Saturday, December 3, 2016

Real Love

It's Christmas season, and with it brings the ever popular Hallmark movies. You know the ones - the sappy Rom Coms where the girl gets the guy and life is good. The ones where conflict is easily resolved and just in time for Christmas. The ones like the one I'm watching right now...

Ladies, we love these movies because they're sweet. Because they make us cry those happy tears. They give us the feels. Because Hollywood knows how to package love in a beautiful way to make it bright and shiny and wonderful. The women are beautiful. The men are handsome and rich. The Christmas decorations have that magnificent WoW factor. But let's not miss this one simple truth - it isn't real.

Of course we know movies aren't real. Sure, some may be based on true stories. But what I really mean here is that even though we grab the popcorn and tune in to every single Christmas Rom Com we've recorded this season, it's not an accurate depiction of love.

Ladies, let's not miss this. It's easy to forget sometimes, in the midst of the twinkling lights and the mistletoe. Real love is staring us in the face every day - it's what we have with our husbands. It is there in the moments when we've lost someone we love - real love lets us cry on their shoulder. It's there on those days when we feel less than stellar and real love tells us we're beautiful. It's there beside us when we deal with difficult situations in life.

Real love is helping with the laundry. Real love is pouring you the last cup of coffee. Real love is listening to you talk about your day. It's caring about your dreams and hopes. And holding your hand as you embrace your fears. Real love isn't always romantic. It's the every day, live with you for a lifetime kind of love.

I hope you experience real love this Christmas season. If you're not married yet, hold on. Real love is better than the movies. It's absolutely worth the wait.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Broken, And Yet Whole

We had an incident this morning that involved a boy and a broken lamp. Not just any lamp, but a beautiful glass lamp filled with shells that was given to me by my grandmother who passed away this summer. These were shells she had collected throughout her lifetime, on beaches in South America and beyond. I heard the crash and raced down the stairs. My husband got there first, and let me know what had happened. I prepared myself for it before I surveyed the wreckage, and still I had a fit of uncontrollable sobs. It is hard losing someone you love - and something that connects you to them.

Everyone in the house had the good sense to leave me alone for a few minutes so I could pick up the pieces - literally and figuratively. There were shards of glass everywhere, mixed in with what I thought would be shards of shells as well. But as I gingerly picked through the mess, I marveled at a beautiful thing I could only believe was a little gift from God. Though the lamp had fallen quite a distance, not one of the shells had broken. Tiny, beautiful shells. Medium, delicate shells. Larger shells, gleaming in all their glory. Not one of them any different than when they'd been encased in their fortress of glass just moments before.

As I collected them off the floor and set them in a dish, I thought about how we are a bit like my broken lamp. We can be messy and broken, not having it all together. We can be a hot mess, like the jumble of glass shards and beautiful shells that were lying before me on the floor. But Christ in us allows the beauty inside of us to shine unbroken. "He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit. Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will go down deep into God's love and keep you strong." (Ephesians 3:16b,17)

The beautiful, unbroken shells reminded me of Christ in me. It reminded me to pray for grace and forgiveness for the son that had ruined a beautiful treasure. And while I was praying, I remembered it was just a lamp. My Grandma who I deeply love and greatly miss is still in glory, where she belongs - at peace with our Saviour. She would have told me to dry my eyes, pick up my broom and sweep up the mess. She would have told me to hug my son and tell him I love him. She would have told me Christ is the real treasure, not shells.

So that's exactly what I did. My heart was mended, my floor was cleared of debris and mopped. My son was put at ease and reminded of my love. And I was reminded of Christ's love for me. I'm sure I will find a new home for my shells. But now, whenever I look at them they'll have a deeper meaning than some shells Grandma picked as she walked along the shore. Now, they're a tangible reminder of Christ living in me - and that's a beautiful thing. 

Friday, November 25, 2016

Getting God Glasses - Perspective on His Plan

A few days ago we attended a little welcoming party for a newborn baby . I even had a chance to hold that sweet little boy and it was so wonderful to hear his little baby noises and watch him yawn the biggest baby yawn I have ever seen. What a sweetheart! His Dad mentioned something about having a lot of children (this baby was their fifth), and quoted Psalm 127:5 - blessed is the man whose quiver is full. They definitely have a full quiver, and it is awesome!

