God's love

When it has been a year: 5 things I learned in 2017

I love me a good fresh start just like any self-respecting Type A, INFJ, enneagram 3 and a New Year is prime time to do some serious navel gazing and where are we going from here pondering. Also a softie at heart I revel in all the look back and reflect type exercises too. Our family has a yearly tradition of writing our top ten lists on New Year's Eve. I personally love finding the good, the blessings, the wonder, and I find it connecting to hear what stood out for the people I love too. Not a shock to anyone who knows me even a tiny bit but 2017 kicked my behind. 2017 kicked my husband's behind. 2017 was a year we will never forget, even when we wish we could. During the top ten family list making, several events popped up that I had already forgotten about - a bunch of situations that in a normal year would have stood out for their 'badness'. But this year they disappeared into the cobwebs of my brain crowded out by much bigger situations. Despite all the hard things, I remember 2017 almost exactly like this:

2017 was a good year. It was a year I saw my children thrive and continue to believe in love and goodness. It was a year we celebrated Aaron's 40th birthday and our 19th anniversary and surprise! we still love and like each other very much, and to me that is no small thing. It was a year I got to jump off more things into water with the ones I love and what else could I ask for, after all that was my hope. It was a year I found Jesus my constant companion in the midst of not doing, in the midst of having to be helped, in the midst of fear, anxiety and sickness. It was a year I came to fully believe that even if the worst happened, I trusted God for good. It was a year I started to reclaim who I am at my core and how I want to live that out.

2017 was a year I survived, a fact I am damn proud of and looking back there are some things a survival year has taught me, recorded here so just like our annual top ten lists, I don't forget.

1. You can do hard things (even when you don't want to).  This phrase is a bit cliche these days but it is also true. We don't know what we are made of until we have to make it through something hard we haven't chosen and then trust me, you can do more than you ever guessed about yourself. This doesn't mean we always jump up and down with glee over these 'opportunities' for growth, or feel immediate gratitude for being drawn closer to what really matters through suffering. What it does mean is that even if we wouldn't wish this situation on our worst enemy and we are perfectly happy to remain shallow if we could pass this by, when push comes to shove, by relying on God and those who love us we can do this really hard thing.

2. Healing takes longer than you think it should. I could write a whole book about this but if you have been through a trauma like potentially loosing health, life, safety, a loved one, it takes time to heal. Physically yes, but also emotionally and mentally. See a counselor, pray, go to yoga, spend time in nature, move your body - it's all steps in the right direction but it is still slower going than you would like it to be. Most other people won't understand this and will expect you to be 'normal' pretty ASAP. Hold onto your healing path anyway.

3. It is okay just to survive. There is a movement in the cancer online world to call oneself a cancer 'thriver'. I swear I wanted to sucker punch someone each and every time I read that. Look, this shit is hard and getting through something that will kill you if left untreated is not in most people's 'thrive' zone. There will be other times you can thrive, other times you can do all the things you see other people not currently going through crises doing. Just getting through cancer or another traumatic season - I'm giving you a gold star all the way.

4. It is okay to say no. Most people I know fall into two categories. The first are people who are okay with taking help and these people also seem to be better at self-nurturing, boundaries, and saying no. The second is people who are not so great at taking help, self-nurturing, boundaries, and saying no. I was in the second category and am trying to slowly move myself more into the first category. I had to say no a lot this year, I took a lot of help this year, I set boundaries and placed a lot of self-imposed limits and sometimes it was really hard. No, scratch that out, each and every time it was really hard. But...BUT I did make some breakthroughs and learned I cannot be all things to all people and even if people might feel mad or sad or excluded I can give empathy, but it is not my job to do their emotional work or meet each and every persons’ needs. (This itself was several counselling sessions of material.) I remind myself of this often because it is still my primal instinct to change what will be best for myself and my family to make everyone else like me, and to try and do all the things because that used to be easy for me. If you are in the second category like me, know the world will keep on turning even if you say no, set boundaries, take help. It's uncomfortable at first (or maybe forever) but there is more room for authenticity and wholeheartedness which in my opinion is a decent trade off.

5. Everyone needs more grace. Including myself. Having spent much of this year in survival mode has made me act in ways I haven't always felt proud of. In survival mode things often feel scarce, like there isn't enough to go around and I am at my absolute worst when I am operating from that place. I have said and done things or not done things I wish 100x over I could undo. I couldn't do everything I actually wanted to do (not just felt I should) because I didn't always have the energy to. I try to use this as a guidepost for myself when other people do things I think are douchy too. Most likely they are feeling scarce because of a hard thing or a past hard thing just like I am. So I keep reminding myself, more grace, grace all around.

I'd love to hear what you learned in 2017 too.

Today

Life just keeps right on chugging along and here we are mid-July already, can you actually believe it? The garden is growing; full of weeds, a little too wild as usual and right alongside it my kiddos. My baby who I will always and forever swear was just born turned seven and asked to climb a real mountain for her birthday so they did - all 2407 meters (7898 feet) of Ha-Ling with daddy and her siblings, this mama who is afraid of heights stopping 4/5 of the way to the top.

My middle doesn't have many little girl years left so I am enjoying this one so much, watching her be so wild and free in who she is is a gift. She swims on scorching days and curls up with her cat and a novel on the rainy ones in between.

My oldest is growing into an almost teenager - serious and just and determined. He fractured his wrist playing soccer but hasn't let it slow him down much and has still played soccer an almost obscene number of hours this month which makes him happier than truly anything else in the world right now.

I finished a quilt I've been wanting to make for seven years. I've been playing with the kids and cutting flowers to bring inside. Taking us all to water when the weather allows. Walking the dog with Aaron after the kids are in bed. I went back to work (part time) a few months back so that has taken away some of my writing time but it's been okay - I've been working on listening as my default, instead of always contributing.

When I think back to summers growing up I remember what seemed like an endless stretch of days that didn't fly by as they seem to now. We swam at the outdoor pool and read book after book, played outside for hours with our friends. We always went camping to visit my dad's family where we restored all our souls surrounded by British Columbia's water. After September long weekend, I was okay with going back to school, ready for the newness and routine after getting my fill of floating through the summer days doing more as I pleased.

Now I'm a middle aged mother who wakes up wanting to make the most of each day because every year I can feel a bit more panicky about summer going too fast - about how many more years I will have my kids at home. A week can go by in a blink where I feel like not much happened except our regular life.

My grandmother is right, time does go more quickly as we get older.

