Mary – A Sprig of Surrender

Behold, I will bring my servant the Branch. -Zechariah 3:8b

Christmas has arrived, the countdown has ended and our Saviour is here! Maybe for some of us, there is disappointment – that the long-awaited day has come too quickly. Or maybe we struggle with our current family circumstances. Maybe we fear or dread what the new year will bring. Maybe we are confused by how God is moving in our lives, or conversely with the lack of any perceived movement in our lives. Maybe the struggle isn’t about our family or friends – maybe the struggle is with ourselves. Whether we like it or not, I think Christmas makes us look both at what we have and what we feel is missing or lacking. Not easy.

Today as I reflect on Mary, I wonder if she had moments of disappointment leading up to the birth of Jesus. Knowing that her Son was meant to save the world, would she have struggled with how people would have undoubtedly treated her, not knowing the circumstances that led to her being pregnant? Would she have feared possible estrangement from her family and community? Would she have dreaded her means of transportation for the trip, the back of a donkey? Would she would have questioned the lack of room in the Inn, and God’s provision for them? Would she have been disappointed in the lowly stable? To know that God had a plan for this baby would have been astounding, but how many times would she have wrestled with how hard the journey ahead would be? Here is Mary’s story of surrender:

Mary, a virgin, was pledged to be married to a man named Joseph. An angel of the Lord came to Mary saying, “Greetings, you who are highly favoured. The Lord is with you.” These words “greatly troubled” Mary, but the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid.” The angel told her that the Holy Spirit would come upon her and she would give birth to a son, to whom she was to give the name Jesus, and “He [would] be great and [would] be called the Son of the Most High.”

Mary simply stated, “I am the Lord’s servant, may it be to me as you have said.” The angel told her of a cousin who in her old age was also expecting a child. Mary hurried off to spend time with that cousin. During her time with her cousin Elizabeth, she felt encouraged and blessed. Mary wrote a beautiful song in response to what was happening within her:

My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is his name…

Due to a census being taken of the entire Roman empire, Joseph, who had experienced great personal struggle himself regarding Mary and his future life with her, needed to make his way to Bethlehem. Mary, highly pregnant, accompanied him on his journey, and when they reached Bethlehem, she began labouring. Of course, because of the census and the surge of displaced populace now visiting the town, there was no room to be found. The only place that they could find in overcrowded Bethlehem was a stable inhabited by animals. Here, in the humblest of beginnings, Jesus was born. Mary wrapped him in cloths and laid him in a manger. That night, angels filled the sky and the lowliest shepherds came to worship the newborn king. Mary “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

Mary’s story continues throughout the gospels. It never ends. She has the joy and the heartache of being the mother of our Saviour. But that night, over 2000 years ago, she treasured. Maybe she relived that night as she watched her son grow; maybe over the years she recalled the holy night when our Christ was born. As I find myself almost catching a glimpse of the face of the tiny baby, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, it is almost incomprehensible that this tiny one came for each of us! So backwards from what the world thought then and still backwards from what the world thinks now. I find it incredible that Jesus’s birth, life and death turned so many things upside down, and yet life continued. Mary became pregnant and gave birth to a son – her life did not stop or pause for a moment. Despite fear, dread, loneliness, confusion, disappointment, and ultimately loss, her life was a continual surrendering to the Branch – not just in the moments that were, without a doubt, miraculous, but in the everyday, in the ordinary. She had to repeatedly choose a posture of surrender.

The word surrender can suggest many things. Without an understanding of the sovereignty of God, surrender connotes defeat and destruction. To relinquish and give up everything – torturous! For most people, an all-out fight to the death. Surrender. What the world doesn’t always know and what we often forget is that surrender to God means we win! When we surrender to God, He becomes our Saviour – not condemning us to destruction, but saving us from it! I’m learning that surrender does not mean everything becomes good in my life, but that rather it builds hope that God is working through everything in my life. To surrender daily restores things that are broken – faith, identity, and relationships with others and with ourselves. But more so, surrender brings us rest and regeneration within the Living Branch!

Come to me [this is surrender!], all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. -Matthew 11:28

The Fourth Sunday of Advent: Bathsheba


Bathsheba – A Sprig of Forgiveness

Behold, I will bring my servant the Branch. -Zechariah 3:8b

Christmas is only a few days away! My week has been filled with last-minute details – final attempts to make everything more special. A few days ago, amidst the chaos that I voluntarily placed myself in, I could feel my spirit dropping, overwhelmed by the scads of things I still had on my to-do list. As I sat in my van, I remembered: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.” A SaviourOne Who Saves, who came to “save us from our sins”.

