What! You too? I thought I was the only One

Today we look at community, this devotional is linked to Phil’s talks – sign up here

Most people have heard these words of Mother Teresa, ‘the greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.’

Loneliness has been defined in different ways. A common definition is, ‘a state of solitude or being alone.’ The other definition is, ‘loneliness is not necessarily about being alone. Instead, it is the perception of being alone and isolated that matters most.’

Our greatest need is food, shelter…and connection. Brene Brown writes a lot on this subject, ‘a deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.’ 

It is so important to allow ourselves to be seen, sharing the truth of where we are at. Our fears, doubts, extreme thoughts. As Brene says, in doing so, ‘we connect with others and in turn give them permission to be themselves. In sharing our fears and insecurities, we find true relationships.’

Community is woven throughout scripture. I love where scripture writes of the importance of us being joined together, that we cannot function well without one another, that we are called to encourage one another, to bear one another’s burdens. We are designed for each other! 

It’s so easy to withdraw isn’t it, I am often overthinking and sensitive – the familiar villain of fear can cause me to withdraw into my world where I find encouragement in scripture and in God’s presence,

But, that’s not enough.  

Yes, my life is hidden with Christ in God, and I live/love that, but as you know one of favorite lines is, ‘created for community.’ I think the enemy of our soul wants nothing more than to isolate us in loneliness – hiding away in a world of silence and unreality. 

This needs us to make a change – stepping out, being vulnerable and honest, inviting people into our imperfections. 

I love the idea of a community where are arms are wide open, where judgment is abandoned, and encouragement is the norm. Community allows light into the dark places, 

Jen Hatmaker writes, ‘and as we witness this beautiful community, we aren’t just observing vulnerability but rather chains breaking, darkness receding, victory rising… when enough bright places are created, the dark has nowhere else to hide.

To do this, we have to be seen.

‘Friendship … is born at the moment when one man says to another “What! You too? I thought I was the only one. ” C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Kaitlynn 

I thought I could do it alone. I had chosen not to engage fully in fellowship or let family see what gripped me. I thought that I would be judged by my family, my friends, or anyone who heard about what I had been going through. 

Years later, the movie “Frozen” portrayed how this time in my life felt. When I saw this movie the first time, I SOBBED. For those who need a refresher: the part where from childhood to adulthood, Elsa locks herself in her room. Anna, her sister, tries to entice her to come out and play. Elsa always refuses and sometimes wouldn’t answer. Eventually, Anna gives up and leaves her alone. Fast forward to the end, and Elsa realizes what she needed all along was family and a friend. 

It took me a long time before I would let people in to see what I was going through. Anxiety and depression gripped me hard from an early age. Finding people who understood, or even tried to just understand me was a game-changer. I had placed no value in community for a long time. 

I would encourage anyone who feels like “no one will understand”- to reach out to trusted people. One of the tools I firmly believe the enemy uses is isolation: whether by actually isolating us from family and friends – or making us believe we are. We would have no idea how many people really have been dealing with anxiety and depression, until we reach out, or back to those we love. 

Maybe just start with one person. I used to imagine what these conversations would look like – I would get so worked up that I would not even start them. But once I got going, how freeing it was to build community without hiding something real about me. For me – every time I would tell someone my story, it got easier to ask for help or let someone in. 

Scott 

Before I had my anxious breakdown, I had a friend tell me about his experience with anxiety and how he was overcoming it, and so, he was the first person I called on when things started getting bad for me. Having someone like that to talk to was incredibly helpful in learning to understand my anxiety and showed me that I wasn’t alone. I haven’t been shy when it comes to talking about my anxiety, and in doing so, I’ve met so many people who have been through situations similar to mine. Some of them sought help from their community immediately, but others say that they have never spoken about it until now and that they have spent years trying alone to find themselves again, which they did but with great effort and lots of time. I was fortunate to speak with people who had experience with anxiety, but I was also immensely blessed to have my whole bible study group committed to praying for me and checking in on me, most of whom admitted to me that they didn’t personally understand what I was going through. It was enough to know that they still accepted me and were interceding in prayer for me. Now that I am feeling mostly better, I still let those people know when I’m doing well or when I have a bad day or two. Maybe the most important part of having a supportive community was having people there for my wife when I wasn’t in a place to be there for her. My anxiety struck hard right before our second child was born, so having people to support her practically and emotionally was crucial to our healing.

Meditate and Memorise

‘Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, but a good word cheers it up.’  Prov 12:25

I also love this verse in the The Passion Translation, ‘anxious fear brings depression, but a life-giving word of encouragement can do wonders to restore joy to the heart.’ 

