Thursday, December 31, 2015

Today is the day

At this moment I don't really know what to say, but as I'm contemplating I think of two movies I often see this time of year, and so I say;

so long, farewell, aufedersein, adieu....


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Not Goodbye

So, I've been mulling over the idea of ending this blog for awhile now.

It's not that I don't want a place to share my life and insights.

It's not that I've out grown the platform. Maybe some of the types of posts, but I still love blogs.

It's not even that life is too busy. Well, it's a little that I'm too busy. :)

It's more that I'm already sharing my life and insights so much more in person now, it feels redundant to come here and write it out after I've already told so many people.

It's more that I'm already writing journals for school, writing essays for school, writing posts for my infertility support group, and soon I'll also be writing posts for my Personal Coaching web page as well. I'm already writing. A.LOT.

It's more that I am beginning to think of collecting my insights for a book and feel like my efforts would be best channeled straight into the book rather than having several personal writing avenues.

There may be a few other reasons to stop, and there are a few reasons to stay, but right now this where I feel I am at. So as of December 31, just over eight years after I started this blog, I will say goodbye to Lori In His Hands, but not to you!  Who knows what the future holds, maybe a different blog, maybe a different format all together, but for the most part I think those of you who follow me know where you can find me, and this is not goodbye :)

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Grace Recognized

A few thoughts on what it looks like to truly recognize and embrace the gift of God's grace we've been given.

Joy - It is not joy that makes us grateful, it is gratefulness that brings us joy. Gratefulness for God's grace, sacrifice, mercy, love brings us a joy that surpasses happiness. It's trusting God enough to find ways to rejoice in all circumstances, rejoice because we see how He always takes care of us, and because we are so grateful for all we've already been given.

Love - God loved us first, before we transformed due to His love and grace. And God actually loves our frailty, vulnerability, and imperfection, and He extends this love and grace to every human, and so in recognizing we've only received love due to God's grace for all humans, we should demonstrate His kind of love to everyone, imperfections and all.

Hope - When we recognize God's unconditional and unchanging love for us, shown through His generous gift of grace, we can trust that He will always love us by providing for us, whatever we need. Recognizing this and allowing it to help us unconditionally trust Him gives us a hopeful outlook for our future, on earth and in heaven.

Just a few things that have increased in my life as my ability to see God's grace has increased.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Nothing is Insignificant

Hey! Long time no 'see'!  I have been super busy living life and haven't had a lot of time to squeeze out for things like being here in blogger-ville. A LOT has happened since July so I figure I'm about due for an update :)  Today I'll stick to, mostly, the career updates.

I have been at my new job 5 months now and it's going great. I really enjoy our mission, my co-workers, my hours ;) It's been perfect for me and where I am at in life right now.  I love that God placed on my heart to be completely open here, open about my vision for my future as a Counselor, open about my work/life balance priorities, but most of all, completely open about my faith.  I eventually became fairly open about it at my last job but then again, not with everyone, just certain people. Here I am not watering-down anything, and it's a great feeling. I have a co-worker who is definitely a spiritual seeker and she loves conversations about spiritual things so I have this opportunity with her I have never had before. God has given us hours together in the oddest of circumstances, where we've just been able to talk so freely, and I feel blessed to be part of what I sense God trying to show her.  She actually said the other day, "Have you ever felt someone was brought into your life for a reason? That's how I feel about you working here."  I am certainly feeling the same way!

As for the future career I'm working on, in Spring, as part of my obligation to Employment Insurance, I attended a Career Symposium where I went to two professionals speaking on their careers, one Psychologist and one Life Coach, somewhat bookends to the spectrum of my career possibilities. I found I was actually much more inspired and motivated to seek after what the Life Coach described than the Psychologist! And, right at that moment my school was announcing the end of my Counselling program and it was uncertain whether or not my group of classmates would have the opportunity to finish, and so with that in mind I was looking towards other potential options, none of which looked like they would bring me to a Counselling position anywhere near soon. I had already been disheartened it would take almost another 3 years at least to graduate THIS program! So I looked into Life Coach certification and ended up deciding to go for it! Even if I managed to stay in these classes and graduate no later than 2018 as planned, I thought it would add nicely to my education and experience, and with being able to have my coaching certification completed in September, I could immediately start seeing and helping clients! What timing that this opportunity was shown to me right then!

As the certification weekend in mid-September approached, I actually grew nervous about this decision, wondering if I had taken God's plans into my own hands. I was beginning to feel that cringe in my tuning fork because of expectations I placed on myself, based on my research into how Coaches make a significant portion of their earnings. I was beginning to wonder if I had wasted time and money, this was the uneasiest I had felt about any decision since a year earlier. Actually, just about exactly a year before, that's when my full blown anxiety about staying at my job was kicking in!

And right at that time, September 2014, God started playing a few songs excessively on the radio just for me....I am certain of this because I was hearing 3-4 songs, 2-3 times per day, every work day, in the only 40 minutes of radio time I had per one else was hearing them that much! I wrote about this one song a year ago at my layoff time, The other songs I were hearing had similar messages, "no more counting dollars, I'll be counting stars", "we are stars, we are built for loving", "you're a sky full of stars, such a heavenly view." I knew at that time I wanted to stop chasing the pay cheque I was getting, I was willing to take a risk and do what I was built for, and I am built for loving, nurturing.  I could never quite figure out how stars fit in other than God had been talking to me about being His diamond, one aspect of that being 'like a diamond in the sky.' And the Coldplay song "A Sky Full of Stars" seemed to play the most of all the songs, and it began to feel like God was singing it to me personally.  And at really significant moments in my life over the next 4-5 months. The songs slowed down a little after I was laid off, and I pretty much stopped hearing all of them all together by Spring 2015. But they had given me hope the 2 months I waited to be able to leave my job, and it helped me feel like God was doing something in it all, whether I knew what that was or not. They became comfort songs.

So, back to September 2015. By the time I walked through the door of my classroom to get my coaching certification, I was managing my expectations of what I would get out of this. My thoughts were, I will probably get a few useful tools, re-affirm what I'm learning in counselling, and get a piece of paper that will help my credibility in whatever steps I take after that weekend. I got there early, like I always do, and the instructor was still preparing but welcomed me in. As I sat down and settled in, I heard that he was playing a CD, not sure if it was for himself or us, but it was the newest Coldplay CD and the next song that came on was "A Sky Full of Stars!" I still get choked up thinking about it! The realization that God was still there with me in this step, that it wasn't as far off course as I thought, and in fact this confirmed for me I was RIGHT ON course. He had been pursuing me with hope for my future with this song for exactly a year and He brought me to the place He had in mind for me all along. I learned that weekend nothing is insignificant.

Not only that, but I had two other Ah-Ha moments that weekend. The first was when we were in groups practicing using the tools, I selected a fairly tame goal for myself, losing weight, but of course these tools help you uncover obstacles we create for ourselves and my self-sabotage in this area came to light. Suddenly the woman coaching me stopped and said, "This is off script, but why does your weight effect your happiness so much? I've only met you a few hours ago, talked with you for only an hour, and you are one of the most genuinely happy people I have ever met. Seriously, it shines through so much that your eyes sparkle, and it makes you so beautiful! I don't know any skinny people who are happier than you are, who radiate like you do! So just let yourself be happy as you are!" Honestly, it was a moment where I'm sure God just took over her mouth and preached to me a wake up call I really needed, it hit home to the reasons I self-sabotage and it resolved instantly a lot of my emotional eating. Seriously, ever since that weekend I have done so much better loving myself the way I am and not needing to resort to comfort foods nearly as much!

