Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Inevitable New Year's Post - 2016 Edition

It's December 27th as I sit down to write this. All the anticipation leading up to Christmas, delightful as it's been, has come and gone. The gifts have been purchased, wrapped and opened (and some already broken or lost). The turkey dinner has been planned, prepared and consumed, reduced to a few meager leftovers. The decorations have already taken on a bit of a forlorn look, and will soon be packed away. It's time to start looking ahead.

I've always loved the idea of new beginnings - I think that's how we're wired. New days, weeks, months, years hold much appeal; so many opportunities to wipe the (grimy, filthy, disappointment-stained, failure-covered) slate clean and start fresh.

I gave up making New Year's resolutions long ago - it was just too discouraging, falling short year after year after year...But I can't resist the lure of the mother of new beginnings. In more recent years, I've been drawn to the notion of a word - a single word to help focus the fresh start to come.

I'm the first to admit that I have a terrible memory - but if it serves me correctly (no guarantee), my word for 2014 was "thanks" and my 2015 word was "overcomer" (which apparently is not technically a word). As crazy as those two years were, the words were useful in defining my focus (when I could remember them :) ). 

And now...the moment you've all been waiting for...drum roll, please...

My word for 2016 is..."ALL". 

I played around with a few different ideas as I considered my focus for the year - like "trust", "faith" and "surrender". But none of those were broad enough to encompass everything I wanted to include. What's more all-encompassing than "all"? :D

So here's what I mean. As I thought about what I want my life to look like, I realized (not for the first time) that there are many areas that I haven't surrendered - places where I just want to do my own thing - with no heavenly interference, thank-you-very-much. I used to think that to surrender my life to God meant giving up a lot of things, keeping my feet on the "straight and narrow", and being a missionary in Africa. 

I was afraid to surrender completely. So I just didn't. 

The thing is, the more I get to know who God really is, the less scary the idea of surrender becomes. He doesn't want to steal my joy, He wants to BE my joy! Instead of a tyrannical, hostile take-over, God invites me gently into His best, into His peace that passes understanding, into His love that knows no limits. 

This is a lot harder to explain than I makes so much sense in my head :) Here are the two verses that inspired my word:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart 
and lean not on your own understanding; 
in all your ways submit to him
in a,
    and he will make your paths straight. 
Proverbs 3:5-6


And whatever you do, 
whether in word or deed, 
do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, 
giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Colossians 3:17

This year, more than anything else, I want to practice mindfulness. I want to be aware of my thoughts, of how I spend my time and money, of how I relate to others, of how I live. So many of us, none more than I, tend to just let life happen to us - and try to hang on for the ride! 

This year, I want to consciously, deliberately, submit myself to my God. I want to respond to His loving invitation with intentional, joyful discipline - to do all of life with Him, to be empowered by His spirit and filled with His joy. To embark upon an unknown adventure tale; a small but significant character in His grand and glorious story! 

Happy New Year, dear friends! May you know and experience God's presence and peace and power in new and exciting ways as you journey along your own particular paths this year! 

What's your word (or verse, or resolution or whatever...) for 2016?

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

All I Want for Christmas

The countdown is on...three more sleeps! My eleven year old is so excited he can hardly stand it, my seven year old keeps counting and rearranging the presents under the tree; they remind me so much of my younger self. 

Oh, how I loved Christmas as a child! When I remember Christmases past, they're all warm and fuzzy and glowing, like how the tree lights look when I take off my glasses :) We were all together - happy, excited, joyous, delighted; gifts galore, fantastic food... 

All this in spite of the fact that I was a first class snoop - I always hunted diligently and secretly until I unearthed every intended surprise, every year. (I think I've mentioned here before how much I love surprises. Star Wars spoilers? Yes, please!)

And the music! Christmas and music go hand-in-hand in my memory - Mom listening to Christmas music in September (and maybe earlier!); trekking from home to home, singing in the cold; choir cantatas; solos in church; candlelight carols on Christmas Eve...

The songs of Christmas, committed to memory at a very early age, always held great meaning for me. They were more than just tradition, more than just warm fuzzies - they were meaningful to me because I believed them. The baby in the manger was more than just a story - it was truth, it was life, it was hope! He was truth, life, hope!

Somewhere along the line, my feelings about Christmas began to change. Part of it was the inevitable shift that comes when we become parents - when we're no longer the recipients but the makers of Christmas. Part of it was years of draining financial difficulties, when we were engulfed by guilt for not being able to get the kids everything on their lists. Reality has a way of rubbing some of the glow off of life, doesn't it? 

Over the past two or three Christmases, things shifted even more for me. I immersed myself in Advent, in the waiting, in the tension between the now and the not yet. Much like Lent, it became a time of examining my heart, of repentance, of preparation, anticipation and joy deferred. The meaning of Christmas for me deepened, broadened, matured somehow. 

One thing that remained constant in the midst of all the inward change was the music of Christmas. The familiar rush of joy that resulted in singing the comforting old carols remained, even intensified. 

But this year? This year feels different. And not in a good way - at least it doesn't yet appear to be good. In keeping with the conventions of Advent, we haven't been singing the traditional carols in church yet this season. And that's been perfectly ok with me. I kept anticipating that when we did finally get to belt them out that there would be much joy and satisfaction and delight in the singing.

Funny story (but not funny ha-ha)...a group of us went caroling last night. It was indeed delightful to see the joy on the faces of the elderly folks for whom we sang. The sense of camaraderie and shared purpose and voices joined together in worship was wonderful. Navigating our way to each home (and getting lost more than once!) was just plain hilarious. 

But the carols themselves?  Those long-familiar lyrics and melodies that have never failed to lift my spirits and infuse my soul with hope and peace and joy? Empty. Hollow. Like resounding gongs or clanging cymbals. 

And it broke my heart. 

I have yet to dig to the root of this strange anomaly. I'm a little afraid - I'm not sure what I'll find. But I will believe the truth, regardless of how I feel. And the truth is, that little baby in a manger remains the my hope, my peace, my joy. Emmanuel - God with us. God with me.

Merry Christmas, dear Friends. May you embark upon your own unique journey to the manger, and may you find your own hope and peace and joy there. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

We All Need Somebody to Lean On (Even Me?!)

