When Mother’s Day is Hard

Did you know that it’s Mother’s Day this Sunday? You may roll your eyes (just the tiniest bit!) and think, “of course”. I have run across a few people this week who had not remembered that this special day would be marked so soon. Life is different now and for those of us in my part of Canada there will be no in person gatherings for most of us and as we can only purchase “essential items” currently, gift shopping is more challenging than ever.

But there are many who are wishing this day could just be struck off the calendar, at least for this year. Women struggling with infertility, miscarriage or stillbirth, single women longing for marriage and family, those estranged from mother or children and those whose mom has passed away.

Sometimes Mother’s Day is hard.

Last year, I made a short video on this topic and I considered that I was worthwhile to share it again for my new friends here, and for those of you having another challenging Mother’s Day week.

God sees you where you are and longs to comfort and restore you.

As always, I look forward to your comments. If you have a prayer need, I would consider it my privilege to lift your need to God.

Adventures Ahead

I watched her walk into the airport until I couldn’t see her anymore. I touched my husband’s arm and said that we could go now. I’m glad he was driving as of course there were tears in my eyes. My daughter was spreading her wings and off to a new adventure.

Now, she has been living on her own in a huge city for about four years, and had gone away to university prior to that. Our nest, technically, had been empty for a while. Then, after almost a year working from home in a tiny bachelor apartment, she told us she was moving out of the apartment and traveling for a few months until she was called back to work in the office. The perfect time to decide what city she actually wanted to put her roots down in.

This girl was bitten by the travel bug at a wee age, asking her dad and I to take her to see the ocean at three years old. What did we do? We packed up and drove to New Jersey to show her the ocean and we had a wonderful time. I knew that she want to explore the world. The COVID-related shut down gave her time to plan, and drove prices way down for transportation and accommodation and she is actually saving money doing this and giving up her expensive downtown apartment. She is happy to self-quarantine in new surroundings after staring at the same walls for the last 365 days.

We moved her out and brought her belongings back to our house. We had her home for a whole week and it was busy, but such a treasure to my husband and I. She and I spent time playing a Nancy Drew game on the laptop with her head on my shoulder, just like we have done since she was very young. We cooked together, drank copious cups of tea and talked about big and little things. She sorted and packed and resorted and repacked until her carryon bag and backpack were filled to absolute capacity with all she would take with her.

These are not just for kids!

Snowflakes swirled as we set off for the airport. We chatted and laughed and made the most of the last hour to be physically next to each other for a while. I am absolutely excited for her and think she is so brave and confident to pursue her dream so responsibly at her age. But I am still mom and will miss her.

All the thought and effort and planning that went into launching this trip got me thinking that if I want the dreams I have to come to pass that I need to be more intentional, more diligent and more sacrificing of my time to make them happen. The dream God has planted in me concerns encouraging women, especially those over 40, through the written and spoken word to thrive in this life. I need to plan meals ahead, shut of the TV, use social media and not let it be a time waster and carve out time for study, prayer, writing and preparing for speaking engagements.

My thoughts and words need to be sorted and packed and then resorted and repacked until they will answer the questions and meet the felt needs of the women I interact with. God does not usually just download a message into my heart in its finished state – I have my part to play. Any goal worth achieving takes time, effort, sacrifice and so many small decisions and choices.

Two of my biggest supporters in any dream I pursue.

As the airport doors shut behind my daughter, she walked into a new adventure and closer to her dreams. Now I sit in my office inspired, with plans to prepare for adventures of my own.

Appointed Time in History

From one man, Adam, he made every man and woman and every race of humanity, and he spread us over all the earth. He sets the boundaries of people and nations, determining their appointed times in history. He has done this so that every person would long for God, feel their way to Him, and find Him – for He is the God who is easy to discover! Acts 17:26-27 TPT

Reading with rose-coloured glasses has on occasion brought me discontentment. I read the wonderous tales of Anne Shirley, Laura Ingalls Wilder or Nurse Jenny Lee and imagine how much better it would be to have lived in simpler times or a different place.

Yes, times were simpler in some ways, but what about those fancy modern conveniences, like accessibility to preventative and diagnostic medicine? Thinking back to health issues I dealt with in my younger years, it would have been highly unlikely that I would have lived to see the age of 30, even with medical care available in the times of Call the Midwives. Being an orphan certainly isn’t as romantic a notion as L.M. Montgomery painted it to be. After the “Snowmageddon” that many have experienced last week, the Long Winter Laura Ingalls described doesn’t seem so blissful when it was too cold for Pa to play the fiddle.

There is a reason that I am living now, here in Canada. It’s part of God’s great story that I be here right now. I have my appointed time in history. For what purpose? Well, that is not entirely clear to me yet, and perhaps won’t fully be clear in my lifetime.