The second thing was my inner battle on how much of my spiritual life to bring into my career. I certainly want to be free to talk about my faith, be able to bring God into it because He is the only reason I have come to my own place of healing, yet I didn't want to alienate someone from seeing me because they don't share my beliefs.  I was already beginning to fill my future website with information about my coaching and was back and forth what to include about spirituality. Then, my coaching trainer started dropping little spiritual hints, using analogies from Scripture, using Proverbs, and turns out he was a former Pastor!  And over the length of the course, he became more and more open about how his life, his coaching, and his wellness had a strong spiritual aspect. I realized, if this Master Coach who does high level executive and corporate coaching, who is one of the lead trainers for my association, could be this open about his faith without showing fear of ramifications in a secular venue, so could I. I thanked him so much for his spiritual authenticity and how inspired I was by it, and I look forward to continued mentorship from him!

Those short 16 hours showed me just a few of the ways God has been working all along to bring me to this place I am in right now, which is simply a place of such fulfillment and joy!  I've barely even started, but the dreaming and planning have been so exciting, and now I have myself 3 'practicum' clients, and even in just the first few meetings I am so indescribably happy for my opportunity to help them!  I put the call for clients out there and trusted God would bring me those who I needed and who needed me.  He's given me surprising people yet once I hear their story and can see the harmony in us working together, it is not surprising at all. It's a little unbelievable this is my life, especially when I think of where I was at one year ago.

Nothing is insignificant.

Monday, August 10, 2015


You have probably heard by now the Scripture that speaks over us, we are God's masterpiece, a treasured work of art. This weekend I read, in my new favorite book, "Love Does" by Bob Goff, a whole other level of this analogy, and it was just too amazing not to share. Here is my (teensy bit paraphrased) summary.

Bob fell in love with a painting in a gallery he walked by frequently. It really spoke to him about God and his own picture of his life with his family, he really loved it, but it was 4 times the value of any of his last 4 vehicles. So he saved up for a whole year to purchase this beloved painting. As he finally made his purchase, the curator handed him two paintings, and they looked identical!  

"What do I need two paintings for?"
"Well, ze one on the left is ze real one. It's museum qualeetay. It's very expensive, almost priceless. You don't want to hang ze original where it might get damaged, so you put ze original in a vault. Zis other one, however is ze fake one and iz ze one you put up on the wall for everyone to see."

Well, which of the two paintings do you think he put up on the wall. Bob understood why the guy at the gallery wanted him to hang the fake one and hide the real one, damage to the real one would be a huge loss, it was as Bob put it, 'not long for this earth, rare, one of a kind, irreplaceable.'  But that's exactly why he wanted the original on his wall.

So he hung it up, perfectly framed by two windows where he the sun comes up over the waters in colours to beautiful to be real. Fitting. Then one morning as he sat in his favorite spot that overlooked the two windows and the original painting he looked up and his jaw dropped. The night before there was some typical family chaos going on, no one recalls doing the damage, but the painting in fact took a hit. That was awhile ago now, and every morning he still does his usual routine, sits in his favorite chair, and looks at his favorite piece of art, still taken by its beauty. He doesn't even notice that it's damaged anymore, he's not mad or disappointed about it. The reason is simple: it reminds him fondly of his kids. He sees his kids engaged in life, he sees all the mischief, the whimsy, and the spontaneous combustion that is their hallmark. Truth be known, he likes the original painting even more now.

There are times in life when we've gotten into mischief, taken chances, taken some big risks. In the process, sometimes we've let people down or it didn't go well. We've taken some damage.  But after that painting got hit, Bob realized, God doesn't think any less of us when things don't go right. Actually, it's more likely He plans on it. What God doesn't plan on is us putting a fake version of ourselves out there to take the hit. God is the master artist and made an original version of us, a priceless one that cost everything to create. A version that can't and won't be created again.

God asks us to hang that version of ourselves for everyone to see. Despite our inherent beauty, each of us is tempted to hide the original so we won't get damaged. It's obvious to see why. But the fake version of us is not worthless, it's just worth less. Because it's a copy, a version we don't care about as much, it's like a stunt double standing in for us, yet we're telling the world this is the best we've got, the best we'll risk. 

But our value, as the masterpiece, is not because of the beauty of canvas, we have infinite value because of who created us, God, the master artist. The best we can muster on our own is a fake.  God asks us to leave the cheap imitations in the closet. That doesn't mean he's saying that when you hang the real one out there - the priceless one - that things will go great. It's pretty clear from watching Jesus' followers that when you risk the real you, you'll probably take a hit. God did when He hung Jesus out there. But the thing is, when we take hits, and we will, God isn't going to think less of us. He's still going to go to His favorite spot to look upon His original masterpiece, and He loves us, damage and all.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Follow Me

I have been trying to explore what discipleship means in this day and age, what it means for me specifically.  I'm the kind of person who starts by creating a foundation of understanding in how something is defined. Discipleship is defined not only as a follower of God, but also a supporter of, a devotee of, a witness to, and a student of God.

The last two definitions in particular resonate with where I am at. How can I keep my testimony relevant if I am not learning more and more about God? If I am not experiencing Him in fresh ways in my life?  There are thousands of characteristics of God, if I am not learning about, experiencing, Him in new ways then it's because I'm not trying.

I have felt the pull to become a student in more than one ways these days, and this curriculum I'm finding is a lot like my Counselling studies, they need to be hands on, experiential. I need to be God's apprentice. Apprentice - to bind to a master artisan for instruction.

To me, discipleship has come to mean connecting with God, to understand Him better, which will lead me to receive His instruction better. But I think that's only a secondary benefit to knowing God, His ultimate heart is to connect with us for relationship sake.  God is always trying to use new things to show us another side of Himself, to become intimate with us on a whole other level.

Take for instance, waltzing.

Almost 3 years ago I was blessed with some newer friendships with women who experienced God tangibly, through very realistic visions.  Back then I mentioned here some life changing moments they facilitated in my life, like this vision and this vision, God had been responding to my choice to seek Him out in new ways, showing me sides of Himself I longed to know better.  Then suddenly, out of the blue, He chose to reveal a part of Himself that I hadn't even asked for.


One day at Church, as I was worshiping, I began seeing my own version of a vision my friend had shared, Jesus sitting on His heavenly throne, being worshiped by a sea of thousands, I being just one of those. I was far, far away from Him but yet still so in awe of His glory I could feel it even there. Then, suddenly I saw Jesus walking through the crowd, right in front of me, making His way through them, towards me. I could touch His robe, I still remember what it felt like. He looked like the earthly version of Himself, not the heavenly one that glowed so brightly moments before. And then He took me in His arms and we started waltzing.

While perplexed, I let the moment happen and just savored it. These types of visions are few and far between for me, I had wished dozens of times the visions I heard from my friends were mine, and this was mine, so I basked in it. It didn't matter why.