What would it be like to live day in and day out as “forgiven”? Forgiven implies a knowing of our sins and a peace that we no longer have to bear them. To live as someone who is “forgiven” is a daily reminder that I need to repeat to myself as I relive some unbearable moments. Forgiveness doesn’t end with “I’m sorry” or “I forgive you,” even though I continually teach my children to use these words. Forgiveness is a perpetual sprig that God gives to us. It is a sprig that I desperately need for myself, and one I desire to extend to those around me. The need and choice to forgive myself sometimes feels impossible. The need and choice to forgive the people who have hurt me sometimes feels impossible. The choice to receive God’s forgiveness sometimes feels impossible. And just when we experience the peace that transcends all understanding through forgiveness, something pops up out of nowhere and once again we have to choose what is only possible with God: forgiveness.

I think Bathsheba would have experienced these feelings as well. There is a lot of speculation about Bathsheba’s story. What part did she play in the affair with David? Did she desire him as well? Was she victimized, and forced to be with him? We are not given many clues as to what happened, but whichever way you look at it, forgiveness would have been part of her journey. Here’s her story, found in 2 Samuel 11:

At a time of war, King David sent Joab, his chief commander, out with the Israelite army, while he remained in Jerusalem. One evening, as David was walking around on his rooftop, he saw a beautiful woman bathing. Taken with her beauty, David learned that she was the wife of Uriah, a soldier in his army. This did not stop him and he summoned Bathsheba and slept with her. Bathsheba conceived and sent word to David.

Forced to think and act quickly, David had Uriah come back from the war in the hopes that he would sleep with his wife while at home, making a baby look like the natural product of Uriah and Bathsheba. But as was practice for an Israelite during a war, Uriah did not go home and sleep with Bathsheba. David, not willing to give up so easily, made sure Uriah had plenty to drink and once again sent him home to his wife. Uriah still did not sleep with his wife and David’s plan of covering up their affair had failed.

Out of desperation, David sent a letter to his commander in chief, Joab, delivered by Uriah himself, with instructions placing Uriah in proximity to the fiercest fighting. David’s plan to have Uriah killed succeeded, but the battle continued. Bathsheba mourned the loss of her husband, but because she was pregnant she was left in an extreme place of vulnerability. David soon married her and she bore a son – but the Lord was not pleased. The Lord sent Nathan, a prophet, to David. Nathan told an allegorical story that enraged David – and then brought him to a place of repentance. Bathsheba and David’s firstborn son died. David comforted Bathsheba, and it did not take long for Bathsheba to bear another son, this one named Solomon, who became known as the wisest king in history.

As I read this story, I couldn’t help but feel the pain of having to work through sin. Much of the story is stated in facts, delivered without much emotion. A little bit of sin here and there that seems to grow as the story develops. One of the truths that keeps hitting me today is how our sin can draw other people into sin. David’s enticement of Bathsheba, his instructions to Joab, his continuous concealment of his sin – I would love to let myself off the hook! After all, hissin was great! But my mind keeps replaying instances where I have done the same thing. Times where in my own frustration, I have said or done things that have basically invited my children to react with their own anger and rebellion. In effect, I have almost set them up to sin – forcing someone who is in a “lesser” position into a really tough position and facing a very difficult choice. The folly of sin affects more than just me.

But the gift or the sprig that is offered to us is forgiveness, from the Branch, our Saviour. Forgiveness is an incredible place to rest in. Without a doubt it is humbling, but in that humility there is a sweetness, a relief, and a peace. The aroma is fresh and invigorating, regardless of whether you are the giver or the taker of it. To stay there, in the sweetness of Christ, is not always easy. Forgiveness is not always easy – to accept or to give. Sometimes forgiveness comes rolling in with restoration on its heel. At other times, forgiveness comes in waves and layers – and we have to forgive over and over again. Both take a choice. Refreshing…

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord… Acts 3:19

The Third Sunday of Advent: Ruth

Ruth – A Sprig of Faithfulness

Behold, I will bring my servant the Branch. -Zechariah 3:8b

The third Sunday of Advent is upon us! I marvel at what God has been teaching me as I study Jesus’ genealogy. I’ve had a more difficult week as I’ve struggled to put my thoughts into words. My week has seemingly pointed out my character flaws and weaknesses – my husband and children have not seen me at my best. It is funny how quickly I can become insecure, in a moment, with who I am and what my purpose is. In my vulnerability, I desire to have those closest to me, embrace me exactly as I am. The amazing part is that God does exactly that. His Inherent Nature is one of steadfastness and acceptance. This week, He has been my stability when I’ve felt myself waiver and has embodied faithfulness to me, no matter where I find myself.

