Love

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I debated on whether to go or not.   I was tired because I had had a busy day the day before.   But mostly because Sean wasn’t feeling well.  He was getting over a cold that hit him all of sudden and I just wasn’t sure he would be in top form to be participating in a parade for Welcome Wagon.  I talked to him and observed him and decided that we could do it.  Once we got there,  we realized that it was going to be much longer than we had anticipated,  there was no access to a bathroom and guess what?!  Of course,  Sean needed to go.  I looked at him.  He looked tired.  I though about walking back to our car to go home but decided against it.   He could sit in the wagon I was pulling if he wasn’t feeling well for a while.  That seemed to be a good idea to him as well.

We were one of the first to go.   As we walked up a little incline and then down and then up again,  I booted Sean out of the wagon because I was getting tired already and we were going to be walking a fair bit.  We were told that it was very slow but as we began walking, we realized that it really wasn’t slow at all.   When I told him he needed to walk,  I also told him that I had a basket of candy and book marks and he was to feel free to go out into the crowd and pass them out at random -  as much as he wanted.  I wasn’t sure he would.

But suddenly he grabbed a handful of candy and started weaving through the crowd handing it out.  He ran back to me for more.  He ran back for book marks and started handing them to random people in the crowd and giving them to upraised hands just like a rock star.  He kept running back to me,  exclaiming,  “This is awesome Mom.  This is pleasing me so much.  This is just pleasing me!”  He ended up running way more than all of us who were walking in a straight line trying to move forward with our wagons and not look or feel like we were going to pass out in the heat.    I looked at him as he moved in and out of crowd of people.  He was smiling, his eyes were shining and I am sure for about an hour at least,  he completely forgot how stuffed up he was and how much he just didn’t feel up to it.  He became alive doing something valuable.

My mind was brought back to a time years ago,  when my heart was heavy about something personal I was going through.  I felt pressed in my spirit and because of that,  my whole body felt heavy.   I felt like I was walking through molasses as I was walking through my day.   I slowly walked to the photo centre in Costco, -  my mind a trillion miles away.   The lady that helped me asked how I was doing and I politely said,  “Fine.  And how are you?”  glancing up at her as I asked her.

  I never expected an answer.  Never even wanted one - at least not a truthful one - especially since I hadn’t given her a truthful one myself.  I don’t know why,  but she thought I cared.  And she started to cry.  Right there in Costco,  she started to cry.   We moved aside to a corner and I looked her in the eyes,  now really caring.  I asked her what was wrong and she commenced to tell me that it was the anniversary of her daughter’s death -  a life cut far too short as she was just 20 when she died.  I looked at her and my heart ached as I tried to imagine that kind of grief, watching a daughter waste away from a horrible disease.   I told her I was sorry and that I would pray for her and then wiping away her tears,  she had to go back to work and I went on my way.  Her story,  however, wouldn’t leave me.  I thought about it for the next couple of hours so I went home and made a card and wrote in it that I would be thinking about her and praying for her and gave her my phone number.  I walked back into  Costco, to give it to her.   When I got to where she was working, she had already gone home.  I gave it to someone else to give to her and prayed silently that it would reach her at a time when she needed to read it (which I found out later that it did exactly that.) and then I just went home.  But do you know what happened?  I went home a lighter person.  I went home with a spring in my step.  I went home with love in my heart because I had helped someone.  I had reached outside of my pain and helped someone who was going through something far more painful than I.   It released me.  It brought some healing.  It refreshed me and filled me up.   Suddenly I saw some perspective.

That’s what I saw in Sean that day.  He reached outside of how he was feeling in order to bring happiness and lightness to someone else.  And in helping someone else,  he helped himself more.

And suddenly I realized something.  The Bible talks about the fact that His burden is easy and his yoke is light.

"Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. 30"For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."  Matthew 11:30

That verse has always been a mystery to me.  Nothing about a burden or a yoke sounds easy or light.  And today I think I realize more of what it means.  I think that his burden is love.  That’s what his burden is.  If we are yoked or tethered to Him - He IS love!!  So we will become that to those around us.  His commission and life’s purpose for us has always been love.   Just love those around you.  No judgements.  No preconceived rules.  No harsh assumptions.  Simply love your neighbor as yourself - one of His highest commandments.

  All the other things that we add to our lives that become a burden and a yoke to us are all added things and programs and busyness, when all he really wants us to do it reach out and love.  All he really wants us to do is take on His mission - take on His call and love from wherever we are to wherever they are.  Love.  When we take on that burden and that yoke, something happens to us from the inside out and we find ourselves becoming free.  We find ourselves healing.  Suddenly we are not empty anymore.   Suddenly, and I don’t know how it happens,  that the  more we give out,  the more we gain.  When we are truly motivated by what God wants us to be motivated by, it releases us and frees us and fills us, taking us to heights we had never dreamed of.

