The Word on My Rock

IF:Gathering

I’m wrapping up my main thoughts on the IF Gathering 2015 that I attended in my friend’s living room last weekend.  I’m doing my best to line it up with a couple of other things God has laid on my heart recently – things like my Word for this year – Simple.

At the close of IF 2015 we were asked to write out a word, a phrase, a verse – whatever God was speaking into our hearts that day. We were to write on a rock. This would help us mark the day, mark what we had learned, mark our next steps on the journey into the promised land.

One of the speakers, Christine Caine, said something I’ll never forget. This sentence confirms that the promised land we seek isn’t about us, it isn’t about “arriving”, it isn’t about ease and comfort for the rest of our days, and it will never be without its battles to fight. Now I get it, now I know why… she said these words…

The promised land is souls.

Whatever the scenery in your promised land looks like, whatever avenues and atmospheres and places and faces you see when you look at the land around you – it’s the souls that God wants us to get to, they are the destination He has for us.

For me, Reaching the north means sharing the gospel with the people there – by meeting their physical and spiritual needs. Writing and speaking and teaching are just more avenues I can use to let people know of God’s unconditional love for them and discipling them for Christ. Mission and service were so important to Jesus, and He never missed an opportunity to tell about the Father as He was helping others in need. I can follow His lead in that area of ministry. Volunteering at schools and camps and Sunday school classes means I can Let the little children come to [Jesus] and just love whoever crosses my path that day.

These are the things God has put in front of me at this season in my life.

I finally recognize them, I can see them for what they are, I can understand their importance as I look at them through God’s eyes. They are the promised land.

Last Saturday afternoon I held a blank rock in one hand and a Sharpie in the other. In my heart I stood on the edge of the promised land, looking down at my chains, knowing that on my own I would never be enough to fight the battles necessary to enter into the promised land before me. But God was only asking one thing of me. It was very simple. The word I needed to write on my rock was extremely simple.

GO

GO

There were a couple of other words in the background, each one coming to me with less intensity, like there was an heirarchy to them:

OBEY

Faith & Trust

I was going to need all of them as I moved into the promised land.

OBEY

**Pause… I had to go grab a card we were given a couple of years ago… I’ve kept it displayed in prominent places in our house for a long time, knowing these words are part of something bigger that God would show me in His time.**

Do not GO where the path may lead; GO instead where there is no path and leave a trail

GOing is often harder when there is no one to follow, when you have to be the leader, the only one, just you and God out there, GOing. It can be very scary and very lonely, but it is what God keeps bringing us to time and time again.

**It is much easier to GO if “I know who GOes before me” (God of Angel Armies).**

My Joshua and I are to lead others into the promised land as we take the steps God is laying before us.  We can gain much encouragement from Joshua in the Bible – he seems to have lived through many of the things My Joshua and I are experiencing.

Many of the things we may GO and do may be new ideas for many (including ourselves!), and there may be a ton of unfamiliar territory. As I look at the other words on the rock I can see the navigational tools that will be needed for the journey:

OBEY – I might not understand what God is doing, but I just have to take whatever step He lays out next for me. I will see Him move as I obey Him. There is no time for disobedience.

Faith – The greatest leap of faith for me will be believing God can use ME to accomplish His purposes. I have never doubted His ability to get His will done, but I have almost always doubted that He can use ME to do it. I need to remember that it is not confidence in myself that is required, but confidence in God. My doubts may never be erased, but God will overcome them every single time. Greater is my faith than my fear.

Trust – If I lose sight of the vision, God will return it to me. If I don’t see movement, when no one is following, when the battles seem enormous – just keep walking, one step at a time, leaving the results with God and the responses with me. One of the speakers said something I particularly loved – something along the lines of trusting God more than a marketing plan. I love this because marketing is NOT my strong suit!

So I’ve come full circle these last few days of processing the IF Gathering 2015, and I’ll end with the first verse I shared from IF a few days ago:

My Joshua’s life verse – Joshua 1:9 –

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you GO.

At My Joshua’s Wheaton graduation ceremony in 2012 they read this verse, and as we’ve moved further and further into Reaching the North we’ve seen this verse crop up time and time again, and now I think this is such a fitting verse to end with considering the Word On My Rock!

I think it is time for me to loose the chains and keep up with God and My Joshua.

