Making Room: Beginning of Advent

822a5380957f4b043861df588a209120Micro-apartments are on the up-and-up in American cities like New York and San Francisco. As people move to the urban centres for opportunity, school, and careers, space unfortunately, has to grow up (the European way to build up, not the Albertan way to build bigger). People need to become more and more inventive with what they do with the space they have. 300 sq ft and smaller is not at all uncommon in metro living, with a 450sq ft studio recently going for $340,000 in NYC. The micro-apartments appeal to people looking for lifestyle, over, well, stuff.

People create home and make room out of whatever space works for them at the season of life they are in. Whether it is 300sq ft or 2,000 sq ft, you can work with what you have, and make it homey. You move things around, purge unneccesary items, and make room for what is really important.

The concept of ‘making room’ is one that has been on my heart for a couple of years. It’s something that can thread into almost every area of our lives really. From fashion to time management to my relationship with the Lord – I felt a need to simplify. Make room for something else, so to speak. And in order to do so, in means letting go of one thing to make room for something else.

When I moved and got married this summer, I purged a lot. It was a good opportunity to ask myself, “Does this need to come with me into this next stage of life?” For me, ‘making room’ has meant saying yes to things only out of a desire to be involved, rather than obligation. Buying things that I love, rather than just because they’re on sale (that is STILL a work in progress for sure! And it’s a bonus when it’s something I love AND on sale!). And letting my time with Jesus be less about a program or system, and just making time, and letting Him speak and lead me. Sometimes being silent is harder than finding the words to pray ;)

As advent has begun and we begin to prepare our hearts for Christmas and celebrating Jesus, it can be so easy to get caught up in ticking things off the shopping list and filling our social calendar. All good things! But just as someone can make a 300sq ft space beautiful, let’s take the time to let the Lord meet with us, and make our hearts beautiful; whether we are a micro-apartment or mansion at heart.

Wherever we are at, whatever stage of life or hurt we come to Him with, I am certain that if we make room, Jesus can fill it.

“Let every heart, prepare Him room…”

{ on the topic of making room and creating beauty out of what space you have (metaphorical or literal), this weekend I took a stab at making these sheet music stars that you can hang or use as tree decorations. our little space needed something Christmassy even though we move in about 10 days. here’s the tutorial if you’d like to try them too!}

music star

Braveheart: Fighting cancer one day at a time, with Ann Marie

1011153_10151498178111536_61241270_nI met Ann Marie in my first year of Bible College, back in 1999. I was the new girl, transplanted from farm to city; totally out of my element and wanting so desperately to find friends. Ann Marie was one of those smiling faces that welcomed me in, even though I was 10 years younger. A few of us would often sit in the back row of class, giggling about the guys we liked or wondering how in the world we were going to memorize SEVEN Bible verses that week!

Ann Marie and I have gone to the same church for those 15 years, and while we haven’t been ‘sit-down-for-coffee-every-week’ kind of friends, she always has a warm word to say and been curious about my life. Through months of chemo, with the prayers and support of friends and family, Ann Marie has finished her final round of chemo, and awaits an operation in January.

Cancer has touched us all in some way – family or friends, or personally. What I love about Ann Marie’s journey is that it is so evident that in our trials, Jesus is so near her. He delights in revealing His love and presence in those times in a way that is hard to understand outside of a trial. God’s grace is magnified, and we’re enabled to walk, one day at a time.

So world, meet my friend Ann Marie…

1486913_10152047683431068_2069062828_n

*No one anticipates getting the news, you have cancer, but as a believer in Jesus, you know He saw it coming. How did the Lord prepare you for this fight?

I first found the lump in December 2013 while taking a shower. It concerned me, but not really. On January 22, 2014 I saw my family doctor and she said that everything was fine. As a 42-year-old woman who never had a mammogram before, I didn’t think to request one, or request any further testing. My Doctor said everything was fine, so I took her by her word. Sometimes I would think of it, and feel the lump, but thought it must just be a cyst.

In the beginning of April, I felt the lump again and noticed a difference; the lump had gotten bigger and I could hold it with my fingers. I decided to book an appointment, and couldn’t get in until April 25.

One night, I was lying in bed by myself, and kept feeling the lump. I can’t remember what was going through my mind. For some reason, I started to feel underneath my left armpit. I don’t know why I did that, but I did. Without a shadow of a doubt, it was God’s hand on me. Sure enough, I felt a distinct hard lump, like a marble. I went to the walk in clinic the next day.

