Our World Belongs to God

In terms of bad news, this has been a rough week.  Many people I know and love are going through some tough times.  Times of uncertainty.  Of pain.  Of grief.  Of fear.  Cancer, car accidents, unknown illnesses and symptoms.  The heartache of trials in this life are more than we bear during these times.

The shooting at Parliament on Wednesday shook many Canadians to the core.  The rug has been pulled out from under our feet.  The rug of security and safety is gone.  If random shootings can happen to our government in Canada, it can happen anywhere.  If you are like me, you realized it was only a matter of time before our beloved nation experienced the loss of an innocent life from a public shooting.  Where will it happen next?

But despite these terrible things, I choose not to fear.  When I begin to think about what kind of world my kids are growing up in, I choose not to be afraid.  When I wonder which one of my family members will be struck next with a life threatening illness, I choose not to live in fear of the enemy.

Although the shooting at Parliament this week did not turn my world upside down as it did for many others, I have experienced pain and loss that changed my reality in a drastic way.

When my sister-in-law called my in-laws place on Christmas day evening 2010 to say that my mom had taken a turn for the worse, I knew it was bad.  I knew from those words came the possibility that she wouldn’t make it.  After giving quick instructions to my in-laws on how to care for our two kids while we were away, Jonathan and I raced to the car and sped off toward the Clinton hospital.

A few minutes into the trip, I broke down.  How could this be happening?  I said out loud, “I thought she was going to be ok.”  She had to be ok.  I had no idea my visit with her the previous day would be my last.  Although it was confirmed that a heart attack had occurred, I knew many people survived it and I assumed she was going to be one of them.

During the first hour and a half into the two-hour trip, I looked up at the sky and had a heart-wrenching conversation with God.  I kept my eyes glued to the stars and I begged for him to let her live.  I needed her.  I couldn’t live without her.  God, in his gentle voice, quietly answered, “Yes, you can.”  But…

P1070958During that car ride in the cold, clear night, I had gone through the 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.  Yup, even acceptance.  About a half hour before we arrived at the hospital, a peace had overcome me.  I felt warm.  I knew it was going to be ok.  No, I knew deep down inside it might not be ok, but I knew I could face whatever it was waiting for me at the hospital.  I was really hoping it wasn’t the end, but I wasn’t afraid.  God had assured me he was with me and he was all I needed.

As you already know, the news wasn’t good when we arrived.  My brother-in-law stayed behind to wait for us and broke the terrible news.  I remember saying something like, “I know.”  He was surprised that I knew she had died even though no one was able to reach me during the car ride (for some reason, my cell phone never rang even though I was being called!?).  I was prepared.  This “hashing out” I had with God in the car prepared my heart for the terrible pain that I was to encounter in the next few hours, days, months, and years.  I am so thankful for that feeling of peace before I entered the scene of knowing the person I was so close to had died.

Yes, the rug had been pulled.  My mom and I were very close.  As close as a mother and daughter can get.  Because I grew up several years behind my other siblings, I was alone with my parents for a large part of my childhood.  My mom and I were friends and I loved being with her.  She was a person who made you feel comfortable instantly and she cared about what was going on in your life.  My friends always enjoyed coming over and hanging out with my mom.  My mom never hesitated to share her struggles and her sins.  She was open about her relationships with others and with God.  She was the one I went to for wisdom and for advice (although she’d give it to you whether you wanted to hear it or not).  Even that week before she died, we had hung out, shared a recipe over email and she tried to give some advice over the phone on potty training.

I didn’t think I could live with out her.  I really didn’t.  She was so much a part of my everyday life, I just couldn’t imagine it.  But here I am.  Almost 4 years later and I am a living testimony to God’s great love and faithfulness.  What I did discover after her death? That God is the only constant.  He is the only being that never changes and he will never leave us.  For me to put so much weight on another person is foolish.  They can be taken away at any time and what is left?  Memories.  But these too can fade with time.  The only thing left is not another human relationship, but my relationship with God.  He is the only thing in this world that will remain.