This verse is such a wonderful reminder that as I step into the promised land before me today, I don’t have to be afraid or discouraged. I can be strong and courageous. I just need to follow God’s leading and obey His commands, reassured by the fact that He is always with me. And I have my own personal Joshua as a constant physical reminder of this truth!

THANK YOU for taking the time to read through the posts this week as I sought to process what God was showing me at the IF Gathering 2015!

I’ll keep you updated on where all this goes and how it plays out in the coming months.

Peace and blessings!!

Wandering in the Wilderness

IF:GatheringAs I sift through my multitude of notes from the IF Gathering 2015 and start to process all I heard from those amazing speakers, here’s what has surfaced so far:

The theme of IF this year was Joshua. So I shared the story of the Joshua in my life – my husband, living out his own version of the Joshua story. It is good to journey with My Joshua through whatever comes – be it promised land victories or wilderness confusion or Jordan River steps of faith.

I shared about the chains in my life – things like regret (looking back to what life was before we came north and second-guessing every step we take here in this foreign land), anxiety, loneliness, confusion, discouragement, anger at times, and doubt. There are also a few other chains like health and finances that can hold me back quite effectively if I let them.

And I invited you in to a mental photo album of my promised land – which looks nothing like what I thought it would, but it is beautiful and bountiful. There have been many battles to fight in this land, and many victories have been won in God’s power, His will, and His timing.

I’ve typed out alot of words to share with y’all, but I still have to get to my ONE WORD that God gave me near the end of that lovely Saturday in my friend’s living room.

The day was divided into 3 sessions, and at the end of session 2 the speaker Debbie Eaton talked about leaving doubt behind and the song God I Look to You was played. I wrote down these words:

I won’t be overwhelmed

Give me vision to see things like You do

Give me wisdom  – You know just what to do

After a wonderful long lunch with the ladies, we were back for the last session of IF Gathering 2015 – living room style (a great way to enjoy this Gathering by the way!)

The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. They had glimpsed the promised land with all its bounty, deemed it impossible to fight the battles required to live in the land, forgot that with God anything is possible, and a whole generation lost the chance to live the life God had planned out for them since before creation. All but two – Joshua and Caleb.

As I was coming near to my 40th year on this earth, God was working out plans I could not have begun to imagine when we first headed north more than 11 years ago. He was working a vision of a promised land I didn’t even notice before.

You see, for many years my eyes were set on the wilderness. All I could see was what the journey had cost. God had called us to leave – for what? I figured if God had called us to leave what we’d known, we should at least be on some international mission field, or running a summer children’s camp, or adopting tons of children, or a big career for me, or… something. Something “bigger” than what we were currently doing. Like fostering a good marriage and raising children and ministering at a local church and volunteering in the community weren’t enough. Like they didn’t matter. Like we weren’t making a difference in the lives of those we interacted with every day.

I just couldn’t see it. All I could see was what we didn’t have. There were these rare days when I could see what we did have, but for a good long while those days were definitely few and far between.

I was in the wilderness. All I could see was desert. I was sick of eating the same food day after day, month after month, year after year. God was leading me… somewhere… I could see the pillar and the cloud. Often we would meet and talk about life and He would always encourage me that the promised land awaited. That He was working out His plans for good for our family. I would catch glimpses of Him in my family, friends, people around me, and always in the beauty of nature. I would see His hand guiding us now and then. This helped me put one foot in front of the other in the desert. This helped me with things like finishing university, supporting Josh in finishing a Leadership program and a Master’s degree, reading through the Bible (finally!), self-publishing a couple of books, volunteering at church, camp, the boy’s school. This really helped me with discipling my boys and loving My Joshua.

But how long would I wander? I remember saying to Josh over and over, “I need to know what we’re doing. I need a vision. I need to see.” I was lost and confused, lonely and afraid, stuck in my desert.

I sought God constantly, asked Him for vision, for wisdom, just like the song says. I didn’t want to be overwhelmed, I didn’t want to feel useless and immobile all the time. I wanted to break the chains that seemed to hold me so tightly that I felt like I couldn’t breathe some days.

Then a few years ago I started catching this vision of something new. Something I never would have expected in a million years. I was invited to a small conference in a church basement. I was the only woman in attendance. I heard alot of talk about church-planting and trying to reach out to more people in Northern Ontario with the gospel.

Very confused – church planting? What was that? That WAS NOT in the plans, people!

