Psalm 46:10 – Be still

Every night we have a story time and prayer with our children before bed. For the past few years, we’ve been reading missionary biographies together, mostly from the Christian Heroes Then & Now series. Currently we are reading Brother Andrew: God’s Secret Agent by Janet & Geoff Benge. A description of a particular prayer meeting Brother Andrew attended caught my attention. Instead of sharing prayer requests and praying out loud together, this group was silent. Each person spent time “listening” instead. No one prayed out loud until they felt God impressing them to pray specifically about something or for someone.

Too often I find myself rushing through a list of requests. Instead, I want to learn to listen. This takes discipline in our noisy, fast-paced world. I need to be still. I think it’s going to take time for me to learn to be still and listen, but I’m excited about what God is going to show me.

What has God been teaching you lately?


Introducing Dragonflies, Snowdrifts & Spice Cake by Tandy Balson

I met Tandy Balson last year through Facebook; we were both planning to attend Write Canada and looking for roommates. Although we had never met face-to-face  before June 2014, we experienced an immediate rapport because of our common beliefs and interests. (Tandy is my sister in the family of God and we are both writers.) This week I’m celebrating Tandy’s release of her newest book, Dragonflies, Snowdrifts & Spice Cake: Finding Inspiration in Everyday Things. She has given me permission to share the following reading with you (from page 41 in the book).

Tandy cover

Spice Cake

When asked what kind of cake she’d like for her birthday, my daughter didn’t hesitate. “Spice cake with caramel frosting” was the quick reply. I happily obliged and made the cake, along with a favourite meal to take to her house the following day. She and her two oldest children have celiac disease, so I modified the recipes to make them safe and enjoyable for all.

I left the remainder of the cake with her. Being a very generous person, she shared it that night with other gluten-free friends. The next day one of them asked for the recipe. My daughter and I didn’t think twice about the recipe, but her friend was confused. You see, the recipe was a regular one from my old Betty Crocker cookbook and not a specific gluten-free recipe.

Over the years I have become quite comfortable at taking favourite recipes and adapting them to suit our changing needs. With practice this has become so successful that others don’t know of the changes. The end results are the same texture and flavour as regular recipes.

So it is with my life. I may end up with a similar result as you but don’t achieve it in the same way. There are adaptations along the way. I can maintain the integrity of my goal while learning to be flexible and adapt along the way. God guides each of us in the way we should go. Our end goal is the same, but there are many interesting ways to get there.

“For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.” (Psalm 107:9 NIV)


 

Dragonflies, Snowdrifts & Spice Cake: Finding Inspiration in Everyday Things by Tandy Balson is now available for purchase from:

www.timewithtandy.com ( Tandy is offering a giveway for those who purchase through her website the week of April 20-26), Friesen Press and Amazon.

 

Tandy Balson

Tandy is a wife, mother, grandmother, friend, volunteer and observer of life.  Her greatest joys in life are spending time with family and friends, baking (but then I have to give it away so I don’t eat it all!), spending time in nature, reading and writing.

She has been doing inspirational speaking in BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan since 2001.  You can read her twice weekly blogs at www.timewithtandy.com

Her work has been accepted for publication in FellowScript Magazine, Testimony Magazine and The Upper Room.


Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day

Image shared on Facebook by www.countthekicks.org.uk
Image shared on Facebook by www.countthekicks.org.uk

This image brought tears to my eyes. 1998 is a long time ago in many ways, but the memories are still there. Many people who know me, don’t know. Miscarriage is a private grief many deal with, but few talk about.

My experience led to me write and enter the following story in a writing competition in 2005. The piece was subsequently published by Testimony Magazine. I share it here with hopes it will minister to others who grieve and help others understand how profound the grief may be for people who experience miscarriage.

 

Gifts from a Loving God

Leaves crackle under our feet as we walk. Lois, my mentor and friend, smiles at me. I relish this rare opportunity to spend time with her. “Infertility is a gift from God. I never thought I’d say that,” Lois confesses.

I swallow hard to bury my protest. “Are you crazy,” my heart screams. “How can anything this painful be a gift?”

