Monday, December 29, 2014

The Inevitable New Year's Resolution Post

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." I think it's safe to say that 2014 has been quite a ride! I stand amazed at all that God has done - miracle after miracle, healing after healing, provision, restoration, renewal, forgiveness, freedom, peace, truth, love... I'm thankful for this blog, which stands as a testimony to God's power and perseverance in my life. Reading back over my posts from the past year, I am utterly overwhelmed by the grace and goodness of God.

As 2015 approaches, however, I have to admit to being a bit of a cynic when it comes to the idea of resolutions, particularly this time of year. When I was younger, I would faithfully, year after year after year, write out my New Year's Resolutions every December 31st, ready and willing to change my life and the world! And inevitably, by around the middle of January (or February if I was lucky), my fire would burn out and life would slip back into its usual groove. This was nearly always accompanied by a generous helping of guilt. It isn't much wonder that I finally gave up on the whole thing - it just wasn't worth it.

This year feels a little different, however. Maybe it's because the big 4-0 is looming ever nearer (12 days - eek!), but almost in spite of myself, a word and a verse have floated to the top of my hazy sub-conscience. The word is "overcomer". The verses are from Hebrews 12:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,
let us throw off everything that hinders
and the sin that so easily entangles.
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame,
and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 
Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners,
so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Hebrews 12:1-3

I've "thrown off" something pretty significant lately - something I've hung onto for the longest time. I finally arrived at the place where I was willing to surrender it to God, come what may. It wasn't worth what it was costing me. At first, it left a huge, gaping hole in my heart - but that hole has already been filled to overflowing by my gracious and generous and patient heavenly Father. Here's how He did it: In the process of obediently throwing off this "sin that so easily entangles", I received another life-altering revelation about my past and how it was affecting my present. (I'm so incredibly thankful that God doesn't dump everything on us at once, but reveals truth as we are ready to receive it and incorporate it into our lives!) To say that this one hit me completely out of the blue would be an understatement - my head was spinning with the suddenness and significance of it all. It explained so much! It wasn't something I'd ever thought to wonder about before, but when brought to my attention, it was hard to imagine how I'd missed it. It completely transformed how I perceived the aforementioned situation that appeared to be such a huge, awful,  un-conqueror-able thing. In the light of this new revelation, I can see more clearly, and evaluate more accurately this particular tendency of mine, and consequently the version of the issue I'm currently dealing with. 

I can see now that I was trying to solve a deeper spiritual problem with a surface-y human solution. I had planned to simply remove myself from the situation, but what God wanted to do was to meet the need that was in my heart. I was treating the symptoms; God got the root of the issue and gave me the truth I needed for healing and freedom. He is so good!

But I don't think the revelation would have come as readily if I hadn't finally been willing to surrender it all. It was through this act of obedience, however misguided, that I was made ready to receive the truth I needed to really make things right. What God showed me through this situation resulted in beautiful healing, not only in this particular case, but it changed how I view so many of my past choices and actions, and freed me from the guilt that I had carried forward for far too long. (huge sigh of relief...)

And so, as 2014 comes to a close, I'm excited to see what God will do in the year to come, both in me and through me! I'm anticipating unprecedented victories - while acknowledging that this means even bigger challenges to overcome. I'm ready; God has been equipping me - this past year has served to strengthen my faith and increase my joy and deepen my experience of God's presence and peace and power in my life. I recognize, more than ever, that I still have a lot of growing to do - so much to learn and so much wisdom to gain. But I am convinced, more than ever, that God is fully able to carry me through any difficulty that comes my way, and to make me more than a conqueror in any situation - all for His glory! I'll run with perseverance the race marked out for me, fixing my eyes on Jesus. There's no doubt that I'll fear, I'll fall, I'll fail - but I am confident that God will be more than enough, more than equal to any task or test. He is unfailingly faithful - hallelujah!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Advent - Come, Lord Jesus

The Christmas countdown is on in earnest at our house - our two bright-eyed boys (6 and 10) are practically jumping out of their skin! School finished yesterday. Five more sleeps :)  They can hardly stand the wait! As I child, I much preferred it when school closed as close to Christmas Eve as possible - it made the wait a little more bearable. If we all manage to survive the next five days, it'll be a Christmas miracle, indeed!

It's the presents that are driving them particularly batty. This is the first year we've put gifts under the tree before Christmas eve (indeed, the first year we've been able to shop much before Christmas eve - thankful!). I appreciate on a whole new level the lengths to which my dear Mother was forced to go to ensure that the fragile wrapping paper would do its job of concealment until the appointed time. (I think she was very grateful and relieved when sturdy, economical, re-usable gift bags arrived on the scene. My own kids have boycotted gift bags - one or two are ok, they've informed me, but they would much rather experience the satisfaction of ripping paper...) I had forgotten the agonizing thrill of stacking, sorting, counting, arranging and rearranging; of shaking and squeezing and yes, even sniffing; of guessing and wondering and questioning and anticipating. The following plea can be (and has been) heard from either boy at any time, seemingly out of the blue, day or night: "I can't wait - can't I pleeeeeese open just one little present RIGHT NOW?!"

Ah, waiting...the bane of our existence. At least the kids are honest about it - we adults will invariably attempt to mask the wild eagerness and churning anxiety that accompanies a period of waiting, but have any of us really progressed beyond childhood when it comes to waiting well? I sang a song at a service recently called "Be Still". With very simple and beautiful lyrics, the chorus says,

Be still, my soul, be still
Be still, my soul, be still
Wait patiently up on the Lord
Be still, my soul, be still

A difficult piece of advice to heed even in the best of times.

I love that the observation of Advent has become common practice for so many these days. Advent, which simply means "arrival", can be a beautiful, meaningful time of heart-preparation for the game-changing coming of the Christ-child into the world. The wait is relatively easy for us, though - isn't it? We already know the next part of the story - God is already with us! We have already experienced the miraculous gift of Emmanuel! Can you imagine what it must have been like for the people of Israel; waiting, waiting, waiting for this Advent, their promised Messiah? Waiting for their salvation, their freedom, the lifting of the heavy burden of oppression and persecution, for peace and justice and redemption...what inexpressible joy for the few who were able to recognize Him for who He was!

And what a heart-breaking tragedy for the many who missed Him completely, who failed to grant Him His rightful position...and for those who continue to miss Him. I don't ever want to be numbered among these.

May we intentionally take the time to sufficiently still our souls this Advent season to experience the waiting, the longing, the expectant hope - and to know the deep peace and rest and joy that accompanies His arrival! Merry, merry Christmas - from our family to yours!

