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What Makes a Mother?

My social media feeds have been full of photos of babies, tributes to moms, and beautiful words of thankfulness for the journey of motherhood over the past 24 hours. It has been both a gift to see, and a reminder of recent years where I had to stay off social media around Mothers Day day because the ache in my heart was too raw to take in post after post of mamas and babies when my body and heart felt so empty.

I remember one particular Mothers Day sitting against the wooden pew in our little church trying to keep the tears from falling down my cheeks. As the pastor celebrated the mothers from the front and a cute video was played of kids listing off their favourite things about their moms, I did my best to try to keep myself together. Why I kept coming to church on Mother’s day each year that my womb remained empty is still a mystery to me. Every year it was the same. A beautiful celebration of motherhood with roses, or chocolate, videos of children and meaningful sentiments that always left me with this feeling that I didn’t belong.

As tears slipped unbidden down my cheeks, I felt the strong and tender hand of a friend on my shoulder behind me (the one who once told me that she never used to like coming to church on Mother’s day either.) I turned to look at her and she glanced knowingly back into my eyes, offering a nod of understanding and a soft smile. Her womb had never been filled as she had once longed for, and yet the two children that made her mama sat beside her. Though they never filled her body, they had absolutely filled her heart.

I remembered the positive pregnancy test that I had taken a year before, and the joy that those two lines brought me. I had written down due dates and upcoming appointments and milestones in those early days and dreamed a lifetime of dreams for the little one that we had prayed earnestly for. And then within weeks of rejoicing over those two beautiful lines, that little life we had already fallen in love with was gone.

Doctors told us it was common.
That we did nothing wrong.
That we could try again.

For that short season I proudly wore the title of mother.
And then just as quickly it felt like it was stripped away from me.

As we exited the church service that day, children with big smiles handed out roses to all the mothers.

I left with empty hands.

Was I no longer considered a mother because I never held that babe in my arms?
Is the woman who has held and loved and lost too soon still a mother?
Is the woman who has taught and raised and loved but never borne a child from her body a mother?
Can the woman with a longing in her heart but a barren womb still be a mother?

This day after Mothers Day, the question burning on my heart is simply this:

What makes a Mother?

Until my journey through miscarriage and infertility, the answer to that question seemed incredibly simple. Motherhood came through pregnancy and birthing a child, or the alternative of adopting. Now I wonder if it is that cut and dry.

As I left church that day empty handed, a friend of mine who knew our story came out after me with a rose. She reminded me that though our little one wasn’t in arms, that I had conceived and worn that title of mother. She reminded me that I had loved and nurtured children in our congregation. She reminded me that I was seen and loved and that the way I mothered others through prayer, hugs, and a listening ear was valid and appreciated.

Through tears, I held the rose to my nose and breathed deep of its sweet scent.
For the first time in a long time, I felt like maybe there could be room for me on Mothers Day too.


This year, Mothers day was celebrated in the midst of potty training my toddler. It was a mix of snuggles, running a little naked bum to the toilet, and falling asleep at 7:30pm. I will ever be grateful for these crazy days I wasn’t sure would I would ever get to have.

In the years of our infertility and grieving the loss of our first babe, I always felt outside the “motherhood” club. The club of women who talked often about the awfulness of morning sickness, the lack of sleep, and reliance on caffeine. The moms who talked about long days and short years, and how each stage really does just keep getting better.

I now understand those things in a way that I couldn’t relate to before. Where I once felt angered at the complaints about nausea and lack of sleep because I would have gone through these things a million times over just to have the privilege of carrying a baby to term, I now understand that even though you wouldn’t trade your sweet babe for anything, being sleep deprived and sick is really hard to go through in the moment.
I understand that lattes feel like a lifeline some days.
I understand the blur of the days and weeks just melding all together and wondering how it is only lunch time, yet all the while looking back and wondering how your little baby is walking and talking and using the potty all by herself.

This day after Mothers day, I think of the whole of my motherhood journey.
The journey through infertility and loss, pregnancy, and living as a mama with a toddler under foot; through seasons of pain, longing, expectation, joy, and the wrestle with the day-to-day.

What makes a Mother?

Maybe it’s more than pregnancy announcements and baby showers.
More than labour pains and sleepless nights.
More than reading story books and wiping tears.

Maybe a Mother is made not necessarily by the growing of a babe in her womb, but by the growth that happens in her heart.
Maybe a Mother is formed in the longing and in the waiting, in the loving and in the losing, in the nurturing and loving and laying down your life for another.
Maybe a Mother is formed in letting her heart so expand in love that it feels like it will burst, knowing that she can get hurt, but choosing love anyways.
Maybe a Mother is made by seeing the one that others don’t see. Calling out the potential in the one that can’t find it in themselves, teaching another about living and loving, standing beside the one that desperately needs to know that someone is for them.

Maybe a Mother is made by loving with our whole hearts and being a safe place for another who needs it; whether that be for the children of our bodies, children who take on our name, or simply the children of our heart.

I know I have had many mamas in my life who have loved me, led me, and taught me the ways of life and of love. And for them I am incredibly grateful.

