Saturday, November 24, 2012

For My Favourite Person on His 40th Birthday

How do I express my love for you when words do not do justice to my feelings.
The precious bond of covenant love between us is my greatest earthly joy.
We're blessed with heavenly shadows--n
ot less than lovely feelings, but so much more.
To live and love and breathe within this covenant is joy.  

Your unwavering promise to love me has been assaulted, tested and proved.
My facade of goodness has been torn away many times between us.
You know my flaws.
You pursue me with forgiveness, love and hope.

The Lord God speaks tenderly to His bride,
“I will make you my wife forever,
showing you righteousness and justice,
unfailing love and compassion.”
You mirror this Holy One.
This above all fuels my love for you.
To be your intimate companion is bliss.

Your children adore you.
And how could they not?
Your character is displayed in the many facets of fatherhood.
You give them your time, your playfulness and your affection.
You hear them speak and know their struggles.
You guide them with love and patience.
You welcome them with open arms,
Echoing their Heavenly Father.

I’m humbled by your generosity,
Inspired by your faith.
Proud of your courage and initiative.
Your strength of character proclaims your trustworthiness.
Your sincere love for people increases mine for you.

When I see the masterpiece that the Lord is making,
I am overwhelmed with thankfulness.
The painting of your life is covered with colorful strokes of grace.
It is saturated with the goodness of God.

Today I celebrate your life.
Many have testified of your care in their lives.
Our sons lives are enriched by yours.
And I am blessed beyond measure to be loved by you.
Without exaggeration I can say,
the world is a better place because of you.

Happy Birthday, My Love!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Funny Things Knox Says

Everything Knox says at the moment is emphatic and very important sounding. We joke that the only way he seems capable of speaking is loud or extra loud. I think he has inherited the Humfrey-loud-voice. Knox is really into compound words at the moment. The other week we were driving to church and Clint missed his turn.

"Mom, Dad just took a shortcut. Do you know what a short cut is? It's SHORT. And it's CUT. It's SHORT. CUT." he says with emphatic cutting hand movements.

(Hunter thought it was important to clarify at this point that Dad actually took a "long-cut.")

Another time we were wheeling our cart through the grocery store and he said,

"Mom, I would sure like some breadcake."

"I'm not sure what breadcake is Knoxy."

"It's BREAD. And it's CAKE. It's BREAD. CAKE."

The best was when K tried to explain chicken nuggets to me.

"They are CHICKEN on the inside and FINGERS on the outside! They are CHICKEN. FINGERS." he says wiggling his fingers in my face.

The other day Knox was crying very loudly because he didn't want to do something that I had asked him to do.

"Knox, you need to stop crying and get control of yourself."

He stops and says matter-of-factly, "Mom, I won't do this ad infinitum."

(I guess this is what happens when you marry a theologian who thinks it's "fun" to teach his kids Latin.)

We have really been working on helping Knox to be "slow to anger". And there has been some very encouraging progress with him. The only funny thing is that almost at every meal he has started praying,

"Dear God, please help Mom to be slow to anger."

Of course all of this is funny coming from Knox because he is a big softy at heart with a beautiful smile and sparkling eyes.

He declares his love for us with this same sing-songy, tough-guy voice. His chubby hands reach wide.

"I love you THIS much!"

I'm so thankful for this little guy.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Power of Words, Part 2

The modest man is aware of the power of his words, so he chooses each one carefully, seeking to make each word an opportunity to bless and strengthen and build up. ~ Modest: Men and Women Clothed in the Gospel by Tim Challies, R W Glenn
My culture tells me that my words are all about myself and that I have a right to express myself. But more is required of a Christian. We need to be aware of the power of our words to affect other people.

Sometimes I wonder if my generation has lost the ability to discern what is appropriate in conversation. We often display a surprising lack of savvy concerning how to speak in a way that "fits the occasion" as it says in Ephesians 4:29. It's like our propriety radar was scrambled with the rise of facebook.  

There are certain words that are private and other words that are public. I cringe to think of the times that I have said inappropriate things to a large number of people. These same things would have been appropriate if I was speaking with only one or two close friends, but they were not helpful or wise in the larger context. Private words in a public context are not modest. They are at best attention-getting and at worst injurious because others are almost always implicated in our personal lives.