Friday, December 12, 2014


I've plunked myself down in front of my computer every day this week, in hopes that inspiring insights and excellent encouragement would flow from my brain through my fingers to the keyboard and onto the page - but to no avail. Here's trusting that today will be different :)

The strange thing is, I have no issues to write about today. All is well in my little world. A beautiful peace has settled over my heart, and I'm enjoying it to the full. Well, maybe that's not completely accurate...I'm trying to enjoy it to the full. A bit of me (a much smaller bit than usual - yay!) is on constant alert, wondering what obstacle or test or burden or crisis will come next. However, I am learning to rest in the presence of my ever-gracious Father. I'm practising the discipline of peace and trust, no matter what the situation. I'm not getting it right every time, but more and more consistently, I'm bringing the peace of Christ with me into whatever situation may present itself in my life - and experiencing such grace and joy as a result!

That's the miracle I've been pondering the past little while, that I wanted to share but couldn't find the words - Emmanuel. God with us! That's the whole reason it's possible for me to bring the peace of Christ with me into life's storms and famines and floods and droughts - He is with me. He is with me! Unbelievable concept, but one I'm forced to accept as truth because I've experienced it - I'm living it!

And here we are at Christmastime, a time to contemplate and celebrate the gift, the wonder, the miracle, the awe of Emmanuel. It's the fact of Emmanuel - God with us - that enables us to live the life He's called us to live. We were never expected to accomplish this on our own - the Old Testament proved that the thing was utterly hopeless, impossible. But God with us?! Limitless potential, unfathomable power, endless possibilities!

I guess it's no wonder that the enemy works so hard to distract us from this wonder-filled truth this time of year. There's no way he can rob the glorious event of its truth, but he regularly succeeds in diminishing the peace and joy and power that the fact of His coming makes available to us. This year, let's reclaim it. Let's take back Christmas - let's celebrate with joyful abandon this astonishing thing, this gift of life and grace and freedom and peace and joy! Let's allow our hearts to be filled to overflowing with the wonder and delight of it all! The birth of Christ is deserving of any amount of hoopla and hype - let's proclaim it loud! Let's make His coming the cause and focus of all our merriment and revelry this season! Emmanuel - God is with us! Hallelujah!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Hello, my name is Joy Elisabeth (Lenentine) Feltmate. I'm a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a friend, maybe an enemy? I'm short, round, freckled, gray-eyed and red-headed (mixed with liberal amounts of gray these days). I have two university degrees; a bachelor of arts in English Literature and a bachelor of education. I'm a singer, a writer, a speaker, a reader, a baker, a pray-er, a walker, an explorer. I'm a nature-lover, a word-lover, a food-lover, a music-lover, a cat-lover, a rain-lover, a peace-lover. I strongly dislike baked beans, driving on icy roads, professional wrestling, making phone calls to anyone other than my family, confrontation and conflict of any kind and cleaning. I have never travelled outside of North America, though I have driven and flown back and forth across Canada more times than I can count. I have never learned to play an instrument well. I have never tried drugs or smoked a cigarette or had a drink of alcohol (except communion wine, but that was by accident :) ). My favourite number is 17, my favourite colour is turquoise, my favourite food is chocolate cheesecake, my favourite flower is white lilac, my favourite vegetable is fiddleheads, my favourite season is Autumn, my favourite place in the world is Cavendish, PEI. I get actual chills when I hear really good harmonies (eg. Pentatonix - Mary Did You Know; have you heard that yet?!) and I cry when I listen to the soundtrack from Les Miserables. I have been known to read/watch my favourite  books/movies/TV shows over and over and over. I am afraid of bears and losing my phone and keys; I adore wild thunder-and-lightning storms and sitting alone in a dark room lit only by candlelight.

I can be kind, but am often selfish. I can be ambitious and hard-working, but am often lazy and self-indulgent. I can be creative and original, but am often uninspired and dull. I can be encouraging, but am often self-centered and self-seeking. I can be dependable, but am often inconsistent and fickle. I can be authentic, but often hide behind a mask of shame and guilt. I can be bold, but am often fearful. I can trust, but often worry. I can believe, but often doubt. I can be helpful, but have often caused hurt. I have acted on my convictions, but I have often been wishy-washy and silent. I have used words and actions to build up and also to tear down. I can be independent to a fault. I haven't yet learned how to take a compliment gracefully. I have been joyful, positive, honest, inspiring, steady, self-sacrificing, committed, persistent, patient, gentle, generous, thankful and good; but I can be forgetful, scattered, unfocused, unproductive, undisciplined, unfaithful, idle, deceptive, manipulative, procrastinating, egotistical, ungrateful, miserly, narrow-minded, prejudiced and judgemental.

Who am I, anyway? Does anything listed above provide a satisfactory answer? And the more relevant question, what I'm really asking: do I matter? Do I have value, worth, significance? Because when I take a long, hard, honest look at who I appear to be, it's hard to find much to go on. When I start focusing on these things, this list, these credentials, these preferences, these failings and short-comings - I quite frankly get a little depressed. If I were to weigh the good against the bad, the positive against the negative, I know what would come out on top.

When I make a list like this, it's like I'm trying to justify my existence, attempting to make myself more real, to prove to myself that I am indeed here. Seeking to find some meaning, purpose, mission, vision...but it occurs to me that I'm looking in the wrong direction.

I have spent the last few years figuring out who I am, allowing myself to be myself, and learning to love that person in the mirror. Before that, I didn't even feel entitled to have a favourite colour, to prefer one type of flower over another, etc... I was apologetic of my likes and dislikes, ashamed of the positives and the negatives, embarrassed by my whole existence, really. The only thing that has made healing possible was discovering the truth - that it's not who I am, but whose I am that matters. I could be the most wonderful, admirable person on the face of the earth or the most hideous, despicable low life you could imagine (it depends on who you ask :) ), but it's all overshadowed by who my Saviour says I am. The only opinion I need to concern myself with is His. His assessment trumps all others. It's really all about who He is.

But I forget. Often. It doesn't take much at all to distract me from the Truth. One of the enemy's most powerful and popular strategies is to attack and undermine our identity. If he can get us to take our eyes off of Jesus and onto ourselves, his work is all downhill from there. Then it's easy for him to whisper more and more lies into our susceptible hearts and minds, until we're completely deceived, dejected, demoralized and defeated.

Fortunately, there's a simple remedy. One unchanging fact is our position in Christ. No matter what we've done or how we feel, who we are in Christ never changes. The key to victory here is intentionally training ourselves to remember when we've forgotten - because we will forget. Jesus issues this invitation, and the more we take Him up on it, the less we'll be lured into false, negative ways of thinking of ourselves.  
“Come to me,
all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
(Matthew 11:28-30)

When we take the time to simply come, and identify ourselves with Jesus and sit at His feet and learn from Him who He says we are, our vision shifts from ourselves back to Him. Once perspective is regained, truth has a chance to re-adjust our mindset.

It's been awhile since I've shared a song with you. A dear friend shared this one with me several years ago and I'll be forever grateful. It's so often exactly what I need to hear, when I forget who I am. (I'll post the lyrics along with the link - if you can, take a look at the you tube video, it's full of beautifully-expressed truth!) 