This is why I do not fear.  When I hold on to earthly things too tightly: my relationships, my husband, my children, my things, I recognize the danger and I try, with His help,  to loosen my grip.  I have to gaze at the stars once more and realize that God owns these things, not me.  He is in control, not me.  It is liberating.  It helps me face the terrible news, whatever it may be, with confidence, that our world belongs to God.

(A song we sang in church this morning):

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A picture I took 5 months after mom had died. A reassurance of God’s promises.

In Sweet Communion, Lord, with You

In sweet communion, Lord, with thee
I constantly abide;
My hand you hold within your own
To keep me near your side.

Your counsel through my earthly way
Shall guide me and control,
And then to glory afterward
You will receive my soul.

Whom have I, Lord, in heaven but you,
To whom my thoughts aspire?
And, having you, on earth is there
I can desire?

Though flesh and heart should faint and fail,
The Lord will ever be
The strength and portion of my heart,
My God eternally.

To live apart from God is death;
‘Tis good his face to seek;
My refuge is the living God;
His praise I long to speak.

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Jesus Rang the Doorbell

Yesterday at church, Jonathan and I were involved in the music during the service.  Not such smart idea for us both to be participating on the same day.  While we were practicing, the kids were running wild in the church.  Cor and Mia were hanging out on the top steps by the pulpit.  While singing, I had to keep a close eye on Mia as she teetered over the edge of the top step and I had to make sure Cor didn’t pull down the table-cloth holding the communion meal.  When it was time to bring the kids to the nursery, I had a bit of a problem.  While Jonathan got ready to play for the service, I had a diaper bag, bottles, blankets, 2 babies and three kids to drag to the other side of the church.  I realized I couldn’t do this in one trip, so I searched out for some help.  I found a friend of mine near by to help carry one of the babies to the nursery for me.  She gladly accepted my plea for assistance and we went on our way.

During the babies first year of life (and a bit before they were born), I had to ask for a lot of help.  It was a no-brainer, really.  Five kids under the age of five (this was true for 3 months!)?  I think this girl is going to need some help.  For me, it was easier to ask for help not only because I knew it was more than I could handle, but because I knew everyone else recognized this might be a bit impossible for a while.  I knew early on that people would be in my home helping me with tasks such as laundry, cleaning, meals, etc.  What I didn’t realize was how much help I needed in the first week of being home.

After my caesarean section, our hospital stay lasted a bit longer than we had expected.  I expected 3 nights at the most, but we had to stay 5 nights.  Mia had lost more than 20% of her birth weight, so doctor’s needed to see her gaining at steady pace before we left the hospital.  This meant our transition time at home no longer existed.  Jonathan and I expected 2 nights on our own with Cor and Mia so we could settle in to life with two babies before the troops came home from their aunt and uncle’s place.  Unfortunately, we arrived just 2 hours before the kids came back home after being away for almost a full week.  We called the grandparents to come for reinforcement because we knew it was going to be crazy.  They arrived an hour after we got home.  Before the kids burst through the door, excited to see their new baby sister and brother again and rejoin their parents, I prepared myself for feelings of being overwhelmed.  I knew it was going to be hard, but Jonathan’s parents were here and so I figured it would all be ok.

Well, an hour into the reunion, I was in my bedroom sobbing.  It was too much.  It was all too much for even every adult in the house.  I was unprepared for the extent of my limitations due to the C-section.  A trip to the bathroom was all I could muster before having to retreat to my bed again.  A trip from the bathroom to the kitchen was out of the question or I was in a lot of pain.  Having me out of commission to help with anything except feed and change the babies was difficult, but I also realized managing the other three kids, the household tasks, taking care of me and the babies was too much for my mother-in-law as well.  Jonathan needed to go back to school the next day after taking several days off work already.  We needed more help!  I ended up calling my sister-in-law and she was able to come the next day.  For the next 4 days, my friend Shannon, arranged for someone to come help during the day.  I couldn’t believe we needed 2 woman everyday for 5 days to take care of all that needed to be done around here!

