Bible Reading · Healing · Spread Joy

My biggest new adventure!

I am thankful for the fun I’ve had practicing and learning how to blog on Seeking His Peace. It has all come down to my latest dream coming to reality, an online ministry called “Guarded Hearts Ministries” based on the principals of my life verse. Please read all about it here, and of course go check it out:

http://www.guardedheartsministries.com

So, Why Guarded Hearts? And whats with the reference to Proverbs 4:23?

Early on in my faith walk, I realized Proverbs 4:23 is a life verse for me, in the New Living Translation (NLT) it reads:

“Guard your heart above all else,
    for it determines the course of your life.

This verse came to me after several periods of growth and regression as a Christian. I began to realize the truth behind it – the more I immersed myself in the truth of the Bible, the more I felt closer to God. The more I felt closer to God, the happier and more joyful I felt. The more joyful I felt, the more I sang praise and worship, and sought out private time to pray to God through out my day.

On the contrary, when I would miss a few days of Bible reading, I would find myself quick to react, frustrated and just down in the dumps. I would avoid prayer because when I’m angry, I don’t feel the least bit interested in praying to God (most times if I’m being honest, it’s because I know my anger is not justifiable, and is instead caused by my own selfish thinking.) I would spend more time watching TV that I knew was not at all helpful in my life (lets all compare ourselves to a pretend storyline), reading things I shouldn’t be reading (lets all complain about our spouses) and then would drown my sorrows in some music that often had selfish motives. I’d wonder where God was, but it was clearly me that moved.

I began to recognize over and over the importance of my relationship with God and what I fed my mind. Just like I take vitamins to help my physical health, so too do I need to take something for my spiritual well being. When I’m spiritually well and healthy, the rest of my life seems to follow suit: my anxiety lessens, my patience increases, and most importantly I am just overwhelmed with joy and gratitude. I am literally that person walking around with a dopey grin on my face, just loving life.

I recognized how much this verse was not just a reminder for me to immerse myself in the goodness of the Bible, prayer and meditating on how God sees me, but also a way of life. My Christian faith doesn’t just guarantee me life in heaven when my time here expires, but also promises victory in there here and now, and honestly who doesn’t want that?

I was very fortunate to have several leadership opportunities before me, which enabled me to teach others discipleship tactics. I still can not believe the blessing I received to be able to speak into the lives of others, and encourage them in their faith. It was an incredible opportunity that showed me I was made for ministry work. On a personal note, I also began to really work on healing from the pain of my past, and I have found so much victory in the Word of God and this life that I never knew before now.

That is what motivates me: I want to encourage others to pursue the victory God offers them! I was surprised when many people began to speak into my life, and tell me I should be writing, and that I had a way with my written words. I started with a simple blog and honestly most posts were written because the message was in my head and was burning a hole, like allowance money in a child’s pocket.  But, this lead to confirmation that God was indeed calling me to write.

I was away at a Christian camp when I had this vision of a webpage, full of encouraging discipleship material, things to encourage spouses, parents, and Christians in general. I pictured guest authors, and a community full of encouragement built from the authoritative Word of God, the Bible itself.

I knew right away the name, Guarded Hearts. When you guard yourself in God’s word, keep yourself covered in prayer, and spend time reflecting on Jesus and who he is, you are immersing yourself in victory. You are literally guarding your heart, and determining that the course you take will be one of victory.

That is my goal: to encourage readers to victory in their lives. To instill in them a desire to open their Bible and read. To strengthen their knowledge of God, and what he wants for them.

So here we are.

Guarded Hearts Ministries… a place of encouragement for all aspects of Christian life, with an emphasis on Christian truths. A place where people can be encouraged to immerse themselves in all of the goodness that God has promised to his children. A place of different areas built on one key ministry concept: Guarding your heart above all else, and letting it determine your steps.

Thank you for reading, encouraging me and praying for this ministry as it begins and hopefully grows for the years to come.

www.facebook.com/guardedheartministries
@guarded.heart.ministries on Instagram.
& Click “Follow” and fill in your email address to be sent postings to your inbox. 

❤ Leslie Deane-Mountjoy

 

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Healing · Spread Joy

A Blue Bag

Today I had to go to the Hospital for a breathing test because my asthma has been acting up for a few months.