I'm still blown away by the truth revealed to me during my recent Facebook break (details here) - that I need other people; and that that's ok. I'm more blown away still by the fact that I never knew that before, or more accurately, I knew it but saw it as a weakness, a mark of immaturity, something to be overcome. I honestly thought the goal was to eventually become totally and solely dependent on God for ALL of my needs.

And indeed, that is the goal - but the two truths aren't mutually exclusive; not in the least! God communicates His love, wisdom, grace, forgiveness and much more through other people. That might seem like the most obvious fact in the world to you, but it's a brand new thought to me that it's part of God's plan, not a baby-food-type-thing that young-in-the-faith believers need until they can get it all straight from the Source.

I guess it makes sense that I'd be inclined to believe thus. From before I can even remember, I've been fiercely, ridiculously, over-the-top independent. I'm not sure where I got the idea that independence was such a good thing (I foresee that this will require a bit more soul excavation), but from a very early age, I was determined to take care of myself. (I see a bit of this in my youngest, and all I can say is, "Sorry, Mom...". Yeesh.)

I'm wondering now if this isn't somehow tied into the shame that covered me for most of my life (details here). I wonder which came first? I wonder if the independence came from feeling like I didn't deserve any support from anyone, so I shut off the possibility of it, insisting to myself that I didn't want it, didn't need it. Hmmm...

All through my school years, I was the one to whom people poured out their hearts; I was the recipient of confidences on all sides - I even counselled some of my teachers! But I never shared much of myself with anyone. Oh, I had lots of friends - spent hours on the phone, attended birthday parties and sleepovers, did the Sunday School and youth group thing. But through it all, I kept my true self carefully hidden. I think people felt close to me because I was a sympathetic listener, not because they really knew me.

{This is turning out to be really hard to write about - I'm still not sure what to do with it. (I dearly hope it's not as hard to read as it is to write - thanks for sticking with me!) I feel really...stupid is the best word I can come up with here. And sorrowful - how much I've missed. So much opportunity for authentic connection and relationship and community that I can never get back.}

During the past few years, I've been getting closer and closer, hovering on the edges of this remarkable revelation. Thanks in part to this blog, and thanks to my Facebook community, I've gradually allowed myself to know and be known. But even as I took off my mask and got honest and vulnerable, there was always a sense that it was the means to an end. That the notion of needing other people was weak, immature, temporary.

Even as recently as this summer, though, I was still blind to the truth. When the vast majority of my support system was pulled out from under me for one reason or another, I thought it was a good thing, a necessary step in the process of growing up in Christ, of coming to depend on Him alone. A dear pastor-friend even pointed out the obvious at the time - suggested to me that maybe God might intentionally use His people to meet each other's needs. I have to shake my head now at how readily I dismissed his wise words.

Well, I get it now. The negative connotations have been lifted, somehow. How it will change things for me, in me - I don't know. But it can't help but make a difference in my relationships. Whether positive or negative (or some combination of the two) remains to be seen. 

Of course, my current fear is that I'll swing too far the other way. Needy, clingy, attention-seeking - these are things I really don't ever want to be. Man, this growth stuff... 

I was all set to end on a positive, spiritual note, but that just doesn't feel right. I know God is in this, but I don't know what He's doing or what will come of it. I'm a little fearful. And a little annoyed - a very busy, inconvenient time to deal with such an earth-shaking revelation, too. I thought I was finished with stuff like this! Alas and alack (and hallelujah), God's not finished with me yet. (Wait, is that a positive, spiritual note? Well, I tried... :) )

Monday, November 9, 2015

My Facebook Break (mid-way check point)

It's been two and a half weeks since I last visited Facebook. I felt led to take a six week leave of absence, and now I'm almost half way through this self-imposed exile. I've done this a couple of times since I joined the renowned and revered community - once during Lent, and once for some (good?) reason I don't quite recall. It's been several years since my last Facebook fast. 

When I first thought of taking a break this time around, it was with the intention of creating space in my life - for more reflection, to read more good books, to write something worth reading, to compose some good songs... Have I ever mentioned that I tend to be a bit of an idealist? 

Here's what reality has looked like these last eighteen days: first, a nasty and violent bout of stomach flu made the rounds in our household, which resulted in much coddling of little boys, much cleaning up of that which humans were not meant to deal with, and many days of personal illness and weakness and slow recovery. Right in the midst of all this, I was offered, completely out of the blue, a temporary job that bore all the marks of an answer to many prayers and tears prayed and shed over the past few months. A roller coaster ride, indeed! 

I've recovered from the flu; I've accepted the job. Now I'm scrambling to restore my home back to some semblance of order (it looks like a hurricane struck at this point), get my balanced-eating-and-exercise plan back on track and prepare for my brief but hopefully helpful stint as an interim music director over Christmas. Life is quickly filling up the spaces I had hoped to create. So mission accomplished, I guess - but it sure looks a lot different than I had envisioned! (I know - what else is new...)

But I'm really missing my Facebook community. I started jotting down the times when I felt an urge to post to FB, and a most interesting trend quickly emerged. It wasn't a particular emotion or type of event that I wanted to share - they were as varied as the joy of a soul-stirring Steve Bell concert, the delight of an unexpected employment opportunity, the lingering beauty of late Fall, the wonder of the first snowfall, the agonizing hardship of disciplining a defiant eleven year old, the happy birthday celebrations of a certain now-seven year old, and the horrible reality of dealing with copious amounts of vomit... I realized that what I was missing most was the satisfying camaraderie that comes from shared feelings and experiences; the comfort of knowing I'm not alone.

But a couple of really good things have come out of this as well, so far. This may sound cheesy, but it's actually deepened my relationship with God. After a few days of feeling mildly depressed and intensely lonely, I started training myself to go to God with all the status updates I was constantly composing in my head (does anyone else out there do that, too?). The status updates began to turn into praises and petitions, with the unexpected but lovely result of tremendously enriching my prayer life. 

It's also shown me how much I need other people. As friendly and outgoing as I (hope I) appear, I'm an introvert at heart. I renew my strength and find my peace in extended time alone. But we're all wired for community - we need each other. I used to see this as a weakness, a mark of immaturity, something to overcome. I know better now. 

So I'm grateful. Looking forward with hopeful anticipation to what other blessings may come as a result of this experiment. Also looking forward with warm fuzzies to taking my place in my beloved community again, to sharing the highs and mids and lows of life with many beautiful souls. 

