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Sunrise in paradise

Rolling waves, soft cool sand, little birds looking for something to breakfast on and then running like mad to dodge the incoming waves. The quiet of the early morning beach empty save for a few retired fishermen or couples out for walks together. Paradise.

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I am not a morning person, my idea of a great morning is one I can spend in bed with nothing pressing me to get up before 10am unless I want to . (That rarely happens since Aurora has to be at school at 8am.) I planned to spend my vacationing mornings sleeping late but the beach had other ideas for me. Suddenly I was the person who goes to sleep excitedly anticipating being up and out before the sun. The waves beckoned me the I couldn’t imagine missing a morning sunrise, even on the one overcast day when the sunrise wasn’t visible.

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I’d race to get dressed and get out there, gather up anyone who had asked to be woken up (usually at least one kid, Allistair joined me every day but one, he was my most faithful companion.) and head out buckets in hand.

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There is a peace to the ocean in the morning. The current may be strong some mornings but it is still peaceful and beautiful. The moments before the sun burst through, I wished would never end.

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All the beautiful chaos of eighteen people living in one house was waiting for me when I got back, but when the sun is rising and the waves are rolling in nothing else mattered, all the cares of life dissappeared.

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What an amazing blessing it was to spend a week in this breathtaking place with the people who matter most. I think it was a little taste of what Heaven will be like. A tiny glimpse of His face.

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goodbyes

And just like that all the hugs had been had, the goodbyes said, one last time getting “killed” by Leo, one last kiss for him and they drove away.

This week (and many leading up to this) have been an emotional roller coaster, trying to enjoy every moment with my hilarious family and love on/spoil Leo as much as possible and knowing in the back of my mind that the time was so short and next time I see Leo in person he will be so much older and so much different.  It was such a gift having them all here for 3 years, one of the surprise blessings that came from Leo’s heart problem.

Growing up at a missionary training base I have been saying goodbye has been part of my life for as long as I can remember, you make friends and get close quickly and then have to say goodbye in a year or two and start over again. I am good at goodbyes, I am used to them. Yes, I often cry but   understand it is part of life. I wasn’t expecting this goodbye to hit me as hard as it has. This is the first time I’ve experienced the side of the family who is left behind, never really thought too much about the sacrifice they make.

Mark and Lauren, I am so proud of you guys and so behind you. I have greatly enjoyed having you here. I am happy for Lauren’s family that they get you for a bit before you leave. I will miss you guys so much.

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Rethinking Christmas a bit

I adore Christmas. I love the music, I love the lights, the smell in the air, the fresh snow. I love the decorated trees, the excited or even frantic shoppers trying to find the right gift for their loved ones. I love buying gifts (I love shopping in general)

The last couple of years though it has been a little tainted for me. So much consumerism, buying things for the sake of buying them not because they are needed or in some cases even wanted. I know, it is fun, but so many are missing even the daily necessities to survive while we spend hundreds or thousands, in some cases going into debt to have an amazing day that will end with disguarded toys already forgotten among the sea of toys each child already has. We have so much.
I have been working on downsizing for a while now but my kids still have so much, so many toys they have completely forgotten (of course only until you suggest giving them away…).

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How can we make Christmas beautiful and special and at least mostly traditional without adding to the problem, adding that to the clutter and ignoring the least of these? I know my babies have high expectations already even though we have been downsizing a bit Christmas every year and trying to teach generosity instead of entitlement. This year we started the conversation really early about a change, I don’t want to rob them of the memories I had, because I do adore Christmas, but I want to raise my children to care for the needy, even sacrificially.

Growing up my parents had very little, some years the only gifts we got were from grandparents or because someone gave them an extra gift (missionary kid remember…) but if I look back I don’t remember that at all. I don’t ever remember going without really. I remember special traditions and waking up to gifts that magically arrived while we were sleeping. It didn’t cost much to make it special for us. Now that I am grown and have more than my parents did at my age why do I feel like thighs need to be bigger. Gifts need to be bigger, cost more, be more spectacular to make it special? I know that media plays such a huge role in this,money are so good at manipulating us without us even realizing they are doing it. It is so hard to fight back

I know there are some families who don’t do gifts at all. I admire them greatly but that is just not for me – realistically. I think that most of my love language is gift giving so not to do that at all would hurt too much. I do have a plan this year though to make Christmas special without adding to the problem. My children will probably receive a small give from us, but the majority of our gifts will be choosing gifts for those who really need it. We have been pouring over catalogs already for about a month looking at options. Things like farm animals for needy families around the world or books for school kids in the poorest countries. The options are almost endless.