I met this wonderful older man who ran my tests, and we talked about our lives in between waiting for different parts of the testing. I was so thankful to have such a character to work with, because he eased my tension. I was placed in a plastic box – all the sides, and roof were see-through plastic and sealable so he could control the pressure levels to test my lungs.

I commented, “I feel like I’m in one of those glass coffins they put foreign dignitaries in when they’re dead and on display for the country, like Mao.” “Or Lennon, I think” he added. Clearly he’s had this conversation with other patients.

While he only had the door shut for a few minutes, and even though it was completely see through, I still a heavy feeling over me when the door of this tiny box of solitude was locked into place.

I thought “Thank you Lord that I am alive an other day, and that this is but a test and not a reality for me.”

When I said my good-byes to him, I gathered my belongings and went to the elevator to head out. I was standing there when it happened: two staff wheeled a person in a zipped up blue bag on a gurney past me. It was like the entire world froze, yet for them it was business as usual.

Who was this person in the blue bag?

What was their legacy? Was someone somewhere falling apart because this person is no longer breathing? Did they know Jesus? Was the family prepared or was this a tragic accident? Were they young? Or had they lived a wonderful and long life?

A simple plastic blue bag. That was it.

It just really had me reflecting on the anecdotes people tell about how it doesn’t matter what kind of car we drive, or how much money we have in the bank, when we’re dead, we’re all the same – gone.

This person could have been a multimillionaire, and they were in the same blue bag as would have been used for the poorest person around. This same bag covers criminals, and those who live their lives justly. It doesn’t discriminate. It just sends one message: Your time here on earth is done.

We’ve all been there: a phone call in the middle of the night. An unexpected diagnosis. An act of violence. Suddenly our world is flipped upside down, and a relationship we have is forever broken.

We’re all going to face this someday. Each and every one us will die.  I am thankful for my faith, and the promises of a new body, a place of no trials or tribulations and only love.

But, I have to live here until I get there.

I want to live so that people will be better off when I get my blue bag. I want to have peace with whomever I can while I can. I want to spend less time around those who don’t want to live for peace.

I want to be strong enough to have boundaries in place to keep myself healthy mentally and physically. I want to be happy, and spend a lot of each day smiling, laughing and singing praise.

I want to be known for my positive attributes, so I need to work on them and in doing so naturally my negative attributes will lessen.

I want to inspire others, to give out endless compliments, to encourage, and comfort. I want to love deeply. I want to be known as passionate, kind, and giving. I want to be a friend to all.

I want the world to be a better place when I get my bag than it was the day before my birth.

I don’t want to be wheeled through the halls in my blue bag and have people think “we never got to resolve that issue.” I don’t want people to be relieved when I get my blue bag. I don’t want them to be sad either – rather, I want them rejoice in my new address and be thankful to have known me while I was here.

What do you want to go into your blue bag with you? Memories of bitterness, resentment and anger? Or stories that bring your loved ones joy and peace in your absence?

How will you fill your blue bag?

Only we can control what legacy we leave behind. It is only in our own hands how the world will be when we each receive our blue bag.

“…Run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness.  Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you…” – 1 Timothy 6:11-12 NLT

Healing · Spread Joy

A decade of difference

I turned 20 years old when I was 38 weeks pregnant with my first child. I was dating his father, on and off since I was 17, and I was in my last year of school working towards my Social Service Worker diploma. We had dreams of marrying, but upon the news that we were expecting our first child, the best thing we thought we could do with our money in our eyes then was buy our first home. So at 19 years old we became home owners to a small, and very old bungalow. We didn’t have much, but we had each other and the promise of a bright future together.

When our son was born, they placed this new life on my chest and instantly I knew there was not way this was strictly science: a random egg meeting a random sperm and tada! Yes, that is how he got here – but the level of love I felt the instant I looked at this new person whom I had grown and birthed was not explainable by science. Before he was five minutes old, I easily would have given up my very life to give him his. I can not fully explain the instant and preposterous love I felt. To be honest, it’s quite vulnerable.

Slowly, as I watched this new life develop and grow I wondered about God more and more. I had always felt because of the circumstances of my childhood and life that He must really hate me. But now, staring at the face of the little boy I loved deeper than anything in this world, I knew I’d endure anything to be this guy’s mom, and I began to wonder about God’s love, and why He found me worthy of becoming a Mom to this sweet son.