Listen: You Say, Lauren Daigle. 

God saw what they were doing and listened in.

CE180D91-8EC1-482A-A886-9A02FF2AB1A1

I received my first Christmas present last week, a new kitchen table! As there are often more than six at our table we thought it was time to ‘officially’ seat more.  

Shauna Niequist writes “We don’t come to the table to fight or to defend. We don’t come to prove or to conquer, to draw lines in the sand or to stir up trouble. We come to the table because our hunger brings us there. We come with a need, with fragility, with an admission of our humanity. The table is the great equalizer, the level playing field many of us have been looking everywhere for. The table is the place where the doing stops, the trying stops, the masks are removed, and we allow ourselves to be nourished, like children. We allow someone else to meet our need. In a world that prides people on not having needs, on going longer and faster, on going without, on powering through, the table is a place of safety and rest and humanity, where we are allowed to be as fragile as we feel.”

We can find it far too easy to allow the hibernation of isolation to dictate our days. But as people created for community, doesn’t it work out best when we push down pride and let vulnerability rise.

Then those whose lives honored God got together and talked it over. God saw what they were doing and listened in. Malachi 3:16

Let us gather this season and tell stories of God’s goodness, of answered prayers. Let us speak of our Red Sea moments or finding courage for today.  

Let’s be honest about desperation, of numb grief, questions, and doubts

…and remind one another of the promise of His presence.

Let us gather around the fire of the spirit burning – our testimonies sparking a flame of faith. Testimonies of today miracles, our homes, classrooms, workspaces, and hearts filled with a declaration of ‘do it again Lord’. The power of testimony that will prophesy the possibility of God to others, waging war on darkness. The power of testimony that will reveal the reality of God and bring the spirit of celebration.

God is trusting us to have a testimony that will strengthen others, impact others, give hope to others, and comfort others.

From our family to yours, praying you know His love and presence wrapping every corner of your world this Christmas.

You are loved,

Michelle xo

O my soul, come, praise the Eternal

with all that is in me—body, emotions, mind, and will—every part of who I am— praise His holy name.

O my soul, come, praise the Eternal;

sing a song from a grateful heart;

sing and never forget all the good He has done. Psalm 103

I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things

IMG_9586

Aloha!  

I hope your summer is going well! I loved the message this weekend at Willow and thought I’d share a few thoughts from it (and merge them with a previous post) Our summer theme has been the minor prophets and this week we looked at the prophet Micah. Inevitably landing on Micah 6:8: And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Let’s take our pick of the many areas to respond to globally with this verse, the injustice that we are made aware of daily. Phil brought the response to our own doorstep – to be conscious of the lonely, recognising that loneliness is a serious problem in our communities.

The bible says ‘God sets the lonely in families.’ (I’m sure that means via us?)  This is more than being alone, a state of being, in fact, being alone can be a gift (INFJ here) This is different, lonely is the emotion brought on by feelings of separation. Loneliness can be devastating, a riot in the brain that brings feelings of being uncared for, not celebrated, unloved.

Let’s backtrack to when loneliness entered – God created Adam and Eve and walked in the cool of the day with them. They were created for His presence, but as we know, sin entered the world and separated us from God. Shame, nakedness, and loneliness penetrated the heart, and we’ve struggled with this ever since, affecting many of our choices. Hurt and pain can isolate us, as we hide within the fear of rejection and misunderstanding. We deny ourselves grace, and we make unhealthy comparisons, enhancing loneliness on an island of echoes.

Good news.  

Loneliness does not exist within the Trinity – God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are in an adoring relationship. One does not function without the other. God is not alone, and God is not lonely. The trinity exalts one another, communing and honoring. It’s a sublime dance. Or as C.S. Lewis put it, ‘in Christianity God is not a static thing… but a dynamic, pulsating activity, a life, almost a kind of drama. Almost, if you would not think me irreverent, a kind of dance.’

Let’s grasp this truth and let’s attempt the outworking of the dance… exalting, honoring, and working together and ‘as we limp toward transparency and community and friendship with our own fears and insecurities, we recognize that we aren’t alone. When we see that we are not alone, we can reach out to one another.’ Ann Voskamp.

Reach out.

As we all carry the blueprint of community, let’s find our place to belong, to find our people. For us, we have seen that in our church community – which we believe was God’s idea. We are better together! Eternity is written in our hearts while community is written on our front door, at our table, the coffee shops, where the people gather, wherever we choose to intentionally position ourselves with others. Our health could even improve, according to Caroline Leaf in her new book ‘Think, Learn, Succeed’ ‘Community involvement has been associated with mental health and cognitive resilience, reduction of chronic pain, lower blood pressure, and improved cardiovascular health. One recent study even indicates that social isolation and loneliness kill more people than obesity.’