The only career I want is motherhood. My desire haunts me, like a mirage in a dry, dusty desert. First, an infertility specialist informs my husband and me it is impossible for us to have children of our own. Then, against all odds, we conceive, only to face the crushing disappointment of miscarriage. Conception continues to elude us. Now what? Do we relinquish our dream of parenting children? Do we investigate other options, like adoption or foster care?

Since we have no children, I have the gift of time – time to volunteer in the local school and catering club, time to pray, time to grow. Over time, I learn to navigate the waves of grief as they splash over me – some gentle, others that leave me gasping and drowning in grief. Mother’s Day, the birth of a baby, interacting with nieces and nephews, watching parents play with their children are all bittersweet. Slowly I learn to receive and give the gift of compassion.

A year later, we begin our challenging journey on the road called adoption. In January, we hear about nineteen-year-old Mary and her baby. Mary is unsure she can provide for her baby and may be looking for an adoptive family. In May, after anxiously waiting for news that never comes, we sit down to fill out an adoption application with a private agency. That night the phone rings! “Hi, this is Sue. Mary asked me to phone and see if you are still interested in adopting her baby.” Four frantic days later, we bring home our daughter. For us, adoption is a gift of joy and celebration, but for a birth Mom, it is a gift of sorrow and sacrifice. Our daughter, Grace (unmerited favor) Victoria (victorious one), reminds us often of God’s loving gifts.

Four years later, we marvel again at God’s gifts – twin boys placed with us by Child & Family Services for adoption. (The boys were born at 27 weeks gestation, weighing less than two pounds each. The fact they are even alive is a miracle.) As we meet the foster parents and compare notes, we are in awe of God’s leading. The foster parents love Jesus Christ and rejoice that the boys will grow up in a Christian family!

Our 18-month-old twins introduce us to a completely new world – special needs. Only those who walk in these shoes know the special joys, challenges, and gifts these children provide. The first thing we notice about our boys is their silence – no babbling, no chatter. We learn they have “global developmental delays.” After six months of scooping with a spoon, our hand over his – every day, several times a day – we celebrate while Luke actually feeds himself. At twenty-seven months, we cheer while Levi takes his first wobbly step. A few months later, he is able to climb up on a chair by himself and stand. We clap, momentarily forgetting that Levi’s balance still needs help. He stands for mere seconds, grinning from ear to ear, before taking a terrible tumble to the floor. He lands on his head with glasses protruding at an odd angle, and blood gushing.  We cringe as the doctor interrogates us. “Who was looking after your son when this happened,” she inquires while stitching Levi’s face. We learn to sign, using Signing Exact English, so the twins have a means of communicating with us. Progress is excruciatingly slow. Imagine our joy when we hear our boys, at age four, actually voice the words, “Mom” and “Dad” for the first time! The pediatrician who first saw our twins said they would never walk, talk, or feed themselves. We are thankful God has other plans for them!

Two years later, Jayson joins our family. Although Jayson is a full sibling to Luke and Levi, he has fewer obvious challenges. However, more often than not, we grit our teeth in frustration, quelling the temptation to yell. Jayson stands looking up at us, his brown eyes large. We search for any sign of sorrow, repentance, or desire to please. It isn’t there. He defies us, again. Then he lies to us, repeatedly, despite the fact that his siblings are providing a running commentary of what has taken place. Parenting skills that have worked with our other children are not nearly as effective with Jayson. God uses Jayson to give us the gifts of humility and total reliance on God.

Several years later, we receive another phone call. “I have good news! You’ve been matched with twins (a three-year-old boy and girl) for adoption.” However, the adoption falls through before we even meet the children, due to circumstances beyond our control. We grieve silently, unable to share details with our families because of legal issues.

Life settles into a comfortable routine. It seems our family is complete. We are thankful for the gift of children God has given. Now that the children are all in school, I decide to take on a part-time position with the local school board. A month later, the phone rings. “Hi, I have some news for you. The boys you adopted have a new baby sister. Would you consider adopting her if she becomes available?”

