Thursday, September 11, 2014

The best day.

It's a humbling thing, planning a wedding.

You compile a guest list - recounting all of the ones held dear who share a part of your story - a congregation far greater than could ever be fit into a reception hall.
You clean out closets - an attempt to purge possessions only to find yourself in a heap of worn denim, track and field ribbons, sticky notes and birthday cards, all piecing into a glorious mosaic of memories.
You collect pictures - reminiscing over albums set in backdrops of wallpapered bedrooms, high school locker hallways and outdoor campfire glows - each well worth their own thousand words.

Layered through and through you find yourself at a crossroads - 
standing between who you were and who you get to be.

Looking back over my shoulder I see the crowd of witnesses beaming…

Generous ones who shared with me their milkshake straws, popcorn bowls, and a seat around their kitchen table.
Supportive ones who drove me to the arena on frigid winter nights, watching my figure skating routines from the bleachers.
Vivacious ones who urged me to crank up my Ace of Base cassette hits and others who pulled me off the couch to dance on the balcony or in the rain.
Tender ones who listened to my ramblings and asked the tough questions under dark skies and winding country roads.
Brave ones who ran with me through sprinklers and acted out scripts under beaming lights.
Strong ones who held me through the night and prayed over me at my weakest.
Patient ones who edited my psychology papers and endured embarrassment in the passenger seat as I choked the standard transmission for the fourteenth time.
Adventurous ones who taught me how to waterski and trotted alongside me on dusty goat paths.

Teammates, neighbours, mentors, roommates, sisters, mothers, coaches, confidants, teachers, believers.
All who sang back a song when I had lost mine. All sharing a part in growing me up and surprising me with joy - revealing to me a better glimpse of Jesus.


And then my head turns forward.
Eyes gaze upwards to the one my soul loves.
The depth found in his kind eyes who see me and know me. The joy of friendship and family and the little piece of heaven I have found in him. His hand that reaches out to lead me into a continuing story. And I can hardly wait to begin.


It's a humbling thing, planning a wedding.

Because you are reminded that in and through this crossroads, all of the love and beauty and emotion can't simply be bottled up or contained in one day. It flows deeper and reaches higher than we could ever justify no matter how many of our favourite people are reunited or how beautifully the church pews are decorated or how magically the photographer captures it all.

As our worlds and memories collide, we are awakened with the realization that we are but a breath and our heavenly Father is the Author of this ever-evolving, creative, mysterious and awe-inspiring story. Only He can reconcile and sustain us as we leap from where we have been to where we are going.

In one month, Ryan and I will take hands and make our covenant promise. We will be surrounded by our conglomerate 'home teams' of college roommates, best friends, pen pals, pastors, travel buddies, students, co-workers, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins and celebrate our best day.
But in the midst of that much anticipated date on the calendar, we acknowledge the best days we've already been blessed to live, and the ones that are yet to come. Not just the moments that make us laugh and rejoice, but the days that break us and move us and shape us into who we are becoming.
Each day that goes by reminds us ever clearer of the faithful presence and love of our God, and brings us one step closer to the most glorious day ever. The one that dims all the others when we meet Him face to face, and our hearts are home forever.

As C.S. Lewis writes in 'The Last Battle', his final book in the Narnia series ~

And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

shards of beauty.

swish - swish. swish - swish.
that's the sound of my tread whispering over the shoulder of millrace road.

sunlight and shadows dance over pavement.
tall branches arch and canopy high overhead, buds bubbling over.
a south wind rolls by and flirts with my ponytail.
daffodils smile wide.
skies sing with winged creatures.
rainwater flows slow under the bridge.
a thick carpet of green blades tucks in moist soil.
backyard willow trees bend low and let their hair down long.
cold laundry flaps on the line in crisp air and sun rays.
a scent of pine needles blends with last year's leaves.
puddles reflect majestic clouds.

and all at once, this side road in wainfleet feels a bit like a whimsical fantasy world.
each time i take this route of curves and colours, i am a little bit more compelled to document the awakening around me. the ever-emerging landmarks, nature overtaking my senses and life bursting into bloom.

but as i sit at this pixelated screen, my feeble words strain to even begin to tell of the vibrance i beheld a moment ago. the sights and sounds, tastes and smells of outdoor glory don't easily transfer on a keypad.
sometimes i resort to pictures. browsing filters on instagram, attempting to enhance what my senses absorb so effortlessly.

for we know in part, and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. when i was a child, i spoke like a child i thought like a child, i reasoned like a child. 
when i became a man, i gave up childish ways. for now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. 
now i know in part; then i shall know fully, even as i am fully known.
~ 1 corinthians 13:9-12

eugene peterson elaborates -

there is far more to God, who He is and what He is doing, than we can cobble together out of our own resources. and there is far more to us, our earthly life and our eternal souls, than can be comprehended by making a mosaic out of shards of beauty.
~ practice resurrection: a conversation on growing up in Christ

indeed, there is far more.
with each passing hour, far more than our scribbles or melodies or snapshots could ever portray.

