God’s Gift: Peace of Mind and Heart

We lit the second candle, the candle of peace.

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Peace is not easy to come by. We see conflict all around us: between countries, within countries, cities, communities… We can shut it out or ignore lack of peace when it’s farther away. But when it’s close to home, or in our homes, we can’t ignore it. We have to face it.

Why does the Christmas season often bring disharmony to the surface? I tend to dismiss a hurtful word or action during the year. But come Christmas I’m more sensitive, I’m less forgiving.

Is it because my days are longer and cramped with activities, events, and fighting my way through shopping malls? Is it my never ending to-do list?

What I need more than anything during Advent is breathing space! Time to spend in prayer and meditation. Time to read God’s Word. When I don’t fill up all those empty spaces with God’s truth, the emptiness I created by running endlessly fills with negative thinking, with sensitivity to words and actions from people around me. My vision is blurred and priorities shift. I lose perspective.

Want to stay healthy and find peace during this Christmas season? Here is some advice from Proverbs:

“A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body; jealousy is like cancer in the bones.” Proverbs 14:30 NLT

“Better a dry crust eaten in peace than a house filled with feasting—and conflict.” Proverbs 17:1 NLT

And where do you go for peace? Try God and His promises:

“The Lord gives his people strength. The Lord blesses them with peace.” Psalm 29:11

“Those who love your instructions have great peace and do not stumble.” Psalm 119:165

Jesus said, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27

As we enter the second week of Advent, it is my prayer that you will find some breathing space and God’s peace.

Happy second Advent!

“I Give You Hope”

All week long I have been thinking about hope. There’s a story I have been reluctant to share. It’s my story of hope, and how hope changed my life.

It was close to 10 pm on that Tuesday night. A night in late autumn, darkness had come early. The streets were wet, reflecting the streetlights and the colors of the changing traffic lights. I was exhausted and discouraged. My body slumped in the front seat of the car underlined my feelings. Tears streamed down my cheeks, at times blurring my vision.

I was on my way to pick up my daughter from work. A daughter who made it so hard to love her, who had chosen to rebel no matter what, who showed less and less respect to her mother.

The pain was excruciating, the rejection cut deep.

“How long will I be able to carry on under this weight of sorrow?” I thought.

In my despair I started praying, out loud, words swallowed by my sobs. I was desperate for some relief, even the smallest would do. A little light in the dark tunnel.

My sobs subsided, quiet filled the car. And then I heard God speak to my heart: “I give you hope!”

“Hope? What hope? Don’t you see my situation here?” I asked.

“I give you hope!” God said again.

“Please, God, I would like something tangible, something like no more fights, no more disrespect, a visible change in my kid. Please, God.”

Then I felt God saying again: “I give you hope. Hope for today, hope for tomorrow, hope for the rest of your life. Meggie, I give you hope.”

I sat still digesting what I just heard.

I wanted change in my daughter and her behavior. God wanted to change me. For two years I had endured the stress and pain of this relationship. Now God decided to step in and give me hope.

As I sat in the car waiting for my daughter to finish her work shift, I was stunned at God’s answer to my prayer. I had not realized how I had – little by little – slipped into despair. God saw my most immediate need, and it wasn’t my daughter’s behavior. It was me. I needed hope.

A pivotal moment. It changed the outlook for my life. It gave me strength and courage to go on, not because I pulled myself up on my own. No, only because there is a source to my hope, and it’s God himself.

Today I pray the words of Apostle Paul: “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:14

May you find your hope in God. May He fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him.

First Advent – Hope and the Source of Hope

First Advent. We lit the candle of hope today.

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What does the word “hope” mean to you?

The online Merriam-Webster defines “hope” as follows:

  • to expect with confidence
  • a desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment
  • hope implies little certainty but suggests confidence or assurance in the possibility that what one desires or longs for will happen.

Why do we place so much importance on hope? Have you heard any of the following sayings?