I know this in my mind and my heart! What God has challenged me in this week is to be faithful to Him within the mystery of my own journey. Like Ruth, I know that I don’t need to know my whole story to be faithful to Him – in fact, if I did know my whole story, then I wouldn’t need to have faith!

As I have been reading Ruth, I’ve kept thinking about her steadfast and faithful character. She chose to come alongside her mother-in-law as they grieved the loss of the men in their lives together. This could not have been easy. In fact, Scripture records Naomi as wanting to be called “Mara” or “bitter” in her grief, rather than her own name. Life is not easy, and at different times in our lives, it can bring out the worst in us. But this week, I realized the beauty of faithfulness that Ruth so vividly depicts. Faithfulness is steadfast, loyal, true, constant, stable, dependable and full of devotion. It can only be measured by time. When a friend is faithful, it is because they stood by us through the test of time. Time, in anyone’s journey, has bumps, falls and mistakes along the way. Faithfulness is a gift we can offer each other through those hurdles. Ruth’s story reveals her faithfulness to a God who was unknown to her and to a mother-in-law whom she chose to selflessly love. Sprigs of faithfulness. Here is a recap of her story:

Ruth, a Moabite, married the son of Elimelek and Naomi, who were Ephrathites from Bethlehem. Both Naomi’s husband and Ruth’s husband, Naomi’s son, died while living in Moab. A famine was upon them, and Naomi, who had heard that God had provided food for her people, decided to return home. She released her daughter-in-law, Ruth, so she could remain in Moab and possibly remarry, but Ruth famously stated, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried.” Ruth faithfully followed and served Naomi on their journey to Bethlehem.

When these two extremely vulnerable women, with no men to protect them, arrived in Bethlehem, they arrived with nothing. Naomi had a relative on her husband’s side named Boaz. In need of food, Ruth went to his fields to pick up any leftover grain. Boaz noticed the young woman and granted her favour to glean from his fields. In fact, he ensured that his harvesters would intentionally leave grain so that she would have enough to feed Naomi and herself. Naomi, seeing the favour that Boaz had shown Ruth, began scheming – a plan that would benefit her and Ruth, bringing protection and provision for themselves in the future.

Naomi told Ruth to put on perfume and her best clothes. She instructed Ruth to go to the threshing floor where Boaz would spend the night, and wait until he had fallen asleep. Once everyone was asleep, Ruth was to go lie at his feet and wait for him to take notice of her. Faithful Ruth followed through with the plan and soon found herself noticed by, and at the mercy of, Boaz. In response to Boaz’s surprise at her being there, she asked him, as part of “the plan,” to take [her] under [his] wing, for [he was] a family redeemer.” Just as Tamar had needed a family redeemer a few generations back, so now did Ruth. Boaz had to cleverly come up with a plan to marry Ruth – a woman that he had begun to admire as he watched her faithfully serve Naomi. It did not take long for Boaz and Ruth to marry and have a son. The women said to Naomi “…your daughter-in-law…loves you and is better to you than seven sons.”

That last line makes me chuckle. A daughter-in-law worth more than seven sons, indeed! The close bond between Ruth and Naomi would likely have been an anomaly of that time – and even in our time, the relationship between a woman and her mother-in-law can be a difficult one! They had a choice of whether to stick together or not. I can only imagine the pain of these two widows – the likelihood that they would have seen each other at their worst is highly plausible. Yet even so, their love for each other and to God remained constant. In that way, they offered each other sprigs of faithfulness.

It is a gift to be able to have a bad day, or to experience personal loss like Naomi and Ruth, and know the constancy of God and His ability to shine through us as we offer this faithfulness to others. This is supernatural: it is the Branch alive in us that gives us a heart that sees and hears beyond our human understanding and capacity. God’s faithfulness, the Branch offered to us, is beyond our ability to understand – a gift to us that we get to share!

Because of the LORD’s faithful love we do not perish, for his mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness! -Lamentations 3:22-23

Sequoia Magazine is Hot Off the Press!