But now, two years later, as I contemplated discipleship, this moment spontaneously came to mind and suddenly it did matter why. I am just the kind of person who sometimes gets burdened by the why, and when I do, I need to figure it out. So I examined why God could possibly have wanted to connect with me through dance.

I DO have a desire to dance, I love dancing and find myself constantly moving when the right rhythm comes along. But it isn't a huge part of my life, I can't even full on dance when no one is watching, never mind LIKE no one is watching. Unless I'm not alone. I suddenly have the freedom to dance if I am not the only one I know on the dance floor. Growing up Mennonite, dancing was not encouraged, and I danced maybe a handful of times by my grad. I never dated anyone who liked dancing, only had 2 friends for most of my young adult life who would go out dancing with me. There has been only one time I've even danced with a guy using more movement than just a mere sway.

This one time was with my guy friend, who happened to be gay, so he didn't just dance next to me, he danced with me, swinging me all around the dance floor and it gave me this inexplicable feeling, this wave of femininity washed over me. There is just this mysterious chemistry that happens when a man and a woman dances, I've seen it in others many times before, but never experienced myself. But because he was gay, he and I were able to simply embrace it without any burden of a deeper meaning. And now, married to a non-dancer, I have never felt that particular chemistry or particular femininity ever again.

Weird, right? No one else in my life has ever been able to give me that feeling in any other way. I don't know what it is about a twirling twosome that elicits a womanly essence . Maybe it's all the Disney princess movies? Yet I've seen it in little girls who haven't ever watched Disney.

Or maybe it's a desire God has planted in females for some reason.

I am inclined to believe the latter since a couple of times in the last 2 years God has taken me for a spin on the ballroom floor of my mind during worship at Church.

After examining the whole experience, I see now He was blessing me for pursuing Him in a brand new way. For opening my mind to who He is, not who I want Him to be. And I think He was redeeming my one encounter with femininity of that kind. If I had not been open to getting closer to God, connecting to Him in more and more intimate ways, I maybe would have just dismissed that first waltzing worship, maybe even been embarrassed by it, shut it down because I grew up with dancing as 'bad'. But it turns out, God is a complete gentleman who wants to embrace me as we glide around to beautiful music, in step together, like only dancing can do. He wanted to meet a need I didn't even know I had, a desire to dance, a desire for a different kind of intimacy between man & woman. And, in a brand new way He spoke to me the same ancient lesson.

Follow me.

And so I've added this to my growing list of lessons on the character of God. And my discipleship has grown ever stronger for it the last few years.  Just a few weeks ago He showed me even more about the harmony of life with Him. Our life with Him a song, a dance. A song I can't get out of my head, or my heart, and I look forward to the many new verses I will discover until we finally dance again in person.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Never Imagined

I have the kind of personality that imagines.

Imagines in a good way. 

Like I just had fun water painting this.

Imagines in a bad way. 

When a potential scenario, no matter how bad, enters my mind I have to imagine it to prepare myself, somewhat - as much as possible, for the possibility it actually happens. 

I have imagined never having kids.

I have imagined Sean dying.

If there is one thing I have feared even more than those two sad, sad scenarios, it is losing a child I finally have. I haven't even been able to bear fully imagining that situation. 

But one thing I never imagined is attending the funeral of an 18 month little boy. 

I don't even know how this is really happening, I can't even begin to imagine how his parents are feeling. 
No matter how difficult the things I imagine, nothing is as difficult as reality.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Fellowship of the Burning Heart

God IS love.

Let’s break that down first.

I’m going to start with defining the kind of love God is.  Some people may think only Agape love (unconditional, charitable, selfless, committed) applies to God’s brand of love, but remember, God doesn’t merely HAVE love, He IS love, so He encompasses all types of love, Philia (brotherly or friendship affection), and Eros (intimate or romantic) as well. The best way to describe that kind of love is like a burning love. When fire is unleashed it does not hold anything back, it is all-consuming and fiery, it is intense, it is unwavering, and it is bold. That kind of burning love is wholehearted, it is powerful, passionate, perpetual, and profound. When consumed with burning love, there is no part of being that goes untouched, it is the essence of heart, mind, body and soul.

Love doesn’t just consume God’s heart, it IS the heart of God, the core or essence of God. God’s entire being is burning love. And if God IS love, then love IS also God! All that defines burning love can be applied to God, but also, authentic love also has the qualities of God; it is eternal, it is unceasing, it is infinite, and it is perfect. Another way we can see God and love are indivisible is through the Trinity. As the old saying goes, love isn’t love until you give it away. Love demands expression. Which is why God is one essence, or nature, expressed in three persons, where this burning love can be, and is, shared within the Trinity. 

This is the beginning of the Fellowship of the Burning Heart.  But God didn’t stop there, the joy of this burning love shared in the Trinity compelled the triune God to create beings who could also share their love, who could share the experience of the resulting joy. The expression of love doesn’t demand sharing on a small scale, it requires to be shared AND multiplied. 

For God so loved that He created the world.  

He loved us before we even knew Him. He loves us with the burning love He has for the Trinity (John 17:23). He loved us first, offering us a perfect love to respond to. And when that wasn’t enough... 

God so loved the world that He sacrificed His only Son.

The Son He loves intensely, with burning love. Because He loves us intensely, with burning love. All this so that we could participate freely in the Fellowship of the Burning Heart.  What we call salvation is really an invitation to participate in the Fellowship. God is searching for those who desire to participate.


Because God did not create humans to be passive recipients of love, but to be part of a fellowship where the love we have for each other consumes us. 

Because God doesn’t ask for anything that He hasn’t already given wholeheartedly.

There are so many ways we are privileged to participate in the Fellowship of the Burning Heart!

Delighting in beauty.
Passion for our purpose.
Loving others.
Loving yourself.
Loving God.

A heart on fire for God has a whole new meaning now!

Imagine my surprise when I picked up this book (Growing in Prayer, Mike Bickles) and started reading this amazing perspective on relationship with God, only to find, I had already branded myself as part of the Fellowship 20 months ago! Yet another layer of meaning God has given me for this tattoo!

Awhile ago I was journalling and asked God more about my purpose, He told me I was His walking billboard, advertising His love, beauty, grace, and joy through my testimony. At the time, it didn't occur to me that He also may have meant this literally, but it makes sense because I have always seen my tattoos as a part of my testimony, etching in significant lessons God has taught me so I never forget but also as a conversation starter. 

So here I am, a walking billboard for the Fellowship of the Burning Heart!

Monday, June 8, 2015


In my devotional I was readying in Colossians 1 about Jesus' role of bringing harmony to the universe, it's been His job from Genesis, through His time on earth, and through His second coming, perfect harmony being achieved with Him in eternity someday. That brought to mind something a friend once said, that God showed her all existence is like a song (she's a musician), and we talked about how even stars have been recorded as making a humming noise. So when I read that God showed me that all of creation is like one long song, every part of creation is a part of that song (or maybe even symphony!) a bar, a note, pitch, an instrument, every thing that it takes to play that song is a piece of creation. Even in nature, our instruments are created from inspiration of winds, reeds, beating rhythms, etc. And it's one language you will find in every culture, that has this inexplicable ability to move people more than just words alone, lyrics set to music have what my musician friend deems 'magic.' And so, when it comes to harmony in this world, my purpose, your purpose, everyone's purpose plays a part in bringing about that harmony, and so Jesus is even more intent on using His every resource to bring about His purpose for us, more intent than we are, because without our purpose being fulfilled ('our' being His children) then there isn't harmony with the purpose of all creation. I've discovered a new appreciation for His timing, because think of how important timing is to make music sound good, to sound in harmony, it takes each piece fulfilling it's purpose in PERFECT timing. But also each piece must be cooperative, must accept alignment, must choose unity. And when we achieve harmony in music, think of how beautiful it sounds.