Here I am smack dab in the middle of summer, smack dab in the middle of my ordinary, but oh so beautiful life. Perspective is everything, or so they say and I will say that having cancer, in my experience anyway, hones your perspective about almost everything.

Summer does go by faster than I want it to, each and every year but also: that is okay. These things I am doing in my ordinary weeks, I am glad for them. Not everyone gets to wake up and go to work, cook another meal, wash that daily stinky load of sports laundry, read bedtime stories, reach out to hold the person's hand to offer forgiveness first after a fight. Not everyone gets to scrub their toilets, pull weeds, get snacks for all the neighbour kids. All these things I used to see sometimes begrudgingly as 'have' to do alongside the playing and swimming and reading and memory making, I don't see it that way anymore. I see I don't have to's - I see 'get' to's.

God is in the mountain tops yes, and yes God was faithfully with me during sickness and fear. Those are easy for me to remember. But also today, this very one rainy summer day, this is the day that the Lord has made and I will rejoice and be glad in it. Because God is also here in this, the ordinary, everyday. All our 'have to's' are suddenly sacred if you imagine it all gone. I'm like Jacob, I have woken up and seen that the Creator is in this place and I did not know it. The holy ground of middle life.

Life may be shorter than you thought so do all the big things you want to do. Plan the trip, climb the mountain, start and finish the big project, for goodness sake get the tattoo you have been thinking about for more than a decade. Throw yourself the party you always wanted, jump into the water fully dressed. Follow where the spirit calls.

But also life may be shorter than you thought so be right here, today, don't waste it away in forever being slightly ill contented. Don't let what ifs and could it be betters and comparisons steal anything away from what you have today.

Settle into who you are and don't wish for someone else's dreams or happiness because this right here whatever God put in front of you is enough. Smile and stop and look into the eyes of the people you love (and maybe even at some you don't), cherish your coffee, find joy in all those get to's. Sieze the shit out of it. Do your ordinary, everyday things in between the big things and love them just as much if not more. No more panicking, just rejoicing.

 

Finding light

Today is the shortest day of the year and also the first day of winter. I crept out of bed before any of my kids and even though it was past eight it was still pitch black. Tonight it will be solidly dark well before we have dinner. I'm looking out the window at part of our forest while I write this, the trees all bare but their branches beginning to be lightly illuminated by the sky behind them as the sun rises. There isn't even enough snow to cover all the fall leaves where they lay thick in the wild parts of our yard. Trees don't have trouble with the stark stripping down and apparent death of this season, they thrive on letting things go to nourish what is coming next. It's not always so easy for us humans. img_6539

It has been two months to the day since I had an emergency appendectomy where they found not an infected appendix but instead a tumour that had ruptured my appendix and also some deposits on my right ovary.

It has been about six weeks since I found out exactly what that tumour was, a low grade appendicital neoplasm and also that the deposits on my ovary were mucousy which is how this tumour  spreads.

It has been five weeks since I found out from my amazing surgeon (who did everything right during surgery even though this is very rare) an approximation of what oncology would do.

It has been a week since I have met with one of my oncologists for the first time.

Here is what I've found:

It takes about two weeks, maybe a bit less for your mind to wrap your head around the idea that yes, this is happening to you. You are really allowed to feel sad or mad or anything else you want about your diagnosis during that time even though there are worse tragedies going on in the world, because, well you just are.

It takes about a week (for me anyway) after it all sinks in to get incredibly fed up of thinking about life without you, so I wrote about it because that helps me process it and shake it off, but also my husband gave me this.

img_6455

It takes about one week of wearing this elastic band with one hard snap each and every time I thought about life without me in it until I didn't really need it anymore. (Idea from Kris Carr's book, Crazy, Sexy, Cancer Survivor).

If I am having a bad day, I put it back on but mostly now it is this:

One day at a time

Putting your big girl panties on

Being held up by the prayers and encouragement of those who love you and a God who calls you beloved.

Because it takes about zero days to realize how much you love your life, and by that you mean your family, your friends, your faith, your very own self, even this often very broken world. I think this is what we call blessed; when you have all of this, so dear to your heart that you have such gratitude, despite what ever else is going on. So you suck it up, you breathe them in. You absolutely get drunk on everyday moments like brushing your girls freshly dried hair and saying I love you and eating dinner together around the candles.

You revel in moments that you no longer take for granted like waking up alive and hearing your prognosis is good. Because it takes about zero days to realize that to survive you have to look for the light, each and every speck of it, especially during the darkest days of the year.

 

Advent is for waiting

It has been brutally cold here this week - our first true Alberta cold snap of the season, the kind where the air hurts your face and your lungs. We have very little snow which is so unusual for us and so all our winter favourites - sledding and both kinds of skiing are not happening yet. A  few weeks ago we started skating because the girls have been asking for years to learn and with the lack of snow we thought why not? And so we have been skating once a week or so. I haven't skated much since high school and I forgot it kind of feels like swimming, the lightness and freedom of gliding across the ice, mind clear for a minute or two. img_1553

This morning, on the way out the door to choir, a kiddo got sick in the garage, which I saw coming as she didn't eat much of anything yesterday. I was hoping to spend the day going on a walk in the woods to bring clarity to my body and mind, among other things. Instead I spent the day tending to an under the weather kiddo. Washing dishes, watching lots of food network and reading stories together. The holy, fatiguing work of motherhood.

Today was a lot like all our days right now. Not very spectacular, in fact pretty darn ordinary. These days we are doing our normal life and not much more. Work, school work, keeping the house tidy, making meals, going to appointments, soccer or dancing and music depending on which kiddo and what parent you are on any given day. Trying to remember things like putting money under the pillow for lost teeth and showing up for parent watch night the right week.

I can't remember an advent season so void of so many of our usual advent things. Aside from the lack of outdoor snow activities, we aren't caroling or hosting anything or doing a lot of extra volunteering. We aren't making cookies or doing almost any gift buying or making. I haven't read the kids even one of our advent/Christmas books yet and I keep thinking about sending cards but not making any forward momentum.

For me this year, advent has shifted. Instead of doing and celebrating, I'm waiting and I'm making space. I'm trying to make room in my heart for something new to be born; exactly what I'm not sure yet. I'm reading poetry and I'm sitting in the dissonance I see in the world and in myself of so much hurt and also of so much beauty. I'm thinking about hands: held open, held empty, receiving God's love. This sparser advent I'm having this year, it feels right, it feels fitting.

