Love…by Numbers

It was a ‘lightbulb moment’ for me a couple of weeks ago on my drive through beautiful farm country. My mind was drifting to some of the vacation plans we have been making. We are looking forward to reuniting with family and friends on the East Coast of Canada. I haven’t visited in person with my mother-in-law for almost two years. When you’re climbing in age (both of us…LOL), that’s not good! We chat on the phone frequently, but we are both looking forward to some time in the same space where we can take a trip down memory lane over old books, handcrafts and family stories.

The ‘lightbulb’ came on when I was thinking about how long I have known her. We met in the spring of 1977! 40 years ago – that’s a WOW for me. She was an energetic new Christian getting to know people at church. As for me – I was a young, determined person with lofty goals. She was standing behind someone, as if waiting to talk to me. I was impatiently wondering what this older lady needed. (for anyone reading this who know me…UGH…how I wish I could do ‘Dear Younger Me’ – Mercy Me). She wanted to introduce herself and find out some things about me. She told me about her son. Uh oh…

Lest this story become a book all of its own, suffice it to say that her son was invited to church because they have lots of girls…my beloved, being an individual who was very interested in girls – agreed to come. The rest, as they would say, is history. From 1979, she became my mother-in law.

This woman – a more godly person you will never meet. In my youth, I wanted to understand her, even though I didn’t understand myself. When my father-in-law died, I observed her overwhelming hurt constantly. I wanted to comfort her, but didn’t know how. She lived in my house for a few years when our daughters were young. She served at our little church plant passionately, spent time with our girls and blessed everyone she came into contact with – including me. I was broken-hearted when she relocated back to Atlantic Canada. I missed her.

There were some dates and timeframes that blew me away. Dates like our twenty fifth wedding anniversary. I remember as a newly wed helping to plan HER twenty fifth wedding anniversary. It felt ‘old’ – but it was a huge milestone. I was the one receiving a ‘keepsake’ from her to mark the occasion. Another date was our 28th anniversary. My mother-in-law was married 28 years when her husband died. I was beyond grateful to celebrate with my beloved (and continue to do so).

Here it is – the biggest date that I realized recently is that I knew my mom for 41 years before she went home to be with Jesus. I am in my 41st year of knowing my mother-in-law! I think about this every day now and my mind is blown away that this woman waited to meet ME – a young woman who didn’t want to spend time with an older woman. How foolish and short sighted of me. How gracious and kind God has been to me. The meeting at church was life changing. apart from my life in Jesus, my life with my sweetheart is the most significant relationship with which God has blessed me.

I felt this incredibly important marker in my own history is to celebrated. My mother-in-law, apart from my own mother was used by God to change my life.

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Let It Go…

It has been a long while since I sat down to write ANYTHING. I’ve battled with my thoughts and emotions endlessly throughout this bumpy journey called a ‘year’. I have seen God do some incredible things – in particular, my precious husband has had health restored (mostly). This, by itself, is a huge praiseworthy item.

I have seen God provide for us on beautiful Lake Huron in very mysterious ways. When I say ‘provide’, I’m not really just singling out the payment of our exorbitant hydro bills, either (although God has done that). He has provided emotional and spiritual rest. This has been huge in our lives this year. PEACE. Elusive peace. JOY. Unspeakable joy. LOVE. Unfettered and authentic love. I have rested well in His arms. He has provided all that we have needed. I have been restored spiritually and emotionally.

Once I understood that driving with a rear view mirror only will cause the car to crash – I began to clear the fog on the windshield and move forward ever so slowly to a destination of rest in God. But first…I needed to LET IT GO. Whatever ‘it’ might be…it needed to be wiped away so that my front view windshield was clear enough to journey onward.

‘It’ was bound in disappointment, unrealized goals,  broken dreams, unmet expectations, lost plans. And God had to teach me to LET IT GO. When each day would dawn and I realized I was gifted to be together with my beloved in a place where the ‘boundary lines have fallen in pleasant places’ (Psalm 16) I gave honour to God by stepping forward in His plan for the day. I wanted to know Him more. I definitely wanted to make Him more known. This was my focus for each day. Knowing Him. Making Him known. When whispers and doubts crept in…I chose to remind myself of God and His all knowing character. We held each other, while holding on to Him. I worked diligently to LET IT GO.