Fast forward a couple of years, and three words echo constantly in my heart… Reach the North.

Josh and I have been out to Calgary to meet with other church planters, we’ve taken training courses, we’ve dreamed and visioned with like-minded believers, we’ve even planted a student church at the local university and helped another church get going in a nonprofit housing development nearby. We’ve taken a team on our first Northern Ontario mission trip to help another church plant get started. We’ve made connections throughout the north, and we’re constantly asking God to show us the next step.

And more new vision… this one more personal… a tiny vision that goes back to when I was young… I would once in a while have this dream about standing in front of others, speaking to them, encouraging them on to something important… I was chosen for public speaking contests and writing contests in elementary school and named Grade 8 valedictorian (can you believe it?!). Then high school and post-secondary education came along, and a HEAP of uncertainty and fear that has held me in chains ever since (along with a few choice comments from individuals, teachers and professors about my complete inability to speak in front of others).

During the years of ministry with My Joshua, he has encouraged me in speaking to others. He has given me opportunity to speak to youth groups, young adults, and even preach with him a few times. I have also been given chances to speak to young children at camp, and I’ve loved that so much. Slowly the chains have been breaking.

When the writing started becoming more prominent in my life, I knew there was this danger that speaking would follow suit. They often go hand in hand. In recent chats with my mum I’ve said things like, “I think God might be calling me to speak more – like to adults!” She laughs because she knows that if it’s God’s will I’ll be fine, and she laughs because she’s happy for her little girl.

So during that last IF Gathering 2015 session, I felt as if I was standing still, on the edge of the desert, looking down at the chains around me, then glancing up toward the promised land.

You see, the vision for Reaching the North is getting clearer and clearer. More people are coming on board. We have more than 80 people and churches praying for us. More church plants are in sight (New Testament kind of churches – so cool!), God is calling more people north just like he called us north.

Our student church has had its ups and downs, and I haven’t always understood exactly what we’re doing there. But God doesn’t ask me to understand, He just asks. And asks. And asks. He keeps on asking if it’s something He wants us to do, and He never leaves me alone about the student church. My Joshua has been faithfully running it every Monday night on campus, and I simply need to go with him. I need to let go and let God.

AND I just got my first official invitation to be the speaker at a ladies retreat in the fall.

These are all the things that were swirling through my mind as the IF Gathering was coming to an end for me last weekend. The last thing on the agenda was to mark the day, mark what God was showing us, mark the next step.

My friend handed us all a Sharpie and a rock. We were to think about what we wanted to write on the rock, and this would be a reminder of our commitment to God that day, every day, as He asked us to move into our promised lands, fight the battles necessary to live there, and enjoy the bounty for the rest of our days.

I knew what to write. There was one word that was practically thumping in my chest, over and over, with each beat of my heart.

Tomorrow I’ll share the word and wrap up this amazing time of processing IF 2015.

The Fight for the Promised Land

IF:Gathering

Honestly, I never know what’s going to come out when I start typing words about the IF Gathering 2015! I am slowly but surely processing what I heard… Here’s what came from this session of typing…

After a morning break for tea and muffins (yum!), the ladies and I were back to the IF Gathering 2015 DVDs. Just before the break we had listened to the song How He Loves. I was taken back to a couple of years ago when this song was always on repeat and I would belt it out in the car just about every day.

It’s this line: I don’t have time to maintain these REGRETS when I think about the way He loves us.

Yesterday I mentioned how we have a choice to break every chain that holds us back from walking into the promised land God has led us to. One of my chains can be regret.

So… what does your promised land look like?

I’ve been meaning to write down the scenery of my promised land for a while now, so that when regret and second-guessing try to visit, I can sing the above song lyrics with confidence and gusto! Now is a great time to jot down images from the promised land God has led me to… keeps leading me through… but I’ll start with the Israelites…

What did God’s promised land look like to the Israelites?

I bet they DIDN’T expect the giants or the fortified cities. I bet they DID expect the bountiful fruit, and the milk and honey. I bet they thought it would be all sunshine and roses after 400 years of slavery. I bet they thought they’d had enough of the tough times. I bet they thought life should be handed to them on a silver platter, maybe with palm branches waving around them, and some golden goblets and platters to enjoy the fruit of the land?

I bet they thought they’d arrived.