I have been watching the stars every night in a little bit of meditation. We are lucky to live far enough from the city lights, so that on a clear night the sky is absolutely brilliant. As I gaze past Orion or the almost full moon I can't help but think about the universe and all it's wonders constantly expanding, creation happening right this very instant when I look up. This advent I'm trying to open my heart to any iridescent knowledge they may want to pass onto me. I wonder if they are waiting too.

Hope (surprises part III)

Advent came so early this year and I have never been so glad for it. In my faith tradition and many other Christian ones, advent is the season before Christmas when we lean into the darkest part of the year and light candles, reflect and take action for hope, peace, joy and love while we wait for Jesus to come.

This past Sunday almost a week ago already started the week of hope. There are so many reasons we need hope aren't there? Maybe it is social media, or the election in the US and all that has brought to light or just my own sad heart but the world seems full to overflowing with tragedies. It can be hard for me not to feel overwhelmed and powerless and paralyzed to do anything.

Personally to say the least I've had some challenging weeks. A week or so before advent began I told a friend the day after I googled about my tumors - when I was trying to hone in on what I needed I said - 'it's hope I just need some hope'. It wasn't an official prayer and yet there it was. I had no idea how to find it. I was hopeless.

That night another friend stopped by unexpectedly and in the midst of my tears she told me she had been up all night researching and this wasn't why she came over but she felt after listening to me she had to share some more positive statistics than the ones I had read. There it was - hope. Someone prayed for me over the phone. Hope. My husband bought me an encouraging and honest and positive book about surviving cancer. Hope again. A friend sent me a gorgeous piano piece she had been playing in prayer for me. Hope. Everyday someone new tells me they are praying for me. People are open and honest and real. People send you funny and cute messages and talk to you about normal things. Hope, hope, hope.

img_6460

 

 

I've written this before and it is still true. When I think about what I hope for it’s this: wholeness for people and planet. Kingdom come. I think this is why Barbara Kingsolver says the most you can do with your life when you have figured out what you hope for is to live inside that hope. ‘Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under it’s roof.’

Ann Voskamp  calls us the Esther Generation, reminds me that I am living in the palace and that God has put me here for such a time as this. The hurting world needs us and aren't these kind of the same thing? Find what we hope for and live right there putting some skin into the game?

When my eyes are opened I look and this is what I see: hope. Instead of overwhelmed inaction I see people living nitty-gritty with what they believe. I see them sponsoring refugees and listening to a crying friend over coffee and getting up hour after hour after hour with their sick babies.  I see them picking up groceries and helping move and also giving grace when things are too stretched to contribute beyond your own family or your own self. I see people seeing others, and telling them thank you and buying fair trade and donating money and demonstrating compassion.

There it is: prayer answered.

 

Surprises Part I  and Surprises Part II

Hot and messy (anxiety)

Things have been a bit of a mess for me over here again the past few weeks. My anxiety flared up again about three weeks ago - starting over health stuff but peaking a week ago (Monday, it was a full moon) over everything. If during depression 'the mind lies to you and says there is no hope, there is only more drudgery'   during anxiety the mind lies to you and says everything is a big deal, everything is overwhelming, everything is out of your control.

And so a week ago I found myself up all night, the accumulation of it seems like hundreds of tragic world events and some more personal events as well, leaving my mind racing with incoherent thoughts and worries, my body unable to take a full breath, heavy and tense.

I was anxious about the 'world', 'humanity', (it seemed like the human condition has never seen so dire of days), several people and situations in my personal life and also myself, for not being able to get my shit together and get my problems in perspective (again).

Often when my anxiety fire is burning high,  I begin to function from a place and mindset of scarcity. All my worries and fears about not enough (time, resources, forgiveness, acceptance, love, not being enough) that won't let my brain rest are flung to the surface. I've said and thought many things that I have regretted in the past few weeks and it has felt pretty yucky.

One of my core beliefs is abundance: enough time, energy, love, enough acceptance, enough resources, a place for everyone. I feel at harmony and alive when I am functioning from this place and I want to always operate from this place, yet don't. When I'm not that is when the yucky comes in.

So I strap on my bracelet to remind myself: beloved. It is a reminder that everyone has hard things going on I most likely don't know about, even if it all looks shiny and pretty from the outside. It is a reminder that they love their people with the same fierceness I love mine with, and at the end of the day want them to be okay, safe, accepted, appreciated and loved, just like I want for mine. It is a reminder that this is how God sees all of us, God's beloved children. It's a reminder that, yes, me too. Even (especially) when I am a hot mess.

 

img_4327

It's the twelfth day of Christmas

It's the twelfth day of Christmas and my tree is still up. So are most of our decorations too, although I have started to collect those by the stairs to the basement, where they sit waiting to be put away. The clutter is starting to get to me  and I'm longing for sparse, cleaned out spaces. Yet I keep hoping for a few more  peaceful, reflective moments by the tree in the dark with only the tree lights bringing illumination - so up it stays. IMG_1452

Our Christmas was normal in the sense that there was much beauty. Watching the golden glow over everyone's face from the candles and the vibrations of the voices singing silent night acapella during Christmas Eve service always leaves a holy lump in my throat. We went cross country skiing in the crisp light, shining half way through the trees in the woods where I feel so alive. My kids asked to buy thoughtful gifts for each other with their own hard earned money. There was no bickering. Aaron made an amazing dinner. I was once again left filled with awe over God come down as a baby - try looking at a baby and not believing in good, in hope, in miracles.

IMG_1560

 

Our Christmas was normal in the sense that there was much brokenness. My extended family had to cancel our plans for a celebration together - our first in five years because my mom's recovery from her last surgery related to a tumor found this summer was much rougher than expected. Once we had come to some sort of resolve about my mom, and our loss of family plans, my dad collapsed unexpectedly doing Christmas Eve church. (He's a pastor have I said that here before?) He spent the rest of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in ICU while his heart kept slowing much too slow, so slow they had to encourage it to keep going, awaiting pacemaker surgery that will keep him alive on Boxing Day.

My guess is your Christmas was somewhat the same. Your brother in law talked obnoxious politics. You had time with a special loved one who lives far away or who might not be around much longer. Someone drank way too much, way too often. Reading about the grinch's heart expanding mended your own - just a bit. You had to host, or you couldn't.

There was that moment when you connected under the full moon with something holy. You had to see people you are related too, instead of the people your heart yearned for. Your kids loved all your simple traditions and told you that they were just so happy being together. Someone you love is sick or abused or lonely or dead. You received a gift that showed how known you are. Something(s) like this.