It is pretty neat to think that Christmas could make such a difference in so many lives this year if a few of us decide to be intentional about laying up our treasure in heaven instead of here. It doesn’t have to be big, you can start small and cut down just a small amount in order to help others. Even cutting down by $10 can help protect a child from disease with a new mosquito net. Cutting down by $11-30 can buy small animals to help a family start a business or feed themselves. You can do that for several families or give a large gift like a cow to one family. You can cut down greatly and give a whole village clean water or you can team up with other families to do this. We can all afford to help, even the poorest of us can probably afford some of the least expensive gifts. Yes, it might mean one less thing under our own tree, or maybe a lot less but imagine the joy to a family who really has nothing.

I challenge you to at least consider it. Consider how you spend your money and how you could change that even a tiny bit. 5201625380_0f1b59b3b6_b

If your are looking for options on how or what to give here are a few of my favourites:
Compassion has Christmas catalogs on top of monthly child sponsorship options.
Gospel for Asia has great catalogs.
Sole HopeMercy House and 3Cords have options all year as well. They are great options for if you want to make a difference but still buy a present for someone near you. The Exodus Road and A21 are good for this as well.                                                                                                             Partners Int. used to have catalogs, not sure if they still do but there are ways to give on their site.(If your favourite isn’t listed leave it in the comments, I would love to check it out!) Samaritans PurseSole is another obvious one, they are famous for their shoe boxes.

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PS Also remember to check out the companies you buy regular gifts (and chocolate and coffee from) to make sure you aren’t supporting slavery.

Images by Anne, Compassion International and Kevin

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emotion

There was a crazy woman out driving yesterday. She was getting teary eyed answering her daughters questions about heaven and hell and how God never intended hell for people, but people turned from him and sinned and now they are headed that way unless they hear about and accept Jesus.

Yes, it was me. I am a bit pathetic really, trying to keep the emotion out of my voice or talk around the huge frog in my throat. Fighting back full on sobbing.

“That is why Uncle Mark and Auntie Lauren are leaving, because people over there have never heard about Jesus or that he can save them so they can go to heaven too.”

It is so soon, up until recently I knew it was coming, they would be leaving, but hadn’t thought too much about it – “Just don’t think too deeply and it is ok.” But now the time is coming so quickly. My brother and sister – my friends and my sweet chubby nephew will be as far away as it is possible to be on this earth.

(I am so grateful for things like Skype that make it so much easier than it was only a few years ago, but it is still so far and 4 years is a long time to not see someone.)

I am so very proud of them and I wouldn’t wish it any other way because I know this is what God has for them but it is so hard to say goodbye. The Lord keeps reminding me that we will get this time back, we will have eternity together to celebrate with the people who heard because they left this comfort to go so far.

Now I will pull myself back together, wipe away the tears and pretend it isn’t happening and try to push aside this tidal wave of emotion that is threatening to consume me.

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the smokeys

(A post I wrote during the drive but was unable to publish)

Out my left a sea of mist with dark peaks rising above it as far as I can see, the sky is painted in light shades of pink and orange as the sun just barely begins to peak over the horizon,

To the right the mountains are not just silhouettes, they are a collage of colours. Red, orange, yellow and green, little patches of fog decorate the valleys.

Every so often we drive through the cut off side of a mountain. the exposed rocks and moss are so beautiful.

It takes my breath away.

I remember this from so long ago, driving this way as a young child. I have often wondered if it was really as amazing as I remembered or had my mind made it into something too beautiful that it couldn’t live up to.

In my head I can smell the beautiful rest stops we used to stop at early in the morning to stretch our legs. Smells of nature and fog.

How can anyone drive through a place like this and not see God? He is everywhere.

9613696179_a8c4ae340b_k It brings tears to my eyes.

All the ugliness in world right now, all the pain, and here is this unbelievable splendour.

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Images by Tyler Merbler and Jerry and Pat Donahos

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stand with me

Let me start by confessing that I am a chocoholic. In fact, I think I might be THE chocoholic. A day is just not complete with out at least a little (or a lot) of chocolate. Chocolate makes so many things better.

There is a problem though that has been waging at me for a while and it isn’t that too much chocolate will make me fat. Most people have heard about it, it isn’t new news especially if you read blogs or are on social media, but for so long I was naive about it and I see many people are in that same boat, I see them writing things that I have said myself.

The problem is child labour/slave labour and unfair wages. Like I said, this is nothing new, what is new is my understanding of what that really means.

For ages I thought things like “Yes, child labour sucks, but if the family and child are desperate and starving then even if the wages aren’t exactly fair it is still some money for the family.” Oh how naive I was, looking at the issue through first world eyes that think of unfair wages as simply being below minimum wage. Despite growing up as an MK who is far from sheltered about how the world is, it wasn’t until I read Capturing Jasmina that my eyes were really opened to what words like “child labour” really mean and what is really happening around the world.