Humble Words

I've always loved this observation by C.S. Lewis. He describes the demeanour and words of a humble person in his book Mere Christianity:
Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call “humble” nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.
According to Lewis, humble people are aware of their flaws, but they do not constantly speak of them because they are not constantly thinking about themselves. They are content with their life and eager to take an interest in others. 

Of course, we need people we can talk to when going through struggles and difficulty. People with whom we can be transparent and raw. Intimate friends, a pastor, a spouse or a counsellor can be helpful in these situations. But if the majority of our words are speaking of ourselves, we are missing the point of words. We are missing great opportunities to bless other people.

This can especially be a problem if we need other people to affirm us and approve of our choices. If we find our self-worth in other people's opinions of us, we will always be self-absorbed in our conversations. 

This craving for approval can only be satisfied in God's redeeming love for us. When we find our security and worth in Him our words cease to be controlled by other people's opinions, and we are freed to take a genuine interest in others.

The Responsibility of Words

Words affect other people. They have the power to build up or to tear down. They can burn down a forest or plant new seeds of hope.

I feel like I am still learning how to use my words. It takes time and effort to learn how to bless, strengthen and build others up. Thankfully, we don't need to be be charming and witty for God to use us. For those of us who often feel inadequate and "slow of speech" like Moses, we need to remember what God told him:
 “Who has made man's mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.”
I am so thankful for treasured friends who have been gracious to me when I have spoken selfish and rash words. I am equally thankful for their generous, grace-giving words. I have often been blessed by the God-honouring words of brothers and sisters in Christ.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Power of Words

"no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison...From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so." ~ James 3:8, 10

I've been thinking a lot about words lately. I have often underestimated the impact of my words. I have also underestimated the longevity of my words.

Once you say them, you can never un-say them.

How often have I spoken without thinking through the implications of my words? How often have I been so short-sighted in the moment that I failed to see how my words would effect the reputation of another. 

The glory of having something interesting to say overshadows my concern for others-- both those with whom I am speaking and also those rarely remembered second and third-hand hearers.

Words are so easy to speak. They are such a little thing in the moment. But a few seconds worth of words can set in motion horrific consequences. Maybe that's why the apostle James compares the tongue to a small rudder that guides a huge ship or a small spark that sets a forest ablaze. 

What Our Words Say About Us

Our words are an expression of our hearts. People perceive things about us by what we say. These words divulge our pride, our prejudices, and our insecurities. They expose what we value, what we love and what we crave. 

It is tempting to be duplicitous.  To speak in a way that is contrary to our heart's true feelings because we think it is what others want to hear. This is not admirable or sustainable.

But because of the indelible nature of words, a motive-searching moment before speaking is invaluable. 

Words that Give Grace

"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear."

A Christian's words should have purpose. They should be intentional, thoughtful and strategic. They should be words of healing, of kindness, and encouragement. They should seek to "give grace to those who hear." This may be as simple as engaging in small talk or as complex as counselling a person through a major life crisis. The intention is the same: to genuinely seek the other's good and to draw their attention to the God who saves. 

Even corrective words can be done with gentleness, respect and humility. I love this example of Winston Churchill being confronted by his wife, Clementine. It's an excerpt from a letter found in Speaking for Themselves: The Personal Letters of Winston and Clementine Churchill. The manner of Clementine's rebuke is so loving and respectful that you know she is doing it wholly because she cares about his well being. She says:

I hope you will forgive me if I tell you something that I feel you ought to know. One of the men in your entourage - a devoted friend - has been to me & told me that there is a danger of your being generally disliked by your colleagues and subordinates because of your rough sarcastic and overbearing manner...I was astonished and upset because in all these years I have been accustomed to all those who have worked with & under you, loving you - I said this, & I was told 'No doubt it's the strain.' My darling Winston - I must confess that I have noticed a deterioration in your manner & you are not so kind as you used to be...with this terrific power [as Prime Minister] you must combine urbanity, kindness and if possible Olympic calm...Besides you won't get the best results by irascibility and rudeness...Please forgive your loving devoted and watchful - Clemmie.
Grace-giving words have the power to bring about change. How different would our conversations be if we felt that it was our responsibility to bless others?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Restless Patience

The rocky mountaintops stretch across the Canmore skyline. I breathe the fresh mountain air and am amazed at the awesome display of God's beauty and majesty. If only I could take this foretaste of heaven home with me--this moment of quiet when God's presence seems so large and my joy seems so full.

