Simple ≠ Easy

And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you. —Psalm 39:7

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. —Psalm 42:11
The questions in these verses remind me of that old Johnny Carson skit where he wore a turban and held a piece of paper to his forehead with an answer on it. When the question was revealed, the answer was most always hilarious.

But while they all were similarly funny, for these questions posed by the Psalmists, Johnny would only need one card, and on it would be written, Hope in God.

What about cancer in a little body? Hope in God.

Other illness in my family? Hope in God.

Things not turning out as I'd planned? Hope in God.

The turbulence in the world? Hope in God.

Tsunamis, earthquakes, floods...? Hope in God.

Unanswered prayers and unrealized dreams? Hope in God.

It seems simple, almost formulaic, but while the answer is simple, it is far from easy—anything but easy. Standing rock solid on my hope in God, regardless of what I wait for not arriving, regardless of the turmoil going on in and around me, regardless of all the things that would serve to push me off this sometimes tiny foundation of hope, is not easy.

But whoever said that life was going to be easy? Not my mom, and certainly not Jesus... who said, "In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." {John 16:33}

Who better to put our hope in than the One who already faced down the world and won?


soul health vs. soul neglect

Sitting at Starbucks last night, before my small group arrived, I was going through my Moleskine reporter notebook, reading over notes I had taken at the Leading From a Healthy Soul conference.

In one of the sessions, Mindy Caliguire explained the difference between a healthy soul, and one that has been neglected. Here are the symptoms of each:

Symptoms of soul neglect:
  • fear
  • defensiveness
  • impatience
  • lack of love
  • lose sight of why we do what we do
  • driven-ness
  • isolation
  • insomnia
  • physical symptoms: digestive problems, headaches, etc.
  • apathy
  • judgmental
  • rushed
  • irritable
  • insecurity

Symptoms of soul health:

  • joyful composure
  • fearless
  • peace in real time, in all circumstances
  • optimism/hope
  • humility
  • passion
  • clarity
  • affection for pursuing God
  • flexibility
  • forgiveness
  • gentleness
  • kindness
  • fresh vision
  • supernatural strength
  • words of life
  • opposite of bitterness
Re-reading this list has been a good wake up call for me. When too many of the first list start to make an appearance in my life, it's time for some 'soul spa' days.

What about you? How's your soul?


Gratitude & freedom... [#79-90}

Yesterday at PORTICO we had a movie screening of Freedom Fighter, the story of Rev. Majed El Shafie, himself once tortured for his Christian faith in Egypt, now the president and founder of One Free World International, fighting for those persecuted for their faith all over the world.

Here is a clip from the movie...

It's far too easy to live in religious freedom and think else everyone shares the same freedoms that we do. This moving film is designed to move those of us with all the freedom in the world to speak out for those who do not.

One way to get involved is to join the One Million Voices campaign. The way I see it, I have paid so very little for my own freedom, how could I not expend my energy and resources on behalf of those who have not been so blessed?

* * * * *

...and the gratitude list continues...

79. friends who push me to my dreams even when I doubt yourself.

80. a job that I love.

81. coffee. Starbucks. enough said.

82. going to sleep on Friday night and not turning the alarm on.

83. delightful little Italian pastries.

84. Rosamunde Pilcher's 'Winters Solstice' and beginning it again for at least the 24th time.

85. the balance of accomplishing things I didn't expect to and nothing I wanted to.

86. a strong, well-timed message I needed to hear.

87. summer roasted vegetables on a cold day.

88. walking into Starbucks and being greeted by my favorite baristas, who already know what I want.

89. curling up in my cozy bed with my Kobo in my hand, and Charlotte Martin's Piano Trees in my ears.

90. the simple, yet under-appreciated fact that by living in Canada, I have the gift and freedom of worshiping my God freely and without fear.



In the video I posted yesterday with poet Sarah Kay, she talks about having her students write out ten things that they know to be true.

I thought I would do the same.

