Deep Water Life

When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.  When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. (Isaiah 43:2 NLT)

Deep water.  That is where life finds me now.  No land in sight.  My feet can’t touch the bottom.  Exhilarating, scary, and yet beautiful. 

Everything is in motion around me like the deep ocean waves in this season.  Nothing is certain, not even the colour as the water goes from dark blue-black in the shadows to brilliant hues of aqua and sky blue in the sunshine.

The little boat of my life bobs along, sometimes rising high, sometimes in the deep valleys between waves when the storms roll in.  In an instant, jobs become uncertain, friends disappoint.  Sickness impedes and the shoreline of success is as invisible as the shore.  It can be so tempting just to say “I guess I didn’t hear God after all” and give up on those big dreams. 

My husband and I planted a new church this past June.  During the first round of COVID.  We gave up jobs, left friends and family, and moved to a new city at God’s call.  Some days there are challenges as big as ocean waves on every side and I hear my enemy whisper the same question he posed to Eve, “Did God really say?” (Genesis 3:1 NLT). 

Yes. Yes. Yes.  God DID say to leave the comfort of the shallows and head out into the deeper water.  But when the weight of the dreams and goals I have gets heavy, Jesus reaches out His hand and catches me, steadying my little boat.  He is the faithful keeper of the promise made in Isaiah 42.

Matthew 14 tells recounts the disciples’ experience of being in deep water, terrified by the storm that raged around them.  Many were fishermen, so it would take quite a storm to frighten them.  In the tempest, Jesus came to them and told them “Be brave and don’t be afraid.  I am here!” (Matt. 14:17 TPT).

Photo by Teddy Thornton on Unsplash

Just remembering that He is with us brings us back to where we need to be – focused and dependent on Him.  It was only when Peter’s eyes went back to the waves (verse 30) he began to sink. 

I am in a place of complete dependence on God, and I know that is just where He longs for His children to settle.  I’m not perfect, and still have times of tears and anxiety, but I am learning literally day by day that when I can’t work enough, love enough or plan enough in my own strength and I stop fighting His guiding current, His strength and provision show themselves mightily. Jesus gets the glory and the praise – opening the hearts and eyes of others as we share all He has done.

Maybe you find yourself in deep water now.  Separation from family, illness, unrest, financial strain, career uncertainty as a myriad of waves may surround you. Being fully dependent on God for all of these things, especially when you have no idea what to do, puts you in the current of His power and love and you will safely reach the shores of your destination.  You will add faith to faith as you navigate and this is a precious treasure not just for you, but for those around you who are floundering in the sea. You will not just survive, you will THRIVE!

Stormy days will still come, but so will warm sunny mornings and peace can be found in every one of them as we chart the course by His word, good teaching under your pastor shepherd and time at His feet in prayer and praise.

Deep water life.  It’s where faith is built and lives are changed. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in this world.

Photo by Anastasia Taioglou on Unsplash

Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room

Today was my first Saturday not to have to work in about a month. It will be a month before I get another. I love the work I do and find it very satisfying but I’ve been looking forward to today. A day to exhale and prepare my heart for Christmas.

I planned to do only what made me happy today. I started my day with coffee and my Advent devotions. I’ve found several really thought-provoking ones on the YouVersion Bible app. Then I had a chat with my uncle on the phone. He always shares where to find the deals and I love how out laughter filled conversations.

I took my time making baked oatmeal cobbler for breakfast. Its only 4 WW points and is really a comfort food meal. My husband and I watched a Christmas movie while eating breakfast. It felt so luxurious not to rush.

Then I stole away to my craft room to work on Christmas gifts. Its a creative space, not a tidy one, but I feel refreshed there, thinking about people I love as my hands fashion the gifts. I spied the treadmill and did a short workout. Yes! It is what I wanted to do. Being active every day is a gift I give myself and I am grateful for it.

My husband and I made supper together which is one of my all-time favourite things. I also made a second meal for tomorrow as I will be heading to work after church. Meal prep has been key not only for my weight loss goals but it eliminates some mind clutter when I know what’s for supper.

I did some preparation for church tomorrow. Again, it is not a chore to me, especially when I could work at my own pace. It is my joy to serve our much-loved church family and our community in this way.

As my husband studied his message I enjoyed a book and a hot bath. We moved into this house months ago and finally I took the time to relax in this way.