But I am well aware that these carefree highs are not a perpetual experience. They are interspersed with genuine difficulty, fatigue, sickness and toil. The temptation to escape the ugly aspects of life, to create a false heaven on earth, is strong. A mountain view, the calming ambiance of a spa, fun with friends, a day at the beach or a favourite pastime cannot deal with the problem of sin. These lovely blessings cannot eradicate the difficult parts of life in a fallen world. They were never meant to.

It is hard to wait. The tension is acute. The beauty of redemption clashes with the impact of sin. Christ has saved me, and yet I wait for the "hope of righteousness." I wait for Christ to return and make all things new.

But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait eagerly for it with patience. Romans 8:25

One author I read recently called this tension "restless patience." I thought it was so fitting.  He expands on this idea by quoting John Chapman, "We must learn to be content with the dissatisfaction of not yet being what we one day will be." It seems like a contradiction of terms, but I feel the truth of it in my own heart. A contented dissatisfaction pervades.

I am confronted with this truth: we do not need heaven on earth to be happy. We need a new way to interpret our circumstances. We need to see the transient nature of the ugly and the ever progressing nature of Christ's transforming work in our lives and world. Our joy does not increase as life gets easier. Our joy increases as we are transformed to become more like Christ.

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
(2 Corinthians 3:18)
Christ Jesus has conquered sin and death. The veil that separated us from the glory of God is torn in two. Those who trust in him have the unique privilege of beholding the glory of God. Not only this, but we have great hope for change. We are being transformed "from one degree of glory to another."

It is hard to imagine that the joy I felt gazing at the mountains was only a token of what we will experience when we see him face to face. But for now, my heart safely trusts Him and I wait with contented dissatisfaction for the new creation.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Trusting in Another

It seems like whenever we go out as a family, people love to comment on our family size. "Wow. Three boys. You must be busy!" Or "You have your hands full!" We only have three kids, but somehow this number seems to make people  uncomfortable.

Clint and I have started noticing a pattern. When we have babysitters for the older two and just take the baby out with us, people are all smiles and kind words. When we go out with all three, people either give us a wide berth and hope to avoid an encounter or else they make a big deal with their comments.

It doesn't really bother me because I think most people are well intentioned. However, while out for dinner with my family this evening, we had at least 4 people come up to our table and make a big deal about the fact that we had three little boys at our table. 

I'm starting to dislike the comments. Not for my own sake, but for the sake of my boys. My oldest son is now five and he catches everything. He keeps asking us, "Why are those people saying all that?" It seems like people don't notice that my boys are real people. In a way it seems disrespectful to my boys. They are not a burden or an inconvenience. They are people, made in the image of God.

I look at my son's face. He doesn't seem to be insulted at all. I feel relief. He knows his mom and dad treasure him. And I trust he is beginning to know his worth in his Heavenly Father's eyes. 

This is just the beginning of the trials that my boys will face in this life. At some point, maybe sooner rather then later, they will endure mocking and name calling from their peers. If they choose to follow Jesus they will face even greater opposition. Maybe they will go off to war or be missionaries in a hostile country. The difficult part for me is that I won't always be there to help them. For that matter, I may not be capable of helping them.

When we were walking back to our vehicle after dinner, a drunk man started talking to my boys. Afterward my oldest said, "He sounded like he was speaking funny. Maybe he is from somewhere else." My middle boy commented, "He was speaking nice words." The innocence of their words, however lovely and generous, made my defences come up a bit. I said, "When you are with Mom and Dad you can be friendly and say hello to everyone. If you are ever by yourself, don't talk to strangers."

"Why can we talk to strangers when you are around?"

