Finding Healing in His Presence

It’s mid-afternoon and I stand in the middle of the grassy yard, eyes transfixed on the movement of light dancing all around me on the ground.  The maple branches are caught in a lyrical dance that fools and I cannot stop watching this masterpiece before me.  

My daughter runs past, asking, “What are you doing, Mommy?”  By this time, I’ve pulled out my phone to try to capture this magic.  It’s hard to explain that it’s not so much the shadows and light that I’m taking pictures of, but the feeling in which I’m enveloped.

This late summer trickery takes me to another backyard, another time period, and another mother.  It calls me in to reflect on time now lost and people now passed.  The dancing light lures me in like a cosy bed on a cool day.  It’s familiar, comfortable, mystical and it feels like time has stopped.  

My daughter stops and asks me again, “What are you doing, Mommy?” She peers at the screen on my phone and positions her feet and legs in the frame to capture herself.  “Look at me!” she exclaims.  Two and a half and full of life and joy and expectancy.  

The light draws me in and she pulls me out – a lifeline in the grief that has poured another wave over my head since returning to my hometown.  She leans over and presses the button to take a picture on my phone over and over again, except it’s still in video mode and the result is a small collection of millisecond videos.  She insists on playing each one.  She laughs and skips off to play with her big sister.

Why am I capturing light when the picture of beauty is in these two beings who grew in my womb?  Why am I so distracted?  Why am I entranced by the movement dancing from tree to grass to bush to shrub?  Its ethereal nature draws me in like the intimacy of the Holy Spirit nurturing my soul.  It’s like a gift from God, communicating His very presence with me.   

Henri Nouwen once wrote, “Each day holds a surprise.  But only if we expect it can we see, hear, or feel it when it comes to us.  Let’s not be afraid to receive each day’s surprise, whether it comes to us as sorrow or joy.  It will open a new place in our hearts, a place where we can welcome new friends and celebrate more fully our shared humanity.”

In this holy space, time stands still.  God’s presence is loud but gentle, His voice firm but loving. He picks up a little piece of my heart that had broken off and makes it whole, along with the rest of me.  

___________________

I often find that the Lord speaks to me when I’m out in nature.  How has God been meeting with you lately?

The Perspective of Returning Home

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I recently looked back at some of my early blog posts, dating back a little over thirteen years ago. I was in the middle of preparing to go to the mission field and, as I read, I was reminded of the many ways that the Lord prepared the way for me. I was single, young, determined, adventurous, and possessed a heart full of faith to follow the Lord where He was calling me. Now, all these years later, I am married with two small children, not as young as I used to be, just as determined, more cautious than adventurous, but still with a heart ready to follow Jesus as He prompts me through His Spirit.

We are heading back “home” to Canada this coming August and I am unsure whether to call it home or not. My mom passed away last year and my dad twenty years before that. My sister and her family live two hours away from where we’ll plant ourselves, and many of my close friends now live scattered across Canada.

Someone asked me recently about what was waiting for us in Canada, assuming we had jobs lined up and a place to live. “Oh,” they replied when my response was negative towards both of those things, “so you’re just waiting on God to see where He’ll lead you?”

The unknowns in my present are just as intimidating as they were when I was anticipating moving to SE Asia. But the difference now is that I have almost thirteen years of experience of walking through unknowns, following the lamp that the Lord’s provided to show the path in front of me, and the regular discipline of reminding myself of what is true.

I know He is El-HaNe’-eman – “faithful God” (Deut. 7:9 ESV). He never changes and, despite circumstances around us being uncertain, He is unwavering in His character.

I know He is Eliezer – “my God is help” (Exodus 18:4 ESV) – and Ebenezer – “stone of help” (1 Samuel 7:12 ESV). I’ve experienced His provisions countless times and often in the most surprising ways. Like Samuel in 1 Samuel 7:12, I have set up various stones – some real, some in my journal, and some through a picture or other creative means – in my life as a way to honour the Lord and remember how He has moved to help me and others around me.

I know He is Immanuel – “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14, 8:8, and Matthew 1:23 ESV). This has been the biggest reason why I’ve been able to persevere in serving the Lord. I have never had to tackle any task, assignment, follow-up visit, language and culture lesson, visa trip, immigration question, sickness, home assignment, dangerous road, sermon or annual reunion conference by myself. He has always been with me and will always be with me. Despite Satan’s attempts to convince me otherwise, I was never alone in that village in the wooden house, never forgotten in that mountainous assignment, never left behind when my husband went off to work and I was home alone with our children. His presence has satisfied my soul, calmed my anxieties and empowered my heart.