On Monday, April 14 the Doctor I saw examined me and right away requested a mammogram and an ultra sound. I started to cry. I could hear the urgency in his voice. He told me that if I don’t get a phone call to book the mammogram or ultra sound within two weeks, to call him. I drove home, got inside my house, and cried and prayed. I asked God that I would not have to wait two weeks to get in. I couldn’t stop crying.

Within 5 minutes of me praying, my phone rang. It was the clinic! The lady asked me if I had a flexible schedule or not. I told her that I would come at anytime they could get me in. She said, “Okay I’ll call you right back.” Another 5 minutes later, she called and asked if I could come in the next day!

Tuesday April 15. Andrew took me to my appointment. I felt nervous and not very talkative. I had my mammogram done and then went in for my ultrasound. The lady started, and near the end, she went and got a Doctor to come in. I knew that wasn’t a good sign. They took me to a separate room, and went and got Andrew. They saw something “suspicious” in the ultra sound, and I had to go back to the Doctor and get a requisition for a biopsy. Everything was happening so fast. He gave me the paperwork for the biopsy, and told me again, it may take a few weeks to get in. When we got in the truck, I noticed I missed a phone call from the clinic. I called, and they got me in for two days later!

I knew God’s hand was on me. When I told my story to Rhonda (a friend who is a doctor), she was amazed how quickly everything was progressing. She told me that she had to fight to get her patients in, and they had a minimum wait of three weeks.

I think deep down, I knew, once I had the mammogram and ultra sound. I wouldn’t say anything out loud of course, being a full-blooded Indian woman, (half Cree, half Iroquois) I felt a warrior spirit come upon me, and knew that I would FIGHT the devil. (2 Timothy 1:7 “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of a self discipline.”)

I knew I had to walk in God’s truth, grace and love to get through this. I also knew that walking in thankfulness, raises my spirit to a whole new level. I am always thankful from the littlest things, to the big things, and declare it out! God has given me peace right from the start. I felt it and knew Who was in control.

Every time I walk into the cancer clinic, I choose to walk in with a thankful heart. I try my best to smile, talk to people, (patients & the nurses) and be ready to have a conversation with someone, or pray for someone. My desire and prayer, is that I reflect Christ to those that don’t have Jesus in their life……yet.

This passage in Philippians 4:4-9 really helped and so did Ephesians 6.

“Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again. Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything – but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus.

*What was it like the day you found out the news from the doctor and what was your initial reaction?

Thursday April 24 at 2:45pm I received the phone call from Rhonda. (She isn’t my Doctor, but I talked to her about my situation, and asked if she could keep an eye out for my results and let me know. I had my appointment booked with my family Doctor on April 25. I knew I would rather hear from a friend if I could.)

She told me quickly, “Ann-Marie, it is breast cancer.” I remember asking if she was sure. I then said, “I can’t believe it.” I know she told me about the next few steps that would take place, but I don’t remember what she said. I thanked her for letting me know and hung up. I called Andrew and told him.

A couple of co-workers in the office knew what was going on. One lady came into my office, and closed the door. I just looked at her, and said, “It is cancer.” Stage 3 breast cancer.

I hugged her and cried.

As it turned out, I had made plans with Daniel to take him to the skateboard park afterschool. I stopped crying, and asked God to give me strength to face my boy. My friend brought her son and Daniel to the park and I met them there. Once the boys were busy skating, I told Lynette, it was cancer. I told her not to look at me, because I would cry, and I didn’t want Daniel to see. I asked her if she could take Daniel home for supper, so that Andrew and I could have some alone time to talk.

When I got home, Andrew arrived within minutes. He walked in the door, looked at me and said, “Oh my baby.” We held each other and cried. I was so scared, and all I could think about was my husband and son. I felt numb; just thinking the word cancer was incomprehensible to me. That night, when we were laying in bed, we held hands, and declared that during this trial, we would choose to glorify God through it all, and we prayed for salvations. We wanted my journey/trial to reflect Christ, so that others may see Him.

I have to say that from the moment I heard the diagnosis, to this present day, I have not been angry with God. I never questioned Him and or asked ‘why me?’

10301053_10152433756901068_7644807501600451932_n

*How have you come to live differently because of your fight against cancer?

I say I love you more to my family and friends. I smile more. I don’t stop doing life. I try my best to keep doing what I’ve always done. (Except working right now) Take care of my family, go to church, drive my son to school when I can, cook yummy meals for my husband, spend time with my parents and sister, Find out what’s going on in my friends lives. It’s not all about me. Life keeps going and I just try my best to be a part of it.

