Life was going along quite well and our international adventures started to begin!
Within a couple of months of being married, we left Canada and went to live in Israel for a period of 7 months. After learning that I was pregnant (and embarrassed to be so, ‘cause then everyone would know what we were doing! OK, I admit it ... I was green!), we came home and settled in. Bruce was a carpenter by trade and soon found work. I stayed home with the new baby... and then had 3 more over the next 6 years! The moving patterns also continued as we relocated 3 more times.
It was probably sometime after having our 1st baby that the Lord started to reveal something to me. Bruce would frequently tell me how beautiful I was... and I would just as frequently laugh and thank him; for after all, he was entitled to his own opinion. One morning, it occurred to me that I was insulting him when I laughed but regardless, I could not shake the negative feelings that I had about myself. You see, in all my growing up years I didn't have any recollection of my dad telling me that I was pretty. I seemed to gain more approval from him if I went out with my brothers (I was sandwiched between the 2 of them in age) and doing what they did best. I became very good at sports, didn’t like wearing skirts (still don’t :), and just became a bit of a tom-boy. I don’t think I even started wearing makeup until I was in my mid 20’s... sorry Bruce.
Now, just so you get the complete picture here; I really liked doing a lot of the things that my brothers did! I had fun playing street hockey and beating my older brother in basketball -- I loved sports & adventure, so it never occurred to me that anything was lacking. I had a lot of great times.
So, as you can appreciate; this whole 'beautiful woman' thing really caught me off guard. I was used to compliments about music, creativity, sports and even ministry & leadership skills. But I was not used to 'pretty' talk. I realized again, that this was an area that I lacked self worth.
God is so good! He not only gave me an amazing husband who was consistently building me up & honouring me, but also gave me a great opportunity with my dad where I was able to discuss some of these things in private with him. Dad was so surprised at the impact of what was missed and so incredibly sorry, ensuring me that he always thought I was beautiful but didn't know how to express it for fear his little girl would get proud. I can't tell you how important this moment was for me! I think that something in dad's little girl was finally able to grow up. I also thank God for Bruce, who has always loved me for who I am and through the years, has made me a better and more confident person. I am closer to seeing things from God's view than ever...
You may be someone who can relate to this journey.
I realize, as time goes on, that God is always wooing us to His point of view. He wants us to see what He sees, not just in others, but in ourselves as well. He simply loves us.
Here are a couple of scriptures that I will leave with you today. They have meant so much to me personally:
The LORD your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with his love, He will rejoice over you with singing. ~Zephaniah 3:17
The King is enthralled with your beauty. You can trust Him with you.
I hope you're in good humour, because todays chapter must be read that way. It always makes me smile when I recall my 1st date with my future husband. (or something like that :)
"Today I met the boy I'm going to marry"...
Well, that might have been someone else's song, but it did eventually become mine too.
I remember the first time I saw him. I can still see him there scrawled sideways on the armchair. I remember the way his hair went and the colour of his clothing. We were at our youth leader's house and he was the new guy. That's all I can recall though of that first time and there was definitely nothing about marriage being sung. Anyway, I must have shifted my focus, probably because I was dating someone else!
A few months went by. I was no longer going out with the guy I had been seeing and Bruce was also 'available'. I wasn't the only one in our small group of friends to notice his availability though so, the pursuit began. (Oh come on, don't tell me you've never pursued anyone before!) You know what I mean; you just randomly make sure that you're around to be able to comment, help out in a time of need, laugh at one of their jokes, or just look pretty. Oh, I know this sounds crazy but something in me just wanted to get to know this guy... and he didn't seem to mind either.
The 1st time he came to our house was after a mud-soccer game that a bunch of us were playing. His family lived about a 1/2 hour away so I offered our house to get showered and cleaned up for something we were all going to later that night. I do remember one of the other girls offering the same convenience to him as well... Anyway, there really wasn't anything more to it than that, except for my parents starting to ask questions.
OK. So here's the fun part!
Such a cool guy!
Bruce's sister was getting married & I was asked to sing at their wedding. There was nothing unusual about that as I was frequently asked to sing at many other events.
I bought a new dress and some high-heeled shoes to go with it. Now that doesn't sound like anything out of the ordinary but remember, I was used to being somewhat of a 'tom-boy'. I had never worn heels like this before! I got my brother to stand back to back with me to measure and see if I would be taller than Bruce if I wore them. Ha!