God gave me a picture during our Friday morning prayer group a couple of weeks ago of a tuning fork, that the Holy Spirit works in us like a tuning fork, He reverberates within us and the closer we pay attention to His tune, the more we can feel when we are in alignment, in or out of tune. When we are out of tune it's like clashing off-key notes, it makes you cringe and recoil, you just know it's not right but even more than that it's painful to listen to. When we are in tune it's not only harmonious, it's peaceful, it's sweet-sounding, like a beautiful song you don't ever want to end. I've been trying to remember that when seeking God, when I need answers, I strike the tuning fork and wait for the vibrations to show me pain or peace. So when I read in my devotional last Thursday about Jesus' purpose as a harmony maker, it made SO MUCH SENSE!

So then, I think, eternal life, that must be what perfect harmony is, because that is Jesus' end game, life with all of creation made new in His kingdom. So, why does it seem there is less and less harmony in the world, and not just in the world, in Churches even. Isn't that how music works, the more you work at it the closer you get to it sounding perfect? But God showed me through the tuning fork analogy, God is also the tuning fork, not just as the Holy Spirit inside each believer, but a cosmic tuning fork, and He has been slowly increasing how strong the tuning vibrations are, the stronger the vibrations the clearer it is who is in tune/alignment and who is out of tune/alignment. The vibrations are increasing in strength the closer to the end times, because before, and even now, it is easy for people to hide their misalignment with God, there are so many Christians who think they are following God, but are not, and a lot of us can't see the difference. So as the season draws nearer, there is actually less harmony as those who are out of tune are exposed, and they have a choice to make. We live in a world where there is the appearance of grey, but really all there is, is black and white. It is like salt and pepper thoroughly mixed together would appear grey, with maybe some spots more white or more black, but if you sifted them properly they would separate and there would only be white and black. God's tuning fork vibrations are sifting us to make it clear there is no grey. Those who are out of tune and want alignment with God will have choose to get into harmony. Some won't feel in tune with Him and in fact the true God's tune can sound harsh and sour, a sound that's painful for them to listen to, so they cringe and recoil. So they will choose discord. The vibrations are driving every human to either choose white or black, they shake the grey choices out of existence, and so we'll in fact see less and less harmony/peace/unity in the world as the grey becomes black, and the black becomes blacker. But we should also see some grey becoming white, and the white becoming whiter. The white WILL be more harmonious, there will be more unity and peace in the Churches that are in alignment with God.

I am so blessed that God keeps bringing these revelations to me when I'm intentional about spending time with Him, and confirms them through other things He's been showing me. Well this one keeps getting more and more confirmation. I went to a garage sale on Saturday, held by the woman who leads my Friday morning prayer group, she was selling books so I knew I had to get in on a deal on books she has previously read! One of those books I actually picked up for a friend, a take on postmodern evangelism for a friend struggling with being taught 'street-corner' evangelism, and it was equated to a dance, which she is a dancer! But I decided to flip through it first and in the introduction he wrote this: "The Gospel comes to you, not like a commercial, but like a song. It sneaks up on you and then sneaks inside of you. Somewhere in your journey through life, you begin to hear this song whose music captures your heart with its rhythm, melody, ambiance and glory, and you begin to move to its rhythm. Overtime your whole life begins to harmonize to the you resonate with its tone and flow with its melody. The lyrics gradually convince you that the entire world was meant to share this song with its message, its joy and its dance. This is why you begin to feel the song and live by it." More Ready Than You Realize - Brian McLaren. Wow! And he wrote that in 2002! And God wasn't done yet! A song came on the radio yesterday that He touched me with a few weeks ago, I had heard it for the first time right after prayer group, a particularily touching time that spurred me on to seek more of God in a new way. Yesterday the words hit me in a new way...

Amen, Amen
I'm alive, I'm alive
Because He lives
Amen, Amen
Let my song join the one that never ends
Because He lives

Because He lives
I can face tomorrow
Because He lives
Every fear is gone
I know He holds my life my future in His hands
Matt Maher - Because He Lives (Amen) Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Harmony. As I learn so much about His idea of harmony, I receive more and more of it flooding my life in beautiful, sweet-sounding ways. And I want to feel the song more and more, live by it, and dance in its joy!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

My Two Dads

Well, I stole the title from an old 80's sitcom, but the concept of multiple parents is far more common these days, and children in shared custody bear a striking resemblance to anyone who has struggled in spiritual teenage-hood.

So, we have the step-father, the father of lies, the one who lets you have fun, lets you do anything you want, no consequences, no limits, no discipline, no learning or earning maturity. As the spiritual teenager, rebellious, and not equipped yet to make the right choices, we want to refuse to give up all the 'fun' stuff. We can't see the long term benefits over the short term gains, we want what we want and we want it now.

Then there is the Father who conceived us, longed for the day we were born, and birthed us in His Heart. The one who loves us enough to die for us. The one who loves us too much to let us destroy ourselves with indulgence and entitlement.  Our Father who created us to be wholly perfect in His love, in His family, where we share ourselves in order to better love one another.

It pains our Father to see us not with Him at all times, He mourns the disconnection, but also the toll it takes on our lives to live with the step-father. But. He also knows that it is in our nature to want the best of both worlds, and so He allows this joint custody of us here on earth. He knows we need to discover what it's like to continue living under the step-father's roof, without the severe consequences of actually having to live with him full time yet. And He always offers the safety and stability for our reprieve when the chaos of that freedom gets too much.

It doesn't matter what age we are at, we can stay stuck in spiritual teenage-hood well into our adult years. What we may have learned maturing into adulthood hasn't yet translated to spiritually growing up. In fact, some of the ways we learned to cope with growing up, we now think we need them in order to be self-sustaining adults. But the point is that we'll never be successful at self-sustaining long term, we were created to be sustained by our Father. Yet, if we don't learn this, our coping with self-sustaining often turns from mere coping into an addiction to self.

And He understands, He knows how hard cold turkey is. In a way, earth has also become our rehabilitation home, an opportunity to restore us to the healthy, wholly perfect beings our Father created us to be. He would love to just rescue us, and take us into His eternal home instead, but it is a home that can only admit perfection, and He knows we can't go from where we are at to maintaining an expectation of perfection. Not without His help. So He compromised, He gave us another home, His Temple, where we can fully access Him, without the expectation of perfection.

As we learn what grace looks like here with Him, the desire to run away to gain freedom will lessen, and the desire to dwell here permanently, in true freedom, will grow. Once we understand our double-mindedness and make the choice to abide with our Father, we don't earn perfection, but we accept and receive the gift our Father has had for us all along, His covering of perfection. When we finally make that choice, we want to live with our Father forever, our earthly health may not yet be fully and wholly restored, but our inheritance is! In that moment we are welcomed into His eternal home, His children once and for all.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Joyful Jogger

Over the years I've documented here my struggle to make wellness a lifestyle, trying not to treat balanced eating and more activity as a punishment but a choice I embrace. It has been very difficult as I don't not have a natural affinity for it, nor an upbringing in that lifestyle, but I have realized one thing and that is my attitude towards it makes a world of difference.

