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?

Where Are You on the Writing Path?

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Over thirteen year ago, I began writing my blog a couple of months before I left to serve cross-culturally in Thailand.  I had wanted a place to share my thoughts, my struggles and my victories while I served in a new culture, language and country.  It’s fun to look back now and remember the situations and people I encountered and how the Lord sustained me through it all.

After a long hiatus from blogging, I made a commitment to began to write again in April and I joined an amazing community of faith-filled writers called Hope*Writers.  Through access to their online learning library, which is updated on a regular basis, and the support of the staff and community of Hope*writers on their Facebook group page, I know where I’m at in my writing journey, and how to get to where I’m dreaming to go.  I am inspired to write again and it feels like fresh air!

I’m excited to think through how the Lord might use me and my journey – my failures and successes – to encourage other women to be involved in serving God and living missionally both cross-culturally and in their own backyard, so to speak.

Hope*Writers only opens up access to join their writing and learning community a couple of times a year and next week (May 21-25) is one of those opportunities to join!

Whether you’ve thought about starting to write a blog (or start writing on it again), have an idea for a book or maybe even have published a book but you’re still interested in learning and growing as a writer, Hope*Writers is for you!

Give this short, fun quiz a try to learn where you are on the writing path and know your next step is.

This is an affiliate link but I promise I won’t ever recommend something unless I’ve tried it before and have determined it to be helpful, inspiring or both.

Looking forward to journeying with you!

Accepting a Slice of Chaos

A few weeks ago, I entered the kitchen to get a cup of milk for each of my two young daughters.  They were waiting for me in their beds, nearly ready to sleep for the night – or so I was hoping.  Suddenly, I noticed some movement on the white tiled counter.  Ants.  And not just a couple of them but a long trail of busy, black ants.  I followed their path over to the far side of the kitchen where they were disappearing into a tiny hole in the counter.  I stepped back and decided to return to my original task of the cups of milk.  The ants would have to wait until tomorrow for me to deal with them.

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In every house I’ve called home in Thailand, there have always been ant problems.  For this reason, we (initially my roommates and I, but now my husband and I and our children) have always limited any food to the dining room and the kitchen.  The ants don’t need us to generously bring them crumbs and spills to other areas of our house – they’ll go there on their own anyhow!  We also need to have our house helper or a friend keep an eye out for ant invasions when we go away for vacation or return to Canada for Home Assignment.  Ants like unlived spaces even more than places invaded by humans. The last thing we’ve had to do over the years is to simply accept that the ants would never go away completely and that we would have to learn to live with them.  Those ants in the bathroom?  Sure.  You can stay there guys.  The ants traipsing across the steps of our front porch?  Well, just don’t cross the threshold into the house, okay? Okay?

I desire to be used by God but that also means I need to follow God in whichever direction He leads.  Does this mean that I must embrace an element of chaos if I want to follow Jesus?

I think that embracing the chaos can look different for everyone, and, it may not be the challenge that God is asking you to embrace.  My husband and I are nearly totally opposite people – for him, embracing chaos is exciting (or normal – because what’s chaotic for me is not for him since he is Thai and this is his home culture!) and he enjoys the challenge.  For me, I am a natural homebody (which is quite ironic considering how the Lord has called me to be involved in Kingdom building) and I like to plan things so I know what to expect.  Accepting the unexpected opens the door for both potential failure and success.

The ants in my kitchen represent something stressful and unmanageable.  They are unpredictable and potentially destructive.  They are my storm, whereas a clean, antless house would be my calm.  But if I let the ants blow me down, increase my stress and invade my peace, what will that mean for bigger life challenges?  Sickness?  Death?  Loss or disappointment of any kind?

No, as the Lord is leading me, I must embrace a portion of chaos and ask the Lord what He wants me to look for, listen for and learn in the process.  Because stepping out of the boat to walk on water to Jesus? It’s only possible if I first step out of the boat.

What is the Lord inviting you to embrace in this season?

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.

Day 23: Work #write31days

I’ve been tired and while there are many factors that could be, and probably are, contributing to my fatigue, I think the main culprit is grief.  I say this without any doubt: grief is work.