Because this is the normal isn't it, even or maybe especially at Christmas. Beauty and brokeness all around. Heaven and hope mixed with sadness and disappointment and loss. Full moons and bright stars and a refugee baby who holds promise of kingdom (not yet fully) come.

I think that is why my tree is still up - I want a few more days to ponder that promise of love came down to bring new life in the post holiday season stillness. I want a few more days to ponder how much I have and yet how much I still need the grace of that promise. I need a few more days to re-believe that one day all will be counted for beauty.

Mondays and cupcakes

We had to wake up early on a Monday after a full, full weekend to get to an appointment for one of the kids. No one within our walls is a morning person by nature and we were all wishing for an hour more sleep. My house smelt like five people's stale, sweaty soccer gear waiting to be washed and garbage that should have been taken out the day before. No one was getting ready, or eating breakfast or brushing their teeth. I kept finding them all with books or toys, quietly settled instead of staying on task. There was one giant melt down before we left the house - I told them it was okay, they were sad, they were frustrated and rubbed their back. I ignored my impulse to tell them there was no time for this, they were too big for this, this was not a big deal.

Sometimes it feels like there is no time for compassion.

We made it eventually, we all got in the car, two out of three with brushed teeth and made it to our appointment just on time. Then, we start the drive home. There was a lot of bickering from the back seat. I put in one headphone and turned on my music (highly sensitive mama's driving with kids survival tip).

Still it got too loud and at one point I yelled 'would everyone be QUIET!'. It worked for two minutes before the bugging and bickering started up again.

So I took them all for cupcakes.

Here is one tiny thing I know about life. Sometimes we all act like assholes. We pick a fight when we should pick peace, we yell when we should listen. We melt down when it is inconvenient.

There is no such thing as perfect.

Yet there is such as thing as beloved - it has nothing to do with how we act - it has to do with who made us. It's an unfathomable idea. How we are so loved all the time, no matter what we do. How that love is expanding continually like the universe itself. Nothing can ever convey it fully.

I still feel this urging inside to try though. To give my children and myself glimpses that it is okay to melt down, yell, disagree, bug, bother, be selfish and act ungrateful. All that doesn't change how you are loved. How you are needed. How you are cherished. How you are safe here in this place of beloved love when you are not at your best.

And just for one day, that looked like cupcakes.

On Being A Human Mother

We said goodbye to my grandmother yesterday. I got to hug all four of her children, both of my parents and my own three siblings all in one day. Everyone felt sad. Everyone felt happy. After the hugs and the remembering and the goodbyes I went to the ocean. I needed to feel alive and it's the place where I feel the freest to be good and sad and angry with God.  I needed a liberal dose of freedom. I noticed this about the Colbecks yesterday - for better or worse we are freer to be sad in private. So I got mad and sad with my feet wet - touching the sand. At some point (like always happens by the sea) I found myself breathing: God is love.

God is love, God is love, God is love.

I thought about you, all my children. I'm away from you for the first real time in nine years of being a mother. I hopped an airplane in the first hours of the new day, long before you will wake up. It brought me here, a whole days driving away in just a few hours to mourn. I'm thinking of today. I'm thinking of my life and the people I love and God being love and there is something I need to tell you.

I love you.

I know it's cliche and anticlimactic and I tell you every single day but please hear me. We want unconditional love from our parents - we want it, we need it. When we think it is absent it keeps us disconnected.

So know this - know it to the core of your being. I love you. And in the wise words of Rob Bell who borrowed them from God: there is nothing you could do to make me love you less.

There is nothing you could do to make me love you less.

I need to write it here, put it down. I need to build our talisman, erect our ebenezer because I mess this most important thing up. I act like your dirty clothes on your floor, or your bickering with your sister, or your performing, affects the way I love you.

Hear me say it again because this will go on as long as I live. 

I will say no when I should say yes and say yes when I should say no. I will talk when I should listen. I will stay silent when you want some advice. I will chase you when you need space. I will let you go when I should pursue. I will say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing, believe the wrong thing. I will work too much or too little and I will keep the house too clean or too messy. I will have too many hobbies or too few. Hear me because I will yell too much and play too little.

I will care about the wrong things.

And even though there will be millions upon millions of times when I love you well - these times when I love you wrong - when I love you not enough - when I love you like a human mother, these times will still cause damage.

So hear it again and again and again. I love you. No matter what you did last night or two minutes ago. No matter who you love, no matter how we disagree. No matter how I act.

I write it down so we can both read it and remember what really matters. I write it down as a request to please remind me when I am choosing the wrong thing, a plea to tell me when I'm not understanding. I write it down to hope you will forgive me when despite your best attempts and my own I still don't get it. Because I am a human mother. And I need to lean hard into love.

I love you. No matter what.

Being loved in the small ways

Today we awoke to valentine's day cards times three. They were 'secretly' crafted between swimming and bed time and stashed beside our beds for early morning surprise. We ourselves delivered personalized poems on a cut out white paper heart. The poems said things like 'Roses are red, ice cream is yummy, we love you so much, from your daddy and mummy.'

There was much delight.

Because love is homemade valentines with personalized poems. Love is a gift that is simple (and free) but shows the giver knows your heart.

It is grace extended.

It is being known.

It is choosing patience and gentleness and asking for forgiveness when we don't. It is being forgiven even when we don't think to ask.

It is being inspired to grow and work and really live.

Love is children who make us laugh, live so freely and believe in good so wholeheartedly.

It is partners who make time to give you a nap, go for a run, embrace your soul.

It is parents who pray for you and hold your hand and let you go. It's family who works to stay close though the miles could divide.

It's friends who care about you like you are their own and it's friends who help you come into your own.

It is sharing food and listening well and making space.

Love is patient and love is kind. Love shows up in the small ways.

It's late

It's late and I have at least two dozen other things I could be doing right now (including sleeping). But tonight while canning peaches, saving up some of summer's glory it felt chilly on the deck. And too many leaves crunched under mine and Haven's feet while we picked in the garden so I must write down a bit more of summer. The seasons are turning. IMG_3330

I don't want to forget to mention that my baby turned three, that I now have the most precious goddaughter to my two godsons. That watching my older two play soccer brings me much happiness. I don't want to forget swimming with friends and park days with deep conversation and reading books with my toes in mountain streams.