Remind Me Who I Am

When I lose my way
And I forget my name
Remind me who I am
In the mirror all I see
Is who I don't want to be
Remind me who I am
In the loneliest places
When I can't remember what grace is

Tell me once again
Who I am to You who I am to You
Tell me lest I forget
Who I am to You that I belong to You to You

When my heart is like a stone
And I'm running far from home
Remind me who I am
When I can't receive Your love
Afraid I'll never be enough
Remind me who I am
If I'm Your beloved
Can You help me believe it

I'm the one You love
I'm the one You love
That will be enough
I'm the one You love

Tell me once again
Who I am to You who I am to You
Tell me lest I forget
Who I am to You that I belong to You
Tell me once again
Who I am to You who I am to You
Tell me lest I forget
Who I am to You that I belong to You to You
To You


Monday, November 10, 2014

Softly and Tenderly

Don't you just love it when something so completely exceeds your expectations? I had the privilege of attending a conference at my church last weekend - very aptly called "Immerse". The goal of the weekend was to become better acquainted with the person and work of the Holy Spirit. It was unlike any conference I'd ever attended - most seem to be designed to pack as much information as possible into the allotted time, with hardly a pause in the schedule for a bathroom break, let alone chances to actually think about and absorb, or Heaven forbid discuss with other attendees, what's been taught and experienced. But at this conference, though we followed a loose itinerary, there was time. Sessions included worship, teaching and ministry times that were unhindered by time constraints. Breaks were frequent and unrushed. Meals were delicious, nutritious and relaxed. There was time to breathe, time to share thoughts and questions and stories, time to let it all soak in.

I approached the weekend with mixed feelings. I was looking forward to extended times of praise and worship, anticipating meeting interesting people and deepening current friendships. I was prepared to encounter new ideas and add to my knowledge of the Holy Spirit. I could hardly wait for the refreshing and encouragement that was to come! And, since honesty is the best policy, I was also relishing the thought of a weekend to myself, free of family responsibilities. (Thanks, Honey!)

But I also had some fears. I was a little afraid of what God might show me, and how He might go about it. As an imperfect human being, there's always some sin to battle with, some thought or attitude or habit that needs to be addressed and dealt with, and hopefully eliminated. Our very first exercise of the weekend was to answer four questions, one of which was "What do I expect?". I wrote down the very first thing that came to mind - I expected to be scolded. I knew there was sin in my life, and I expected God to confront it and make me face up to it. In fact, I was kind of hoping He would, since I've made very little progress in overcoming this particular issue in spite of continued praying and surrendering, and at times it just seemed to be getting worse - I didn't even want to let it go. But I came to this weekend knowing, hoping it was time to get rid of it for good. And for some reason, I was expecting God to perform the operation without anaesthetic, maybe even hoping He would, since I was feeling such guilt over my on-going weakness. I guess I felt I deserved whatever He chose to dish out.

As I look back on my experience from this side of it, I just have to shake my head and smile. Throughout the entire weekend, again and again and again, God poured out heaping helpings of lavish love over me. I was astonished by the gentle tenderness of His dealings with me. I had never considered before that God could feel tenderly towards me - it's not a word I had ever associated with His love. It was so sweet and precious and intimate; a whole new level of relationship. And in the midst of it, it was suddenly easy to let go of what I'd been so stubbornly holding onto; His kindness really does lead us to repentance! (Romans 2:4) 

And that's all I have to say about that :)

Friday, October 31, 2014

Give Thanks...With a Reluctant Heart

I love October - have I mentioned that before? I've been a part of a great October tradition for a number of years now, and it's never failed to enhance the joy of the month for me. Since 'way back in October of  2007, I've made a daily list of some things I'm thankful for and posted it on my Facebook page. I've tried hard to keep them honest, not just mentioning the good and shiny and happy things, but the harder things, too, since I've been working at intentionally living out the "give thanks in ALL circumstances for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" thing (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Several friends have participated with me over the years (maybe even some of you reading this?) and it's been a very good thing.

This October, however, has been a little different. In many respects, it's been the best October ever! So much natural beauty and the time to sink my soul into it - this rare combination has been a blessing beyond price. But in other ways, it's been a hard one - hard to look up, hard to stay positive, hard to keep the faith... (I think maybe I've been more aware on a deeper level of both joys and challenges this year, which may possibly be indicative of a little bit of soul growth? One can only hope.) In addition to the difficulties that have been more or less consistently present over the years, it seems that some new, unexpected, more complex challenges have been added to the pile. Hopefully an indication of increased threat to the enemy; possibly due to my own laziness and inattention to sin's sly infiltration - likely a combination of both. Whatever the reason for this extra pressure, it's had an effect on my gratitude lists this time around. As I've sat down to make my list, night after night, I've found it to be something of a challenge. I discovered that beyond my family, good food and the beauty of the season, nothing came to mind right away. (Apparently, there's a limit to how many ways one can declare Autumn's surpassing gorgeousness!) I was ashamed to discover that I, who have carefully cultivated a thankful heart over the years, was reluctant to give thanks! I've had to learn all over again how to be thankful for everything God chooses to allow into my life - even when it makes no sense, even when I don't understand, even when it looks like God has abandoned me and I can't see how He could possibly pull me through. Everything.

And that's been a very good thing. As my faith is tested in new and more rigorous ways, it's a constant temptation to give in to despair and discouragement, to doubt and blame. It's harder to trust than it's ever been. But as a muscle grows stronger the more it's used, so has my faith. Instead of resorting to tears first, I turn to prayer more often. Instead of allowing my feelings to steer the ship, I remember the facts more often. Instead of letting a toxic whispered lie of the enemy fester and decay in my mind, I'm quicker to recognize it for the lie it is and replace it with the truth. Instead of letting the enemy steal and distort my identity, I am able to remember more often who I really am. 

Wow, that sounds really good, doesn't it? Alas, I certainly don't get it right all the time. I'm still prone to discouragement and fear and unbelief. I still, maybe more now than ever, need to be reminded on a very regular basis just how big my God is and just how much He thinks of me. Like today, for example. I was minding my own business, working my way through washing my never-ending mountain of dishes, when my mind was bombarded with memories of my past failures (oh so many failures). I didn't even realize my thoughts were drifting into that dangerous territory until I started telling myself, "You'll never be able to pull off this ministry - maybe you should just give it up and try something more normal." That thought certainly caught my attention, and I was surprised to discover how much I'd let those memories affect me - just like that, I was ready to throw in the towel, to turn my back on months of work and preparation, not to mention the calling and vision I'm sure I received from God, and walk away from it all, just because I allowed those memories free reign for a bit.

Thanks be to God, I am a work in progress! Hallelujah! And I have this promise to hold onto today, and everyday:
...being confident of this,
that he who began a good work in you
will carry it on to completion
until the day of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 1:6

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Looking Up

Thankful! There have been so many gracious moments of deep joy and great delight along my path in this most wonder-filled of months, this golden and crimson and glorious October. The season has never yet failed to call forth in me profound joy and profuse gratitude. The simple pleasure of walking through autumnal woods is a gift I've had the privilege of unwrapping over and over again this year, and it has unquestionably enhanced every aspect of my life. My perspective shifts, my spirit soars, my physical self is refreshed...