If you haven’t heard yet, our first issue of Sequoia magazine is hot off the press and copies are now available for purchase, just in time for Christmas! In just a few days we’ve sold more than half our print run, so if you’d like to get a copy before they’re all gone, head over to our online shop to snag your copy right away.

It’s Sequoia’s first issue, and we’re very excited to have been able to print it, rather than our original plan of only releasing it as a digital magazine. We’ve been working with an amazing local printer and we’re so happy with the top-notch quality – they did a fantastic job! The 60-page issue contains beautiful photography, captivating stories, as well as lots of inspiring pieces on home design, cooking and hosting. The content is 100% Manitoban but we’ve been thrilled to see it reach women beyond our province, as far as the United States and even overseas. This is the first step in our journey towards building a faith-based community of women and we invite you to join us!

If you love what you see, more is to come in 2019, including plans to offer annual subscriptions, a broader pool of contributors and more of what’s already inside this issue.

Enjoy!

The Second Sunday of Advent: Rahab

Rahab – A Sprig of Courage

Behold, I will bring my servant the Branch. – Zechariah 3:8b

The second Sunday of Advent has already arrived! Isn’t that amazing? Once again I’ve been challenged to remember the purpose and the wonder of anticipating Christmas. Just like the day that Jesus was born, Christmas has a way of drawing people together. As a family, we have made plans for the Christmas holidays to see people that we rarely spend time with. Why is it that we have a whole year to plan something together, but somehow Christmas is the time when we actually make this happen? I also anticipate time spent with family – when time seems to slow down as we spend more than just a few hours together in one home. It is life-giving to me – not every Christmas gathering has celebrated an easy season, but each gathering is life for me.

As I have been thinking about Rahab, the second woman mentioned in Jesus’ genealogy, I have come to realize that she also experienced a life-giving family gathering of sorts. Her family gathering was not one that would have encouraged warm memories or nostalgia as they all milled about her home. Rather, her family gathering was a matter of life or death. Life if they remained in her house – which took courage – or potential death if they didn’t believe that what Rahab said was truth. I’ve often wondered what words she would have used to convince her family that they were in danger and that the only way to save themselves was to hide away in her home. The amount of courage she would have needed to pull off and devise the scheme that she did? More than what she possessed on her own.

The story of Rahab happens shortly after Joshua takes over the leadership of the Israelites from Moses. The Israelites have been anticipating the promised land for 40 years and with Moses having passed on, the time had now come to conquer the land that was to be theirs. The Promised Land was not just handed over to them but rather the Israelites were getting battle-ready to fight, and Joshua was forming a plan that would ensure that Jericho was taken down. Prior to their campaign, God spoke to Joshua multiple times and told him to be strong and courageous – fascinatingly, because Joshua already knew going in that the Promised Land would be theirs.

Joshua sent two spies to Jericho to learn more about the land and the people. Through circumstances that we don’t know, these men end up at a prostitute’s house named Rahab. Rumours must have spread quickly through Jericho, because it did not take long for the King of Jericho to realize that two Israelite spies had come into the city and were staying at her house. With incredible speed and presence of mind, Rahab courageously hid the men on the roof. When questioned, she stated that, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from. At dusk, when it was time to close the city gate, they left. I don’t know which way they went. Go after them quickly. You may catch up with them.” Mercifully, this got rid of the king’s men.

Rahab, in another moment of courage and faith, came up with another plan to return the men to safety in exchange for her protection, as well as that of her entire family, when the Israelites inevitably returned to attack and defeat the city. After professing a remarkable faith in Who the God of Israel is, the men swore an oath to protect her and her family if she followed their strict instructions. Knowing that her family’s life depended on these instructions, Rahab let down a scarlet rope to help the men escape and then, as per their arrangement, left it there so that these men would know where to find her home again.

What happens next, is one of the most familiar stories of the Bible. Joshua fought the battle of Jericho – and yes, after seven days and marching around and around the walls, the walls came tumbling down. And Rahab’s courage and faith was rewarded. Joshua did not forget about Rahab the prostitute and her family and sent the two men that had spied on Jericho to bring her entire family to safety outside of Jericho.

I have never thought about the craziness that must have been going on inside those walls. Rahab’s home was on the outer wall of Jericho, so she and her family would have seen the Israelites march around their city for seven days! I keep thinking about what it would be like to be “locked” in a small stone house with my large family under duress – my guess is there would not have been comfort food and a friendly game of cards being played.

