My Testimony

Brad and I shared our testimonies on Sunday at church, as we were becoming members. And, I thought I might share mine with you as well…

My testimony has that mundane sort of feel I think we all tend to
minimize when we are raised in a home with Christian parents.  Saved
at a young age, and with nothing particularly profound, nor
particularly useful about my story.  I have to be careful though – to
minimize the daily average-ness of the modern Christian’s journey can
hedge upon mocking the Lord that sees fit to use our everyday lives to
His glory.

I was raised in a Good home.  My parents placed more value on our
spiritual walk than they did on anything else, and I am eternally
grateful for flannelgraph Moseses and Samsons and Davids. I am
grateful for being paid to learn Bible verses as a kid – verses that
still come to mind. I am grateful for being forced (for it felt forced
at the time somedays) for the half hour of Bible study that was
expected of us on weeknights during our teen years.

I must have been about the age of Judah when I started praying, night
after night: “Dear Lord, if you didn’t save me last night, save me
tonight.” It wasn’t very Calvinistic of me at all – and I’m not sure
where the notion came from for me.  But nothing happened.  I wanted to
Feel something, and I didn’t.  And then.  I would have been eleven or
so, and sitting only a few rows back in this church.  We had a guest
speaker, and I honestly couldn’t tell you who it was, nor what he
spoke on.  But one Sunday morning, I felt a glorious inrush of the
Holy Spirit.  I had not prayed for it, nor expected it – but it’s
honestly the closest I can come to describing a moment of conversion.
I left church that morning feeling eternally altered.

I was baptized a few years later, and enjoyed what my family can
attest to as a relatively uneventful teenage experience.  I was a
total nerd (I still am), and spent most of my teen years with my nose
in a book.  I struggled with who I was.  I know every teen does, but
while I had no expectation or interest in being popular, I certainly
didn’t want people to mock me for my Christianity.  I felt convicted
enough to bring my Bible to school, but my fear of others trumped my
desire to witness, and I always hid it in a stack of books.  Ironic,
considering I’m fairly certain everyone knew I was a Christian…At
the ripe old age of 17 I decided the youth group wasn’t quite cutting
it for me, and I joined my parents who were leading College and
Careers at our then church home.  And I met Brad.  A strong leader,
quietly confident of his own abilities, and a man who valued truth and
family and honour – I was drawn in, over the course of a few months,
to recognizing what made him by far the most incredible man I’d been
acquainted with… We began dating, and a year and a half later, and
only 18, I married Brad, and have been blessed with 11.5 years that
are better and richer than I expected or deserve.  Marrying someone
who cares more about your own well being than theirs is an absolute
rarity that I’m gifted with….

We moved to Windsor shortly after we married, and adopted what we
called a punch-in-the-face mentality – intentionally having three
children in under three years.  The ongoing, and 100 percent true joke
in our home is that I prayed for active children.  Because I somehow
worried that a Chudy/Sagert combo would produce children that sit
around and colour…. These bundles of energy are my constant reminder
that God does answer even our silliest desires… It’s a strange sort
of comfort – to know that if He is willing and able to hear this
prayer, then the cry of my heart that He would save them all, and call
them to a life with Him as their focus and joy may also be in His
will…

We have been back home in the Sarnia area since Trinity was 6 weeks
old.  One of the best, most treasured blessings of my Spiritual life
is being involved with a group of women who have met for over five
years now – many of who are here this morning.  We have seen some
amazing answers to prayer as we have gathered.  I always buy at least
one more book than there are women who say they are attending each
season and the Lord always brings someone new into our group.  I don’t
know what life would have looked like for me as a young momma without
these girls.

Most of my spiritual milestones since we have moved home have been hit
walking with a friend in their shoes. God in His mercy and providence
has allowed me to suffer very little of my own pains to this point…
It is amazing to me the small things in life that the Lord allows to
transform us – but it was the ridiculously simple act of bringing a
lasanga to a young mom I didn’t know that well that put me on the fast
track to hurting with people.  I thought I was going to help her
because her husband was out of town for the week… I didn’t know we
were going to develop a friendship over the agony of her losing her
mom to cancer… I don’t know why standing in her front hallway 5
years ago has had the transforming power that it did, but such is the
mysterious workings of our ever faithful God. My great hope in life is
that the Lord continues to see fit to use me when people lose babes,
and dads and battles with cancer and all the other struggles that lie
dormant in hearts.  Through these times I have learned the
faithfulness of our God, the blessing of friendship, the joys of
sharing a burden and the tangible knowledge that God truly does work
all things for the good of those who believe in Him.