and it's humbling -

because in a world where there is so much beauty, so much awakening and glory in sheer creation alone, it makes me wonder how my simple mind could even begin to fathom any more stimulation. like trying to track an ever-turning kaleidoscope, i could never even begin to describe all of the complexities.

it leaves me awestruck -

realizing these divine moments of time and space are just a drop in an ocean of what is to come evokes nothing but wonder and worship. when i pause to consider the weight of His glory and holiness in these heavenly places, i can do nothing but celebrate hope beyond what i can see or imagine. and when i accept the fact that i could never ever justify or arrive at God's greatness, i can be free to express this wonder just as i am, like a child.
He knows that we are dust, and yet somehow, He delights in our praise.

what a treasured resolve - to know that the most majestic expressions and revelations we could ever muster barely flicker next to the power and life He breathes. and within that truth, hold onto a promise that someday every undisclosed longing, injustice, discord and restlessness will be stilled, reconciled, satisfied, by the One who was and is and is to come.

if i find in myself desires nothing in this world can satisfy, 
the only logical explanation is that i was made for another world.
~ c.s. lewis

there is a peace in knowing there is more, isn't there?
this is not the end, thanks be to God.

but until that new world is upon us, may we keep getting swept up in the glimmers that He gifts us with, knowing we've barely turned the first page. may we never cease to marvel and rejoice over shards of beauty - believing they all point ahead to one glorious day.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Basement living and such.

It's a strange place to be blogging, unlike my usual posture on the beloved velvet couch... Ceiling fan cranking out low hums and minimal airflow, the occasional slam of a screen door from the neighbouring apartment, a ring of condensation seeping rapidly onto the coffee table from the bottom of my glass, barefeet on the floor tiles.

Here, I wear slippers. Nestled downstairs in my parents basement which they have tastefully decorated and nicknamed 'the cabin'. The fireplace flickers, memories hang on walls, former cottage furniture reside, and I make my dwelling whilst navigating the newness in myself and all around.
'Home' as I've known it has changed a lot. For starters, Welland has a Target (and a Starbucks for that matter)! The little girls I used to teach in Sunday school are getting drivers licences. The skinny maple seedlings growing in the front yard are tall and full. The young couples who were getting engaged are now parenting toddlers. Friends who once lived down the road have followed their dreams to big cities or other provinces, and there are others who have crossed over to heaven.

It's been a joy to put roots down in this place again, and let go of the countdown between comings and goings. But it also brings us to the ever-emerging question… So what exactly are you doing now?

I admit, some mornings I wake up, look in the mirror and ask myself the same question. My 'purpose' and routine in Haiti was so automatic, accepted and applauded. And coming home, I've had this brewing internal expectation: To find the next 'big thing'. Because if I served overseas as a teacher for missionary kids, then I must have come home for something even greater, right?

It's scary to think where I would be if I had never taken the leap to Haiti. It taught me, stretched me, prodded me, blessed me, changed me, wooed me, and enlightened me to so much beyond my borders. But I have to admit, despite the beauty all around, growth within, and even normalcy about it all, there was a persistent piece of me that fed off the glimmer of living and serving overseas.

Over the past 5 years, I've grown accustomed to associating my worth to what I 'do'. It has brought me great confidence and validation, but it's also created a slow-growing tangle, and somewhere between my flight home and where I sit today, it snagged. It's in this process of untangling, I begin to uncover just how much of my identity and value was wrapped up in my Haiti life. Coming home has stripped away one of my biggest safety nets, because not only have I lost an integral part of who I am, but how others see me.
As I've been sifting through all of this, searching for a direction or mile-marker to put me back on track, I stumbled across a simple word. It's one that I've heard many times before, but it this time, it silenced my quest.


Jesus says it over and over again. Abide in me (John 15:4). Abide in my word (John 8:31). Abide in my love (John 15:9). Abide and you will bear fruit (John 15:16).
Upon some further investigation with Webster, I gained a better understanding of this small but mighty word. Let me emphasize 'abide' doesn't include any doing. Rather, it's all about BEING; staying close beside Jesus, dwelling near to Him, remaining faithful to Him through all of life's seasons. The action of abiding instantly frees us from the mental checklist full of requirements such as 'becoming', 'mastering' and 'attaining'. Even the heaviest bags of well-laid plans can be released from our grip, because He simply delights in us (Zephaniah 3:17). Us. Not our 'doings' nor our 'next big things'. Just who He made us to be.

I confess, this Love is a lot to get my head around. A wide, fierce, relentless, unconditional, life-giving love. But even when I forget, question, deny, or even try to resist, the grace pours down and wisps over this stubborn heart, bringing new mercy with every sunrise.

Morning comes and I have spent
Every decent thing I am
Pockets empty
Now it's you and me
I've been foolish, rash, unruly
Taking pride in all I have
Taken from you
Now it's you and me

This is Love
When I give my heart to everyone but you,
This is Love
When I have turned my back away from you,
This is Love
When I have left you for the selfish things I do,
This is Love
That you would still love me, in spite of me

Seconds pass and I think back
To every time that I have said
I am sorry
Now it's you and me
So can I say these words again
Even with the things I've done
I broke your heart
Now it's you and me

Morning comes and I think back
To every time that I've said
I am sorry

This is Love ~ The Autumn Film
Listen to it here:  

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Never Once.