This day after Mothers day, I pray that wherever you are at in this Motherhood journey that you would feel my hand behind you on your shoulder. May you know the loving glance of someone who has walked just a little bit in your shoes enough to know that you do belong here.
There is room for your heart.
For the messy and undone, the aching and grieving, the bursting with joy, and the overflowing with gratefulness.
There is room here for all of it.
There is room here for you.

Happy (day after) Mothers Day.

All my love,

Jalene Elsa








Choosing to Dance Even if you Have Two Left Feet {our journey to knowing Jesus}

The fireplace glowed warmly and the melodies of Amos Lee guided my steps as I danced around my living room with my sweet girl in arms. Her gaze went back and forth between the flames that swayed with the music, and my lips as she listened to me hum along. If i could have paused this moment in time and just lived in it for longer than the length of that song, I would have gladly.

It has been in these moments that I am getting to know my daughter; that we get to know each other. I am starting to learn things about her that make her unique. I am learning to recognize her needs; when she is tired or hungry. I am learning how curious she is and the things that make her laugh. And I am letting her get to know me too –  the way she grabs onto my cheeks and seems to look deeper into my eyes than feels comfortable at times, or the way she tries to get me to respond when she does something silly.

There is a back and forth exchange that takes place. This knowing isn’t just knowing about one another for the sake of knowledge, but for a relationship.

I think its the same with Jesus too. He became flesh and dwelled among us. He literally put on skin to be with us. And though it has been 2,000 years since He physically lived on this earth, His Spirit dwells with us in our hearts through faith  in each of us that puts our trust in Him.

I don’t know about you, but that is both amazing and completely hard for me to understand.
I am very much a hands-on, tangible, and tactile learner. So the thought of getting to know God – in the person of Christ – whom I cannot physically touch or have a face to face conversation with can be really difficult for me to comprehend. As I said in our last blog post – I would more often prefer a formula than building a relationship with God. A formula or a to-do list somehow makes relating to an unseen God much more concrete. It gives me something tangible to measure or do.

Lets get  honest here.

 

I think formula is so desirable to me in my relationship with God because it makes me feel like I can be in control. And control makes me feel safe.
If I could put God in a box and sum up my knowledge of  Him in 3 points, I would know exactly how to live, and my world would seem a bit easier to handle and I would have something very tangible to roll out and offer to others.

But then there wouldn’t be any authentic relationship. And restoring that relationship between God and man was exactly the reason the God the Son clothed Himself in flesh in the first place.

As we journey in our relationship with Jesus – there is a humility that we need to embrace.   A humility that says: “Even though I can’t understand You completely, I am going to trust you anyways.”

In Matthew 18:4, Jesus says that “whoever humbles himself like [a]child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Emphasis mine)

As I dance with my daughter, she doesn’t try to do the math of whether or not I can hold her weight, or tally the times that I have held her before and decide to take a chance on me.

She just enters into the moment with me. Getting to know me as I get to know her.

I think Jesus invites us to do the same.
To stop overthinking. To stop trying to figure it all out.
In our humility and our childlikeness we will find freedom, for the  Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these. (Matthew 19:14)
And we get to know as we are already fully known.

Today we are invited by God, not into a check-list way of living, but into a dance of knowing.
Even if it feels awkward at first.
Even if we bob instead of sway or seem to have two left feet.

But thats okay. We aren’t the ones in the lead. We just get to show up and learn to live loved in rhythm to the song of our God.

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For those of you who love all things tangible & PRACTICAL 

My dear husband who is all about the practical is going to break down some things for us to help us understand what this dance of knowing God actually looks like played out.

Adam Foster here!

We journey in knowing Jesus through two primary processes: Intellectual and Experiential.

We engage Intellectually with Jesus every time we  sit down to study our  Bible, or when we sit and listen to a sermon, read a book (on the Christian life, practice, theology or history), listen to a podcast, hear someone’s testimony etc. As we receive this information we process and filter it. We receive from each of these and then grow in our knowledge of Jesus.

Experientially we engage with Jesus in times of prayer, worship, and while immersing ourselves in the body of Christ (fellowship). Our experiences in these times of Jesus’ presence inevitably speak to us and we learn from them (sometimes unknowingly!). These experiences shape our understanding of God, ourselves, and how we view the world.

The temptation is to choose to be stagnant in our knowledge, to claim to know enough and then participate as a passive recipient of messages or experiences without actively engaging in knowing.

Imagine in a marriage, a wife saying to her husband, “I think I’m done dating you, or communicating with you on an intimate level. I feel that I know you enough already, and I’m comfortable where I’m at.” Such a claim would inevitably wreak havoc on the relationship! But how many times do our actions make such a claim towards our relationship with Jesus? We can easily reduce our relationship with God to checking off boxes and choosing not to participate in the dance of really knowing Him. 