So, off I went. The wedding went well (except for the part where Bruce's grandfather prayed for an old boyfriend of his sister's instead of the groom). It was after the wedding that things started to formulate... Bruce was an usher and one of his roles (to my understanding) was to make sure that the bridesmaids had rides to the reception hall. Well, he didn't do that. Instead he asked me (the musician) if I needed a ride. And, guess what... I did! (don't laugh!) It was then, that I could feel my heart starting to get excited, and nervous.
The wedding was on a Friday night and by the time the reception was over it was very late. Bruce was taking me home, but the catch was that he & his sister were switching cars. They were using Bruce's car for their honeymoon and he was taking theirs in exchange. Nobody else knew of this arrangement, so when we went to go home, we hopped into a car plastered with wedding 'well-wishes'. To add to everything, the back of the car was fully loaded with all of their gifts. So, when we got in, Bruce in his tux and I with my heels & corsage... Well, you can just imagine how it looked! As we drove away, the classic thing actually happened; the car was almost out of gas! Ha! The reception was out in the country and nothing was open at this time of night so we had to drive back into the city to find an open gas station before he could take me home. People waved & honked as we drove by, congratulating us on our faux wedding! Finally we found a station open and when Bruce went in to pay, the guy at the counter congratulated him too! It was so terribly funny and yet we were still so nervous with each other that we could only slightly laugh about it!
When Bruce dropped me off, he thought it 'convenient' to ask if I'd like to go out on a real date.
And now you know the rest of the story...
It was New Year's Day when I got the news. There had been an accident at about 2 am and my friend Carol, was dead. I didn't know too many details other than she was driving home from a party and drove into oncoming traffic. My heart sank and my mind jumped to the worst conclusion... that she was drunk and lost control.
As I entered into puberty, I also started at another new school. Dad had moved our family to the country. The bonus for me in this move was that we got a horse. I learned how to ride and went out (on Johnny) on a daily basis. This new school was probably the hardest for me to adjust to as I was teased a lot by some of the other girls. I became very self conscious of my changing body; and fear increased.
The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God. ~Psalm 51:17
I am grateful for my upbringing! It was not perfect, but whose is?! My parents both loved God, loved us and were committed to each other. We moved a lot, but mom & dad always made it a priority to find things in our new community to hook us kids in to including a church that had something positive to offer for our ages. We learned to pray for others, respect God, and most of all to desire to do His will. I am so grateful for that!
We had lots of fun times & opportunities. My mom gave me a precious gift by simply 'being a mom'. She was always there. She was home with us in our young years, and we knew that we were her priority. She is the one who has taught me how to be a mom, and who is now reflected in our children as they journey into parenting. It's amazing to me how many things just kind of pass through the generations. I watch as our children instinctively do things with their babies that I did with them. I know that these things have come from mom for which I am grateful!
My dad was the adventurer. He liked to push the edge and do things that were a little daring. We hiked trails, we canoed to James Bay, we sped down hilly roads to get a stomach thrill... he was also the one who taught me how to drive :)! It was dad who took me to try out for a girl's hockey team and dad who caught me dancing at my Grade 8 graduation! (I know these things don't mean much now, but they were a big deal when I was 12 or 13.)
But, like I said, it was not all perfect. Our spiritual roots were deep and family bonds very tight, but some emotional & relational roots were a little shaky. My dad had a hard time showing affection and feeling. He had endured a lot of verbal and physical abuse from his father and would rarely talk about it, saying that he would go to his grave without telling all... and he did. My mom was from a fairly conservative home. She was fun loving and active and never cared to discuss anything negative. She knew how to say sorry (which was absolutely HUGE in my life) and ‘held the fort’ so to speak during some extremely busy & tense years of my dad trying to establish himself in business.
It was in those years that my parents would have frequent arguing matches; the most significant often climaxing on a Sunday... go figure. I remember some incredibly tense drives to church and then we would walk in as a family like nothing had ever happened. I learned from a young age to appear normal (whatever that is) in public and to give the impression of confidence. Hindsight shows me that the pressures they faced financially, emotionally from their own hurts, and practically, were probably the greatest contributing factors to the stress in our home. Dad seemed to want reality to kind of ‘hang right out there’ (and it often did through his anger) and my mom was always trying to keep things at bay and in order.
During the first 18 years of my life our family moved 9 times. I was in 6 different elementary schools, 2 high schools, and 3 churches. I would just get to know new friends and start to relax and then we would move again, just to start the whole process all over. This resulted in an incredible fear of people as I was always trying to break into someone’s established circle. I constantly tried to give the impression of confidence, but inside I was torn apart by the fear that I would be rejected by my new found peers. As I grew, I learned to be self sufficient & independent and for the most part (which as you can guess), this is not healthy. I did not know how much I needed people and unfortunately, did not start to recognize this until I was well into my 30’s.