But lying just below the surface, sometimes alleviated but never quite lifting, is an elusive heaviness... Bogged down...that's the best way I can describe this stuck-in-thick-mud, unable-to-move-forward, overwhelmed-by-too-many-details feeling. I've been fighting it, refusing to acknowledge it - it seems a crime against gratitude to express such a sentiment in the face of so much for which to give thanks. But God, of all people, called me on it yesterday - smack-dab in the middle of one of my wood-walks.

As I was walking along, breathing deeply of Autumn's intoxicating scent of fallen leaves, I happened to look up. Way up. And in the highest branches of a huge golden aspen poplar was perched (what I firmly believe was) an eagle. (Are there eagles in Alberta? Well, it was a huge bird with a black body and white far as I'm concerned, it was an eagle :) ) Whatever it was, it got my attention - the simple beauty of its bold outline against the gray sky, the graceful way it held its head, the marvel of being so high and free... As I stood gazing up at the wonder, it occurred to me that I haven't been doing much looking up lately. On the whole, I do a fair amount of looking up - probably more than most, just by virtue of the fact that everything is literally over my head. (Just today, I was reminding myself, in the presence of my husband, that Thursday is a shorter school day, as the kids get out an hour early. His response? "Every day's a short day for you!") I consider it a gift - we miss so much by not looking up! And I think that gratitude, which I've been deliberately incorporating into my days, is simply looking up, and recognizing the blessings that are constantly and continually being poured out into our lives.

To be truly genuine, honest, authentic, transparent - as I aspire to be, as I believe God desires - is to agree that everything in my life is allowed entry by the hand of my loving Father, and that everything He permits is for my good and His glory. The combined heaviness of all the start-up details of getting a ministry of the ground and resulting financial strain, in addition to the everyday  pains and pressures of family life (lots of pleasures interspersed, to be sure!), have been keeping me from looking up. The moment I take my eyes off of Jesus and start to focus on my problems and issues is the moment this heaviness begins to set in, stealing my joy. And since the joy of the Lord is my strength, this is something I want to start consciously avoiding. (I love how God reveals things to me one-at-a-time; He's so gracious that way! He's so patient with me as we walk this path together! How great is our God?!)

Friend, thank you so much for journeying along with me! This process is so very valuable to me - I do pray that you may receive some bit of encouragement, as well. I leave you with two verses that come to mind - be blessed!

  I lift up my eyes to the mountains;
   where does my help come from?
 My help comes from the Lord,
  the Maker of heaven and earth.
Psalm 121:1-2

Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 40:28-13

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

God Answers Prayer...Right?

I have never assumed to comprehend the mystery of prayer - I've been at it a pretty long time and I still don't really understand just how it works. I've studied what the Bible has to say about it, I've read books on the subject and heard many sermons on the intricacies and complexities of this spiritual communication, and I've prayed. Sometimes lots, sometimes not so much...

And I've seen many, many answers to prayer - both my own and the prayers of others. I think we mostly only count answers that line up with what we've prayed for - and I've experienced tons of those! Current example: my brother was rushed to the hospital not too long ago with severe abdominal pain. He's no sissy; anyone who knows him well can just imagine what it would take for him to voluntarily seek medical attention. There was morphine, there were x-rays and a CT scan and disgusting drinks and uncomfortable tests - it was pretty scary for a little while. The evidence coming in wasn't conclusive; could've been a blockage, a growth, a disorder, and a variety of other frightening possibilities. And what's our family's first reaction? We mobilize our pray-ers. And they pray. From all over the country, they petition the Father for a favourable outcome, for peace, for healing. And it would appear that our cries were heard. After about 36 hours in hospital, we get a best-case-scenario diagnosis, a clean bill of health, some buttered toast and the much-desired release papers. Yay God...right?

But what about all those other times - the times we don't talk about, the desperate prayers we offer up that, by all appearances, go unheard and unanswered? I know I've prayed my share of these - I'm guessing you have, too? Requests large and small, personal and for others, for finances and family and friends and the future...I've often wondered if it was me - was there something I was neglecting to say or do, was I not using the right words, not adopting the proper prayerful position, not praying often enough, praying too much, was there something in my life that was blocking the communication pathway, did I not have enough faith? And on and on, until it would drive me crazy with the wondering, but I'd be afraid to approach God with the question, not wanting to bother Him even more...

It wasn't until I got to know God in a whole new way that I had any peace at all about this particular conundrum. I prayed lots but I also doubted lots - could I really, really trust this God that seemed to arbitrarily bestow or withhold favour? For the longest time, I thought getting my prayers answered depended on my own worth, my value, my efforts. And so, because I thought so little of myself, I could excuse God's supposed lack of response. It was understandable, I figured, because I certainly was not deserving of any special attention from God. When I did get the answers I was looking for, which did happen, even in this long period of silent doubt and questioning, I saw it more as a fluke than anything else, a positive but random blip in the universal management system. I was very grateful, no question. But I guess I figured if I kept my expectations low, I'd be less likely to be disappointed, less likely to fail in the art of prayer.

Thanks be to God, I've made considerable progress in understanding and accepting God's love for me. It has changed how I look at a lot of things, including prayer. I've come to see that it's less about convincing God that I need a particular thing and more about cultivating a friendship - with a Friend who is both intimate and ultimate, completely caring and completely capable, passionately precise and profoundly powerful. It's less about seeking to have my needs met and more about finding out, in ever-increasing measure, that I already have everything I need in Him. It's less about finding answers and more about finding a Person. Maybe it's a little cliché by now, but it's true that prayer doesn't change God or my situation, necessarily; it changes me, my perspective. Prayer is acknowledging that my life is not in my hands, that I'm not the one at the wheel - and that this is a good thing! The act of praying tells God that I trust Him to do (or not do) as He sees fit, for my good and His glory.

I know there's so much more I could say about prayer - but this was not meant to be an exhaustive (nor exhausting) essay on what prayer is or how it works. I needed to remind myself of the truth today. I'm in the middle of a rather difficult situation right now, in which I am completely powerless (which is quite likely at least part of the point), and am waiting to see what God will do - and waiting is so hard sometimes. Sometimes the effort to trust and not doubt is pretty tiring. But I am trusting, imperfectly for sure, but I know in Whom I'm putting my trust - and I know He will not fail me; not now, not ever.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Change is Good, Donkey!

My number one favourite movie of all time is "You've Got Mail". (Did you think I was going to say "Shrek"?) You know, the one where Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks fall in love online while hating and bating one another in their "real life" business rivalry? I love it for so many reasons, but most of all for its' honesty - albeit behind the anonymity of ambiguous screen names. (Hmmm, a little like blogging, perhaps? Nevertheless...) One of the lines from that movie has been playing over and over in my head this week, (for reasons I will soon disclose): "People always say change is a good thing. All they're really saying is that something you didn't want to happen at all - has happened." Kathleen Kelly then goes on to lament the closing of her charming little bookstore and the inevitable life-altering consequences on the horizon as a result of the change.

