Storm Snacks

What day is it? It doesn’t take long for me to lose my bearings a bit after not being farther than a neighbourhood walk away from home in days. I am used to grading papers and transcribing reports for many hours a day, entering the date on each one, fully cognizant of the day of the week to keep the plates spinning in my busy life.

So much has changed in the past couple of weeks and it seems to keep changing daily. While part of me wants to stay connected to those I care about, the other part is weary of rehashing the news. Self-isolation can take many forms, and for me, self-care means not spending too much time on social media these days. Time is lost track of and it leaves me feeling unsettled.

While I am losing track of what day it is, I need to make sure I stay focused on what’s important. My heart’s desire is to keep God in first place. Faith over fear. I have no idea what tomorrow may bring. I certainly never expected to be in this place, but I have found myself in unexpected places and situations before and God has never failed me. I am unafraid.

The Lord will keep you safe, from secret traps and deadly diseases. He will spread his wings over you  and keep you secure. His faithfulness is like a shield or a city wall. You won’t need to worry about dangers at night or arrows during the day. And you won’t fear diseases that strike in the dark or sudden disaster at noon. (Psalms 91:3-6 CEV)

I also need to stay healthy. That means staying home and washing my hands. That also means staying on track with my healthy eating plan. Thousands of little choices helped me shed 164 pounds and I have been successful in keeping it off. A season of uncertainty is not going to change that. I have to remember that when I’m on social media and people show me pictures of everything they are eating and baking. I remember this when I’m reminded that it’s “Take Out Tuesday”. We have so many awesome restaurants in our city, and I have compassion for how this affects them, but right now, for my budget and for my healthy eating goals, I need to eat at home. I am actually happy to have time to make meals without rushing for a change. I’m rediscovering recipes and a joy in puttering in the kitchen.

When I moved to Prince Edward Island, I learned about something called “storm snacks”. When a storm was in the forecast, copious amounts of snack foods and beverages were purchased to keep us appeased as we waited it out. I have heard some people mention storm snacks in the context of our current retreat into our homes. But food doesn’t take away stress or anxiety for more than a minute. Storm snacks do not take away boredom that some may be feeling. I have learned that food cannot comfort me in any lasting sort of way.

Do I enjoy a treat? Sure I do! But I am being mindful about how often I indulge and what I choose to indulge in. I watched a YouTube video suggesting that we don’t consume storm snacks more than once a day. At once a day, I would be seeing the number on the scale creep up, feeling defeated and my circumstances unchanged.

There are other ways to treat myself and care for mental health while not abandoning my healthy lifestyle. Engaging in hobbies does wonders for me. I have tried a new knitting pattern. I have been making Christmas cards, and don’t tempt me, or I might mail them out too! Learning new skills keeps my mind engaged and distracted from worry. Laughing with my husband is one of the best mental health exercises I could ever do. Being active. Exercise releases endorphins which relieve stress. Enjoying those scented candles I never have time to burn. Reading and resting.

My goal is to return to normal life (don’t get me started on what that is!) healthy, rested, strong and full of faith. With God, I can get through this, and my friend, so can you. So put the storm snacks back in the cupboard and take time to feed your soul.

I Believe in You

Photo by Vincentiu Solomon on Unsplash

When I look at the night sky and see the work of Your fingers— the moon and the stars You set in place— what are mere mortals that You should think about them, human beings that You should care for them? Yet You made them only a little lower than God
and crowned them with glory and honor. You gave them charge of everything You made, putting all things under their authority— the flocks and the herds and all the wild animals, the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea, and everything that swims the ocean currents.
O Lord, our Lord, Your majestic name fills the earth!
Psalm 8:3-9 NLT

Sitting at my desk grading papers as my students worked away at the day’s assignment. The course was almost over and there was an underlying nervous excitement (well, with a class full of young women, it wasn’t always underlying!). Internship was coming, and then a whole new chapter as they started their new career.

I was ready for the break between courses. It had been a successful term, and I love what I teach, but my mind was reevaluating my purpose. God had been impressing on me for some time that a new chapter was coming. Writing, speaking, leading other women. More women. Just thinking about it was WAY out of my comfort zone. My own underlying thoughts were racing. How I could possibly make this all work? Work filled my days. My husband, my church, my home and family filled the rest. How could I study more? When could I write more?