I want to stop here and tell you of an experience that I had in this season of my life. I am not sure of my exact age, but I was probably in Grade 3 or 4. My parents had gone away somewhere and had left me at a friend's house for the night. I remember sleeping alone in my friend's room and she went and slept in her parent's. Her room was so dark that I couldn't even see my hand in front of my face. It terrified me! Somehow I finally got to sleep. Partway through the night though, I awoke absolutely horrified for there was a hand on my side. This was actually impossible as I had my back against the wall! A person could not have been there, but I couldn't see anything in the pitch black. All I knew was that it was real and it felt incredibly evil. I was petrified! I finally got the courage to find my way out of the room to ask for help. I hesitantly knocked on the parent's door and when they answered I told them what happened. (remember, I was only 8 or 9 years old) Instead of the anticipated compassion and help that I was needing, I received incredible humiliation as they thought I was overreacting and being stupid. They simply helped me find the washroom and then sent me back to bed ... to that incredibly dark room.
Hindsight for me was that I was already in a vulnerable position that night as I was nervous to begin with, staying with this new friend's family. With my nerves already on an edge and then the attack (or whatever you might want to call it!) happening, my emotions and heart were wide open and required help. Instead of receiving the love and comfort that was needed, I was given misunderstanding and rejection. Instead of the fear being shut down and healed, it was fed and rooted in. I don't know if this sounds familiar to any of you, but I have not only experienced this personally but have heard it told by others through different circumstances in their own lives.
I don't understand everything that goes on, only God truly perceives it all. What I do know is that for many years (almost 40!), I struggled against a gripping fear that I would be rejected again by a friend or someone that I trust. You see, if rejection comes through an enemy we are somewhat expectant of it and possibly not harmed by it. When it comes to us via a friend or someone we placed our trust, our heart can be caught 'off guard' so to speak and deeply wounded.
Proverbs 4:23 says this: "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life."
I think that this explains what I am trying to say. Our hearts are pliable and vulnerable if not guarded properly. I know that I was young and unknowing in this circumstance, but those over me should have known better. You've heard the phrase, 'sticks and stones may hurt your bones, but words will never hurt you'. It is such a lie! Sticks and stones may hurt your bones, but words have the power of life and death in them!
As I hold the picture of myself; a little girl in freedom, I am encouraged and continue to seek God for who He made me to be. God through His Holy Spirit, at just the right time, revealed answers that allowed me to come closer as I responded to Him in obedience. You see, on that night so many years ago, my hearts door was opened by terror. Because the adults who were there for my protection did not protect & shield me, fear and rejection walked right in. What I have come to realize is that at the point that these fears walked in, they also sat down and made themselves at home in me. They walked in and were a constant struggle for me until I told them to leave.
If you have wrestled with fears of any kind, you know what I am talking about. For years I was terrified to go to sleep. I would not hang any part of my body over the edge of my bed for fear of something being under it, ready to grab me. I have also been a people-pleaser, always trying to keep everyone happy so I wouldn't be rejected again, being afraid to really say what was on my mind and be myself because I might get laughed at...
As God revealed these things to me I realized that to be free I would need to apply some of His principles. Here are a couple:
I'm going to stop here for today. Be blessed. I pray that "the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:7
Jesus said, "That unless we change and become as a little child, we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven". Matthew 18:3
Hindsight may be pretty clear, but perception is often cloudy. Somehow without even noticing it, I had grown old and forgot. Somehow I had opened the door to things like fear and shame and closed it to trust, faith and love. I hadn't lost my love and honour of Jesus, but I had lost focus. Stuff was piling up and I wanted to be rid of it.
Don't worry; I'm not suggesting a literal return to childhood like a magical time warp out of reality! That would be denial (and insanity!). What I have desperately pursued though over the years is to know the purity and self abandonment that I see in this picture. Yes, that's me when I was 3 or 4. The freedom that a little child possesses is incredible and the most fascinating part is that they are free without even knowing or caring that they are!
It wasn't until we went through some incredibly painful times that my eyes started to open to the fact that I needed to change. I wanted to be that child again!
So, I confess, I am a bit of a bulldozer at times! If I see a problem, I want to go at it and fix the whole thing -- spit spot!!! Fortunately, that is not the way that wisdom walks and not the way that God works. I found that He honoured my quest and heart cry for He loves immensely, but He tapered it with His methods and timing. Hindsight shows me all of this, but in the moment I had my doubts.