  • When hope is lost, all is lost.
  • Hope is the last to go.
  • When all you have is hope…
  • I hope… (at the beginning of a sentence)

The opposite of hope is despair. Take a look at the synonyms of “despair:”

anguish, desperation, discouragement, gloom, misery, pain, sorrow, dejection, forlornness, tribulation, just to name a few.

Hope rises in importance when reading through these synonyms, doesn’t it? The Bible tells us God and His Word are our source of hope:

“You are my refuge and my shield; your word is my source of hope.” Psalm 119:114

“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:14

My circumstances might cause me anguish and pain, discourage or deject me, but I still have hope. My hope is not dependent on my circumstances. My hope has a source, an anchor. God himself.

“And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you.” Psalm 39:7

“Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Savior and my God!” Psalm 42:11

“Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you.” Psalm 25:5

Do I always get it right? No. Do I ever get discouraged? Yes, I do. In those times, I’m reminded of Psalm 94:19:

“When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.”

This first week of Advent reminds us of the hope that is available to all of us. We’ve got to go the source though, to God himself.

The Advent story
of hope and mystery,
anticipation,
preparation,
a kingdom
of this world and the next,
and a king
appearing when we least expect.
Heaven touching earth,
the footsteps of the divine
walking dusty roads
as once they did in Eden,
and a people,
searching for a Saviour,
and walking past
the stable.
Open eyes and hearts,
that this might be
an Advent of hope to the world.*

It is my prayer that you will have confident hope, that you will renew your hope if its flame is weakened, and that you will look to the source of all hope.

Happy First Advent!

*source: http://www.faithandworship.com/prayers_Advent.htm

 

 

Trust in the Storm

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
he is my God, and I trust him.
For he will rescue you from every trap and
protect you from deadly disease.
He will cover you with his feathers.
He will shelter you with his wings.
His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
Psalm 91:1-4 (New Living Translation)

 

Storm Front on Eve of Good Friday 5 Jim Crotty via Compfight

I never expected to face so many storms and difficult circumstances during the year of Sabbath that I am certain God asked me to take.

These words from Psalm 91 have been my companion for the past few months. I had to remind myself again and again: God is in control. His timing is best, no matter what my world in me and around me looks like.

I wrote in my journal more than ever, and I kept repeating one phrase more than anything else: God, I trust You!

I trust You when doctor’s and specialist appointments are moved and then moved again. I trust You in this time of waiting.

I trust You when a job situation disappoints and there is patience and diplomacy required.

I trust You when I make mistakes and a trusting relationship has to be rebuilt.

I trust You when what I thought was the right decision does not turn out the way I thought it would. I trust You to be in this situation with me because of your promise.

I trust You when I have so many questions and no or little answers.

I trust You when the storm slows down just enough for you to create a beautiful rainbow. You remind me of your promise, God, and I’m encouraged to stay the course.

I trust You, God, because I find rest in the your shadow. When the heat of the day seems unbearable your shadow provides much needed reprieve.

I trust You with my ‘not enough’ and watch you transform it into just right portion of what I need every day.

I trust You alone to be my refuge, my place of safety where I can be honest and vulnerable knowing I am loved and accepted.

Your faithful promises are my armor and protection. You can be trusted to keep your promises.

You are my God, and I trust you.

 

Today I am joining Suzie Eller in #livefreeThursday

 

 

When You’re Desperate for a Sign #livefreeThursday

As a single parent decision making has been one of my biggest struggles. Especially when I know a decision will have consequences for years to come.

My father and one of my brothers had chosen a car for me when we returned to Canada. It was a small car, perfect for the 4 of us. My brother had negotiated the price, I only had to bring my cheque book, pay for it and drive it home.

Six years later my car met up not with one, but with two deer on the highway. I was devastated when the insurance appraiser called with the news that the car had to be written off, they would only pay out a few thousand for it. How was I supposed to buy a reliable car with this small amount of money?