Later that evening, another friend posted a photo of some wall decor in their home. It featured the ultrasound photos of all five of their babies in a funky frame alongside this framed Psalm. "For you formed my inward parts: you knitted me together in my Mother's womb. I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works. My soul knows it very well." (Psalm 139:13-14) I thought it was awesome and very creative. What a neat idea. But then, my heart felt a little sad, just for a moment.

I always wanted to have a quiver of children. I wanted to have at least four. Maybe six. I came from a large family and I wanted a large family. I am not so sure my husband and I had the same idea for our quiver, but that's another story for another day. Today's story is about God Glasses.

What are God Glasses? Maybe it's not the greatest term, but it is a simple way to explain what happens when you look back over your past experiences and see the hand of God in your life. To see his plan unfolding in your life - the BEST plan. The plan that might not be what you would have chosen for yourself, but that really is better than what you were thinking.

My God Glasses for a "lack" of a large family show me two things. Two very amazing, very important things. The first is, I HAVE CHILDREN. The second - two is more than enough.

My husband and I had these amazing grandiose plans (as most newlyweds do) to enjoy being married without children and start building a family after five years. So imagine our shock and yes, a bit of alarm, when we discovered we were expecting after we had been married for only three short months. A year and one month after our wedding day, our bundle of baby arrived. And what a joy he was! Two years later, another bundle of boy added to our forever family. I didn't want it to be the end, but was told by doctors that I needed to be done and they were taking medical action to make it so. For the safety of my health, and my future children's health. It was a bit of a blow to be cut off, but then, God Glasses. Ten years later, I put my God Glasses on. I realized that if I had waited those five years, I wouldn't have been able to have any children at all. My God Glasses showed me His plan was better than my plan. My God Glasses showed me His blessings rather than my burdens of being without children.

Seven years after our forever family was formed, I had another God Glasses moment. We had been struggling with having a child with autism - and all that entailed. All the meetings with the school, the intervention, the special foods, the different medications. It was a challenge! Then we received the news that they both had autism, and some other added complications, and we were overwhelmed. Challenges and blessings can sometimes be bundled into one, can't they? My God Glasses made me realize that two children with autism was more than enough. I didn't need to add to my quiver. My tiny quiver was overflowing. My God Glasses showed me His plan was better than my plan. My God Glasses showed me the two children were more than enough, and any more would likely be too much to bear.

God Glasses are necessary as we navigate through this life. It is so important to look back on hard situations and disappointments that once shook us to our core - and see how God has moved. God Glasses allow us to see His plan with a fresh perspective. From His perspective.

What do your God Glasses allow you to see? I hope you will be as blessed as I am when you look back and see how God has turned your trials into triumphs.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Larger than Life

It has been a few days since I embarked on the first day of my new journey - after the diagnosis. I honestly thought that it would be the best thing in the world, just what I needed. And it was, in a way. But then I sit here, folding laundry. Large laundry - the kind that people wear on their "fat days." Worse, actually. The kind of laundry that no one wants to wear. That's the kind of laundry I was folding. A part of me died a little bit. Because while I got a diagnosis, and it was the one that I expected, the skinny person inside of me died.

Every time I look in the mirror I am surprised. I am surprised at the person looking back at me because it's not the person I feel is walking around out there. If there was such a thing as reversed anorexia, that is how I would categorize myself. Instead of thinking of myself as bigger than I am, I think of myself as smaller. So when I am met with that harsh reality, it knocks the life out of me. I see how I really look to others and it makes me sad. Now I am not completely out to lunch, I know I am not model thin - but I definitely don't feel as large as I actually am.

So when I was folding my laundry - these clothes I have worn many times before - it was as if my eyes were opened to how big they really are.  And the hope that some day I would appear as skinny on the outside as I do on the inside disappeared forever. Because one thing is true, there is no way to reverse what has happened to my body. I will forever be a super sized person.