The day was all I hoped it would be. My muscles are relaxed, my mind is clear and I feel reenergized by treating myself well and preparing for days ahead.

In this busy Christmas season, one unlike we have ever known, take time to be good to yourself. Unwind and relax, even just for a while. As the familiar carol encourages, “Let every heart prepare Him room.” When you pause and allow yourself to be refreshed then you can focus on what is really important. What is important in this season is not gifts, decorations or baking, but Jesus.

As you prepare to make room in your day and your heart for Jesus, He will bring the best Christmas gifts of all – love, joy, peace and rest. When you have those, you have all you need for the year ahead, and enough to share as well.

What’s on Your Heart This Season?

I love to walk, especially in the fall. Crisp, fresh air, brilliant leaves in the trees and crunching under my feet. It does me good in body, mind and spirit.

I am wondering what this season of life looks like for you? Do you wonder where God is or how He will work it all out? Are you rejoicing in His goodness and faithfulness? Would you share your season with me, my friend so I can walk alongside you?

In future blog posts I want to explore and share encouragement and strength from God’s Word thats relevant to your season. He wants to refresh you spiritually, emotionallyand physically.

Let’s walk together!

Active Living

In January, I made a renewed effort to be active every day. My WW coach challenged me to 100 days of activity and the timing could not have been better as we were coming out of days of holiday feasting and sedentary celebrating. I managed to be active for at least 10 minutes on 99 of those first 100 days of 2020.

Charts really work for me so I enjoyed colouring in or putting a sticker (we scrapbookers always have stickers!) over each day. I felt a bit disappointed that I missed one day so once the 100 days were over, I started again! Its just that easy to take that step in the right direction. I am at day 90 of 100 and have not missed a day.

I did learn an important lesson in the 100 day challenge that I need to cut myself some slack if I do miss a day due to feeling under the weather, or just the surprises of life.

I am not striving for perfection, just progress.

I have a workout room in my house and that gives me no excuses when the weather is less than ideal. I have amassed a large collection of workout DVDs, most of which were thrift store finds (which speaks loudly to the resolve of people to stick with their workout goals) and I decided to use each one and see if they fit my life and skill level.

It took me a few weeks to accomplish this goal, but now I have a collection of DVDs that I enjoy using and that are at my current level of fitness or just reasonably beyond so that I am encouraged to progress. I donated those that I did not enjoy or were not challenging enough.

Variety in activity is key for my physical health. Throughout the week I have push days, maintain days and active rest days. This keeps my body from getting into a rut. If I do the same workout day after day, week after week, my body adjusts to it and then it is not as effective. I also need variety to make sure that my fitness level is increasing for my entire body, strength and cardio, both upper and lower body fitness.

Mentally, I also need variety in my activity. If I do the same workout repeatedly, I find I am not as focused and my mind starts wandering to the to-do list for the rest of the day, or what’s for supper. Then I am not being present for the workout and I will not exert myself to the best of my ability. Why bother being active if there is only minimal effort being expended? If I am not focused I might as well go on to the next thing in my day.

When I started trying to be active I had a stationary bicycle and I could ride for the length of one song on my iPod. And that exhausted me. Now with incorporating activity into almost every day in some way, I can ride 10 km on my bike before work, or run a 5k on a Saturday and I am trying to increase my fitness on a regular basis. If I miss a day, I feel off. I never expected to be THAT person who complained about missing a workout. Some days I still have to push a bit to lace up those workout shoes, but when I am finished, I always am glad I took the time to be active.

Being active is addictive. My mind needs the clarity that comes with focus and increased oxygen to clear the cobwebs. My body needs to be stronger and more flexible as I get older. My soul needs me to take time to look after myself so I can look after those I love to avoid burnout.

So what’s your activity like? Now is a great time to start being more active or upping your current activity level. Summer weather makes it great to be outside in the fresh air. Especially where I live when I know colder weather will be here before I know it. YouTube has a wide variety of workout videos and during this pandemic season there are lots of workout apps and services offering free classes to allow you to try something new. My neighbour told me she is doing yoga with friends using an online video meeting service. Great idea! Perhaps like me, you have DVDs gathering dust – give them another try. If you like them, great – if not, pass them on and encourage someone else to be more active as well.