I don't want to forget the goodness of the hard work of summer or the way some days are just hot and sweaty and grumpy but they can still end with all of us piled into one bed with Barbara Reid's book of Mother's Goose and it's one more summer where no one is too old for it just yet.

I don't want to forget Raine's first triathlon or my own or how Haven had her first ever all clear dentist appointment. And how we went on a date for a cupcake in the city. Or how the girls tried tubing for the first time and how all my babies hair smells after long days in the sun. How Liam turned into a vicarious reader over night and devoured chapter book after chapter book.

I don't want to forget the family photos in the rain (not the best year but I still look at them with love) and my watching the way my kids are growing into such good friends and how they can play imagination games for hours. There was dinning under the big tree on our garden harvest everyone helped grow with some black keys on the side. We stayed up to watch the stars.

IMG_3906

I don't want to forget the tenderness of celebrating fifteen years.

I don't want to forget that we loved and we laughed. How I rediscovered something about being beloved.

We have been camping

We have been camping on the west coast of Canada these past days. I grew up camping and for me still there is nothing quite like it. Having nothing else to do but just be and marvel at the masterpiece of creation. Eating simple food and taking naps. Lingering and making eye contact. Surrounded with the ones I love the most. Being still. IMG_3574

I read my oldest two the last few chapters of The House at Pooh Corner on the beach at bedtime. I cry at the end and struggle to get the words out. Liam asks me why I’m crying and I say ‘because Christopher Robin has to grow up but he doesn’t really want to, not quite yet.’ Even though he just turned eight he nods and says ‘Oh I see’ and I think he really does.

And we take a hike to a mountain lake and I carry my three year old on my back, hard uphill the whole way. Then we hit a flatter spot and she meanders all by herself, full of determination. There are tons of irritating little black flies in everyone’s eyes and ears and nose that threaten to suck the joy from it. But instead I know I will remember swimming in the cold lake at the top so clean and clear that the trees are perfectly reflected with my baby hanging onto my neck and the rest of my loves splashing around.

IMG_3592

Towards the end I sit with Aaron at the picnic table overlooking the ocean eating the last of our supper. The kids have all finished and ran off to play with the other kids on the beach. (There is an epic pirate adventure being lived out with sticks and rocks and sunshine and time.) So we toast to our pizza grilled cheese and laugh about our fancy date. I tell you that you are looking healthy and you are, a tan on your face and the sparkle back in those blue eyes the colour of the ocean I fell in love with.

We watch the most beautiful sunset I think I have ever seen. I think about glory spilling over that the heavens cannot hold, onto earth. A broken belief in me is changed to one of abundance and something is healed.

IMG_3623

Today is Father's Day

Today is Father's Day.  Even as I write this it is in-between catching a tiny bouncy ball with you (pig in the middle with Liam), the girls are running around shrieking (with joy but it is still incredibly loud) and all the yumminess of the breakfast the kids made for you (with a little help) is covering every inch of counter top we have. It's your eighth Father's Day and we are closing in on our 16th year of life together.

(Photo courtesy of Eye For It Photography)

Funny thing when you get married when you are barely out of high school, you don't talk too much about whether/when/how many kids you want. I wasn't one of those women who always wanted to be a wife and mother and you weren't one of those men who always wanted to be a husband and a father. Both of us were just barely out of our we never want to have kids cynical teen years so I guess we believed we would figure it out as we went along, if we thought about it at all. When I hear how people thought about what kind of a parent their partner would be as a part of the decision-making process before they joined their lives together, I can't relate.

So all this to say, as I said when I hugged you this morning, I love our chaos Aaron and I love you even more than I did fifteen years ago - but I sure didn't see it coming.

I didn't think to think about whether you would be open to parenting much differently than I am sure either of us would have guessed. I didn't imagine about whether you would watch me birth our babies in our own home. I didn't wonder about whether you would support them in their own journey, not yours.

I didn't ask whether you would take them on special outings and teach them how to cook and build things and how to climb mountains.

I wouldn't have wanted to think about whether you would put down boundaries, boundaries you never would have imagined having to put down, because you put us first.

I didn't know you would work this hard, at work and at home, yet still have time to be funny and play lego and coach soccer and make crafts at the kitchen table.

I didn't worry if you would still love me as motherhood and life changed me and my beliefs. If I thought of anything it was that our love was strong and our desire to live out the journey of this life together was firm and that you believe in a God of love and grace and forgiveness. And darling, as far as you being a father is concerned, I was too young to know it - but that was all I needed to know.

Family_11

Last year I wrote about Aaron on Father's Day too

Easter Sunday I walked barefoot on the beach

IMG_2604 Easter Sunday I walked barefoot on the beach. I thought I might miss my own church, my family there; and I did on Good Friday. But Easter Sunday we woke up early and drove to the beach for worship just after sunrise. The girls were wearing sundresses and I sat on a picnic blanket and listened to my dad preach. The sun shone on the water and the air was crisp. It was quiet and it was holy and it was just the celebration I needed.

Cousin's

I thought about all the time Jesus spent by the water. I felt the hope he brings, I felt him right there with us, in the midst of all of this life. The hardness, the joy, the sadness, the wonder, the darkness. How he lived it all.

IMG_2608

I watched as my dad graced lake water onto my nephews forehead and marked him with the sign of the cross. I confess I usually tear up during baptisms, the holy mystery of it thrills me to the core and the beauty of it shakes me. But on this Easter, watching my nephew I laughed.

Because what Easter showed me this year is love does win. It reminded me that how that happens can be messy and sad and unpredictable along the way. Most certainly the journey will involve broken, flawed, needy people. Most certainly it will involve the same people who also are loving and caring and growing. People who are both. Reminded me of just how crazy and surprising it was that God come down to live among all of us - dying and rising to love us all. And I felt that love and laughed.

Friday we drive through the mountains

Friday we drive through the mountains. They tower above the car, still covered with snow and I am mourning.

20130330-231348.jpg

Occasionally waterfalls travel down the grey rock, melding with the ice and dirt. I want to stop and rinse my face in one, feel the water coat my hands, cup them, fill them. Lift it to my face. I want to stand under the water until I am saturated.

Saturday I plant vines. Dirt cakes my nails and I think of water turned to wine and words written in earth and how these hundreds of brown sticks we are planting look dead.

20130330-232410.jpg

With my toddlers hand on my thigh and dirt under her nails too, I think about the mystery of shoots unfurling, green leaves filling out and the thousands of pounds of grapes that will be harvested from this barren looking field.

