Monday, 1 January 2018

2018: My Year of Refreshing

In a moment of candid honesty, I would confess that I have a love-hate relationship with New Year's Day.

I love the image of a blank slate, dusty from lessons learned, but empty and ready for the learning still to come. I always dread, however, the reflection upon the past year's achievements...or lack thereof.

From a Christian perspective, I am increasingly frustrated by the overuse of Isaiah 43:19 in reference to the New Year, as captured in the image below:

I'll let you in on a secret: God doesn't celebrate New Years. He doesn't wait for the calendar's permission to address you or your situation. How do I know? I read the verse below:

Imagine, if you will, what it's like to live in Heaven's time zone. The 2,018 calendar years marked off by mankind are little more than 2 days in Heaven. At the same time, every single day is like a thousand years to Him. If you are a parent, or have ever experienced a challenging day in the workplace, you understand the concept of the day that never seems to end.

So what about the days you realize you spent a whole year missing the mark? Resolutions weren't kept, goals weren't achieved, or perhaps it even seems you moved backward. What about those days? And the ones that seem to last forever, and for all the wrong reasons?

Sweet friend, God made provision for those days. Just because He lives outside of time as we know it doesn't mean He has no idea how this works: He designed the system! We break the system down into days, hours, minutes and seconds - but do we forget that seasons are part of the plan, too? Consider Acts 3:19, where we are told that times of refreshing will come from the presence of the Lord. (Some versions of the Bible translate the word "times" as "seasons"  - I love the imagery that word paints!)

This year, as I look at the 365 days just passed and the 365 days ahead, the word for my New Year was nearly audible to me: Refresh. Last year was good, and I learned a lot from living by the word "defined." I believe I am on the right track, but I need a season of refeshing before I set new goals.

As someone who works with computers daily, perhaps I can draw an analogy from them. When you press the "Reset" button on a computer, all programs will shut down and you will need to restart each one. I would consider our cross-country move five years ago as a "reset." which required us to restart everything: our home, our jobs, and even our friendships.

Pressing the "Refresh" button on a computer does something completely different: it simply reloads the program you are working in without whatever factor was slowing you down. A season of refreshing, then, as applied to life, means you are doing good work, but you have some things to get rid of. This ties in beautifully with Hebrews 12:1, which instructs us to "throw off everything that hinders..."

For me, some things that hinder include anger, guilt, and low self-esteem. The low self-esteem is directly connected to my troubles with weight management, which I have begun to correct. The guilt and anger are tied to what seems like a whole other lifetime, but they directly influence my weight management when I eat based on emotion. So although I'm doing the work, I need to "refresh" and throw away the issues that slow down the finished work. 

I will take this season to be made cool and clean. I will first be emptied of things that hinder, then filled with peace and purpose. I will practice seeing each day as fresh and every moment as re-fresh. Refresh. Re-fresh. Fresh, and fresh again. As many times as required, until the work is once again moving forward without hesitation. 

I do not expect this season to be easy. I will put in the work because I am excited to see the results. I look forward to feeling lighter, both physically and emotionally. Because life is a gift, and the Giver is good. 

Tuesday, 19 December 2017


I am brushing my teeth in the morning when little feet come thundering around the corner. The tousle-headed owner pauses briefly to hug my hips, then skirts around me to pee. Hugging me again as he leaves, he will find some random way to make me cry: like, "It's a good thing you have the beautiful light on, Mama, because you're beautiful. And I love you!" (The "beautiful light" is the Scentsy warmer.) I wonder how many more mornings like this I will get.

If I am dressed with my hair styled in time, I will get a few moments of cuddles in my recliner. Then it's coats and boots and out the door. We wait at the bus stop, and the favorite activity, when daylight allows, is Snapchat. I wonder how many more smiles like this I will get before he outgrows his mama.

A kiss on the lips and a play fight about "I love you mostest!" sees him on the bus and me off to work. I live all day for the moment we arrive at daycare and watch all his friends run and hide. There are shrieks of laughter as we open the door, followed by a rousing game of hide-and-seek. Hugs from my little buddy and all his friends - and kisses, if I promise to tell Santa they've been good! I wonder how many more days I can shower them all with love before they're all awkward and shy.