My life passage is deeply intwined with the opportunities the Lord has
given me to grow in the sufferings of others: “Blessed be the God and
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all
comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able
to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with
which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in
Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort
too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if
we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when
you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for
you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you
will also share in our comfort.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

The year after I shared that dinner with my friend was defining for
me.  I had no idea one year could hold so much heartache – but I went
to almost a dozen funerals – including saying goodbye to my
grandfather and uncle within three weeks of each other.  Laurel got
into a car accident in this time period – one that will continue to
shape her daily life.  Again – most of these are not MY hurts – but I
felt them nonetheless. The Lord used this season to continue to teach
me the joys of sharing burdens..

2011 has had a similar sort of feel to it… Welcoming Charlotte
into the world will always be one of the absolute highlights of my
life. God does make all things beautiful in His time; and a beautiful,
lively little niece that we pleaded with the Lord for was the right
way to start this year… But that moment had been preceded by one of my
favourite people losing his dad to cancer.  I had no idea how much
sharing that heartache would impact me… but he was one of the first
people I called when my mom was diagnosed with cancer only a few weeks
later, and it was such a mixed blessing to have his support.  I have
seen, through the course of the year how faithful our Lord is – as we
have trusted Him for the healing of my mom.  Only a few weeks ago we
got the cancer free update from the doctor – and we thank the Lord for
her health. It’s a year that has been riddled with cancer news, and
other deep pains of life.  I see the Lord wanting to draw me into a
deeper fellowship with Him at this time – learning to take all my
cares to Him first. I feel like I’m finally learning to stop apologizing for my faith. Recognizing Christ as all-sufficient makes it easier and easier to share Him – because going to Him truly is the only answer. And I have been struck anew with the brevity of life – and if you know me at all, you know I’m desperately trying to
make the most of every minute.

Finding a church family has not been easy for us. I have delayed
membership for months and months because I walked into this building
in a season of taking.  I don’t feel right about committing to a local
body, but only sitting in my pew.  So, I suppose I took the more
cowardly approach, and have waited until I felt ready to be a
functional, useful member.  I imagine Brad could tell you I make a
good mouth as far as what-part-of-the-body are you – I’m just feeling
eager to use the gifts that the Lord has seen fit to give me to be a
blessing to this particular local church body.    I struggle with how
much to say at this point.  Suffice it to say – I think I bruise easy.
Certainly easier than I’m willing to admit most days.  It’s taken me
almost two solid years of trying to skip out when the message is done
to finally allow people in.  Vulnerability is not my strong suit – and
I fear I punish people for past hurts.  That is to say – I think I
have punished you folks for things I have experienced elsewhere.  It’s
been months though, since I’ve walked into this door and my heart has
done that happy, contented sort of sigh that says “this is home.”
It’s home because you love the Word.  It’s home because I’ve made it
very difficult to be lovable – and so many of you keep trying, week
after week.  It’s home because you’ve prayed for my mom from the
pulpit.  It’s home because only a few short months after Laurel had
lost another babe we stood together and sang “it is well with my
soul.”  It’s home because my kids love it here, and you not only put
up with thier liveliness, you welcome it….

My hope and prayer as we join our family in yours this morning is that
you will accept my weaknesses, and be able to find ways to use my
strengths to His glory.  Thank you for the love you have poured out on
us..

I hugged a complete stranger at Walmart.

I know what you’re thinking.  “Nic doesn’t hug people.  Nic doesn’t even like hugging people she loves.  The last thing she is going to do is hug a stranger.”  The quick solution to getting your head around this would be to think that someone else hugged me.  Maybe they thought I was their aunt, their best friend.  Or maybe it was Nic – and I was totally misled in the identity of the stranger.  But no….

It’s a lesson in judging really.

We’ve all been there, on one end of this or the other.  And if you are a mom, and you’ve shopped in Walmart (for this store in particular seems to bring out the worst in people), then you have no doubt been on the receiving end of THOSE looks.  Your perfect angels have finally hit their limit – and they embarrass you with their outrageous behaviour.  They are climbing the carts.  They are insisting they are done looking for a new bath mat.  They’ve launched your box of cereal out of the cart.  They’re sick, and the only reason you are at Walmart is to buy Tylenol – but the fever makes them whiny and unpredictable. They are running up and down another aisle… They are just not themselves.  But nobody else knows this.  They judge YOU.  The bad mom.  Who has no control over her children.  Who should have taught them their manners years ago – but clearly missed Respect 101.  You get the looks.  The occasional stares.  And even, shame on the judgers, the bad advice or condemning words…

Trinity and I were on a mission. Buy a present for her friend’s birthday, and get out.  The kid two aisles down from me was about to launch into the most horrific tantrum I have ever heard in my life.  Clearly too old for this, he was making really weird statements about not wanting anything from this store.  He seemed to not want to be there, but not want to leave either.  I was under the impression he was in a power struggle he was determined to win.  He was YELLING and screaming.  And, because it was at the end of the aisle, I could see his 8 year old self launching his body around.  Out of control.  It went on for quite a few minutes too, while the mom just kind of pleaded with him.