There was the grief we experienced when we knew my Mom’s days were limited, and when we thought she was going to pass that weekend, or that weekend and then when she finally did pass.  There’s the grief during the celebration of life service and the details that had to be arranged.  There’s the grief in the legalities.  Grief in the kind sentiments from relatives, neighbours, friends and sometimes almost strangers.  There’s the grief in the distance between when you last hugged her and were hugged back and now.  There’s the grief in the day to day tugs and pulls of little ones and your spouse and the life that you’ve gone back to that is supposed to be normal.

It’s tiring.  It’s work.  It’s hard.

[written Dec. 11, 2017 for #write31days in October]

Day 21: Give #write31days

I felt like the longer my Mom’s Cancer progressed that there were fewer things that I could give her.  It felt like my offers to her were piddly but yet it turned out that those were the things that were most precious.

Gifts were of little value to her but she still appreciated drawings from her granddaughters and stories of cute things they’d said or done.

I started using essential oils in July and they became a conduit for us to connect.  On almost every visit after she was in the palliative ward at Parkwood, I would massage her hands and feet with essential oils.  Sometimes I’d let her choose, and sometimes I’d choose for her.  Up until the last several weeks of her life, hand and foot massages would relax her so much that she could go to sleep.  When she battled so much pain and confusion in her last month or so, I was relieved that I could offer her something that gave some peace and comfort.

The use of the EOs gave us a gift that was impossible to find elsewhere.

Day 20: Discover #write31days

It’s funny how your perspective can change.  When my sister and I first went to tour the palliative care ward at Parkwood Hospital, it felt very hospital-like, and the rooms felt dated.  The staff were protective of their patients (well, my sister and I did look suspicious as we hadn’t heard back about a tour and decided to just go and pretend we knew what we were doing) and everything seemed bleh.  There was a friendly volunteer who gave us a good tour of the floor and this elderly gentleman seemed like the only good thing about the floor.

My Mom finally decided on Parkwood because we learned she could continue under the care of her new family doctor, who happened to be a good friend of mine from 20 years ago.  Decision made.

Several months later, I discovered that the palliative ward felt safe, comfortable and the nurses were really angels in disguise.  The whole environment (save for the co-ed ward rooms, but that’s another blog post right there) was lovely and loving and inspiring.  My Mom said her private room felt homey (she only had to endure one night in the co-ed ward room).

Day 19: Brave #write31days

I kept telling my Mom that she was so brave during her last several months of life.  Her prognosis hadn’t given her much to be brave about and yet she lived her days with grace, kindness and love.  She grappled with God at times (“Beth, I had a debate with God last night about free will… but we’re on good terms still”).  She grappled with us sometimes.  She never retreated.  She only persevered onwards.

She continued to do things that mattered to her – like remembering all the names of her nurses, PSWs, doctors, and even the cleaning staff.  She wanted to hear stories of her granddaughters and the sweet things they’d done or said (“Tell me a cute story about Jesse and Kate, Beth”).  She wanted us to reach out to her friends and keep them updated on how she was doing – she was usually more worried about others than she ever was for herself.

Her bravery was modest, and meek but was strong and loud.

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 16: Read #write31days

One of the ways that we spent time with Mom in the hospital and the palliative ward was reading to her.  She requested a long-time favourite of Stuart McLean’s Vinyl Cafe stories (of Dave and Morley and family) and we continued to bring in all of his books.

I don’t know if you’re familiar with Stuart McLean but his stories of Dave and Morley invoke a lot of emotion.  Sometimes you find yourself nearly in tears but usually loud laughs would escape from your mouth (and heart!) before you could even stop it (but why would you want to?).  Sometimes Mom would start laughing so hard that it would bring on a coughing/asthma fit and it would take her a while to catch her breath.  But she would say it was worth it.

Of course we read other books or passages of Scripture to her, but Vinyl Cafe stories were the main staple.  Oh the joy they gave my Mom!  Oh the spirits that were lifted!  Oh the gift of stories and silliness and laughter in such a dark period and place!