Here is the thing about growing in knowledge: knowledge in our relationship with Jesus is not knowledge for knowledge sake – thinking this is a grave danger! Knowledge in our relationship with Jesus should inevitably lead us to a deeper knowing of Him, that brings transformation to our hearts and lives.  As we grow in our knowledge of Jesus we will likely run into things within ourselves that make us uncomfortable, things that we realize need changing and change takes the continual work of bringing ourselves to Jesus, inviting Him to change us, and humbly learning how to follow His lead. Being stagnant in our relationship with Jesus is easy. But here is the joy – knowing Jesus more transforms us more into being like Him, more loving, caring, more kingdom minded, more healed, more free, more living life to the full. I think this is partially why Paul prayed for the Ephesians that God, “may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better” (Eph. 1:17). 
So I encourage you this year, get intentional in knowing Jesus! Ask yourself: 
  • How have I chosen to be passive in knowing Jesus? How is He inviting me to engage Him more? 
  • How can I engage in Bible reading & community more intentionally this year? 
  • What is an experience I’ve had in the past where knowing Jesus more led to change? What prayer for change do I have for myself this year? 
Join me this year in KNOWING Jesus more.
— Adam Foster
** A note on knowledge and discernment. As we interact with different experiences and theological truths we must always practice discernment. Just because we experience something doesn’t mean it is true or something that we should practice. Just because something is logical doesn’t make it a truth to live by. I suggest taking experiences or truths through 5 filters, asking the following questions: (Bible, logic, history, community, experience)
  • What does the Bible have to say about information or experience? (Bible)
  • Does this experience or information make sense? Is it logical? (logic)
  • What do trusted friends have to say about this information or experience? (Community)
  • How has the church traditionally/historically understood this information or practice? (History)
  • How have my experiences shown this information to be true or untrue? (Experience) 
We must resist the temptation to avoid the work of discernment by simply bending our belief about who God is to fit our experiences, or bending what the Bible has to say to fit our experiences. Jesus desires to speak to us and lead us into truth – the Truth of who He is and who we are in Him – this is a role of the Holy Spirit (Jn 16:13). 

I Wanted a Formula – Not Jesus. [The first step in intentionally coming to know Jesus instead of just knowing about Him]

 I sat on the couch in my counsellors office this week, sock feet curled under me, and journal resting on my lap. After years of cycling through thought patterns and behaviours related to anxiety counselling has been a sweet (though difficult) balm to my soul. As our session neared an end we turned to the scriptures and camped out in Romans 8, looking at the life and peace that is the result of living led by the Spirit of God. I put my pen down and threw my hands into the air.

“I know all this cognitively- but how on earth do I implement it so that it brings change in my life?”  My counsellor reminded me that seeing this change in our lives comes from knowing Jesus, and walking with Him.

I continued candidly. “If I am 100% honest, sometimes I wish it wasn’t all about relationship with God. Most of the time I just want to know what to do. I want a step-by-step plan. I want a formula. I want to experience real life & peace without actually needing to nurture a relationship with Christ.”

If that admission wasn’t hard enough, as we  continued on this topic, my counsellor made an observation that rang far too true in my heart. “You know, it seems from what you are saying that you know a lot about Jesus, but from your faith as you are describing it now, it doesn’t seem like you actually know Him very well”

Ouch.

Yet I couldn’t argue with her. Maybe if  I grew in my knowing of Jesus rather than just my knowledge of Him, there wouldn’t be such a disconnect between my mind and the reality of my heart.

Maybe there is a disconnect for you too? A disconnect between what you know about Jesus, and living a life that bears fruit with actually knowing Him? 

 

As this new year continues to move along, Adam and I are resolving to be more intentional with examining our hearts in relation to our faith and pursuing to know Jesus, walk with Jesus, and share Jesus.

Some questions we are asking ourselves in this season are: 

1) Being completely honest with ourselves & God, am I seeing a disconnect in my heart between what I know about Jesus, and bearing the fruit that comes with knowing Jesus?

[Not sure how to know? : I encourage you to camp out in Romans 8, and line up your life with the qualities of living by the flesh or being led by the Spirit]

2) Am I seeking after the results of walking with Jesus & being led by His Spirit [Life & Peace] rather than actually seeking Jesus Himself?

[Eg. Do you desire peace in your life more than you desire to actually know Jesus?]

3) How am I intentionally seeking out a deeper knowing of Jesus in my life?

[We will touch more on this last question next week!]

Friends – these are NOT easy questions to answer.

Yet we are finding ourselves longing for REAL change in our lives, and more than that – if Jesus is who He claims to be? [The Way, the Truth, and the Life!] and in Him is found Life and life in abundance, peace instead of anxiety, steadfastness instead of confusion, beauty instead of ashes, freedom instead of captivity, praise & joy instead of despair, comfort instead of mourning, wholeness instead of a broken heart, radiance instead of shame (and this is just the start)?

We would be fools to not be intentional in getting to know Him.

Yet, the sad thing is that I have lived many years of my Christian journey knowing more about Jesus than actually  knowing Him. I have spent years knowing about this full life but not actually walking in it.

And you know what?
I’ve been to Bible College. I minister to others through music & speaking. My husband is a Pastor.

And yet – God is so gracious and has still been present with us, even as we so often go about trying to live out our faith on our own with the fragments of a disconnected heart.
And we wonder why our Christian faith doesn’t seem all that inviting to those who don’t know Christ.