It does not take long for us to answer, “Yes!” Our file is still open from the “match” that fell through. This makes it possible for us to become foster parents in a matter of days. We drive to the hospital to meet our new little daughter. Although we are excited, we are also nervous. We have never cared for a newborn infant before, let alone one who has heart problems. The staff at the hospital is very gracious. We are patiently shown what we need to know to care for her. “She’s lucky to have you,” one of the nurses comments. “You know, some of the kids in here end up staying for up to six months because we have nowhere to send them. There are so many, we cannot spend the time we would like with them. Sometimes we have to sedate them, just so they stop crying!”

My eyes fill with tears. “God, have mercy on our nation,” I whisper as I cuddle our newest daughter close. She snuggles into the crook of my arm and falls asleep. Her face is a picture of peace and contentment.

There are still many unknowns before us. Each day brings new challenges, some very unexpected. Our stability in the midst of this change is Jesus Christ, our rock, our Savior, our guide.

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” I can now honestly agree with Lois, “Infertility is a gift from God.” Without this gift, we may not have received many of the other gifts God has chosen to give us on our adoption journey. We are thankful for God’s blessings: past, present and future. Although we may not always understand, we can choose to accept every gift God sends our way and trust Him to work them all together for good.

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Must Read: Fellowship of the Burning Heart

I’ve decided that I will read some classics in 2015. Fellowship of the Burning Heart came highly recommended, so I purchased a copy. It sat on my table until a few days ago when I picked it up and started reading it.

Fellowship of the Burning Heart is a collection of 10 sermons by A.W. Tozer. The collection is edited by James L. Snyder. He has done a great job of keeping the integrity of the sermons while making them a joy to read. In his introduction, James L. Snyder says:

“When you finish reading these ten sermons, you will come away with a reverence for God and an appetite for the sterling spirituality he (Tozer) advocates in his preaching. One thing is certain: you will never be the same after exposing yourself to ‘Platform Tozer.’ I know I’m not.”

The book includes a short biography of A.W. Tozer written by Snyder, some pictures of A.W. Tozer, a study guide, and the ten sermons:

  1. How to Pray for Revival
  2. In Everything by Prayer
  3. Believing Prayer
  4. Prepare by Prayer
  5. He Must Increase
  6. Hearing is a Divine Art
  7. Manifest Presence – Something Else
  8. Presence Everywhere
  9. Three Faithful Wounds
  10. The Way to Paradise

Here are some quotes to whet your appetite:

“Never underestimate the power of prayer. And remember that without it, you cannot win. With it, you cannot lose.”

“The Bible always tells the facts…It tells you that you’ll have eternal life now and lots of trouble and hardships and thorns and cross-bearing in this world and glory in the world to come and eternity with God. If you’re man enough to put up with the thorns and the crosses and the hardships and the hostilities, you can have the crown.”

“God is God. He made Heaven and Earth and holds the world in His hand and measures the dust of the earth in the balance and the sky; He spreads out like a mantle. The great God Almighty is not your servant; you’re His servant. He’s your Father; you’re His child. He sitteth in the heaven and you’re on Earth. The angels veil their faces before the God who cannot lie.”

“Von Hugel said about Pierre Gure, the great saint, ‘The reason Pierre Gure’s writings so incessantly and habitually bless and help so many people is that Pierre Gure refuses – absolutely refuses to write anything until he is blessed himself. He wants the oil of God upon him, flowing, or he won’t touch a pen,’ I think that’s beautiful.”

“Now remember, you can have all your plans you want and you can get the help of all the advertisers and all the modern mechanical gadgets, but when it is all done, you’ll fall short unless first God is glorified in the midst of His Church.”

This book will challenge you, encourage you, and force you to examine the Scriptures.

Tozer Sermons


Five Minute Friday: Notice

Five Minute Friday: Notice

Five Minute Friday: Notice

What do you notice when  you go somewhere you’ve never been before?

  • People?
  • Natural beauty?
  • Houses?
  • Flowers?
  • Something else?

What about when you meet someone you’ve never met before? What do you notice?