But then a fresh breath of hope in the form of a phone call. My sister, who is always in tune with my heart, called me on her lunch break to tell me she was going to buy me some pants for my birthday. As she added the pants to her online cart, she told me she was getting a size larger for me to grow into. Partly because that's what was available, and partly because she can see the Jerusha I saw in the mirror today and the Jerusha I see when I look at myself. And she knows the dream that died. And she told me. "embrace it Jeru - it's going to be okay." I know that's true. I do. And I love my sister, who knows that the Jerusha I see when I look at myself desperately wants to look pretty. And I love that she always helps me find clothes that will help me to look the way I want to look despite the Jerusha that really is standing in front of the mirror.

As I hung up the phone, her words ringing in my ears, I turned back to my laundry. I took a pair of holey pants to the garbage - I have new ones on the way. And as I was throwing them out, I felt a voice whispering "I make all things new." A voice who knows the Jerusha that I don't even know yet. A voice who knows all of my days - the days that have passed, the days I live right now, and the ones that I will live. A voice that makes it all okay.

Because I am more than the clothes that I wear. I am more than the size of my body. I am more because He is making me more. Jesus has an upside down kingdom. What the world thinks is right isn't really right. What the world thinks is beautiful isn't really beautiful. And in that moment, when I heard that voice whispering - I had a little perspective. Perhaps I am going to always be a large person while I live here on this earth, but that doesn't mean my heart has to be broken in pieces over it. Because God is making me new, and it is going to be okay. If I am going to be large, I might as well live larger than life.

And while I live larger than life, I am going to embrace this - because that's all I can do. I can embrace the lipedema riddled body. I am going to treat as best as I can the more serious lymphedema, and I am going to LIVE. For as many days as I have been given. Because right now, in this moment, it is not the end. He has made a way for me, even as I am. And even in the moments where I am faced with the reality I don't want to face, He is the God of all my days. And I am trusting in His plan.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Hope: A Living, Breathing Thing

"Sometimes providence guards us from pain. Other times, the providence is in the pain." - Seth Haines

Pain has possibility. Most of us wouldn't see that in the every day, because pain is difficult. It makes us uncomfortable. Pain makes us have to feel things we don't want to feel. Wikipedia states "pain motivates the individual to withdraw from damaging situations and to avoid similar experiences in the future." But what about the pain that is unavoidable? I'm not talking about the physical pain you might feel when you stub your toe or break your arm. I'm talking about emotional pain - the deep stuff. The stuff that hurts so much you don't even want to read any further. (Keep going, it's okay. Trust me!)

The kind of pain that we all have to endure at some point in our lives but we all hope we never have to endure. The pain of broken relationships. The pain of hard situations and circumstances that t-bone you when you least expect it. Painful situations don't seem like they have possibility. But they do.

Sometimes God allows pain into our lives to change and shape us. That is such a difficult lesson - and one that often will take us years to understand and process. In the meantime, we can take a look at King David - the man after God's own heart. He had a lot going for him - he was a king chosen by God himself. But he suffered greatly, and his pain was so overwhelming for him.

Let's look at the beginning - before he even assumed the throne - he was working for King Saul, who became so jealous of David that he wanted to kill him. Numerous times he fled for his life. He spent many years on the run from Saul. But God used that time in his life to change and shape him - it was in those times that he wrote many psalms and songs that we still read today.

Fast forward to the New Testament and we see another Saul - also called Paul - who suffers much pain in his ministry. This is the one who had spent time chasing down and arresting Christians who was vehemently opposed to the gospel of Jesus. Until he had his own encounter and literally saw the light. After that it was his life's mission to bring the news of the life and resurrection of Jesus to everyone he saw  - both Jews and Gentiles. This made some Roman officials very angry, as some Jews didn't believe that Jesus was the Messiah. Numerous times Paul was arrested and jailed and put on trial for living out his life assignment from God. At one point, he was arrested for doing nothing other than performing a Jewish ritural in the temple. The Jewish leaders had been trying to catch him for so long they leapt at the chance, after which they had nothing to accuse him of - at least not anything that would stick - and he was passed from official to offical to official until he was finally set free. This lengthy process allowed him time to write the many letters to the surrounding churches to encourage and guide them - what we now know as the Epistles.

