Sunday, August 7, 2016

We Fall Down

Humbled - broken, really - by one simple lyric in the first song of today's worship set: "we are here for You". We are here for YouWe are here for You. Somehow, somewhere along the way, I had forgotten.

This very morning while getting ready for church, instead of preparing my heart to worship, I was wondering what I might possibly "get" out of the day's message - if anything. The night before, I had asked what team was leading the music, and I'm pretty sure I said something like, "It shouldn't matter, but it does."

Even last week, when I was a guest worship leader at another church, I distinctly remember being two or three songs in before I stopped focusing solely on how awesome it was to sing with old friends again and directed some attention to the words I was singing and to Whom I was singing them.

These last few weeks have been busy, hectic ones, with lots of decisions, new things and general unsettledness. The cause was a good one; moving a few blocks down the road from our small townhouse to a larger house. As much as I'm beyond delighted to be living in this wonderful place, my familiar routines and practices - those things that have proven essential to my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being - have almost completely fallen by the wayside.

I hate it when that happens - when I allow it to happen. When I lose sight of what really, truly matters. When I, thanks to the tyranny of the urgent, pursue good things (and not-so-good things) yet fail to make time for the best things.

It makes me feel really small. When I finally do come to my senses after a period of upheaval and fuzzy focus, my tendency is to hesitantly approach God with my head bowed low, tail between my legs. It hurts me when I remember that I've forgotten Him - again.

But instead of pouring on guilt and shame, rather than responding in anger or derision or even sorrow, once again it was His grace-drenched kindness that brought me to a place of true, genuine repentance there in my tucked-away balcony seat.

I'm coming to see that this falling down isn't really the important thing; it's the getting up again that's crucial. In fact, those two actions seem to be what makes a life. One hopes to walk calmly along, but that's rarely the case, is it?

I'm so grateful for the Hand that never fails to reach down when I've fallen flat on my face again; already with me when I stumble, always ready to help me regain my balance and carry on.

Monday, July 18, 2016


Hey, Friends - remember me? In looking back over my recent posts, I was shocked and a little ashamed to note that my last post was over a month ago. What's up with that?

Well, the short answer is: there's not much going on in my life that's worth writing about. I'm in limbo... not a terrible place to be, but not very wonderful, either.

If the first thing you think of when you hear the word "limbo" is the bending-over-backwards-under-a-stick game, then keep moving. (Though I must admit to being pretty good at that limbo - not because I'm particularly flexible, but being naturally low to the ground tends to give one a certain advantage.)

To me, limbo means caught in the middle, on the edge, on the cusp, in transition. I was surprised to discover that the word originally comes from Roman Catholic theology, and refers to the realm on the outskirts of Heaven or Hell where they believed unbaptized infants and the faithful who had died before the coming of Christ would spend eternity.

These days, I feel very much on the edge of Heaven... or Hell, depending on the day. Here's the scoop:

As many of you already know, we're not making a life-altering trek across the country to relocate at this time, as we had previously hoped and anticipated. (People here seem happy we're staying; our family and friends in the East, though gracious and understanding, are not so much - which is the way you want it, I guess...) It was a pretty big shock when we got the news that this plan was a no-go; we had felt very sure that this was the path down which we were being led.

For a little while, we felt as though the rug had been pulled out from under us; completely disoriented, off-balance, about to fall over. It was not a pleasant sensation.

May I take a moment here to brag on my husband a little bit? This amazing man, in the face of such shocking, dream-shattering news, just took a deep breath, picked himself up and committed to travelling the new path set before him - and has never looked back.

The results of this obedience and acceptance can only be described as miraculous - mind-blowing. Doors began bursting open like you wouldn't believe! Let me describe just one here:

In anticipation of moving cross-country, we had been doing a bit of dreaming (ok, maybe I was slightly obsessed) about what our new home might be like. (We're currently renting, and our landlord had very kindly allowed our lease to lapse and revert to a month-to-month rental without penalty, due to our uncertain circumstances.) Once we knew we were staying put, I started looking for rentals in our area, just for fun. I didn't imagine I'd actually find anything - our time-frame was pretty tight.

Well. On Kijiji, of all places, I stumbled across a freshly-posted ad for a house for rent in our neighbourhood. A really lovely place, only a few blocks from where we live now. We've been living in a fairly small-but-sufficient townhouse for the past two years; this place was literally everything we were looking for: a single-family home, walking distance to school, fully renovated, four bedrooms, a dishwasher, a back yard, a garage, pet-friendly, even a living room fire place and a back yard fire pit!

The one major drawback - the rent was a little steep. So, not very expectantly, I responded to the ad, asking if they might consider lowering the rent for the right family. It seemed like a really long shot, one of those too-good-to-be-true scenarios. Well, lo and behold, they said the price was negotiable! So we all trooped over to see the place - it was even more lovely in person! And we really seemed to connect with the young couple who owned the home. So we filled out a rental application and went on our merry way.

Let me pause here to highlight the timing. We were due to sign a new lease on our present home by the end of the month if no other arrangements were made. We looked at the house on Friday, June 24th...and then we waited (which was especially horrible, coming on the heels of having waited for three months to hear whether or not we would be heading East).

Didn't hear a thing until June 29th, when I received a brief email from the landlord stating we were still in the running for the house, but that they hadn't yet been able to get in touch with our current landlord for a reference. They said they knew we were on a deadline and would contact us soon. So now we had some hope, but still no certainty. The tension cranked up another notch or two...

June 30th. The day we had to let our landlord know whether we were staying or going. No call from the house people all day. Still, we held our breath, hoping against hope. I was at one of my part-time jobs that evening, a rather un-demanding job in which I mostly hang around, unlock a few doors and answer a few questions. At 7:19 pm, my phone rings. It's the house people! This is it - the moment of truth...