20130330-232854.jpg

I think about a lot of mysteries. I think about how beautiful things come from dust.

My grandmother has the softest skin

We are visiting my grandmother. It's hot in her apartment, and crowded, with her, my godparents and my own family of five. There isn't much space between her furniture that once lived in her big country home and the walls of her subsidised rent apartment. Liam my seven year old, is cuddled up next to her, holding her hand and commenting on her softness.

It's true she has the softest skin of any grownup I've known, it rivals my own babies when they were brand new. I'm sitting beside her on the other side, just like my son, feeling her soft skin caress mine. This is the first visit I see she is getting really old. She is stunning and always has been, her amber brown eyes the same colour as my Raine's still sparkle, and her clothes fashionable for her age, but her walk is unsteady, we've only been here an hour and I can see the fatigue already setting in; she is too thin.

I love my grandmother with a blind passion. Perhaps it's because she is fiercely loyal and unbelievably strong. It's obvious she is from a different generation, she holds a quiet, almost regal determination and confidence that is rarely seen anymore. She has been through tragedies more than enough for several lifetimes. Her stories are the kind that are worth telling and worth hearing. Her stories are the kind that break your soul with one breath and heal it with the next. She radiates joy, she loves God and her faith. She has taught me much and only rarely did she need to use words. She is a wise woman.

Grandma as a young woman.

I long to tell many of her stories. Her stories could fill a book.

Today I'm telling a rather simple story from this hot summer day. This day, when Liam was on her one side and I was on the other. When we were soaking her in, not knowing when we would see her next. And she was talking about God, because of course she was. A psalm was coming from her mouth, I wish I could remember which one. But it was a lament and she was speaking of comfort. She was speaking of how many laments there are in the psalms. Then she changed her topic and my life abruptly by saying 'But look at King David and all the terrible things he did. Yet God loved him. Sometimes I think Leah, all those terrible things people did are in the bible, not because God wanted them to but because God will stop at nothing to show us that he loves us even though we do terrible things.'

How could she know her granddaughter's faith was broken, waiting to be either discarded or made new? How could she know I needed to hear confirmation of a loving God and how parts of the bible were not confirming that for me? How could she know she had just given me a priceless gift, one that meant so much coming from her, who loves her traditional theology, yet harbored endless grace in her words. This is a woman whose soft skin reflects her callous free heart.

My grandmother, one of my spiritual matriarchs, she helped birthed newness in me through the gift of her wisdom that day.

Linking up with Sarah Bessey for a Syncroblog on Spiritual Midwives and Patron Saints (and I'm humbly adding my own title of Spiritual Matriarchs) for International Women's Day. And while I have many women in my life who deserve recognition this day, for just this year I am choosing to honour my grandmother and her small but fiercely loyal ways and how they have impacted. Perhaps because she is so traditional and does not call out to be noticed, but loves in the small, faithful ways. I'm celebrating the gift of seeing pure grace, strength and wisdom. All found in someone with the softest skin.

Privilege and Relationship

There has been much written about privilege on the internet this week if you read Christian blogs. As I understand it the triggering event was an emergent leader, Phyllis Tickle, making statements as a part of a closing remarks at a conference that were viewed by some as anti-feminist. (If you want to read a few blogs that stood out to me there are these by Julie Clawson, Suzannah Paul, Rachel Held Evans, and Kathy Escobar.) So here I am, as a Christian, a woman, reading about privilege and living as a part of the church.  I try to follow Jesus and sometimes even remember to pray that I don't suck at it, and am thankful these conversations are happening.

The discussion of privilege is one the church needs to have. We need to keep on having it. We shouldn't stop having it. We have come a way, but we still have a long way still to go in terms of equality. Not only for women, but for children, for the elderly, for single parents, for those who have mental illness, for people of different races and cultures, for people who live in different counties that we may never meet, for people of different economic standing than our own, for people of different sexual orientations, for people of different faiths, for people who have been abused, for people who have physical disabilities, for those I am overlooking including on this list due to my own privilege and bias. I still have a long way to go.

Oh glory would be the day when as a church that the church would be a consistent leader in recognizing our own privilege and working to end dehumanization in the world. Instead of the more common dragging our feet that we do treat people equally or even worse, arguing that we don't have to treat people equally. Glory would be the day that the church would instead be a leader in seeking forgiveness and reconciliation for the past and current wrongs. I pray that day comes.

Because as a Christian I follow a God who came to live with us. Who associated with everyone he wasn't supposed to associate with. Who taught women (unheard of), touched the untouchable (dangerous for personal and community health), redefined who one's neighbour is (politically destabilizing) and then told his followers to go out and love them too. Then he pushes further by saying anyone can love their friend, but if you know me and my grace I'm calling you to love not only your friend but your enemy too. He loved people in such a radical way that the privileged people who upheld the status quo in his culture wanted him killed. I pray these truths never grow stale.

Now theology is important because it frames how people live out their faith, it shapes how we do this thing Christians call the gospel. Jesus talked about theology, if you describe talking about theology as mostly telling stories. Personally, I don't have many theological answers these days besides love God and love my neighbour. But I do know this. Jesus is a God of presence, of relationship. He lived among us in part to show this, to show us that relationship matters. To show us that presence is a gift in and of itself. To show us that serving with thought and respect is mutually beneficial.

Jesus doesn't call us to these things for some way of earning anything, no everything he has given us is free, there is nothing there for us to earn. What I would love is for the church as a whole to see is that this calling us out into loving relationship with others is a part of the gift Jesus is holding out to us, ready to bless if we will only take it.

Jesus shows us that there is beauty waiting for us in going beyond our comfort zone and entering into relationship by loving others who have differences from ourselves, loving those who are marginalized, whose needs are different from our own, who perhaps are even our enemy. The kingdom is there, waiting for us to partake in and it is wide open with room for everyone. No cover charge. It is a place where forgiveness flows, hearts are opened and souls are healed.

Here's how I know: it's what I get from Jesus.

So I've started to follow him into relationships with people different from myself. (Of course it turns out - surprise! that we have similarities too.) Being in relationship makes it harder to hold on to my prejudices. It becomes harder to look past how a group of people you aren't a part of is marginalized, ignored, forgotten. It can illuminate how I am contributing to their dehumanization. It can lead to understanding that cannot be achieved through argument or debate.

Through relationship with people, my own sin is exposed and it's hard to avoid conviction. I have to lean into God for forgiveness and grace. I have to pray that I want to work with God to bring about the beauty of the all-encompassing kingdom, while living in the tension that I still often choose my own selfish desires. Although I wouldn't have guessed it to be so, this too is a gift.