Pain has possibility. In the deepest, darkest and most painful situations. When we just can't handle the pain for one more moment - it happens. He breathes hope into the hopeless situations. It may be just a little whisper. It might be just a spark of encouragement. It may be something grand. But it is hope just the same. And hope is His promise to us as we struggle through day to day life. Hope is His promise to us as we face the painful situations in our life.

It was Paul, the one who had been imprisoned numerous times during his missionary journey, who wrote the book of Romans. So when I read these words, I know they are coming from someone who endured suffering and pain:

"Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of unreserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God's glory. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us to develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope and salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love." Romans 5:2-5

Even through the painful situations, we can see hope through Christ. He breathes hope into our lives, and even through the pain, we are transformed.

One Sunday morning as we were worshipping in church, we were singing a song that I felt right down to my very core. And in that moment, I felt like He had breathed hope right into my body. My broken, aching body. The words that crept into the secret recesses of my heart and filled me with life:

Death has now been swallowed up in victory
Then all hurt and pain will cease
And we will be with Him forever
And in His glory we will live
So lift your eyes to the things yet unseen
that now remain for all eternity 
though trouble's hard it's only momentary 
and it's achieving our future glory. 

Pain has possibility. It can even be a gift that we are grateful for. I never thought there would come a day where I would stand there and confess in my heart that I was grateful for this debilitating disease. But here I am, saying it. I am thankful, grateful and hope infused for this pain, if it would be this that He would use to someone point others to Him, whether it be by my life or my words.

So whatever pain you are experiencing, be it emotional pain, physical pain, spiritual pain, or all of the above, it is my prayer that He will breathe hope into your hopeless situations today. Because His hope stands forever, long after our painful situations have passed away.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Liquid, Laziness and a School Project

My son is obsessed with liquids. I don't know what it is about them that he likes. But he just can't stop. Like that time he poured the oil everywhere and turned the stove on. Or that time I decided to treat myself to a more expensive body  wash only  to find half the bottle on the floor of the shower when I was ready to use it.  The time he spilled the laundry soap on the floor. And then a few days later, all over the front of the dryer. What a mess that was to clean up! 

The thing with liquids is that he loves the sound they make as they spill. He loves watching the different consistencies of liquids pouring all over different places in my house. And do you want to know what else makes a great splashing noise when not disposed of in its regular environment? Urine.

So that is how my day started. I don't know about you, but the words "I've had an accident" cause me to pause. What kind of accident - and was it intentional or not? Then I hurry up the stairs to strip the bed or empty the toybox, or mop the floors or all of the above. The boy gets a bath and Mom gets to clean up. Again. I've learned to be gracious when it comes to urine all over the place - even though every time it happens it's like fingernails grating against the chalkboard of my mind. 

The rest of the morning  I was wrapped up in a task I expected to take an hour. I ended up missing breakfast and rushing through lunch, which isn't all that uncommon for autism parents. In the short hour or two before the kids got home from school I quickly fired off some e-mails, tidied the kitchen, and ran a few loads of laundry through the wash. And then it dawned on me. Aiden has a school project due tomorrow.

And then worse...he hasn't even started it yet. I don't know about you, but when I was his age and a project was assigned at school I organized my thoughts and then started into it right away. Usually it was finished a few days before it was due. I was in no way prepared to have a son who is, let's face it, a procrastinator. So when he walked through the door, sat down on the couch and picked up the TV remote, I came undone a little bit.

Okay. I came undone a lot. My day had not gone as I had planned and now I had to help someone with an assignment that could have been done by now. I was stressed and empty. And hungry. 

So I started ranting and raving about how laziness was unacceptable and how he needed to learn how to time manage. I went on and on about how he needed to be more responsible and that I didn't want him to procrastinate ever again. I even made up a new rule about how when he was given an assignment he would now have to work on it every night until it was complete. And all that ranting and raving? It didn't do either of us a bit of good, we both got upset, and I am pretty sure the whole point got lost on deaf ears before it even left my lips.