I had about two weeks to make a decision. Should I risk it and buy an old car? What if it needed repairs or broke down, how would I pay for it? Or should I risk it and buy a new car? A car loan would mean payments for the next five years. It would I be very tight financially for these five years.

I prayed for a sign. I wanted a sign. I was desperate for a sign.

But there was no sign. I took the first step and researched and read many reviews on cars. I took another step and visited a car dealership. I prayed like mad those days and nights. I wanted someone else to make this decision for me. But there was no one to do it for me. This time I had to make the decision. I signed the purchase papers and the car loan documents. A few days later I came to pick up my car. I was shaking and nauseous when I received the car keys.

It started to rain as I drove off the dealership’s parking lot. I stopped for gas before heading home. I paid for the gas and returned to the car. All of a sudden the sky broke open, the rain stopped and the biggest double rainbow appeared!

God answered my prayers! He gave me a sign. A sign of His promise.

12 “And I seal this promise with this sign: 13 I have placed my rainbow in the clouds as a sign of my promise until the end of time, to you and to all the earth. 14 When I send clouds over the earth, the rainbow will be seen in the clouds, 15 and I will remember my promise to you and to every being, that never again will the floods come and destroy all life. 16-17 For I will see the rainbow in the cloud and remember my eternal promise to every living being on the earth.” Genesis 9:12-17 The Living Bible

I couldn’t start the car. I sat and wept. I knew without a shadow of a doubt God was with me. We would be ok financially. He would provide all we needed. And He really did.

God sealed His promise to Noah with the sign of a rainbow. Every time I see a rainbow I am reminded of God’s faithfulness.

“Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.” Hebrews 10:23 New Living Translation

 

 

Sweet or salty? Maybe both? #livefreeThursday

Stainless steel salt & pepperPhoto credit: Creative Commons License Bill Smith via Compfight

 

The topic for this week’s #livefreeThursday is “salty.” When I looked up the word “salt” on biblegateway.com I came across an interesting passage:

Season all your grain offerings with salt to remind you of God’s eternal covenant. Never forget to add salt to your grain offerings. Leviticus 2:13 NLT

This passage reminded me of what I learned about ten years ago. I sat in the office of an Ear-Nose-Throat specialist. After extensive testing he presented me with the diagnosis: Ménière’s. My presciption? No caffeine and no salt. I had less of a problem with “no caffeine,” but wasn’t quite sure what to do about the “no salt” part. After a few days spent on Google I concluded this would be the hardest diet change I had ever done.

My research showed that salt and sugar are basically everywhere. Did you know that during processing of table salt aluminum is used to whiten the salt which makes the salt bitter? To counter the bitterness sugar is added!

I was devastated by what I learned when reading food labels. I ordered a few books on salt-free cooking and baking. From reading those books I learned that it’s a lot more efficient to add salt at the table than during cooking. When you cook without salt and add salt at the table, you use a lot less salt and lower your sodium intake.

I grew up saying grace before each meal. Most times I still say grace before a meal. And then I add a little salt to my meal. Sounds a lot like an Old Testament offering to me.

God required his people to add salt to all their offerings, not just the grain offering (Leviticus 2:12-16). Why? Salt was supposed to remind the people of “God’s eternal covenant.” That’s a whole new picture for me. When I thank God for the meal I am about to eat, and when I season my meal with salt, I should remember “God’s eternal covenant.” I never thought about it this way when I sprinkled some salt on my food. I like this idea, this symbol.

Next time you and I grab the salt shaker, how about we pause and offer a prayer of thankfulness and remember God’s eternal covenant!

 

 

 

 

God is in the Business of Impossible

I find myself in the hallway these days. I’m on the move. Between places. I got here kicking and screaming. Why? A few words come to mind: stuck, comfortable, complacent. I drifted to a place I had no intention to end up. Who wants to break up with comfortable just for the fun of it? There might be a few people out there who would like that, but most of us like the comfortable zone, the known.

