We are excited to announce that Sequoia Journal Issue 06 is now available in our online shop for $5! To purchase your copy, click here:
SEQUOIA JOURNAL AND COVID-19 Unfortunately, last month we found out that our printer had to shut down due to Covid-19. We decide to move forward and provide the issue digitally and it can now be purchased in our online shop as an automatic PDF download. We are excited to share with you the wonderful content we have prepared for you in the 83 pages of this new issue!
WHAT’S IN THE NEXT ISSUE?
…plus much more content, photos and of course a faith article written by Terrilee Friesen on the topic: NOURISH. We can’t wait to share it with you!
When we were first married, we inherited a table from my husband’s grandmother. We loved it because it had been grandma’s and she was thrilled that we wanted it. That table served many purposes. If it could talk it would tell tales of Christmas dinners, broken hearts, games of Cranium and suppers of mac and cheese. That table served us well and we found that as more people began to “pop over”, the table was the gathering place. Even though the physical table was small, we always had room.
We moved to a new house and decided we wanted a bigger table. One with a bench that would accommodate different sizes of bodies. One that could be extended so we could make sure no one was left out. Holidays became times where we kept our eyes open for those who didn’t live close to family, who were lonely and needed a place to hang out. We would count how many we thought could fit around the table and declare the number we would invite, only to find out our children had invited three more people they had met at church on Sunday. It never really mattered what the number was, we always made it work. Friends and strangers gathered around our table. There was always laughter and love and open arms for whoever wanted to join us.
Our children have left home and the two of us sit at one end of our big, long table. The top is worn and if you look really closely you can see the imprint of someone’s homework and a long scratch where the varnish was gouged during a wild game of spoons. I love this table, but what I love even more is the thought of everyone feeling welcome to sit around it. I am reminded that Jesus welcomed all to the table and felt free to invite himself to others’ tables as well. In a society where boundaries between people groups were drawn tight, Jesus crossed them. He broke down the barriers that say “you are in and you are out”.
We continue to live in a society where we categorize people into groups. We group them according to their family of origin, their faith, the friends they hang out with, their marital status or the places they work. The labels we place on people often keep us from inviting them to our table. When reading Ephesians 3:4-6, I am struck by its simplicity:
“The mystery is that people who have never heard of God and those who have heard of him all their lives (what I’ve been calling outsiders and insiders) stand on the same ground before God. They get the same offer, same help, same promises in Christ Jesus. The Message is accessible and welcoming to everyone, across the board.”
Ephesians 3:4-6, The Message
This is what I want our table to look like. A place where the message of “you are welcome here” is served loud and clear alongside homemade sour dough bread and hearty soup. My prayer would be that hearts and souls would leave our home filled, knowing they are loved unconditionally and always welcome at our table.
A couple of weeks ago I had an amazing experience with a group of students. A bunch of us have been studying prayer and what that means practically in our lives. After school one day, we decided to do a prayer walk through the hallways and on all three floors of our K-12 school. We broke into groups of two and began to walk. As we left our office, my colleague, Josh, and I could tell that most of them were pretty nervous. How do you pray non-stop for 20 minutes? At the very beginning, it looked more like pairs of power-walkers as they sped by us! But as the 20 minutes passed, we would see groups pause and just ask God for His heart for the area that they were in. It was beautiful to watch and be a part of. The real beauty came when we met back at our office. The students couldn’t believe how fast the time had gone and how easy and enjoyable it was to pray. They unanimously asked if we could do this again. Witnessing young women and men of faith realize the importance of prayer and experiencing the joy in praying was amazing. I’m so looking forward to dry sidewalks – one of my favourite things to do is go on my own prayer walks through my neighbourhood. At the pace of a walk, I see my neighbourhood through different eyes. And just like Josh said, sometimes it takes more than a minute or two to get into the place where our senses are heightened and our ears are opened to hearing God’s heart. Prayer walk, anyone?!