After supper there are games of war fought on moon sand, books to read, and  little time for video games. All are paid for in a currency of kisses or "lovin's." There will be random compliments on my beautiful necklace or my hair or my shirt. And when bedtime comes, my presence is a must. Each night I make him list 3 things for which he is thankful; each night includes some version of his wonderful parents, a mama who loves him, or something very similar. And the day ends with his head or his feet touching me. And I wonder ... how many more?

He may outgrow my hands, my lap, or my bed. But he'll never outgrow the corner of my heart. I look forward to all the future holds for this kid and his sweet, goofy friends. 💞

Sunday, 29 October 2017


We were a few songs into our worship service this morning when I spotted it: the tilted halo on the light fixture just above me. I began at first to fixate on it, as a person with OCD does, but I was interrupted by what could only be described as a God-moment. It was a memory of a moment from earlier in my work week.

I had made an untimely joke in the lunchroom that morning. You know the kind: it's a harmless joke unless current events give it new meaning. Like saying "You're dead to me" and immediately realizing you have just lost a co-worker, and death is no joke. I felt like such a tool the moment the words had left my mouth!

Real tears blurred my vision as I confessed my major faux-pas to a coworker. Her words were so comforting! She assured me that those who have known me for any length of time know my heart and wouldn't be offended. Reflecting on thoughts from earlier in the morning while standing in front of the mirror, I asked, "Are you sure? Because I often wonder if anyone here knows that I actually love Jesus. I mean, you all see me wearing skirts and hear me singing Christian songs ... but you also hear me losing my mind and swearing. I feel like the message may get lost in translation."

OK, so this is my confession: I carry more guilt to bed each night over my struggle with swearing than possibly anything else in life. To me, it is the most visible flaw that occurs on a regular basis. Have I done worse things? Yes ... but not on a continuous basis. This one battle makes me feel like I should order several t-shirts for daily wear that say "I love Jesus, but I cuss a little."  Just so it's clear that I'm double-minded and clearly unstable.

As this memory interrupted my thoughts this morning, a voice inside me began to speak about tilted halos. Does that tilted halo diminish the effect of the light bulb? No. Does the tilted halo need replaced? No - just repaired. Does the tilted halo decrease the value of the light fixture? No - because it's not damaged, just misaligned.

This is a truth regarding my life, as well. I can become misaligned with the Body of Christ - but Sundays are a time of realignment! Christ has no intention of removing or replacing me - just perfecting me! And my flaws do not diminish His light! They simply serve to highlight the choice we all must make: do we focus on imperfect people with tilted halos, or do we look past them to the Source of Light?

In that moment, I was able to move from becoming fixated on the flaw into smiling. In fact, I may have laughed out loud. It's strange what God will use to get our attention from time to time. Today, it was the oversight of someone who was likely cleaning or replacing light bulbs. I am forever grateful that it gave me a picture of how all things are redeemed by the One Who loves us best.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

I'll Tell You What

"Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels." It's a line that has been overused  by marketing companies and health enthiusiasts everywhere. But is there any truth in it? Well, I think that depends on which side of skinny one finds him/herself.

As most of you are aware, I am on the waiting list for weight loss surgery. I am simultaneously beside myself with excitement and frustrated with the length of the wait. Having already taken beginner steps toward what will be my new lifestyle, I have lost 12 lbs. It's not overwhelming, but it is certainly better than my previous situation of gaining 3 to 5 lbs/month! Given the difficulty and the side effects of achieving this has assured me that it will indeed be a successful surgery! I am not prepared to waste all of the time and energy invested by myself or the (extensive) medical team. I am fully comfident at that time, nothing will taste as good as skinny feels.

Meanwhile, I'm stuck in the waiting zone. It does not matter how little I eat or how much I exercise. My blood sugars and cholesterol have surprised the doctors. Still, hormones will do what hormones do, and I will gain as much from a plate of kale as I will from a small portion of cheesecake. Which would you choose? As long as my weight continues to feel like a losing battle, I'll tell you what tastes as good as skinny feels:

French fries. Crinkle-cut, deep fried and smothered in gravy. Home-cut, pan fried, and mixed with onions. Yes, please.

Ice cream. Drizzled with maple syrup or chocolate sauce. Just a little bit.

Cookies'n'Cream chocolate. In the middle of the worst office day ever, it just makes everything better.

Popcorn. Covered in butter and salt, of course.

Potato chips. With dip. Enough said.