So, I anticipate returning home with great expectations of the Lord to remain the same. I know He will lead us through new challenges and adventures, He will provide exactly what we need (and sometimes what we may think we want) and when we need it, and He will remind me that He is with us and will continue to be with us through it all.

Home has changed. And I’ve changed too. I don’t know what home even really means anymore except for it to be the place where God invites me to be, too.

If you’re returning home for the summer or for longer, which testimonies of God’s goodness is the Holy Spirit reminding you of so your soul may be strengthened?

Five Minute Friday: Include #FMF

Ever since my daughters were born, as a part of our day, we would often call my mom via Skype while we were eating breakfast.  I’m sure it wasn’t the most thrilling conversation for my mom but it was such a normal interaction and it made it feel like she was close even though she was half a world away.

When my husband and I would see notifications on Facebook letting us know that Mom had “liked” or “loved” our most recent posts and pictures, we knew my mom was up late, favouring her night owl tendencies.  She would be faithful to leave a comment of encouragement on whatever we had shared.  We used to joke about how she “liked” everything but deep down we truly were appreciative of her efforts to connect.

Now that my mom is gone, having passed away last September, it feels abnormal to go through a breakfast without calling her.  It feels empty to not see her comments and likes on Facebook.  It feels sad that we no longer receive cards in the mail from her.  It feels strange that she’s no longer just half a world away but actually in heaven.

But we’ve found ways to include Mom in our everyday.  We talk about our visits to her in Canada.  We sing songs that were the old reliables that my mom would sing to my daughters on Skype.  My daughters draw pictures to put in a journal for Grandma.  I tell my daughters that this book or that toy or this stuffy or that dress was from Grandma.  I include extra details throughout our day that help us connect to the memories of my mom.  It doesn’t give the allusion that she’s still alive but the memories give us the full picture that she was both my mom and my daughters’ grandmother but, ultimately, the Lord’s child.

We include memories of my mom in the everyday so we don’t forget.

Return to Thailand

We (the girls and I) arrived back in Thailand last night.  Those were some long flights with lots of crying (none from me this time, thank goodness!).  I am so glad to have that travel done with for now.  The Lord provided lots of help at just the right time.

The week and a half prior to flying back, my youngest was sick.  We had two visits to pediatric emergency and we’ve had lots of doses of medicine each day (including while we were flying, which proved tricky with considering multiple timezone changes).  
But I have fallen behind in my #write31days challenge.  So, here’s to jet lag and catching up on many things, including sleep (even though they say you can’t actually catch up on sleep).  Let’s hope this next season in life is filled with as much grace as ever and keeping our eyes on Him.  Let’s run with endurance this race marked out for us!

Day 17: Grow #write31days

I wonder if I’m growing  

I wonder if I’m growing

My mom says ‘yes, I’m growing’ 

But it’s hard for me to see 

My mom says ‘eat your sandwich 

It will make you grow up tall’ 

But when I eat my sandwich 

I’m hardly bigger at all 

I wonder if I’m growing 

I wonder if I’m growing 

My mom says ‘yes, I’m growing’ 

But it’s hard for me to see 

My mom says ‘Wash your hands now 

Then you can go and play’ 

Hey, I can reach the tap now 

For the very first time today 

And I think I must be growing 

Oh I know I’m really growing 

My mom says ‘yes, I’m growing’ 

And now I know it’s true 


Raffi – I Wonder If I’m Growing

There’s a children’s song I remember from when I was young: “I Wonder if I’m Growing.”  I’ve listened to it more recently when I’ve played Raffi albums for my daughters in the truck, on our way into the city or back home again.  Growth is a hard thing to measure.  It’s sometimes hard to find tangible ways to know that you’re growing, and, for a child, there can sometimes be an expectation that each day there will be noticeable results (at least this is the case for my four year old who asks to be measured each and every day!).

During these past several months, from first diagnosis and prognosis, through each phase and challenge, we all experienced such severe growing pains.  We learned very quickly about catheters and 24hr IV machines and PSWs and CCAC and the nurses who come to your home.  We learned about DNRs and signs to watch for to know when to call an ambulance.  We learned about palliative health care and free medicine for palliative patients.

We also learned about meal trains, and ways that our friends, family and neighbours loved us.

And we learned how to get along better as a family – how to love, forgive and work together in as much unity as we could.