But the real question was this – what on earth do I have to say that someone else isn’t already saying? I felt the passion, the fire in my bones to take on this new season, but underneath it all I was restless, feeling small and ordinary and unremarkable. How could something I say help anyone make lasting change in their life?

Pushing the thoughts aside and focusing back on my grading, I heard the printer whir and looked to see the screen light up as a single sheet of paper slid out onto the tray. A bit confused, as my hands were not on they keyboard, I stood up and went to the printer, fully expecting the paper to be meaningless. I could not have been more wrong.

There was one line on the paper. It read, “I BELIEVE IN YOU”.

I turned to my computer monitor, but no, I hadn’t typed that. I checked the multiple tabs I have open at any given moment. Nope. As I stood, I looked out over the classroom. All the students were either finishing their task, or conferring with a classmate. But it would be impossible, the student computers cannot even access the printer. The only one who maybe would have access was the IT guy in the back hallway. I know he thought I was a good instructor, but he was much too busy for goofing around or trying to prank me.

Class ended and I packed up, placing the printed page carefully in a folder to take home. I put it up on the bulletin board next to my desk. My thoughts kept going back to it.

I could rationalize this act with computer glitches and crossed wires, but there was nothing accidental about this. God was intentionally reassuring me in a way that would get through my easily distracted, over-thinking mind. He believes in me.

Slowly, the truth sank in. Of course! I was correct. I absolutely do not have a message that can guide anyone else to change. But God does. I don’t need to strive to come up with a niche and a platform and multitudes of followers. He has a message and He knows who needs me to share it with them. He believes in me, that I am up to the challenge, willing to have my plan interrupted. All I need to do is listen and follow. He will provide the words and opportunities.

I know my husband believes in me and that helps me to be confident when I am feeling inadequate. My mom and my kids believe in me too. I am blessed with an amazing support system of family and friends. Its a great feeling to have someone believe in you. But to know that GOD, the One who knows my every secret, my every failure and insecurity believes in me that I am capable with His help to fulfill His purpose in my life and encourage others is incredibly empowering.

Maybe you’re reading this feeling a bit empty, a bit weak because you don’t feel you have any support. My friend, you do. God believes in you every bit as much as He believes in me. He made you for a specific purpose, to accomplish something in this world through Him that no one else can do in just the way you can do it. And if God believes in you – I do too.

I still have no clue how this new season will unfold. I have a classroom of new eager young women, that I know already are going to succeed. My plate is still seems full with this life and all the people I love. But as a beloved daughter of the King, I will follow God’s leading, listening to His truth over the world’s distractions. When the time is right, the niche, the message and the platform will move into place. It is enough to know He believes in me.

Maybe it was for a moment like this that you came to be part of the royal family. Esther 4:14 CEB

Snow Day

We’ve had an early blast of winter in my neck of the woods and several centimeters of snow fell over the last 24 hours. As I was preparing breakfast this morning I received an unexpected text from the college where I am an instructor that classes would be cancelled for the day. At that moment, my plans were changed and the day opened like a beautiful present. I got my husband off to work, trying not to rub it in that he still had to head out, and made myself another cup of coffee. Not just the regular coffee mind you, but my special peppermint fudge coffee. As I sipped it, delighting in the scent, warmth and dessert-like sweetness, I also savoured the day ahead. The possibilities seemed endless as to what could be accomplished.

Immediately, that to-do list that stalks me, whispered the same old list. Yes, some things still had to be done; a test prepared, medical reports to be transcribed, some fact checking to be done. But all of those things were already on the list for the day. What about those hours when I was supposed to be at school? What could I do?

My mind returned to my first thought upon reading the text that classes were cancelled. It was a gift. The gift of the present. A few hours to savour like a hot cup of specialty coffee. Time to recharge while my world was still for a short time.

First, I enjoyed an extended quiet time. Instead of pushing to get through the devotional, I drank it in thoughtfully, really applying the truth to my life. Then just the right playlist of worship music. Normally I have time for just a few songs, but today, I luxuriated in the entire playlist, singing and praying, the presence of God surrounding me like the soft afghans my grandmother had knit for me. Just taking this time, an hour or so, refreshed my spirit. I was both energized, and relaxed.

Then I decided to treat myself to a longer workout than a work day normally permits. I was mindful of feeling my heart rate increasing, my muscles tensing and then relaxing, the movement of my feet and the beat of the music. I do workout several days a week, but its something I often have to cram in somewhere between other tasks. The danger is that it can become an obligation, not a celebration of health and fitness.