Here are ten things that i know to be true
{in no particular order}...
  1. The only geographical place in the world I have ever felt at home is Paris, France.
  2. There is a special place in my heart that only comes alive when I hear my family laugh.
  3. There is a God who loves me. {He loves you too.}
  4. Creativity is not an endless well you can always draw from and never take time to replenish.
  5. We are, every one of us, dichotomies in some way... and it is far easier to overlook one's own dichotomies than those of others.
  6. It is naïve to think that one's own bad mood does not affect those surrounding you.
  7. I too easily let the small things immobilize me.
  8. Watching a pot really doesn't stop it from boiling—but wow—does it ever take a long time!
  9. When the little voice in your head tells you to do—or not to do— something, you MUST always listen to that little voice.
  10. Any day when you can wake up and walk past Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris in the same hour, will be a good day.
What do you know to be true?


beauty of poetry

I have always been fascinated by spoken word poetry. It's something that I have often thought I would like to try, but don't think I have been brave enough.

Or maybe that is just a fancy way of saying that I have been afraid.

This morning, I watched this TED talk video. Dave Gibbons tweeted the link, and as I listened to this poet, she has inspired me to begin writing poetry again. It's long, a little over 18 minutes, but it is well worth it.

I'm honestly not sure why I stopped writing poetry in the first place. Perhaps because in the glare of everyday life, poetry sometimes seems frivolous. But can beauty every truly be frivolous? And for one who is embracing and exploring the idea of beauty this year, could poetry be overlooked in this journey? Sitting here in the quiet morning, I don't think so.

Perhaps, given that fact that recently I have begun reading the works of more poets—Christina Rossetti, Luci Shaw, Emily Dickinson, Rilke—I am now ripe to begin again for myself. To start the journey, and see where it takes me.

I guess we'll find out...


grace & poetry

There are days when it is easier than others to be grateful.

Some days, I find that I cannot write my gratitude gifts down in my Field Notes booklet fast enough. Other days, it seems that the blank page taunts me.

What I have learned, however, is that the days when nothing comes easy, those are the days that I most need to be grateful, that I most need to remember the good.

This week, with the advent of great news {see #62-64}, there is much to be grateful for. One of those things is a little poetry book I've been reading that simply makes my heart happy. And it fits perfectly in with this day of giving thanks...
Psalm For The January Thaw, Part 2.
—Luci Shaw, Harvesting Fog, p. 14,15

Glory be to God for changes. For bulbs
breaking the darkness with their green beaks.
For moles and moths and velvet green moss
waiting to fill the driveway cracks. For the way
the sun pierces the window minutes earlier each day.
For earthquakes and tectonic plates—earth's bump
and grind—and new mountains pushing up
like teeth in a one-year-old. For melodrama—
lightning on the sky stage, and the burst of applause
that follows. Praise him for day and night, and light
switches by the door. For seasons, for cycles
and bicycles, for whales and waterspouts,
for watersheds and waterfalls and waking
and the letter W, for the waxing and waning
of weather so that we never get complacent. For all
the world, and for the way it twirls on its axis
like an exotic dancer. For the north pole and the
south pole and the equator and everything between.

More grace gifts... {#60-78}

60. friends who come and sit and laugh and eat chocolate cake with you when you are down.

61. finding the perfect pair of jeans—on sale!

62. a lunch time phone call that brought good brilliant news.

63. tumors on Jayden's spine, breastbone and skull are gone... and the two that remain are smaller!

64. bone regeneration in his little body—even during chemotherapy!

65. that God thinks about me. {Ps. 40:17}

66. getting to hear what God is saying to the people I work with every Wednesday.

67. planning a Welcome To Spring party.

68. turning the last page on a book that has been nothing but a blessing.

69. a comfortable, albeit messy home, to rest in when one is not feeling well.

70. english breakfast tea in a beautiful cup.

71. a full house at Starbucks that forced us to have coffee at the place we usually reserve for special occasions.

72. heating pad on cold days.

73. a hand massage.

74. the trilogy that reminds us that no matter how much bad happens, good will win in the end.

75. beginning a book I have long wanted to read.

76. herbes de Provence olive oil.

77. peanut butter and homemade strawberry jam on toast.