“Wow Mom, get a grip on your son.” was my internal thought.  And then she did.  She started Screaming back.  It was unbelievable.  From where I was, it started sounding physical.  I was on my judgiest. “Get a grip on the situation Mom” I thought. What do you do though? As an outsider?  If felt invasive to get involved, so I didn’t move closer… The thought of helping didn’t cross my mind at this point – because I had already dismissed the situation as out-of-control-kid-out-of-control-mom.  But as Trinity made her methodical trip even longer (the world’s most indecisive child was born to me, I swear), I heard the mom was now on the phone.  Sobbing.  Sounding so confused.  Not angry, like I had thought.  More… scared and overwhelmed.  And my compassion ousted my judgement.  (Praise God).

I walked down her aisle.  And, while she was still on the phone, I started to put my arm around her.  And when she hung up the phone, I asked if she was okay.   No.  She told a complete stranger “No, I’m not okay.”  This, my friends, is never easy.  She was broken…. I gave her a real big, long hug, told her she’s doing a good job, and asked if she had someone coming to help.  Yes she did, that was her step-father on the phone – she couldn’t get a hold of anyone else. And yet her son at this point was calmly playing with toys at the end of our aisle….

She explained she couldn’t picture herself trying to get him out of the store by herself.  She showed me the BITE MARKS that were starting to bruise already in her arm… And when I asked if her boy had ever done this before…. Yes.  Because he is severly autistic. I could have heard a pin drop in my heart when she told me.  So sad.  So hard to do, day in and day out….

Because he has NO CLUE what he’s just done.  We talked about that.  He doesn’t understand how much he hurt his momma.  He doesn’t know how much it hurts, not just her arms or chest where he bites, but her soul and spirit when she feels like an overwhelmed parent.  My heart felt so heavy for her.  I had been so quick to label this situation!  So quick to say “spoiled kid.  bad parent.”  We make these judgments… I felt totally convicted about my thoughts….

Must not be so hasty in the future.  Must not assume I know for an instant just how hard someone’s situation is, nor what prompts the experience happening before me.  We are all just broken people, doing the best we can with what we have….

adrenaline.

I’m not sure what to think at this point – which is an ironic no-surprise – I have an insight into others that absolutely stops when it comes to examining my own feelings… A something that I have chosen to accept at this point.  Some of it is intentional – and I suppose in all reality sin – the running from thoughts I would force a friend to face… but most of it is really just a convoluted layering of emotions, thoughts and intangibles that I can not easily digest on my own.  Hence writing.

It’s just been an unusual couple of days… Like – I know the Lord has stamped His hand all over them – but I am not sure why.  Thankfully, the answer “for His glory” hovers over all of it like a safe, dark cloak.  There is shelter in the “big” answer to life’s questions – for there are so many things that can not be nailed down or answered beyond that.

Brad took the boys spontaneously for an overnight with my dad in the Detroit area.  My mom, who has had her chemo treatment put off twice because her white blood cell count wasn’t high enough, took Trinity overnight as well.  An empty house to myself.  I thought I would stay home.  Ha.  Not so much.

I want to tell you about people I was with, I’m not sure I can…  I want to tell you how good of friends they are.  I am not sure there are words.  I am beyond blessed by the people I share my life with – being real with people is a gift…. I spent a day and a half feeling my soul fed and drained and stretched.   Interesting though; I talked about my love of tattoos and motorcycles and the thrills of earthly things, and proceeded to experience the biggest scare of my life.

Heather and I had a full day of driving.  We filled it with earnest talk and deep thoughts.  I had just finished expressing my readiness to go Home anytime; we had talked about that, and connecting thoughts for a few minutes.  We were so close to home when the sky ahead of us was quite suddenly hung with low, and dark, and intense clouds.  Heather did a five second countdown to going from not-a-drop-of-rain to getting smacked with it – but she didn’t get past one-two when we hit an absolute wall of water.  I have never before been able to see NOTHING out of a windshield.  Not a thing.  The water came down in one forceful sheet, and Heather steered the car safely from our left-hand lane that we couldn’t even see to the right hand shoulder, where every other car on the road was presently parked.  And we sat for a few minutes – watching the wind and the rain shake the car, and wondering at what point we were supposed to join the debris in the ditch, to not get picked up by a tornado.  It was that bad.  You have to understand – another friend and I had been in a crazy storm only a few weeks back, and I handled that with relative calm.  This one was CRAZY.  I was scared – shaking, and trying to not throw up.  We tried to find a weather report – and nothing.  It was this totally flukey thing that kind of fell out of the heavens, landed exactly where we were, left a path of pretty debris on the highway, and then was gone.  And I felt… ALIVE.  Like, the rush of taking a road too fast on a bike alive, and the rush of hitting a corner leaning with a bike alive, and the pinch of a 6.5 hr tattoo alive… but magnified.  And I felt like perhaps the Lord had seen fit to remind me yesterday the absolute thrill of being in His presence.