When I picked up jogging again last summer I passed quite a few other athletes on my favored path, one obvious observation was that they were much better than me, not that it concerned me, but one thing I observed did.

They all looked like they were not enjoying their run.

They looked like I felt.

And it struck me, I don't want to be out here looking like I hate this.

To me it stands to reason that if my emotion indicator (face) appears as if I hate this, then maybe to some degree my subconscious will receive that is how I feel.

And I don't hate actually hate running. I hate that right now it's hard because I've abused my body with food and neglect. I hate that I waited so long my bones and joints are more resistant to impact and pressure at this age. I hate that I would rather have food than any other reward.

But I don't hate running.

Now I realize that a lot of runners have a look of concentration, or determination, some maybe in pain, and some may actually hate running but have their own reasons for doing it anyway. And I'm not a proponent of fake it until you make it. I don't want to run with a smile as part of a facade where I'm not being real with people.

Rather, I want to run with a smile on my face because I want to be joyful in every circumstance.

I've learned over the last year that joy is not an emotion, it is a choice.

It's like love is a choice. Love is associated with a lot of emotions but they don't define love for me, the closest thing to a definition of love I believe is devotion. And devotion is an action, not a feeling, and therefore it is a choice.

Like joy. Joy is associated with a lot of emotions but the best definition I've heard of joy is actually from the Greek term used in the Bible, it means grace recognized. It means I have joy because I choose to recognize how much I have been spared, how much I have to be grateful for.

I want to run out of that gratefulness that I CAN run, no matter how slow, no matter how painful. There are many, many reasons I've come to understand why I should be grateful I can even walk, never mind run.

Being joyful about running doesn't mean that it isn't hard, that I don't dislike parts of it, but it's a lot like life, life is hard, and I don't like parts of it, but I am so grateful I have the life I have.

So, how do I maintain that smile on my face while my knees and hips ache, my calves tighten up, and my lungs want to give up?  Well, since I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, one of the ways I enjoy my run is to listen to revved up worship music - there is actually worship music available that speeds up the tempo so that it's upbeat enough to run to. So I run to songs that sing to me phrases like:

You make me brave No fear can hinder now

Breaking chains that were holding me

You have made my burden light You have brought me back to life again

You are with me in every step that I take

Tune our hearts into Your beat. Where we walk, there You'll be.

You healed my body and You made me new

We are more than conquerors

All I have is yours, every single breath

The song he heard gave him hope and strength to carry on

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Secret Spirit Language

Have you ever wondered why it is you can have conversations with other Christians that really deepen your hunger for truth, they give you revelations and insights seemingly straight from God? You get filled up just talking to them and you leave them feeling like you've encountered God?

Have you wondered why it is you can have conversations with other Christians and it leaves you wondering if you are speaking the same language? Wondering if you even know the same God?

I have noticed this a lot lately in the last 30 months, more so especially in the last year, and the former I just started to call them Holy Spirit moments.  After all, "For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst."  I love those moments.

Last week in my devotional time God revealed to me more about this amazing concept. He showed me it is like the Trinity speak their own secret language, that language is the language of truth, ultimate truth, all-knowingness.  And we, like anyone learning a new language, are able to recognize it and understand it the more we are exposed to it.

The first step to learning a language is to spend time in a community where we are exposed to people speaking the language. In this case, spending time with Godly people in tuned with the Holy Spirit.

The next step is to practice speaking in, and listening to, the language. To be able to learn the Secret Spirit Language we need to practice speaking to God, developing our prayer life, but not just talking to God, talking with God, taking the time to learn to listen and recognize what He's saying.

And another way to help learn language is through comprehension; reading, writing, and having dialogue. This is more than just reading the Scriptures for knowledge sake, it is reading communication directly from the creator of the Spirit Secret Language Himself, and we read it to gain familiarity with the language of truth. Truth is a difficult language so it helps our development to journal or discuss our understanding of what we have learned.

So, as I have grown in my understanding of the Spirit Secret Language, I have found others who are also proficient in this amazing language! We find ourselves slipping into this deeper dialect naturally, realizing as we talk that there is a connection beyond ourselves happening, and the amazing thing about the language of truth is that our awareness of truth expands the more we are immersed in it. And then there are other people, and they can't seem to understand what we're talking about, it's like they are hearing gibberish. Or maybe more like seeing sign language, it is in English, which they should be able to understand, but the way the language is being communicated they just can't understand.

I am so in awe of this and it has made me so eager to delve into learning more, in every way I can.  I seek out more opportunities to be in the company of other SSL enthusiasts, and reading Scripture and praying are a whole new experience. I have always been a big fan of secret codes and the idea of being multilingual, I am so excited to take my language skills to another level!

After this revelation, God then hammered the point home with having me come across several Scriptures the last few days, but this one captures it perfectly so I will share it in it's entirety.

1 Corinthians 2:1-16
When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan. 2 For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness—timid and trembling. 4 And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit. 5 I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God. 6 Yet when I am among mature believers, I do speak with words of wisdom, but not the kind of wisdom that belongs to this world or to the rulers of this world, who are soon forgotten. 7 No, the wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God—his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began. 8 But the rulers of this world have not understood it; if they had, they would not have crucified our glorious Lord. 9 That is what the Scriptures mean when they say,
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” 
10 But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets. 11 No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. 12 And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us. 13 When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths. 14 But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means. 15 Those who are spiritual can evaluate all things, but they themselves cannot be evaluated by others. 16 For, “Who can know the Lord’s thoughts? Who knows enough to teach him?”
But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Wellness Wednesday

Well, my sabbatical from working is nearing it's end, I am more than half way through, and there is the possibility of a job soon, I am one of the short listed candidates so we'll see, I could be working very shortly!  I was sitting enjoying a quiet, contemplative moment and started taking stock on how much this time has meant to me, and how much my health and well-being has improved from this reprieve. So I thought, I should really document this, hopefully not because it will be the only time I'll experience it all, but to inspire me to stay feeling this great!

One of my first orders of business was to start running consistently again, I have a marathon in June I want to run but also I wanted to prove to myself work was not just an excuse :) I wanted to strengthen the self-discipline muscle so that by the time I had to start working again running would be an enjoyment and I would want to prioritize it to keep it in my busier schedule. Other than the weeks I was sick and the week between Christmas and New Year's I have run minimum 90 minutes, and aimed for 135 minutes every week. Recently I've tried to up that a little to get more stamina and endurance, as I'll be trying to run more than double the length I've been currently running in the marathon.  I haven't lost weight but I definitely feel stronger, I have better stamina, I have better cardiovascular strength, I don't get winded as easily, all great improvements!

Another top priority for me was to make a new meal plan. In the fall I had been studying more about food, both from a spiritual aspect and furthering my knowledge of nutritional needs, and also wanting to try to lower our food budget, not to mention keep the meals easy morning, noon and night so I don't feel the need to rely on faster foods when I'm back to work. I have finished it and have felt very good on it. As I said, I haven't lost weight, I haven't fully implemented this plan yet and I've been a bit indulgent since my year of forfeiting food luxuries is up, plus eating out a lot when I've been socializing during this time off. But, I'm trying to reign myself back in starting this week so I don't suffer shock if I end up back to work in a few weeks.