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
I still remember the day that my husband and I packed up our tiny little bachelor suite in Winnipeg, Manitoba to move to Illinois where he would be doing his doctorate in piano performance. We were young marrieds and it was a huge move – I remember feeling excited and nervous. Making friends wasn’t easy for me. I wasn’t allowed to work because of the visa that we were on, so for the first time in my life I was bored out of my mind. My house was spotless and I cooked something new everyday – I’m not sure what food we ate prior to our time in the States because every recipe was new to me. I would literally wait at the window wishing Darryl home – his days were full with studies and with people. Woe was me. Yet in God’s great plan, he sent me a friend. When we met each other we I had no idea that our lives would be forever changed. Lindsay and I hit it off immediately. Kindred spirits. It did not take long for us to have deep spiritual conversations. We were so hungry for the Lord and willing to do whatever it took to draw closer to Him. Together we experienced revivals not only in our relationship with God but also in our marriages. God used each other to spur us on as we sought after Him. As a guest blogger, Lindsay finishes our study on new wineskins. Be encouraged, my friends! And yes, the count down to our spring launch party is here – 2 days! Yay! – Terrilee Friesen
– HOPE IN THE NEW BY GUEST BLOGGER LINDSAY BOUGHTON –
I love the month of January. And no, it’s not the snow and freezing temps. Ick. I have lived in the American Midwest all my life and I’m not sure I will ever love the cold. But I do love the newness that January brings. It is a chance to start fresh. It’s a time to assess old patterns and make new ones. Mostly, I love the hope that “new” brings.
Saying all that, I would love to tell you
that I set a list of goals and stick to them each year. Unfortunately, I fail
miserably when I set goals. I think that
is why the prospect of starting fresh is so hopeful to me. I am an optimist and
a dreamer. As you can imagine, that
combination equals failure when setting goals for oneself!
One week into January 2019, I was able to
sit down and think about the past and look to the future. I was in my Bible
earlier that day and read Philippians 3:13, 14 about pressing on towards the
goal. God brought this back to mind as I was assessing my lack-luster year of
But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13,14
I have been looking at my future as a
reflection of my past. However, in Christ that is not a true assessment. In
Christ, the old has gone and the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17). We can look
at our dismal failures of 2018 (and beyond) and still find hope as we press on
towards the goal in 2019. Paul tells us that he forgets what is behind him. If
Jesus gave Paul the ability to forget what was behind, then surely, he will
give us the ability to forget the past, too.
When we press on towards the goal, it’s not
that the past disappears. We also may feel like it is still very present. The
truth is, the past is in the past. Is it
possible to forget what is behind? I believe
with God’s help it is. Paul also says that he strains toward what is ahead. I
imagine I am not alone when observing the many years of straining in my life. Breaking
free of strongholds, abuse, depression, destructive relationships, etc. will
take some straining. However, if we are in constant pursuit of believing who
God is and who He says we are, He will set us free from our current realities.
We can move forward from trauma that
triggers us to think that we are not free, or relationships that bait us to
walk back into unforgiveness. Even in the deepest, darkest strongholds, God is
offering us grace and forgiveness. As we bring struggles into the light, by sharing
our pain with others, we are pressing on toward the goal. That goal is not an
earthly one. It is a prize set before us by God himself. And that is a pursuit
worth straining towards!
Hooray, it’s almost here! We have approved our spring issue proof and our magazines are heading into printing and binding this week! We spent countless hours working on our spring magazine in the past couple of months. From content writing, to photo shoots, to layout design, to interviews, it’s all been put together and we can’t wait to share it with you. If you’ve already pre-ordered your copy, soon we will be shipping it to your door or we will have it ready for pick up.
If you haven’t already reserved a copy, we encourage you to do so here or, come purchase your copy in person at our spring issue launch party happening on Saturday March 2nd here in Winnipeg. We’d love to have you join us! (More details on this event can be found at the end of this blog post.)
So what’s inside our spring issue?
We’ve titled it “forgiveness” and our editor Terrilee Friesen shares her thoughts on the topic with an added conversation with Wilma Derksen, who has a wealth of inspiration and hope to share with us.
We also have our Wisdom Portrait in this issue, and this time we invited Victoria James’ to share her personal story in her own words. It’s a crazy story, and she has us captivated throughout the whole eight-page article.
Our food features are back and in this issue we highlight the benefits of cooking with fresh herbs. The delicious recipes and mouth-watering photos we share are sure to get you excited about the warmer spring months that are just around the corner!