By this time, the sun was shining and through the window the world looked so bright with the blanket of snow. I decided to head outside for a few minutes to not just see winter, but feel it. I heard the snow crunch. My eyes blinked at the incandescence and my lungs relished the freshness of the frosty air. My backyard had been transformed in a day and it looked beautiful. My friend’s new bride has just come to Canada from Africa and would be experiencing for this wonder for the first time. In those few minutes, even though I’ve seen more than fifty Canadian winters, I took it in as if it was my first time. God is the most amazing artist.

Opening the door to head back inside the warmth rushed towards me, as if eager to experience the beauty for itself. I knew I had to start to move towards those few things I had to do today, but it did not take me long to realize that taking those few hours to refresh my spirit and my body allowed me to be so much more productive than if I had just tackled the desk work first thing. I worked for a while and then returned to the kitchen to try a new recipe for supper instead of making the same old type of thing. A creativity break. Knowing there was something yummy in the oven encouraged me to head back to the office and finish what needed to be done for tomorrow.

How magical it seemed to get all my work done, and even a bit more than I planned, even with taking time to savour the gift of a snow day. There is no magic to it really. Rushing does not help me accomplish my goals, pausing in the midst of it does. Hurrying and multitasking does not build relationships, investing in them does.

So there is a lesson in a snow day. I can hear it as the delicate flakes fall. Pause. Pray. Relish. Explore. Recharge. Sing. Create. Use your senses. Be present in the gift.

I want to take this with me into the rest of the week, into the already full Christmas season. Hustle and bustle wears me out and makes me cranky. I will draw margin around it to build my relationship with God, my family and even strangers. I will use my senses to enjoy this life and not just try to conquer the calendar.

I took time to get breakfast prepped for tomorrow so I can partake in the gift of a new morning. What small step could you take to draw margin in your day to savour life?

“She had a good sleep that night and awakened in the morning to find herself and the world transformed. It had snowed softly and thickly all through the hours of darkness and the beautiful whiteness, glittering in the frosty sunshine, looked like a mantle of charity cast over all the mistakes and humiliations of the past.” L.M. Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables)

Season of Joy

Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy. Psalm 96:12 (NIV)

Its a beautiful season in this part of the world right now. Cool, foggy mornings give way to warm afternoons. October is my favourite month. As we made our way to church the trees seemed to express a visual ‘Hallelujah’, rejoicing loudly in their vibrant colours, making harmony with their hues of gold, red and green. It is a joy like no other. We see it, but do we join in?

Last week I was driving to work, deep in thought (probably planning something), when my eye caught sight of a man on a bench waiting for the bus. He was dressed casually, but what was remarkable was his posture and his expression. He was not hunched over his phone, or tapping his foot and inspecting his watch to see how much longer he had to wait. No, he was leaning back comfortably as if he was in an easy chair, arm stretched across the top of the bench in a relaxed manner. And he was singing. My windows were up keeping the heat inside my vehicle, but I could tell he was belting out a favourite song at the top of his lungs. On his face – joy. He was joyful in his season, where many would be restless and impatient.

Many of us think of Christmas as the season of joy. But why box all that joy up into one day, or one month? Can’t today be a season of joy? After I saw that man singing, my heart was lifted and I turned up the radio, paused my mental planning and sang the rest of the way to work. In those seconds, a stranger changed my perspective on the day. Maybe a little expression of joy in my day, in your day, could make the difference for someone else too.

Are you waiting on the bench? Waiting for your ship to come in, or your goal to be reached? If you have to wait, you might as well wait with joy. I might as well wait with joy. Regardless of the waiting, the messy relationships, the challenging finances, or a doctor’s diagnosis, there is blessing to be celebrated in every season. God has blessed each one of us. He loves us and longs to see that joy on our faces. There may be someone in your home, school, workplace, or even your church who is hard pressed to find any joy at the moment. Share some of yours. The old proverb is true, “A joy shared is multiplied; a sorrow shared is divided.” Be strengthened and refreshed in this season of joy.

The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Psalm 126:3 (NIV)

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Lazy Days

This past Saturday, my husband and I spent what felt like a decadent day. We did not blow the budget, nor did I stray from my healthy eating plan. How did we pass the day? It was by “doing” almost nothing. We lingered over our coffee and talked and talked and talked. About big things and little things. About people we love. About decorating for Christmas. About our past. About the dream that God has placed in us and our next steps.