So, today when I find myself exhausted and spread too thin, I am going to remember to take on his burden.  Because I know what love does.

Sean giving out the candy and bookmarks.

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A Hero Remembered

 

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Today would have been my father in law's 76th birthday.  His fierce loyalty and compassion - first to

This family and then to his God was undeniably his greatest strength and an amazing inspiration to thousands around the world.  He was man small in stature but a giant in spirit.

I miss him so much and love him so very much.  Everyday.

Today I am going to do something that I have never done before on my blog.  I have a guest blogger.  My 8yr old son who understands deeply the healing and transformation that comes from writing from the heart, has asked if he can write a post on my blog  about a man that had a deep impact on his life - his Grandad.

So my friends,  meet my son,  Sean Hazell.

sean here.

This is about my granddad, aka poppa keith

Memories:  me and him were in safeway and got donots . sorry if my spelling is wrong . any way it was sad when he died. i wish that he could stay longer even tho he was 75.  but it was for a good propose so i would be a man of god. Thats what his death made me want to do.  his death made me so sad I rely wanted to be a man of God.

i loved him.  today I’m bringing flowers to his grave.

  we don't know if it was the infection or the cancer that made him die.

anether memory:  he always went to church and i think i listened to him always. he always prayed relly loud and I think his unknown language passed to me.

when he died and i held his hand i prayed for him to stay alive the next day.

this is anether memory:  when i was in the hospital he said god bless you, my son.  When he said that, he made me have more of God’s presence in me.   It changed me a lot.

he was a very great man and i think if he didn't have any those things [illnesses] he would still be alive today.

peace out.

I miss him.

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Our Mini Vacations

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Last summer was a rough summer.  My father in law was dying and that was taking most of our days and most of our attention.  We didn’t go away.   We stayed close to home.  We didn’t have a vacation.   We didn’t go to the zoo or go camping or go to Waterton or any of those things that we normally do in the summer.  We didn’t even go swimming or to the water park.  Most of our days were spent at the hospital and a lot of Sean's (my eight year old son)  days were spent with friends playing at their houses.  The summer went by swiftly.  In fact,  when summer was over,  I sort of blinked my eyes and said,  “I didn’t even have time to find my sunglasses.”

   

I felt like I didn't see Sean that much.  It felt like the time I had with him was fleeting and rushed and lined with deep feelings of sorrow and grief.  It didn’t feel so right.  But we started something that was perfect.  We had “mini vacations.”  I am pretty sure that he penned the phrase.   Sean and I were faithful to take our mini vacations.  And this is what they were.  I had blank canvasses and everyday,  when we had five or ten minutes or sometimes three,  we would splash color on them. We would use bubble wrap and kleenex and mesh, and bottle caps.  We used sponges, cups and pieces of wood to put different textures on the canvas.  And yes,  we used paint brushes.    It was just the escape we needed - it was the vacation we could afford and it was so so so good.

We weren’t painting anything in particular and didn’t have a plan when we started  - they were truly abstract - works of the heart.   We both looked so forward to running downstairs where my painting is and painting some pretty colors.    This is how they turned out.   I think that they are lovely.

  

This summer,  as soon as the last day of school came,  he asked me,  “When are we going to start our canvasses?”  You see, to him,  this wasn’t less of  a vacation than camping was.  It was every bit as good as a real vacation  because he was spending time with me.  He had my undivided attention.   He wasn’t sacrificing.  I asked him if he wanted to do another one this summer and he exclaimed,  “I think we should do one every year - make it our tradition!!”

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 I am EnoughI_am_Enough.jpg

When my husband and I were dating in Bible College,  we began to  talk about the future a lot.  We talked about our dreams,  our goals, our thoughts, our destiny - as most do when they start getting serious with each other.  We had similar views on what we thought our destiny and our calling in life would be.

I remember getting together with him in the school cafeteria one day over a cup of coffee.  He always tried to get me to drink coffee without cream and sugar but he never succeeded.   I remember saying that I knew that I would travel one day,  I knew that I would go to the nations and that I would speak and that I would go on mission trips and that I would always be in ministry in some sort of way.  But one thing I would NEVER do is Pastor a church.   He agreed emphatically.  That was our way of making a “decision” about our future without actually talking about it in the sense that it was “our” future.  I am pretty sure that I reminded him of that when we got engaged,  although he doesn’t remember that conversation.  (Selective memory I am sure.)