“We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!”
God does not expect us to “see” it all at once. My husband once pointed out to me that if we could see everything that God wanted to deal with in us... we would probably die :). It would simply be too overwhelming. God is the only one capable of bearing everything; in fact, He did so years ago on the cross. He is the One who is all knowing, I am not capable of this. It has been enough for me to ‘get it’ one step at a time so that my spirit would not be crushed and feel defeated. We are all on a journey. Our responsibility is to listen for that knocking (Revelation 3:20), that small voice of the Holy Spirit. He comes at just the right time to sit down and have a meal with us; to nourish and teach us if we’ll let Him. God knows what we can bear and what will cause our lives to thrive. He is wisdom. He is love and His desire for us is to know that and to be one with us.
There is an interesting example that God gives us in scripture regarding this. He was giving instructions to Israel before they entered the Promised Land, a large territory that would need to be conquered. He explains to them that He would go ahead of them causing the occupying nations to leave but, He would not do it all in one fell swoop. Listen to what God says to Israel in Exodus 23:29-30:
“I will not drive them out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the wild beasts multiply against you. 30 Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased and possess the land.” (ESV)
Don’t you just love God! You see if this was up to me, I would have planned a mass invasion to get in and get settled as fast as possible; you know: 'Get on with the program' kind of thinking! I mean, after all, they had only been waiting to get there for 40 years! But what God in His wisdom knew, was that they would not have been able to sustain everything and hang on to the land if they took too much at one time. They needed to follow His strategic lead, getting rooted and established, growing, and then moving on to the next phase of advancement.
Our human limitations are known to God. He knows what we can handle and will only work to benefit us, leading us ‘little by little’ or ‘from glory to glory’.
Our responsibility is to be willing to simply take a step toward Him, asking Him what He wants to show us today... to be willing to change. This is where I enter the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. Revelation 3:20
I was born January 10, 1962. I am Canadian with my roots coming out of Montreal, Quebec growing up as the 2nd oldest in a family of four kids (2 brothers, 1 sister). We moved to Ontario when I was four and that is where my memory starts kicking in.
This was the place where I got my first two-wheeler bike, over-sized and really fat tires! I remember painting it a brilliant peacock blue (with the help of my dad of course). I was so proud of it and felt so grown up! Ha! Hindsight can be terribly funny, can’t it? We used to ride all over the place and without grownups. It’s hard to believe that now as none of us would ever let our children go unchaperoned where we were allowed to go then. Things have changed so much.
Our house was right across from the public school that I attended for Kindergarten and Grade 1. I still remember Miss Monk, my 1st Grade teacher. She was one of my all-time favourites! ...if I could only let her know now.
We had a lot of fun in those few years with tons of friends, playing T-ball in the summer, riding our bikes, going to the corner store, and watching TV on our rounded-edged, black and white screen. I liked adventure and I liked fun. We played and explored, we went on hikes and caught bugs (Praying Mantis were the prize catch!) and imagined ourselves to be teachers, parents and actors.
I was 5 when I met God.
Although I cannot recall every detail, I remember the impact of the moment well! It was bedtime and my dad was reading me a Bible story. This was significant for me as you will see in later chapters; my mom was usually the one to read and tuck us in bed at night... Dad read to me about Jesus dying on the cross for our sins. When I went to bed, the story and conversation just lingered. This wasn’t the first time I’d heard about Jesus, but for some reason it was the first time ‘I really heard’ ...if you know what I mean. My little five year old heart became so overwhelmed by the love of Jesus that I started to cry. My dad must have heard me because he came into the room and prayed with me as I accepted what Jesus did for me and asked Him to come in and be Lord of my life. Over the years, dad was often there to teach me of the deep things of God.
As an adult, I have not always been so quick to respond to God’s knocking as reason and fear grew to have a strong place in my life. I do believe though, that He gave me this experience as a young child to anchor my spirit and memory.
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people. Ephesians 1:18
If hindsight is a good teacher, then I will let it teach me now. For the sake of my future, I must remember the past and recall it's lessons and encouragements. I must recall the faithfulness of God. For whether I found myself in a pit of my own making or one imposed by someone else, God has always shown up at my request. He is who He says He is; He is love and has been my protector & salvation, healer & caretaker, redeemer & deliverer time and time again. I know that I am not even aware of the vast majority of His great interventions on my behalf and am also sure that is for my protection as well. He knows what I can handle and what I need to know.