So I imagine and hope and pray that one day we will not think if we are man or woman or anything else, but simply judge how we are treating others as a follower of Jesus. (It seems this is an area of slow growth for Christ's bride as Paul wrote something along these lines many, many years ago now.)

Imagine if this ragamuffin bunch of sinner/ saints who make up the church and love Jesus, imagine if we keep asking ourselves, do we really know people who are different from ourselves? Do we regularly go to a group where we are the minority and approach being a part of it with humility? Are we out there in relationship with the people the establishment says aren't worth bothering with? The people who it would be easy to avoid sharing life with? The people who we don't understand? Are we loving them like they are beloved by God? Are we choosing to partake in this gift of relationship?

What if we asked ourselves, do we know them well enough and have we listened long enough that we understand their perspective? Do we care enough that we would stand up for their issues, things that don't affect us but are important to them? Do we feel enough connection to use our resources to meet their needs?

Do we love enough that we would bend down and write a message that brings forth peace and forgiveness in the dirt if they were surrounded by an angry mob welding rocks? Do we love enough that we would carry their cross? Lay down our life? Not for our issues but for theirs?

(Because no, not me either, not that last part, or for very many people outside the walls of my own home, not all the way. It's hard for me yet to see that part as gift, not sacrifice, but my heart tells me it is, if I would be brave enough to face it.)

But Jesus did. He thinks humans are worth it. He is present and in relationship with us because that's how he loves. And somehow, by the grace of God, through the sacrifice of Jesus and by joining in the dance of the holy spirit, we can join in bringing a bit more of that wholeness down to earth. Let it be so.

Wishing you a very ordinary Christmas

I'm in the kitchen washing dishes, still in my pjs and badly in need of a shower. It's almost five and we have many people arriving in just over an hour for our annual outdoor nativity walk. The kids are upstairs getting dressed and next on my list is to microwave them some leftovers so I can shower while they eat. We still need to make a fire, put candles in jars, get the music ready to play in the gazebo for the angels, wash the floor, make some drinks and plate the snacks. Aaron has been on his work phone in the garage and my suspicion is right. He has to go back to the office. He gives me a kiss and an apology, I nuke some empanadas and dash up the stairs for a very quick shower, hoping he will be home before people arrive.

We get almost everything done. Aaron gets home and lights the fire, puts out a few candles in mason jars (not as many as I hoped) and dresses the kids in all their winter gear. The snacks are ready, I do a so-so job of moping the floor. I start to wonder if this is worth it and why, oh why do I always leave so many things until the last day.

In the last ten minutes before everyone arrives, I am looking for something to read between the stations. I open our much loved Jesus storybook bible.

'And there, in the stable, amongst the chickens and the donkeys and the cows, in the quiet of the night, God gave the world his wonderful gift. The baby that would change the world was born. His baby son. Mary and Joseph wrapped him up to keep him warm. They made a soft bed of straw and used the animals' feeding trough as his cradle. And they gazed in wonder at God's Great Gift, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Mary and Joseph named him Jesus, "Emmanuel" - which means "God has come to live with us." Because of course he had.' (Jesus storybook bible pg. 182.)

That's it, right then and there: I am broken and healed in just a few lines. The very miracle of God come down to earth has once again slayed me. The magic, the mysticism, the wonder. It's too much and I am filled to overflowing. I finish my readings, put on my own winter gear and head outside as the first vehicle pulls up (thankfully five minutes late.)

Nothing is perfect. There aren't quiet wonderings as we listen to families explore the wise men, or shepherds. It's hard for me to hear and any wish for the peace and tranquility of a monastic type celebration is farfetched. We have dozen's of kids between everyone's families and they are wrestling in the snow, excitedly talking to their own dear friends. Little ones are complaining of cold, because it is -25. I forget to play the music for the heavenly host, but still there are fireworks and I take a few minutes to reflect on the sheer astonishment of it all while they go off in the sky.

IMG_1926

We finish with baby Jesus around the fire. All my beloved's faces are glowing in the flames and I think, this is it. Here it is. The perfection of God. Worship doesn't have to be a silent, inward, meditative practice. God came down to us, in a noisy, imperfect, smelly world. A world filled with people he loves. His beloveds. He meets us where we are at. When the angels scared the shepherds into cowering lumps, it was not to hurt them but to bring 'happy news for everyone, everywhere.'

IMG_1918

Everyone heads inside. On a nicer night there would be marshmallows or sledding, but tonight it is just too cold. I'm happy inside, this introvert with a houseful. A friend brought a cracker and cheese Christmas tree from pinterest and it makes me love her more. The hot chocolate got a little burnt while we were outside and we are eating off paper plates. All the kids and mammas are jockeying to hold the newly born twins whose adorable presence leaves you wanting more. Some friends believe in Jesus, some don't. Some are from my church, some aren't. I am happy because I love each and every one and this here, right here and right now, is the kingdom, everyone all different, believing different things, yet still gathered together, eating and playing, growing in love.

It feels just like God wants it, having this mishmash of friends all under our roof, nothing quiet, nothing magazine worthy, everyone with their own faults and struggles and family troubles heading into Christmas. It feels real and it feels like the grace of God. He came in such an ordinary way - to a noisy barn, to poor teen parents, visited first by lowly shepherds. Nothing magazine worthy at all.

Yet the inconceivable beauty of it leaves me breathless.

Merry Christmas friends. Wishing you and yours the beauty and grace of Jesus come to earth in the midst of imperfection.

One week ago

One week ago a horrible, unimaginable thing happened. Twenty children and six adults were murdered during their school day. I don't need to remind you of this, I know it is on people's hearts and minds. I couldn't find words. I joined Suzannah in praying these prayers, I read Sarah's lament and spoke it out loud, followed by many of my own, and I said yes over and over again while crying though Jennifer's words on reaching her limit (for now).

And a week later, here I am. Like many, I am here getting ready for celebrating with my loved ones. But I can't stop thinking about those people whose lives have been shattered these past few weeks. Not just in Newtown, but in hospitals, in back alleys and in shady hotel rooms. Not just in North America, but in war zones across the world and in refugee camps. In factories, in brothels, in mining operations.

What are they doing?