We never run out of things to talk about. Give us a bit of time together and my husband and I will drive right past our own house because we are talking. We still sit in the van in the garage and finish a conversation before we go into the house, even though we are empty-nesters now. We are communicators and we show love through conversation.

Life gets busy, and stays busy these days and often there is so little time for a full conversation. Days when we pass in the kitchen and blurt out all the things we want and need to say to each other in a disjointed way before we have to leave, just so they are said. This leads to things being forgotten, misinterpreted and misunderstood. Ineffective. We do not have time to waste being ineffective in this life, especially in communication. Our relationship is too valuable for that.

Sometimes I can treat my prayer time like this too. “Sorry, Lord I have an early meeting this morning so here’s my list of needs. Love you. See you tonight.” I do not have the confidence in these prayers being answered, not because God is not able, but because I have been ineffective in prayer and treated time with the One who loves me most of all in an insignificant way. I am not refreshed or encouraged because I do not give Him time to do so.

Prayer is conversation with God. He wants us to be real in conversation, no King James language (unless you talk that way all the time), just a conversation with someone we love. Laughing, crying, bursting into song, speaking, and listening. Effective. Refreshing. Fulfilling. Life changing.

That Saturday with my husband was simple but what my uncle would describe as “wonderous”. I was heard. I was loved. I was accepted. I hope he felt the same.

How I long for my prayer life to be like this. God always hears me. He always loves me. He has accepted me. I hope He feels the same after we have had time together.

I love the Lord because he hears my prayers and answers them. Psalm 116:11 TLB

Maybe you feel the same. Perhaps it has been a long time since you have prayed effectively and sincerely, or maybe a long time since you have prayed at all. Dear friend, He’s waiting, longing for that “lazy day” or a coffee break to have a conversation with you. He loves you. He hears you. Just start the conversation and your life will be changed.

Photo by Bruno Cervera

Feasting on Fellowship

This past weekend part of our family celebrated our second annual Thankbirthmas festivities. My husband and I both took a day off work to invest in our family relationships. We drove several hours in frustrating traffic to reach the home of our son and daughter-in-law. We spent the weekend together celebrating Thanksgiving (Thank), our four birthdays, which fall between September and December (birth) and Christmas (mas). As we are all actively involved in ministry, our schedules and the distance normally only permit a once-a-year visit. We make the most of it!

So often, celebrations become so food-focused and this has led me to be stressed out about them in the past. In my weight-loss journey, and now in maintenance, I feel much more in control of my food choices when preparing and eating “regular meals”. Celebrations with extra sweets, or seasonal foods has led me to over-indulge and then feel guilty about it. This time I wanted it to be different.

I do not have any foods that I avoid because they are “bad for me”. I make conscious healthy choices and practice portion control. If I want something indulgent, I plan for it and eat it if I can work it into my food plan. I know eating some things on a regular basis is not wise, but anything once in a while helps me not feel deprived and able to stay on my plan. I keep one of my life verses close to mind.

 “Everything is permissible for me,” but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me,” but I will not be mastered by anything.  1 Corinthians 6:12 CSB

Any food is permissible but not always in my best interest. Some foods are trigger foods that may cause me to overeat if I am tired or stressed and so I should put off indulging in them until I am emotionally stronger, more rested, and better able to exhibit the self-control needed.

So how did I work this into Thankbirthmas? I made sure I attended my wellness check-in and weighed in Friday morning just before we set off. I had my current weight recorded and planned on making one conscious healthy choice each day of the celebration. For example, I packed lunches for on the road to avoid fast-food stops. I had fruit and yogurt for breakfast when I knew our celebration meal would be that evening. We went out for burgers one day and I choose to have my lettuce-wrapped instead of having a bun.

Did I have desserts? You betcha. Did I enjoy my holiday favourite of turkey stuffing. I sure did. But I do not feel the least bit guilty about it. I chose mindfully.

The best thing I chose was to feast on the fellowship. Laughing, talking and hugging my family. We went to church and worshiped together. We also went for a long walk on Sunday afternoon and marveled at God’s creation, displayed in glorious fall colours.

When I recall that weekend, what I will treasure in my heart are the sounds of laughter, hearing my son sing as he came in the door from an early morning work shift, just like his father does, the hugging and the conversations. The calories I can burn off, they are so temporary. The feasting, the grabbing of every moment with those I love so much, will never leave me.