78. the friend whose birthday it is today. {happy, happy day, Merrilee!}


favorite things...

Happy Friday!

It's been far too long since I've done a Favorite Things Friday... so today I decided it was time. There are two things that stick out in my mind, one in the world of books, and the other, music.

Of course, the book goes first!

I first discovered Cecelia Ahern on my last trip to Paris. On a rainy Sunday, I was wandering around the Carousel du Louvre, and when I made my way into the Virgin Megastore, something led me to a beautiful book by the Irish author, called If You Could See Me Now. Even though I was only in Paris for three days, and I did almost everything I wanted to, I still managed to finish this book before I left!

Having read just about everything she has written, I was enchanted to discover a new book, Girl In The Mirror, a small book containing two short stories. I haven't read it yet, but it is sitting on the table beside my bed waiting for me. I already know I will love it.


I LOVE this song by Adele. Love her new album, 21. Love. Enjoy the video...

...and have a beautiful weekend!


thinking of you...

From yesterday's Life Journal...
You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts towards us... As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. —Psalm 40:5, 17 ESV
Since the devastation form the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, one of the most frequently seen Twitter and Facebook status updates has been, 'my thoughts and prayers are with Japan', or something similar. Last Friday, @donmilleris, no doubt having seen many of the same updates, Tweeted, "If anything bad happens to me, I can't use your thoughts but I could use your prayers."

While initially I laughed, I believe he is wrong. What else spurs action and compassion but our thoughts?

Since December 3, some of the things that have meant the most to me, touched my soul most profoundly, have been seemingly random emails, notes and gifts, all that were precipitated by someone's thoughts for me and my family.

And while all this is good, there is something so grace-filled and perfect about God thinking of me. With the billions of people on a planet so filled with pain and injustice and tragedy, to think that my God thinks about me, even—or especially—when I am needy, is a beautiful grace.

I don't believe there has ever been another time of my life when I have needed this more. This knowledge that my God has thoughts for me, has cared for me in so very many ways, and even uses the thoughts of others to bless me, is a gift I will always cherish.

And more than cherish, it makes me want to act more on the thoughts that I have for the people in my life.

This is my prayer...


123 days

In the last 123 days: my uncle passed away, parents stayed with me when they came down for the funeral, the day they got home my nephew Jayden got sick, his constipation turned out to be cancer, spinal surgery, what was thought to be a 'good' cancer turned out to be a 'bad' one, Jay got to come home just before Christmas {in a cool orange wheelchair}, our family had a very surreal Christmas Day, chemotherapy, trips to Disneyworld, more chemotherapy, Dad went to Guatemala to build houses, more chemotherapy, one of my brothers had surgery, another family member had some medical challenges, then day before yesterday, we found out yet another member of my family is now having her own set of medical challenges.

Are. You. Kidding. Me.

Living on the other side of the country from where most of this is happening, I have spent many of the last 123 days feeling frustrated that I am not there, wanting to help, but knowing there is really nothing I can do from here. Many phone calls that came my way ended with me in tears, the product of distance and disappointment. With the exception of the 25 days that I was with my family, each of these days I have keenly felt the geographical separation.

But yesterday was different.

While out with some friends at lunch, my phone rang. It was my brother Doug…

…calling to tell me that Jayden's oncologist informed them to say that many of the tumors they found on December 3 were gone, only two were left, and even they were smaller.

Good news.

Finally, good great news.

Over these last few days, the thing that has been haunting the playground of my mind is the unchanging, constant character of God. The Bible says that He is the beginning and the end. That His steadfast love never changes. That He is the same yesterday, today and forever.

He is the same God today that He was 124 days ago.

And as we waited for the results of the tests from last week, I could feel God impressing upon me over and over again, that no matter what the results were, no matter what happens, He has not changed. None of this has been a surprise to Him. He didn't go on vacation 123 days ago, or stop caring, or anything other human attribute that I might try to pin on Him.

He is still the same.

Even when it feels like the world is falling apart.

He is still the same.

Good news doesn't change His character. Neither does the bad.

He is still God, and He is still the same.

He is still love...