I have learned that once I chose safety in God, that He was my strength. Only then could I see I could give my battle to God and He would do everything else. No matter what. I could lie down and sleep because in Him alone was there any safety at all. With  sweet surrender, my restoration was completely at the hands of my Creator. However, it was a choice. I had to LET IT GO.

While at the beginning of 2016, my prayer was for God to make my pain count, He graciously responded with daily lessons about surrendering my hurt to Him. The grip I felt  I had on my life was released and placed into the loving hands of the Only One Who could rescue me. So, my precious readers, it’s been a bumpy, joyous journey through this year. As I stand literally and figuratively on the shore, my HOPE for 2017 can be placed in God – who for the past many decades has proven Himself to be always faithful to me. I have LET IT GO  and I don’t want it back! I love my sleep too much.

Matthew 11:28 ‘Come unto me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.’

 

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50 Years of Life in Christ

I am approaching a huge milestone in my life – my 50th birthday as a ‘new creature’. I was a young girl attending a one room school house church in a small fishing community when I was confronted with the ‘good news’ – the best news really – that anyone could possibly know. The gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the news that transforms darkness in our heart into eternal life.

It happened through a Sunday School teacher telling the class about the future when Jesus Christ will come again and take all of us who have decided to follow Him, back to our ‘forever home’ in Heaven. In my young mind – I had not made that decision and what would happen as a result? The teacher told me that I am separated from God forever – and even at my tender age, I knew that was a very, very long time. I didn’t want to that for my life and I decided that same day to become a follower of Jesus.

It was a timely decision considering I made it during Easter season. Understanding why Jesus had to die and that He rose again was a step of faith for me and I was overjoyed that I chose to believe Him and that He sacrificed Himself for me!

I didn’t get to this place as believer by myself – nor have I grown in my faith as a solo act –  there were many ‘thought leaders’ who are unsung heroes of the faith that impacted my life and taught me faithfully. Pastors, teachers, youth leaders all prepared, taught, spoke truth, prayed and lead by example. I was most encouraged to live my faith through the years in order to glorify God, whom I love more now than ever.

Frank and Lorraine Smith – faithfully drove to our village weekly to bring strong Bible teaching to those of us who did not know. This was the foundation for my ability to access the Word of God. They will be richly rewarded for their faithfulness. I loved everything about Sunday School. I did not love having to since a duet at Christmas with their son.

Douglas and Hazel Fraser – who faithfully pastored and lead our city church family for so long were incredible teachers. The amazing charts depicting Daniel, the Tabernacle, the Feast and more were works of art worthy of a museum. The thorough teaching of the Word created a foundation of Bible knowledge like no other for a young person who paid attention. I felt better prepared when my beloved went to seminary than most first year seminary students. We loved the Frasers so much that if either child was a son – they would have born the name Fraser as a tribute to this dynamic duo.

George and Sharon Dow and Wayne and Lois Hunter – the youth leaders who embodied a passion for teaching truth and balancing the youthful need for fun. I never wanted to miss our Bible study sessions or opportunities to serve with our group.

These were the thought leaders of my spiritual life who helped to create my hunger for spiritual matters. While I had other pastors and have listened to many Bible teachers in my life – when I reflect upon my foundational teaching – these are the ones who have established me in the Word.

As a way to celebrate this incredible milestone – I am reading the Bible through in a new plan that has been  a real blessing to me. While I am almost 25 percent of the way through this goal, I am certain that my teachers would rejoice and be glad that my heart’s desire is firmly planted in the Word of God for now and always.

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Groundhogs and Grandsons

Perhaps it’s an obvious answer….but….what do these two unlikely sorts have in common? Not exactly the same birthday, but the same week.

Forty years ago while still in high school (you can easily do the math, I know), a hurricane blew into our small town in New Brunswick. It was infamously known as the Groundhog Gale. It was a life changer, if you recall,  for all of you who might be reading from the Bay of Fundy. Fishing boats (our lifeblood) were destroyed. Homes damaged. Hearts broken.

Not every Groundhog Day yields such ferocity. This year at the Lake House on Huron it was a balmy 10 degrees Celsius. No snow, just teasing sunshine and massive flocks of geese in the farmer’s field nearby.

At the same time, we are planning to converge at the home of our grandson to celebrate this year of teen times. When I think grandson visits, I get busy in the kitchen. Food can be love and this Nana loves her grandson! I think about things to prepare or take along that will be enjoyed at some point during the weekend. Of course, the now expected taco dinner will be augmented with some extra special touches. My mind happily busies itself thinking of ways to demonstrate my love and desire to celebrate this awesome young man.