We also stopped by for a visit at a young couple’s loft apartment in downtown Winnipeg. Their tiny space (450 square feet to be exact) is such a charming mix of modern, minimalist design and practical, cozy living. They share with us the perks of downsizing, decluttering and finding peace living in a well designed home. Their cute puppy Rennie also makes an appearance in the article!
Our Gather article in this issue features Terrilee’s family as they share the tradition of making Easter Buns, and it includes the recipe, tips on decorating and photos of the making of the buns as a family activity.
Our spring issue holds 67 pages filled with more articles that include DIY projects, an artist feature, a local business feature, and much more. We’re excited about its release and we hope you join us at our launch party on Saturday March 2nd! We would love to have the chance to say hi to you, and for you to find out more about Sequoia. We’ll be having light refreshments, a few words by Terrilee at 7:30pm and copies of the new journal issue for sale. It’ll be a come-and-go party at 1400 Pembina Highway, here in Winnipeg. Hope to see you there!
Flo has been a source of inspiration and wisdom in my life for as long as I can remember. As a young girl, I would often see her picture and maybe read a story of her in our church’s monthly “missionary update” – inspiring! Through my 20s and 30s, she has been influential in my growing prayer journey – teaching me to get down on my knees and actively listen to God. We at Sequoia feel so cared for and spurred on by her. We are thankful for the extra time “retirement” gives her to write and share her heart! Here’s something for us to ponder today – be encouraged and spurred on as you continue to study new wineskins. -Terrilee Friesen
– Transformation by guest blogger Flo Friesen –
For years I wondered about this passage on new wineskins. Possibly because I grew up in a family of teetotallers, I really had no clue about the process of wine-making. I don’t know if I ever heard a message on these verses, growing up. I wondered why new wine couldn’t be put into old wineskins. After all, my mother reused Mason quart jars when canning fruit, a second, third or tenth time! But glass is not goatskin! And why was this an important spiritual teaching of Jesus?
I understood when Jesus explained that the old goatskins would rupture if new wine was put inside to age. I knew something must be happening, possibly expansion, because it would cause the old wineskins to burst. But why was this significant? No one ever explained to me the significance of new wine requiringnew wineskins. I did understand Jesus’ first illustration in Matthew 9:16, about not sewing new unshrunk material (must have been cotton) onto an old shirt. When you wash it, the new material would shrink, causing a bigger tear. To me the illustration was clear, but as with the wineskins, the teaching eluded me. What was the point?
This blog series is on transformation, in the context of New Year’s resolutions. I tend not to make New Year’s resolutions anymore, mostly because in my younger years I made too many, making them too unachievable, and then giving up in a few weeks if I wasn’t sticking to my resolutions. Believe me, I did it many times. But as January 1st is the beginning of a new year, it seems like a really good time to re-evaluate life. I love to do that on New Year’s Eve, and have many stimulating journal entries on that date to prove it. In fact, part of each New Year’s Eve I read the last month’s entries of the previous year. How was I feeling? What was I happy about? What was accomplished? It gives me perspective.
Yes, I love to go to a good party on New Year’s Eve or go watch fireworks at the Forks with family or friends, but I always find time, sometime during the day or way into the night, to evaluate and set goals for the coming year. Eating fresh ‘portzelki’ (raisin fritters) dunked in powdered sugar helps the contemplative process, too, so it becomes a joyful exercise each year. Where did I fail last year? Where did I win? What helped me to win? I call them goals, not resolutions.
For example, last year a goal was to go to the gym three times a week instead of only two. Sometimes it helps to set goals in increments, instead of coming up with something brand new. Then I like to look at how I can make that goal possible given the busy schedule that always seems to be the deterrent. With age, I have also learned not to beat myself up if I don’t reach my goals. It’s good to evaluate during the year whether a set goal is realistic, needful, or simply some euphoric desire to be something that I’m not. And I do sometimes abandon a new goal, or simply tweak it to make it more achievable. I have learned over the years to make the journey a joyful pilgrimage, rather than focusing merely on the end results. If going to the gym a third time each week brings no joy, but brings incredible physical pain, then I must contemplate an alternative way of losing weight or being physically fit. One solution last year was for me to buy a recumbent bike that gave me the same amount of exercise, was less painful, and was less time consuming than going to and from the gym. It turned out to be a good solution.