*What do you understand about Gods grace and love differently than you ever could’ve without this trial?

As Christians, we know that Jesus died on the cross for us, and that we have eternal life. I’ve always understood that, and accepted it. Now, I REALLY get that love and understand it in a deeper sense. I can’t explain it. When I read scripture, God’s love is magnified to me. I’m not afraid to die, because I know I will go to heaven. I also know, the time isn’t yet. I have a family that I love, and I pray that I will see my son’s grandchildren. There is a peace in me that I can’t really put into words. I feel it, and its complete love!

10492028_10152483997916068_1413212419188599075_n*What are some nuggets the Lord has spoken to you over the past few months?

There was a short period during the summer, where I started to feel ashamed. Ashamed that I am fighting breast cancer, that I was bald, I couldn’t do things like I used to without being exhausted, and not looking like a woman. For those that knew me before, knew what kind of hair I had. I used to get so many compliments about my curls and colour. I realized, I made those compliments, believe that was my beauty. The shame that tried to come on me, and the feeling of being robbed of my beauty was hard on me.

God spoke to me through his word, and reminded me that He took my shame, and my beauty is my spirit, not my outward appearance. I love God, and that, is beauty in itself. The devil comes to destroy, and I chose to build myself up in worship, prayer and ‘God’s word.  Every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus is Lord. In heaven, on earth, and under the earth. 

*What has meant the most to you about how people have supported you and how can we pray for you right now?

I don’t like to ask for help. Through all of this, I have learned to ask for help! Whether it was for meals, driving Daniel to school, run errands for me or take me to appointments. I was overwhelmed with phone calls, texts, cards in the mail from friends, showing me their love and support. I even received gifts! My family and I sure felt the love. The people at my office sure supported me and showed me their love. Our church family has been amazing!

Even Daniel’s school, have given us so much support. I went to prayer and praise at Destiny one day. The children prayed for me, which was amazing. Those little hands reaching out to me, agreeing for healing and wholeness. Afterwards, one girl from grade 9 came to me and said that when they were praying, she saw me, and saw the word cancer. She saw a hand with an eraser, erasing cancer, and the words, My child (in red) were written over me. Isn’t that amazing?

I also have to say that there is a group of women in my life, near and far, that held me up in prayer from the very beginning. Before I was actually diagnosed with breast cancer. Whenever I faced a physical issue, fear, tests, treatments, sadness, these women circled me with their mighty prayers and love. It has been amazing.

1907967_10152777235376068_6750802476859652842_nI won’t lie, there were some days after chemo, I did not pray, listen to worship music or read my bible. I was either too tired and in pain, and didn’t have the energy or desire. Somehow, I managed through those times. When I went to church the following weekends, people would come up to me and say I’ve been praying for you Ann-Marie. I know they had been, because I honestly felt those prayers and love. When we pray for others, we can’t underestimate our words, because when we come together in prayer, even unknowingly, God hears and delivers :) .

Now, the next step in my journey is surgery in January. For prayer requests, I ask that people agree with me that they get all the cancer OUT of me, and that my lymph nodes that they take out come back clear; meaning no cancer. I am nervous for surgery, I’ve never been under anesthetic before! I will be having a lumpectomy on my left breast, and they will go in under my left armpit for the lymph nodes. I pray that I recover well and fast.

 ***

I am asking everyone who reads this to pray for complete healing for Ann Marie and that she has the best Christmas ever with her family! Thank you Ann Marie for sharing your story, and for inspiring us all to live more thankful in our every day lives!

10409126_10152607732116068_3037782448103825973_n

Abiding in Him

In just a couple weeks time my husband and I will get to move into our very first home together. It’s a brand new duplex and will soon be all ours to trace with the fingerprints and joy of new marriage.

We will move things around until the look fits ‘us’. I will purchase rugs and drapes and pillows of all textures, and yes, more candles to enjoy throughout the winter. Troy will create things in the garage and I will experiment in the kitchen. Legally, physically, even emotionally, it will be our home. Our responsibility. Our blessing. No matter what we do, we cannot make that home more ours, or less ours. In the sight of the law, it’s ours.

We get to abide there.

The word abide means to ‘continue, remain, last, survive, persist, stay; to continue without fading or being lost”.

I don’t know about you but I can abide in a lot of wrong things. Comparison. Fear. Understanding when it’s not mine to have. And on good days, I choose to abide in what God’s Word says about me, His character… life.