And then the help continued to pour in.  Everyday for about 5 weeks, Jesus rang the doorbell.  He called on the phone.  He showed up with meals, gifts, hours of service cleaning my house and putting my laundry away.  I even received a year’s worth of canned applesauce.  I felt so cared for and loved by God.  He was taking care of us when we couldn’t do it on our own.  The people of our church, our school communities, our friends and family answered the call of Jesus to come help us.  Never had I felt so physically, the arms of Jesus holding me close and telling me it was going to be ok.  He would provide for each need through the hands of other people.

Today I don’t have meals delivered to my door anymore.   I’d really like people to continue to cook for me, but I don’t really need it.  Too bad.  A year has passed and I’m able to do everything on my own again.  Most days.  There are still times where I feel overwhelmed and ill-equipped to handle the day-to-day things.  But now I hesitate to ask for help.  Feelings of inadequacy, failure, or not being up to the job come to the surface when I feel I need to ask for help.  Isn’t that true for all of us?  Our pride gets in the way of asking for help.  We don’t want people to think we can’t handle things on our own.  We especially don’t want our kids to see we don’t know everything or have everything all together.  We don’t want others to see our weakness.   We often try to cover the mess and the imperfections.  I know I’m a little horrified when my kids don’t act perfectly in church.  I want them to sit still, face forward, and sing with the congregation.  But reality is, sometimes they say things out at inappropriate times or they run across the front of the church in the middle of the sermon to go to the bathroom(yes, it did really happen and I was horrified).   I feel ashamed, but others are probably sighing relief that the woman with 5 little kids doesn’t have it all together either.

Why do we feel we have to pretend?  Why do we want to look perfect and together in the eyes of others?  No where in the Bible does it say we need to appear strong so others will be blessed by our strength.  It does say this:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  2 Corinthians 12:9-10. 

What a relief that is!  I don’t have to pretend to be the perfect mom, the perfect wife (although I’m sure I”m pretty close…), the perfect Christian who displays all the fruits of the spirit all the time.  I am none of these things and sometimes I have to ask for help.  And I have to ask for forgiveness daily.

This past year, I experienced joy and strength in my weakness.  When others came to me to help, I felt God’s presence.   There is nothing wrong with being weak.  In fact, maybe we should pray for it more often.  God can work mighty wonders through us when we give up our pride and let him do his work in us.

 

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The First Step

One of the advantages of having twins is watching them develop side by side and seeing their many differences. Their personalities affect how they learn and what they decide to try. Mia is our fearless, adventurous little (big) girl. She takes risks and has discovered more than Cor, her cautious brother. She is also walking and Cor is not. Because she isn’t afraid to fall, she took her first step, fell flat on her face and then got up to try again. She is willing to take risks even if it means getting hurt. Cor, on the other hand, is more timid. He doesn’t like to be uncomfortable and is more afraid to take the first step. He’s worried about falling and he doesn’t want to get hurt. Even though our loving arms are ready to catch him, he’s not willing to try it. Just yet, anyway.

Because Mia is willing to take those risks, she is able to do more. She walks freely around the house, she gets into drawers that haven’t been discovered before. She can climb up and down stairs and doesn’t need a parent to help her. Her fear of failure doesn’t seem to exist and it is amazing to see how she progresses at lightening speed.

This makes me think about my fears. What are the things I’m afraid of trying because I don’t want to fail? Maybe people will reject my idea or what I have to say. There was definitely some fear for me in starting this blog. I had a voice in my head convincing me that people didn’t have time to read another blog and others wouldn’t find what I had to say all that interesting. Eventually, I realized this voice wasn’t from God, because I felt very strongly that he wanted me to do this. Because I took the risk, I know I’ve already been able bless others with my words and I’ve been encouraged reading comments from others who experience the same things I do.