I said, I would never sell my house before I retire. Now I’m selling it. Over the last two years it has become increasingly obvious that my house, the yard and all the stuff we’ve accumulated has weighed me down. It has felt like a boulder tied to my feet, impossible to move. And when you can’t move, you make yourself comfortable and make the best of the situation. But not God…

God wants me to move, and he is rearranging my life. While it’s not fun to be stretched and squeezed I know there is a something better ahead of me.

I remembered a blog post I wrote in 2014. The words I wrote then are even more pertinent to my hallway situation today. Here is the post (abbreviated):

impossible

 

I woke up with this phrase in my head: Glorious Impossible. I couldn’t quite understand why these words were playing in my mind. Then it hit me: Glorious Impossible! Just the combination of these two words seems conflicting. What’s so glorious about impossible?

As I kept repeating these two words over and over during my morning routine I was reminded of the circumstances I’m facing, problems I’m dealing with, dreams I have. It occurred to me that most of them (if not all) have the word “impossible” attached to it.

Beth Moore writes in The Patriarchs, “Many times when God told me through His Word and prayer to believe Him for something very specific, over time the outlook on the matter dwindled from good to slim to utterly impossible before He brought it to pass. Keith and I are facing such a matter right now. In fact, this morning the situation seemed to hit the ‘impossible’ category. While my stomach churned with concern, a smirk crossed my face as I thought, it might be prime time for the God show. He wants to make absolutely sure that we know He’s the one who fulfills divine promises.”

Coming back to my circumstances and all the impossibles I’m facing, I know only God can turn them around. If I learned anything from God over the last eight years it’s this: His timing is perfect and His way of solving my Impossibles is the best way. On one hand I struggle with impatience, with wanting to solve it myself, with rushing and manipulating the impossibles in my life. On the other hand I am excited to see how God will turn it around. I’m looking forward to seeing Him perform the miracle of GLORIOUS IMPOSSIBLE in my life.

Today I choose to believe my God for the GLORIOUS IMPOSSIBLE!

“We will rarely be able to conclude that any God-given destiny simply followed a natural course of events.” Beth Moore

What about you? Are you facing any impossibles right now? Why not trust God with it and believe the words the angel spoke to Mary: “For nothing is impossible with God.”

Running from God or from Grace or both? #livefreeThursday

My life is trying to run awayCreative Commons License Vincepal via Compfight

A few weeks ago a song stopped me in my thoughts during my morning commute to work. “Always stay humble and kind,” I heard a man’s voice singing on the radio. I turned up the volume to listen to the words. At the end of each verse he’d sing, “always stay humble and kind.”

I was not in a good place that morning, if you know what I mean. I hadn’t slept well, pushed the snooze button way to many times that morning, and was irritated when I left the house. Each week, if not not daily, new constructions were set up along my route to work. Stop and go and more stop than go didn’t lighten my mood either. If anything, this made me even more irritable.

Do you think it was a coincidence I heard that song the last 1000 meters before I arrived at the office? I parked my car and bowed my head. I realized God had spoken. I confessed to God my irritable behaviour, my negative thoughts, my self-righteousness, the unwillingness to extend grace. Yes, grace.

I’m reminded of Jonah and his unwillingness to extend grace. He displayed his self-righteous attitude by not going to Nineveh as God had instructed. He decided to “go in the opposite direction to get away from the LORD.” (Jonah 1:3 NLT) When Jonah receives his marching orders from God the second time, he obeys.

You would think that’s how the story ends. A happy ending after much turmoil, like a storm, being thrown overboard, swallowed by a great fish, spit out onto a beach…

Jonah obeys, right? Yes, he does. But he still doesn’t agree with God when God doesn’t destroy the city of Nineveh after its people confess and turn to God.