If you were to tell that 20 year old new mother that just before her 31st birthday, she would become a Tyndale Student pursuing a diploma in Religious Education, or that by now she would have written and preached two sermons, lead multiple bible studies and worked for two churches she would have laughed at you and said, “no f—ing way!” I’m not kidding.

Yet. Here I am. How on earth did I get here? Reflecting on my 20’s and the last decade has been quite humorous to say the least. In my 20’s, I would go on to marry that man, give birth to 3 more absolutely incredible children, sell and buy 2 new homes, each time in a different community, witness the death of my mentor, my Grandmother, and witness deaths in my family that included suicide and murder, burying several people much too early than they should have been gone. I would live through my biggest heartbreak, a story for an other day, and not just survive but turn the trials into triumphs! I would travel and see much of North America. I would survive several dysfunctional relationships, some now ended, and some restored by God’s grace. The theme of my 20s was definitely self building.

I took the broken and confused little girl who thought surely God must hate her, and turned her into a confident woman, a loving mother and wife and an advocate for the Kingdom of God here on this earth. And even I still can’t believe it!

So how does that happen?

I carried my own weight and burdens for years. I knew I could get through every trial, because I had so far, so my thought process was just to keep persevering and keep going. I was doing well too, mostly. I was a good Mom from the moment I saw the two lines, immediately quitting smoking and focusing on finishing my studies. I made positive choices like breastfeeding, and staying at home with my son when I was financially able to. I read a lot, and looked for mentors who could guide me and I tried my best at maintaining a positive relationship with my spouse. I slowly got better at keeping the house tidier, cooking nutritious meals, learning how to be frugal. I grew up, essentially.

But despite seeing life get better, I still struggled internally. My husband and I were newly married and both had families who had been broken. He lived through his parents divorce at 14, and I was born to separated parents who had married my ‘step’ parents by the time I was 2, so my norm was always two homes and four parents. My husband struggled too. We were simply doing our best as broken people to help unpack the baggage of each other’s pasts, but when you are broken yourself, its incredibly hard to put someone else’s broken pieces together.

We both had a curiosity for church, and even tried a church at one point, but it was kind of out there and not your typical church and it scared us off temporarily. I was invited by a woman I really admired to come to her church. She promised me it was super laid back, and they even had guitar and drums as opposed to an organ, ha! So, my husband and I went together and the first sermon was so amazing that it was like God was yelling at us from a megaphone himself. Boy, did we hear Him loud and clear!

There are so many little stories from that time, seeing God provide what we needed, exactly when we needed it, the conception of our daughter after a period of secondary infertility, peace where there hadn’t been peace, comfort when anxiety arose, protection, provision. You name it, God did it just to draw us closer and open our eyes to His amazing deep love. We both began to see God all around us in ways our eyes had not been open to before.

Slowly, we changed. It wasn’t some miraculous overnight experience. Hooray, we found Jesus now we’re mature and we’ve got it together! Ha, I wish! Slowly we gave up things that were detrimental to us. Slowly we learned how to gain momentum to move foreword again after we backslid numerous times. Slowly we learned to reach out to other Christians. Slowly we learned to read, and study the Bible. Slowly we learned how to pray and developed habits of prayer. Slowly, we found community and friendship. Slowly we developed an indestructible bond with God Himself. Slowly, we became new creations in Christ. Slowly we learned how to put the broken pieces together with God as the glue.

And now, I look back on so many little moments and I see God all around them. How did I get here? Slowly. One step at a time. By seeking to grow a little bit here, and a little bit there. By training for endurance rather than sprinting. By being available when God spoke. By saying “yes, I can try that” even when it was outside my comfort zone. By many, many apologies to God for not connecting with Him through prayer, or reading His word that day and the promise to try again tomorrow. By dealing with one burden at a time. By learning one new skill or ability at a time. By painstakingly self assessing and recognizing I was heading down a road I didn’t want to be on, and having the courage to redirect myself. Slowly, one victory over an other.

And somehow I made it here. A happily married mom of four kids who loves Jesus with all her heart. A confident, and happy woman who walks around with a huge smile on my face. A person full of joy and peace. A woman who is not perfect, but strives to be stronger, kinder and better each day. A child of the one true King who no longer feels shame for her brokenness, but rather feels encouraged and loved deeply by Her creator.

