Category: Life Lessons Learned

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.

 

IMG_0408

IMG_0463

IMG_0758

IMG_0965

IMG_1487

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!

IMG_0495

IMG_0724

IMG_0788

IMG_1036

 

IMG_1118

IMG_1436

IMG_1571

IMG_1755

IMG_1896

QWRR5725

IMG_2158

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

IMG_1669

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.

 

Do You Like to Worry? #lifefreeThursday

Normal People Worry Me DutchAstrid via Compfight

“What kind of question is that?” you might ask. “Who would – in their right mind – like to worry?” You might disagree with me on using the word “like” when it comes to worry.

Why do we keep doing it if we don’t like it? In other cases, if I don’t like something I find a way not to do it, or I change it.

If I have a habit I don’t like, I work on changing it. If I don’t want to drive this route, I will find an alternate one. If I don’t like doing dishes I buy a dishwasher.

Why can’t we do it with worry?

In Matthew 6:27 Jesus asks, “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?”

I want to suggest that worry takes from you instead of adding.

Worry robs you of hours and maybe even days and weeks out of your life.

Worry steals your peace.

Worry deprives you of joy.

Worry confiscates your mind.

Worry takes your much needed, precious sleep.

Worry goes off with your health and refuses to return it.

Again, what does Jesus say about worrying?

“So don’t worry about tomorrow. For tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Matthew 6:34

“…your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.” Matthew 6:32b

Isn’t that encouraging to hear? God knows my needs, and I’m supposed to live in the present. Today is what matters!

The apostle Paul wrote some precious words about worrying, too!

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” Philippians 4:6

Today I make a choice not to worry. I focus on the good things in my life. I practice thanksgiving. And I pray, pray and pray some more!

While I pray, my mind focuses on God and His Word, and I let go of my worry and receive peace.

What keeps you up at night? What drives your thoughts in circles during the day? Bring it to God in prayer, and leave it with Him. “…your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.”

 

 

Keep Your Mouth Shut! Don’t Say a Word!

I love to be right. Here, I said it. I love black and white, right and wrong. Most of the time I don’t hold back on telling people around me what’s right and what’s wrong, and it has gotten me in to more trouble than I’d like to admit.

These days a war is going on in my mind. For weeks now I have been thinking about the right and wrong of this situation. It has nothing to do with me. This person is doing something wrong, and if I’m really honest, it’s none of my business. I’m probably the only one who knows about the wrongdoing.

This morning I started mulling it over in my head, again… I got so worked up with the debate in my head that I barely missed what God was telling me.

“Keep your mouth shut!”

“Don’t say a word!”

Gulp! Did I hear that right? God, don’t you see what this person is doing? Don’t you see it’s not right. It simply isn’t right!

And again I felt God say, “Keep it shut! I don’t want you entangled in this mess.”

For a few hours I was still stewing on it. How could God let this slide?

I so wanted to help God out on this one. And I wanted this dealt with right here and now. I had my sentences ready in my mind for days now.

Then I started thinking about the real reason for being so upset with this situation.

What was it that set me off on this self-righteous trip? It turns out I am experiencing some injustice these days. It’s out of my hands. I can’t do much about it. And so by wishing someone would stand up for me and call out this wrong I thought I would score some points with people (and with God) by turning in this person’s wrongdoing.

It turns out, God doesn’t see it the same way. He doesn’t want me to say a word. He doesn’t want me in the fight. He wants me on the sidelines of this one.

Moses’ words to the people of Israel came to mind:

“Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the LORD rescue you today… The LORD himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” Exodus 14:13-14 New Living Translation

The LORD himself will fight for the injustice I’m in, and God will also take care of this person’s wrongdoing. HE will do it. My order today is to “just stay calm,” keep my mouth shut and not say a word.

Listen to the words of this song. What is God’s love calling you to? May you find courage to take up arms when God calls you to, but also have courage to stay quiet and calm when God decides to fight for you. May you find refuge under the cross of Jesus.

 

This post is part of Suzanne Eller’s Live Free Thursday linkup:

LIVEFREETHURSDAY

When Healing Doesn’t Come…

The year I turned 40, things changed. One sickness chased another. I’ve been diagnosed with several chronic diseases. Most of them are what I call “invisible diseases.” It’s hard to explain Ménière’s disease or chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

Interestingly enough, on days I feel the worst I get the most compliments on how good I look. Read more

A New Year – A Year of Sabbath

It all began in April of 2014. It was Easter Sunday to be exact. I still made it to church that morning, but by the afternoon I was so weak and exhausted I needed a nap. A few hours later I woke up with a 40°C fever. The following days would mark the most pivoting point in the last 8 years. I had a lesson to learn, and God was about to teach it. He needed my full attention, and He finally got it.