My son one birthday looked out the window to see a rainbow and told me that God had given him a birthday present (incidentally I thought I shared when there was one on my birthday this past Monday).  But.  I have a very real suspicion (as does Heather) that the weirdness we drove into was the Lord directing the weather to speak to me… Goosebumps – but my whole weekend was covered in them – the timing of too many things that culminated in much-needed conversations and storms that say “I Am.”  Maybe it sounds a little ridiculous – I suppose without elaborating on some of my other conversations you have no real way of knowing why the Lord seemed so present.

Over and over again I need the lesson tattooed into my arm spoken to me – I am a half-hearted creature, fooling about with the things of this world, when infinite joy is offered me – I am far too easily pleased.  Even the greatest thrills, the greatest scares, the greatest joys of this life that I pursue have NOTHING on what God would show me… He reveals Himself through His handiwork (“For His invisible attributes, namely His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.  So they are without excuse.” ~ Romans 2:20) – and He chose to do so loud and clear last night….

I find myself reflecting, and getting the thrill and chill of knowing I serve an incredible God that I so often choose to forget in my vain pursuits of the wonders of earth that will pass away.  I feel like Elijah – but not.  I feel like where Elijah trembled at finally hearing God in a whisper – I tremble because I finally heard Him in the thunder…. It’s humbling – the idea of the God of the universe wanting your attention…

There he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lordpassed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”  ~ 1 Kings 19:9-13

I want, in these moments of transparency, to be more keen to see where God is leading me… Further and further away from the fading things of this earth, closer to Him, and the eternal things that matter….

my twenties

YES.  I’m reflecting again.  Still.  I don’t know if everyone feels this way hitting a milestone – maybe I’m just more philosophical than most.  But I’ve packed an awful lot into the last decade.  I think I’ve changed more than most people do.  Maybe so.  So, I’m thinking back on my last ten years, and thought I’d share….

~ Ha.  I can’t even say I got married in my twenties.  I got married in my TEENS.  But – I’ve enjoyed 10 anniversaries…  I grew up in a home with a godly example of a good marriage.  My own marriage has been incredible.  I married a man who treasures me, and lets me know daily that he loves me.  He is an incredible provider, nurturer and protector.  He is a good listener, and I appreciate the selfless approach he has taken in our marriage – day in and day out.

~ I had three children.  By the time I was 24.  Three under three was a challenge – the joys of it now are worth the stress of the first couple years (I’m not going to lie – until Trin hit three, it was hard) We’re starting into the adoption process now – and the idea of being a mommy again in my thirties is thrilling.

~ The hardest three months of my life was the period starting when I was 7.5 months pregnant with my third.  We were in the process of moving back home to Sarnia, and for 12 weeks, Brad was only home on weekends.  Halo kept me sane.  I remember pushing the grocery cart with a two year old and one year old, wondering if I could stay awake till the cereal aisle.  Trin was born half way through us getting ready to move home – and I still had six weeks with the three kids on my own, while Brad worked and waited for our home to sell….

~ I got invited to the Dr. Phil show.  For real.  I submitted my story to their “what do you and your spouse not agree on” segment – because we simply couldn’t agree on how I chose to spend my time.  That is – I was addicted to Halo.  Yup – stay at home mom, addicted to a video game.  But, I had sent my story in in April, and by the time we got the call in August, Brad and I had worked through the major struggles.  Which is to say – I stopped playing the game a ridiculous amount.

~ I’ve led a Bible study for four years.  My girls have kept me accountable, and sane, and while I’ve taken the last season off – I’m eager to fill that role again in the fall.

~ I’ve found (been blessed with) the perfect career.  I’ve helped about 50 brides in my first 2 years, and I absolutely love love love what I do.  I love meeting with brides.  I love the vendors I work with.  I love the pace, and the creativity involved.  I love working with my husband….  I started into the wedding industry because I loved making cards.  It never occurred to me that I would love the industry itself.  I honestly love so many aspects of it now – I’m happy assisting a photographer, a decorator, a planner, a bridal shoppe owner… it’s a wonderful career to be successful in.

~ I’ve lost a grandfather and an uncle.  More recently, I’ve watched my mom wrestle with cancer.  (She’s winning – praise the Lord) I’ve learned a lot about myself in these harder times.  I like to grieve alone.  To the point I push people away.  For longer than I intend to.  That’s a hard thing to work through.  God is good.  That is to say – I know it, all the time – but it feels like an essential truth when we hurt, doesn’t it?  I find my faith unwavering when life hurts most, and there is a deep comfort in that.