That’s pretty much what I thought after what I like to call The Year of the Storm. 2003 brought job loss, stillbirth, and homelessness for our wee family of three.

Josh was laid off from a ministry position he’d taken only 18 months before. We had moved to a new town 5 days before I went into labour with our first son, then moved again to be closer to the church and hopefully end the second-pregnancy-depression that seemed to be consuming me.  The depression did lift, but then came the lay-off. The church gave us 3 months severance pay (so wonderful) which would end right around the time of the birth of our second son.

Except after making the short list at about 20 churches both in Canada and the U.S., there was still no job in sight. The severance was running out quick.

Then came the stillbirth. Our Caleb would not be joining us like we’d hoped. He barely touched this world before moving on to the next. But he touches my heart, still, every day.

We had one job offer for the summer – at at camp in Northern Ontario. We grabbed it, loaded up our car, threw Josiah in the back somewhere, put the rest of our things in storage, recertified Josh’s Lifeguarding qualifications on the drive to camp, and settled into a temporary home for the summer.

There was a small season of rest… we tried to heal our hearts a little, we enjoyed all that was Josiah, we met some wonderful people at camp, we were given a farmhouse on the lake with a covered porch to live in for the summer.

Then camp was over, and there were still no permanent jobs in sight, even after another trip to the U.S. We were out of options.

We lived with my parents for a couple of weeks and helped with my sister’s wedding. We lived with Josh’s mom for a few weeks after that while we pursued another job opportunity.

Nothing.

We asked God for some sort of direction and He led us to ponder on the only place we’d seen any sort of hope or future for our family in this stormy year.

The north.

Like Abraham leaving his home, his family, his “land” – we headed off to the unknown that was Northern Ontario.

We loaded Josiah back in the car and drove to a city that was close to the camp we’d worked at over the summer. We found an affordable apartment, we gathered our things from storage, we told our families about our decision to head north, and within two weeks, this was home.

No, this didn’t look anything like a promised land. And there would be many giants and fortified cities to overcome in God’s will and His timing.

Our first step into it was in a snowstorm. We moved here on November 4th, 2003, trailing our car behind a Uhaul. Josiah was our constant source of joy – he was happy anywhere – seriously. Even sitting between us in a rented Uhaul, after 6 hours of driving in a blizzard. Yep, he’s awesome. Still is. We made it safe and sound – our first victory in this foreign land.

There was no job waiting for Josh here. He scoured to find something, anything, that would support his family. He was connected with someone at the local hospital and proceeded to deliver food to patients for the next few months – part-time. Our next victory.

We were able to get our hands on a severely run-down house on a nice street. We qualified for a tiny mortgage and rented out the upstairs floor of the house for 4 years. Nope, this promised land didn’t look anything what I expected, but we were gaining victories.

Josh was offered a job back in ministry at the church we were attending. Not in youth ministry, but instead using his speaking, teaching, and missionary gifts both locally and globally. Not the ministry job we thought we were looking for, not a familiar promised land, but another victory.

Our third son, Elijah, was born in May 2005. This one chokes me up instantly. His due date was the same as Caleb’s just two years earlier. But the doctor decided to perform a csection 3 weeks early to bypass anything that may have caused Caleb’s stillbirth. So Elijah was born on May 13, 2005, a whopping 9 lbs at 3 weeks early!  His first breath brought his first battle. He was instantly thrown into a fight for his life. A small hole in his lungs caused an air pocket to start forming around his vital organs the moment he first inhaled. For a couple of days we weren’t sure if Elijah was staying or going. I had been waiting to hold a baby boy for two years, and I would have to wait still. A chest tube saved Elijah’s life. He was given such wonderful care in the NICU. My giant of a boy compared to the premature wee ones. He barely fit in the incubator. Finally, after 5 days I held my son. After 4 more days we brought him home. His first full day at home with us was the anniversary of Caleb’s funeral 2 years earlier. Talk about God’s perfect timing. Another HUGE victory.

There have been many other battles in our promised land, some bigger than others. Josiah was treated for a very rare, life-threatening eye infection a few years ago that required air-lifting to another city, 5 days of intensive treatment, and many more weeks of healing. But he came out unscathed except for a tiny blue line above his eye. It could have been oh-so-much worse. Another HUGE victory.