The Apostle Paul tells us in Acts 17 that God has placed each person in their specific time and location for life so that we would long for God and find Him. The Passion Translation says we will “feel our way” – the way we navigate a dark room, by feeling for landmarks, signs of what is around us even when it’s hard to see with our natural sight.

God is always around us, whether we desire to look for Him, or consciously make an effort to seek Him out. As Paul says, God really is easy to discover. I find Him in His Word that speaks to me in the seasons of my life in a fresh way. I detect God’s love in the warm embrace of my husband who always points me back to God when I struggle. I experience God in a text message from a friend who says I was on her heart today and she prayed for me. Out of all the people in her life, she thought of me on a day I needed reassurance, and God was the only one aware. That is God saying to me, “I’m right here. I see you and I am working on this problem for you.” We see God revealed in nature, in dreams, or in a song of praise that you can’t get out of your head.

My friend, this is your appointed time in history. Each of us plays a role in God’s grand rescue story. These may not be the “simpler times” portrayed in literature, but this is your time and mine. While I will still enjoy those stories, I’m tucking the rose-coloured glasses into a drawer and viewing the times then and now for what they are. Time for each of us to acknowledge that longing in our souls is for God, to discover the beauty of a relationship with Him. No matter our age, none of us are too young or too old to fulfill our purpose in the lives of our families, our church, and our community. God has determined that in all of earth’s history, we are in the time and the place where we can shine brightest.

The Strength You Have Right Now

Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Mideonites. I am sending you!” Judges 6:14 NLT

How strong do you feel right now? Right this minute. I am winding down from a busy shift at the hospital and then home through traffic. I am not feeling very strong at all right now.

You don’t need to have a physically demanding job to feel your strength sapping. Illness, stress, family concerns, financial issues and even clutter can be draining.

Gideon was in hiding, secretly threshing grain in a winepress in hopes of providing food for his family while remaining unseen by the marauding Mideonites who came regularly to take absolutely everything from Israel. Under normal circumstances, threshing grain would be a physically demanding task, but to do it in hiding, in a place not built for threshing grain would make it even more challenging. How much strength was Gideon expending just to provide enough for his family to simply survive?

Imagine you are a single parent working two or three jobs. You climb out of your car, arms laden with groceries and there is an angel waiting in your garage. After telling you not to freak out (because let’s be honest, you would) he says, God wants you to go and find new housing for residents of a nursing home who are suffering abuse and neglect. Right now, with the strength you have in that moment. Imagine how your mind and body would scream, reminding you how exhausted and worn out you are, that this task is way beyond doable. Seems impossible, right? You were just wondering how you were going to get supper on the table, homework supervised and laundry completed before falling into bed for a few short hours. Now you are being asked to do this?

But then the angel of the Lord says, God is sending you. That makes you stand a little straighter, and confidence seeps in to your mind. Just knowing that God thinks you can do this, that He believes in you, brings strength physically and mentally.

God reassures Gideon that he would not have to win this battle alone. Verse 14 says, ‘The Lord said to him, “I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.”

I encourage you to read the rest of this amazing story of an ordinary working man who was used by God to defeat this oppressive army and free Israel. What God did for Gideon, he can and will do for you to complete His calling in your life.

God is asking me to do things in this season that are so far beyond my comfort zone and my level of strength. I haven’t seen an angel in my garage, but still, I know it is Jesus tugging at me to do these things. So I say yes, and offer the sacrifice of the strength I have for His purpose. What is the thing God is asking you to do that seems more than what you have strength for? It could be mentoring someone struggling, expanding your ministry, changing jobs, going back to school, fostering a child or even mending a broken family relationship. God will never call you to do something without accompanying you on the journey. Take what strength you have and say yes to Jesus. As you step out in obedience, the God of all strength will walk alongside you, empowering you through to victory.

The Well-Dressed Woman

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. Colossians 3:12-14 MSG

Did the image of a woman you know immediately pop into your mind? You know, the one who is always seen in a fashionable or classic, well-fitting and coordinated outfit no matter where you may run into her.

Fashionistas direct us to dress our age, or don’t dress our age, instruct us to whether we are a “spring” or “fall”. They demonstrate how the right outfit can hide those few extra pounds and lead women to believe that certain styles or colours can help us to snag the perfect job, or man. Especially when directed at a budget-conscious woman, styles experts tell us to have that one foundation piece – the simple black dress, or classic tailored suit and change it up with various accessories. This single article of clothing can have us ready for any situation.

The Bible tells us that we have a spiritual wardrobe, hand-picked by God, guaranteed to fit right, suit our complexion and never wrinkle under pressure. This garment is love.