I had this idea for this post yesterday already, but didn’t have the energy to get it written down. It turns out, yesterday was “Face your Fears Day.” Who knew such a day existed? Funny how these things work themselves out. I also discovered that my mother-in-law drove on the 401 highway yesterday even though it is one of her biggest fears. I am very proud of her for accomplishing something she is afraid of.  On “Face your Fears Day” no less.

I encourage you to reflect on a fear you have. What is nagging you to go out and do? Which fears are holding you back? I can assure you, like our little daughter, stepping out in faith (and fear), allows you to try new things and explore new places.   It can even bring peace.  It also forces us to trust God when we know we can’t do it on our own strength. He wants us to stop relying on our own abilities and skills so he can take us to new heights.  Higher than we ever imagined.

Who knows what you will find at the top?

Isaiah 40:31                                                                                                                            Mia climbing

but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 41:10
So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Take Your Coffee into the Shower

Yesterday I took my coffee into the shower with me. Sounds like a strange place to drink coffee, but it is one place where I can drink it without being interrupted. A few quiet moments without having to deal with the constant demands of my little ones.

I’ve realized for some time now that God speaks to me when I’m in the shower. It seems like an unusual place for God to speak, but I think I know why. The shower is a quiet place for me (as long as another adult is present in the house at the time). The kids know that when I’m in the shower, they need to stay out of the bathroom. Any other place in the house, I am sought out, called for and talked to. It doesn’t matter where I am, someone is calling “MOMMY!!”

Sometimes I foolishly think I can just slip downstairs for a minute to grab something from the freezer. Jonathan brilliantly rigged up a makeshift baby gate for the top of our stairs. It is a bit like a saloon door that swings open for older children but is too difficult for little ones to manage (although Mia has it figured out by now). The draw back is that no matter how careful I am about not making a sound, the kids always hear the little “tap tap” of the door when it closes behind me. Sometimes I reach the freezer and sigh with relief that no one heard me this time. And then I hear it. “Mommy! Where are you?” It would be ok if only they could hear my answer. “I’M DOWNSTAIRS!” I yell. The little voice gets louder, “MOMMY!! WHERE ARE YOU??”
Oh boy, here we go again. If only they didn’t need to know where I was every single second.

So, here I am in the shower. Alone. No one calling for me and I can enjoy some of my morning coffee. And God speaks. I hear his instructions, his encouragement. He whispers the names of people I need to pray for or write a note of encouragement to. It is amazing, really. In the quietness, I hear his voice.

I’m learning the value of being still. Oh, it is so hard to be still. As soon as I see some time stretch out before me without any plans, I begin to make a list in my head on how I can fill that time. There is so much that needs to be done. But after reading a chapter from Lysa Terkeusrt’s book, “The Best Yes”, I realized I need to stop filling that time. She writes a humorous story in chapter 13 about saying “yes” to making Rice Krispie treats for her child’s class when the time she has to make them really doesn’t exist. I could relate to how it went terribly wrong for her and how stressed out she got trying to accomplish the task she didn’t have time for. The people who suffered were her family because she was stressed out. Oh boy, can I relate to that! And why do we say yes to these things? Mostly to impress other people. Look at me! I’m a busy mom, but look at my culinary skills! I can do it all because I’m super mom.

After reading this chapter, I’ve made the decision to lay the burden of impressing people at the feet of Jesus. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11: 28-30. What a relief. I don’t have to make fancy cupcakes or the best apple pie you’ve ever tasted because that is just an unrealistic thing for me right now. I might love to do it, but I just can’t right now.