Here's what he tells me (this amazes me more every time I tell it!): They've had lots of people apply to rent their house, all of whom are willing to pay the listed rent. And they haven't been able to get in touch with our landlord. BUT, they think WE will look after the house the best and appreciate the neighbourhood the most! They want US! And so that evening, we agree on a rental price and sign the lease papers! We give notice on our current place around 9 o'clock that night, and that's that!

Oh. my. goodness. I still get chills when I think of how serendipitous-ly everything came together. Only God could pull off something of this magnitude. There's no other plausible explanation. We're extremely grateful!

And so, even though we still miss our family and friends in the East so much and are very disappointed that we don't get to be closer to them; all things considered, we're pretty content to be staying here in Edmonton. We do love it here.

But we're still waiting - ARGHHHH! It's still a week-and-a-half until we move, and there's very little I can do to prepare. Because our place is so much smaller than our last few homes, we've had to pare down significantly, until what we have is what we need, what we use. There's just not a lot of stuff I can pack yet. And since it's such a short move and will happen over a couple of days, we'll just be throwing most of our stuff in our van and making a million trips back and forth. But we are SO counting down the days!

So I guess that's why I haven't written anything for the past month - my whole being has been completely consumed with various waitings. Limbos.

The most amazing thing in all this waiting, though, has been the peace. I haven't freaked out (much), haven't spiraled down into a pit of depression, haven't neglected my family or descended into worry or sadness or anger or fear. Haven't lost hope. And that's all God.  So I'm all grateful.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Three Steps Forward, Two Steps Back

(...or something like that - I found fifty variations of this general idea, not sure which one is the "real" one. But you get the picture.)

Over the past few weeks, I've found myself drifting back into several old (bad) habits I thought I had left behind for good. The most obvious and disheartening is that I've started turning to food for comfort again. This has been accompanied by a general sense of discontentment and lack of joy.

The issue became glaringly apparent the last couple of times I went grocery shopping. First of all, I went without a list - this is NEVER good. Much to the delight of the many men of the house, I came home with a wide variety of treats and indulgences - items that haven't been seen in our cupboards for months, or even least not all at once!

(Now, I'm not saying that we never indulge in the occasional treat, because we do. But I have been trying to have only one treat-ish item in the house at a time, and usually things I don't particularly care for...)

My ultimate comfort and pleasure equation has always been books plus food. This combines two of my favourite activities, and always takes me back to my younger, relatively-carefree days. It's a form of escapism, really. Ironically, I can happily read without eating, but I hate to eat without a book in my hand. The problem with this practice, of course, is that one can consume many, many calories without even being aware of it.

I've tried umpteen times over the years to break this particular habit, with limited, temporary success at best. I have found that when I decide to eat without reading, there are lots of things that I just don't end up consuming. And that's a really good thing!

It's when a stressful situation arises that I run back to these vices. Every. Single. Time.

And guess what? Here we are, smack-dab in the middle of another stressful situation! Say it with me: "Duh, Joy!"

Our family is facing the possibility of a huge change this summer. It'd be a really good thing for us, but requires a major relocation. I've always liked moving - I'm up for it. We'd be closer to family, in a beautiful part of the country. That's not really the stressful part for me.

And if it doesn't work out? I'm good with that option, too. I love where we are right now.

What I've never been very good at dealing with is the waiting. We've been waiting for almost three months for a final word from the powers that be - though, to be fair, we have received encouraging signs along the way. But we're still waiting, though we're hopeful it won't be too much longer before a decision is made.

I've never had much sympathy for people who believe they're victims of their circumstances when they're really not. When they could just brace themselves and make different choices to change their situation. People who act like victims when they're clearly not victims drive me crazy.

But that's exactly what I'm doing! I'm acting as if I have no control over how I react to my circumstances. And I do! I so do! I always get to choose! Unconsciously, I've been using our present situation to justify slipping back into those comfortable, ugly old habits.

That's not to say it's easy. You know - all you brave souls who choose to keep putting one foot in front of the other in the face of overwhelming odds and temptations - you know. My metaphorical hat is off to you.

I really want to get back on the wagon, or is it horse? But even as I start formulating a plan of action, my lazy, indulgent side whispers discouraging, defeatist rhetoric - that I'll never really change, that it's not worth the effort, that it's too good to give up, that things are fine just the way they are, why even bother?

The thing is, I feel gross right now. When I eat good food in proper portions, my mind is clearer, my body functions more effectively, my energy levels soar - everything is just better! I know this to be true. So why the heck can't I, in the wise words of Nike, just do it?

That's the million dollar question, isn't it.

But guess what? I know the answer - I have the answer. In me. Rather than just trying harder, and inevitably failing sooner or later, I can relax and agree with what the Holy Spirit wants. It's more of a letting go, a leaning in... a bit from Philippians chapter three comes to mind, "It is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose..." He wants to be my comforter, my strength.

Kinda sounds like a cop-out, doesn't it? In reality, I think it's the hardest thing of all - to consciously, deliberately, continually let go of my own agenda, my own desires, my own devices - and to embrace His, in spite of how my circumstances make me feel. (I am not at the mercy of my emotions, I am NOT at the mercy of my emotions, I AM NOT AT THE MERCY OF MY EMOTIONS!)

Well, thank you so much for the reminder, Joy! It's my pleasure, Joy - so glad you got there in the end. (This is why I write - so I know what I think...I'm not the only one who has these kinds of conversations in their head, am I??)

And so here, by the grace of God, we go - again!