We have been chosen for a life of love and once you slip that on and zip it up, you will feel so beautiful and strong, ready to tackle the day.

Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins 1 Peter 4:8 (NLT)

Wearing love covers up imperfections and faults, both ours and those of the people we encounter. When our actions and words speak love, we become more like Jesus so those faults start to disappear – like an outfit that makes you slimmer the longer you wear it (If you have found such an item, please comment below for the rest of us!). We will also be able to overlook the weaknesses and imperfections of others when walking enrobed in love.

Then, as we explore more of the new wardrobe God has provided, we see the accessories! Sparking, extraordinary items to add to this garment of love. Let’s take a peek at them:

So robe yourself with virtues of God, since you have been divinely chosen to be holy. Be merciful as you endeavor to understand others, and be compassionate, showing kindness toward all. Be gentle and humble, unoffendable in your patience with others.  Tolerate the weaknesses of those in the family of faith, forgiving one another in the same way you have been graciously forgiven by Jesus Christ. If you find fault with someone, release this same gift of forgiveness to them.  Colossians 3:12-13 TPT

These are all lovely things to wear as well, but we can’t pull off that stunning outfit without putting on love first.

What is amazing is the outfit never looks dated, ill-fitting, worn or out of style. Love is always in fashion and the more you wear it, the better it looks. It’s great for lounging at home, doing laundry, working at school or the office, going to church, a family gathering or out to Wal-Mart.

In this season, we need to be that well-dressed woman. The most creative designer of all time, God Himself, made this garment of love and all its stunning accessories so we can reflect His love into this often lonely and hurting world. Try it on – I know it’s just your size.

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. Proverbs 31:25 NLT

Marie

I have seen you everywhere this week. In looking through my box of gifts, I found the festive muffin pan I bought for you. When the time came to exchange gifts, you were too ill to bake so I couldn’t bear to give it to you. Yet, I have not been able to give it to someone else. I’m drinking coffee out of one of the beautiful mugs you gave me. You loved coffee mugs! Even silly things like bananas whisper memories. You were always offering to share your “post weigh-in” banana with me at Weight Watchers if I hadn’t brought one for myself.

Val, Me, Glenda and Marie at our last Christmas lunch

It was a year ago on Christmas Eve when your body had had enough and you slipped into eternity before I could say thank you and goodbye.

I think it hit me in the face again this December when delivering gifts to the others in our little circle. It tugged at my heart to make two gifts when it seems right to make three.

As we stood outside the church that cold December day, someone said to me that they admired how well I was taking your loss. Ah, maybe I was in pastor’s wife mode, using the gifts God gave me to comfort and encourage. It is helpful in dealing with loss to find others who need the attention and pour your heart into them.

Maybe because I had heard Marie’s tearful husband say stage IV in that hospital waiting room that first day when we learned the horrible news. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the palliative care folder in her dining room when we went for lunch that day Marie felt herself and we laughed and talked like it was all behind her. Maybe, while praying for a miracle, I understood that God’s plan isn’t always mine. Perhaps I had been grieving all along and so standing in the churchyard hugging (remember hugging?) it was easier than being alone with my thoughts.

I miss you Marie. You were among my first friends in a new city, brought together in a room where we both wanted to be healthier, but God meant that connection to be so much more. And as friendship grew, I saw your intense love for your family, your giving heart, your servant attitude and your creativity in the kitchen and the garden.

The day I reached my weight-loss goal at WW – Val, Krista, Me, Glenda and Marie

That time alone in your hospital room is one of my most precious memories. I shared my heart and talked to you about God. My words stumbled and I fear it wasn’t enough, but I thought we’d have another conversation, one more time to pray together. But we did not.

So today as I drink from a coffee mug with cardinals on it because you knew I love them, God is using your memory to remind me that one chance may be all I have with someone else; a stranger, a friend or family member, to tell them who God really is and how He longs to have relationship with them, allowing Him to do the amazing things only He can do. Even if I become separated from them, I don’t want them separated from God, so I need to speak now.

Me, Glenda, Val and Marie on a short vacation together.

Thank you Marie. God used you in my life in many ways as He used you to be a blessing and joy in the lives of so many others. As I pray for your family and others still touched by loss and grief I will remember how you showed me that love doesn’t have to be shown in grand gestures but displayed through a simple delicious meal, a coffee mug or even half a banana after a weigh in.

The greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13b)

Use Your Imagination

Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints. Ephesians 1:18

It is a wonderful thing when someone lets you know that they are praying for you, especially when you haven’t specifically asked them to pray regarding a need in your life.  This week I got a text from a friend who lives in a different time zone.  She told me that she had been praying for me during her prayer walk that morning.  She was praying for me before my day had even started.  I had no idea of what she talked to God about, but throughout the day as challenges and blessings came, I imagined what her conversation with God was like.  Knowing she prayed for me empowered me to live my day with purpose and courage.

In this passage, Paul is telling the members of the church of Ephesus that he was praying for them.  He was in prison, yet he was praying for them.  He starts this section by not only telling them he is praying regularly for them (vs 16), but he goes on to tell them what he is asking God to do for them.  This not only encourages and empowers the church members, but teaches them how to pray for each other. 

Paul asks God to enlighten the eyes of their heart.  The Passion translation says “illuminate the eyes of your imagination”.  Living life by faith requires imagination.  Sometimes our imagination gets consumed with the facts of life – the jam-packed schedule, the wayward child, the financial shortfall.  Paul is showing us a higher form of imagination – the wild imagination of a child, where if something can be imagined, it is possible.  Paul asks God to reveal to our imagination what He is calling us to, like a spiritual lightbulb moment when we see the richness of this amazing life of living for Him.  This can bring us past imagining the facts of life, to the truth of God’s purpose which is more than we can comprehend.  (Ephesians 3:20)

Paul concludes this chapter by continuing his teaching on the identity of the believer.  As adopted sons and daughters of God, chosen and beloved we are entitled to boldly access His power, the very same power which was in Jesus as He rose from the dead (vs 20).  Imagine what that power can do in our lives, and our world!  Paul prays with exuberance and passion because He knows that the revelation of the true identity of each believer will empower them to live out the purpose God designed and will ultimately bring glory back to Himself. Paul concludes with a reminder that Jesus is ultimately exalted as the head of the church, and the believers are His body on this earth.  Jesus fills the church with His presence and blessing.  If we use our imagination, God can light it up with how much greater a purpose He has given us than our own plans and dreams. He created us for so much more – just imagine it!

God has created us with an imagination that needs to be cultivated towards Him.  What is one area of your life where you can cultivate seeing the hope to which God has called you?

Healthy Steps – Meal Prep

So much is going on in my life and home right now and I’ll just bet it is the same for you. Are you trying to keep up that New Year’s resolution to eat better and exercise more?

A key for me has been meal prepping, and if you haven’t attempted it, I would like to encourage you to give it a try.

Quinoa and Turkey Sausage

Maybe it seems like meal prepping is too much work, but in reality with a bit of effort at the beginning, you can give yourself the gift of time, health and peace of mind when you know what is for supper.

Start with your family’s favourite recipes, or a new cookbook. My go-to is http://www.skinnytaste.com for healthy recipes. The WW points are included which keeps me on track. So far every one I have tried gets a big thumbs up from my husband too (always a bonus).

You can find meal plan ideas online that will outline suggested meals for the week if it is the planning that causes you more headaches. I’m working on compiling some of my family’s favourite healthy recipes, so stay tuned for that! After eight years on this healthy eating journey, I have amassed quite a few!

Start small – I would not suggest you dive in with once a month cooking! Plan one meal ahead. Yesterday, I made a WW recipe Instant Pot Chicken Mole. Quick and easy. I simply doubled the recipe and have enough for supper tonight which helps as I am working an evening shift. Sometimes if I am off two days in a row (oh, the luxury!) I will make a fresh meal the second day and then alternate the leftovers. That way you are not eating the same meal two days in a row.

I sometimes double recipes and pop the extra in the freezer for a busy work day ahead. Those are also great to take to a friend who might need a break from cooking one night.

Use those “servants” you have in your chicken. Years ago before blogs were popular I subscribed to an email list on homemaking and the writer called her bread maker and crockpot her “servants”. She liked to get them working early in the morning. Now we can add Instant Pot to that list of servants.

Another method of meal prepping that has benefited me is to cut up fruit and vegetables when I get home from the store, or at least for more than one meal. If we are making homemade pizza for supper, we chop enough veggies to add to scrambled eggs the next morning. I am more likely to eat a salad at work if everything is cut up. The same goes with grabbing fruit for a snack or dessert. If you open the fridge and see a whole pineapple, chances are you won’t feel like cutting it up for a snack, but something less healthy might be more convenient.

There are some things that I buy already prepared. Yes, it costs more, but my health is worth it. If you absolutely hate cutting vegetables for snacks – buy a veggie tray. I pay extra to purchase riced cauliflower. It is really a great substitute for rice (or you could go half and half with rice) but for that item I would rather pay than compare.

Again, start slow. Some weeks I will prepare three or four items on one day for the freezer. Other weeks are busier and I just double recipes as I go.

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