I haven't been shut down by a "multi-level, homogenize-the-world, mocha-chino land" mega-bookstore. But there has been significant change in my life over the past couple of weeks; the ending of one chapter and the beginning of another, to stick with the book analogy :)  It's not a very obvious change, and will likely ever impact only a few others than myself - but to me, it's huge. Life-altering, world-shaking, mind-boggling change. It's a change I made on purpose, that I chose to embrace for the greater good, that I knew was coming, and I don't regret it for a second. But to be perfectly honest, I've felt like a drug addict going through withdrawal. The first few days were horrible - tears, depression, fatigue, loss of appetite (!?), mood swings (my family can testify to that one!) was just awful.

But now that I've been able to get a little distance from it all, I'm thinking I'll survive. Sometimes, you have to let go of the old good (even the very, very good) to make room for the new good. It's the changing of my mindset and thought patterns - my heart and mind's allegiance, you might say - that has been the most challenging. You think in a certain way for such a long time, it becomes habit. (And oh, habits are so hard to break!) And instead of mentally preparing for this change (that I knew was coming), I chose to cling to my old way of thinking for as long as possible. (Note to self: bad idea!)

However, it is what it is (not a fan of this phrase generally, but it fits here). The old has gone, the new has come - hmmm, that sounds familiar...I've been working on this post over a few days and already it's getting a little easier, less heavy; there's less pain and regret and more hopefulness about what's to come. The painful moments are getting fewer and farther between, though they still come. Why, oh why, do we insist on returning to our old ways when the way ahead is clearly the right path to follow? Is it the warm comfort of the familiar, the usual, the routine? The past is safe, known, recognizable territory; the path before me is the opposite of all those things: unsafe, unknown, unrecognizable - I've never been here before. I like to think of myself as a brave, bold explorer of the foreign, the uncharted - but I'm not, not really. I want to make my way into this new world with confidence and grace, with my head held high, ready and willing to take it on and be a part of it all. And once in awhile I'm able to achieve this. There are moments, however, when I feel more like many analogies come to mind, I can't pick the one that fits best. A puppy with her tail between her legs, a cat in a strange garret, a fish out of water, invisible, alien, unneeded and unheeded, unwanted and unwelcome...

There's no good reason why I feel this way - the residual effects of a life of misplaced shame, I guess... And most days, I can acknowledge that, I can fight against it and replace the lies with truth and hold my head high (as high as a four foot nine-and-a-half inch person can, anyway). New doesn't have to be bad, doesn't have to be scary, doesn't have to be threatening. God is always making things new, renewing our strength, encouraging us to forget what is behind and press on, to get out of the boat and walk on water - and I want all that. I want whatever God is doing, I want to keep in step with Him and be where He is and follow where He leads.

But - I also want to get in the habit of allowing myself to feel what I feel, knowing that it's not necessarily right or wrong, good or bad - it's just how I feel. And not to sweep those feelings under the rug or bottle them up so they can suddenly and unexpectedly explode out of nowhere one of these days - been there, done that!  To know the real Joy, I have to acknowledge and become acquainted with every aspect of her, not just the positive, pleasant parts, but the good, the bad and the ugly. And so I must admit to myself that I just miss the old, the known, the loved, and that the effort of embracing the new is just hard; and that that's ok. It doesn't make me wicked or corrupt or ungodly - it simply means I'm human, normal (whatever that means).

I've come across several wise sayings lately (God bless face book) that pertain to my current situation, such as "the greatest chapters of your life have yet to be written" (Joyce Myer) and "race to Him instead of running back to your old ways" (Karen Ehman) and "you can't start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one" (unknown) and "there are far better things ahead than any we leave behind" (C.S. Lewis). Honestly, there are days when I have a hard time believing that anything can be better than what I've left behind. Not because it was particularly good (there were parts that were very, very good and part that were very, very not good - you might have picked up on that if you've been reading this blog for any length of time), but because that was what I knew, that was my identity, my "normal".  When I examine the situation objectively, however, I catch glimpses of the glory that is to come, and I am filled with joyful expectation and hopeful anticipation - I can hardly wait to see what God will do!

And so, the moral of the story is: whether we choose it or whether it just seems to happen to us, change will come and change can be a good thing. But what I'm most thankful for in the midst of all this is the changeless, unchangeable love of God. Even as the waves of change crash all around me, He is my anchor.
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.
(Hebrews 6:19)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Sin Sucks

I'm noticing an interesting pattern emerging in this journey of self- and God-discovery: first, God generously and graciously reminds me of His love and my worth and identity in Him; then He hits me with an issue that needs to be worked through. One follows the other, over and over again. It's amazing to me, now that I've recognized the routine, how He so often leads me into the hard, slogging, discouraging but worthwhile work of becoming more like Him from a place of love and peace and rest.

So, after my wonderful waterpark moment with God (see my previous post for details), I was almost immediately challenged to take the next steps in dealing with an issue that has been occupying my heart and mind for far too long now. Sin sucks, you know? Especially sin that becomes habit - it sucks life, sucks truth, sucks hope, sucks joy, sucks peace, sucks self-esteem; and replaces those good things with guilt, shame, despair, self-hatred, self-deception, and lies. So much sin provides fleeting, temporary pleasure, but is so harmful over time. And oh, does it put up a fight when brought into the light! What a fierce battle I'm engaged in right now - ugh... It's so, so much easier, especially for a naturally lazy person such as myself, to allow sin to have its' way, to just give in and enjoy the forbidden fruit. Disciplining my mind and extricating my heart from the sin is proving to be darn near impossible at this point - the more I try, the tighter the grip it seems to have on me.

Are you ever afraid that God will one day arrive at the end of His patience with you, run out of forgiveness and grace, say "I've had enough!" and just walk away? Sometimes the thought crosses my mind, when I forget for a moment that God is God and not like me. Then I think of my relationship with my own children and how much I love them, and how often I have to forgive them. I do reach the "Enough!" moments, but they always pass and grace always prevails. And so God, who is an infinitely greater and more patient parent than I could ever hope to be, can always be depended on to forgive and forgive and this:

The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always accuse, nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far he removes our transgressions from us.
(Psalm 103:8-12)

As recently as a couple of months ago, I would have simply given this fight up in frustration, decided that it was not something I could change, that I'd just have to do my best to conceal it and fight it as I was able. But as God is dealing with me and healing me and growing me up in Him, something's changed in my response to sin, and to the Holy Spirit's conviction. For so many years, there was a very thin but very real wall that I had built between God and myself. So thin that I didn't even know it was there. If anyone had asked me if God loved me and I loved Him, I would have responded with an adamant YES! The wall was made of a strange combination of shame and fear and arrogant self-sufficiency. I didn't believe I deserved God's (or anybody's) love, therefore He must not really love me. I was afraid that I could never measure up to the impossibly high expectations I imagined God had for me. And I desperately wanted to be able to do this Christian life thing on my own - to be strong enough, wise enough, brave enough, tough enough...asking for help would reveal the weaknesses that I fought to conceal at all cost. All of this added up to the underlying belief that God must be (at least) a little bit mad at me. This was something I believed I simply had to live with, a basic fact of existence for me.