But, back to the question of transformation. How do Jesus’ illustrations speak to that? How is transformation a key component of setting new goals for the year ahead? Terrilee ended her blog by asking, ‘how do we get a hold of these new wineskins?’ If the new wine is our goals, and the new wineskins are our attitudes or means to achieving renewed character, how do we enter into transformation to make these goals a reality?
Romans 12:2 is my go-to verse on transformation and has always been a life verse for me:
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2 (NIV)
This transformation happened first when we chose to become a follower of Jesus. We use the term ‘born again’ which comes from Jesus’ explanation to Nicodemus on how to become spiritually new (John 3). Spiritual rebirth is a transformation of our spirit and soul, and often also our body as we come at life from a new perspective. We no longer pattern our life after the ‘world’s’ model which is characterized by what Paul calls the old nature, evidenced by things such as deceit, envy, discord, selfish ambition, anger, slander—the list is lengthy in Galatians 5:19 and Colossians 3:5. The reason we have changed and continue to change (yes, transformation is a process) is that we now have the Holy Spirit residing in our spirit. He makes all things new.
But that was our initial spiritual rebirth. How do we continue the transformation process as it applies to daily living, and to mundane things like making new goals or resolutions for the coming year? By a continued renewing of the mind. How do I renew my mind? How do I get rid of old patterns of behaviour—habits—that I dislike but can’t seem to change? By renewing my mind.
Our pastor recently challenged us to keep learning to listen to the Lord speak to us in our daily life. He called it learning to ‘wonder with God.’ As I wonder with God about what is happening, can I open my mind and heart to allow the Lord to transform my thinking, and subsequently my actions? Can I identify my old thinking processes, and ask the Lord to show me a new way of looking at that issue? Can I ask for new wine?
I love to garden! It’s my one hobby and a big passion. This last year I have struggled with considerable disability because of arthritic pain. The fact is, physically, I cannot garden anymore. But my whole being screams, “I have to; I can’t NOT garden! It’s where I derive so much pleasure, so much joy, so much satisfaction in creating my mini-paradise in my own backyard. It’s my identity. People expect it of me.” As I ponder those thoughts I recognize some lies. Oh yes, I love gardening. But it’s not my identity; it’s not the only thing that brings me pleasure. And, does it matter what people think? The truth is I simply cannot do it. So, I’m asking the Lord to transform my mind on gardening. I feel I bring a lot of glory to the Lord through my gardening. But what might be another way of
creating beauty than outdoor gardening? I’m waiting on the Lord for answers. I’m ‘wondering’ with the Lord, and He is speaking. Gardening might be my ‘old wine’, and learning to create beauty in a new way might be my ‘new wineskin.’ I believe God will give me a new wine.
I can’t wait to get a fuller revelation as God renews my mind.
You might insert your own example of your old wine and the desire for new wine as we start this year. Be prepared to use new wineskins! I’ll be praying that God will continue the transformation process of mind renewal in you. Take the time to sit and listen… and to wonder with God. This is just a stylistic choice on my part for emphasis (to drop down the last line). Up to you!
A few weeks ago, Julia shared her testimony in church. I had never met her at that point, but something in her story stirred something in my heart. I loved her honesty, vulnerability, and her clear desire to grow in her relationship with God, regardless of how she might be feeling day to day. As we continue to discover the “new wineskins” in our lives, I thought her testimony was the perfect place to begin – the hope while waiting. Thanks Julia for sharing! – Terrilee Friesen
– My Story of Waiting by guest blogger Julia Reimer –
I started attending my current church around May of last year. Donavan asked me to share a little bit of my story of this past year during a Sunday morning service, and my immediate thought was, “Nope, absolutely not! I am so unworthy to go up on that stage and say anything about my life.” My friend then graciously reminded me of the series we just finished on “unqualified” woman who made the genealogy of Jesus, and I thought, “Ok, God can use them. Maybe he can use me too.” I hope you’re encouraged by what I share here.
My story of waiting to me is confusing. It’s annoying, frustrating, and honestly kind of discouraging at times. So I thought, “How do I encourage others if I’m still in the middle of this whole thing.” But I realized the story isn’t necessarily in the results. Rather, it’s in the process. It’s not always about the answers we get at the end of the waiting season, but about the growth we make through the whole process. The growth that comes through the waiting and the seeking I’m realizing is the kind of growth that brings about incredible strength. A strength that is necessary for whatever God is preparing us for.