Start somewhere. Pick one small area and work on it. Then, pick a different thing. Life changes happen as a result of the small things we do day to day, not always the big moments. The small things really do matter and add up. Suddenly, you will look back and be amazed at how far you have come!

I wonder where God is going to take me by the time I turn 40! I cant wait to see. This past decade has been one of contrast and difference. What will the next one hold?

Stay tuned! 😉

For your unfailing love is as high as the heavens.
    Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
Psalm 57:10

 

 

Bible Reading · Spread Joy

The Gardener, the Grapevine & the branches: My 2nd Sermon

About a year ago, I began a course taught by my Pastor called “Communicating For Change” where the students learned to write devotional materials, study the Bible more effectively, and eventually learn to write and speak an entire sermon.

For the last 5 weeks, our church held a sermon series called ‘The God Ladder’ where we explored our relationships, and each student preached on one area. We covered our relationship with the world, our friends, our spouses and our children.

Then, came my turn to close the sermon series off with our relationship with Jesus, which I preached last Sunday (November 26th).

This was my second sermon, and it was an adventure! I had pages and pages of notes. I wanted to address so many things, and suddenly I realized the verses from John 15:1-15 covered them.

I wanted to touch on God’s love, Jesus’s character, being non-Crusty-Christians both to our brothers and sisters in Christ and the whole as a whole. I wanted to talk about the glory of heaven, the pitfalls of religion, and the acceptance of Christ.

As I wrote, and rewrote, I realized I could not get in as much as I wanted. Each of those topics alone could be an entire sermon on its own! So, thankfully, spirit-lead I found a verse that allowed me to touch briefly on all of those things.

John 15:1-15, The branches, the gardener, and the grapevine. Instructions for love. It was the perfect verse for this sermon.

Check it out:

 

I was relieved when I was finished, and received some great feedback. I’m thankful for those awesome friends and family members who came to listen, and cheer me on. I’m thankful for a church who praises and encourages its own. Of course, I am also grateful for a Pastor who leads us, cheers us on, forces us out of our comfort zone (seriously, I once told that same man I wouldn’t pray in front of others.. lol) and then guides us through all the emotions that come along with being in that uncomfort zone!  I have some amazing prayer warriors in my life who prayed for me through this, and I just cant help but consider how blessed I am for my support network.

Thanks to all who have helped get me to this point! 🙂

On an other note – tomorrow begins my Christmas devotional series, if you are interested – sign up as an email recipient and you are able to get the devotionals emailed to you each morning. Again, I look forward to your feedback on this series!

 

 

 

Parenting · Spread Joy

Loving the life I have, while I have it.

In the interest of being super responsible (well not really, or this would have been a long time ago..) Okay.. trying to catch up and be responsible, my husband and I are working on our will.

No one prepares you for the emotional roller coaster that it is to think about the death of one us, or worse yet, both of us. What becomes of our home and assets? How about the responsibility of raising the 4 children we created? Who will give away our sentimental objects to the right people? What if one of us is on life support? What if one dies and the other is on life support? What if we all die together?

Some of these questions have been insanely hard to answer, much less think about.

The big one for us is in regards to our children. I hope and pray that I get the opportunity to fulfill my life long dream of being a parent, by actually getting the opportunity to raise my children completely.

But, if I don’t.. someone else has to. Someone has to step in and be their mom. Someone has to make sure they are there to cheer them on at graduation, to throw them baby showers when they become parents, to counsel them through the grief of losing a parent. Someone else has to take them to countless doctor’s appointments, kiss their booboos, make sure they eat a healthy diet and don’t forget their lunch.

Its been in these moments of reflection that I have been thinking about what an incredible honour it is to be a parent.

Someone recently told me she wasn’t ready to have kids yet because she wasn’t ready to be entirely selfless. I loved that she recognized that, because being a Mom is the most selfless thing I’ve ever done.

But in my heart, on this side of the children or no children equation, I know the blessing it is too.

For every selfless act, there’s a greater reward. For every long night, there’s a joyful morning with sticky fingers and a fresh start.

For every trial, there is triumph. Sicknesses and scars heal. They finally sleep all glorious night long.

We look back on stories that were absolute hell at the time and laugh as we retell them. Parents, think of the diaper painting stories, or the times when your kids embarrassed you sharing TMI stories.  Funny how the bad and scary seems somewhat hilarious as we leave those days behind.