Friday, October 9, 2015


I wasn't chosen as a top ten finalist in the song/artist competition I entered last month (details here). The list was just released a few hours ago. I'm disappointed. Over the past few days, I had timidly dared to entertain a few secret visions of a certain kind of success. You know, bright lights, cheering crowds, ego strokes, recognition... 

I went for a long walk just after the news came, trying to decide just how I felt about it. I tend to go numb when my hopes for a particular thing are dashed - to protect my heart from experiencing pain, I suppose. This time, I wanted to push through that and really feel, regardless of how much it might hurt. 

My first impulse - another defense mechanism, no doubt - was to knock the competition and the organization behind it; that it wouldn't have done me much good to win anyway, that the judges lacked the depth to appreciate the intricacies of my songwriting, that it must have been fixed, etc... Almost immediately, I had to acknowledge that those thoughts were petty and unkind and above all, untrue, so I dismissed them as baloney (not to be confused with bologna, mind you...).

I was tempted - really tempted - to allow myself to indulge the too-familiar little voice that had been hissing poisonous words of worthlessness, ineptitude, and failure since the news came; that it was sheer foolishness, utter audacity, to even think that what I had to offer had any value at all. And on and on and on...

But I chose not to entertain that little voice for long; a more persistent, infinitely more loving and kind and genuine Presence gently insisted on being heard. And I listened! 

Even though my dear Father chose not to spell out the entire plan as I walked amid the healing beauty of this season tonight, He managed to convey to me that my inherent value could not be altered by this or anything else; that there was indeed a method to His madness; that the gifts He'd seen fit to give me had a purpose, and that He had promised to finish the work He'd started in me. 

And so I'm grateful - for all of it, the whole experience. It's adjusted my perspective, allowed me to see some things more clearly. And that's a precious gift. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

What Have I Done?

I did something last night. Brazen? Crazy? Pointless? I don't know. I'd been planning on doing it for some time, but wasn't altogether sure I'd actually go through with it. Part of me is still shaking my head, wondering at my nerve. Most is me is chuckling, convinced that there's not a chance this will go anywhere. A tiny piece is hopeful - that maybe there's the slightest possibility that something good will come from this audacious move. 

I submitted one of my songs to a fairly major Christian artist competition - with three whole days to spare before the entry deadline! (My university profs would be shocked...) The song I chose was the first one I ever wrote - way back in May :)  I think I've mentioned bits of that journey, but I'd like to pull it all together here and point to God's ridiculous grace and immeasurable goodness in the midst of this great adventure.

Let me start by stating that I turned the big four - oh this past January. I sang my first solo in church when I was three and started leading worship at the age of twelve. I've been at this for awhile. But I had never written a song. I had always wanted to - I had asked God numerous times throughout the course of my life for that gift. But to no avail...until May 7th, 2015. (Timing is everything!)

I was journalling that morning, as I often do. I had been dealing with some issues, and was able, that morning, to begin to let go of what I was holding on to so tightly. I was blown away by how tenaciously God loved me, even in the midst of all my messes, flaws and disobedience. I turned the page in my journal, and ten minutes later had scribbled down three verses, a chorus and a bridge. I then started singing out the words to whatever tune came to me, and in another ten minutes had a melody. 

I had no keyboard in the house, so I ran down the road to the church I attended at the time, and where I had been teaching myself to play piano for several months, having been given permission to use the sanctuary during the day. I spent a couple of hours figuring out what chords went with the melody (that was the hardest part, having little background in theory or composition). Then, I recorded it so I could remember it, which I demoed that afternoon on my (singer/musician/writer/producer) husband. I was kind of stunned at how it all came together.

I had worship team practice that night. When someone asked how my day had been, I tried to conceal my sheer delight, and failing utterly, exclaimed "I wrote a song!". My team leader, an accomplished singer/songwriter himself, said, "Let's hear it." Too nervous to play it live, I got out my phone and replayed the recording I'd made earlier. It was shaky, to say the least.

Be that as it may, the next words out of my team leader's mouth were, "No pressure, but do you want to play it on Sunday?" Say what?!? Apparently, the theme of my little song went perfectly with the text of the day. Terrified as I most certainly was, I agreed, and spent the next two days practicing, freaking out and marveling over the fact that I had actually written this thing I was getting so much joy out of. (I'll be eternally grateful for this first opportunity to share my fledgling efforts - it proved to be a springboard for all that has followed - thank you, Friend.)

And the rest, as they say, is history...Forty-one-songs-in-four-months later, I'm looking forward with anticipation to how God will keep using this gift He's so generously given. Going forward with open hands and heart, following His lead. 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Boy Who Lived

I had the sad privilege today of serving at a funeral for an 18-month-old little girl. She had suffered from an illness involving debilitating seizures from the age of 2 months. In spite of the heartbreaking circumstances, the service was filled with hope and joy and peace. The family was firm in their belief that little Arianna was safe in the arms of Jesus, free from pain and surrounded by love. It was beautiful.

But at the same time, it just seemed so wrong. Like something had gone badly awry in the grand scheme of things. Associating the thought of a child with something so final and awful as just doesn't jive. And it brought back some hard memories for me. 

We lost a child, once upon a time. Way back in 2007. August 20th. An early miscarriage - at about 7 and a half weeks. It wasn't a very long time, but long enough to have established a firm, unbreakable mother-love connection. The death of a child, no matter how old or young, seems to me a particularly poignant loss - it's not only the present loss that hurts so much, but the loss of a future that will never come to pass.

I have to admit that the years have softened the pain of this loss somewhat- I don't often think of this little one who blessed our lives for so short a time. We've told the boys that they have a brother or sister in Heaven whom they'll meet one day, and they sometimes talk about how that will be. (From the very start, I've had one of those hard-to-explain gut-feelings that the baby was a girl - our little Ceilidh Ila-May.) It's one of those things that changes you, forever.

But life goes on, whether you like it or not. We were delighted and more than a little fearful to discover we were expecting again about six months after the miscarriage. As is often the case after an experience like this, we decided not to tell anyone about the pregnancy until it was "safe", around 14 weeks. 