Many years later,  I was sitting with Jeremy in the living room,  and he told me of his longing to start a church.  He wanted me to pray about it too.  I looked at him.  This wasn't our "plan."  This wasn't what we had discussed.  We both knew that starting a church was hard and painful and sometimes devastating.  I wasn't sure I was up for the task.   But most of all  I  just remember feeling deep deep insecurity.

It’s easy to travel and speak into people’s lives when they don’t see you day to day.  It’s easy and it’s fun.  It’s easy to encourage other pastors and leadership to keep going, don’t give up.  It’s easy to sow into other places and reap instant rewards without having to pick the weeds in between the processes.  I had had experience with planting churches and I have to tell you that they weren’t my fondest memories.

I am not your typical pastor.  I am not musical, although I love to sing and worship with all my heart.  I don’t play the piano or any instrument, so I don’t lead songs which is a prerequisite of any pastor,  I am sure.  I am not a super dynamic person - when I speak,  I just really share from my heart.  Most of the time,  I cry a little,  even if I try not to.   I am not thin.  Pastor’s wives should always be thin.  And wear very high heels and lots of make up.  And be very polished. And dynamic and authoritative.

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t hate myself.  In fact,  I am quite a confident person naturally.  I feel quite secure in who I am.   I just don’t think that I “fit” into that "Pastor's wife"  category.  I have had several talks with God about that.   I want to get behind “those” people, roll up my sleeves and be  150% supportive.  I just don’t want to BE those people.  At least,  I didn’t.

Until one day,  I felt the Lord ask me something.  He asked me if I loved people.  And I have to tell you - my greatest strength is loving people.  In fact, getting involved in peoples lives,  running along beside them,  holding their hand while they are going through a difficult time,  I have done that since I was 8.  No kidding.  That is when I feel most alive.  That is when I feel most fulfillment - when I am helping others in some form or another.  I am not afraid to get my hands dirty right up to my elbows; to swim the stormy waters with them.

I felt the Lord direct me to the story in the Bible where he used the boys lunch to feed 5000+ people.  Most of us know the story well.

Jesus had been talking to a group of people all day.  When it was time to eat,  he turned to the disciples and told them to find the large group of people something to eat.  Talk about hosting!!  That is one big party to feed!  There were more than 5000 people there and the disciples had really no idea what they were going to do but they decided to humor Jesus anyways and ask around.  All they found was a little boy who had five loaves and two fishes.  That's it.  I wonder if they kind of jokingly brought it to Jesus?  Or maybe they were kind of scared to bring it to him knowing that there was only one person who was willing to give up his lunch.  At any rate,  however they felt,  they were not prepared in their hearts for what was to happen next.   Somehow, someway, Jesus blessed the food and fed everyone!!   Well,  when you think about it.  Jesus can do anything so of course that could happen.  He could have commanded the stones nearby to turn into food.  But actually he wanted to use a little boy's lunch.

I realized something when I read that. I didn’t need to be the "typical" pastor.  I didn’t need to be any certain way actually.  All I needed was to be willing to give what I had.  Because no matter what I did,  what I had,  who I was - it wasn’t enough without God.  But with God,  I was enough.  It wouldn’t have mattered if the disciples had found twenty lunches,  it still wouldn’t have been enough to feed the multitude standing there.  A hundred lunches wouldn’t have either or even a thousand.

But because I serve an amazing God,  because he is my friend,  living, working, breathing through me,  I am enough.

You see, it's not MY church.  It's God's.  I am not building it.  I am not blessing it.  I am not in charge of it.  God is.  I am doing what he wants me to do.  No more.  No less.  And my willingness with his power,  will build Mosaic Christian Fellowship.

I am enough for the task that lay ahead.  I am enough to do what he wants me to do; to take steps, to walk, to leap into the calling that he has for my life.  That’s what God told me that day.

I am enough.  And so are you.

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Is Depression a Sign of Weakness?

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Is depression a sign of weakness?  Is anxiety a symptom of being inferior?

I want to talk about something I haven't talked about a lot on my blog.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blogpost called "He Sees Me."  The response I got from this simple post was amazing.  But what surprised me was that the responses I got were from people who experience anxiety, people who have been there in that place where I was when I was a child and experiencing debilitating panic attacks.  When I wrote the post,  I didn't feel that I was writing about anxiety or depression, actually.   What I  felt I was writing about was how God sees us in our dark time,  He sees us in our times of deepest need.  He sees and he cares.  But what resonated with my readers was that they too have gone through the pain of anxiety.  That was what they could relate to.