I finished my university degree 21 years after I started – fulfilling a life-long dream of mine. I participated in my first mission trip in 2011 – another life-long dream. I have helped to organize and lead two more international trips since then and one domestic trip. Riding on this momentum helped me self-publish my first book in 2013, and then another in 2014. More dreams fulfilled, more victories won.

And there are the daily battles for our family, for our friendships, for our ministry – these never stop. These require us to always be on guard. It is worth it to live in this unfamiliar promised land we find ourselves living in. The fruit is large, and it is plenty, and there is indeed milk and honey. It looks more like 15 years of marriage, two healthy boys, strong friendships, many souls discipled, and hopefully a bunch of other things we know nothing about this side of eternity!

Here’s the question I started with, and the question I’ll end with…

So… what does your promised land look like? I know it may not look anything like what you imagined, I know you may have felt your strength and reserve shatter at times, I know it may have cost you more than you thought you could afford, and I know it may have felt anything but safe as fought your battles to get to where you are.

Do you recognize the battles you have already won with God’s power and blessing? Do you see which giants you have already defeated? Do you see the crumbled walls of once-fortified cities around you?

As you stand in your land of freedom, your land of promise, your land of victory – what does the scenery look like?

I’d love to catch a glimpse of your promised land… thank you for looking through a mental photo album of mine…

Break Every Chain

IF:Gathering

The IF Gathering 2015 that I attended in my friend’s living room a couple of days ago began with worship. We listened on Youtube and sang along when we wanted to – songs like Oceans and God of Angel Armies. The song that stood out for me most was Break Every Chain.

There are chains in my life, people. Things like insecurity, low self-esteem, doubt, confusion, anger and judgement at times, grief, regret – to name a few. I would have to give them all over to God today, every single one of them, if I was to hear what He was trying to say to my heart during these few hours in my friend’s living room with these amazing women of faith.

The first Bible passage was Numbers 13:27-33. Twelve spies had gone to scout out the promised land and they were now sharing their findings with the rest of the Israelites. These were a people freshly freed from 400 years of slavery to the Egyptians. Moses had parted the Red Sea (with a little help from God) just a few weeks ago. God was giving them an awesome land for their own – but they had to go and take it.

Twelve spies went ahead of the people – all 12 brought back reports of a land that did indeed “flow with milk and honey” . They brought back large, delicious fruit samples from the land. But as we read further we get two different sides of the rest of the story. 10 spies reported about giants in the land, and fortified cities, and an inability to actually take the land promised to them.

“Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” – Numbers 13:30

But the people were uncertain, afraid, doubting, confused. They wept and grumbled to Moses and Aaron, they wished they were dead, and they started to talk about choosing another leader and heading back the way they came – back to Egypt, back to what they knew, back to slavery – even though it had been the worst way to live.

Skip ahead a few more verses and we read this:

“Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.” – Numbers 14:6-9

But the people wanted to stone them for saying this.

God was extremely unhappy with this whole scene, and he struck down dead the 10 spies who discouraged the people. He also told the whole assembly that none of them would see the promised land except Joshua and Caleb – the 2 spies who spoke about God’s power and his ability to keep His promise to bring the people into the promised land. The people would wander in the wilderness for 40 years, until this unbelieving generation had died, until their children would be grown and ready to take the land.

As we read on in the Bible we learn that Joshua was indeed the one to lead the people into the promised land. And at 80 years of age, Caleb fought with the Israelites as they ventured in the promised land, he helped them take the land that was given to them. Then 5 years later, now age 85, he was as strong as ever, ready to do whatever task God gave him, and he was given a share of the land, just as God had promised.

God always keeps his promises.

When God presents us with a direction or a task – what is the first thing we see? Do we see God or do we see our chains?

The Israelites saw their chains, their generations of slavery, their inability to measure up to the task ahead. They saw this so much that they wanted to turn around and literally slip back into the chains of Egyptian slavery, or they wanted to completely destroy the 2 men who had tried to encourage them to become what God always intended for them to be.

All they knew were their chains. And sometimes, often, this is all I know as well. I am comfortable in the chains, I know my place in the chains, I am used to them. They do not make me happy, or help me become who God made me to be, but I have lived in some of them for most of my 41 years.

Around the time I was turning 40, I started to realize I didn’t have to live with the chains. I started to see something over the horizon that looked like freedom, but I also saw the giants and the walled cities. I knew there would be a fight ahead, many battles to either win or lose, if I started wandering into the promised land God was showing me.