The courage that Rahab would have needed to stay the course would have been supernatural indeed. Opportunities to fear would have met her everywhere she turned: fear of discovery for her subterfuge; fear of whether or not the Israelites would keep their promise; fear for her family; fear for her future. Her own human courage would surely have failed – but God was at her side, and through His empowerment, she would have been able to extend and offer sprigs of courage to those around her. Courage through overwhelming circumstances is frequently meant to be shared. There are times when I feel courage, not risingup in me but flowinginto me from God Himself, and I’m able to offer this gift to those around me. The times when courage eludes me gives me the opportunity to receive courage from others through God’s empowerment of them. Courage through community – how comforting!

Rahab also had the courage to leave her past and start a completely different life. Isn’t that so beautiful? All of us have stories or incidents from our pasts that we would love to get rid of. But it takes courage! It takes courage to walk away from what is familiar, and usually quite comfortable, to begin something new. And usually our own courage is simply not enough.

God extends to us a sprig of courage from the Branch – the source of all life – just as he did to Rahab. Because of her courage and faith, Rahab was grafted into a new family – the family of Israel. Despite Rahab’s sordid past and status as a foreigner, God’s plan for the Saviour was being fulfilled! With great courage, she leaves her crumbled past and enters into a fresh beginning. She marries an Israelite and has a son named Boaz. Boaz marries a woman named Ruth. Jesus’ genealogy continues…

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. – Joshua 1:9

The First Sunday of Advent: Tamar

Behold, I will bring my servant the Branch.

Zechariah 3:8b

I love Advent and how it allows us to anticipate and ready ourselves for the celebration of Jesus’s birth. Usually when I think of Advent, I connect it to church and the lighting of the 5 candles. But when I arrive home after church, I quickly enter Christmas mode, which usually means that I’m anticipating Christmas Eve, but not necessarily Jesus. God is asking me to do things a little differently this year. How can I, as a Christ follower, prepare myself to meet my Saviour and King uniquely and freshly this season?

At the school where I work, the girls in the Bible study I lead were spontaneously talking about Tamar. For most of them, this name was unfamiliar. Tamar has a wild story that is hard to understand. Yet, even in the relatively brief account of her story in Scripture, she is mentioned in Jesus’ genealogy – so I thought to myself, “She must have relevance and importance in our understanding of Jesus.” As I reflected on the 5 women mentioned in His genealogy, I suddenly thought of Advent, and the parallel between this number of women and the number of candles in the Advent wreath. The idea of studying the women mentioned in Jesus’ genealogy as a way of anticipating His birth seemed so exciting. So my Advent countdown begins with Tamar.

Judah, one of the 12 sons of Jacob, had three sons. As was his societal duty, Judah found a woman named Tamar and acquired her to marry his firstborn son, Er. His oldest son was wicked in the sight of the Lord and in short order Er died, leaving Tamar a widow. As was custom, Judah expected Onan, his next son in line, to fulfil his role as a brother-in-law and produce an heir for his older brother through the custom known as levirate marraige. Onan, like his older brother, was wicked in the sight of the Lord and also died, again leaving Tamar husbandless and without any offspring.

At this point, Judah sent Tamar back to her father’s house, under the pretences of allowing his youngest son, Shelah, time to grow up until he was ready for marriage. To be sent home after having been married was a disgrace that Tamar probably never recovered from. Shame would have followed her – a woman cast off, unless Judah would follow through with his promise and give her to Shelah. Judah, however, did not keep his promise to Tamar, out of fear for the life of his son, seeing Tamar as cursed and dangerous. Tamar, with no hope, dressed as a prostitute and, with a veil covering her face, stood by the city gate and seduced her father-in-law to sleep with her in the hopes of becoming pregnant and producing an heir for her dead husband’s family. All she asked for in payment was his seal and its cord, and the staff in his hand. She succeeded, and found herself pregnant.

When Judah learned that Tamar was pregnant he said, “Bring her out and have her burned to death!” With incredible risks, but according to her premeditated plan, Tamar sent the seal and cord and staff back to its owner. Judah immediately recognized them. In that moment, he saw her as more righteous then himself, since he wouldn’t give her to his son, Shelah – the thing that would have saved her from a life of shame. Judah never slept with her again, and Tamar gave birth to twin boys, one of whom was named Perez, who turned out to be an ancestor in the line of our Messiah.