Most of these kids make no money at all so right there my previous assumptions of “some money is better than no money for the family” were refuted. A majority of these kids are trafficked, either promised a well paying job and a good life by lying adults, or kidnapped and brought into another country or area against their will. Either way they end up as slaves all for the sake of cheap chocolate.  5731050921_85d836c6f9_b

All of the big brands are guilty of it and most are lying to cover it up. (Watch the Dark Side of Chocolate documentary)

I have seen how wrong I was. My eyes have been opened to the problem and now that I know, I am responsible. I can pretend that it doesn’t matter and in doing such continue supporting these traffickers and those who pay them, or I can take a stand, be it ever so small. I can say goodbye to my love of chocolate from companies like Cadbury (I don’t like Hershey chocolate at all – it tastes cheap and fake- so that goodbye isn’t a hard one, and Nestle is only ok tasting).

There are options I don’t have to feel guilty about, this doesn’t have to be goodbye to all chocolate. We have a great local shop just down the street that sells delicious fair trade brands like Endangered Species. They are better quality and no one was beaten or starved or taken from their families so that it could be made. It may mean that I pay a little more, but it is not really THAT much more. It means reading labels and finding out about the companies I am supporting when I buy their products.

We forget how rich we are. Yes, we may have a tight budget, or not be able to afford things our neighbours have. We might life in a small house and drive an oldish car, but compared to so many we are filthy rich and the way we spend our money makes a big difference.

So, now you have a choice to. If you read to the end of this post you know too. If you watch the documentary then you know. You have a responsibility now too. You can choose to turn away and pretend it isn’t happening or you can take a stand with me and many other and each of our tiny stands together will start to make a big stand. 

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Images by Greg Westfall and Gerainting Rowland  

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Breathing Room | book review

I have to be honest, I chose this book to review purely based on the fact that the cover was beautiful and then life got crazy and it sat on my digital shelf and I felt increasingly more guilty that I hadn’t read it yet (which is a bit ironic considering the topic of the book). When I finally did read it I couldn’t believe what I had been missing.

Leeana is the wife of an active duty Navy Seal and the mother of three kids and she has moved overseas multiple times. She writes about being yourself, letting go of fear and beginning again when you go a little crazy or “have a moment”.

This book is for anyone who has ever lost her cool, for anyone who feels stressed out or restless, for anyone who knows she is blessed but can’t seem to believe it. This book is for women who are dealing with fear and anxiety, for women who feel lonely and aren’t sure why and for everyone else.

 

This book is so simple yet so profound, full of reminders that God doesn’t expect us to be perfect, he knows we aren’t, He knows we will never arrive He just wants us to let go and let Him help us. “I look to Christ who, last time I checked has not asked me to do his job for him. What has Christ asked me to carry? If I’m honest, very little. In fact, if anything, over and over, he asks me to hand him anything I believe I possess.” 

Breathing Room is a great name for this book because it is truly a breath of fresh air. I think that we women work so hard every day to live up to what we think everyone needs and expects. We are full of anxiety and fear and stress. We have unreal expectations of what being a wife or a mom or a woman is based on media and Pinterest and what others are doing. We look at women around us and think they have it all figured out and forget that we are all broken, we all mess up, we all have stories, like one she tells in this book, about freaking out because our kids are acting out. We need to have grace for our children, but Leeana points out that we also need to have grace for ourselves. It sounds so simple but it is not something I had ever even thought about.

I could write out a hundred brilliant quotes that I have scribbled in my journal while reading, but I won’t. Just grab a copy and read it yourself, you will not be sorry. If you only read one book this year, make it this one; especially if you are too busy to read.

They always say not to judge a book by its cover but in this case do. The cover is beautiful and what is inside is even more beautiful! Thank you Leeana for pouring out your heart on these pages! This is one book I would like to buy a lot of copies of so I can hand them out to all of my girlfriends.

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beauty in contrast

I have been finding it hard to find the words to write lately. My heart feels heavy with so much pain and sorrow going on in the world. Pain for those in the Middle East, pain for those in West Africa and those who have loved ones there. Pain for family members who are dealing with loss and illness and for friends who have had to say goodbye to their little ones. So much grief, so much pain in this life.

It seems funny that with so much ugliness and pain in this world right now there is such a breathtakingly beautiful autumn this year. It seems so much more beautiful this year than the past few have been. The colours are so rich and vibrant and we have had so many beautiful sunny days. It is such a contrast to the grief and pain and horrors around us and around the world, but such a beautiful reminder that God is in control. No matter how bad things seem he is in control.

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this ugly trend

It’s gotten me all riled up more than a few times now. This ugly fad that seems to be ever so popular these days among believers and most often among pastors. It is just plain despicable and has to stop!

It’s the fad of naming off “false prophets” or “false teachers”.