There is a moment in each child’s life where they say “I love you Mommy” first. I don’t remember it with each child, but I do remember the emotions. Its usually around 2 years old somewhere. As a Mom,  you carried a baby for nine-ish months. You went through the worst pain to bring them here. You sacrificed painful moments learning to nurse, you have deep bags from sheer exhaustion, and you age immensely from the lack of sleep. Then, suddenly, you have a wild and rambunctious toddler. They disappear in stores. They ask ‘why’ 1000 times a day.  They drive you bonkers, but you love them so much it hurts.

Then, out of the blue, there it is. “I love you Mommy.” And suddenly every single thing you sacrificed seems like it doesn’t even matter. The person who you created out of love with someone you love, and whom you’ve spent all this time showing selfless love to tells you first, that they love you.  They recognize that you are worthy of their love. Sure, they show us their love when they show a preference for us, or calm for us. But when they are thinking to themselves “I just love my Mom so much I need to tell her right now.” That’s a whole new statement of love.

There is no greater moment in my mind. I’m so thankful I got to experience that four times. Whether I get to raise them until adulthood or not, my dream of being their Mom has come true.

The joys that I have felt as a Mom are endless. The trials have been many, this life is not for the selfish or the faint of heart by any means, but it is the single greatest thing I have ever done with my life. It is my dream come true.

So, though I am not overly enjoying the thought of estate planning and will making, I am so overwhelmed with gratitude.

It’s often said that the Holy Spirit is the greatest comforter that there is. I truly believe that because I know since becoming a Christian, I feel God’s presence in my trials so much more than I did before, especially as a mother. I feel comforted by my faith, knowing that my death itself won’t be disastrous.

I will be in peace, I will meet my maker, and hug my saviour. I will meet family that passed before me whom I never had the luxury of knowing this side of heaven, and I will reunite with many faces I have missed for years. I will be comfortable, free from pain, anger and sadness.  I will be in awe, worshipping.

Death itself used to scare me, but not now. Now I feel peace thinking about what awaits me. The more I read my Bible, the more my faith grows, the more excited I am to think about what awaits me. Death itself causes me no anxiety. I can’t wait to talk to Noah about what the flood was like first hand. To laugh with Isaiah about him being naked for 3 years as an image to teach with. To sing with David. Most importantly, to thank Jesus face to face for my salvation, for allowing death to not cause me the fear it once did. I am comforted, when I think of what awaits me.

What does bring me trepidation is what I will leave behind. It is my sincere hope that I get to raise my babies until they are grown. That I will snuggle with my grandbabies. That I will hold my husband’s hand long after retirement and aching bodies have set in. There’s lots I want to accomplish yet.

But, if that’s not the plan and my time isn’t long. I am just so thankful for what I got.

30.5 years have come and gone since I was born. That’s a lot of time to do a lot of pretty amazing things. I’ve been fortunate enough to do things some people never get to do. I’ve created some pretty amazing memories.  I’ve outlived several family members, even cousins of my own. Their days are gone, but somehow for some reason mine aren’t.

It is in thinking of my death that makes me realize just how thankful I am for my life.

As cliché as it is, if we lived every day as it were our last, how much more joy would we have? How much longer would we hug those we love? Would we put our phones down and listen more intently to our children? Would we spend time making special foods from scratch? Would we hug and kiss our children and spouse more often? Would we worry less about the long term and focus on the joy that today brings? Would we complain less, knowing its such a blessing that we got to be alive this long already?

Would we focus on the immense joy we have instead of seeing only the burdens we are experiencing in that moment?

I want to be that person. I want my children to know how thankful and grateful I am to be alive,  with the pleasure of raising them. I want my husband to know how committed I am to loving him hopefully well beyond our 70th anniversary. I want my parents to know how thankful I am for every opportunity that they have given me, whether it be small like their encouragement or big like the physical work they put into raising me. I want my extended family to know how proud I am to be related to each of them, how deep my love runs even as the familial connections get smaller and smaller. I want my friends to know I chose them to be friends because they are so valuable and I appreciate so much that they are family to me even though not biologically related. I want my church to know it has shaped me, formed me and rearranged me in the best ways possible.

Most importantly, I want the world to know that I love life. Growing old is a privilege denied to many. How thankful we should be for every single day.