I think I've mentioned over the years, and the last few months before my layoff, about the chronic neck and back pain I deal with, and have most of my life, but especially in my last position. I was to the point I was going to physio for the first time in my life, in addition to monthly chiropractor and massage therapy. One week after my layoff my physiotherapist already saw enough improvement he suggested I wait a month and decide to come back if needed then. I haven't returned. I still have attended my other monthly appointments, but haven't felt in dire need of them the few days leading up to them as I have for years. I still have a few moments of stiffness and achyness but my back has not been this good since my last layoff in 2006!

Another thing I chose to focus on during this time was keeping a schedule and staying well rested, not treating this time off like I would a vacation. I go to bed the same time as Sean, get up the same time as Sean, and have done a few other things to add to improvement of my sleep. I have noticed I have not needed coffee to stay awake like I was keeping the same schedule working....except school nights :) I hardly wake up or toss and turn through the night anymore. All without any medication I might add, in case that's what you thought I might have added, which the main thing I did is wear a sleep mask to keep out the light! I think also, the lack of having stress to tumble through my brain has made for less restlessness.

An unintentional change I decided to make was creating a better skin care regimen. Being a larger woman I experience stretch marks and especially in winter the dry, itchy skin I get around them can be quite bothersome. I decided I should take much better care of my skin so that I could minimize that, but also to maybe help improve appearance and texture. It's amazing what a difference you can feel about your body when you have soft, supple skin :) I researched quality soaps & lotions for a decent cost, made my own all natural & edible exfoliant, and created a routine that was not a lot of extra time in the shower. I created my own mixture of hand repair lotions too for my dry hands and poor cuticles and weak nails and my hands are doing great this winter!

Another unexpected benefit has been that I've needed my glasses less the last few months. My glasses are only necessary because I have one slightly far sighted and one slightly near sighted eye, they conflict when trying to read or look at writing on screens, they even said for watching t.v. when I got them at 15. So I wear them most of the time because these days, when are you not looking at a screen of some sort. I decided after a week of not working to try not putting them on first thing in the morning, to see how I feel. I've tried this on weekends and can often make it through one day, but  usually my eyes get sore and tired for sure the second day, sometimes both days. I have ended up wearing my glasses only about 3 out of 85 days! What a blessing that has been this winter, I hate the many challenges of glasses wearing in winter!

Lastly, and most importantly, my spiritual health has been vastly improved. It may have taken me longer to really focus on making that happen during this time, but I started the new year with a new priority, to abide in God and everything else is secondary. Devotional time comes first. Health of my heart and my spirit come before the health of my body and relationships. It's been a long time since I have felt so at peace. There are still external and internal struggles I'm dealing with, but every morning I take the opportunity to lay them before God, reflect on what His Word has to say about it, and then focus on how I can submit them to Him and how He is equipping me to serve Him more fully. Just like there is a decision and a choice I make to love my husband in a way that will bring us intimacy and deeper love, there is I choice I make to love God like that. I choose to feel He is the center of my heart, my best friend, my love, no matter what other choices try to tempt me to feel differently. I have decided. And that has brought the most well-being of all.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Trickiness of Trios

While I'm talking about what I've learned from relationships, this year I've learned another relationship lesson, about the treasure of being part of a trio (not the singing kind), but also the trickiness of it.

The number three is one of the numbers that carries unspoken significance, like the rule of three. It can signify something good, it can signify something bad. In relationships it has it's moments with both.

The Trinity of course is the epitome, showing us there can be a sacredness to triune relationships. The threesome at the very least brings to mind the obvious intimacy imbalance. Most of us are far, far from either of those experiences however we sometimes get a glimpse of the harmony and the discord.

I have been a part of a few trios over the years, but growing up as one of three sisters has held the most lessons of the delicate balance of a three-sided relationship.

At first, as young siblings, the decks are stacked towards an equal balance in affection for each other. As kids we had the same exact upbringing, the same life experiences, the same people we live with shaping us, we were all in the same season of life - school/dependence, had mostly the same social circles and developed similar hobbies and interests.

Of course, we were kids, the 'still growing into our maturity' often tanked the equality. There is also the dynamic of growing up that involves testing out boundaries in relationships, learning to assert our identities. And don't forget plain old taking loved ones for granted, choosing 'me' over 'us'. That meant it was frequently 2 vs 1, but at least the 2 and 1 were fairly equally rotated. :)

Then, within a couple of years, circumstances all changed. Our common experiences slowed, the distance grew but at least so had our maturity, and so, the balance returned. We had a lot of common interests between the 3 of us, then I had some with my sister Jodi that I didn't have with Tami, and vice versa, but still all very fairly distributed. Gatherings were time for the 3 of us, and throughout the rest of the year it once again rotated between 2 out of 3 of us, but no taking sides this time, just dependent on who could travel the distance to spend time together.

That is until circumstances changed again. Tami and I ended up sharing a common experience of infertility. That was the starting point of a deeper connection, the more we shared our heart about that it seemed the more the Holy Spirit was moving in us and through us to help each other, and our spiritual connection grew deeper as well.  In our eyes, I don't think it ever shifted the balance, we loved and valued Jodi no less, we made no less time for her. But then again, we weren't the one whose connection wasn't growing deeper.

One day the reality of trios and their inevitable lopsidedness became very real. The fact is, amongst humans, a completely equal three-sided relationship is impossible. Once you accept that, when you are the one who feels the imbalance, you have two choices:
1) You can decide that you value the tri-bond over your own desires to be preferred.
2) You can let envy squash the bond, becoming jealous and competitive.

Essentially that's what it comes down to, the person who feels the imbalance doesn't feel as important as the other two are to each other.

But then, when it becomes known to the other two, they also have two choices.
1) You can address it honestly
2) You can pretend it isn't happening

Of course, either of those responses are no guarantee of a positive outcome. Like the saying 'it takes two', in this situation, it takes three.

Boundaries of course come into play as well, we have to take responsibility for our actions, our expectations, our feelings, and if you are trying to make any of these the responsibility of someone else, relationships in general will not work well. A trio is no different, and actually can make it more evident and a bigger point of contention.

So, with that in mind, when the two of us became aware, we brought up a discussion because we wanted to strengthen our friendship rather than letting this weaken it. We acknowledged that Jodi had the right to feel the way she felt, however also explained we were not in control or responsible for her feeling less important. We clarified how we perceived the situation, and that we loved and valued her no less in our minds. We also explained it wasn't fair to ask us to defer our one-on-one relationship, especially since we all had one, and in fact, Jodi & Tami spent a lot more one-on-one time than I did with either of them.

As we discussed it a few things became evident. There was only one solution if Jodi were going to hold our actions responsible for the separation she felt, and if we were going to take ownership of how she chose to feel, we'd have to try to shut down our connection, which would only serve to take away her responsibility to deal with her own feelings and expectations.  This was not an option.

So we continued talking and something else became evident, being able to be mature and talk about our feelings, in an honest and vulnerable way, not only brought us closer, in and of itself, but it led us to initiate deeper connections in other ways that would strengthen our tri-bond and de-emphasize the bond Tami and I had without actually making it less important or feeling like a competition. Now, we're even closer than ever.