~ I LOVE love love love love listening.  I’ve been insanely blessed by the opportunity to be there when people hurt.  If there is nothing else beyond being a good wife and mother that I get right – I hope it’s this.  I hope people know I’m there for them – I want to hear the pains of life, to help share a burden, to be there when it’s too hard.  That in so doing I point people to Christ is my aim…

~ I’ve grown.  From a scared new wife that moved to a new city, desperate to prove myself to anyone I met; to a woman on the verge of hitting a new decade excited about my role as a wife, and mother.  I struggle with the same things still –  pride, the need to please others, closing myself off from others when my thoughts feel too complex… and I suppose even what I see as my greatest failings aren’t what others see.

~ I have been blessed with more incredible friendships in a decade than I ever thought I would enjoy in a lifetime.  I was a NERD in highschool.  I spent most lunch hours in the library.  I was last picked for sports, and I was happiest alone or with one or two friends.  I never, ever, expected to meet so many people that would have such an impact on my life.  I’ve learned wonderful lessons about trust, and grace and patience.  I find myself short on words here… they get stuck somewhere between my heart and my soul and my head…  To those of you who’ve had a glimpse into my heart – I thank you from the depths of it…

~ I PRAYED FOR ACTIVE CHILDREN.  I prayed for elect children too – but I really, really didn’t want the kids that sat around colouring.  What was I thinking??? Have you met Levi and Trinity?  Judah is full of life and zeal and enthusiasm in his own way – but the people that comment on how “busy” my kids are often have no idea how constant it is.  Every time people say “your kids are so active!” (and, it’s no coincidence that word comes up!) I chuckle.  Because I’m sure the good Lord does too.  If ever there was a silly prayer He was pleased to answer… They are life and joy and chaos and spunk all the time.  And I thrive in it.

~ I have learned more hard lessons from people I never expected to get hurt by.  Isn’t that true of life?  Things that I never expected to be sticking points became life-altering decisions.  I won’t expand – but if I’m talking about things that shaped me – then there is no doubt that the pain from people you never thought you’d have it out with is a definitive sort of experience. I wouldn’t wish it any other way – I’m happy to be molded even when it hurts… (although sometimes the peace in it takes longer to settle than the knowing it will all be okay)

~ I’ve found a church to call home.  I’m not sure they really know yet, or comprehend how difficult a thing this was for me to settle in my own mind.  But when Sunday morning rolls around, and we’re singing in our pew, the word Home settles in my soul.  It’s a glorious feeling.

I wondered if I could think through 30 of the most transforming moments?

1. Judah’s birth.  Being a momma for the first time is like nothing else.

2. Levi’s birth.  Brad barely made it thanks to the glorious hospital staff….

3. Trin’s birth.  At home.  It felt so right. Brad raced home from Sarnia to Windsor just in time…

4. Walking in the door of our home the Christmas we were robbed – coming home to my house torn apart, wedding bands and every other piece of significant jewelry gone forever….

5. The passing of my grandfather and uncle within 3 weeks of each other. The subsequent grief, and growing that inevitably follows.

6. Moving back home from Windsor.  Funny, I can’t remember the exact moment of finding out Brad got the job back home – but nothing else has shaped this decade so much as moving back home with three kids in tow…

7. Coming down the stairs to find out from my mom that she did in fact have cancer.  Absolutely the most difficult thing to have heard in the last 10 years.

8. The perfect hug.  I think this makes the list because few moments in life are this full of grief and sorrow and comfort and security.

9. Dropping off a lasagna to a friend.  So weird, isn’t it, the moments that shape us… I hardly knew this girl – and I thought she might need a meal because her hubby was away for the week… I had no idea her mom had cancer.  It’s been a few years now (4?) and yet this moment has shaped me intrinsically more than almost any other… I think because it opened my eyes to the idea of other people suffering beyond what we are aware of.  I was blessed with an opportunity to be there for her, and we’ve developed a life-long friendship though those dark days… But it’s also made me aware of the need to be there for other hurting people – and that moment planted a seed in me – the desire to comfort others and know their pain.

10. Fights with Brad.  Again – odd.  But it has struck me in the last couple of weeks – we have never had a fight that was not resolved the same day.  We are closer for them… I am so blessed with a man who WANTS to know everything I’m thinking and feeling, even when it’s hard to say, and hard to hear….

11.  Visits from Owen and company to Windsor. Those were GOOD times.  Fun times, bonding times….

12. A coffee shop chat I never expected.  Subsequent grief. And growth.  And always knowing the Lord is sovereign – His ways are not our ways….