Wasn’t that why Jonah was asked to go and preach to the people of Nineveh? But Jonah didn’t see it that way. He complains to God: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, LORD?… I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. Just kill me know, LORD! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.” Jonah 4: 2-3 NLT

Do you hear Jonah’s pride? He predicted the doom and gloom for Nineveh, and now that God relented and changed his mind and decided to show grace to the people, Jonah was all bent out of shape. His credibility as a prophet was gone…

Or did he think they didn’t deserve God’s grace? They were the enemy of his people, violent and merciless. And now God showed them grace?

“Jonah wanted the Ninevites to pay for their crimes against his people. In his graceless way of thinking, they should get what they had coming. Jonah couldn’t get past his prejudice. He was caught in the conflict of grace: it was something he was quick to ask for, but not something he was quick to dispense.” Andy Stanley in The Grace of God

“Always be humble and kind” reminded me of how quick I am to ask for grace, but oh so slow to dispense grace.

Who am I do decide who deserves grace and who does not? Jonah’s story is a great reminder to leave prejudice and self-righteousness and pride at the door. Instead, extend grace, and “always be humble and kind.”

livefreethursday

 

 

A Year in Pictures

2015 has been a year of incredible changes, both happy and hard. Before I launch into a new year I like to look back. Here are a few highlights:

My year started out with cleaning, sorting, purging our main basement room and creating a sleeping space for one of my daughters.

IMG_02672015 was supposed to be my sabbatical year. But it seems I had to ease into a real sabbatical year with a year that I call a “bridge year.” Now that I’m at the end of this bridge and going into my actual sabbatical year, I see how much I needed this year in-between. I needed to calm down, to heal emotionally, gain much needed focus and strength.

The most significant change, however, occurred when I had to look for a different job after 12+ years in a job I truly loved. But this change turned out to be the biggest challenge but also an incredible blessing. I did not think it would turn out so well. But God knew! And the way He has provided daily strength and joy on this journey is nothing short of a miracle.

 

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This precious boy, my Prince, has occupied much of my “spare time.” He came for a number of sleepovers, visited me at the office, accompanied me on numerous walks; he has truly been the highlight of my year! He might not remember all the fun we had, but I sure have the photos to prove it!

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This year included some challenges that came with a stress fracture in my left foot, a hit and run to my vehicle, and of course some further health issues.

But this was also the year of a few firsts: my first cross-country skiing, my first soccer game in a stadium, my first trip to downtown Toronto, a first live Jets hockey game…

There were two trips with family:

  • the Living Proof event in Fargo, ND and
  • Women of Faith in St. Paul, MN.

We celebrated my son-in-law’s 30th birthday at our house, and my kids and I celebrated my birthday in November. There was the annual “camping with the clan” in summer and a number of family gatherings.

It makes me smile to see how many times I spent with my children. I feel blessed that they still enjoy my company. I cannot begin to express how thankful I am for my family. These young adults provided encouragement and support through a turbulent year. 2015 in a nutshell? Extremely THANKFUL!

Celebrating Another Milestone

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Last Friday I was out with my oldest daughter. It was a very rare occasion where just the two of us spent some time together. By the time I had dropped her off and driven all the way across town to my house, it was past 10 pm.

I walked into the house. Not a single light was on. It was eerie quiet. My children were in bed. Asleep.

I sat at the kitchen table and gratefulness washed over me, and it occurred to me that I could have stayed out even later.

I did not have to rush home anymore because there was a babysitter waiting or because I had to pick up my kids at a friend’s house… I did not have to feel bad for staying out past the agreed upon times. And I did not have to feel anxious or stressed because an event had run longer and now I had to face the accusatory looks that I would often get when picking up my kids.

For the first time I felt freedom from this burden of constant guilt I had carried for over 20 years. I sat at my kitchen table and thanked God for getting me through these 20+ years of single-motherhood.

I am a walking miracle, I am living proof of God’s promises in Scriptures. My Bible is marked up with promise after promise. Not just letters on the page, no, fulfilled promises! Like this one:

“…Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you! See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands…” Isaiah 49:15-16

Peace washed over me, a peace I knew came from God. A peace from knowing He had never left my side, He had never forgotten.