Oh, that God would give me a mouth that knows how to stop before it begins. While nothing I said was hurtful, it wasn't very constructive. My little boy couldn't figure out why I was so upset, and I just couldn't stop yammering long enough to let him get a word in edgewise.

In the end, he got the project complete. Granted, not without me holding his hand and directing him on what was expected. Except, here's the thing - what I didn't see before I started my tirade was that he had already been thinking about his project. He had already collected his thoughts, and had some pretty interesting and unique ideas to bring forward. He just was unsure of how to get them out and how to compile them into a report expected by his teacher. He had done the ground work long before I had ever opened my mouth.

Have you ever felt like you may have blown it in a mothering minute? If the goal is to teach, equip, strengthen and encourage - I definitely failed today. We live in a world where sometimes the cookie cutter children are expected.  I of all people should know that my children just aren't capable of being that kind of kid. And here, in this crazy frustrating moment I forgot it all. All that I knew about expectations. All that I knew about autism. I had forgotten, and had unrealistically put expectations on my son to time manage, to organize and to get his project done. Autism aside, these are all learned skills. I mean, he is only in grade six after all.

Reality set in and I found myself totally wrong and in need of forgiveness. So I had to seek him out and apologize for my irrational thinking. We had a great conversation about how to move forward. Since communication is not his thing, I will need to be more diligent myself. I don't want to hold his hand for a lifetime - at some point he is going to need to run on his own. But maybe not  yet.

So as I sit here reflecting on my behaviour, I can see his report peeking out of his school book. I pull it out and look at the assignment -  I look through his eyes for a moment and see an assignment he would not be thrilled to have to complete. A science project asking him to create a new animal that has to have adapted to life on a certain, uninvented planet. His eyes tell me he is fustrated because it is not real science - it is entirely fictional. His eyes tell me he is frustrated because there is a creative element to it, having to design a new animal and all of its features and its home. His eyes tell me this project will be hard for  him.

And then I take a sip of my latte and think of all the praise I could have given him. Praise for struggling through something difficult to come up with an animal. Praise for being a flexible thinker and not dwelling on the fact that its habitat was not true or factual. Praise for knuckling under and getting the project done. And in this moment, I wish I could have a do over.

Sometimes do overs are possible, and other times they aren't. But at the end of the day, I know we love each other. I know he doesn't hold a grudge and neither do I. I know we can work together to help him get to where he needs to be. I know that we really and truly are flying by the seat of our pants.

And like I tell him when he has made a bad choice - tomorrow is a new day and a great opportunity to start fresh. 

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Thanksgiving - A Little Reminder

This weekend brings another Canadian Thanksgiving, and with it people are giving thanks everywhere. If we are being honest, the long weekend usually means stuffing yourself silly on turkey dinner with all the fixings. And pie - oh, the different pies that people make this weekend! Pumpkin, apple, pecan - you name it, people are making and eating them. But what does Thanksgiving really mean? 

In Canada, it has been a holiday since 1879, when the government caught wind of the American thanksgiving and decided it sounded like a good idea. Then in 1957, the governor general of Canada decided on a day "of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed – to be observed on the 2nd Monday in October." How things have changed in nearly 60 years since that decision. How many people leave God out of the occasion?

It is easy to be thankful without bringing up God at all. We all have occasions to be thankful - all things new. Like weddings, new babies, new jobs, new opportunities. All the big things that are good. And then the smaller things that just make you smile - like a new outfit, a cup of your favourite hot drink, a sale, a rainbow, or a sunny day. Small things can make you thankful. 

The interesting part about good things that no one really thinks about much is this: "whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens." James 1:17a Every good thing. 

This Thanksgiving, be challenged to remember this. When you sit down to eat your turkey dinner (or tofurkey, in some cases!) remember who has blessed you with the ability to purchase and make the food. When you gather with family and friends, remember the One who has surrounded you with these people that you love. When your children, who have been home from school on an extended break, are driving you bonkers - remember they are a gift from God. 

Thanksgiving can't happen without good things. Anything we are thankful for is a good thing, that was given to us from God. Therefore, Thanksgiving without God is just any other day. This Thanksgiving, remember to thank the One who has given you things to be thankful for.