This is what you don't know.  That night,  I went to that place again.  I had the biggest panic attack that I have ever had since I was a little girl.  At first I thought it was because I allowed myself to go back to that place as a little girl when I wrote my post.  I allowed myself to live what it felt like to experience fear.  I wrestled all night with debilitating fear.   How it broke,  is for another post as it would make this one too long.  When it finally broke and I fell into a fitful sleep,  I dreamed that a man came to me and prophesied to me and he said this.  "The reason that you were attacked so viciously tonight with fear is that Satan does not want you to go there.  You touched a cord in peoples lives and he absolutely does not want you to explore that place in your life or in others.  He doesn't want you to go there.  So... go there."

When I lost Theodore 24 years ago,  I went through another time of anxiety that knocked me off my feet.  In fact working with many families that have gone through losing a child,   this is very common.   But we don't like to talk about it.   It wasn’t until years later when I was going through another traumatic event and I started to take medication for it to get over the hump, that I realized that I should have had medication when I lost Theodore.  But I didn’t.  And why didn’t I?  Because I bought into a lie.  I bought into a lie that if I admitted my fear, if I admitted my terror at night,  I would be admitting that i was an inferior person.  I would be admitting that i was weak.  I would be admitting that I just couldn't do it like others can - that I needed a crutch.   Somehow I would be saying that I was lesser of a  person because of what I was going through.  I bought into that lie big time.

There is so much shame surrounding this issue.  And I believe that the longer we stay in this shame,  the higher our walls are and the stronger our prison is.  Its only in talking about  this shame that we will be able to be set free.

I am convinced that it is not fear itself that is the biggest problem.  It is the shame of fear.  It is the shame surrounding the subject.   Fear hits doctors and businessman and lawyers and painters and housewives and pastors.   It does not discriminate.  It hits us all - poor, rich,  old and young.  None of us are exempt from its grip.

Its like the elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about.  It's there, it's staring us in the face, but maybe, just maybe if we don't talk about it, it will leave.

I want to be a part of a growing lot of people that expose this lie for what it is.  But I am convinced that I need you, my readers to help me expose it.  I need your stories.  I need your experiences.  I need what you did to get out of your prison or what you ARE doing.  I need stories and I need solutions.  I realize that this is a sensitive subject.  I won't expose who you are and what you have told me.  I will keep everything completely confidential.  I just believe that I have touched a cord that needs to be addressed more.  Please private message me or comment or whatever.  I would love to hear from YOU.

I am not an expert on this topic.  I am not an authority.  But I have been there.  I have walked the deep waters of anxiety and depression so that gives me a voice, a voice that needs to be heard.

Even now as I write this, I am terrified.  However,   I have people around me that are praying for me about this particular blogpost, that I won't experience any backlash.  The thing with terror is that it’s terrifying.  Fear is frightening.  You never know when it is lurking around the corner.  You never know what is going to trigger it.  You never know when the bony fingers of fear are going to curl around your throat - making it hard to  breathe; making it hard to live.   So we live in fear of fear.  We live in shame of fear.  And then we live in a prison.

I don't know where this will take me.  I don't know if I am supposed to write a book or if I am supposed to write some blog posts or take some speaking engagements on the subject or what.  But I know that I am supposed to be writing this right now.

I know that I am "going there," my friends.  Will you go with me?

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Kisses in the Wind

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He stood there blowing more kisses as I drove away.  I was late.  I needed to make my appointment.  It was a domino effect.  I was late getting up and then I was late getting Dylan to the bus stop and then I was late getting Sean to school and I knew that that would make me late for my next two appointments.  When I dropped him off he got out slowly and sauntered towards the school door.  He wasn't depressed or trying to be slow,  he was just enjoying life as he walked.  When he got there he turned and waved at me.  I waved back.  He waved again and held the door open for two kids scurrying to class.  He stood there in the door way and blew a kiss at me.  I blew one back and then put my car in reverse,  he blew another kiss so excited by this game,  I blew one back and started  to back out.  Once more, he blew a kiss and I turned.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw his face fall that I didn't return the kiss.  He was late and I was late.  I started to drive away with a twinge of guilt.  I looked back to where he had been standing and he was gone.  A stronger twinge of guilt.  And then panic swept in, a big massive wave of panic.  What if that was the last I ever saw of him? What if something happened today at school and the last time I ever saw him was backing out and denying him that one last kiss? Would  I ever be able to live with myself?  I knew that I could not.  I started to cry.  Clutching the steering wheel, crying, I circled the school with an internal struggle inside of me.  Should I park the car and cancel all my appointments today and make sure everything is okay in the school?   One should never give in to panic of every day life.  But one should always give in to the leading  of the Holy Spirit.  But which was this?  Life always seems to be a dance of " did He say… or am I just thinking..." I decided that it was the latter because of how it caught my emotions.  If it's God it usually catches my spirit, but not my emotions so deeply.