13. Motorcycle rides.  There’s a taste of freedom most people don’t (or won’t) get to enjoy… Discovering you’re more of a thrill-junkie than you thought is interesting…

14.  Tattoos.  It’s forever interesting to see the response I get over my sleeve… “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us… we are far too easily pleased.”  People don’t like to be told that they are settling on less joy than they could be – if only they would pursue finding their satisfaction in Christ.  Something I struggle with, to be sure.  It wouldn’t be on my arm if I didn’t need the reminder myself….

15. Crying with friends.  There isn’t any one instance that stands out more than others right now… But if you only knew the hurt that walks by you in every heart, every day… you’d be changed.  I’ve shed tears with lots of people, and sobbed for most of them by myself later.  And it’s the one corner of my life I feel most blessed for….

16. Halo.  Yes – playing a video game shaped me.  I made friends with people over a headset (how ridiculous does that sound?) that I eventually met, and still keep in touch with 8 years later…. That was a really selfish season for me (I chose to call it survival), and I know selfishness is still something I really struggle with.

17. Buying Tika.  Funny, the ripple effects.  But, Brad didn’t want a dog unless I could pay for her…. I think he was just trying to make a point… So I wracked my brain – and decided maybe it was time to try making wedding invitations.  And weddings have kind of dominated my life for the last 2.5 years now (something that needs changing…. will save that for my 30s)

18. Every day with Brad.  It’s not the remarkable moments here – it’s the day-in-day-out steadiness of a firm love planted on a firm foundation.  The roots run deep – and I know I have the treasure of a lifetime in him.  It’s everything from dinners and snuggling on the couch, to the teasing, to letterpressing together and reading together.  It’s a passion for Steeler’s football that we share together…. It’s the constant support in the choices I make, and the freedom to be me without constraint.

19. Kalahari.  Disney.  Niagara Falls. Christmas… trips and holidays with the kids are joyous memories.  It’s especially thrilling when they remind you of moments that happened on these trips – even when they were only 3 at the time…

20. The drive to Chatham with my dad after my grandfather passed.  He told me then that “complexity is not a virtue.” Funny the one-liners that stick in our heads….

21. Square One Mall.  Have you ever felt privy to someone else’s moment of compassion, patience and protection to the point it makes you want to be more like them?  It was one of those times…

22. Yesterday…. I got 30 presents with 30 tags and 30 reasons why I was loved on them from Brad.  Is there anything that motivates you to be a better person than someone else believing better of you than you do of yourself?  Brad finished the 30 presents with the most Nic-suitable piece of jewelry that’s ever been bought for me – I love feeling like my soul is known…. funny how the perfect gift does that.

23. The first time my soul said “yes, this is home” when thinking of Sovereign Grace… vulnerability often feels beyond me – and feeling safe in a church is a really great thing.

24. Good books.  I went through a season a couple years ago where I was reading voraciously.  Piper and Sproul and Driscoll and Lewis and company will change a person, for the better.

25. Charlotte’s birth-day.  He made all things beautiful in His time – and what a glorious culmination of tears and pain and joy and strength and love that day was….

26. Road trips.  And plane trips.  I think a little growth happens every time.  Most of it is growing closer to the person you’re with.  It’s trips to Tennessee with Brad, and Florida with Laurel (three tots in tow).  It’s trips to Vegas with Heather, and day trips to London with a dozen different people over the years…. I love how my soul feels knit to so many kindred spirits…

27. The day I almost lost Levi to a ring…. I was at a friends’ home – she had just run out to take her kids to swimming lessons – and Levi starts choking on a child’s over-sized plastic ring.  Too far down his throat for me to pull it out… I didn’t know what to do (I do now)… I had no idea where her phone was, or even the house number if I called 911 – and there goes my friend driving down the road in her minivan… I hailed her back – and she did a beautiful job of getting it unstuck.  But. There really is nothing in the world that slams the brevity of life in your face quite like the thought of losing your child…

28. 3 months in the worst little apartment there ever was.  Brad and I owned a home in Petrolia – and were saving to move into a new home in Windsor.  When we pulled up to the apartment (the only one Brad could find that was pet friendly, and willing to let us pay for only a month at a time), my mom was waiting outside having driven up a few minutes ahead of us.  She was so upset. She was telling Brad I’d be better off (newly married) living by myself in Petrolia while he worked in the Windsor area, until we got our home… But I grew up a lot in those three months – because living off McDonald’s cheeseburgers and calling the cops on your neighbours because of domestic abuse puts life in perspective.  The apartment was terrible.  The tight budget was too… But I was resolved to find joy in it, and it was an absolutely blessed time with Brad because of it.