Pepsi. Oh wait - not any more! I have actually beat this one - hooray for small successes!

I think what I'm trying to say is that, for many of us, skinny/healthy is a journey. Unless you know what took someone to their island of struggle, please don't judge them. There is a reason a weight loss team includes a surgeon, several nurses, a nutritionist and a psychiatrist. We are all doing the best we can, and sometimes we need help. I will get to the point where that leopard-print dress feels better than cake tastes; but until I get there, I'll tell you what tastes better than guilt: cheese. Cheeseburgers, cheesecake, broccoli and cheese....

Wednesday, 9 August 2017


I glanced briefly out the large, west window of our living room as I sank into my recliner. For at least the third time in recent days, I noted the flash of blue in the tree at the edge of our lawn. I love that tree, though how it came to grow there is still a mystery.

I grabbed a book, but couldn't seem to concentrate. Reaching for my phone, I scanned social media for updates from friends. Still unable to concentrate, and frustrated by the seemingly ridiculous obsession with the mysterious blue in the tree outside, I rose to investigate.

 Stepping down from our front deck, our walkway is hemmed in by large day lilies. A gift from a dear coworker several years ago, these lilies have really been a miraculous display this summer, given the drought we have experienced. Making a special effort to step over the lilies carefully, I note another unusual splash of color in one of the plants. I pause, bend over and snap a photo.

There, nestled in the life-giving shade of the lily, is a delicate stem of bellflower. I am baffled as to its origin, as my husband and I took great care to uproot our flowerbeds last year, replanting only bulbous varieties. This little beauty, though, has taken root - and refuge - in a place so protected, it has become fully mature before being noticed. Smiling at the absurdity of being outsmarted by a plant, I continue to the tree that is my reason for venturing into the scorching temperatures.

Peering into the heart of the young tree while parting some close-knit branches, I am in awe of the beautiful shock of color in front of me! There, clinging to the trunk of this tree nobody planted, is another mysterious flower in fuĺl bloom. Hidden in plain sight, protected from the burn of the sun, roots shaded in the dry soil held together mostly by the secure frame of a cinder block. 

As is often the case, I find myself singing the lyrics of an old song:
       Hide me behind the cross
       Where my gains become as loss
       And only Your glory is in view
       Your power will be revealed
       The more that I am concealed
       Hide me behind the cross
       So the world sees only You.

I wonder if I could be this: a life hidden. Could I take shelter under His wings, unnoticed until I, too, have matured? Could I grow in grace and beauty, clinging to Him for shelter and support?

 John 15:5 reads,  “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (NIV) 
This is perhaps the most visual demonstration I have witnessed of a life hidden, clinging...and thriving. I am instantly stricken by the similarities between these plants and the life of Jesus. You see, we cut that tree down. Twice. We hadn't planted it, so we assumed it was an alder bush. On its third year of persistence to grow, I encouraged my husband to let it be for the summer. 

Jesus also arrived in this world unrecognized. We read in John 1:11, "He came to that which was His own, but His own people did not receive Him." Because He wasn't conceived (or planted) by earthly design, Jesus wasn't immediately recognized for who He really was. They tried cutting Him down, even to the point of death.

On its third season, this tree was granted life. On the third day, Jesus rose to live again. In two seasons of life, this tree that nobody planted has sprung to such vibrant life that it has become a shelter for other living things, like birds and wildflowers. Two centuries after His resurrection, Jesus - unrecognized, cut down and then risen - has ascended to the heavens and become a place of refuge for wild hearts such as mine! I am the life hidden. In Him.

I realize now that despite all my best intentions, I may have been praying the wrong prayer. It is not for me to ask that the world see Christ in me; rather, I pray that they must look twice to see me, hidden in Him.

Thursday, 13 July 2017


I survived domestic abuse. I am alive and well. I have a beautiful family, a job I love, and wonderful friends. You could say I am thriving - and most of the time, that's true.

There are some days, though, when I suffer setbacks. Those days are no fun, because they make me wonder if I'll ever get past my past. Maybe the point of it all is that we are never meant to "get over it." Maybe we are meant to use our experience to drive change.

It was a simple joke in the lunchroom that triggered my current state of mind. A comment about speaking to a waitress slowly because "she already had one black eye, so I kinda figured she wasn't a very good listener." I immediately clenched my jaw, grabbed my things and left.