Lord,

Help me to be aware that you are with me in every moment.

To know true community in you.

Help me grasp the truth that you desire to walk with me in the cool of the day.

In the valley and mountain. The confusion and fear. The celebration and hope.

Help us all to reach out and find our community.

Amen.

You are loved,  Michelle xo

‘I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things’ Mother Teresa

 

Beloved: Do you believe it?

Hi family, friends and readers from around the world. Thanks for reading! Here’s a snapshot of my week and some words of truth about YOU.

A week of being celebrated as a mother of this brood.

IMG_1525

Check out the best answers from the boy.
IMG_1522

Summer snow.

IMG_1570

We relocated the Robin’s nest as it didn’t appear to be the best place. Robin had other ideas and built another bigger and better nest, same area, slightly higher. (On a similar note, our immigration situation is ongoing. Thanks for prayers!)

IMG_1473

And our cutest new addition. Cloudy.

IMG_1569-2

A word I am carrying is ‘You are Beloved of the Lord’. Scripture is full of us children of God being addressed as Beloved of the Lord.

e.g“God’s beloved; God’s permanent residence. Encircled by God all day long, within whom God is at home.” Debt 33:12

Today I’m cheering each of you with this message. So, take a couple of minutes to hear this truth about YOU.

What does it mean to know I am ‘Beloved of the Lord?

It means I know who I am as a child of God. Knit together in my mother’s womb. Created with imagination and care. A piece of art, a poem. I am loved, favored. This is not some wishful thinking. Nor is it some delusion of grandeur. This is the truth of who I am as God’s child.

Henri Nouwen in his book Life of the Beloved writes:

“When we claim and constantly reclaim the truth of being the chosen ones, we soon discover within ourselves a deep desire to reveal to others their own chosenness. Instead of making us feel that we are better, more precious or valuable than others, our awareness of being chosen opens our eyes to the chosenness of others. That is the great joy of being chosen: the discovery that others are chosen as well. In the house of God there are many mansions. There is a place for everyone – a unique, special place. Once we deeply trust that we ourselves are precious in God’s eyes, we are able to recognize the preciousness of others and their unique places in God’s heart.”

Love. these. Words.

Do you believe you are created for his purpose and his plans? That you are significant? That you have a God given voice, with words of a significant contribution to those around you, which is unique and only you can offer.

The person next to you cannot do what you do. Ah that person next to you. That one so easily triggers inadequacy – insecurity. Envy even…

I believe when we know our belovedness – these feelings will begin to disappear. Bob Sorge says this. ‘We need to find ourselves in Christ, when we learn the secret of living for an audience of one. Envy will no longer be an issue.’

God has named you, it’s time to let the thoughts God has of you define you, His thoughts are infinitely more important than what others think of you.

‘Let us live our lives you were exactly who Jesus thinks we are’. BG.

This truth is found in scripture, it’s found by being in his presence living aware of creator God, mindful of him. It’s no quick fix or 3 steps to ‘belovedness’ – let us allow ‘belovedness’ invade all we think, say, do.

Lets work together to break through oppression and lies about ourselves that life has forced, breaking off the stuff that keeps us down. For some of us it’s not breaking off it’s allowing God in. His embrace will break the anguish in you.

Or as Henri put it, “First of all, you have to keep unmasking the world about you for what it is: manipulative, controlling, power-hungry, and, in the long run, destructive. The world tells you many lies about who you are, and you simply have to be realistic enough to remind yourself of this. Every time you feel hurt, offended, or rejected, you have to dare to say to yourself: ‘These feelings, strong as they may be, are not telling me the truth about myself. The truth, even though I cannot feel it right now, is that I am the chosen child of God, precious in God’s eyes, called the Beloved from all eternity, and held safe in an everlasting belief.”

Praying this truth over you today,

Be.Loved.

Michelle x

Hiking and Hiding.

Love this time of year… can you smell the lilacs from our garden?

FullSizeRender-3

Time for a catch up.

Baptism… Phil and I were privileged to baptize Emily on Easter Sunday. What a joy to see her say yes to Jesus and own her faith. I just love the model of our youth work.  When we arrived in 2010, the twins were 11 and entering into Juice at youth – it was here they were placed into a care group and allocated care group leaders. These same leaders have been with them through their teen years, supporting mentoring, praying – having a lot of fun, adventures and endless YOLO nights. It was no surprise to see one of her leaders sitting on the steps of the baptism pool cheering her on and the others wait to pour out some love and prayers. It’s no surprise – but I acknowledge the awesome blessing that it is. Our youth pastor Joel and his family, our youth staff and interns need our prayers daily as they give so much week in week out to hundreds of youth in our city.