Sisters are of course not exactly the same dynamics of unrelated friendships, because I think the playing field can be much more even without the added rivalry friendships can have, adding titles like 'best' and 'bestie', or having friendships in different arenas and stages of life, etc.  I don't know if the self-doubt ever fully stops, but now when I feel that bitterness arise in my own chest, that insecurity that I can't compete, I stop myself.

I stop myself from going down that rabbit hole and I draw strength from the foundation of great friendships I've had/have, where I have experienced the intimacy of being deeply important in each others lives. AND, I need to allow others the space to find that as well.

Even in a trio. Especially in a trio.

It doesn't lessen my bond. It doesn't lessen my value. In fact, as I've found out first hand, quite the contrary, that kind of maturity increases them.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

To Mothers, From an Un-Mother

I was forwarded a blog post today from a great friend who happens to be a mother.

It is from the perspective of a mother, who never had the struggle of trying for children, all 3 came easily to her. She writes about an important lesson she learned the first pregnancy, when she was full of joy and broadcasting it to the world. Some people just can't share in that joy, no matter how much they would like to.

She made several really great points. One being, infertility is often suffered in silence, so very often those around them are unaware of the pain they face, over and over again, each month. It is mostly a hidden grief so many people are oblivious to the impact of their declarations of parent-appropriate emotions. Second she acknowledged her own struggle with empathy even once she did know, and admitted her desire to have her feelings trump those of the infertile friend. This was her own personal experience but one I know that isn't an isolated situation.

The summary of the blog was to encourage mothers in particular to be sensitive, understand the continual pain, and to try not to do anything that just adds to the grief. I appreciate that sentiment, thank you. But I really hoped my friend who had sent the post hasn't been burdened with guilt  for her sharing pregnancy joy and toddler trials. So now I wanted to offer my own words to mothers from the other side, and hope other people battling infertility will consider these words as well.

Over the nine years of trying without success to be a mother I have encountered many different responses from women who are mothers but I have also encountered quite a few infertile women as well, and I have learned that mothers are not the only ones at fault for the hurt feelings that happen around infertility.

We who fall under the label infertile, even for a season,  sometimes choose our feelings over friendship, and we act like we have cornered the market on pain and strife.

We who can't be labelled mommy can let jealousy, envy and resentment cloud our ability to see mothers as just woman who have different struggles than us, but struggles just the same.

We who have empty wombs and arms can be so harshly judgemental for no other reason than our target was able to get pregnant and give birth, something they have no more control over than we have control over our inability.

The blog author mentioned she wanted her joy to trump the sorrow of the one who couldn't be a mother, but at times I have wanted my struggle to trump the struggle every mother goes through.

It took awhile for me to realize how unfair that was but it finally dawned on me, I don't compare any other pain, I don't begrudge someone dealing with anorexia because I have a problem with over eating. Hardships of motherhood are just as difficult as the hardships of infertility. I'm sorry to say my final lesson that hammered that home was learned at the expense of my sister, who had her own journey through infertility for 5 years, but when she had her first son and it wasn't an easy birth or newborn phase, and she didn't even complain, but as she shared her difficulties, my immediate reaction was to resent that her gratitude didn't automatically overcome her distress. It was then my eyes opened to just how insensitive I could be to moms, how insensitive a lot of infertile women could be to mothers.

I realize it's part of the society we live in, people tend to fall into ignorance to the impact of what they say or elevate the importance of our own feelings, but that doesn't excuse it, or help maintain healthy relationships. And there seems to be a growing hyper sensitivity increasing rather than just compassionate sensitivity around this area in particular.

Granted, it would be nice to have people consider my feelings before they say something like 'if you want kids so bad you can have my brats', but I never want a friend to feel like they have to walk on egg shells around me or feel like they can't share the reality of their life with me, because then I am not being a good friend, or a friend at all really. My feelings are not more important and do not negate the feelings of my friends. It hasn't been as hard to change how I choose to react and feel about it now that I am aware.

And maybe I'm also really lucky that I have pretty amazing friends who really do respect and honor my feelings, and feel them with me, and so it makes it easy to value them over holding tightly to my pain.  I am a lucky girl.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Jesus Loves Me This I Know

You know how when you've spent a lot of time apart from a spouse or significant other, whether it was separation by happenstance or a not-so-happy-stance, once you reunite there is another honeymoon phase?  I was blessed with the beginning of a new honeymoon phase with Jesus this last week and I just wanted to capture this amazing day here.

After I finally realized my misery has been my own doing, not God's, and I was determined to make time with Him my top priority, we reunited for our first date in months the last day of 2014. No better way to start a new year than to have good closure on the previous year.

To be honest, previous Jesus dates I struggled what to actually do to spend time with Him. I copied ideas from a friend, like reading my Bible at Starbucks, talked to Him in my journal, I did things I enjoy that I have no one else to enjoy with (like sushi), because if I enjoy them Jesus created me to enjoy them, and so He must enjoy them too ;) I knew what we did wasn't as important as intentionally trying to spend time with Him yet it still felt a little awkward.

I started planning out this date a week earlier, Christmas Eve, and I wondered what I would do this time. I had plans to borrow a devotional on prayer from a friend but didn't have it yet. I thought of buying one because I really didn't want to wait a day longer to start intentional re-connecting, and devotionals make it a lot easier for me than just opening the Bible. But I dismissed the idea of buying one because I really should start learning to restrict my spending, not knowing what 2015 employment would look like yet.

Yet, the day before our date I just couldn't get rid of the thought I should buy my own, and I had unexpected Christmas money, so I thought I'd at least pop in to the new Hull's that opened a few weeks ago and see what I could find. Often when I browsed I had trouble finding just the right devo I was looking for, so doubted I would even find anything. I doubted it even more when I walked in, they had 3 tiny little sections filled, the rest was empty and/or still under construction. I went to the one shelf of devos with about 20 choices, more than half of which were for families/couples. Yet, on the top shelf, with a very pretty cover, was a devo with large print HOPE, written by Beth Moore, an author I had been hoping to read something by soon. I flipped it open and the raw edged paper (I love raw edged paper) was filled with guidance towards a closer relationship with God and how to pray that out.....exactly what I was hoping to get from devotional time. I knew it was there just for me. So I bought it.

So, date day arrived, I dropped Sean off at work then parked near the 2 places I intended to spend time with God that morning. First was Starbucks, redeeming a free reward drink and snuggling up in a big arm chair, opening the devo and my journal to spend at least an hour talking to God. I opened the devo and on the first page was a personal poem by Beth that made me instantly cry and realized how intentional God really was in getting this devo in my hands. It of course was about hope, but the imagery she chose was imagery God had been pursuing me with since at least June, stars/diamonds. Her take on them was light in darkness, which has been my own theme for the month of December. And even mentioning 'a painted dawn for you', again a direct hit at what God spoke over me in 2013. Wow. Our date had barely started and He was giving me gifts. Then I opened it to Day One and it spoke to exactly the struggle I had been having all year, the reason I was letting my trust slip, but it spoke it in terms that I completely relate to, the metaphor of an artist. Especially with how much time I've been able to spend on art since being laid off! Again, I was completely blown away by God's pursuit of me through this devotional.  Especially with how much I had rejected His voice in my life throughout the last year, and especially last few months. I was so humbled and grateful.