Do I feel stronger?  Do I seem braver?  Not really.

But have I grown?  Probably.


Day 15: Remain #write31days

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

In the last few months of Mom’s life, she wanted and needed to be reminded about who she was in Christ and where she was in relation to Christ.  I would read the above verses to  her often and I’d sing hymns with reminders as well.  

She had to be reassured repeatedly that she remained in Christ, despite her circumstances, despite how she felt, despite the false voices telling her otherwise.  She was a child of God and could have confidence in that relationship and position.

I have needed to remind myself of where I stand and to whom I belong.  This past season has been particularly hard in our family’s lives and it feels sometimes as if the battle around us will cause permanent damage.  And, in a way, I guess it has.  But it cannot and will not change who we are in our Creator and our Saviour.

Day 7: Hold #write31days

“Down, down, down,” my twenty-one month old commands as she reaches up to me from where she’s standing at my feet.  Confused about up and down but knowing it produces one of the two, she clutches her beloved Hippo lovey and soaks up my embrace when I finally lift her up.

She just wanted to be held.

Reading the lyrics to some hymns I had just sung at church that morning, I start to cry and my Mom reaches out for me to be embraced by her.  She had regained some strength those past few days and was able to wrap her arms around me and hug me as I cried.

I was grateful to be held.

She told me she held debates with God at night when she couldn’t sleep.  They ended favourably each time, with amicable feelings continuing to grow.  She was ready for Him to pick her up.  To take her home.  To lead her into her heavenly home.

She was ready to be held.

For eternity.

Five Minute Friday: Accept

There’s a book that a friend photocopied and gave to us that attempts to explain eternity to a child.  It’s about a baby who begins in her mother’s womb, and also an old man who is sick.  They are both in the hospital and they are both expecting a major life change.

There is one page that my four year old kept wanting to return to last night as I read her the story again.  It was the one with two pictures: a doctor with waiting hands on the left, and a figure, like Jesus, on the right, standing there with open arms.  She kept saying it out loud, “It’s Jesus, Mommy!” Just like Grandma had experienced.

She was so happy to know that this was the welcoming committee for her Grandma’s home-coming.

Five Minute Friday: Support

This afternoon, while sitting with my Mom who was just so exhausted, Matthew 11:28-30 came to mind. “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest…”  That’s my Mom.  That’s me.  That’s us all.

I read the verses for Mom and was quiet again.  She sat on the bed, trembling and so unsure of what to do with herself that she couldn’t even lay back on the fluffy pillows behind her and rest.

So I sang.

“Oh gently lay your head, upon my chest, and I will comfort you like a mother while you rest…”

Oh, gently lay your head upon my chest,
And I will comfort you like a mother while you rest
The tide can change so fast, but I will stay
The same through past, the same in future, the same today 

[Chorus: ]
I am constant, I am near
I am peace that shatters all your secret fears
I am holy, I am wise
I’m the only one who knows your hearts desires
Your hearts desires 

Oh weary, tired, and worn
Let out your sighs
And drop that heavy load you hold, ’cause mine is light
I know you through and through
There’s no need to hide
I want to show you love that is deep, and high, and wide 

Oh, gently lay your head upon my chest
And I will comfort you like a mother while you rest 

-Jill Phillips

At some point in the afternoon, Mom said, “This has all been so hard on you, hasn’t it?” This.  Cancer.  The diagnosis.  The prognosis.  The expected death.  The up-coming and anticipated home-coming.

“Yes.”  But I added how if we don’t have hard times in life, we don’t grow.  I added, to reassure her, that our family has supported one another throughout this time.  When one is weak, the strong encourage.  When that person is weak, the once-weak-now-strong-ones do the strengthening.  “And we’ll keep doing that, Mom.”

Five Minute Friday (FMF): Work

It’s been a long, long time since I last wrote on here.  I remember when I first came to the missions field and I had no lack of things to write about.  I also didn’t have children or a husband and did have such a thing as “me time” outside of my work responsibilities.  Somewhere along the way, it became work to carve out time for things I used to enjoy doing.  I guess life is like that.

My Mom has been sick for a while now, although we only found out in June.  It’s a job in itself to be caring for someone else, even when that someone is one whom you dearly love and it is actually a joy and a gift to be able to serve her in these ways.  But that shift from daughter to caregiver is a hard switch.  It’s a flip that is too abrupt and liable to cause whiplash if there was even time to think about it.