Immigration…the process continues, we are now proving to Canadian government that Phil is the right man for the job!

For the Love…. I am so excited to be part of a launch team for Jen Hatmaker’s new book ‘For the Love’ which is released in August. EVERY LINE brings a ‘yes’ or an ‘amen’ or ‘I wish id have written that’!!! Watch this space over the next months for a review, endless quotes and no doubt a giveaway when the book is released, preorder here.

Until then here’s a few lines to be going on with.

‘Be Kind. Be You. Love Jesus. That’s about it. Everything else will fall into place’

‘If folks don’t recognize God is good by watching His people, then we have tragically derailed’

‘You know that person who does great things for you and says those things that make you feel so good? Try that on others’!

Spring… has sprung and Phil is starting to work on the veggie garden. We are enjoying a weekly hike on Phil’s day off, choosing a different mountain each week. Our Pastor Gary spoke of life on the mountain this week, you can watch it on the The Abbey Facebook page, our Mountain Monday gives us the view and focus to get back down to the valley for real life.

IMG_1392Hiking on Okanagan Mountain – deer, crane, coyote… and the Ogopogo – can you see it?

IMG_5716

Also, I really like hiking and I really, really like my husband.

On Hiding… I will leave you with this thought. Prompted by the 5 minute Friday word prompt ‘HIDE’.

Hiding often comes easy to me, how about you? I am an INFJ character and often overthinking and sensitivity and the familiar villain of fear can cause me to withdraw into my world where I find encouragement in scripture and in God’s presence, and that alone. Yes, my life is hidden with Christ in God and I live that but as you know one of favorite lines is ‘Created for Community’. I think the enemy of our soul wants nothing more than to isolate us in loneliness – hiding away in a world of silence and unreality. This needs us to make a change – stepping out, being vulnerable and honest, inviting people into our imperfect house and world.

I love the idea of community where are arms are wide open, where judgment is abandoned and encouragement is the norm. Community allows light into the dark places, I’m running after true community.

Jen writes ‘and as we witness this beautiful community, we aren’t just observing vulnerability but rather chains breaking, darkness receding, victory rising… when enough bright places are created, the dark has nowhere else to hide.

To do this we have to be seen.

Love, Michelle x

Let’s Twist Again

RopeImage

Isaiah 40:31 is flying around my thoughts. ‘But those who wait on the Lord, Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.

I realize you all know this verse – but even so – it’s where I’m at and for those who are in need of strength and encouragement and I hope you find it here.

It’s that divine recurring theme again. Trust. This waiting is not simply ‘making time’ but living in confident expectation that He will do it. Not the familiar running ahead and trying to solve it all ourselves. He is close to those who are weak and who trust Him. This promise speaks of us being a trust people, a hope people moving into a revived and renewed people.

The word in this verse for wait was ‘qavah’.

The figurative meaning of the word is hope, expect, and anticipate. But check out the literal. The literal meaning is ‘to bind together like a cord’. Think binding and twisting together – weaving together threads to form a rope.

They shall mount up with wings as eagles – Lowth translates this ‘They shall put forth fresh feathers like the molting eagle;’ and in his note on the passage says, that ‘it has been a common and popular opinion that the eagle lives and retains his vigor to a great age; and that, beyond the common lot of other birds, he molts in his old age, and renews his feathers, and with them his youth.’ He supposes that Psalm 103:5, ‘So that your youth is renewed like the eagles,’ refers to this.

There’s so much metaphor and symbolic imagery around eagles but I love the ‘waiting on the Lord’ image here. The waiting is an active waiting. It is the binding together which I’m focusing on. In this waiting and communing with God, He is weaving truth and character through us, ‘… a cord of three strands is not quickly broken’.

Also,

I see that it’s about community; it’s the image of strengthening together. Lets not try and do this alone – that only leads to frayed thoughts and lives. Let us invite others to join in and wait with us, the more strands that are twisted or woven together in a rope, the greater is its strength. A piece of rope can lift huge weight because of these strands. The rope stretches while it is working, pulling the strands closer together, no one individual strand does the work. The strength comes from all strands working together.

Love it!

A few thoughts from the Oregon coast…more to follow,

Love and prayers,

Michelle x

Sadness and Joy Kiss.