29. The last six months.  I’ve been to three funerals.  I’ve watched my mom wrestle with cancer.  And surgery.  And chemo… I’ve watched more friends go through more pains than I thought possible.  I’ve grieved all sorts of losses…. All the while trying to find my feet in my business and my marriage and my parenting… I’ve felt divided – and so like Bilbo – like butter scraped over too much bread.  It’s been GOOD though.  I am stronger for it.  No.  I’m more aware of my weakness.  And the good Lord’s strength.  It’s been humbling….

30. Blogging.  Learning to be vulnerable which is so out of my character.  It’s such a stretch for me – I want you to read this – but I’m afraid to let you.  It’s good to hit “publish” and then think perhaps no one has made their way through my 2800 words today….

Life is a vapor.  Cheers to a jam-packed decade gone, and a beautiful day-by-day future…

Looking back. And forth.

I drove by one of my most favourite places yesterday, and contemplated crying. I am really, really going to miss Maryanne’s bridal shop, and the fact that it stands freshlyemptied right now makes me incredibly sad. But, I have to take a step back, and wonder “why” it makes me sad.

There are obvious reasons – I love Maryanne. She’s been incredibly supportive of me and my business, and I loved visiting her. Her dresses were thoughtfully chosen, and her store not being there anymore will clearly leave a void in the Sarnia wedding market. I loved her store, the atmosphere of it… But really, is change so bad?

I’m really wrestling with this idea lately – CHANGE. I think, at the bottom of my thoughts is this buried resentment towards change. I like consistent rythyms in life. Nevermind the fact that my life has changed tremendously over the last two years – and this change has meant new friends, a career I love, an exciting pace of life, a little extra spending money… Change is fine – if it’s my life changing. If it’s other peoples’… well, I have no control over that… So really, resentment towards change is a resentment towards a lack of control. But, honestly? I have no control anyways… I am no “master of my own fate, captain of my soul.”

That’s part of it. The other component has a significant amount to do with how we reflect on the past. My most favourite author has this to say:

“Objects of affection are like other belongings…
we must love them enough to enrich our lives while we have them -
not enough to impoverish our lives when they are gone.” – C.S. Lewis

The connecting thought? Sometimes, oftentimes, we look back on the past with tinted glasses. I think I’m a little like the Isrealites, who

“wailed, ‘If only we had meat to eat! We were better off in Egypt!’” Numbers 11:18.

Really?? Slavery was better?? How quickly do we rewrite our own histories? How quickly do we allow our reflections on what WAS impact, negatively, our ISes, and Will Bes? The Isrealites didn’t say “thank you God for taking us to the promised land!”, they bemoaned the food they had had. In captivity. So very often, instead of reflecting, in gratefulness and fondness on the past, I bemoan the fact that the present and future doesn’t look the same.

I want to be a person more inclined to accepting the God-ordained paths that life takes.  More able to love the past, and its blessings, than stubbornly unwilling to enjoy the past because it’s Past, nor the present because it’s unfamiliar, nor the future because it’s unknown. I serve  “the God who holds in His hand your life and all your ways.” Daniel 5:23 I know this is where true peace lies – letting go my notion of control, (false, false notion that is!), and delightfully resting in knowing that the changes that come are God-ordained blessings…

An update

I know SO many of you are thinking of my Mom – you have no idea how much her spirits have been lifted, encouraged and strengthened by your prayers and meals and flowers and cards… What a blessing to be brought low, and yet made to realize just how very treasured you are – by the Lord, and by others.

Mom went to her follow up appointment this morning.  Mixed results are in.  Which incidentally means so are mixed reactions.

God is good.  God is good whether news is good or bad.  We praise Him in all of this, for His wisdom and timing and protection.  My Mom got diagnosed only 2 months after my dad retired.  There was need for Dad to find time off.  No wondering how they were going to juggle things.  There are so many things about Mom’s situation that been unusual – to the believer – we just call it providential.  The tumors are so small they had to be found with a microscope during the post surgery biopsy – they knew cancer was there – but it was hard to find.  God in His mercy allowed doctors to catch everything so very early.

Today’s news.

Mom actually had 2 types of cancer (but nothing in the lymph nodes – praise God!)  One form of cancer was in the uterus; and was also in the cervix and the lining, and a different more aggressive type was found in the fallopian tubes.  This latter cancer was unexpected news.  The concern is that this cancer may have spread to other areas in her abdomen, or could still (not sure how that works, I just report what I’m told as best I am able) The likelihood of it spreading is only 20% – but man alive, 1 in 5 is certainly enough to worry about.  Because there are simply too many places to check to see if it HAS spread, mom will have precautionary chemotherapy.

Sigh.  I know we have had a short journey, only 2.5 months – but I think the collective breath we were holding was for good news today.  Like I said – mixed blessings.  The doctor did not give the news he was expecting to deliver, but we are so very thankful for modern day medicine and treatments, and the stage this was caught at. Mom will have 18 weeks of chemo, starting soon.  She will go to Sarnia every three weeks until here treatments are up.  The emphasis is on precautionary – if the cancer has spread already, they are unaware of it… The anticipated outcome is sick for six months, and Lord willing healthy for decades to follow.