Fast forward 7 weeks to Easter Sunday morning. The choir I directed had prepared a beautiful, powerful Easter presentation. It was just a few minutes before we were scheduled to go on stage. As is common in early pregnancy, I was so tired. I really wanted to tell our good news (and get a little sympathy for the dark circles under my eyes), but I was able to keep our secret. And though I had already made several pit stops that morning (another common early pregnancy issue, as many of you know), I thought I'd rather be safe than sorry and popped into the ladies' room one more time. 

My heart froze in my chest. I had begun to bleed. My mind raced back to the other time - it had all started exactly the same way. I was stunned; I simply couldn't believe this was happening to me - again. 

But even as I was all ready to cry, panic and go into all out freak-out mode, a thought came to me. I remembered what day it was - Easter! Resurrection Sunday! The ultimate celebration of new life! And I knew I had a choice - I could despair, or I could trust. I prayed right then and there, something like, "God - You raised Jesus from the dead. I believe You can do that for this little life. Your will be done." 

So I took a deep breath, gathered my courage, and went out to pray with my choir and lead them in worshiping the resurrected Jesus. 

And about seven and a half months later, our sweet Jakey was born. (Thanks be to God.)

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Summer of My Discontent

A friend on the East Coast, the pastor of a church we attended several years ago,  noticed I was on Facebook early this morning and messaged me: "Up early spending time with the Lord?" He was partly teasing and partly serious, I think... I answered, "Actually, yes :) " And he said, "Lol, I knew it!".  

This brief exchange got me thinking - I wasn't actively engaged in reading Scripture or praying at the moment I received that message, but I had answered "yes" almost automatically. Was it a lie? Was I just trying to look good and spiritual for my pastor? 

Maybe - but then I realized that over the past several weeks, I'd been cultivating, almost inadvertently, the habit of living life with a continuing awareness of God's presence in it. To put it in simple terms, Jesus and I have been hanging out - and I'm so thankful.  

I have to be honest here - it's been a really rough summer for me. It looked pretty good on the surface; lots of good family time and memories made, lots of leisure and relaxation and rest, lots of ministry and song-writing and stretching and growth. And it was good, it really was. 

But my inner self has been shriveling by degrees all summer long, for a complex variety of reasons.  I won't go into great detail here, but between changing churches and financial challenges and less time on Facebook and one of my bestest friends moving away, as well as some other stuff, it's been hard. 

I felt hurt and alone; that all my external sources of support were being pulled out from under me, leaving me dangling precariously, hoping there was a trampoline down there somewhere. In response, I inwardly retreated - a subconscious safety mechanism, I suppose. So, while I physically participated in life this summer, my heart and mind and spirit were safely tucked away in a little hidey-hole. 

But you know God wasn't gonna let me stay there.  Even in the pit of my despair, I started to experience His presence in a way I never had before. Through the disciplines of prayer and gratitude, my daily exercise turned into prayer walks and my inner monologue became praise - sprinkled with a generous dose of questions and requests and observations and just...conversation. God's been training me to see Him; to become more and more aware of the fact that He is Emmanuel - God with us, God with me...

My outward circumstances are pretty much unchanged - I'm still missing my friends, I still have financial challenges, my bestie is still moving...but it's gonna be ok. My Rock remains, unchanging, unmoving, always firm and secure. And for that, I'm grateful.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Trust Me

"When God wants you to go somewhere and He doesn’t tell you the direction, it is because He is teaching you trust. You have to trust Him joyfully. If you don’t do it joyfully, you will do it anxiously, which means you won’t trust! All trust must be joyful." ~Graham Cooke

So this happened. Last night, I was driving over to my brother's place to help him pack for an upcoming move. It's a route I take fairly often. It takes me past a thrift store that I love (and which, incidentally, has been crucial to our family's survival over the past months). I was about two minutes away from the thrift store turn-off, my mind focused on the task ahead of me, when from out of nowhere, it was like someone else took over my brain. I suddenly felt very strongly that I needed to go right now and look for a pair of running shoes at the thrift store. My gut told me it was God, but I immediately doubted that initial certainty, and figured it was just because I'd been thinking about that very thing the day before, since my current sneakers are pretty much worn out. I was running late as it was; I was in the wrong lane, and with the exit fast approaching, I wavered. I quickly made a bargain with myself, that if both lanes were empty at that last instant before I had to turn off, I'd go. There was a lot of traffic on the roads, but sure enough, the second before I was past the point of no return, there was not a car in sight, so I crossed the two lanes over to the turn-off and snaked my way through the vast parking lot over to the thrift store. I was still arguing with myself, wondering if I had indeed had a divine inspiration, or if it was my thrift store addiction that was compelling me. 

Long story short - I found the perfect running shoes; a like-new pair of brand name sneakers at a really great price. (I do apologize if buying shoes second-hand grosses you out - if it does, consider yourself lucky; but sometimes ya gotta do whatcha gotta do...) 

Fast-forward to this morning: I headed out in the cool of the early morning for my (almost) daily walk, and to put my "new" shoes to the test. I started out at a slow jog, enjoying the beauty of my surroundings and the little high that comes when you conquer your desire to stay in bed for another half-hour and make a good choice instead (and the perfect fit of the new shoes - I've never had a more comfortable pair!). And it happens again - my thoughts morph into something quite beyond myself and I get the distinct impression that I am now officially in training - and that that's what the sneakers were all about! But - in training? "For what?" is the question that pops up almost in spite of myself. Seems like the logical next step in this line of thinking, right? 

Silence. Wind blowing in the grasses, birds chirping, my feet pounding the pavement...and not a word, not one definite thought or impression. But I could almost see my Father gazing down at me with a loving, knowing smile spread across His face. Then these words: "Trust Me." 


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Right in the Middle of It

For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, 
it must come completely undone. 
The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. 
To someone who doesn't understand growth, 
it would look like complete destruction.
~Cynthia Occelli

Some days, it feels as if I've been on this journey to discover (the) real joy forever - and not in a good way... I get so impatient, berating myself for not having achieved more, for not having progressed farther along this path. Even though I know the journey has value, has purpose, has meaning, I still just want to get to the end of it. To be done. To arrive. It would appear, even after all of this, that I remain hopelessly results-driven.