Day 16.

photo

I crash out wordless, exhausted and toasty warm and convince myself that it’s OK to post a picture of my roaring fire and that will be enough for a blog for today…

And while it is OK to have a wordless day. I start to think…and as I sit, my mind weaves around stories, quotes and people and I find a loose thread I like – and here I am.

…I remembered an interview with Rick Warren who described life as a series of problems. Either you are in one now or you’re just coming out of one, or you’re getting ready to go into one.

That God is more interested in our character than our comfort…Yay.

And rather than hills and valleys, back and forth, he describes life as two rails on a rail-track and at all times you have something good and bad in your life. No matter how good things are in your life, there is always something bad that needs to be worked on. And no matter how bad things are in your life, there is always something good you can thank God for.

Then Henri Nouwen* writes that life is a time “in which sadness and joy kiss each other at every moment.” We all have our own experiences of those moments. Those joy moments that we will know will pass. I think of my babes hugging and squeezing and fitting me perfect and then in the blink it’s a different fit,  I spend lovely time with far away friends on Skype and then say goodbye once more, I smile over the pictures of loved ones now gone and hold memories over those I can’t reach out to anymore.

Nouwen suggests that these experiences of sadness and joy create longing in us, “making us look forward in expectation to the day when our hearts will be filled with perfect joy, a joy that no one shall take away from us.” and “We were made for something more, something beyond today, and loneliness whispers to us of Jesus and an ultimate union in heaven.”

Until then, we do life together – the reason we were created.

*from Nouwen, Making All Things New: An Invitation to the Spiritual Life

street-art-israel_72972_990x742

Street Art in Tel Aviv. National Geographic.

My day began with this story:

Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room. One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs. His bed was next to the room’s only window.

The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back. The men talked for hours on end. They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service, and where they had been on vacation. Every afternoon, when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window.

The man in the other bed began to live for those one hour periods where his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and colour of the world outside.

The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake. Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every colour and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance.

As the man by the window described all this in exquisite details, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine this picturesque scene.

One warm afternoon, the man by the window described a parade passing by.

Although the other man could not hear the band – he could see it in his mind’s eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words.

Days, weeks and months passed. One morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window, who had died peacefully in his sleep.

She was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take the body away.

As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone.

Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the real world outside. He strained to slowly turn to look out the window besides the bed.

It faced a blank wall.

The man asked the nurse what could have compelled his deceased roommate who had described such wonderful things outside this window.

The nurse responded that the man was blind and could not even see the wall.

She said, ‘Perhaps he just wanted to encourage you.’

Epilogue:

There is tremendous happiness in making others happy, despite our own situations.

Shared grief is half the sorrow, but happiness when shared, is doubled.

If you want to feel rich, just count all the things you have that money can’t buy.

‘Today is a gift, that is why it is called The Present .’  The origin of this letter is unknown.

See you tomorrow,

Bless YOU!

Love, Michelle xoxo

NaBloPoMo November 2013

Intimate with Strangers.

Yesterday I started the journey of 31 days of writing.

I began by uprooting. Now, let us plant, grow, let roots go deep as we sit and meditate, let’s swing on new branches, both strong and flimsy, let’s eat juicy fruit and learn from other trees as the month progresses…

Day Two.

Check out this link.

‘There are no strangers here, just friends you haven’t met yet’

We are created to be relational.

“Let us make man in our image, in our likeness. … It is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 1:26, Genesis 2:18). The phrase, “Let us make man in our image” reveals an “us-ness” in the very nature of God. The very essence of God is relational, and that essential quality has been imprinted on humans. This capacity for a relationship with God extends to humans, which is why the Genesis story declares that God created Eve for Adam because “it is not good for man to be alone.” Relevant Mag.

This is why I love working in our Hope Centre.

Where us strangers gather, eat, connect.

Become friends. Become family.

IMG_2593Hope Centre Bonding.

But as I write I realize that the Hope Centre is an easy example to use. I’m challenged to bring it home,  relationships I am face to face with daily. My family.

A family of six goes many directions hourly. You can imagine. At the end of the day when we’re all tired, our heads turn downward and we stare at our orchard of apple products.

I’m not going to have a go at social media here – because I love it! But I overdo it which often means my kids do too – something has to give.

face.chat.snap.book.shut.

askmeanything.as.i.tumble.

pheedme.insta.likes.

whatsapp.trod.on.a.pin.

kik.that.click.

Let us begin with our immediate family. Let us not be strangers in our own home.

My family lived around the table. That’s where connection happened. Touch, laughter, tears, eye contact. Friendship.

The table. A perfect place to start…

See you tomorrow!

Love, Michelle xo

NaBloPoMo November 2013