So often those of us who claim to be followers of Jesus are wrestling just as much with anxiety, fear, despair, hypocrisy, unbelief, and sin as those who don’t know Christ. And I am the first one to admit that this has been me!

But His invitation to know Him & actually walk in the full life that He promised?
Its always right there in front of us.
Christ came and dwelled among us to be known.

We just need to intentionally choose to know Him (with the help of the Holy Spirit).
And the first step?

Taking an honest inventory of your heart and being honest before God with where you are at in your faith and knowledge of Him.

May we be a people who live knowing Jesus and this life that He promises, not just people who know a lot about Him, looking no different than those who don’t know Him at all.

Journeying with you,

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A New Kind of New Years Resolution

I’ve always enjoyed all of the fresh feelings that accompany the calendar rolling over. New Years has often provided for me feelings of newness and freedom that seem exclusive to early January. It is around this time that many of us also start thinking of New Years Resolutions.
As I’ve thought about this most recent new year I’ve been thinking less about my typical Bible reading, fitness, or dietary goals and have instead shifted my attention to evaluating my character and behaviours as a follower of Jesus. So often my resolutions are focused on what can do to better myself or my life. What would happen if I resolved instead to turn my attention to Jesus, the One who claims to be Life and who gives it to us in abundance? Maybe this new kind of resolution to reflect on and grow in that vital relationship could actually revolutionize the rest of my life?

I (Adam) have the privilege of serving on staff at Terwillegar Community Church in Edmonton. Over this past year our staff journeyed in writing a mission statement for our church. I am someone who is invigorated by the writing of mission and vision statements, so needless to say I LOVED this process. At the end of the day every church mission statement should in some way reflect the various commissions given to the apostles by Jesus, ours is no exception to this and goes like this: Our mission is to know Jesus, walk with Jesus and share Jesus. Simple. Memorable. Challenging.

As the Christmas tree was taken down and appetizers were being prepared for the New Years celebrations my mind was reflecting on these three practices of knowing, walking with, and sharing Jesus. I asked myself: How am I doing in these?

How am I doing in growing in an understanding of who Jesus is, his character, love and beauty? In the many ways I try to know my wife Jalene more intimately, am I similarly pursuing Jesus?

How am I doing in allowing my beliefs and experiences of Jesus to shape the ways in which I go about my day? Do I live in such a way that the presence of Jesus is evident in my choices made with my family, during my work day, in my finances, and how I use my time? Am I listening to hear from Him?

How am I doing in letting people know about the many good things that Jesus has done for me? Am I quick to communicate the good news of Jesus, or am I shy and reserved?

These “how am I doing?” questions are important. The Psalmist prayed asking God to teach him to number his days (Psalm 90:12), to help him reflect on his life in such a way that he learn from it. New Years invokes this discipline of reflection, considering what has gone before and aspiring for good in what is ahead. Asking “how am I doing?” in these areas stirs my heart towards knowing Jesus more, walking with Him more intentionally, and being bold while entering into the joy of sharing about Him.

Perhaps you can join with me this month in prayerfully examining your heart in light of the ways in which you know Jesus, walk with Jesus and share Jesus…

Over the next few weeks we will unpack each of these three elements more!

Excited to journey alongside you in this new season,

— Adam Foster

Let us Linger

I’m not sure if it is the thrill of a new season beginning or my obsessive cleaning streak that kicks into gear, but after Christmas I am always eager to take down decorations, get our living space back to the norm, and declutter our house in preparation for the new year.

Trees get taken down. Ornaments put away. Lights stop shimmering in the night, and we go back to the regular day in and out of our lives.
And sometimes?
… we bid farewell to the babe in the manger the same way that we bid farewell to Christmas decorations as we put them back into storage.

Like the wise men who brought gifts and recognized the Christ child for who He was, we also seek Him and bow before Him in the manger. We can offer our gifts of song, charity, and celebration. But as our Christmas celebrations end and we jump into the new year, how easy for us to then go on our way?

I wonder if the wise men knew that the birth of “Immanuel” was only the beginning. I wonder if they knew that the little boy that they knelt before and presented with gifts was sent to be a gift for them.
I wonder if the wise men knew the wisdom in dwelling with and among the One who came and dwelled among them. Or if they just paid their respects and went on their way too.

 

We make room for Christ in our hearts at Christmas, but do we invite Him to dwell in the everyday moments once we put our trees away?
As we welcome in the new year and make resolutions, the anthem of “O Come Let us Adore Him” that we sang to posture our hearts to celebrate Jesus birth can so easily become “O Come Let us do For Him”[or without Him].

And maybe rather than resolving to be better or do more, we could resolve instead to linger in the posture of Christmas as we head into this new year. We could linger in recognition of who God is and learn to dwell with Him in the everyday, just as He came and dwelled among us.

… And in posturing our hearts this way? We might find that this new year Christ does a new thing in us too.

 

We would love to Come to YOUR HOUSE!

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Life is busy. Noisy. A bit chaotic.
We know. We feel it too.
Sometimes it can feel like a struggle to just find a spare moment to sit and breathe a little bit. And after awhile ? We can start feeling disoriented; disconnected from ourselves, others, and God too.