From the moment we knew he was coming into the world, our hearts grew along with the baby. When he arrived and when his mommy put him on the phone for the first time, we were ecstatic with joy. We are now officially ‘grandparents’ – the name that speaks pure love.

We have been an active part of his life always – and it has been such a privilege for us to be there with him. We have shared so many meals, games, school, holidays – our grandson love tank is overflowing. Our current role is hockey fan. We try to get to as many games as possible and share time with him. Life is simply better when we have a ‘fix’ with our grandson.

We, like so many grandparents, could go on and on about this magnificent young man. We see how he is developing. We interact with him. We are really excited to see what a great guy he is becoming. Blessed beyond words.

Our lives have intersected in so many deep meaningful ways that the bond is very tight. We know that now and always our relationship with our only (we say favourite) grandson is secure. We look forward to seeing what is next – school, sports, church, all of those big decisions that will be made at some point that will, to some degree, redefine him as a man.

We are so thankful for him in our lives. The first week of February is a big week. Groundhog Day and hopes of early spring, grandson day and hopes for the future – and yes, even Super Bowl 50 has its own cachet of hope, I suppose. My grandson loves it – that’s all I know. And that’s all I need to know about that!

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Gold and Silver

There is an old childhood song that goes ‘make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.’ Wise advice for all of us.

Recently, we have been blessed beyond measure with friends, new and old in our lives. some we have met in the past month – while others we met decades ago. (Sounds a bit strange to say ‘decades’). A friend from New Brunswick called us and chatted on the phone. Precious moments to be grateful for all the God has done in our lives. We visited with some new friends locally that blessed us in our time lived in Lambton County. It was special as they wanted to share some vacation time with us. Such an offer of trust! And there were the seminary friends who reached out to meet us for breakfast which became lunch, which became dinner…the investment of time in shared experiences, both joyful and sorrowful.

These are just a few examples – I could name so many that God has recently allowed for us to both look back and reflect and look ahead with anticipation. We sometimes wonder how Heaven will be as we enjoy these wonderful reunions here on earth. We indulge ourselves in the ‘here and now’ and for a moment forget that we will be basking at the feet of Jesus, our best Friend of all.

We were created to be relational. It is one of life’s greatest pleasures as humans. My beloved and I are no exception. How we love to be with people around our table, in a coffee shop, sitting in front of a fire and just letting our friendship grow. Sharing life, love, laughter and tears. It’s been a very rich life for us. We have had the joy and privilege of getting to know so many people.

It’s been said (often by us) that the passage of time is irrelevant in a real friendship. We can see each other every week or once in thirty years and the result is still the same. While a weekly meeting may be shorter in duration, the thirty year pause may need some serious restaurant table rental (as evidenced today). BUT, the warmth, the friendship, the continuity is astounding.

While gold and silver are both very precious – the same can be said of our friends – old and new. They have lifted us, loved us and listened to us and we trust that we have done the same for them. Some were in our life for a season – very special memories. Some were in our life for a reason – lessons learned and life lived. Some, we believe, are in our life for the rest of our lives and that is humbling and we cherish the very thought of such a relationship.

We hope that such a trust between us will be treated as the treasure it is intended to be – safety, grace, mercy, empathy, patience, kindness – to name a few. Our hearts are fragile places and we entrust them to our friends. It is risky business, but it is the right thing to do. We invest in our friends and the investment returned to us is pure gold and pure silver. We are very wealthy. And thankful. And honoured.

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Make It Count

The last page was written in the concluding chapter of the ‘Book of 2015’. It wasn’t an easy book to complete. There was illness, deep pain, sorrow, challenge, and never ending heartache. My beloved and I have never experienced anything like it in our entire marriage. But GOD…was there.

In the valley, He carried us many times when we couldn’t walk. He wrapped us securely in His loving arms of rest when we were so tired we couldn’t speak. He bound up our wounds in His love, when we were in such pain, we were overwhelmed. We fellowshipped with our precious Father through our suffering.

We experienced His Presence like never before. He was with us in every moment. He wiped our tears. He has never given up on us. He spoke words of truth into our crushed spirits.