There is a beautiful discipleship model that I've become acquainted with over the past couple of years. So much of the approach resonates deeply with me. One of the major components is called a huddle - a group of six to twelve people (a la Jesus' twelve disciples) with one person as the leader or teacher. This group intentionally learns and explores and seeks God and grows together for a year or two, and then members are sent out to start forming their own huddles, and so on and so on. Ideally, the leader is one who has gone through the huddle/discipleship process him/herself. It's the "follow me as I follow Christ" idea. (1 Corinthians 11:1)

Obviously, there's much more to it than what I've outlined above, but you get the gist. From my very first introduction, I felt that I should be capable of leading one of these groups. I mean, I've been a Jesus-follower for almost 35 years now. I've held a lot of leadership positions. But even a quick glance at my life makes me shudder at the thought of inviting others to follow me as I follow Christ? As much as I hate to admit it, I'm still in need of discipling. (Gotta say, it did make me feel better to hear a pastor recently confess to the same need.) Most of my faith journey has been much like a do-it-yourself course - I didn't think I needed anyone to teach me. (I think I've mentioned my long history of fierce independence here before.) I look back with both gratefulness and regret, recalling the multitude of godly people by which I've been surrounded for so much of my life. I could have gleaned so much from them! Sadly, more often than not, I'd either shut them out or worse yet, compare myself to them, criticizing and judging in a feeble attempt to plump up a suffering self-esteem. All on my own (insert tongue in cheek here) I've become a reasonably respected and accomplished worship leader, writer and speaker. No mentor. No classes or courses or instruction, per se. (I'll be the first to admit that there have been many, many wonderful people who've contributed to these accomplishments - it just makes me sad now to think how things might be different if I'd swallowed my pride and fear and deliberately sought to learn from them...)

Which leads me to the title of this post and the quote at the top (in a round-about kind of way):

For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, 
it must come completely undone. 
The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. 
To someone who doesn't understand growth, 
it would look like complete destruction.
~Cynthia Occelli

I have not arrived. I will not arrive until I arrive Home. On the contrary, I'm right in the middle of the messiness of growth and discovery and metamorphosis. I'm feeling "completely undone", like my insides are spilling all over the place, that everything's changing. Again. Still! And that's disturbing. Unsettling. Not comfortable, not familiar, not easy. Sometimes it does feel like "complete destruction". But it's good. Oh, so good. Once again, I get to learn to make peace with that which is not by nature peaceful - change. I can carry the unchanging peace that Jesus offers right into the middle of the fray. 

(I'm hoping that a discipling relationship will come along for me. I still do my share of questioning God's timing, but I know Him well enough by now to rest assured that He will provide what's needed when needed. He's good like that.) 

I know I used this verse just a few posts ago, but I guess I need to be reminded of it again (and again and again...). Maybe you do, too?

...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

Sunday, July 12, 2015

All of Me

Good morning, beautiful friends! Summer has arrived with a vengeance here in the North - it's been above 30 degrees C more often than not over the past 10 days or so (that's 86 F for my southern readers - might not seem like a big deal, but it's a shock to our systems up here!), and the Feltmates are feelin' it... We camped out in the basement for a couple of nights when the temperature in the house was higher than outside, but decided to return everyone to their rooms last night. Long story short - it was a late night; it ended up being well after midnight when, finally, all was quiet on the western front.

But even so, I found myself wide awake just after 6 am this morning. So I rolled out of bed and quietly crept downstairs, so as not to wake my sleeping beauties, and headed out for an early morning walk. (I had been meaning to do this every morning since the kids have been out of school, but this was the first one I'd managed...)

What a delight to be out in cool(ish) air! My mind began to clear of its heat-induced haze for the first time in days. And so, of course, God brought something to mind that He's been prompting me to deal with for some time, which I'd been basically ignoring. (Word to the wise: don't ignore God - it's never a good idea...remember Jonah?)

So here it is. Those of you who know me in real life know that I'm more than a little on the plump side. And have been for most of my life. Add to it the fact that I'm four feet nine-and-a-half inches tall, and we have a pretty serious problem. (If I was five feet nine, I'd be in pretty good shape...) I've struggled with food addiction to varying degrees over the years, and have a strong tendency to be lazy rather than active, and voila the result. One of the main issues in all this is my lack of discipline - I'll make great resolutions, work hard at it for awhile, see some results, and then slide back into my old habits; repeat, repeat, repeat.

I've made some significant progress so far this year - incorporated some healthy lifestyle changes with more consistency than usual - and managed to drop 25 pounds. (I have a long way to go yet, but yay!) I still fall into the cycle mentioned above, but I'm learning to pull myself out of it in a few days rather than weeks or months. But the deeper, root issue remains.

When I started this journey of self-discovery (and thus this blog) five years ago, it was one of the first things I dug up that needed overcoming. I was eating myself to death on purpose, albeit subconsciously, because I hated myself. (You can read all about that here.)  God has done some really fantastic, incredible, awesome healing in my life - for which I'm extremely grateful. But I've noticed traces of that old belief - the lie that told me I was worthless - still clinging to the edges of my mind.

Back to my walk this morning. I had quickly grabbed some clothes and tip-toed down stairs - later realizing that I'd grabbed a more snug-ish fitting shirt than I'd normally wear. I've always had a foolish habit of wearing clothes that are too big - I suppose the vain hope is that if the bulges can't be seen, I can pretend they're not there. But that's exactly what God spoke to me about this morning. I've never seen my excess poundage as a part of myself, but rather a separate, alien, undesirable entity - an enemy to wage war against. (I know, dangling participle...I can deal with it - that's not all I've got that's dangling :) )

It may seem like the most obvious truth in the world, but God loves ALL of me! So I need to learn to love ALL of me! I think this is one major road-block that needs to be dynamited right out of my mind - I can just feel that it will make a difference.

And how about you? What's your issue, your road-block; the insidious, debilitating lie that needs attention, correction, healing? It might be something obvious like your weight - or something less out-there, more hidden, concealed...I dare you to name it, face it, call it out, start dealing with it.

But not in a self-help, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps, I-can-do-this kind of way. Our kind, patient, loving, gentle, powerful Father wants to journey along with us. He paid the price for our freedom - and He wants us to learn to live in it even more than we do! Let's be bold and brave and start living in the freedom we already have!

It is for freedom that Chris has set us free! 
Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves
be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. 
Galatians 5:1

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


I'm kind of slumping today. Expressive word, slump. The definition for this one that most resonates with me today is "to sink into a bog, muddy place, etc...". (I've always liked the word "bog", too) And today I feel like I'm sinking into a muddy bog...of fear. 