  • Hair?
  • Eyes?
  • Shape?
  • Smile?
  • Personality?
  • Gestures?

We all notice different things. Ask five eye-witnesses what they saw at an accident site and they’ll give you five different descriptions. For better or worse, we tend to see people and things through our own unique filters. We notice things that other people gloss over, but we also overlook things that other people think are obvious. We need to ask God to help us see people and events the way He sees them:

  • He sees the sparrow
  • He knows how many hairs are on your head
  • He understands what it’s like to be deserted and alone
  • He feels your sorrow

Nothing is ever a surprise to God. He notices everything.

Especially you!

 

Five-Minute-Friday-4-300x300

Those who’d like to participate in Five Minute Friday will write for five minutes on the topic of the week, post it on their own blog and link up the post on Kate’s blog (via the InLinkz button at the bottom of the post).

This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.

Just write.


A Blue Day

Foggy winter day

This picture was taken last year, but this morning the view out my window is similar. I need to leave for work in 30 minutes and have many things I could be doing right now, but God has impressed on my heart that I need to write this post. Maybe it’s for you.

As a general rule, I try to keep my posts positive and uplifting. I acknowledge my feelings, but I don’t let them rule me. Today’s post will be a bit different.

Not only is the weather outside dull and (in my mind) depressing, but in my heart and soul I identify with the blue day today:

  • One of my acquaintances phoned me the other day and let me know that a very close friend was killed in a vehicle accident. She’s grieving, but I’m not sure how to help her. She doesn’t share my belief system. I carefully picked a sympathy card and wrote that I am thinking of her and praying for her. I hope she’s not offended, but takes comfort in my thoughts and prayers.
  • Two of my friends are working through some differences. I love both of them dearly and understand both of their perspectives. I pray that they will both allow God to work through their differences to make the body of Christ stronger. I pray that they will not see each other as enemies, but will band together to do battle with the true enemy of our souls – Satan.
  • The stack of papers on my desk is growing, not shrinking. I wanted to have the stack sorted by now. I hope I’m not missing something important.
  • I think we have some kind of invisible shoe monster living in our house. I put my son’s running shoes in his backpack after breakfast. It took him 10 minutes to get socks on his feet. Then he dawdled making his lunch. While he was getting his jacket on, I checked his backpack to make sure everything was there. No shoes. I looked in his bed room. I searched the shoe rack. I made sure there were no shoes lurking in our coat closet. No shoes. Poof, they’re gone! I put another pair of shoes in his backpack and put it on his back. Just when I think everything is good, his boots are missing. Sometimes they fall down the stairs, so I run down to check. No boots. I search the boot rack upstairs. I peek under his bed. No boots. I tell you, that shoe monster has been busy this morning! Thankfully his older sister is willing to let him wear a pair of boots she rarely wears.
  • Getting my kids ready for school is often a challenge. This morning I barely had time to say goodbye after we walked down the driveway before the bus came to take them away to school. Two of my children have coughs and sniffles. They probably would be happy to spend the day at home, but I’m not going to be home. I send them off, reminding them that this is the last day of school for this week and they will be able to rest and relax this weekend.
  • My sister’s update from Facebook this morning: Our pregnant cat just came in (after only an hour or so outside) with a severely broken leg (bone protruding at the shoulder). No vet here…. Sigh. And then an additional comment: The vet in Kumba (nearest large town) doesn’t deal with this type of thing, so the next closest might be at least a 3 hr. drive. The cat has cleaned herself up well, there is no ongoing bleeding, and she is hiding herself. BUT… the man who helps us in our house (cooking/cleaning) just said he knows about a man (who knows what training, but still knowledgeable) who has come to the village to help people with their dogs (including stitching wounds), so that is probably the best way to go right now – even just to get his opinion. Oh, and did I mention we’re in the middle of a busy translation week (with 8 men working in our house)?!! BTW, the cat damage might have been done by a machete – sigh…
  • Lately my schedule has been very full. I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather. I long to be still for half an hour with no expectations. No schedule to keep. Maybe tomorrow, but not today.