What freedom and relief came to my soul when I confronted this particular lie and replaced it with truth! God is NOT mad at me! God does NOT hold my sin against me! God's love for me does not depend even the tiniest little bit on my performance! God, in His endless grace and mercy, will forgive and forgive and forgive - Jesus' great sacrifice covers ALL my sin!  But, as Paul so comically and eloquently puts it,
What shall we say, then?
Shall we go on sinning
so that grace may increase?
By no means!
We are those who have died to sin;
how can we live in it any longer?
(Romans 6:1-2)

When we surrender our lives to Christ, we become new creations in Christ and our old self, with its' penchant for sin, is put to death. But so often, we forget to inform our new selves of the death, and the war with sin continues to rage. Satan will never concede defeat; and so we will (must!) persist in this sin-battle for the rest of our days - until we step into the eternal perfection of Heaven. But instead of trying to fight in our own power and failing, let's fix our eyes on Jesus and live in the victory He's already won for us!

(This is a song I discovered recently that provides a powerful reminder of what power lies in Jesus' death and resurrection - may it encourage you as much as it has encouraged me!) 


Oh to see the dawn of the darkest day
Christ on the road to Calvary
Tried by sinful men torn and beaten then
Nailed to a cross of wood

This the pow'r of the cross
Christ became sin for us
Took the blame bore the wrath
We stand forgiven at the cross

Oh to see the pain written on Your face
Bearing the awesome weight of sin
Ev'ry bitter thought ev'ry evil deed
Crowning Your bloodstained brow

Now the daylight flees now the ground beneath
Quakes as its Maker bows His head
Curtain torn in two dead are raised to life
Finished the vict'ry cry

Oh to see my name written in the wounds
For through Your suff'ring I am free
Death is crushed to death life is mine to live
Won through Your selfless love

This the pow'r of the cross
Son of God slain for us
What a love what a cost
We stand forgiven at the cross

CCLI Song # 4490766
Keith Getty | Stuart Townend
© 2005 Thankyou Music (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Bathing Suits and Love

It has been a WONDERFUL summer! For so many reasons - I'm so thankful. It's been a summer of connecting with my family in a way I was never able to before; the shame that covered my life kept getting in the way of really knowing them, and of letting them really know me.  I really feel like I know my boys now, and what a difference it's made in our day-to-day life! And our marriage? It's honestly never been better. So much peace and joy in the Feltmate household - it's a beautiful thing. (Not to say that it's perfect - my boys are still boys - all of them - and I'm still me...but that's ok!)

So the Feltmates went to World Waterpark in West Edmonton Mall this summer. The kids had a blast, the husband was happy, it was an excellent day.  Well, mostly.  When you're almost as wide as you are tall, you can imagine that a bathing suit is the very, very last thing you might ever wish to put on. So I didn't. Well, I did have one on, but it was covered very securely with shorts and a shirt. Anyway, I did a few slides and enjoyed the wave pool a bit, but spent most of the day hanging out at the kiddy pool with Jake, while Chris and Chandler tackled the more adventurous attractions. I loved watching his delighted face as he whooshed down the little slides again and again (and again). But as I sat there on the edge of the pool, watching people of all shapes and sizes pass by, I just felt worse and worse about myself. (Comparison is pure evil, my friends - it's a game I'll never win...) Interestingly, and slightly annoying-ly, the whole time I was there, I had a tune stuck in my head that I couldn't help humming out loud. (Fortunately, the humming was swallowed up in the cacophony of laughter and shrieks and water and conversation surrounding me, so I just kept on humming...) By about the fifth hour or so, I was thoroughly depressed, stuck in a pit of guilt and inferiority, but the tune remained and I finally recognized what I had been humming: "Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me; Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me..." over and over and over. Tears came to my eyes in spite of the crowd all around me, and my heart was filled with joy and amazement and gratitude to this One Who goes to such great lengths, Who arranges such minute details, to assure me of my worth and to whisper His love just when I need it most.

How amazing is it that this God just loves us - just as we are?! As I observed the people around me, I couldn't help but notice that no body is perfect. Flaws and imperfections that may be covered up most of the time all come out when the swim suit goes on, and insecurities that may be well hidden have a tendency to rise to the surface.  I also noticed varying degrees of discomfort and embarrassment, and it seemed to have very little to do with the size or shape of the individual, from what I could detect. It went both ways, too. There were tiny, beautiful little ladies who could barely take a step without pulling at their suits, and much larger, beautiful ladies who were playing with their kids and prancing around the waterpark with not a care in the world. There were lean, muscular men who were in the water fully clothed and softer, rounder ones who were barely clothed at all. Such an interesting phenomenon...

By the end of my time at the waterpark, God had allowed me the privilege of seeing through His eyes for just a moment: for the first time, I really saw the inherent, universal grandeur of each glorious being, each carefully-crafted body; each and every one the deliberate and thoughtful and premeditated creation of a meticulous and purposeful Creator. And as much as it's my habit to resist such thoughts, I had to believe that this applies to me, as well. What a gift - to be reminded of the beautiful truth of Psalm 139:
For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
(Psalm 139:13-14)

Sometimes it helps to go back to basics, back to the beginning. I have value because God made me. PERIOD. This is a truth I can pull out every time those evil, self-loathing, devaluing, joy-stealing thoughts come calling. This is a truth I can stand on.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Thorns and Grace

When I was going through my "dark night of the soul" a few months ago, God graciously gave me several songs that seemed to speak His love and presence directly into my situation. I hadn't listened to them in awhile, preferring my newest mix of joyful, hopeful, grateful songs that express my current heart-cry. I pulled out those songs the other day and was completely awed and overwhelmed by how God had so beautifully and graciously and specifically kept the promises these songs proclaim. I recalled so vividly the utter despair, the deep discouragement and emotional pain and turmoil of that time (still not all that long ago). All I can do is marvel at what God has done.

However, I find myself getting frustrated and impatient - again. Yes, I've been completely set free from the shame that was colouring and clouding my whole life - hallelujah! I'm more free than I've ever been, more secure and satisfied in God's love for me than ever before - it's absolutely awesome! But the euphoria from my miraculous liberation is wearing off a bit and my focus is shifting to other parts of my life; parts from which I have not been "delivered", where I'm still enslaved and failing. I keep forgetting that this life is a journey, not a race to get to perfection and then camp out there for as long as possible. Believe me, that mindset only leads to disappointment and dissatisfaction and discontent.