Life has been pretty weird lately. There have been some very high highs and some very low lows, interspersed between the expected ups and downs of life as I know it. There are things that are going very well - surprisingly well, in fact. I've had the privilege of leading some wonderful, powerful, beautiful times of corporate worship over the last few weeks; songs continue to burst out of my pencil onto the page; Chris is doing some really transformational work in recording our CD; our family's summer rhythm is coming together, wherein I'm carving out time for writing and study and reflection on a fairly regular basis. All things considered, marriage is good; parenting is good (with the usual speed bumps along the way...).

But now I'm getting scared. What if I can't pull this off? What if I can't keep this momentum going? What if I can't fulfill the mission God's calling me into? What if I just chicken out? Quit. Because some things are hard right now. Really hard - disheartening, discouraging, downright dismal. I feel defeated, deflated. The hard things are tainting all the brilliant, lovely, hopeful things with their ugly shades of brown (I've always rather liked gray). This state of affairs is doing its best to get me to believe that this calling can't be done - at least not by me. 

I guess my biggest fear is that I haven't changed enough. Throughout my life, my overwhelming tendency has been to quit when the going got the slightest bit rough. I so badly want to see this through, but I know myself. There are so many ways that I fall short of my own expectations. Of what I think a "good Christian" should look like. 

But oh - do you see what I'm doing there? I just saw it myself! I'm projecting my own expectations onto God! How silly of me... Of course, God does have great expectations, holy requirements for His children. But unlike myself, He also heaps on oodles of love and grace and power, making it not only possible but wonderful to live life in Him. I keep forgetting that God is for me, not against me; that He's not mad at me; that He's on my side! What a refreshing reminder - thank you, God!

I have another fear, too. I'm afraid I might actually succeed - that this ministry and these songs and stories might get out there and make a difference to someone - and then what? Do I have the necessary follow-through to, well, follow through? Or will I give in to the urge to quit then? Because success is quite as daunting and frightening as failure. 

A beautiful promise just popped into my mind as I was typing those fear-filled words above:

...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

Let's hang on to that one, shall we? 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Saturday Night

Saturday nights have been hard nights for me for a long time - especially when I'm leading worship the next morning...tonight is no exception.

It's not like anything horrible happens, per se. It's just a general uneasiness, a sinking of the spirit - something that makes it easier to believe the lies that are constantly being whispered to my heart. On Saturday nights, I feel like hope has gone out of my world and that it's no wonder, considering who I am and what I've done and left undone. That I'm so utterly unworthy to be up in front of people, declaring what I believe, when I've been such a big fat failure at living it out.

I'm sure this is probably true for most people in ministry leadership, to some extent. Since Sunday's our big day, the enemy works extra hard the night before to render us useless, ineffective. And you know what really adds insult to injury? I often let him - I give in to those feelings, I allow the lies to have their say, I let the doubts fester and grow; which produces more guilt, adding even more fuel to the get the picture.

I was lying on my bed tonight, having just tucked in my boys, waiting for them to fall asleep (and to be nearby for the inevitable "Mom, can I have a drink?" "Mom, I'm hot!" "Mom, I'm not tired." "Mom, how far away is Heaven?" etc...) when the worry goblins started their weekly attack. Bombarded by memories, I started to reinterpret various moments in my past, assuming the worst in each situation and feeling my self-worth plummet (rotten sensation, but a great word...).

After a few minutes, I realized what I was doing. My first instinct was to get some positive feedback to boost my spirits a little, so I posted a couple of lines on facebook, hoping that some encouragement would come from somewhere. But then I realized that that wasn't the answer, either. I eventually wised up and went to the Source. And He reminded me of who I am and who He is - in His kind, gentle, tender, loving way...

So I wanted to document it. My battle, my defeat, His victory. So that when it happens next Saturday night, I'll be ready.

Friday, June 19, 2015


I've been a worship leader for a long, long time - I was eleven or twelve when I took my first steps along the path that has led me to where I am today. It remains one of my favourite things to do. I like the not-so-recently coined term "lead worshiper" - it really embodies what I hope my leading looks like. I love to worship, and as a lead worshiper, I simply invite others along for the ride! Leading others in worship is an act that never fails to fill my heart with joy.

Back in my people-pleasing days, I tried really hard to present a perfect face to the world - a face that was entirely false and fake and put-on; a feeble attempt to deny my pain and depression and doubts and fears and griefs. This habit couldn't help but colour my worship leading - it was happy, happy, happy; praise, praise, praise; God is good, good, good... And while this is certainly an integral part of worship, in refusing to bring my own reality before God, I was denying the people I was leading the opportunity to express their own questions and anxieties, as well.

But all that's changing now. In my journey to uncover and discover (the) real joy, honesty with myself - and therefore with God - has become a top priority. And honestly? I'm a mess. A big, broken, beautiful mess! The real challenge and battle has been learning to love that big, broken, beautiful mess... As I progress along this journey, I've been incorporating the lessons I'm learning into my worship leading. I think the most amazing, most significant, most freeing discovery I've made is that God really, truly, honestly, actually loves and accepts and invites me to come to Him just as I am. With all my baggage, all my qualms, all my wonderings, all my worries - just as I am.

And it's showing up in my song-writing. The more I look and listen, the more dissatisfied I'm becoming with what's currently "in" in worship music. It's still mostly happy, happy, joy, joy. As I mentioned before, there's definitely a place for that - a big place. God deserves all the worship and praise and adoration and glory we can give, and much, much more. And while worship is absolutely about God, we can't help but bring an element of humanity to the equation - it is a relationship, after all. So I'm finding that more and more of my songs (we're up to 20 now!) are "worship" songs that are heavy on coming before God just as we are, bringing to Him all of our burdens and declaring that He is Lord and He is sovereign and He is in control and He is more than enough. (And sometimes acknowledging that we hope all that's true, but we're not always entirely sure.)

Funny thing, though - try as I may (and have), I am unable to write a whole song without any hope in it at all. I've trekked through some pretty rough terrain over the past few weeks, and many of my songs reflect that. But through it all, I've experienced new heights and depths of God's faithfulness and peace and grace. He is good.

(So I guess this is a thing now - since I can't share the finished product yet, I hope this builds your interest without being too annoying... It's just such a delight to me, I have to share it with you!)