I don’t know what you’re going through today, but God knows. The God who created us and knows us intimately. The God who sees everything. The God who knows when you lose even one hair off your head. The God who created the universe.

Yes, I feel “blue” today, but I enter my day confidently because God goes before me. He’s the one who arranges and rearranges my schedule. I fall back on a verse that has been special to me since the early 1970’s:

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

Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)

 

 


New Release: Uplifting Devotionals for Parents

Uplifting Devotionals for Parents Cover

I’m happy to announce that Uplifting Devotionals for Parents is now available as an e-book. Have you ever wanted to resign from parenting? The responsibility is overwhelming some days. Thankfully, we don’t have to parent in our own strength. God walks with us each day, strengthening us, guiding us, and giving us wisdom – if we ask. As you’ll see in these readings, I’m still learning. My prayer is that God will use these devotionals to provide encouragement, help, and joy in your parenting journey.

Here are a few snippets:

  • Some of life’s greatest lessons are taught not by what happens but by how I respond in messy situations.Nurturing walk with God
  • People who parent children with special needs perform a delicate dance each day, taking into account the individual needs of each child while also making sure necessary tasks are accomplished.
  • I need to nurture my own walk with God in order to effectively teach my children to do the same.
  • When we accept God’s free gift of salvation, He provides His presence every day, an eternal home in heaven, perfect love, incredible hope, an advocate, an inheritance out of this world, and an amazing family.
  • When life is tough and parenting is a struggle, we need to choose to love anyway.
  • My top priority as a parent is teaching my children about God and preparing the soil of their hearts to have a personal relationship with Him.
  • Christmas is not about chocolate, or presents, or trees, or anything else. It’s about the King, Jesus Christ.

If you would like free graphics of the above quotes to enjoy personally or share on social media, please send me an email with “Devotional graphics” in the subject line.

Purchase in Canada: Amazon.ca

Purchase in the U.S.A.: Amazon.com

Uplifting Devotional Cover

If you prefer paperback, these devotionals will be included in a devotional bundle written by fellow Canadian authors: Murray Pura, Tracy Krauss, Marcia Lee Laycock, Janice L. Dick, and me. This book is scheduled to be released in the near future.

5 Minute Friday Post – Dare

“Dare to be a Daniel”

“Dare to be different”

“Dare to stand up for what you believe”

“I dare you.”

“How dare you?”

Dare involves some sort of challenge. Risk. Change. Uncertainty.

But with the possibility of fame, big or small. A chance to stand out. To be a leader.

Some dares are public. Like walking across Niagara Falls on a tightrope, pushing a wheelbarrow. Or taking a dare from people who call themselves friends, but really just want to get you in trouble. Or taking a stand for what you believe, even if you know it’s not popular. Like Daniel, who decided he was going to follow God and not eat the fancy food the king was serving. Daniel, who was basically a slave, a captive in a foreign land. Dared. Will I?

5 Minute Friday is a weekly challenge for bloggers to write for (you guessed it) 5 minutes on a given word. No editing. No deleting (it’s HARD!). If you would like to join me and other amazing 5 minute free writing friends, please visit Kate’s blog and linkup!


Psalm 32:8

Watching for guidance and direction

Psalm 32:8

As some of you know, my parents were missionaries during my early years. This meant that we often spent time in other people’s homes with different rules and expectations. My siblings and I knew we were expected to be on our best behaviour at all times. We learned to keep our focus on our Dad. When we were asked a question, or wanted to do something, we would check his eyes. My Dad had an uncanny ability to communicate clearly without saying a word.

I think of those experiences when I read Psalm 32:8 “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”

I’m now much older and away from the direct guidance of my earthly father. Instead, I look to my Heavenly Father for guidance and direction. I have to spend time with Him and pay attention to what He’s showing me to do.

In my work with InScribe, I often feel unqualified to lead. God continues to remind me that He has called me and He will equip me and guide me. This is His organization. He is the one who works in and through the executive and members to proclaim His Word. As we continue to keep our eyes on Him He will continue to counsel us with His loving eyes.

NOTE: I shared this devotional at the beginning of the recent InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship Annual General Meeting.