I've been thinking about Paul and his "thorn in the flesh" and wondering if there are any parallels to my own issues. Many have taken educated guesses as to what Paul's particular "thorn" might have been, but the Bible doesn't give us that information (on purpose, I think, because of the universal principle at hand). We do learn that Paul asked God to remove it - 3 different times - and that God didn't. When I imagine Paul's and God's interaction regarding this "thorn", I don't see Paul having a calm, quiet conversation with his Maker, somehow...I think it was more of a begging, pleading, crying out from a place of weakness and pain, last resort, end-of-his-rope kind of communication; desperate, each plea more impassioned and frantic than the one before. And the picture seems to me a bit of a paradox. I mean, this is Paul, the great apostle, teacher, leader, missionary, and all around man of faith. If anyone should be able to trust that God knows what He's doing, it's him, right? But no. Whether it was due to severe pain or embarrassment or that he felt his ministry was being hindered or compromised or something else entirely, Paul chose to question God's wisdom in giving him this "thorn". And not only did he question God's wisdom in the giving of the thorn, but he went on to question God's decision to leave the thorn intact after Paul had begged for its removal!

We know the end of the story - at least in part. Paul reports God's response in the well-known and oft-repeated words of 2 Corinthians 12:9 - "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." A beautiful promise for when we can't see past our many weaknesses to God's great strength. I've found comfort and peace in these words time and time again. But I wonder a bit about the rest of Paul's days. We have to assume that he lived the rest of his life with this thorn constantly poking at him, bringing to mind his desperate pleading and God's amazing promise. Do you suppose he ever got to the point of not fighting it, where he accepted it for what it was and even thanked God for it, for how it kept him humble, for how it constantly compelled him to rely on God's power and sovereignty and not on his own?

I'm not sure how this fits with my own particular issues, or yours, for that matter.  All I know is that there are things that God chooses to deliver us from, and things that He chooses to allow to remain. To acknowledge this mystery and come to a place of peace with our infirmities and challenges is, I think, yet another step along the path to knowing real joy.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Fear Not

Often on Monday mornings, I'll sit down at my computer and scroll through new posts on facebook. (I know that much can be said against this particular social media site, but I still love it. With friends scattered all around the world, and having resolved to use the platform for good, it's a very useful tool.) Too often to call it a coincidence, I've noticed a theme emerge - one that seems to speak directly to whatever need I have in my life at the time. Today, it's fear.

I've experienced so much growth and renewal and freedom and change in the past months that it's becoming a little overwhelming. Welcome, no question, but so much to process and assimilate and apply to my life... It would seem, however, that God has me right where He wants me, and is calling me to a specific task. To be truthful, He's been calling for awhile. In fact, a few years ago, Chris and I heard the call and got all excited about it and had big dreams and made big plans...and then we got scared. And instead of following the path we knew God was calling us to walk, we took a safer, less risky route (or so it appeared at the time) and failed to answer the call.

Well, God is a God of grace and mercy and perfect timing and patience and persistence and more grace. He never gave up on us, never withdrew the call, never turned His back and walked away from us. On the contrary, He kept on growing us and testing us and challenging us and changing us, shaping us and preparing us to take up the task. Which brings us to the present. Seabreeze, to be exact.

We believe God is calling us to start a ministry. We believe God wants us uprooted Maritimers to write books and blogs, songs and stories that bring refreshment and hope and encouragement to the Church through worship and the Word, and to help empower and equip God's people to fulfill God's call in their own lives. In short, we want to share our God stories.

Part of me is so excited! This is what I was made to do! I find such joy and satisfaction and energy in writing to encourage and leading in worship and telling God stories! I'm thrilled at the thought of doing this for a living!

But...there's also a lot of fear. I'll have to ask people for things: financial and prayer support, bookings, and many more things I haven't even thought of yet, I'm sure...I hate asking people for things, or potentially putting them out in any way - remnants of my people-pleasing penchant. And in addition to that, which in my mind is a very significant obstacle, there are all these doubts and questions that continually nag at me since we've made this leap of faith: Am I too fat to be credible? Too messed up to be trusted? Too honest to be palatable? Too undisciplined to finish the task? Too lazy to actually write a book to its completion? Too insecure to do the humbling work of recording a CD? Can I really do this?  Will God really provide? Is this really what He wants?

One thing I do know, God doesn't wait until we're perfect, until we've arrived, to use us. He comes and equips us and anoints us in the middle of our messes and in spite of our shortcomings and questions and fears and doubts (and often because of them), He blesses and ministers and allows us to be His hands and feet and arms and voice in the world, for His glory. I'm not the best singer in the world, but God's given me a voice and songs to sing. I'm not the best writer or speaker, but He's given me a story and the words with which to share it. If I've learned anything at all on this journey, it's that God can and does work in me and through me, just as I am - the real Joy. :)

Friday, July 4, 2014


I'm sitting here at my little yellow writing desk, gazing past my computer screen at the lego-strewn living room, enjoying a cool breeze as the sun begins to set on a hot summer day, inhaling the tantalizing scent of the vanilla candle beside me - content, satisfied; reflecting on the past few weeks.

I still can hardly believe the change that has taken place in my heart, my life and my family - miraculous is the only word that comes close to describing it. My husband and I were discussing the change in me and resulting shift that has taken place in our relationship the other night and he said, "These have been the best weeks of your life, haven't they?" and I realized that he was right!

I don't think I can overstate the difference it makes to know and really believe that God is for me, is on my side, isn't mad at me, doesn't hold me to unattainable expectations - loves me personally, unconditionally, exactly as I am... It sickens me now to think how insidiously these lies about Him invaded the private sanctuary of my heart; and how long I allowed them to remain and fester and grow.

I was just about to write that it wasn't until my shame was lifted and disposed of that I could receive God's love, but upon closer examination of my experience, it was God who made the first move - it's always God first. While I was still all wrapped up in my cloak of shame, God came along side me and began to soften my heart. Almost against my conscious will, He stepped in and tenderly wrapped His arms around me and whispered words of love and acceptance and peace; something in me just seemed to melt. I'd never experienced His presence in that way before - affection, warmth, comfort, intimacy (oh, how I used to hate and fear that word!); no hint of judgement or expectation or evaluation...No, wait - there was evaluation; I felt deep in my soul that I was deemed utterly worthy by the only One whose opinion counts, finally freed to accept the love that He has always wanted to lavish on me.

I often wonder, if it's God who must always make the first move, if it's He who must cause us to "will and to act according to His good purpose" (Philippians 2:13); why He doesn't, in the wise words of the Nike commercials, just do it?! If it was God who needed to soften my heart so that I could accept His love, why didn't He do it years ago? Why not when I was a new Christian at the age of 6? Why not then, before the mantle of shame became so deeply embedded? I can only conclude that God cares more for His glory and my good and my growth than my immediate comfort and convenience. This is true love. What a story I have to share now - and it's not even finished yet!