It’s in thinking about my own death, that I realize when that day comes, I’ll be thankful to say I lived well. I saw my dreams come true. I’ll take some pretty amazing moments with me in my heart to heaven.

I hope to see you there.

 

 

Healing · Spread Joy

To my church family, with love.

Church totally sucks sometimes.

Seriously though, it does! It can be so overwhelmingly hard, emotionally draining and if I’m being honest, sometimes it really stinks to be challenged when you just want to sit still in your ignorance, or unpleasant habits.

This past Sunday, our Pastor put to death a vision that has been in the works for years. Multiple people have spent countless hours planning, dreaming and envisioning a new hope for a second site, a satellite location for our church in a town near where we normally meet.

His pain and heartbreak as he laid these broken plans to rest (at least for now) was very evident. I remember when this plan started, it was very much Spirit-lead. In the beginning, I was there to see that. God had opened a brand new and exciting door. And yet… it is no longer happening. The door has been closed.

How on earth did we get here?

Of course, its been a journey, a progression of sorts. Big decisions aren’t made overnight, and nor are they changed that quickly.

Slowly over time, there has been a disunity amongst our congregation. Change is hard and it is scary for so many, and some people panicked at the mere thought. Others had varying opinions of how things should be done, what shouldn’t be done, etc. and the disunity grew and grew until the plan God had laid out shrunk and shrunk until it was gone all together.

And the disunity reminds us that church isn’t perfect. We are not perfect.

I read a quote before about church not being a museum of the perfect, but rather a hospital for the broken and it is very true. When you combine over 150 people who are broken, imperfect and flawed, you can’t expect perfection.

The world around us looks at us as though we are supposed to be the very example of Christ as Christians, and they hold us Christians to standards of perfection that are unachievable to anyone but Christ himself. The second that we show any fault, they are quick to call us hypocritical. But we’re broken people. We are flawed people. We are not Jesus, we are totally imperfect.

What we are is a family. Yes, we are dysfunctional in many regards, just like any other family. We are a family of believers who want to know Jesus better, who want to be closer to him in knowledge and behaviour. We are learning. Learning to admit our faults, learning to deal with things in a Christ-like manner, and learning to draw closer to him, so that we can be more like the perfect person he showed us. Learning to pray, to read our Bibles, to hear from God about the direction of our next steps.

As all families have dysfunction, you can’t expect any differently from a church family. People get their feelings hurt, people step on people’s toes, people feel neglected, people feel frustrated and annoyed. Sounds like any other family get together, doesn’t it? The difference is Jesus. His example taught us forgiveness and grace. He told us to drop everything and find those we have a problem with and make peace.

“So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.” – Matthew 5:23-24

Jesus didn’t want us to wait with unresolved conflict. He wanted us to deal with it, and get it taken care of instantly. He wants to see us with peace, resolving differences, and having unity amongst our family.

But I am guilty of the opposite. In my anger, I shut down. I walk away. I need space. I stew. I have the hardest time putting my anger away so that I may resolve my conflict. This happened to me within my own church. I wanted to abandon a family that I loved because of hurt. Instead, when some time had passed to allow calmness to brew, resolution came. And I can’t tell you how amazing and freeing that was for me. To be able to say these are my feelings, and have them validated. To apologize and to be apologized to. To restore the love for the family I feared I had lost forever.

I can see clearly now why Jesus calls us to resolve our conflicts quickly. I can see the damage that stewing causes, the time wasted in anger. When I took off the clouded judgement that anger left me, I was left to realize that yes, church can totally suck sometimes, but its also one of the most amazing parts of my life.

My church is real. People are honest about their brokenness. We pray for one another, and we walk through each other’s trials and triumphs together. We celebrate when couples get engaged, married and add new little members to their family. We cry when people lose their loved ones, when people move away, when illness hits.

We joined this church just over 5 years ago now. I will never forget being alone with 2 kids, all three of us sick, and my husband was 3 provinces away working. Someone from the church happened to text me, and found out we were sick. She phoned another woman on our pastoral care team and that afternoon a fresh, warm meal was dropped at my door. I was totally embarrassed to open the door looking like death, and feeling the same. I’m sure the smell that radiated out the front door was retching. But this woman risked illness to make sure I had my needs met. And then she apologized because the meal wasn’t homemade because she had just found out her husband had a minor car accident and she had to go rescue him from the accident site, but not wanting to forget about the sick, struggling Mom, she grabbed a whole chicken and the fixings and delivered it while on route to him.