…and my heart is overflowing with gratitude for this simple grace.


Spring has returned...

My Gram always said that the last snowfall of the year had the biggest snowflakes. After walking downtown on Saturday in the midst of some of the prettiest and hugest snowflakes ever, I am choosing to believe her words, and have decided that spring is here.

I am ready for a change...



i made this slide for PORTICO's Connect.One.Five for this Sunday.

i had no idea how much i would need it today...


Happy Monday!

It was a good, but relatively quiet weekend in my world. There was a good deal of reading, some not enough writing, and my first two whole nights of sleep in almost a week. That alone is enough to have made this a good weekend!

As we live our lives through these days that at times seem so very long, yet are passing by so briskly, I have yet again found myself in one of Rilke's poems. How grateful I am for the wisdom and beauty with which he wrote...
Knots of Our Own Making
{Rainer Maria Rilke, The Book of Hours II, 16}

How surely gravity's law,
strong as an ocean current,
takes hold of even the smallest thing
and pulls it toward the heart of the world.
Each thing—
each stone, blossom, child—
is held in place.
Only we, in our arrogance,
push out beyond what we each belong to
for some empty freedom.
If we surrendered
to earth's intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees.
Instead we entangle ourselves
in knots of our own making
and struggle, lonely and confused.
So, like children, we begin again
to learn from the things,
because they are in God's heart;
they have never left him.

#31-59 of my One Thousand Gifts...

31. postponed plans that give the gift of time.

32. an unexpected conversation with a stranger at the laundromat.

33. getting to chat with one of my brothers, even if only for a few minutes.

34. blog comments that encourage and make me smile.

35. the beginning of Lent, and the yearly physical reminder that Easter is coming.

36. having friends that i can email to ask to pray for Jayden's tests.

37. the friend who emailed me back to say i could count on her to pray & that she loved me.

38. another friend's sweet response that brought tears to my eyes.

39. and another beautiful friend.

40. and another.

41. and another.

42. all the amazing, encouraging, beautiful friends that God has blessed me with.

43. tests done in good time, a hungry little boy & a trip to McDonald's.

44. the unusual ability to keep my mouth firmly closed when nothing but sarcasm was going to come out.

45. the blissful peace of a Friday night at home.

46. turning the first few pages of a Cara Black Parisian mystery novel.

47. finishing that same book the next day.

48. getting a dreaded chore done before 10:00 am

49. homemade potato cheddar soup.

50. finally getting an entire night's sleep.

51. re-reading a book and being more moved and challenged the second time.

52. trusting that no matter what news this week brings, God is still God, still in control, still love.

53. overripe bananas that sacrificed themselves to become banana praline pecan biscotti and blueberry banana bread.
54. reconnecting with a friend through laughter and tears.

55. being able to share some of my stupidest moments and knowing my friend will still love me.

56. birds singing in the tree outside.

57. my parents.

58. Rilke's poetry.

59. the grace to begin again.



I suppose you could say i have a love/hate relationship with waiting.

Yes, there are benefits to delayed gratification, and when the thing you've waited for finally arrives, how much more do you appreciate it... blah, blah, blah.

But when you are stuck in the middle—or worse, the beginning—of waiting, the last thing in the world you want to do is romanticize it.

Yesterday, my four-year old nephew Jayden (pictured with his dad in Disneyworld) underwent a slew of tests to discover what is going on in his little body. To see if the miracle we've all been praying for has happened, either through the chemotherapy, a miracle, or a combination of both. The results, unfortunately, won't be available until late next week.

Ah, waiting. {insert appropriately violent eye-rolling episode here}

But at the height of my sarcasm, in the quiet of this morning's Life Journaling, came these words...
But for you, O Lord, do I wait;
it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer. | Psalm 38:11
Ultimately, it is not the medical professionals who we are waiting for, much as they would like to think that. It isn't time itself that is the enemy. It isn't some wishy-washy, foundation-less hope of a good outcome that is our goal.

Our hope is firmly placed in the Lord our God. It is for Him, and—this I tend to forget—with Him that we wait. While we wait for news, it is the Healer Himself who offers comfort and peace and joy and laughter even in the midst of the waiting.