Just As I Am
(by Joy Feltmate)

I come to you, Father
Heart battered and sore
Head bowed low, heavy with shame
You spread Your arms wide
You lift my head high
Never again will I be the same

Just as I am, oh just as I am
You love me, accept me, forgive me, redeem me
Just as I am, oh just as I am
I come just as I am

You've taken my sins and You've cast them away
From sorrow to singing, my joy is complete
You make me worthy
You clothe me in grace
As Your child I come and sit here at Your feet

It's because of Your mercy I'm here at Your throne
No longer in chains, hallelujah I'm free!
You've invited me in
You've washed my heart clean
I am Yours, Lord - please take all of me

"Just as I am without one plea
But that Thy blood was shed for me
And that Thou bidd'st me come to Thee
Oh Lamb of God I come, I come"

Just as I am, oh just as I am
You love me, accept me, forgive me, redeem me
Just as I am, oh just as I am
I come just as I am

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Just As I Am

Sunday morning used to be my favourite time of the week. I still enjoy it, but it's not what it used to be (by my own choice) and this transition/adjustment time is proving harder to swallow than I had hoped. However, we keep calm (for the most part) and carry on...

We got to church this morning with a few minutes to spare, so I was able to deliver my boys to their Sunday School classes and find a place in the back corner of the balcony before the service started. My choice of seat was indicative of the condition of my heart as I approached worship. I was tremendously looking forward to witnessing the baptisms of two dear friends, but except for that joyous event, my heart was not really there. Then the worship team came on stage and began to play. Just a few moments in, it became brilliantly clear that I was exactly where I needed to be.

"Come, Now is the Time to Worship" was the first song in the worship line-up - an oldie but a goodie. I've probably sung that particular song a hundred times - maybe more - but today, the third line hit me good and hard, as if I'd never heard it before. The lyric is "come, just as you are, to worship". As I sang those familiar words, I was immediately and simultaneously aware of both the sad, sinful state of my heart and of God's beautiful, redeeming presence as I brought my feeble, half-hearted sacrifice of praise. A holy chill tingled through me, and I knew that God was right there, proving by His presence in that moment that yes, He actually does accept me, love me - just as I am. I went on to experience a wonderful time of worship, my heart filling and overflowing with gratitude and joy in His goodness and grace.

When I started writing this post, I wasn't planning on sharing another song. But there's one that fits here so well, I can't resist. Makes sense, I guess - all these songs are a reflection of where my heart is and what God is doing in my life right now. I'm so thankful for and amazed by His unconditional, unending, unchanging, unfathomable love!

(by Joy Feltmate)

You Father me so tenderly
So gentle, precious, pure
Your love knows no end
My Saviour, my Friend
Your kindness and grace will endure

So beautiful, Your father heart
Such love I've never known
Accepted freely from the start
In Your arms I'm home

Your love so sweet, Your voice so soft
You guide me with Your peace
Your presence I know
You won't let me go
Your passion and care never cease

Your love is high and deep and wide
You call me deeper still
I'm satisfied
Here at Your side
I don't have a need You won't fill

So beautiful, Your father heart
Such love I've never known
Accepted freely from the start
In Your arms I'm home

Tuesday, June 9, 2015


That's Job the man, for whom the 18th book of the Old Testament is named. You know, the guy who had it all, then lost it all, then got it all back again? I find my thoughts drifting to his story when life gets especially hard - when it all piles up and I start to wonder how we'll survive and how long we can stand it and will it ever pass; or when I hear of multiple friends who are trying to keep their heads above water through their own storms; or both...

Job's story is encouraging to me, believe it or not. Not because his plight was so much more dire than my own. And not because he gets back everything he lost - times two. And not because his well-meaning but self-righteous friends were told by God in no uncertain terms to zip it (though that's pretty satisfying)... I love how he's not afraid to question God, to be perfectly honest about his dismay and fear and doubt and confusion and anger and pain. And I love how, after 39 chapters of being silent, God finally speaks. Speaks directly to Job. Interestingly enough, it's not words of love or grace or comfort or peace that He speaks. The string of rhetorical questions that God fires off at Job comes together to paint a compelling picture of God's power, His authority, His supremacy. And that gives me hope.

I mentioned in my last post that God has recently given me a gift for which I've waited and longed for, and for which I'm beyond grateful. It was about a month ago that God gave me my very first song; the tally now sits at 17. (I write that very calmly, but my heart would add "say what?!!!?" :) ) To be able to sing my own thoughts and words and melodies out to God is one of the most beautiful and intimate joys I've ever known. The other night, when life was weighing particularly heavily and it really seemed as though we just couldn't take one more thing going wrong, I sat down with my pencil and notebook, and this is what resulted. It's the first and only song I've written from God's perspective, and it encouraged me so much that I just have to share the lyrics with you. May it give you a bit of hope and peace and joy.

I Will Carry You
(by Joy Feltmate - isn't that crazy?!)

The battle rages fierce
Your strength is fading fast
You can't imagine how on earth
Your faith will ever last

Hope has gone away
Despair and doubt move in
All seems lost, fear smothers joy
Impossible to win

I will carry you
In My arms you'll find rest
I'll be your shelter, be your shield
When you face the test
I will carry you
Your good Shepherd I will be
I will sustain you through the trial
When you come to Me

My power for when you're weak
Grace when you've reached your end
My precious one, My great delight
I have called you Friend

My love will never fail
Child, you can trust My ways
I'll hold you up when you can't stand
Be with you all your days

I will carry you
In My arms you'll find rest
I'll be your shelter, be your shield
When you face the test
I will carry you
Your good Shepherd I will be
I will sustain you through the trial
When you come to Me

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Confessions of a Feedback Junkie

Yes, it's true - I, Joy Feltmate, am a feedback junkie; a praise addict. Admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery, right? I crave encouragement; I revel in kind words; I seek out evaluation; I bask in approval. I've gone to great lengths to get even a drop in that particular emotional bucket.

This certainly isn't a new discovery. I've been aware of this condition for quite some time - even blogged about it way back in 2013 (see "Report Cards" if you're interested). But have you ever noticed that there are some lessons that seem to be set on permanent repeat in your life? This is one for me.