I started getting up in the mornings, sitting in my favourite chair with my coffee and journal, and I would just write, and sit with God. And I loved it! I would often picture myself on the side of a rock face. This was my place to meet with God; my safe haven. I would look out from my place on the rock, and pictures and verses would come to mind. It was amazing! It was fun! I had never experienced God like that before, and I had this intense peace and joy that I can’t really describe, considering the immense pain that I was also experiencing at the time. I craved those mornings, sitting in that chair and spending time with God. Those mornings energized me, nourished me. They gave me strength to get through really hard days. I learned to rely on God, and I began to understand how you can have joy through suffering and pain. And during those months of sitting with God, I became so excited about my faith and my next steps and where I was going. I felt myself coming out of a really dark place, and it was awesome.
A few months later, I had a really big personal thing going on, and I began to pray specifically about it. I began to write out verses and pictures that came to mind while praying with others about it. And one morning I got affirmation that it was time to act! I finally got an answer! And after about another month of praying and freaking out about actually getting an answer, I finally acted on it. And it was terrifying, but very exciting for me to finally be stepping out in faith. No more waiting! I was finally doing something besides sitting in my chair—as much as I love that chair, I was ready to get out of it.
So I acted, and honestly it completely blew up in my face. Things didn’t turn out the way I thought they would, the way I thought God was telling me they would. And it shook me. The confusion of being wrong, the pain of being thrown back into a place that I had worked so hard to get out of. I climbed out of the rock face—what a waste of time. It wasn’t fair. How dare God use me like that, misguide me like that. I was so mad. In my spite I continued to journal, but all entries for about 3 weeks were very melodramatic. For example, I found this one I wrote a few months ago:
God this sucks, I want to trust you and meet with you, but it feels like I don’t know how. It feels like I studied my butt off for a test, went in feeling SO confident, and then I totally bombed it. And now I have more exams coming up and I don’t have any faith in my study skills.
(I think anyone in school can relate to the horror of that analogy.) But that’s how I felt. I felt like I had no ability to connect with God. I felt totally incompetent.
After a few weeks of allowing myself to sit in my anger and bitterness (and meeting with my pastor and complaining about all of it), I decided I was going to try again. Worst case scenario is I’m wrong, but the best case scenario is that I get to meet with God again; reconnect with him. I get to rest in him and his peace and joy. I get to grow in my faith. I get the opportunity to be used as an example. And I get to be less cranky.
The morning I decided to try, with my pastor’s encouragement, I climbed back up into my spot on the rock. Except this time there was a curtain over the view. God had pulled it shut. He asked me to instead sit with him, abide in him, rest in him. I opened my Bible and I was lead right to Psalm 145:15-16:
“The eyes of all look to you and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.” (NIV, bold mine)
I then got a picture of brilliant blue water flowing over a mountain of black rock—streams of God’s mercy washing over my hardened heart. I am so grateful that God is patient with my impatience. That he sees my desires and he will satisfy them—in his timing.
Another picture that I got and think of often is this:
I am in a canoe with Jesus. I’m looking out into the water and he is in the back steering. I probably could’ve been helping with paddling, but I was too focused on looking out into the endless blue waters and complaining that WEdidn’t know where WE were going. And Jesus, in his endless amount of patience asks me to turn around in the canoe. “Julia, just turn around. Let’s chat! Tell me about your day. How’s work? How are mom and dad?” So I turned, and we chat, and Jesus keeps paddling and he’s smiling and so calm. And he never takes his eyes off of me. And he asks me not to take my eyes off of him.
The water begins to get choppier and I feel myself begin to freak out and white knuckle the sides of the canoe. Jesus leans in and he smiles, and he calmly says “Just keep your eyes on me. I’ve got this. I am in control.” And he keeps paddling and smiling, and I lean in, while gripping the canoe. And I’m looking at him like when you’re having a staring contest and your eyes get dry because you’re not blinking, but I thought to myself, “Don’t you dare blink. This is scary, but keep your eyes on Jesus.”