This is grace...


"It's for your own good."

From yesterday's Life Journal...
And now Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good? —Deuteronomy 10:12-13 ESV
I don't think I ever realized how these verses are so close to one of my long-time favorites,
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God. —Micah 6:8 ESV
But there is a difference in Moses' words than Micah's. The addition of the words, "for your good".

I remember as a child—at times a head-strong one—hearing some variation of these words come out of my parents' mouths, while trying to get my brothers and I to do something that in all reality, we really didn't want to do.

Go to bed.
Drink your milk.
Eat your vegetables.
Take your medicine.
Don't run with scissors.

And many, if not all, of these things were followed with that classic line, "It's for your own good." Somehow, I don't think any of us ever fully believed them.

I have even seen it recently. Watching the parents of a four-year old little piece of my heart try to convince their little boy that letting doctors poke him, constantly bug him as he tries to play Xbox, and make him do things he wants no part of, is actually to make him better. I saw the skepticism in his espresso-colored eyes.

But the reality is that whether or not any of us feel like these things are in our own best interest, or for our own good, they actually are.

The reality is that the life that I desire to love and serve my God is only truly brought about by discipline and disciplines that curb my own natural tendencies—to live my way, to protect, to merely survive—and bring me to a place where i can better hear and obey God.

As I wrote yesterday, as this season of Lent begins, I don't want to emerge after Easter as the same person I am on this side. My prayer is that God would use the disciplines of both omitting things from and adding new disciplines to my life to transform me into someone who better understands and lives His grace and love.



With Easter being so late this year, it almost feels like beginning Lent on March 9 is joining the party after it already started. But every calendar I own tells me that today is the day.

While Lent isn't my favourite in the liturgical calendar {Advent is pretty hard to beat}, I have come to appreciate Lent for what it is: a time of preparation, self-examination, and repentance before we celebrate the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus.

Lent is usually marked by fasting, most notably something sweet. But for someone like me, giving up chocolate and sweets would be kind of like most other people giving up broccoli. To prove my point, there is a container of Caramilk Mini Eggs sitting just beside my left hand as i type this. It has been there since Friday, and i have only eaten two so far.

{In the interest of full-disclosure, i will say that a bag of potato chips is far from safe in my presence…}

Once again, this year for Lent, I'm giving up my favourite diversions. Those things that keep me from doing the hard work of self-examination, keep me from paying attention to what goes on in and around me, keep me from doing the things that I know I should be doing. So, once again, I am turning down the noise, and turning up the quiet, the silence, the solitude that too often I convince myself that I don't really need.

My two companions for this journey are Eastertide: Prayers for Lent Through Easter from The Divine Hours, by Phyllis Tickle, and Devotions For Lent, from the Mosaic Holy Bible. It is from the latter that I will share with you a beautiful poem that sums up the way I begin this Lenten season.
—Frederick Ohler, Better than Nice and Other Unconventional Prayers

Great and holy God
awe and reverence
fear and trembling
do not come easily to us
for we are not
Old Testament Jews
or Moses
or mystics
or sensitive enough.
Forgive us
for slouching into Your presence
with little expectation
and less awe
than we would eagerly give a visiting dignitary.
We need
neither Jehovah nor a buddy—
neither "the Great and Powerful Oz" nor "the man upstairs."
Help us
to want what we need…
and may the altar of our hearts
tremble with delight
Your visitation
May I emerge from these 40 days a different person than I am today.


gratitude list {#1-#30}

even when you love your job, there are times, when the alarm heralds that the new week has arrived, that you simply want to hurl the offending thing across the room, roll over, and finding a cool spot on the pillow, pretend that it really isn't true.

but it is. and each day is a gift.

including mondays, when i'm tired, didn't get everything i wanted to done on the weekend, and would trade my coffeemaker for more sleep.

today is a gift.

thanks to Ann Voskamp, and her book One Thousand Gifts {i hope you're not tired of me mentioning this book, because i'm certainly not tired of it yet!}, i have begun counting my own one thousand gifts… one thousand gifts from God that i am grateful for.

each monday, i will share my updated list with you.

here we go…

#1-30 of my very own One Thousand Gifts...