Almost immediately, I regretted my response. Mostly, I regretted not letting myself react. How would that look different, and why would I react, you ask?

Reacting would have meant instead of closing my lips, I would speak. Should I ever face a similar situation again, here's what I hope to say:

A woman with a black eye may be a poor listener, a poor housekeeper or a poor sex partner. I have been accused of all of the above. But the man - or person - who gives her a black eye for any of those reasons is a poor excuse for a human being.

Have you ever been called such vile names in a voice so loud that you tried to drown it all out by singing? Have you ever had a hand wrapped around your throat to silence the singing? Have you ever been choked until you passed out and urinated all over your clothing? Have you ever been beaten black and blue for staining the brand new mattress on which you urinated while being choked? No? Then maybe you shouldn't comment on her black eye.

Have you ever found yourself bent backward over a kitchen stove with a knife to your throat? Have you ever found your only defense against a chokehold to be biting into the arm across your face until you could taste flesh and blood? Have you ever been kicked in the ribs while vomiting as a result of defending yourself? No? Then maybe bite your own tongue before commenting on a woman's black eye.

I am a survivor. I am thriving. I am still angry. I think I always will be to some degree - and maybe that's a good thing. Maybe the only way the world changes is when enough people react. Strong reactions are sometimes called for. Will you join me in being a voice?

Tuesday, 20 June 2017


Each morning as we leave our home, I admire the beauty of our property. The huge, decades-old, leafy poplars that flank the east and south sides of our home are host to many songbirds who begin and end our days with joyful sounds.

On the western edge of our property, which is the street-facing side, are about 9 young saplings nobody planted. Really - nobody. When the first one sprung up out of the cinder block, we assumed it was an alder we weed-whacked it. Two years in a row. And then it began to grow for spite; the tree is now taller than I am, in the center of 8 mini-mysteries just like it.

As I behold our property, shrouded in shade, I am deeply grateful for divine favor. You see, we live in a prairie region which is currently enduring its second year of infestation with tent caterpillars. These worms are offensive to both the eyes and ears, and they devour trees. Well, not the trees exactly ... but all their leaves. Much of our neighborhood has been stripped bare by these pests.

Next door to us is an elementary school, where my kindergartener enjoys spending time on the playground equipment. Sitting there with him this weekend, I noticed the unusual condition of the schoolyard trees. 

My husband has taken great care to band our trees with carboard, duct tape and chainsaw oil. This has prevented the dreaded tent caterpillars from climbing and feasting on our trees; however, no such care has been given to the schoolyard poplars. Defenseless, they have become patchy with what I like to call "worm wounds."

"Worm wounds" are bald spots in a tree which testify to the evidence of pests being present. Sure, some branches are still leafy enough to house a home for a pair of hummingbirds or a family of robins. Other branches, though, are like a window to the heart of the tree - its trunk, which is clearly visible, exposed for temporary lack of the standard leafy veil.

That's the key. These worm wounds are, in fact, temporary. I witnessed these trees last July, stripped as naked as though it were mid-December. I also witnessed them blossom in spring, and I see their branches - even in their current state of duress - attempting to bud after each fresh rainfall.

I am humbled as I observe nature reflect my life. There are "worm wounds" in my story which seem to strip parts of me naked and raw with each season of newness and growth. They leave my core exposed: afraid that my past will thunder into my present, that the scorching rejection of yesteryear will char my very soul, and that I will never be complete in my purpose. What if I'm never more than blotched?

As clear as the call of the pigeon from the school rooftop, I hear it. The whisper to my soul from its Creator: "To every thing, there is a season." There is a time for feeling a little naked and on display; there is also a time the soul-sucking worms move on. The key is to keep bending with the breeze, soaking up the sun, and welcoming the rain.

The trees do not refuse the birds a nesting place simply because they are momentarily less bountiful. Rather, they allow the birds to build and turn those exposed areas into arenas for amplified, unfiltered music. Robins, hummingbirds, sparrows and finches - all project their voices to fill the world with song.

Oh, that my heart would do the same! Focus on the thriving branches of life! Become a shelter for others -  a strong, safe place from which to sing their songs. Unafraid of those who may injure hearts but cannot destroy the soul. Realizing that no season lasts forever, and those who sing with joy, are capable of eliminating any worms who attack.