Watching father and son together satisfies my soul more than the most decadent dessert ever could. As the occasions come: birthdays, anniversaries, graduations and Christmas…may you feast on the love and fellowship of those around the table more than the plates sitting upon it.

Embracing Interruption

I think God is trying to get my undivided attention. My friends, I am being vulnerable here. I have been working away on my October planners, lesson plans for church and school, baking lists, Christmas shopping lists….. But, I am feeling that God wants me to learn to be interruptable. How do I know this? In recent reading and conversations with friends I am hearing these words:

“Lord, unrush me.”

“Jesus, you have permission to mess with my plan.”

“God, interrupt my day with Your plan.”

“Surprise me, Lord.”

When I read that last one this morning, I surrendered. I thought I had before, but my planner nature easily tries to take charge again. I can make a plan, and I know God made me a planner-girl. But I have to remember that the plans I make are to live a life that glorifies God and blesses others. If I am so captivated by my ideas for how this day is going to turn out that I wear blinders to the people and opportunities that He places in front of me, then I am missing the mark. Its a matter of doing an excellent thing in place of a good thing.

We’ve all heard those stories of people who had an interruption that caused them to miss a train or plane that later crashed. We rejoice in the interruption later, but at the time of the interruption was there much rejoicing?

The Lord says, “My thoughts are not like your thoughts. Your ways are not like my ways. Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9 NCV)

Not too long ago, a friend from many years ago contacted me on social media. I was glad to reconnect. When she asked for my number, I gave it to her. When she called not long after, I made an excuse to myself that I did not have time to talk to her and I would call her back. I did not take the call. About a week later I found that she had passed away suddenly. Imagine the regret I felt. Still feel. That was a lesson I will never forget. But still I found I did not heed the lesson the Lord taught me. I know well enough that I will keep taking that test until I succeed. I am determined to succeed. I do not want to miss an opportunity like that again.

So now, in the morning, I pray that God will interrupt my plan with His; that He will surprise me with how He can connect me to unexpected people and opportunities to be a blessing, or just to see His hand at work in my life. I want to be flexible and adaptable to the flow of the day, not stressing about what is left on the list. Seriously, my friends, do we ever come to the end of those lists?

I believe that embracing the interruptions in our day will help us live more purposeful lives than any perfectly completed to-do list can give. A purposeful life is a more contented life. Contentment springs from gratitude and certainly we need to be grateful that God loves us enough to mess with our plan with something unexpectedly amazing.

I’m not going to throw away my planners, or stop making lists. I’m going to start writing my plans in pencil and embrace the interruption.

It’s Time

It is October 1. I love a new month and I especially love October. I am a goal-setter, planner, maker of lists and a fresh page on the calendar excites me. So much possibility. So much time.

Until, that is, I start filling in the squares with all the “have-tos”. Work, doctor’s appointments, meetings; you know what I mean. Then there are the “want-tos” like church services, Thanksgiving with family, and breakfast dates with friends. When I look for where to put in those other items; things I have been dreaming to have time for like craft projects, pj days with a book, or my own writing project, there never seems to be much time. Unless of course I want to give up sleep entirely.

But THIS October is different. Nothing on the outside has changed. The inside of the planner is full of meetings, appointments, workouts and obligations. Still time for church and family. But God has been impressing on me in various ways that it is time for a new direction in this path. I have had many God-given thoughts to ponder, to jot down and occasionally to share with others, but most of them are stuck, waiting for their time to encourage, support or lead. God has shared things through His Word, through nature, through people and experiences and they have helped me grow closer to Him and the peace and joy that brings. I have had opportunity to share with some, individually and in groups, but now it is time for more, and I am making changes to carve out time for this God-opportunity.

This is where you come in! You are a part of God’s great plan! Are you feeling empty and dry like October leaves? Are you lonely, tired and discouraged? Do you have a blessed life, but need margin to enjoy it? Then come and join me as we walk through seasons together. I certainly don’t have all the answers – I am still walking myself, but I know the One who has the answer to our every question and concern. I am on the path to living the abundant life, a life that matters for God, impacts those around me and leaves me refreshed. I want this life for you too! I am ready to walk this path, hearing the crunching of the leaves beneath my feet, seeing the vibrant colours, breathing in crisp air. Pull on your favourite sweater, my friend, and let’s go. It’s time!