"Because I would protect you if there was a bad person."

One of my boys, who will remain nameless, laughed out loud. He couldn't help himself. He could barely speak, he thought I was telling a good joke.

"What could YOU do to defend us?"

Thankfully, my darling husband came to the rescue of my wounded pride.

"Oh, if Momma got upset she would be a force to be reckoned with!" 

We all had a good laugh at this, but there was truth to my son's words. I cannot be their ultimate lifelong defender. I cannot pave the road for them and smooth every bump. I cannot stop every bad thing from ever happening to them. 

There is only one who calms the waves and stops the storms. There is only one who sees and knows all things at all times. He is the one who orchestrates all things for the good of those who love Him, however painful they may be.

Can I release my sons into his divine care? Will he not pry my fingers open anyway? I have a choice between fear and trust. How can I not trust in him. He can never fail. He will never forsake. His sufficiency is much greater than my own. 

Thank-you, my son, for the not-so-subtle reminder to look to Christ.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

What I Learned from the French

The plethora of "French Women Do Everything Better" books would have you believe that French women excel us in almost every realm of womanhood. From Bringing Up Bebe to French Kids Eat Everything and the classic French Women Don't Get Fat there is a certain trend toward doing everything French. And I have to admit, I'm somewhat fascinated by the trend. Not so much because I believe that French women do, in fact, do everything better then their North American counterparts, but because I find it refreshing to read about other cultures. Hearing how another culture does life, however imperfectly, can expose the flaws that we are blind to in our own culture.

As a Christian, I try to live life in a way that is pleasing to God, and to live in light of what the scriptures teach me about life and godliness. But sometimes the culture we live in can influence our practices without us even realizing it. Sometimes I think I'm doing things the best way or even the Christian way, but in reality, it is just the North American way.

When reading Bringing Up Bebe recently I was struck by the difference between French and North American parenting. According to the author, Pamela Druckerman, the French are not nearly as competitive as we are in terms of giving their kids an advantage in academics, sports, music or other activities. They however, think it is very important for their kids to develop self-control, delayed gratification and the ability to play creatively on their own. My understanding is that French mothers definitely do not hover, nor make every moment  a "teaching moment," rather kids need time to discover the world more naturally. Druckerman's time spent with French parents shed light on some of the pitfalls of North American parenting. Namely, our inability to let our children feel hungry, bored, frustrated or unhappy for even a moment without instantly jumping in and fixing it for them. And while I would rather raise my children here than any other place in the world, I thought she had some very insightful observations about us.

The Helicopter Mother

I have discovered, much to my shock and dismay, that I am officially a Helicopter Mother. My natural tendency is to hover over my kids, micromanage their days, and if I was physically able to, I would probably be teaching them something at every moment of every day. I know I'm not alone in this. A trip to the local play park confirms it. There are parents following their kids around narrating their every move or teaching them songs and rhymes while they play (usually very loudly so that everyone knows what a good parent they are.) It seems like I am constantly surrounded supermoms. Moms today are not expert in one or two areas of parenting, they are experts in eight, nine or ten areas of parenting. Whether it be breastfeeding, early potty training, baby yoga, baby sign language, mandarin for preschoolers, early reading, Baby Mozart, a whole foods diet or competitive sports for preschoolers, it seems to be very important to have your child excel their peers developmentally. To do adequately for your child is unacceptable. Excellence is what's required. There seems to be a competitive spirit that is cleverly masked as "just wanting what's best for your child."

Seeing some of these competitive and prideful attitudes in my own heart has really made me think about my priorities. I'm not sure I want to swing over to the camp of the 'free-range parents' (if you haven't heard of them go ahead and google it), but I don't want to remain in the 'helicopter' camp either.

A wise woman once counselled me, "There is something to be said for adequate. An adequate education, an adequately cleaned house, etc.." I think she may be on to something. What are we so afraid of? Why would it be so bad for our child to be merely average in some areas of their life (as they inevitably will be anyway.)