Is that not the craziest story? I have read Genesis 38 (the recorded story of Tamar) many times this past week and wondered why God would choose her to be in Jesus’ genealogy. Tamar’s story is one that many of us might wonder at. Why wasn’t it hidden away? Why not tuck this little chestnut into a different writing or book, maybe one that could have been lost or destroyed over time? But obviously God did not see it that way! Rather, in this story, He offers us a sprig of hope: God’s plan for the Saviour of the world – the Branch– is fulfilled despite our sin! Hope. Despite our sin. Despite how sin has played a part in where we find ourselves today. It miraculously doesn’t disqualify us from bringing glory to Him! God did not use a pure, unsoiled path to bring about the Saviour’s predecessors, but rather a messy story of human failures. A sprig of hope!

Out of this story, we can celebrate the mother and father who inadvertently began the tribe of Judah, which would ultimately lead to the birth of our Messiah! Tamar would not have known what we know today. Her understanding of the magnitude of her own story was incomplete, and so is ours. So we hope…

For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Romans 8:24-25

December Issue: now available for pre-order

We’re excited to announce that Sequoia’s first issue will be a printed magazine! Although it was originally only supposed to be a digital magazine, the wheels got into motion after hours spent in InDesign working on the layout this past month. It’s a bit of a risk to commit to print this early on, but we really believe you’re going to love it better in print than as a digital copy.

After doing some research on the vast world wide web, we’re thrilled to have connected with a local printer to make it as a 60-page perfect bound magazine book. We saw the proof and it looks really good. This morning it got approved for production and soon we will have copies ready for you all!

As of today, you can pre-order a copy of the magazine for $12. It’s now in our online shop and the copies are going to be ready on December 10th. We only printed a limited amount, so make sure you reserve your copy right away!

Click here to pre-order it online:

 

On Rejection

I came home today, and wept. My eyes are still a little blurry, and I know that they are still drooping down in a sad expression. My mouth is fixed in a slight grimace and I’m pretty sure I’m deepening the “sad wrinkles” on my face. Rejection is weighing down on me. Somehow, in an isolated conversation today, I learned that someone doesn’t like me. It’s actually someone that I don’t even know, but I still felt the sting. Funny how social media can bring people together when they’ve never even met – or drive them apart. Every thought I had about myself that tells me I’m unlikeable seemed to come screaming forward. I found myself going back to places in my past where I experienced rejection and reliving them as if they happened yesterday. Pretty ugly stuff.

I love people and I love meeting new people, but today as I walked into a room full of people, I felt overwhelmed with who to talk to and who would want to talk to me (essentially what rejection is at its core). I know that most people would look at me and think I have it pretty much together, and sometimes I do have it together – whatever that means. But walking into a room full of people is not always easy, especially when you already feel small. For me, today, add stupid to that, too.

For a short time, and completely out of self-pity, I tried to convince myself that I’m the only one who must feel this way. So and so would for sure not feel this way. Look at what they’re wearing, their amazing hair – beauty just exudes out of them. But the truth is, all of us are susceptible to rejection and have experienced rejection on some level. I’m guessing that each of us have walked into a room and felt uncertainty, even fear. I’m guessing that each of us, without exception, have cried because someone has rejected us. I’m guessing that each of us has felt stupid for something we’ve said or done in a certain group of people.

Truth be told, writing for Sequoia has brought out more insecurities in me than I even knew existed. I honestly love how social media brings people together – hence our motivation for doing this project! But I have also never experienced the rejection or anticipation of someone choosing not to follow us until now. For the first time, I’ve truly understood the students I work with and how anxious they can get because of social media. I know that what I say and write won’t always come out right, and I know that using social media has its risks. But many, many good things in life come with risks. On this note, I’m putting it out there right now that, if I ever write something that hurts or offends you, ASSUME I didn’t mean to (!), and please talk to me about it! Eek!

Today is one of those days where I want to hide in my basement (sort of what I’m doing) or just put myself straight to bed, where no one can hurt me. But then I remember the risks that I have taken in friendships and the reward that has followed. The incredible gift that so many people have been to me. The things I have learned by surrounding myself with others. The encouragement that I have received. The list could go on and on. This is just what I receive from my friends; never mind what I offer them within our relationship (love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control – Galatians 5:22). What is amazing is that, so often, healing from rejection involves relationships in which one doesn’t experience rejection, rather than too much “alone” time to reflect on past hurts – but that requires risk!