I'm so thankful for God's gracious and patient and gentle dealings with me. It's such a beautiful mystery that He completely accepts me just exactly as I am, but loves me too much to leave me in that state. God has been very kind in allowing me to be surrounded by encouragement and support my whole life. I don't think it's been wrong for me to receive and appreciate feedback - in fact, that's what the body of Christ is for!

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up,
 just as in fact you are doing. 
(1 Thessalonians 5:11) 

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, 
but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, 
that it may benefit those who listen. 
(Ephesians 4:29)   

The instructions in these verses make it pretty clear that an important function of communication is to build one another up - and we can safely assume that it's perfectly acceptable to be on the receiving end of such encouragement. This is a gift from God - the opportunity for genuine community in which we can generously give and and gracefully receive words of blessing. If you find yourself a part of such a circle, embrace and appreciate it!

I'm beginning to discern lately, however, that God wants to take me to a new level of relationship with Him. I've been vaguely aware of little warnings over the years pertaining to the dangers of depending solely on feedback and praise to determine my value and fill my bucket, but I'm sorry to report that they've gone largely unheeded. So this time around, He's led me in such a way as to completely remove me from my current greatest and most on-going source of external validation. It sounds harsh, but it just goes to show how patient and gentle God's dealings with us are - I can see how He's been preparing me for this change and challenge all along, when I look back along my path. Many small, loving nudges and hints and lessons and messages have all combined to ready me for this. I'm seeing now, more clearly than ever before, that He wants to be everything for me - He wants me to look to Him first to fill my bucket! He wants to be my primary source of encouragement, joy, value, hope, strength, direction, satisfaction...everything!  He's been good enough to show me, too, that outside sources of encouragement have not and will not dry up completely. It's just that, before, I was depending on others to build me up, to the point where I wasn't even thinking about what God thinks of me.

But I'm in the joyful process of discovering that God's got this...He's so good at filling my bucket! (Big surprise, right?) It's a little ironic, I think, how God's arranged the circumstances of my life to coincide with this happy discovery - almost everything I do right now is for an audience: this blog, the different pieces of our ministry, my direct sales business...He's so good at knowing what I need and providing it in just the right way at just the right time!

I believe God blesses obedience. In this particular case, He's given me a gift I've been wanting and asking for for years! I've never been able to write a song in my life, and I've always wanted to. In the past three weeks, God's given me four! With more on the way! And it's a credit to His teaching and grace that I have been able to resist the urge to make them public the minute they were written :) I was encouraged to share the first one with a small audience, and that was another blessing - one way God has shown me that He will provide abundant encouragement in ways I never imagined. I'm joyfully anticipating how God will use this new gift; and I'm confident that whatever feedback follows - negative and positive - I'll be enabled to allot it it's proper place in my perspective.

Allow me to offer a few parting words of encouragement - receive them knowing that you are completely loved and absolutely valued and altogether delightful to the One who made you!

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, 
so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit! 
(Romans 15: 13)

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Battle Against Busy

Holy cow, it's May?! Seriously, how did that happen?! My March and April have been particularly full months - full of good things, to be sure, but still very full. I hesitate to use the term "busy" because it has such divided connotations. We lament our busyness, at the same time secretly celebrating it, wearing it as as a badge of honour - comparing schedules, activities and do-to lists, and rewarding the busiest with a mixture of sympathy and awe.

I've been bucking "busy" for awhile now - ever since we moved from Edmonton to Cape Breton several years ago. I didn't work outside the home, homeschooled our boys, baked almost everything from scratch, gardened, and generally swam upstream in a downstream world. It might sound busy, but we had lots of room in our days for exploring interests and visiting family and being outside; time and space to pursue our own priorities.  It was during that time that this blog was born, as well as the dream of building a ministry. In many ways, it was a wonderful, peaceful time in the life of our family. (In several other significant ways, it was a very difficult time, but that's another post for another day...)

Fast-forward a couple of years...we're back in the city now, the kids are in public school, I've recently made a commitment to quit baking (gotta say, it's kind of a relief to be buying bread and applesauce and yogurt and granola bars instead of making everything)...As we've assumed a more conventional lifestyle, we've continued to make decisions that buck the busyness bandwagon: our kids don't take any kind of lessons or play organized sports, I don't have a 9 to 5, outside-the-home job, choosing instead to manage our ministry and do my writing from home. I've recently jumped into the world of direct sales, another choice that allows me to choose where and when and how much I work. (Just a note: I acknowledge that life is different for everyone, and that's as it should be. I'm not trying to brag here or imply that my choices are better or worse than anyone else's - I just want you to know where I'm coming from.)

The determination to battle busy came about as a direct reaction to my past. For most of my life, I was busyness personified. From the time I was in elementary school, my days were jam-packed with school, friends, sports, music, drama, church stuff, and whatever else I could possibly squeeze in. And I thought I liked it that way! I raced from activity to activity, all over town, every day of the week. It was even worse as I got older - my whole university experience is a huge blur as I stretched my time to the breaking point, often forgetting meetings and rushing to write papers hours before they were due. In fact, I think I can blame my sad lack of memories on this particular phenomenon. I have had many wonderful experiences throughout the course of my life, but it seems that it was just too full to keep a record of them.

All this to say, even though I deliberately wage war against "busy", there are times and seasons in my life that fill up more than others, and require a modified method of management. I prefer the rhythm "rest-work-rest-work-repeat", but in certain seasons of life, it becomes more like "rest-work-work-work-work-rest-repeat" (Or maybe "stop-go" illustrates it better? Either way, I think you get the point...) After a comparatively stress-filled, busier-than-usual couple of months, I am very thankful to have spent the last week in relative ease. At first, I thought I was I was indulging in plain old laziness, but quickly came to realize where I was in the pattern of my life. I was being offered an invitation to enter into a time of much-needed rest - and I took it!

And oh! I'm so glad I did! Because the reason I oppose busy is that I firmly believe life is short and wonderful and worth slowing down for, is worth the effort and discomfort of saying "no" to the good in order to say "yes" to the best, and is most fully appreciated and effectively lived out from a place of peace and rest. Did you ever wonder why, in the Genesis account of creation, it keeps saying "there was evening and there was morning..."? I think rest is meant to precede work, that "stop" should come before "go". I don't always get it right, but it's a goal I'm working towards. Rest is not a luxury or indulgence, but an absolute necessity for living fully, living freely, living well.