For some reason some pastors (and non-pastors) seem to think this is not only ok, but good. I have to be honest, it is making me sick.

I am not talking about pastors/teachers warning their flock about wrong teaching – teaching that is contrary to the gospel – but about pastors (and bloggers and Facebook/twitter members and many others) calling off lists of people and claiming they are false teachers based on “grey areas” or different interpretations of about “minor things”.

Let me be clear, there are some black and white issues worth standing firm for such as:

  • One God – three persons
  • Jesus being fully God and fully man
  • Jesus died and rose
  • Jesus is the only way to heaven and it is through faith not works

Grey areas are things like:

  • When the rapture will happen (pre-trib, post-trib, mid-trig, etc) and how the end times will play out
  • Styles of music to play in church
  • Interpretation of sign gifts (healing, tongues, etc) and if they are for today or not
  • Whether God chose who would be saved or just knew ahead because he is God
  • Styles of preaching for churches
  • What translation of the Bible we should use

Don’t get me wrong here, it is completely fine to have opinions about these things – opinions that you may hold very strongly to. I have opinions about each of these things and many other grey areas based on my own study and things I have been taught. The problem here is when we decide to let these differences of opinion divide us.

Do you think God is glorified when we do this? Is He glorified when a well known pastor stands before hundreds or even thousands both in person and via video/simulcast and lists off brothers and sisters in Christ calling them “frauds” or “false prophets” or “heretics”?

I am not talking about people who have “gone off the deep end and are teaching things like “everyone goes to heaven in the end” “love wins” “there is no hell” or “obey God to make yourself happy” etc.  I am talking about brothers and sisters who believe the same as we do on all but the smallest issues that in the end really don’t matter.

Do I have an opinion on end times doctrine? Yes. Is it possible that I am wrong? Uh, Yes!Int eh end will it matter? NO! When Christ comes back i won’t care if I was correct or someone else was all that will matter is that we are with Christ and everything is finally clear.

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  Romans 12:18

With all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:3

And over all these virtues put on love which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:14

I appeal to you brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and there be no devisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgement, For I have been informed that there are quarrels among you… 1Corinthians 18:10

Unity guys! Unity doesn’t mean that we agree on everything, but that we agree on the crucial things and walk together encouraging each other as we all seek to grow closer the Lord.

Does calling my brother in Christ a false teacher promote unity? Um…no … it doesn’t.

I gotta call it like it is for a second here. It is immature, prideful, stupid, unacceptable and is gossip. Plain old filthy gossip which is one of the few things God actually says that He hates. (Proverbs 6:16 “…a person who stirs up conflict in the community” )

So please, lets put and end to this despicable trend! Let’s strive for unity. Let’s set an example to the world instead of giving them another reason to call us hypocrites. The world is doing a good enough job of hating us and trying to tear us down without us helping by doing it to each other.

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PS I have been writing and re-writing this post in my head for a few months now so hopefully it came out clear enough in the end. Just ask my family, it is something I have ranted about in person more than a few times too.

 

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what we march for

I drove over to my parents house yesterday evening to deliver some of their favourite butter tarts from Grandma Lamb, and while I did I listened to the radio. As it often the case with CBC radio, they were talking about “really important news” but for some reason this story really hit me and is still bothering me.

The report was about the big “People’s Climate March” that happened yesterday in Manhattan and 250 other places around the world.

While I am all for taking care of our planet and choosing organic when possible and limiting waste and all of that good stuff, I can’t help but think about what is going in the world right now.

ISIS and Hamas are murdering thousands of children, women and men and attempting to take over the world and put us all under Sharia Law.

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Ebola is ravaging Western Africa and devastating countries like Liberia. People are starving because the economy is shot and there just isn’t enough food or medicine or even beds for the sick and dying.

Human Trafficking is still stealing the lives of millions of children and women.

Russia and the Ukraine are still a mess

Saeed Abendini and others are still being wrongfully imprisoned and all around the world anti-Semitism is rising to such a rate that we are in danger of another holocaust.

The list goes on and on and yet this big global march wasn’t for any of these things or anything else like it. The march was for “We want clean air. We want it now.

I have to admit it makes me want to cry, I am overwhelmed by sadness watching videos of this beautiful parade with big sunflowers and fancy floats as if in my head I can see them marching down the streets of Liberia, Haiti or Gaza dancing and chanting about clean air while all around them people are dying and starving and being imprisoned or kidnapped.

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Where is the global march for aid to Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Guinea, Congo and Sierra Leone? Where is the global march for the children being murdered in the middle east by terrorists or the children being trafficked? Where is the global march for the Pastor who is still being held under horrible conditions in Iran and faces death daily?

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What are the things we are willing to march for?

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These and more beautifully heart wrenching images are Zoriah on Flickr’s Creative Commons