As I struggle to believe that this amazing change in my life is for real, that it might actually last - I've been drawn to this verse again and again:
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.
Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves
be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
(Galatians 5:1)

Christ has set me free, there's no denying that, but I can definitely bear witness to the fact that it is far too easy to become burdened again by a yoke of slavery. This verse tells me that, though it's God who does the freeing, I also play a part in my continued freedom. I get to choose what yoke I will wear; I can choose to allow myself to be burdened again - or not! And it's a choice that must be made deliberately, intentionally, daily, sometimes hourly or minute-by-minute...And since I get to choose, I pick this one:
 “Come to me,
all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart,
 and you will find rest for your souls.
 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
(Matthew 11:28-30, NIV)

And, since many of us have heard these particular words so often that they cease to carry any meaning, I'll leave you with another expression of this beautiful and freedom-giving truth:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion?
Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.
I’ll show you how to take a real rest.
Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it.
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.
 I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.
 Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
(Matthew 11:28-30, The Message)

Ah, to "learn the unforced rhythms of grace"; to "live freely and lightly" - therein lies real joy!

Friday, June 27, 2014

A Very Happy Anniversary!

In a few days, I will be celebrating my 16th wedding anniversary. This, my friends, is nothing short of a miracle! I'm usually very careful not to drag the issues of my family members into my musings here, but my husband has agreed to a certain amount of revelation for the sake of encouragement and truth.

We became aware of our issues pretty early on in our marriage, but bumbled unhappily along for years, occasionally trying to make changes. It became a pattern, every couple of years or so, to have a huge blow-up of some kind, then the talking and crying and praying and vowing that things would be different this time...but nothing ever really changed.

Well, we finally accepted the fact that we needed outside help to sort through our issues; that we simply couldn't carry on like this anymore. It was do or die, as far as we were concerned. And so, we started seeing a counsellor, much to our shame and embarrassment at the time. It wasn't too far into our sessions that our counsellor determined that she needed to see me on my own for a bit. (Chris has been bravely and deliberately dealing with his issues for the last 4 years and growing like crazy - I guess I had some catching up to do :) )

Turns out that this was exactly what was needed. Thanks to a wise and Spirit-guided counsellor, I found out all kinds of things that had to be identified, confessed, and broken off. So many lies I'd been believing for so long that they were before now undetectable, about myself and God especially. Underlying all of this was a heavy load of shame, so much a part of me that it had essentially become my identity; the filter by which I viewed and lived all of my life.

 Then, this wise woman had me picture in my mind exactly what this shame looked like that has been covering me and negatively affecting everything from self-image to relationships for most of my life. (I've mentioned here in a previous post how God revealed this shame thing to me a few months ago, and that I'd made some progress in understanding the issue but very little in overcoming it.) As skeptical as I might be about this kind of exercise, a picture came to me immediately - a huge, filthy, heavy, tattered, grimy, suffocating blanket wrapped tightly around me, covering me from head to toe.  We then asked God to take it and destroy it once and for all and replace it with His truth. And He did! She asked me what He had replaced it with, and I saw another picture right away: myself in a garment of sparkling, glowing, glittering white; perfectly fitted and beautiful! This vision, this gift, and the unbounded love and absolute acceptance that accompanied it, reduced me to tears of pure delight. It was an amazing experience, and I left full of joy and feeling free as I never had before, but still underneath it all a nagging doubt that it couldn't last, that I couldn't really change...

The next morning, the shame was still gone, the freedom was still there - much to my surprise and delight! On my way home from driving my son to school, I was singing and praying and rejoicing in this beautiful freedom, when God clearly spoke. He asked me what was holding me back now from forgiving my husband (and myself) for the past and fully engaging in this marriage relationship. I had no answer - NOTHING was holding me back! It was like a rebirth.

And without going into too much detail, the days since that day have been AMAZING! While we're both a bit wary lest it fade, we're trusting God to help our unbelief and sustain us in all this wonderful change. Real joy, indeed!

Friday, June 13, 2014


Yes, I have good reasons for not having written in awhile and no, I'm not going to get into them right now...Sorry, do I sound defensive? It's just one of the many, many things I'm working through at the moment - learning to forgive myself for not meeting my own (actual) and others' (perceived)  expectations. Oh, I foresee that many juicy blog topics will be forthcoming in the next few months from my experiences these the past few weeks. Exciting!

I just wanted to stop by and share with you a beautiful truth I've known forever but only very recently started to experience as a reality in my life. It's yet another one where I just have to shake my head and say to myself, "Really? How could this have eluded you for so long?!" It all started last summer when I met Louise. (Actually, it all started with Jesus, but most of you know that part of the story already...) From the moment I met her, and even more so as I came to know her better, I knew that she got it. She was (and is) so absolutely sure of God's love, so completely satisfied and fulfilled and confident in Him, that His love just poured out of her, all. the. time. And not in some annoying, forced, false, duty-driven bubbling over for Jesus, but a genuine, authentic, almost-inadvertent outpouring of love and joy and peace and grace and truth and hope - from her Source. You just love to be around her, because she makes you feel like the most important, valuable person on the planet! Every single time I'd have any contact at all with her, I'd come away with two things: 1) the love and hope and validation and encouragement that I needed to go on and 2) a question - where does that come from? The way she knows Jesus has got to be different from the way I know Jesus...

I didn't realize I was asking that question until after I found the answer :)  The past few weeks have been some of the most challenging of my life (and that's saying something, when I look back over my recent history).  Circumstances have compelled me to question everything - except God. Amazing how trials will bring you to your knees, isn't it? Actually, to be perfectly honest, I did question and doubt and wonder where God was in this mess - but He showed me. He showed up. (I usually hate that phrase, but no other words can describe it better.) In ways that I couldn't possibly deny. The past few days especially, I've had this strange, peaceful, cozy sensation, the way I might feel wrapped up in a blanket in front of a fire with rain pounding on the window - welcome, for sure, but very new and unfamiliar and unexpected, given the general upheaval that is currently my life. It wasn't until a couple of days ago that I identified what was going on, when I heard again a song on the radio that had always annoyed me a bit because she (Jamie Grace, maybe?) sounded so smug,

"Wake up and smile, 'cause it's been awhile;
it's been like a whole day since I stopped
so You could hold me;
Lord, You are the refuge
that I can't wait to get to..."

That's what it is, this strange new sensation! It's God, holding me! Being my refuge, my protector, my strong tower! I would never allow Him to do that before.  Maybe I didn't believe I was worth it, maybe I wanted to maintain control, maybe I wanted to be strong, maybe I've always thought God was just a little bit angry with me...but that's why the song always annoyed me, because I didn't know God like that!  (It's funny, because that song always reminded me of Louise (minus the smugness). ) And something deep within me longed to know that comfort and security. But now! I don't know exactly how it happened, but now I finally know that "God is for me, not against me" (in the words of another great song that always kind of annoyed me...hmmm...)

Weakness can be a beautiful thing.

"My grace is sufficient for you,
for my power is made perfect in weakness."
(2 Corinthians 12:9)