The Lake House on Huron is our sanctuary where we have drawn aside and rested. We have read Scripture, prayed together, built fires, walked the beach and hosted more people than we can count around our table. Strangers have become friends, friends have drawn closer and we have been surrounded in love. The kind of love that provides life to the weary. A cup of cold water to refresh our parched spirits has been offered.

As a result, we are ready. Ready to continue waiting on God’s direction for our lives. Waiting for Him to teach us today about His mercy and grace. Waiting for Him to lead us toward His glorious plan. But…while we are waiting…and as we close the book on 2015, it is our prayer that God will take the pain and MAKE IT COUNT.

We want to make it count in our growth. We pray it will count as we empathize with others in their time of need. We pray it will count as we love our neighbours enough to tell them about the amazing Good News of Jesus Christ. We want to make it count in our family – appreciating them and loving them like never before.  We want to make it count in our marriage, as we have tenderly supported one another through everything.

We know that God will not waste this pain. We are different people. God has used this time to refine us and bring us into greater conformity to Him. We are very thankful for it all. For every beautiful intruder that has become ours, we give thanks. And we mean it. “He has all things beautiful in His time.” Ecclesiastes 3:10 (New International Version)

We feel fit and healthy to start 2016 in our spirits. God, in His mercy, has nurtured us and we trust in His grace for this day in 2016. While we don’t know what is in the future, we do have great confidence in our God who is with us always.

“I’m not saying I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: by no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward – to Jesus. I’m off and running and I’m not turning back.” Philippians 3: 12-14 (The Message)

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The Protection of a Faithful Shepherd

Thanksgiving in Canada – what an appropriate time to offer thanks for…well…everything. I am so blessed. However, it is an opportunity to express our appreciation to our pastors. The shepherds who must give an account for our very soul. We, the sheep who are prone to wander. What a difficult job – to be a shepherd. He must be with the sheep in the rain or the blistering sun ensuring they are fed and safe from harm – wolves, for example. It is a lonely job. Surely he cannot perch on a hill and test the satellite signal for Facebook or Instagram. Seriously, how many selfies can the shepherd post of sheep safely grazing – even though the peaceful moments under his watchful eye are a beautiful thing to behold in the Church.

Speaking from the personal point of view as a sheep in the fold, I’ve been reflecting deeply about my own growth in Christ through His Church recently. Teaching, preaching, praying… the investment of time that has been poured into me from the pulpit is incredible. I’ve been a believer in Jesus Christ for almost 50 years. I’ve attended churches that proclaim biblical truth for the same amount of time. That is a lot of teaching, preaching and prayer! I am beyond blessed.

For almost two thirds of my Christian life, my beloved has been my pastor. What a special privilege for me. He has poured his study, preparation and prayer into ME! I have flourished under his ministry. I was challenged and chastised. I knew God more as a result of his ministry. I loved God more as a result of his ministry. This sheep was well fed and protected by my beloved under-shepherd.

At the time of this writing he is not a shepherd vocationally, but still cherishes sheep as his most loved pass time. While sheep wander the countryside, his heart reaches out to them to see if they need shelter or food. Do they need a shepherd to guide them? Once a shepherd, always a shepherd, I’ve discovered. His love for sheep has never waned. Always loyal to the Chief Shepherd, he walks about looking for those who need a hand or a hug or his heart. What love for God! A faithful shepherd in his calling from God’s Word – Jesus said: ‘do you love Me? Feed My sheep!’ This was his call. A call he took seriously. A call he prepared for over many years. He only wanted to do his very best for God. His heart’s desire was to preach the Word with integrity and to see lost sheep come into the fold of safety.

It is moving to see his desire continue in his chosen path to this day as he prays for those near and far. He has the scars on his body that tell the stories of wolves, bears and ravens who have tried to attack his flock and he fought them to the point of death. It doesn’t matter – he loves sheep. He dedicated himself to their care and protection and will never give up.

The majority of my Christian life has been lived under his care. I am so much better because of his loving protection and green pastures where he has lead me. I have been nourished and I have grown. This is the shepherd whom I appreciate so much in this time of ‘Pastor Appreciation Month’. He has always lead his flock faithfully to the Chief Shepherd. ‘My sheep hear My voice; I know them and they follow Me. I give them eternal life and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of My hand.’ (John 10: 27-28).

Thankful. Blessed. Nourished. Loved. In Christ, My Chief Shepherd, through His faithful man, my beloved.

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