My next stop planned was a piece of art right across the street. I follow the local artist @kalbarteski on instagram and ever since I saw her posts of creating this work of art on some windows on Graham Ave I have wanted to visit them. Her work is lovely in print but it was more the message than the medium that enthralled me. It is a message of self love and love of body image, the same message that God has been trying to work out in me, so I thought what a great place to go next. I wasn't disappointed, it was even more beautiful than I imagined and saw from instagram pics! I love when art not only gives beauty but reflects & accepts it as well!

Other than that, I only had one stop left on our date, sushi for lunch. But first I had an errand to attend to. I had not premeditated this as part of the date, but considering our theme for our date and been creativity, it soon became apparent that God likely did premeditate this errand. My next stop was to browse art supplies, with that unexpected Christmas money. I anticipated being able to buy something to further pursue sketching or watercolour painting, but not both. The store I was going to go to used to be right across the street from the street art, but it was no longer there, so I Googled on my phone another art shop downtown and sure enough found one at the place I've considered attending a painting workshop! And, they had very reasonable prices AND of course a boxing week sale! I had fun browsing and imagining all the things I could create, and I walked away with an arm load full of supplies, which will be a great start to my attempts to dabble in both mediums again!  Another unexpected gift from Jesus and the best date ever!

 Then, on to sushi :) I decided not to grab the cheap trays found at most grocery stores these days, with only 3 choices and a little dry even after only 4 hours sitting in their refrigerators. I went to one of the places I ordered from for my former employer and with their lunch special ended up paying only $2 more than I would have at a store. It was fresh and so very delicious. I literally spent every mouthful thanking Jesus for creating a culture that created sushi.

After that, it was time to start getting ready for the New Year's Eve date planned with hubby, but Jesus wasn't quite done with me yet :) A few hours later as Sean and I drove to get dinner the sky painted with one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen. What a perfect gift to end the most perfect date. What a perfect end to our separation and to the year 2014. Thank you Jesus!

The Good, The Bad, and The Good!

I started off 2014 with far fewer goals than in years past.

I didn't 100% accomplish any of them.

I'm totally ok with that :)

One of my goals was to improve photography creative skills with my phone camera.

It lasted all of 4 months.

I ended up taking way more Instagram photos than last year, including way more selfies which is not easy for me. Check them out at @Loriala77

One of my goals was to eat healthier, especially cutting out all my luxury food, baked desserts, chips, and drinking anything but water.

I cheated all but one month, and threw a few months of healthy eating out the window all together.

Last 4 months have been back on track, with new tools and resolve, and intend on continuing a highly reduced luxury food lifestyle. Also, will be donating $275 from my luxury forfeit project to donate to a clean water charity.

Goal to honor Sean, and start including 'undates' for more quality time together.

My week of blessing Sean around his birthday was interrupted by a wedding, only managed 4 days. And the intentionality of undates AND dates stopped, because I got too caught up in expecting what I wanted from them, not treating them like a time of connection.

When I stopped trying to plan dates altogether, Sean surprised me by picking up the ball and taking ownership for initiating both dates and undates the rest of the year!

Plan for continued minimization, trying to declutter life and especially my home.

In a whole year, still haven't completely emptied and got rid of the craft room I no longer use. Also didn't shop as much at thrift stores as I'd have liked to.

I have sold about 80% of my craft supplies, and made a plan for a new, small, creating nook upstairs, and whatever cannot fit into that from the old craft room will be donated somewhere. I did one month wearing one article of clothing again, this time a sweater, and absolutely no clothing purchases that month.

God planted new purposes in me over the last few months of 2013 and laid one in front of me Jan 2014, leading a support group for infertility.

3 women showed up, once each, one looking to help the ministry, not for support. Group cancelled.

God directed me to school to start my journey towards becoming a counsellor! He also laid on my heart to create and lead a study for young women, transitioning into adulthood and spiritual maturity. And just in the last week He opened a door to co-lead a support group for women where the leader is a professional therapist and I can learn sooooo much from her!

I don't think I recorded this as a goal, but creativity is always on my heart and I'm always looking for ways to work out my inspirations in art.

Photography was not the end result of this endeavor this year as I had hoped.

I started collage painting again, even putting them up for sale! I also ended the year picking up sketching and water painting again, thanks to a convo with my sis Tami. Haven't done either in 16 years but love it! Here is my second sketch in as many weeks.

Began the year on a fertility drug I hoped would finally be the answer.

It was not and reaked havoc on my body. Also, felt God asking me to release every form of control in trying for a baby. None of it has worked in almost 9 years, I should place every bit of it in His hands.

For the most part, the 4 months I have stopped tracking of any kind have been the most peace filled months of trying I have had yet (not including the last 2 weeks of December :( ).

I began the year determined to fight for my hope and my faith.

I was indeed actually fighting a battle for this all year long. Felt like a failure at getting closer to God most of the year.

I realized I had to fight for my faith first, not my hope. Time with Jesus, like Jesus dates, and devotionals, and Bible studies, and becoming a more intentional disciple are my top priorities this coming year!

All in all, I may not have accomplished my goals set out for 2014 but accomplished much more actually.

'The human heart plans it's course, but the Lord determines our steps.' Proverbs 16:9.

Friday, January 2, 2015

In With The New 2015

Over the years I have described times of emptying, where I felt like my life was being emptied, or even that my own self was being emptied, and while I knew it was in order to be filled again, that feeling of having a void is not a comfortable one.

But with every emptying I had felt I was given something to fill me back up again.

Hope. Love. Purpose. Friendship.

And I was good.

For a while.

I wondered why the emptying feeling had to keep coming back though.

Why couldn't I just stay filled and satisfied?

Each time I chose to seek out God.

To ask why. To request a refill. To sustain me. To show me what I need to do.

Please Lord just fill me again, whatever that takes.

2014 was another emptying year.

Everything seemed to ebb more than flow.

Hope. Love. Purpose. Friendship.

With every subtraction in my life I grew more and more needy.

My focus became more and more about how to get the refills.

I spent so much time this year impatient and demanding.

I asked God first for the refills.

Then I tried it my own way.

Then I went back to God, pleading to be filled.

I got angry at God for leaving me so empty.

The more I concentrated on filling the void the bigger it became.

It was like a black hole, the more of my focus it ate, the bigger it grew.

As I thought about 2015, what it would hold, what years beyond this could hold, I realized the void could remain for a long time yet to come.  I realized even if I got what I wanted, there could still be a void.  Even in the best moments of 2014 there was still a void.

That's when it hit me.

Each time I've been emptied, it was to make room for God.

It's a hole that can never be filled with anything but God.

Each time I started to fill it with God.

But then I began to fill it with promises of the life He wanted to give me instead.

But the life He wants to give me will only result from filling up on Him.

Even though I turned to Him each time, it was not for the sake of relationship, but in order to receive.

Somewhere last year my desperation derailed me and His gifts became the priority instead of his presence.

So. 2015, you lie before me a blank slate in so many ways.

I have no idea where you will take me.

You may take away just as much as you give, or more.

But this year, I will not be emptied.

My only priority is to fill the void.
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