We begin to go down rapids and a waterfall, and I’m screaming, and getting dry eyes. Jesus is calmly paddling and smiling. And we finally get to the end, and the quick rapids turn into calm waters, and I feel myself relax, but Jesus says, “Julia, not quite yet, ok? I know the view is nice now, and you feel safe to turn around, but would you keep looking at me? Would you stay here with me? I’m not done my work yet for you.”
I’m learning to rely on God when it doesn’t make sense, when I can’t see the full picture, when it’s scary, but also when I feel like things are going really well. I continue to wait on him and seek him. And I’m learning to do that by keeping my eyes on him, meeting with him daily—even when I really don’t want to; when I’m frustrated with him. I can acknowledge that I don’t see the full picture, but that’s OK. Because God does. He designed the picture.
Fast forward a few months and I’m still in my chair. I’m still waiting, but I’m waiting in hope. I’m waiting in confidence, knowing that God is good. He loves me, he is working a plan for me. And if he’s still working, I will keep waiting.
Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning, great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, The lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him. The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him, it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. (NIV)
I was 11 years old when my oldest brother brought this laughter-filled girl home for a visit. I remember the dinner table being much more boisterous than usual. I had never heard someone laugh as much or as loudly! Everything my brother said was apparently uproariouslyfunny. I also remember that at one point during the meal my brother kind of yelped. This girl had sneaked her hand onto his knee, and who knew that he was thatticklish?! There was something about her that captivated me. She seemed so sure of herself and secure with who she was – she didn’t hide or pretend to be someone else.
It didn’t take long for us all to realize that this girl, Heidi Harms, was going to be part of our family. She was beautifully genuine, deeply loyal, and full of life. The remarkable thing was that she didn’t attempt to present herself as perfect – she had flaws, but she was perfect for my brother. Over the next 23 years, I saw them grow closer together as they journeyed through life. When Heidi was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago, I saw increased intimacy between them and in their relationship with God.
Heidi became more glorious and more beautiful as she approached the day when she would sit in the Presence of the Lord. She adorned herself with patience and faith and the peace that transcends all understanding. The cancer was ugly – but Heidi was radiant. This blog post is not meant to be an attempt to try and understand why this happened. Many days I struggle to see the redemption part of God’s plan through the experience of Heidi’s illness, and life since then. Rather, it is to remember and honour Heidi.
I remember that red was irrefutably her favourite colour (in fact, she requested that we all wear it at her funeral), that chocolate solved all kinds of problem (have you heard of PMS!?), that daisies were her favourite flower because Elroy liked them so much, that she loved babies, that she developed dozens of rolls of photographic film per week, that she didn’t really like keeping house, that she liked clutter, that Elroy was her best friend, that she didn’t want to leave her kids. The list could go on, but I’d better stop before I become a blubbering mess.
I miss her! I’m getting used to her not being beside Elroy or present at family gatherings, but I miss her. Every once in a while, I see a glimpse of her when I spend time with her girls; yes, they laugh loud like their mama! They both have such confidence, and present themselves as not perfect. They are beautiful, and I’m so proud of how they serve Jesus and those around them.
I’m guessing that many of you are missing someone as well. I don’t want to forget as the years go by. Praying for you, my friend, as you remember those that have gone before you – young or old.
Remembering Heidi who passed away three years ago today: red, chocolate, daisies, rolls of photographic film, loyal, laughter, wife, mother, sister, friend, radiant, with Jesus…
I’m not sure how many of you came up with New Year’s resolutions. I find myself sitting right on the fence – I like the idea of getting rid of old habits and bringing in new ones, but I’m a bit skeptical of the success of these resolutions. I often wonder why January 1st is more significant than March 22nd, the beginning of spring – the start of new growth. Yet somehow a new year seems to signal a new beginning. The older I get, the more aware I am of how hard it is to kick old habits. I have this image of Eustace, from C.S. Lewis’ The Voyage of theDawn Treader, having his dragon skin scraped off by Aslan to become a better self. The scales fall off only with force, as he slowly and somewhat painfully transforms back into a boy, but on the other side of the process, he has ultimately become not only a boy again, but the boy he was always meant to be.