Never in my life have I been so thankful. And yet, so anguished. If my husband had been home, he’d have taken care of me and the kids, she wouldn’t have had to stop on the way. But she did. She told me in that moment, despite her own struggle, I was still worth receiving a chicken that would allow us some strength to nurse back to health. I wondered if I would have had the same compassion to remember the sick mom in the distraction of worry about my own husband’s accident. She truly showed me Jesus that day, and in that moment, I knew this was a family I wanted to be a part of, and I dove right in.

I walked through some pretty challenging times within these five years, and many people stepped up to walk alongside me. There were more meals, one was made for me in my kitchen by one church member while I literally wept to another about the going-ons in my life at that time. None of them judged me as I handled my brokenness, instead they kept pointing me to God, the author of my life, who loved me and wanted best for me. They became a literal Jesus to me. They carried me when I couldn’t carry myself. If I didn’t have the support of the church then, where would I have gone? How would I be the overcomer that I am now? Would I have survived the darkness I was drowning in?

I have news for you. Life is hard. People are broken. Our hospital for the sick is no better.

But, we all know whose children we are. We know what is commanded of us: forgiveness, resolution and grace. Thank God that I learned that lesson when I did, and within the safety net of my church so that when the next storm of my life hits, I know where to turn. So that in your storm, you know that I will be there for you.

“I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.” – 1 Corinthians 1:10

Our purpose is to grow closer to Jesus Christ himself. We do this by living in harmony with each other, supporting one another and our leadership. We need to bring back unity within our congregation and I trust we can do by staying focused on the very purpose we gather together, singing and praising, learning and worshipping.

Let’s encourage our leadership. Let’s step up and fill in the gaps where there aren’t enough hands to do the work. Let’s give generously and cheerfully of our time and finances, in serving and praying. Let’s continue to walk through this very dark world together, united for Christ in love. Let’s comfort those who’s pain is so deep, and who’s burdens seem unbearable. Let’s praise and celebrate our accomplishments together. Let’s commit to resolving our differences, to forgiving our brother, to taking up our cross daily and remembering our church is called the Bride of Christ.

Above all else, let us love on an other. Love each other through the hurts and brokenness. Love each other through the joy and triumphs. Just love.

“We love each other, because he loved us first.” – 1 John 4:19

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Healing · Marriage · Spread Joy

Sorry Hef, Marriage Rocks!

Today the world learned of the death of Hugh Hefner. Within hours, social media ws blown up with articles both singing his praises and warning of the damage he has done.

One thing I have noticed is how many men idolize him, commenting that he couldn’t be in a better place now (because being in the playboy mansion with a bunch of playboy bunnies is their goal not heaven itself) and comments about wanting to be like him, or replacing him.

 

Posts like this are currently circulating social media in mass amounts.

 

 

The idea these men are idolizing is having tons of beautiful women preform sexual acts on them, on their beck and call. Having a whole slew of attractive women at their demand.  But really… is this what you truly want?

True intimacy is a million times better than any one night stand.

Having someone preform sexual acts on you because they truly love you and desire to please you is a million times better than having sex with a person who truly doesn’t value you beyond your brief sexual encounter.

Having the safety net of a partner who values you for more than just your body is a beautiful thing.

Being encouraged because you have a vibrant mind, an educated opinion or a wonderful personality trait is more meaningful then being valued only because your body exhibits a certain sexual want or you are able to preform a certain sexual act on demand regardless of whether you want to or not.

Being in a relationship where you know your partner truly wants to have sex with you and feels safe and comfortable doing so rather than knowing they are faking it because of your status or the expectations you’ve placed on them is an amazing thing.

These types of things are the happenings that are now being idolized. One of Hefner’s former ‘girl friends’ went on the record to Macleans and told in detail what goes on behind closed doors.  She mentioned sex capades in which Hefner would take medicine needed to preform, cover himself in baby oil and expect his random girlfriends to satisfy him until he masturbated to porn to finalize things.  She mentioned some of the pressures and hypocrisy of the situations (things like being told they never had to do anything sexual but then also being told they wouldn’t get rewards without sexual performance.)  She mentioned things that show these women were not treated with respect, their own desires weren’t being met and worse yet they were getting infections from the baby oil and not using safe sex practices at all. Everything I read, I read with sadness for her and the lifestyle that today so many men are celebrating.