And I have started to fight the battles, one by one, mostly from within.

The chains are breaking, link by link, and I am able to step out further and further into what God has for me.

One step into the Jordan at a time.

I gain such strength from My Joshua  and My Caleb. And My Josiah and My Elijah are the best companions for the journeys ahead. Their namesakes in the Bible are both strong leaders who called the people back to God. They broke down strongholds and challenged authorities and spoke the messages God gave them to speak. I am surrounded, protected, and loved by 4 amazing men of all ages.

I can either focus on God when He shows me the next step, I can either obey Him, trust Him, and have faith in Him, or I can run right back to what I know, what is comfortable, and refuse to hear His voice.

I can choose freedom or I can choose chains.

And who will miss out on God’s promises if I choose the chains? It’s not just me in the mix, it’s my men, my family, my friends, my people. Sometimes that is the scariest part of all – the others that will miss out. That is what freezes me up, what stops my fingers from typing and makes me close my eyes and pray.

It’s you. And you. And you.

Shall we shake the chains together?

Whatever your chains look like, whatever words are written on each link, please know that you can be free, I can be free – it is our choice to see the chains or to see God.

I want to choose to see God, I want to run into the promises of freedom He gives, one step at a time, with you.

I no longer want to ask questions like Am I Enough? Am I Going to be Safe? What is it Going to Cost?

I want to ask one question… Is God Real?

My heart has always answered yes. Ever since I was a little girl, even when I chose not to follow him for a few years, even when the battles have almost completely overcome me, the answer is yes. God is real.

Then I am free.

You are free.

Let him know you believe in Him, that you want to follow whatever step is next for you, that you want to be free from whatever chains are holding you back.

He’s got a whole promised land waiting for you, you just have to keep your eyes on Him, and starting walking into it.

My Joshua

IF:Gathering

When I walked into my friend’s house a few days ago, I knew I was in for something good.

I had attended the IF Gathering 2014 in a small town 2 hours from home.  This year I would get to enjoy snippets of the IF Gathering 2015 in my friend’s living room, gathered together with about 10 other amazing, godly women.

I didn’t even know the theme of the Gathering, I just knew it would be good. So when the DVD started and I found out the theme was Joshua, I just sat there and smiled.

I smiled because I could see another glimpse of what God was up to in me – this theme has been running through our lives over and over for years, and especially the last 3 years. Every time it comes up it’s time to take another step into the Jordan, not seeing how the water will part, just trusting we’ll make it through to the other side… somehow… in God’s will.

I think I already had an idea of this next step to take… but I’ll get to that in another post…

It’s funny, when God plunks down His will in the middle of your life, and leaves the choice up to you.

It’s like coming to a wall, right in front of you, and you can go either one way or the other, but you can’t continue going forward – not in the direction you were heading.

Because you are never the same person after God presents His will to you.

No matter what choice you make, whether yes or no, you will go either one way or the other, but never be on the same path again.

You will always know that either you followed God or you didn’t. And either one can change you forever. You will never be the same. Going forward on the path you were following is impossible.

And so it was with My Joshua. I met him in a chiropractor’s office in 1997. He was a patient, I was a receptionist. His personality would consume the entire office space as soon as he walked in the front door, I would keep the office running smoothly in the background. He would have every single person laughing and connecting in a matter of minutes, I spent quality one-on-one time with the patients as I led them down to their treatment rooms. We had such different gifts and abilities, and we used them to minister to those around us in different ways, neither more important than the other.

I checked his file soon after meeting him.

HHmm… just a few months younger than me…. this could work.

Except I look younger than my actual age, and he kept inviting me to the youth group he was pastoring at the time. I kept telling him I’d let my YOUNGER brother know about the group.

Then I went off to Bible college for a few months, thinking I would never return. I had these grand plans of missionary work and being a jungle bush-woman. Marriage and children were NOT on my radar.

I returned home for the Christmas break. I never went back to school. There was such a tug on my heart to stay. My mission field was here first, with my family and friends.

I needed to find a church I could plug into (I had grown up in the church, wandered away for many years, and my own faith developed while working for the chiropractor – a man who served on the international mission field for 45 years, practising his chiropractic methods for free on whoever needed them). I remembered My Joshua (just Josh at the time). We started attending his church.

Within a few months my YOUNGER brother was part of the youth group, My Joshua (still just Josh) now knew my correct age, and I was volunteering as a leader with the group.