RunningCreative Commons License Andrew E. Larsen via Compfight

Read more

Wouldn’t that ruin Christmas?

Postcard for the family to Christmas Felix Schürmeyer | Fotografie | PicturePS98 via Compfight

This post was first published on Dec 19, 2010. I’m re-publishing it after some editing.

 

It’s not even a week to Christmas. I’ve been thinking about the meaning of Christmas A LOT. I used to think that from the whole year, Christmas was one holiday that had to be perfect. I mean, there’s all this glitz and glamour, an array of colours attached to Christmas, nice smells from pine trees to apple cider and Gluehwein to delicious baking, and my favourite songs ever are Christmas songs.

Growing up we did not celebrate the Advent season as we do now. Christmas was a very short affair. There were no Advent calendars to help us with the countdown to Dec 24, and for the first 14 years of my life Christmas was an illegal holiday celebrated “underground” in the former Soviet Union. Read more

to my mother on her 80th birthday

FullSizeRender
My favorite photo from my childhood.

Liebe Mutti – dearest Mom,

you truly are one of a kind. As I’ve been thinking about this milestone in your life there have been a number of things that make you unique.

You are a single child. That was uncommon for your generation. It also made it uncommon for us children not to have any uncles and aunts on your side of the family. Speaking of uncle and aunts, since dad only had two brothers, but had a relationship with only one of them, we grew up knowing one uncle! Having six cousins was rare in our circles.

You had your first child at 30. You wished for a big family. Six and a half years later you had your big family with five children. You shared many times how hard it was raising the five of us, but we grew up as best friends.

You were an accountant. Thanks to your dad and his accounting skills and the courses you were able to take, you had a successful career. You went back to work after your first, and second, and third child. If I remember correctly, maternity leave was six weeks long, and you would take the bus or tram to come home during lunch to nurse your babies. I remember you coming home with files under your arm that needed your attention after the kids were in bed. Computers or cell phones or remote access were light years away (it seemed), yet you were into multi-tasking and 24/7 availability even then.

You got your driver’s license. The independent woman that you are, you couldn’t wait for that piece of paper so you could go and drive and do things your way. You worked hard and overcame many obstacles to get that license. Not many women in our church had their driver’s license. Stories of your driving are legendary!

You took your first English language classes in your late 50s. 20+ years later you still work at learning more words, more sentences. Even if you can’t pronounce a word, you will always know how to spell it! Listening to you communicate with your grandchildren-in-law is precious. You also encouraged dad to learn the language. I’ll never forget the day he said Grace at the lunch table in English.

If you had a late start to language classes, you did not want to be left behind when it came to computers or cell phones. You got your own first computer some 10-15 years ago. You learned to navigate email, favorite news sites, handle online and international banking. Now you watch or listen to sermons online, and in Russian of all languages! When grandchildren started to leave for extended mission assignments in Europe, you asked to have your very own Facebook account so you could stay in touch and keep up with what was happening in their lives.

All these things made you unique for your generation. I’m sure it wasn’t easy to be different all these years, but you managed to pull it off and defy countless odds.

You are a very resilient woman that will overcome! I didn’t always understand you or support you. And there were years we didn’t always see eye to eye. But there are a few lessons that will stay with me forever:

– Prayer changes everything! You believed in it so strongly, you wouldn’t allow us to leave the house if we hadn’t prayed. When pressed for time I wanted to leave to catch the train, you insisted I go back to my room, kneel down at my bed and pray. Today I wish I hadn’t been annoyed at you so many times. Today I see the value of it.

– You read to us from a devotional every morning. Sometimes you had to read the same devotional 3, 4 or 5 times, just because of how early/late we would come to the breakfast table. But we would not get away with it. You insisted we listened to your reading while having breakfast.

– Your love for singing and music! You passed it on to all five of us. We might have developed our own taste in music, but the foundations for it were laid by you!

Liebe Mutti, the lists could go on and on. After all, 80 years is a long time, and your life is a colorful one!

Thank you, mother dearest!

i celebrate you today for who you are, for who you have become! I thank God for you! I love you!

Hab dich ganz doll lieb, liebe Mutti! Wünsche Dir einen gesegneten Geburtstag und alles, alles Gute! Möge der Herr Dir Kraft geben für jeden Tag und Dich reich segnen im kommenden Lebensjahr!

FullSizeRender (1)
My parents.

 

Transfer from cell 170
She’s always a good sport at trying something new!

 

Transfer from cell 1096
Her first great-grandson.