One of our greatest passions is to be able to create a space where you can breathe deep and give yourself some room to just “be.”  We believe that music, friendship, stories, and scripture can do a beautiful thing for the soul and can help to reorient and reconnect a disoriented heart.

We  want to partner with you to create that kind of space for you and those closest to you. We want to come to YOUR house.

Heres how it works:

1. YOU 
GATHER  your close friends, family, small group etc. into the comfort of your home.
CREATE  a cozy space {indoor / outdoor / hot or cold drinks / snacks / Get friends to
help!}
 ENJOY  an evening of music, stories, scripture, and good company!

 

2. WE
     GATHER our guitars, make our way to your home, and set up for the evening!
{and if you have time for a meal or a coffee, its always a treat get
to spend some time with you too!}
CREATE  an evening that you will remember, filled with good music and stories,
scripture  and an invitation to rest and reorient your heart.
  ENJOY doing what we love and making new friends along the way!

Interested in inviting us over?
Send us an email through our bookings page.
{We will get back to you as soon as possible to collaborate on creating an evening to remember for you and those you gather into your home.}

For those of you who like the details: 

Cost – $250 min / evening (+ $10 per person after 25 people)
You know your guests best and what would work for covering the cost of the evening.
Examples:
– Set ticket price ($10-$20 per person)
– Donation
– Up-front donation

Numbers – 10+ people {Its up to you how intimate you would like the evening and your vision for the night.}

Space – House concerts can be done in small or large/indoor or outdoor spaces. There just needs to be enough space for seating, enough “stage” space for us + 2 guitars (and occasionally a small sound system), a snack or drink table, and a little corner for us to have a little merch table.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s Kick Down Some Doors (Part 2)

{Missed Part 1? Check it out here!}

Last Fall I made the decision to stop working full time with the main purpose of setting aside more time to invest in  music, writing, and to work on a book idea that has been mulling around in my mind and heart for the last few years. It was a big decision, but my husband and I agreed that it was the right move for our family. My job at that time was  working with women who were recovering from addiction and building new and beautiful lives. It was rewarding but it was hard. I was confronted with my own “stuff” everyday as we worked through their stories and  after 40 hours a week of pouring out into the lives of these amazing women I worked with, I didn’t feel like I had any reserves left to give to being creative. So I figured that in order to steward this dream in my heart, I needed more time to give to it. And after being offered a part-time position with a psychologist friend of mine, I decided it was the perfect win-win situation to increase my creativity.

More time?  Check.

Now that I had the time to write, I realized that I didn’t have a space set up for me to actually begin writing, and so I went to work on my office. And then I realized that the rest of my house could use some TLC and I convinced myself that once I had a clean environment, then I would be able to sit down to write.
Now, when I get into a project, I really get into it. So, once I started on the kitchen, (a task that takes a normal person 10 minutes)  I realized that I could be in here for hours, if not a couple days. Because once you notice dust in the kitchen cupboards, you can’t NOT take all of the dishes out and dust and wash all the cupboards, right?
So after multiple days of purging, organizing, and decorating,  my house was clean and my office space was set up and ready to be inhabited with creativity.

Clean space to write? Check

Except now that I just started my new part-time job, I needed to focus on building those skills before I started anything new with writing.
And then we found out that we were expecting a baby.
And I was more tired than I have ever been in my life.
And the house needed painting.
And the nursery needed decorating.
… and I desperately needed to sleep.

And that dream of writing and music?  Well it sat on the back of my heart and mind. Still just a dream.


Lets be real. It is never going to be the right time to pursue the dreams that are on our hearts. There will always be something else. There will never be enough time. Circumstances are never going to be ideal. The next season we enter into will be the time. Just. not. now.

Sweet friends, now is the only time we have got.

I understand that there really are different seasons that we go through in our lives and our focus might need to change depending on where we are at. Believe me – I do get that. But I have a hunch that even when given the ideal situation (enough time, resources, space etc.) that we can still push our dreams to the side and fill that season with something else.

I am reminded of the parable of the Talents that Jesus tells his disciples in Matthew 25. It is a story of a man who entrusts his property to his servants when he goes on a journey. To one servant he gives 5 talents, to another he gives 2, and to another 1, each according to his own ability. The first two servants steward the talents well and multiply what was given to them, while the third servant, full of fear, buries his talent in the ground. When their master came home from his journey he asked his servants to give account for the talents he gave them. He was pleased with the first two servants and because they were faithful with little, he made them responsible over much and they were filled with joy. However, with the third servant who only hid the talent given to him out of fear, what he had was taken from him and given to the others and he was filled with regret and could not enter into the joy of his master.

As I read this, my heart trembles slightly within my chest.
I believe that dreams that are rooted deeply within our hearts are God-Given.
Just like in the parable, I think that God gives to each one according to his ability.
We are all given passions, abilities, skill-set, and dreams.
Yet so often, like the third servant, because we are afraid – we take what we are given and we bury it in the ground. We play it safe and don’t step out.
We deep clean our kitchens instead.