Then came the wall.

I had prayed that if God ever had marriage in mind for me, I would only be attracted to that person, I was done with the  emotional roller coasters and mind games of dating. The more I got to know My Joshua, the more life was changing for me.

I had a choice to make. I could go in one direction or the other. I could follow the plans I had for myself and go to the mission field. Or I could stay and most likely marry My Joshua (I knew he would still have his own choices to make once God presented him with the wall that was Anna).

I struggled and prayed and pleaded with God to show me His will. Now I realize He already had. Now it was my choice. If I chose marriage, Josh was the man.

I chose marriage, and left the missionary work in God’s hands, knowing He may or may not give that to me also, hoping He would. josh seemed to have a pretty big heart for it as well.

We started dating soon after, we were engaged not even 3 months after our first date, we were married not even 3 months after our engagement.

What a whirlwind romance!

But when you know, you know, and we knew.

My Joshua has lived up to his namesake in the Bible many times over. He has listened to God and marched around many strongholds and brought them down in God’s timing and God’s power. He has served leaders well and led others well. He has met with God in the desert time and time again, and done his best to follow whatever it is that God says to him there, no matter how ridiculous it may sound to everyone else (including me, maybe even especially me).

My Joshua has seen the promised land and brought back reports of its amazing bounty to others who longed to live in that kind of a land. He has offered to lead them there. Giants don’t distract him. He is a fighter through and through. I love to watch him fight for the things God lays on his heart.  (Especially when it’s me and the boys he’s fighting for!)

My Joshua also has a Caleb in his life, someone else who has seen the promised land and brought back reports of its bounty to us, whispers of what heaven must be like. This Caleb is our son, who was stillborn in May 2003. I will write more about that soon…

And My Joshua’s life verse is Joshua 1:9 –

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

I’ll get to that word GO in an upcoming post. I’d love to keep unpacking the IF Gathering 2015 with you over the coming days…

For now, even though the Gathering was just starting, I knew that God would be speaking to my heart about marriage to My Joshua and about going into the promised land. Over the last few months God had shown us a vision and direction for Reaching the North, and I knew it was most likely time to take another big step of faith.

I also knew that for me the step might just be from within.

Time to Live in Some New Moments

Simple

I’m trying to stick with Simple this year. Trying to put everything on the table and see whether it stays or goes.

This post was almost about how I was going to take a break from blogging for a while.

Or at least take a break from this space on the web, where I started sharing so much about life back in 2007.

I’ve typed out words to share here through so many different seasons of life.  Living in the Moments has always been a reflection of the moment I find myself in.

So why stop now, in this moment, right?

This moment has me somewhat paralyzed, stuck, afraid, hesitant, indecisive, worried, anxious, confused, doubting it’s really happening to me, uncertain that I am enough.

I think I NEED to keep sharing. I NEED to keep typing.  I NEED to keep Living in the Moments.

And so I’ll just… keep… going.

I’d love for you to continue joining me on the journey when you can. There most likely won’t be as many tales of family life, or domestic tips. There most likely will be more honest conversations about church planting and social justice issues.

Why?

Because these are my moments right now.

I need to live in them.

And Enjoy them – just like my tagline says – Enjoying the moments of life, faith, marriage, and motherhood.

This blog has always been just me, putting it out there, processing my life in words, hoping to encourage others along the way.

Thanks for joining me on the journey – however long you’ve been walking beside me as you read and comment. I’d love to keep sharing the journey with you.

Stay tuned for more this coming week…

 

More Copies of The Jesus Tree Available on Etsy

Hey Folks,

In my haste to post The Jesus Tree family devotions for Lent yesterday I posted the item incorrectly on Etsy.

Just in case you visited the link and were told The Jesus Tree was sold out, I can assure you there are unlimited quantities available!

Revisit my Etsy shop and it should be smooth sailing to get a copy of The Jesus Tree before Lent begins – tomorrow!

Family Devotions for Lent – The Jesus Tree

Jesus Tree Cover Jesus Tree Egs

It’s done!

I am excited to offer you this resource for families to use during the season of Lent!

Lent 2015 starts on Wednesday, February 18th with Ash Wednesday – just 2 days away!