1. hearing a little boy say, 'i love you…' for the first time ever.

2. a comfortable old wool sweater that feels like a friend.

3. sitting at Starbucks alone, knowing that shortly friends will join me.
4. seeing an old couple walk down the street hand in hand.

5. old ladies of great faith who are not afraid to kick my butt spiritually when i need it.

6. khakis that fit perfectly.

7. candles and tea during Life Journal & morning pages.
8. snow falling perfectly.

9. vanilla rooibus tea latte.

10. a friend who goes out of her way to make my life easier.

11. the sun going behind the clouds, creating an unexpected haven of shade.

12. a swift, much-needed wake-up call to a major problem in the world.

13. "Monet Refuses the Operation", a poem by Lisel Mueller.

14. the quiet moments of a new day.

15. knowing that i have enough.

16. friends who help when i am down.

17. a clean kitchen table to start the day with Jesus at.

18. working crazy hard and getting everything done.

19. lunch & laughter.

20. planning a trip to Paris.

21. dad coming home from his missions trip safely.

22. a new Bible to learn from.

23. bananas ripe enough to become something even more yummy.

24. the person outside shoveling a snowy path for me.

25. awakenings—both slow and swift.

26. homemade strawberry jam.

27. a Jane Austen movie night with fellow JA lovers.

28. an unexpected and delightful lunch date.

29. sunday afternoon naps.

30. the time to start and finish a book in one weekend.



after so very many years on this planet, you would think that i would have learned that a vast majority of all the disappointments i have had in life have been because reality neither matched nor exceeded the expectations that i held.

why am i surprised by this?

i have a good imagination. so many nights as a child waiting to fall asleep, instead of counting sheep—which i never saw the merits of— i would concoct marvelous stories in my head where i would be the heroine and not only save the world of monsters, aliens and all sorts of evil, but look very stylish doing it. {yes, even as a child, saving the world was equally as important as having good hair}. and when you add to this imagination, the unlimited resources of a rich dream life, well, anything is possible.

everyday-variety real life scarcely has a chance to compare.

"Expectations kill relationships." Ann Voskamp quotes her mother in her beautiful book, One Thousand Gifts. since reading it, this sentence has stuck in my head for days, slowly bring my world of unrealistic expectations versus everyday life reality to the forefront of my mind.

Expectations kill relationships.

there are so many situations flooding my mind where unmet expectations—both on my part and that of others—has strained, bruised and even ended relationships.

including my relationship with God.

how many times have i asked for something, already believing that it should be mine?

how often in the dark of night, illuminated only by the blue haze of the alarm clock, have i rehearsed all the things that i should have?

not to mention those times when it almost seems like i am fighting God to try to get my heart's desire, Him being the proverbial bad guy, one hand holding my dreams away, the other hand holding my head at a arms length as my own arms flair to reach what is not rightfully mine?

this morning in my Life Journal reading, Mark wrote about Jesus' disciples trying to keep children away from Him, so as not to bother him. but Jesus wanted the children near Him. perhaps because of the fun they bring. maybe their laughter. but perhaps, it was because they came to Him without expectations. they didn't want anything from Him, they were just there.

a part of me wonders that if in their lack of expectation, in their innocence, with wonder still fully intact, if those children saw more of a glimpse of the God part of Jesus than all the adults standing around, eyes clouded with expectations of what this teacher could do for them, ever could have.

this child-like, expectation-less, wonder-filled way is the how i want to live my life.



i am the first person to want winter. by mid-july, when the heat and humidity in the GTA is relentless, i begin dreaming of softly falling snow. grey skies so pretty you want to knit a sweater out of them. boots. more boots.

but this year, i am tired of cold and snow. not that i desire summer in any way, i don't. simply put, want to see little buds of green on trees. i want to walk with a spring jacket and my purple umbrella through the spring rain. or perhaps, i just want to not be so cold that everything hurts.

regardless, hello March. you couldn't have gotten here at a better time.

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