And don’t get me wrong. Everyone loves a clean kitchen.
But cleaning the kitchen isn’t the “talent” that God has entrusted to us. It is a good and noble thing to do, but we often neglect the very thing God has placed in our hand for shiny countertops.

What is the “talent” that God has entrusted into your care?
What are you doing with it? 

Sometimes the doors that we need to kick down aren’t external circumstances.
Sometimes those doors are within ourselves.
And often those doors have the word FEAR scribbled all over it.
Fear can take a lot of different forms: procrastination, excessive busyness, laziness, self sabotage, over spiritualizing circumstances, false humility, pride, over responsibility, etc.

But whatever our particular door looks like, the end result is the same. The talent we are given gets buried and we live with regret and lose out on the joy of being who we were made to be and delighting in the pleasure that God has in helping us work out the dream that He has entrusted to us.

So – how do we knock down these doors within us? 

1. We identify what doors are in our way

2. WE just START {I know its easier said than done, but seriously. Just Start.}

If you dream of writing – sit down and write something.
If you dream of having a home that others feel safe and loved in – pick up the phone and invite someone over.
If you dream of going back to school – print off an application form.
If you dream of taking photos – find a photographer to second shoot with.

Whatever the dream is, don’t think about needing to get from point A to Z in one big leap. Just take the FIRST step.

3. We involve others on the journey.

In the parable, THREE  servants were given “talents” to  steward. They weren’t expected to do it alone. Neither are you. Talk with others about your dream. Brainstorm together!

4. We talk with God about the dream that is on our hearts.
 Ask Him forgiveness for agreeing to fear and burying your dream.
I love that our God doesn’t waste anything. He redeems time. He renews our hearts. He heals regret.  Ask Him to empower you to start stewarding your dream well. There is a LOT of joy for you as journey along with Him in the process.

Let’s take little steps together okay?

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Lets Kick Down Some Doors (Part 1)

I was 18 years old sitting in a recording studio in Winnipeg with my blue guitar in tow and chords and lyrics scribbled on pages in my lap.
It was almost my turn.  My palms felt sweaty and I breathed deeply as I got ready to play a couple original songs for the team at the record label for a shot at being the musician for a small team of women that would travel across Canada putting on events for teenage girls.

My name was called.

I don’t know if you have ever performed music, or spoken in front of people before. But if you have, you might be able to agree with me that there is something about performing in front of a small group of people that is utterly terrifying. Put me in front of hundreds of people and bright lights and it almost feels like I can hide in plain site. Put me in front of 3 people and my knees start knocking together. It was no different at that audition.

I’m sure that my fingers were as shaky as my voice. But somehow  I managed to get through the songs I prepared and I prayed fervently that the team would see my heart and my talent and that doors would swing wide open.

I had wanted to be a singer/songwriter ever since I was a little girl. My mama encouraged me to put my feelings into songs and that began my love affair with lyrics and melodies. When I have a pen in my hand and guitar in my lap  the world gets quiet and I can see everything a little clearer. As a young girl I was pretty confident that if I couldn’t be the next Spice Girl then someone similar to Shania Twain would have to do. I would sing for hours to Dixie Chicks CD’s with our microphone plugged into the karaoke machine, write song lyrics, and watch ‘American Idol’ with wide eyes and seeds of hope in my heart that one day someone would see what I had to offer and would throw the doors open for me.

Only they didn’t.

I was turned down for that spot as a musician.
No real encouragement, or tips for improvement were given. It was just a no.
I was offered the position of handling merchandise and doing administrative tasks instead.
And my 18 year old, dreamer heart was crushed. And not ‘crushed’ like ‘big sighs, with tears and ice-cream’ crushed, but like ‘throw my heart on the pavement and stomp on it’ crushed.

Fast forward over a decade later and I am still picking up the last few pieces off the asphalt.  ( Yes, a little bit sad, but unfortunately true.)

Can anyone else remember a moment of significant disappointment where a dream that you had felt crushed? Where you were told that you didn’t fit, weren’t good enough, or didn’t have what it took to do something? Have you ever been overlooked, picked last, or not picked at all?

How did you respond to that?

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If you were like me, you may have let that experience splatter pieces of your heart in every which direction and you may still feel a bit disoriented because you haven’t been living with your whole heart intact. (Because some of it still needs to be picked up off the pavement.) Maybe, even unknowingly, you have internalized the message that you received from that moment and agreed with the “no” that was given to you.

And friends, lets not underestimate the power of our agreements. The agreements we make about ourselves, often in the midst of circumstances or words spoken over us, can have a profound impact on how we see ourselves and the choices that we make.
Somewhere along the way I believed that the “no” I received as an 18 year old  meant “no” to my dream and “no” to a vital part of who I am.

As Christians, we sometimes have this strange tendency to just sit back and accept circumstances as if all things that happen to us are specifically ordained by God. The danger in this way of thinking is that we can fall into a victim mentality and we can distort who God is and actually steer away from who He made us to be. We sometimes get the idea that if God wanted us to pursue a dream, or do something specific – that all the doors should just fling wide and we should just end up there. But what if this is incredibly far from the truth?