Don’t feel you have to take on a 100 day challenge like I did. Make an attainable goal for you – but be specific! Perhaps next week you will walk for 15 minutes on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, or take the kids to the park and play frisbee on Saturday.

Make a plan, be active and you will soon see results in your body, your mind and your soul.

Beneficial to Life

I have an anchor scripture that has been foundational in the faith part of my journey to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.  This past week it has been on my heart with a new facet of understanding for me.  I love that about God’s word – it is alive! Because of that, a scripture that I think I have all figured out is able to speak into other areas of my life in a fresh way.

The scripture is 1 Corinthians 10:23 and I am going to share it from a few translations because they each have something to offer.

Everything is permitted, but everything isn’t beneficial. Everything is permitted, but everything doesn’t build others up.  (CEB)

The Amplified Bible, of course, goes a little further and says: 

All things are lawful [that is, morally legitimate, permissible], but not all things are beneficial or advantageous. All things are lawful, but not all things are constructive [to character] and edifying [to spiritual life].

In this age of grace that we live in, we are not under the laws that tell us what we can eat.  It is all permissible.  I don’t have to have a prayer meeting before I get in the buffet line.  I do not have to worry that I will be served food that is not permissible for me. 

However, when I am in that buffet line, what I should be thinking is, what foods are beneficial to me?  What foods are going to fuel my body, provide nutrients to keep me healthy and strong so I can carry out God’s plan for my life?  What is going to satisfy me?

I can choose to fill my grocery cart with processed food, and empty-calorie junk food.  I’m still going to heaven.  But…am I honouring the temple God gave me (this physical body)? 

Or don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you? Don’t you know that you have the Holy Spirit from God, and you don’t belong to yourselves? You have been bought and paid for, so honor God with your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (CEB)

If after eating these foods I have a sugar crash or feel unwell, will I be able to do what God asks me to do – whether it be singing on the worship team, visiting those in hospital, doing my best in the office or keeping up with my family?

Slow Cooker West African Stew with Quinoa

Now before you start thinking that I eat only whole foods in nutritionally perfect portions – hold it right there!  I get cravings for pizza and cookies and at times I will choose to eat them.  I will try a friend’s new recipe at small group.  I eat birthday cake at parties (many times I share it with my husband because I know the tenth bite tastes the same as the first).  I am free to eat what I want and God still loves and accepts me – but I want to eat what is beneficial for me.

Keeping this scripture in mind has helped me more times than I can count when faced with cravings or food challenges.  I am certain it can help you as well.

As I mentioned, I thought I had this scripture down pat and had dug all the spiritual nutrition out of it that was there.  Oh, no.  Last week I was thinking about how I spend my days (that’s the planner girl coming out again) and thinking of choices of TV shows, books, social media posts and conversations I partake in.  None of it is bad per se, but what is beneficial – what is strengthening me spiritually?  Again, I am not suggesting legalism in any way because that can discourage or divide people.  What I am trying to do is to think about God being included in that social media post, that conversation, book or movie.  If that is not comfortable for me, then maybe I should make another choice.

Photo by Tamas Pap on Unsplash

When I look at this scripture in the Message translation, it illuminates another facet – let’s look at it:

Looking at it one way, you could say, “Anything goes. Because of God’s immense generosity and grace, we don’t have to dissect and scrutinize every action to see if it will pass muster.” But the point is not to just get by. We want to live well, but our foremost efforts should be to help others live well.

The last sentence grabbed my attention – We want to live well, but our foremost efforts should be to help others live well.

So while I want to be a conscious consumer whether taking substance into my physical body or my soul, I need to be aware of how this affects others as well. 

A challenge I have is with “food pushers” – “oh one piece of cake won’t hurt”, or “I made it just for you”.  While I am not unmovable with food choices, on the whole I choose very intentionally. However, I have to balance this with love.  I have strategies I use to help me in these situations but ultimately I don’t want to crush the loving gesture of another.  This is where sharing with my husband comes in very handy!!  This helps me grow in love, being aware that my relationship with the giver of the food is more important on this occasion, and helps the giver grow as well – being hospitable or showing love through cooking. 

When it comes to what I consume in my soul, not getting involved in debates on social media keeps me peaceful, but I am also looking out for others. Maybe someone is watching to see how the “Christian girl” will respond.  Maybe taking a stand and letting someone know I would rather choose another movie to watch will help them make a soul connection and grow spiritually as well.

Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash

In my journey to be healthy physically, I progress one choice at a time.  Spiritually, the journey moves forward the same way.  We are all only one choice away from getting back on track or moving closer to the goal.  Isn’t that amazing?

God cares immensely about this journey we are on and He will guide you on that next choice if you simply ask.  What’s for supper?  What’s on Netflix?  How do I respond to that controversial Facebook post?   What is my reaction to someone that let me down?  Making the next step towards what is beneficial is just a prayer and a decision away.

Photo by Letizia Bordoni on Unsplash

Spend Your Life For His Purpose

Take full advantage of every day as you spend your life for his purposes.

Ephesians 5:16 TPT

I want to challenge you as you begin the day tomorrow to ask God how you can take full advantage of the 24 hours that lay ahead. Embrace His interruptions and see how advantageous it is to led Him write the list.

I would love to hear about what this scripture means to you in your own life. Leave a comment or a prayer request. I pray God will bless you with amazing interruptions.

God Bless the Broken Road

My husband and I will celebrate our twelfth wedding anniversary this weekend, so of course that means my mind is full of memories. Many memories are attached to songs, as both my husband and I love music. I think our favourite songs change almost every week as certain words and melodies minister to us during different situations.

Photo by Angela Carter

When we were dating, my husband and I both worked multiple jobs, had kids living at home and not a lot of cash for fancy nights out. Lots of times we would go for a drive, listen to music, sing and talk. We still love to do this. So many songs from that period in our life still make me smile today as I see where God has brought us over these past twelve years.

A song that still resonates is “God Bless the Broken Road” as it speaks to me of my relationship with God and my relationship with my husband; the two most important connections in my life. The second verse best echoes my heart. It says:

I think about the years I spent just passin’ through
I’d like to have the time I lost and give it back to you
But you just smile and take my hand
You’ve been there, you understand
It’s all part of a grander plan that is coming true. **

My husband and I have talked so many times about how different life might have been if we met earlier in life. How some heartbreaks might have been avoided, how ministry might have looked differently. Of course, we see that all of experiences we had separately; the joys and sorrows, success and defeat, had to happen in God’s bigger design. First on that list would be the amazing young adults who are our children, and we cannot imagine our lives without them being who they are. But some days, I still daydream about meeting my charming man with the sparkling eyes when I was in my twenties and having more years with him than I will now. And like the song says, he completely understands. We trust God’s plan for us and are assured that we met at the exact right moment in time.

This song also speaks to me of the redemptive love God has for me, as there have been times I have wandered off the path or been sidelined by pain or selfishness. I regret those times when I did not let God use me and heal me because I was too wrapped up in being the center of my own universe. But, those times did not last long and I stretched out my hand to my Father who was waiting for me all the time.

All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own path. Isaiah 53:6 NLT

I know God does have a wonderful plan for my husband and I. We have a passion to serve God and to build relationships with people, introducing them to our God and His life-changing power. Some days are challenging, but that’s when we hold onto each other and confess there is no one else we’d rather live this crazy life with.

Every long lost dream led me to where you are
Others who broke my heart, they were like Northern stars
Pointing me on my way into your loving arms
This much I know is true
That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you. **

We have had countless miracles from God over the past twelve years that have increased our faith. We have also had dreams that haven’t worked out the way we thought, and others that we have waited many years for, but all of these point us to Jesus, where comfort is found and strength is renewed. For all we have learned in these seasons, for how we have grown closer together as a couple and closer to God, I know I can speak for my husband and say that we wouldn’t trade this life for anything the world can give.

It’s better to have a partner than go it alone. Share the work, share the wealth.
And if one falls down, the other helps, But if there’s no one to help, tough! Two in a bed warm each other. Alone, you shiver all night. By yourself you’re unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst. Can you round up a third? A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 MSG

God has been that central third strand in the cord that keeps us strong. On days where we laugh until the tears come, or those when we cry ourselves to sleep and all those ordinary days in between, I know that God brought me down a broken road to bring me closer to Him and to the husband He chose and prepared for me.

If you are married, think about those songs that have meant something to you as a couple and share those memories, even if it isn’t your anniversary. Every day is a good day to nurture the relationship with your spouse.

** Songwriters: Bobby Boyd / Jeff Hanna / Marc HummonBless the Broken Road lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, BMG Rights Management