Giving of myself to others shifts my attention off of myself – it stops me from being the centre of my own world and being the most important matter in my life. Giving also makes me dependant on my Saviour. Sometimes I don’t have patience to give, but God does. Sometimes I don’t have goodness to give, but God does. Sometimes I don’t have love to give, but God does. Dependence on Him makes me more like Him, since it’s His character and strength coming out, not mine.

As I sit in my self-made cocoon, I feel my wings stretching and wanting to engage with the outside world again, but this time with God. There are risks involved, but God is not one of them. He is constant, stable, always present even when I say and do the wrong thing. His love for and acceptance of me? Unconditional.

On Learning Together

This past summer, Darryl and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary. My parents had our kids for two days and two nights so that Darryl and I could enjoy our traditional, short stay-cation. We just had the best time as we explored Winnipeg and the surrounding area. Each year, Darryl and I try new restaurants. We love trying new restaurants, as well as going back to some of our favourite haunts from the past. It sounds kind of crazy but food has this way of binding Darryl and me together. The older I get, the more sentimental I seem to get. Food is nostalgic for me; new memories, old memories, and those that have become traditions.

Besides eating, we also love to explore our surroundings, both the familiar and the new. We love losing ourselves in a different world for a time. We both love history, so to go to a museum and read every detail and spend as much time looking at any object as we want to is an amazing luxury without our kids! To go into nature and walk and talk and point out things of interest is also a favourite of ours. Learning together is a gift that we give to each other and something that we are committed to. We laugh, flirt, read and walk our way through the day. More often than not, whatever we do becomes an adventure as we learn together.

This past anniversary, one of the things that Darryl and I did was go to the Living Prairie Museum, which is an outdoor natural grassland. When we first arrived at the grasslands, we were pretty nonplussed. Our first impression consisted of an expanse of unkempt, un-mowed grass, surrounded on all sides by concrete high-rises and other urban buildings. The oasis that we had been looking forward to seemed lost in all the grey around it. Since we had driven a significant distance, we figured we might as well at least go check it out.

We grabbed our pamphlet “tour guide” and headed out onto the path. There were 17 stops for us to make on our jaunt through the wild grass. As Darryl and I began our “wilderness adventure,” we became lost in our new world. We read every word on that pamphlet, marvelled at the beauty of each leaf and just enjoyed every moment together. What God has created for us to enjoy is incredible and continuously points us towards Him. I’m learning to open my eyes to actually see what God is saying to and showing me through His creation.

Job 12:7-10 says,

But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.

Are we too busy to notice God speaking to us? I wish I could say that every day I choose to learn about God’s character through what He has right before me. I don’t. But when I veer off my regular path and do something a little unusual, like going to the Living Prairie Museum, and then choose to learn something, I sense God speaking to me clearly. Contentedness floods over me. There is so much to learn. Isn’t that exciting? God reveals Himself and yet simultaneously remains a mystery. We have a lifetime to be curious, to wonder, to ask questions and to get to know God.

Getting back to my story, after having such an unexpectedly satisfying and enjoyable afternoon at the museum, Darryl and I went to a coffee shop at the Forks, a cultural and historical landmark close to downtown Winnipeg. Darryl is still a little sad that I don’t drink coffee (I have made it this far without coffee, right?!), but the barista (who happened to be my cousin) made a heart in Darryl’s cappuccino knowing that it was our anniversary (awww). We were telling him all about our afternoon and one of the other servers looked at us and with a smirk of good-natured mockery said, “I think you might be over-stating that museum a bit – I’ve been there…” Maybe we were, but I think God wants us to love insignificant details and take note, no matter how small it seems, of what he has created.

Ha! We confirmed something more that day: it really is true that beauty is “in the eyes of the beholder.” What do I choose to see?

On Lying

As I was brushing my teeth the other day, my boys burst into the bathroom. My youngest asked, “Mom, what is the difference between lying and changing your mind”? I looked down at their “innocent” faces, and I instantly knew this was a loaded question. In that moment, I was sort of proud of them. I had no idea what the situation was or what had caused them to ask this question. They stood expectantly, waiting for an answer. I’m usually brilliant (haha), but I was momentarily stumped. Hmmm…what is the answer? What is the difference between lying and changing your mind, or sarcasm or exaggeration for that matter?Continue reading “On Lying”