this is OK. The Bible even instructs us to “mourn with those who mourn.” After tragedy strikes, you aren’t weak if it impacts you. You are a feeling person in a messy world.

Unfortunately, life is not safe. Even for those of us who live in the 1st world. Life is fragile. There’s no guarantee on how our lives will play out. Life is not fair. Bad things happen to really great people. Baby girl, safe can’t be the goal. I can’t even keep you safe all of the time. Despite this reality, we can be brave (doing the right thing scared). And we can focus on the things within our control like living and loving well by doing “small things with great love” – Mother Teresa. With whatever number of days we are given, we can love God and others more and more, and we can find joy in ordinary moments. Life is short but we can live it well when we live with this understanding “there’s a reason I’m alive for the blink of an eye” – Mercy Me.

Lastly, when tragedy strikes, remember this quote by Mr. Rogers. And in addition to noticing all the helpers, be one of them.

Rogers

I love you baby girl. Always & forever.
-Mom

Life update

Do you hear the crickets? It’s been 4 months since my last post. This has been the longest gap in writing since I started this blog back in 2013. Life has been full, mundane, busy, exciting and simple. Working full-time (with a 40 minute commute each way) while raising a toddler is the season that I’m in. And I’m grateful . While it doesn’t leave much room for hobbies like writing, I’m learning to be OK with that. Often, the most meaningful thing that you can do is to choose to be present for your regular life and in doing so, joy is found in the simple and ordinary.

Since I last wrote, we’ve been to work conferences — both for me and for Derek. While Derek remains home full-time with our daughter, he attended General Conference for the FMCiC, is a member on S.C.O.D., led music at Wesley Acres for 3 weeks in July, and was the camp speaker for Pine Orchard Family Camp this past week. He’s been busy for a stay-at-home dad!

It’s been just over one year since we left pastoring our church of 6 years.  The processing of that could be a whole other blog post (or book!). A year later, we are doing well. We are happy and healthy yet remain to be committed students of healing and learning.

In recent months, many have asked what’s next for Derek. He would tell you that a year later, he continues to enjoy being home with our daughter. That he’s enjoyed serving in various ministry settings over this past summer. But what’s next regarding full-time pastoral ministry or something else? We just don’t know. A year later, there’s still a lot of question marks. While that seems hard for some to understand, we aim to be OK with that. We firmly believe that God cares more about who you are than what you do (as in a title or position). Our current season has helped us to really embrace this truth. We are the better for it!

A whole year later, our motto is still the same. We are enjoying this season (our baby girl will only be this young once!), while also attempting to live this:

Posted @ QUOTEZ.CO
Posted @ QUOTEZ.CO

 

A Year Later: On the Shore with a Towel Ready for You

This Easter, I read Jen Hatmaker’s post entitled My Saddest Good Friday in Memory . Her words broke my heart and I sat with them all weekend. I thought of her during a song at church on Easter Sunday and choked up.

First, and always first, I’m sad for Jen. This is her unique story. Yet, I could also relate to what she was describing in my own way.  A year ago, the following was my story, too:

“I’ll tell you a bit of how loss and grief and rejection will pulverize your heart and deliver you to Good Friday in pretty bad shape, or in any case, in the throes of recovery. ”

“Good Friday is about death – even a necessary death – and that makes more sense to me now than maybe ever. It speaks of a dark day and broken hearts, unmet expectations, mob mentality turned brutal.”

“I experienced betrayal from people I thought loved us.”

My reasons for why I arrived at Good Friday 2016 in pretty bad shape are varied and unique. It was a perfect storm. Any one stress or hurt on their own wouldn’t have taken me down, but gradually, I began to sink. I clung to the following quote in those dark days:

sometimes-good-things-fall-apart-so-better-things-can-fall-together-quote-1

2015/2016: I’ll never fully understand why things happened the way they did. Some of it was part of life – my best dog dying of cancer, newborn sleep deprivation, and a natural disaster. I can’t say that all of it was God’s plan. God has given us free will. Some people know the path that leads to life and light and they choose the one that leads to destruction and darkness. Thankfully, while I don’t believe that all of my loss, stress, and pain were part of His plan; I know that God can work things together for good and that He’s in the business of resurrection.

“I believe in the resurrection, so I know it will come. It always does. God wrangles victory out of actual, physical death. The cross taught us that. You can’t have anything more dead than a three-day old dead body, and yet we serve a risen Savior. New life is always possible evidently, well past the moment it makes sense to still hope for it. The empty tomb taught us that. I have enough faith to live a Friday and Saturday existence right now without fear that Sunday won’t come. It will come. I am nearly certain the way it will look will surprise me; I’m watching for the angel on the tombstone. ” – Jen Hatmaker

A year ago, I was attempting to keep my head above water.  This Easter, I realized something. I’m no longer in the water but on the shore! On Easter Sunday, I got choked up for Jen instead of myself (when you’re in a dark place you’re rather near sighted). From the shore, I’m cheering on those who have experienced loss and grief and rejection. I’m here for you and I’m saying: “keep treading water! Your feet will touch ground again. It will. I’m here! I made it. You will too. Keep breathing. I have a towel ready for you.”