As I think about the start of my year, I’ve had this instinctive desire to study God’s Word – how does God want me to start 2019? I’m tired of making up my own resolutions – ideas that I’ve made for myself to make 2019 the “best year ever.” I’m also tired of my “unique” tendency to overachieve with my goals – setting my goals unrealistically out of reach, and then nearly killing myself to achieve them before finally waving the white flag. I almost always forget to leave room for progress and usually just start trying for my end goal straight off. The whim to run a marathon and then ludicrously start training by running 15 miles straight – followed by several discouraging days as I hobble around my home. I’m guessing that sounds familiar to most of us.
The verse that I seem to continually come back to this January is Matthew 9:17:
“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise the skins burst, the wine spills out, and the skins are ruined. No, they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.”
I’m not sure if it is the word “new” that triggered something in my brain, or if it is my inborn need to purge and get rid of the “old”. But something in the wording of the verse speaks to my heart. It makes me feel like it is possible to make new changes in my life, as long as I know which wineskin I put the changes into. The verse states that new wine or “habits” put into old wineskin or “attitudes” will ensure merely temporary change until the old wineskin becomes too brittle, bursting and spilling over, ruining the skin and wine completely. Old wineskins are not malleable and can’t handle the pressure of the new wine.
If new wine is put into new wine skin, however, the wine can bubble and ferment without any negative effect on the wineskin, since it is still malleable. The wineskin then ages with the new wine until the fermentation process is complete. If we think of the new attitude or matured character (wineskin) that is necessary to hold our new habits or behaviours (wine), and how it needs to mature alongside the new wine until completion, we have great hope in lasting transformation. We are not expected to have a mature or aged wineskin to begin change, but rather we need to choose a new attitude/behaviour to begin the process of change – to give change the ability to birth and grow.
What are some “new wines” that we are desiring to implement? We all know that weight loss is probably the most common New Year’s Resolution that people make. For example: I’m not going to snack and I’m going to exercise every day. Goal: to lose weight. But I’m finally beginning to realize that lasting weight loss only truly comes with a lifestyle change. Goal: to be healthy. To be healthy means lifestyle changes – not temporary changes for quick results. For new wine not to burst and spoil, my lifestyle/behaviour/attitudes need to change to give it that chance.
I’m not sure why this example is coming to me, but I keep thinking about marriage as well. There have been many times when I have wanted my marriage to grow and get better. Darryl and I would implement new ideas: way more date nights, way more physical contact, etc. But if my attitude towards Darryl stays the same (complacent, “everything’s fine,” etc.), my marriage does not get better. I must desire change holistically, which can only happen from within from the birth of a new, transformed, renewed mind and attitude.
A New Year’s Resolution that I have made most years, and one that I would really love to keep this time around, is spending more time in God’s Word. I find it easier during the routine of the school year but find it really hard as soon as I’m on holidays. Holidays often give me time to be aware of the things around me – fresh snow, smiling faces, stars, etc., but I often miss contemplating what is within me – peace, patience, anger, frustration, restoration, etc. I think I keep putting this new wine (a desire to be in His Word) into old wineskins.
So how do we get a hold of those new wineskins? I’m curious, too! For the next little while, we hope to blog about what we are learning and studying. I’m praying for you and hoping with you as the New Year begins, and as we desire new and often necessary changes in our lives. Happy New Year!
When Sarah invited us into her home to share with us her hosting tips around the Christmas season, we were excited to see what she had prepared ahead of our visit. Her house is bright and open with an airy, minimalist feel to it. She shared with us several decor tips, gift wrapping tips as well as how to easily put together a cheese board to wow your guests. Our time with her was featured in the December issue of the Sequoia Journal, including how she loves to use fresh greenery to create a beautiful tablescape for her dinner parties.
Copies of the December issue are still available in our shop. Inside the magazine, several pages are dedicated to our feature with Sarah. She goes into more detail on the types of greenery she picks up locally during the winter months to decorate her dinner table. We love her tips – they’re always so practical and easy!
A big thank you goes out to Sarah for being so welcoming and making us all feel comfortable in her home. She’s been helping us with styling some of our Sequoia photo shoots, particularly the ones that feature recipes, and it’s always a treat to have her eye for design and expertise when we’re creating images for the magazine. Look for her work in 2019 – many more features are in the planning process and will be added to our next issues. Our Spring issue is set to be released in March and we can’t wait to have it up in our shop. Enjoy!