Summary – they believe they have caught all the cancer, but because of the risk involved in the one form having potentially spread unknowingly, there will be follow up treatment…

We still covet prayers.  God has been so faithful, and knowing that He is the same yesterday, today and forever, we trust in His mercy, kindness and goodness to His children.  If you want to know how to pray: Mom is a goer, and a doer, and crams so very much into a day – the Lord has slowed her down considerably for a season.  Pray that she can rejoice in a time of refreshment, renewal and refocus.  Pray that she remains healthy for her treatment, that she won’t feel too sick throughout it, and that she doesn’t feel too discouraged by it.  Pray for Dad as he continues to care for her – it’s a role reversal in their home, and I don’t think it’s ever easy to see your favourite person suffering.  And pray that we are ALL changed by this – that the brevity of life becomes tangible, the important things become more obvious, and that we seek to live our lives to the glory of the Father who so graciously gave it to us.

Joy isn’t.

It’s been one of those weeks for me. Or maybe one of those months. Or – more realistically – it’s just how my life goes. I talk to hurting people. The thing is – I have no problems with wading through the emotional devastation that souls are so often comprised of.  I am quite comfortable with other people’s tears. But it is has just been a few days in a row of intensity, where I feel, in some teeny tiny degree why Christ was called a man of sorrows.  I have also been reflecting on a passage in Romans:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.  Romans 8:18-22

This life is PAINFUL.  Like birth pains kinda hurting. And as I sit privy to some of the darkness, and ugliness of it, it feels just a little bit overwhelming at times. I watch as different friends deal with extremely different circumstances in different ways though, and I feel a resolve – to not continue to allow my own situations to dictate my reactions to them.

I have felt a certain degree of self-pity these last couple of months.  I loathe self-pity.  I appreciate Lewis’s view on it (this taken from a letter to his best friend Arthur):

“Which reminds me, you are drifting into a habit of morbid self-pity lately: all your letters are laments. Beware the awful fate of growing up like that. I never, for my part, saw what was meant by such terms as ‘the relief of confiding ones troubles’ and the ‘consolations of sympathy’: my view is, that to mention trouble at all, in a complaining way, is to introduce into the conversation an element equally painful for everyone, including the speaker. Of course, it all depends the way it is done: I mean, simply to mention them is not wrong, but, words or expression to call for sympathy which your hearer will feel bound to pump up, is a nuisance.” C.S. Lewis (at the incredibly mature age of 16)

I think the temptation when life hurts is to feel sorry for ourselves.  I think our motivations vary. I think for me, I feel like I finally hurt enough to make it about me.  There are a couple of problems with this theory.

1. I’m a very selfish person to begin with – so the idea that NOW I get to focus on myself is ludicrous. Feeling ENTITLED to whine and mope because my life feels strangely uncomfortable is just a poor view on my situation.
2. It isn’t about me. Of course, my entire bloggings are about my perception of things – but that’s not to say that the things that happen around me are happening to me…
3. Self-pity breeds self-pity. There is nothing about allowing a sinful approach to life to creep in for a season that makes us done with the mentality when the season is done.
4.EVERYONE IS HURTING. This is the kicker.  And the eye opener for me this week.  Oh, I have known this for quite some time.  But, as I try to keep up with everyone who feels a little overwhelmed these days – I realize it is almost an effort in futility.

I think this is where my reflections are headed this week.  Because I know people who are suffering blows I did not think happened to the people I care about.  And there is not a one of them who would wish what they are going through on another human.  And yet, the approach to grief varies an incredible deal. I have friends who really, really do not want to let go of their hurts. They remind me of my son who just now hurt himself on the trampoline.  I love Judah – but whenever he hurts he triple checks that we all know. He grunts and moans and whines and whimpers for as long as possible.  He LOVES the sympathy.  And then there are people like my grandfather – who was buried with a crooked nose because he didn’t want the nurse that knew it was broken to take him in to the hospital.  He had a suspicion he was sick enough with cancer that he would get wheeled in with a broken nose and kept there because he was ill… He sucked it up – and it was a ridiculous reminder that we all greet pains differently.  You see – it is not about the size of your hurt – some of us are Judahs – and everyone else is going to know life sucks right now.  And some of us are Walters – it probably hurts a good deal more – and it will only be in the retelling of stories that everyone knows just how strong you really were.

So. JOY.  Joy is not in not suffering.  Joy is in how we embrace our sufferings and our Savior.  For me – the self-pity really has to be done. Life is not going to get easier – and my happiness can not keep being circumstantial.  Resolve with me – to find joy in Him, and not in what is happening to you…

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