How to help and not hurt those who are grieving

My 96 year old grandfather died yesterday, April 4th. Yesterday, I was reminded again of the following reality when it comes to grieving: us humans (this includes me) tend to have a hard time just sitting with someone in grief. I find this to be especially true with persons of faith. Often, the uncomfortable reality of heartache is swept aside and those grieving are told to be grateful that the deceased is in a better place. While this may be true, this type of immediate response doesn’t make sense when we look at Jesus’ example surrounding the death of a friend.

John 11:35 tells us that “Jesus wept.” Why was Jesus deeply troubled and wept? Jesus wept after Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha, delivered the message that Lazarus had died. Jesus knew that all would be well (he later raised Lazarus from the dead) but he still cried.

Another biblical example re: grief is found in the Old Testament. Job, who had lost family, livelihood and health, had people come to sit with him in his grief. Job 2:13 reads:

“Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.”

What a beautiful picture of literally sitting with someone in their grief!

Recapping, the following are tips that may be helpful when coming alongside someone in bereavement:

  1. Showing tears is appropriate. Jesus wept. He knew all would be well and he still wept anyways. Don’t be afraid of crying for yourself or crying as you observe the pain of others walking in grief.
  2. Pause before immediately trying to put a positive twist on loss. And if you do want to celebrate something that you’re grateful for – do just that. Use “I” statements instead of “you.” Example: “I am glad that he lived as long as he did” instead of, “you should be glad he lived as long as he did.”
  3. Whenever appropriate, just be with those who are grieving. You don’t need to know what to say. Often, the simplest words go so far like “I’m so sorry”, “I will miss him” and “praying for you.”

Keep in mind: we all need grace in the midst of grief. Extend grace to yourself and others. While there are ways that we can do this grief thing better, we will never be perfect at it. Showing up is what matters most and seeing the heart/motives behind comments and efforts made is very important.

Unfortunately, loss and heartache are part of this journey of life. Our lives are mixed with the beautiful and brutal. When it comes to grief, we can take our cues from Jesus and from those who sat with Job. We don’t need to push the sadness of death under the rug. We can show up. We can weep. We can sit in our own grief and sit in the grief of others. And that can truly be enough.

 

First time guest to church: 5 things we appreciated

In 2016, we had the experience of being first time guests at a lot of churches. If I had to guess, I’d say that we visited 20 churches. Big churches. Small churches. Middle class churches and churches where most congregation members are living in poverty. Congregations that meet in old buildings, new buildings, etc. Quite a sample platter.

A friend asked if I’d write about what some of these churches did well in regards to welcoming us as new guests. In no particular order, here are 5 things that stand out from our experience.

First up, we noticed and liked when congregation members went out of their way to greet us. Whether this was done before, during, or after the service, we remembered their efforts. The message this sent was: this is a church who doesn’t expect the pastor to do all the work of the ministry (we were only greeted by the pastor in several churches). Also, this said to us: “there’s room for more!”.

MMM. So one church gave us a bag of homemade cookies! That was a first and hasn’t been repeated since. Who wouldn’t enjoy cookies for their drive home from church? Taste buds aside, what was important was the message that it sent to us. The cookies said: this church thinks about, plans for, seeks out, and ministers to first time guests.

On another first visit, we were given a tour of the church building prior to the service. Everything from where the bathrooms are to the nursery in the basement were covered. Before the service even started, we felt comfortable and at home there.

As first time guests, one church demonstrated to us the difference between nursery volunteers who supervise vs. nursery volunteers who minister to children. (We’ve been to many a church where the nursery volunteers seem to be more interested in talking to each other than interacting with the children). At this particular church, the nursery workers got on the floor to play with our daughter to help her feel comfortable. It was evident that she was their top priority. And in addition to having a fun and safe nursery experience, she also learned about God.

For a few of the churches (read: 3 churches), we received contact from the pastor within a week or two of having visited for the first time. This took the form of one typed “standard welcome letter” and two that e-mailed us. (It was surprising to me that no church sent a personal, hand-written note. Despite his poor hand writing, this was something Derek did regularly in his ministry – which he received a lot of positive feedback for. Over the years, he was told on several occasions that the hand written note caused the guest to check out our church a second time). Whether it was a typed letter or an e-mail, we greatly appreciated hearing from the church that we had just visited. It helped us to feel noticed, appreciated, welcome. It also sent the message that the pastor/leaders don’t only focus on those who are already there but they also take the time to reach out to those not connected in, yet.

Have you recently been a first time guest in a church? Can you think of something that the church did well that helped you to feel welcome? Would love to hear about it!

 

 

Lesson from our tiny teacher: water, prayer, gratitude

This afternoon, in the midst of playing, our 23 month old stopped and asked me to pray before she drank her water.

IMG_20170316_140042_209

As a result of this simple request, so many thoughts flooded my mind.

I thought of what a gift it is to know that the water she’s about to drink won’t make her sick.

The fact that her “dirty” bath water from last night is much cleaner than what most of the kids in the world will drink today.

And I thought about the reality that we’d all die much sooner without water than food…yet, we bow our heads in thanks for food much more often than for a simple glass of water. Hmm.

Thankful for our tiny teacher. ❤