Tonight we will celebrate with friends by remembering Jesus coming down to earth as a baby. It's solstice, and for me, I cannot separate light from Jesus. He is where the hope is for me. I'll be thinking of all those families and praying for them, yes I will be. I will be praying for things that don't seem possible like healing and hope and forgiveness. But as a follower of Jesus, as a Christian, Jesus doesn't want me to stop there. When things like Newtown and war and child prostitution and poverty happen in our world, Jesus calls 'Follow me.' 'Help me.' 'Let's do this beautiful thing, let's spread my kingdom.' He's mourning more than we are, all this death and brokeness and abuse and he wants peace more than we do too.

So yes I will be baking cookies and playing lego with my kiddos and singing silent night at church. But I will also be examining my life, my family's life. We will be thinking alone and discussing all together. Looking for ways to follow Jesus in spreading God's kingdom of peace on earth. Looking for ways of growing in love, and peace, in joy and faith. I mean prayer and I mean writing out my heart for him, yes, those things are important. But I also mean practical, changing our lifestyle things and getting our lives entangled in the lives of others, trying to love better things.

This is one reason why I need Jesus. He shows me a better way. He shows me healing and grace and stepping beyond myself to love others. He brings good news for everyone. All people everywhere. And in ways I cannot comprehend, he invites us to join him in bringing this to others.

He is the light.

It is Thursday morning and I am still thinking about affluence being everywhere

It is Thursday morning and I am still thinking about affluence being everywhere. I'm drowning in it actually, I still can't get it off my mind at all, and I'm having thoughts that are breaking me over and over again. Today is the first day of my daughter's gymnastics lessons and she puts on her one-piece black with shiny pink hearts gymnastics outfit first thing in the morning. She asks me every 20 minutes when we are leaving for her class (just hers!) and her vibrant excitement is so contagious and I think some thankful prayers for her and her joyful anticipation.

Her class isn't until the afternoon and we go and she loves it. She answers the teacher that having no listening ears would mean no stamps on their hands and feet after class, even though removing rewards isn't how we do things at home, she gets it, without ever having experienced it before. I'm smiling at her when she skips over after class ends (two stamps for two listening ears, for those concerned) proud of herself for her first solo class. I am proud too. I ask her, what was her favourite part and she answers the trampoline. I knew it would be, she spends hours on the one we have in the yard.

My favourite part was watching all the little girls, in their gym gear, trying to copy the teacher, just living in the moment so naturally. Being present is just their default state.

But, as for me, it isn't, and I am still wondering if this is good, if this is okay, when somewhere else this money spent on my little love could save someone else's little love's life. Give them real food today. Rescue them from sexual slavery today. It is this I am thinking of when we drive away. My brain and heart are stuck on repeat.

I still don't know.

I need to stop for gas, so we pull up to a convince store and as I am coasting to the pump, I see him. He is older, maybe in his late 60's, with a white hair and white beard and too many clothes on for the warm fall day. I know he is homeless and I feel the stirrings of something about to happen in my chest.

I am wondering if he will come over and talk to me and I look at him as I unbuckle my seat belt (often if people are asking for money they won't ask mom's with children). He doesn't make eye contact. But I open my door and he comes close to my car, he is standing too close, something altering his need for personal space. He asks me if I have any change. I say no I don't (I don't) and he says maybe on the way out? I say I am paying with debit but could I get him anything.

Milk. He asks me for a bottle of milk.

I ask if he wants chocolate or anything else, and he says no, he would just like white. I nod in agreement and pump my gas. A man pulling away in his pickup truck stops, rolls down his window and asks if he was harassing me and I say, no, thank you for being concerned for my well-being, he was just asking a question. I unbuckle all my kiddos and we head in to pay. The oldest two get a slurpee and alongside the milk, I add a container of strawberries and a sandwich.

I ask for a bag and hand it to him on the way back to my car. He scurries around the corner after a quick, thanks, miss, and as I pull out I see him on the bus bench around the corner digging in to his gas station fare.

My kids are full of questions about who that man was and why did I give him that bag of food. I explain he probably doesn't have a home, they ask where he lives and I say maybe a shelter, or under a bridge. Liam says maybe in a car and I agree maybe. Liam says 'Mom we don't often see people who are hungry around here.' He's too right.

'You did the right thing mom' Liam says quickly and repeats himself, really sure. I am jealous of his ability to see things so quickly and easily.

You see there is so much tied up in this story for me. Where we live (out in the country) but also the suburb closest to us, aren't places where homeless live. I have never ran into a situation like this close to my home before, so to have it happen, just this day.

Crazy as it is, I feel this was a gift to me and I am whispering thank you to God. You see, I feel I have been shown how I've changed. In this province Alberta, a have province, if ever there was one, with seemingly abundant jobs, lazy is perhaps the worst four letter word. Just over a handful of years ago, I would have hoped any homeless person wouldn't talk to me, thinking that they should get a job, or go to a soup kitchen or they are only asking for money to fuel addictions. (Milk.) I didn't know any really poor people, (not in the way when we first got married we had to watch every penny poor, but running out of food poor) not even one. I wouldn't have worried two seconds about money spent here or there, as long as we had it to spend. I felt free and clear to continue upward mobility indefinitely.

But I met this Jesus, Jesus of the gospels, in a new way these past years and I learned to at least smile and look everyone in the eye, housed or homeless, after all Jesus would have. I've been praying on and off for several years to give me a heart like his, and let me tell you, it's scary because this is a prayer that God likes to answer.

And by being able to gift this man a gas station lunch, I've had communion. I've been reminded of God's wild grace that frankly, I don't even come close to understanding. But I do know he loves us all, and longs to be close to us, and this I do believe (most days.)

And when I dwell on my life of abundance, it isn't because I worry about what will happen to me in a life after death type way if I sit here with all my riches, while other's go without. I know God loves me. I know I don't have to do a single thing to earn that love, it is all grace, crazy grace.

It's because I worry my heart is too hard, too selfish, too afraid, to fully live. As I get to know Jesus better, I wonder how I can't do more, knowing what I know, knowing how he loves, living in that love. It's because every time I feel moved by the Jesus I know, it has been oh so good for me too. Perceived sacrifice turns into blessing, each and every time.

I'm talking all of this over with God as I am driving home, with a full tank. He says one step at a time Leah, it's how we have gotten here, to this, to today. (And please know it isn't me at all, it is only knowing Jesus. I am all very okay with upward mobility left to my own devices.) Taking all these small steps with me is how you have changed at all. So I agree to the next step. I am still scared because I have an idea what it is. God promises we'll do it together. And that it will be good. And my heart feels freed all over again.