I imagined these young women feeling beautiful and on top of the world, knowing they have been chosen to live in the playboy mansion. I imagined them recognizing their only real value in their non monogamous relationship was their sexual capabilities. I imagined their parent’s sadness at seeing their daughters, full of value and worth, demoralized to just simply someone’s living sex toy.

This is not something to be jealous over.

Greetings!

This past weekend I had the opportunity to photograph my younger cousin’s wedding (featured above), and of course that got me thinking about my own wonderful wedding over eight years ago now (the cover photo). When I set out for marriage, I remember the jokes and comments about being with only one person for the rest of my life. I remember feeling as though so many people were against marriage as we walked into our wedding and feeling sadness for them as I considered how excited I was to get married to my best friend, hoping for forever with him.

And then reality hits. Marriage is hard. It is a crazy turbulent journey, and we have made it through some pretty incredible scenarios.  Now, more than ever, we stand united in love and dedication to one an other. This is what people need to celebrate.

I see couples married much longer than we have been full of respect for one an other, acting like newlyweds still and this is what makes me jealous. Not a lavish lifestyle of forcing people to do what I want when I want.  When I see people with successful marriages, that have been married 10, 20, 30 years I want what they have – love, passion, safety, vulnerability.  If people learn to celebrate these things perhaps our divorce rates would lower and we would learn to encourage one an other in marriage rather than encouraging adultery, easy outs, and walking away over things that really are fixable. (And I am not saying all things are, but with a divorce rate of 50%, I’m sure many can be resolved if people are willing to work at it.)

We need to celebrate marriage! Celebrate our own marriages! Celebrate with our friends and family as they hit more and more anniversaries! We need to be sounding boards when our friends or family are upset in their own marriages, encouraging them to reflect and seek action steps on how to move forward, rather than taking the opportunity to complain about our spouse as well. We need to sometimes be the bigger person and put our spouse’s needs ahead of our own.

We need to put marriages on a pedestal! Instead of ball and chain jokes, we need to celebrate that someone found a person they deemed worthy of the deepest level of commitment there is. We need to congratulate people when they pass an other anniversary, for their dedication to their marriage and for making it yet an other year united.

If we want to change the world’s view of marriage, that begins at home. That starts with building our own marriages up, encouraging the success of marriages around us, and celebrating the joy of love. Not lust, but rather the love that comes from commitment, even when you don’t always feel good about your own marriage.

We need to shift our mindsets from those who are jealous of the lonely life Hefner must have lead without a significant attachment to any one person to watering the green grass of our own marriage instead.

I love being married. It has been incredibly hard at times, sometimes for very long times.  There was a while were I imagined us not surviving, and I remember thinking about how determined I was to succeed at marriage when I said my vows. I remember thinking how devastating it was that the vulnerability I had placed into marriage could be taken from me.  Thankfully, after a lot of elbow grease and dedication, my husband and I survived our deepest drought in marriage. And that’s a story for an other day, but today I want to encourage others to hold fast to their commitments, to celebrate love, to encourage others to find whatever needs to be done to make it work.

There is nothing better in this life than having a best friend for life. Having a husband who values me in every aspect of partnership, sexual included, but also for my emotional impact, for the things I do outside the bedroom, for the commitment that I have for him. These are the hopes I have for my children when they grow and find spouses.

There is such a deep intimacy between us having survived all that we have to this point in life, there is no other person I want more when I am happy or hurt. He is the source of much joy for me, and my comforter, my very best friend. I couldn’t imagine the loneliness of rotating through sexual partners, never completely having my needs met or meeting the needs of others, risking sexually transmitted diseases and never truly forming a life long bond with someone.

Marriage is a sacred and holy union.  Holy meaning, to be set apart. And that’s what should be done. We need to set apart marriage in our minds and raise it to the hierarchy it deserves. Studies prove how much children thrive with happily married parents, and life is way easier in a team. Marriage deserves to be encouraged and celebrated.

So, if you want to be jealous, be jealous of those who are determined to succeed in their marriage and set your goals to work with the same dedication for your spouse that they do, or to make sure you encourage that same dedication in those around you. Protect your marriage and encourage others.

Be jealous of success in marriage and not sexual conquests.