I put this into practice on Saturday. Thanksgiving dinner was approaching and normally I’d be planning the recipes I’d be making to impress my family with my delicious desserts. Instead, I pulled a pie from the freezer (thanks Laurentian Hills Christian School), I slapped some icing on the cupcakes I was bringing for Ethan’s birthday (threw on some chocolate chips for the kid’s sake) and made a basic pumpkin pie with a ready made crust. This is very scaled back for me, folks. It felt great. No people pleasing pressure. And instead for slaving for hours in the kitchen (which I never have time for), I played with my kids at the park. We ran around playing tag and hide and seek and we had a blast. I enjoyed company with Cor when he didn’t want to nap. I wasn’t worried about the desserts waiting for me in the kitchen, I was able to enjoy my kids.

We have a hard time being still. We feel like we need to fill the time with something. But God commands us to be still. “Be still, and know that I am God; Psalm 46:10. Remember when Jesus commands the storm with the words, “Be still”?

“He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. Mark 4:39.

Give yourself permission to be still. Rest. Put your feet up. Enjoy your children’s company or your husband’s. Take your coffee into the shower with you and let God’s peace wash over your soul.

creek

Highly Visible

Being the youngest of 5 kids meant I sought after attention in order to be noticed and feel included. When I was born, some of my brothers were hitting their teen years, so there were many capable hands on deck to help look after me. My mom said every time I wanted to be picked up, I’d say, “eh eh” and someone would come to my rescue and carry me around. It’s not a surprise that I was a late walker.

With that kind of start in life, I naturally enjoyed being the centre of attention. From an early age, I got up in front of crowds to sing or dance (there is a video tape out there somewhere of me tap dancing at my Opa and Oma’s 50th anniversary. It was a huge hit with the Dutch crowd). In high school, I had experiences in public speaking and singing solos. I didn’t mind the spot light one bit! I soaked in all that attention.

Today I’m in a different kind of spotlight and I’m a lot more uncomfortable being in it. A trip to the grocery store with 4 kids in tow (one is at school), ages 4,3 and two 1-year-olds, is a sight to see. I get noticed. By everyone. I mean, my shopping cart is all kids. I have to squeeze cheese and milk and veggies in and around the kids, being sure to keep certain items away from grabby little fingers who chomp on everything in sight. Although the kids are a spectacle, I’m sure I’m not much better. I rarely look at myself before I go out the door. I just make sure I’m fully dressed and have a wallet and keys and snacks for the kids. I haven’t showered in days, there’s not a drop of make up on my face, and I have who-knows-what smeared on my clothes. But I made it to the store! In one piece!

So, as you can imagine, people notice my entourage. Whether it is a smile from a grandmother who identifies with how I must be feeling or a gaping stare by an elderly gentlemen who has to make several takes to make sense of what he is seeing; I am detected instantly. Often people look with admiration and I always get the comment, “you have your hands full.” Yes, yes I do. But I’ve also heard comments from people such as, “she’s going to be worn out early” or “I’m glad I don’t have to pay for that grocery bill.” These comments makes me uncomfortable. Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of my kids and I’m proud of how they behave in the store (most of the time), but comments such as these feel like I’m being mocked or ridiculed for having so many children. This hurts a little. It makes me feel embarrassed. In these moments, I wish I wasn’t so visible.

I know having a large family is not the norm. I could go on and on about why I love my family, but I’ll save that for another post. For now, I’m trying to feel proud to walk into the store with my kids and to keep my head up high. That no matter how stressed I feel at the moment, I still have a smile on my face and I can talk pleasantly to my kids. I think I have an amazing opportunity to show the world that kids are a blessing and I don’t resent having them. I enjoy being with them, even at the store. Ha ha. I’m still working on that one.

Although I wish to be invisible these days out in the general public, I am so glad I’m not invisible to our heavenly Father. He sees me. This gave me great comfort on the longs nights when the twins were up for hours in the middle of the night and I had already put in an exhausting day. I’d scream in my head, “does anyone know how hard this is? Did anyone see what I did today?” God whispered in my ear, “I see you.” Tears streaming down my face, I felt such amazing comfort.

The God of the universe see us and know us.  Amazing.

Psalm 139: 1-6
You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

grocery store