The Bible talks a lot about abiding. In fact the word is used in both the Old and New Testament 162 times. And most recently I read it in 1 John 4:16-17 (a really great chapter about the love of God!) – “God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us…”

The beautiful thing about God’s love is that it’s never withheld, never more ours one minute than it is the next. Just like our home will be ours from the moment we get the keys to the day we decide to sell – it’s ours to abide in and enjoy and take care of. And eventually, over time, that home will begin to look more like us. It will take on the creativity and love that we invest in it. It comes with both blessing and responsibility.

There is nothing we will ever be able to do to make that home ‘more ours’, than the day we first get into it. Will it begin to feel more like home and will we find increased comfort in it? Yes. As we abide in it.

I love how verse 17 says that as we abide, this love is perfected in us. As we receive from the Lord the love He so freely wants to give to us, we are abiding in Him.

Matthew Henry writes in his commentary: He would persuade by love. Gospel privileges oblige to gospel duties; and those anointed by the Lord Jesus abide with him. The new spiritual nature is from the Lord Christ.

That is the gospel. Once you meet Jesus, you’re forever changed. And as you abide in Him, His nature becomes more yours. Slowly. With faith. And likely with stumbles along the way. But His love, it is still yours. Just keep abiding.

I know I was challenged, but I also know where I want to live! Wherever you are abiding lately – is it somewhere you want to make your home?

CSLEWISquote

 

 

 

The roaring 20’s and wanting results. Stat.

Ah, the 20’s. It can be torment and toil, exciting and enriching. There’s so many decisions to make by the time you’re 25 that it can be overwhelming, and for many, downright depressing. At 23, I had finished two years of Bible College, worked for a couple years, and still wanted more post-secondary. I was beside myself as to what ‘it’ was I was supposed to do. I knew I wanted to be creative and make an impact. I had applied for film school in LA, university in Nova Scotia, and finally ended up going to college in Lethbridge. At the time, I was either moving out of the country, across the country, or not at all. Well, 3 hours south called my name.

I recall feeling distraught as I tried to decide what was right. What was I supposed to do with my life? Finally, I decided, and went for it.

Would the other paths have been fine? Probably. Business school or an experience in LA may have been fun and brought experiences to write about as well. But at the end of the day, I was so caught up in my purpose, my dreams, what I was supposed to do, that I was consumed with the process.

Lord, I want to DO something for You! Make you proud. Live my purpose. Save sex for marriage. Get an education. Get a secure job. Buy a house. Do all the things I’m supposed to at ‘xx’ age.

The sparking faulty wire with that thinking is that it makes life, well, all about me. I spent more time trying to figure out what my purpose was and how I could please the Lord, than getting to know the One who had made me in the first place. And getting on that train leaves absolutely no room for  God’s creativity and love to move in me. We can get so busy trying to DO for Him, that we completely miss, Him.

I recently read a book by Matt Chandler, Explicit Gospel. It rocked, and IS rocking my world. You should read it! In it he talks about the prophet Isaiah and how God called him to preach to the people of Judah (a portion of Israel, now known as modern day Bethlehem). In Isaiah 6, God calls to Isaiah. He reveals Himself and the prophet is changed. When God calls, Isaiah says, “Lord, here am I, send me!” (vs8). The only thing is, the people that God was sending him to, would never actually turn from their ways. They’d never actually see the truth. And Isaiah knew all of those truths from the beginning. Only a small remnant, a ‘stump’ (vs13) would remain a holy seed that would someday grow again.

photo (2)Here you have an eager prophet who just encountered the living God, receive a calling and be told that he’d never actually ‘succeed’. Yet it was his mission.

As Matt Chandler explains it, Isaiah wasn’t called to be fruitful, but simply to be faithful. “The priority God charges him with is not success, but integrity.” (Explicit Gospel, Matt Chandler).

And so I wrestle with that. As a woman who has lived most of her life wanting to DO, in this season God is calling me to BE. Be His. Be known. Be loved. Be faithful.

And leave the results to Him.

I like results. Stat. Clean. In 30 minutes. With a plan for what’s next ;)

As we ponder decisions and weigh them… Is this my calling? Is this what You want me to do Lord? I wrestle with you. In the desiring to please the Lord, yet know that ultimately, the results are up to Him.

The really cool thing about Isaiah’s story — his book is full of fear not’s, rest in Him, God will redeem, and He has called you by name. His book is full of hope and promise. And the people of Judah would one day know a Messiah, a Saviour, in their very own land.

God has a way of redeeming. Revealing Himself, if we will ask and wait. We just need to trust the timing and the way He does it, up to Him.