A little more about The Jesus Tree

This set of 48 family devotions for Lent starts on Ash Wednesday and takes you all the way through to Easter Monday.
Each daily devotion includes a Story from Jesus’ Life, a Bible reading suggestion, a Talk About discussion question, and a Prayer.
Hang the stories as ornaments on a tree (similar to the Jesse Tree for Advent), on an Easter garland, on a tree decal on the wall, or however you like!
Have your children draw their own adaption of each day’s story on the other side of the paper (or a separate paper) to make your ornaments more personal to your family.
Laminate to keep the ornaments intact – use them over and over in the years to come. Or have them as a keepsake if your children create their own illustrations.
There are many possibilities for your family to personalize The Jesus Tree for Lent.
Have fun together and watch your family’s faith grow as The Jesus Tree grows!

The Jesus Tree devotions are available in my Etsy shop for $5 each.

Head on over here to pick up your printable version of the devotions.

My hope is to provide easy-to-use resources for families to use to grow faith in their homes. I kept picturing my grandchildren listening to these stories as I was writing them. These children that aren’t even born yet have become my inspiration when I tackle a writing project like this one.  Maybe I’ll be the one reading them The Jesus Tree stories one day?!

I hope to add illustrations for next year, but for this year – writing the stories will have to do!

Blessings on you this Lenten season!

Simple Ways to Reach Out – February 11th is World Day of the Sick

Medicines for 10 Children

February 11th is World Day of the Sick

$0.33 Prescriptions for 90 Children!

When I was 15 I asked my mum if I could join the Peace Corps. That dream was shattered when I found out the group was only in America.

Instead I took Environmental Studies in university and college. I joined all kinds of clubs like Friends of the Earth and World Wildlife Fund. I volunteered to be the recycling representative for my dorm at university. I nagged my dad so many times to put his cans in the blue bin instead of the garbage. I dragged family and friends along on fundraising walks. I wrote Letters to the Editor that spoke of the travesties of the “mass slaughter” of trees that happened every Christmas season. I visited Clayquot years after the clear-cutting and mourned at the loss. I have always felt a pull to reach out, help, and preserve creation.

Then a wonderful woman spoke something into my life when I was 23. I had ventured off across the country on my own, to attend a Bible college, and I was living with this family who had 4 daughters – they were absolutely amazing people. I was wearing one of my many activist t-shirts – I believe this one said Save the Dolphins. She looked at my shirt, and looked me straight in the eye, and she said something that changed my life forever.

“What about the people, Anna?”

HUGE moment.  I still love the trees, I still feel more at home outside than inside, and I still think the greatest sanctuaries I’ve ever been in are forests or fields or beaches. But it’s the people that have my heart now. And I am truly grateful for this change that has happened.

For years there has been this thought wandering around in my mind – that there must be simple ways to make a difference in the world. We can’t all be missionaries or relief aid workers, but we can all give something to help.

So I’ve been looking for a few simple ideas to share with others. Ideas that could be done anytime, anywhere.

Since February 11th is World Day of the Sick, I thought this would be a good place to start.

Hubby and I have been sponsoring World Vision kids for years, each of us before we ever laid eyes on each other. These kids have come from all around the world, and we’ve been so happy to share life at least a little with each one.

I’ve been getting to know their gift catalogue quite a bit, and realizing we can give these gifts anytime, not just at Christmas.

So here’s an idea for February…

Medicine for 90 Children for $30

The gift of $30 was originally for medicine for 10 children, but with donations from partner companies, the gift is multiplied NINE times over. That means that the $30 will actually help NINETY children. That’s like picking up a $0.33 prescription for 90 kids. Yes please!

Head on over to the World Vision catalogue and give that $30 to help 90 children on World Day of the Sick.

This Week Over at My Frugal Family…

Untitled drawing (1)

I’m posting like crazy this week – getting caught up on all the things I love to write about!

I have another website where I go to share the adventures of My Frugal Family – this site is dedicated to helping others spend less, save more, and pay it forward.

A snippet of what you’ll find over at MFF this week:

  • Monday – Spend & Save Weekly Challenge: January 26 – February 1 (this is where I recap our Big Savings from the Big Stores)
  • Tuesday – Goals for 2015 – Update
  • Wednesday – Family Meals on a Budget – February 2015 (a menu plan for ALL meals for ALL month!
  • Thursday – Sample Food Shopping List – February 2015 (a peek at what was on the list for the big shop last week and how I plan it all out every month)