There are some things that I want to do really well. For example, I want to do the best job that I can spiritually mothering my children. I want them to know that there is one thing that is the most important thing in the world and that is Christ's love for them in the gospel. I want them to understand how the gospel transforms all of life. I want them to be what they were made to be. I want them to develop character that reflects the one who made them. Resilience, strength of character and love for God and others are all necessary to walk this path. They do not need to be little geniuses in one or two areas of their lives while being wildly unbalanced and unprepared for the rest of life.

I do realize that some children are given a special talent or ability that can be nurtured by their parents. Intelligence and special abilities can be glorifying to God. But something really twisted is happening in our culture. Parents seem to need their children to be special or gifted and are determined to accomplish this at all costs.

For the Christian woman, mothering is an important job, but it is not the most important thing in her life. First, she is a child of God. Second, she is her husband's lover, companion, friend and helper. Third, she is her children's mother.  And there are other things such as church, community, work and volunteering that come further down the list of priorities. If we find that all of our emotional energy is is being poured into mothering, we are in danger of becoming unbalanced. Perhaps we need to lower our aspirations for our kids in terms of academics, sports, hobbies, etc..

Mothers often feel pressure to produce excellence in their children, but it may be a mistake to assume this is good. Many of us are consumed with guilt or anxiety when other parents do more for their kids than we do for ours. We are afraid to slow down because our kids will be left behind. Little kids are feeling burned out before their life has really begun. I'm not sure the break-neck pace really makes them happier or more successful in the long run. I suppose it depends again on your definition of success. At the very least I think we need to be asking ourselves why we do what we do and not just assume that our (North American) way is the best way.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Fear and Formulas: A Mother's Snare

When it comes to parenting, we love formulas that work. In fact, you’ll be hard pressed to find a woman who does not feel passionately about whatever method or approach to parenting she takes. For example,
  • natural birth vs. use of drugs in labour
  • breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding
  • co-sleeping vs. sleeping in a crib
  • schedule vs. feeding on demand
  • staying at home vs. putting your kids in daycare
  • homeschooling vs. public schooling
The list could go on. Just hearing these options evokes strong emotions in us. We tend to feel somewhat threatened if someone disagrees with us on one of these points. Sometimes we elevate these decisions to the place of almost life or death importance.
By all means, I think it’s wise to research these things, ask questions, read books and make a decision that works best for your family, but we need to hold all of these things with a loose hand. When it comes to mothering, they are not the main thing.
When it comes to spiritual matters we tend to look for tried and true methods as well. If fact, it’s tempting for parents to become so fearful that we look for a magic formula. One that is guaranteed to produce mature well-balanced lovers of Jesus. In fact, few things expose the unbelief lurking in our hearts like motherhood does. We are tempted to disbelieve God when he tells us that the gospel is the power of God to salvation.
Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes,”
Think about it. Do you really believe that the gospel is attractive? More attractive than anything thing else in the world? Do you believe that the gospel is powerful? That the Holy Spirit can arrest your child’s heart with the beauty of it, and make it so much more attractive to them than any other thing the world has to offer?

We need to be diligent in teaching our children the gospel, but we also need to be a living example of what a gospel transformed life looks like. This does not mean that we pretend we are perfect and don’t make mistakes. It means that we don’t fear the world, the flesh and the devil. It means that living under a loving and sovereign God brings our hearts peace and contentment. It means that we trust in the power of the gospel. We need to let our children see that we take joy in this God, that we find him beautiful, satisfying and more attractive than anything the world has to offer.
Children are smart. They know if you really believe what you are saying.
They can tell if we are living in fear or if we are trusting in the loving and sovereign hand of God.

There are moments of utter joy and contentment in motherhood and there are also moments when you feel like your are drowning. And you just don’t know what the right thing to do is. It is so tempting in these ‘drowning’ moments to search high and low for the magic formula. But we can’t forget that we have a powerful gospel, a God who loves us intimately, and a Saviour who always lives to make intercession for us. (Hebrews 7:25...he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.) Jesus is praying for us right now.
To quote the 19th century Scottish preacher, Robert Murray McCheyne,
"If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet distance makes no difference. He is praying for me."

My encouragement to mothers is to guard your hearts against trusting in formulas and methods. There is only One who can save. And He is the One we need to put our trust in.