During this morning's worship set, we sang 'Never Once' by Matt Redman.
Like those around me, I began to trace back moments of God's provision as we lifted the chorus - flashbacks of His faithfulness in days gone by, and for me, particularly within these past 5 years.

Back to the exact place and time when I took the email address scribbled on a torn corner of a bulletin from Mike Brownlee's hand, back when Laurens, Cheryl and their three children were still strangers.
Back to my jet-lagged posture on the sunbaked school bus, barely sitting upright in it's wind tunnel as we barrelled down Haiti's main highway, trying to absorb the newness around me.
Back to the first morning I awakened at Mission of Hope, my skin crawling with mosquito bites, my mind spinning with questions without answers all surrounding why I had come.

Those firsts in the journey were only the beginning of countless moments of loneliness and longing for familiarity. Moments of confusion and frustration in the midst of a foreign language and culture. Moments when I paused facing the chalkboard so the kids wouldn't see my tears of inadequacy. Moments of fear and desperation for security in the trembling aftershocks. Moments of heartbreak in the goodbyes and loss of friends.

These are some of my lowest points to date, and they will forever hold a piece of me. But more than that, I will cling to the lessons I learned through them. The points where I had to choose between trusting in myself, or trusting in the One who called me there. And though sometimes it took me a long while, in those surrenders, in those painful moments of release, I found an unshakable truth. That no matter how deep the pain, or how hopeless the circumstance, He stills me. He knows me. He holds me. With His truth, His peace, His love, He makes all things work together for good.

And so friends, that is where I go from here.
Over the past few weeks of being home, I've received countless warm welcomes and tight embraces, along with soft inquiries about what my next step will be... The answer is still foggy.
But even though there are still many uncertain things on the path ahead, there are a few things I am certain of. The first is that there will be more deep waters to tread through. I am confident that the refining that happened in Haiti is not over yet, nor will it ever be on this side of heaven. But I am also certain of this: that the same One who carried me through those storms and searchings, is just as present with me now as He was on that island. Just as He promises, each one of us can trust in Him as our faithful guide and our refuge.

And for that reason, we can sing, never once will we ever walk alone.
You are faithful, God, You are faithful.
Because He has not, does not, will not leave us - never once.


Friday, June 21, 2013

If these walls could speak...

4 years ago, Rachel and I rolled sunshine yellow over the white base coat of these concrete walls. And just like that, apartment #202 became my home...

my sanctuary.
a refuge.
a church.
a breakfast diner.
a movie theatre.
a dance club.
a nursery.

where new friends became family.
where smells of tropical fruit juice lingered.
where dusty bare feet found a resting place.

As I've dismounted my paintings from the walls, sorted through storage boxes, and selected couch pillows, sentimental mugs and books to pack in my suitcase, I've had plenty of time to reflect on my days spent here. And I've realized that this home has become more than just a shelter, but one of my dearest friends. I've developed an unexpected companionship with these walls as they've silently stood by in my highest celebrations and deepest defeats. These are the walls I've returned to time and time again after days of teaching, hikes to the mountains, long city trips, or months of being with family in Canada.

Through the day ins and day outs, they have developed character just like me. Each nick and scratch has a story to tell... Jagged cement cracks that mark January 12. Oil splatters on the kitchen walls from nights around the kitchen table with neighbours feasting on Bernard's famous pate. A rat-sized hole in the front window screen from that fateful midnight invasion. Purple nail polish drops on the tile floor from girls nights with Teagan and the Rumford sisters. Countless 4x6 frames perched as beautiful reminders of days gone by, and the seasons of people and stories I've been blessed to witness within these walls.

And if they could speak, they would tell of weary girls sprawled on cold kitchen tiles debriefing their days. They would tell of burnt cookies and loud music and dancing on the balcony. They would tell of tears and whispers and long hugs on a red velvet couch. They would tell of early morning sunrise light pouring in on wrinkled bedsheets and acoustic string songs.

... I grieve the day that my squeaky screen door closes for the last time, for behind it lie these stories - memories and laughter, music and tears that I could never forget. With them, a piece of my heart lingers.

But rather than cling to this earthly dwelling which will someday turn back to dust, with each step away, I pray that I may to echo the words of David: Who am I, O Lord, and what is my house that you have brought me thus far? (2 Samuel 6:18). Indeed, He built me this home, and the heartwarming surroundings of colour, laughter and calmness came only from His hand. Underserved, yet lavished upon me anyways. To Him be the glory for his gifts of love, and His faithful presence that resides with us forever.

Maybe someday these walls will speak, and they will testify the Lord's favour and presence that filled them. But until these rocks cry out, I pray that I will recount His goodness daily, proclaiming that He alone is a refuge and a sanctuary for those who wait on Him.