I have been reading Bob Goff’s book “Love Does,” (which is a hilariously inspiring book and you should read it if you haven’t) and I was profoundly impacted by Bob’s story about how he got into law school. I won’t spoil the story for you, but Bob’s reflection on that experience has been stewing in my heart ever since I read his words:

“I once heard somebody say that God had closed a door on an opportunity they had hoped for. But I’ve always wondered if, when we want to do something that we know is right and good, God places that desire deep in our hearts because He wants it for us and it honors Him. Maybe there are times when we think a door has been closed and, instead of misinterpreting the circumstances, God wants us to kick it down.”  (Page 44-45 of “Love Does” )

Today I want to call out dreams in you that have been sitting dormant. Dreams that have been splattered across asphalt. Dreams that have been crushed. Dreams that have been replaced. Even dreams that we assumed God had said “no” to because we ran into some closed doors.
Can I give you permission to dream again?  (Goodness knows you don’t need my permission, but we tend to be quite awful at giving permission to ourselves!)

What if the very dream that is stirring within you right now, is in fact the very dream that the world needs you pursue?
The very dream that God knitted within you when He made you?

So then. Maybe that closed door didn’t mean a big “NO” to your dream.
Maybe it just meant that you need to get up, brush yourself off, and kick it down.

And friends thinking that it is too late?
Let me remind you that our God is an expert in Redeeming, Restoring, and Re-purposing.
He can redeem lost time, restore shattered hearts, and re-purpose our experiences and perceived failures. If there is a dream still stirring within us and we are brave enough to let it resurface and willing to put in the work, its never too late.

For me? I may not be the next Spice Girl (thank God for that!) but I am inviting God to speak into this dream of singing songs, speaking, and writing again. I am breaking the agreements that I made to the “no’s” that have been spoken over me and I am believing that this dream planted deep within my heart to be a “voice” in this generation – a voice of influence, hope, and invitation to know more of God as we journey through the Holy wild of the joys and pain of this beautiful life.

So.
Lets kick down some doors shall we?

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P.S.
If you are willing to be brave today – I would love for you to leave a comment about a dream that you have that may be stirring within you. I would be privileged to pray for you and your dream. I believe there is power in speaking out and owning our dreams. It can be the first step in our journey to living them out!

Miracles All Around Us

Adam has recently been reading “As Kingfishers Catch Fire,” a collection of sermons by Eugene Peterson, and he has been reading them daily with our little one snug on his chest, eyes staring up at him as he reads.  (Between Peterson in the mornings and C.S. Lewis for story-time at bedtime I am expecting her to have an incredible vocabulary.)

Their daily reading of this collection got me keen to read as well and I was struck deeply by one of Petersons sermons on the conception of Isaac. Maybe, having journeyed through infertility, I am  drawn to the story of Abraham and Sarah (though our story with its half a decade of waiting & bitter diagnosis seems nearly incomparable to this couple who was well past the age of child bearing and even after the promise of a son from God Himself still had to wait years to see the promise fulfilled.)  Yet in their story, we see the miraculous. We see the ‘impossible’ become ‘possible’ as God fulfills His promise to them with the birth of a boy named Isaac.

And as I read Peterson’s reflections, I find myself stopping to read and re-read the following words:

” … the birth miracle takes place in the most ordinary of settings. When we hear the word miracle, we must not imagine fireworks and drum rolls and trumpet blasts and then, presto, a piece of heavenly magic that sends us reeling…Birth. Life erupting in the form of an infant in the everyday lives of Abraham and Sarah. Invisible faith becoming a visible event. It is the most spiritual act and most visible. There are years of waiting and giving up, years of praying and doubting, years of venture and holding back. And then there is an infant that can be measured and weighed and fed and clothed. God calls. Abraham believes. God promises. Sarah conceives and gives birth. Abraham and Sarah, a man and a woman of faith, have a son.”

“And Sarah Conceived”  –  As Kingfishers Catch Fire

After years in our own journey of waiting, giving up, praying, and doubting, we too have been able to hold a little life in our arms, the one doctors said would be near if not down right impossible to conceive. And what strikes me most is the ordinariness of it all. Our miracle baby was born into this world with only me, her father, and our midwife present. She came just as all babies do. And as the days go on, she cries and sleeps and eats, and Adam and I change her and feed her and endure nights with little sleep, and life continues as it did before, only with this sweet one in it.

And sometimes, if I am honest, I forget she is a miracle.

Because to me, miracles are supposed to be BIG and loud and earth shattering.
And miracles should make us feel overwhelmed with BIG emotions. (Even as I ponder it now I can’t even really pinpoint exactly what those emotions should be, but they ought to be, at the very least, incredibly noteworthy and euphoric one would think!)

And the arrival of Elisabeth Grace?
The ground didn’t shake.
Nor was I filled with a euphoria beyond anything I’d known before.
She came into our lives as  I groaned in pain, and when they placed her on my chest the world has never seemed so quiet.
And my heart? it was filled with a gentle thankfulness and holy wonder.

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As each day passes, I still find myself looking for the BIG miracles that I hope to see God enact and work in my own heart, in the lives of others, and in our world.
And yet, as I look at our sweet little girl, I can’t help but wonder if the BIG miracles that I am continually looking up and out for are actually right in front of me – just clothed in the small and ordinary things of the everyday.

Maybe we just miss them.

I think of Jesus; Immanuel, God With Us, the greatest miracle of all.
Wasn’t even He born in the most ordinary way into this world?
No trumpets, no fireworks – just the groaning pains of a laboring woman in the quiet of a manger  because there was no room for them anywhere else.
And this same God-man who came that we might miraculously again have unity with the God who made us, who bore death for us that we might not have to taste separation with God any longer, and whose raising from the dead ushered in life to the full even in the here and now – didn’t even He get overlooked, accused of blasphemy, and killed with criminals?
And wasn’t it all because of the ordinariness of His life?

The people of Jesus day expected fireworks and trumpets. They expected a strong warrior. They anticipated an earth shattering arrival of their Messiah.

Yet He came wrapped in cloth.
And in cloth He was buried.
And from cloth He rose again.

But few were able to see the BIG miracle that was right in front of them.
Even when Jesus healed legs and eyes, or multiplied bread, still others were fixed upon their idea of what a miracle of God would look like, and they could not see.
They could not see  that what they waited for and needed desperately was right in front of them.

Don’t we do the same?

If Jesus came the same way today as He did then, oh I pray that I would recognize Him.
But do we recognize the miracles that God enacts in our lives every day?
Do we see God working and hear Him speaking to us in the mundane and ordinary?
Or are we so fixed on our idea of what a BIG miracle should look like that we miss the ones that are right in front of us?

As Libby sleeps soundly in my arms, may I wonder at the miracle of each breath that she breathes and not forget the “Isaac miracle” that she is.
As I choose to trust in the Love of God instead of defaulting  to fear and being anxious about many things, may I give thanks for the miracle of Christ working in me.
As I journey through difficulty and pain or travel a road that is full of joy, may I see the miracle of Christ WITH me in all things and the knowing of the sufficiency of His grace.

So you, who are awaiting a BIG miracle, waiting to see God show up in your life, might you ask Him to open your eyes to see what He is up to today? Your BIG miracle might be right in front of you, clothed in the ordinariness and likeness of our Saviour.

I pray you don’t miss Him.

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Our Change the World Mentality

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Jalene and I follow cartoonist Nick Seluk and his masterful collection of comics called Heart and Brain, which, “follow[s] the inner dialogue between the cynical, society-influenced Brain and the impulsive, optimistic Heart.” It is common for us to share the latest strips between one another for a good laugh. The reason it resonates with us so much is that I (Adam) tend to depicted in the brain character, and Jalene tends to be depicted in the heart character. All in all it is a great laugh.

Jalene most recently tagged me on facebook with the following comic titled Caffeinated0929_Caffeinated

This comic struck me because of the deep truth that Seluk captures in it: “Our change the world mentality has dissolved into general anxiety.”

I know we don’t like to admit it, but Autumn is coming. Back to school shopping is aggressively taking place, organizations and churches are ramping up for the next season. We may not identify our frantic preparation as having an underlining drive of, “changing the world”, but below our running around and preparation Isn’t there a desire to experience the next season as being better than it was in the last? Isn’t there a desire that we will be people who work more change and make a more significant impact than we had in the las?.  It is a “pursuing change for the better” mentality, and on the surface it is well-meaning.

I am among those with these aspirations, planning, thinking, preparing, and in addition to this, often worrying and feeling pretty anxious. Like the cartoon Brain and Heart, I desire that my efforts in this next season of my life would have an impact, that they would make a difference for the better, that I would be a person that is remembered for positive influence. Yet when I look at the tasks I’ve placed before me, when I draft plans of all I think it will take, the anxiety sets in. The anxiety sets in because I’m worried I won’t be able to do it, I’ve thought up a task that is too big, a to-do list too long. So I reach for another cup of coffee.

Am I alone in this? Or are you also reaching for that cup of coffee? Do you desire great things? We desire to do good, to set our children up to do good, to inspire others to do good. Culturally it seems that the cost of making this happen is by pursuing a lifestyle conducive to worry and anxiety.

Isn’t it obvious though that the level we have taken our “change the world” to posture is simply wrong?

Jesus taught us an alternative, “do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Simple, familiar words, we all know them… and he goes on to invite us away from a posture of worry and anxiety and to a posture of seeking, “… but seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.” Don’t worry, don’t be anxious, instead seek, seek Jesus, seek his direction and guidance.

I believe whole heartedly that when we seek Jesus we will find him. Seeking Jesus instead of anxiously trying to change the world or even simply change our worlds is an act of trust. It is choosing to trust that Jesus’ way and plan is better than ours could ever be. And instead of labouring in trying to change our worlds, we choose to partner with Jesus in all that we do, trusting that he will do what needs to be done, that he will provide what’s needed, that he has got it.

So, for me, perhaps next time I reach for that cup of coffee I should slow down and see if there is an anxiousness in me that ignores Jesus and reflects me trying to work change in the world on my own. And if there is, I should slow down and seek him. As I seek him, I will find him, when I find him I can partner with him in bringing change, in being a father, in being a friend, and in everything else I find myself doing.