I started to proceed to my appointments for the day but it got me to thinking.  Sean knew that he had school to go to and he loves school and he loves his teacher.  But he knew what he wanted in the moment and that was to blow kisses to me. He chose to be present instead of hurried.  He was in his own little “not rushed and peaceful” world.  In his mind, he has school all day every day for 12 years.  Today, school could wait just a little bit while he blew kisses in the wind at me. I applaud that.

When I was was young teenager, I knew a lady in our church.  I really looked up to her.  I really aspired to be like her.  She was always busy, always in a hurry, always running late.  When she came to the door to pick something up, she would  be insanely  rushed -  massive, thick ,curly hair blowing in hand wind as she whisked out to the car finishing up her story as she ran to her next appointment.  She was always on the go and had several projects going at once.  She seemed to have several balls up in the air and she was  desperately harried and busy and loving life.  I pictured my life like that years from that point.  I pictured a baby in tow with little kids at my feet, talking on the phone while I was baking cookies.  I pictured talking on the phone to person after person giving them advice and comfort and prayers while I was making supper and vacuuming the floor getting ready for company that night.  I romanticized that busy life.  It's exactly what I aspired to do and when I got married that is exactly what I did.  Being in the ministry all of our married life,  juggling ministry, home life, and work life and volunteer life and friendships, that's exactly what my life looked life for long seasons.

But I am writing a new story.  And in that new story,  I am not so rushed.  And I won't make back to back counseling appointments in the evening like I did for so many years.  And I won't make that calendar so full that I forget to be in the moment.  I am beginning to learn not to jump every time I get a text message or notification on my iPhone for Instagram or Twitter or Facebook,  those things can wait.  They can wait.  While I enjoy the moment.

Now before you think that I am advocating becoming a hippy and being late to all your appointments let me clarify.  I understand that there are jobs and there is reality and there is the clock and all those things are important.  But what I am advocating is to rethink our lives a bit.  Because sometimes what we thought was so important aren't really the important things at all.  And the things that we thought weren't that important are really the most important things in our lives.

It seems like in today's society, or at least in my mind, it seems that the more demands you have, the more people calling, texting, writing you,  the more things you have to do or go to or speak at or be in charge of,  the more you are IN  demand - the more loved you are; the more valuable you are; the more important you are.  My new story says that I am important even if my phone never rings,  I am important even if I never come to anyone's rescue today, even if I didn't save anyone's life.  Even if I didn't run myself ragged by running here and there trying to get way too much accomplished in a day,  I am  valuable, I am loved, and I am so important.

Yes I am writing a new story.  And in my new story, I have time to blow kisses in the wind to my son.

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He Sees Me

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This post is very personal to me. I don’t think that I have ever shared this story with anyone.  Which is odd - specifically because it was one of the most pivotal points in my life.  It was a day I will never forget.

When I was younger,  I  received a very high electrical shock.  I think I was 4 or 5.  We were in Japan and something was wrong with the electrical system in our washing machine.  I don’t remember a lot about it except that there was terror and there was pain and I couldn’t let go of the faucet that I was holding onto at the time.  And I was screaming.

We were not a family that went to the doctor so it’s not a surprise that we didn’t go to the doctor to make sure that everything was okay with me.  Mom just cuddled me and prayed for me.   But something happened to me from that time.   I was a child with severe nervous problems.  As an adult,  I can only describe them as panic attacks.    There were episodes where my stomach felt sick and I was afraid I was going to throw up but it consumed me.  I was  terrified of throwing up.  And it wasn’t just every once in a while.  There was a season in my life that it happened everyday.  And if I didn’t call my dad to pick me up from school,  I wanted to because I always thought I was sick.  It wasn’t always that.  Sometimes I would think that I was going to pass out or faint or die in front of everyone.  I would be humiliated and ruin everyone’s day doing something so far out and so horrible that it would be etched in their mind forever. And I would have no control over it.   Its a hard thing to describe but as a child those were very real fears that I combated daily - sometimes  hourly.

There were chunks of my childhood that literally passed me by as I was dealing with whatever was going on in my head, or my body or my emotions.  I learned to deal with the debilitating fear.  I learned -  but that fear was never far from me.  It was easily called upon and I never really knew when it was going to come out of nowhere and consume me or wreck my day.    

There was one day in Japan… I was really excited.  A minister from the States was going to come and speak to our little church in Japan.  I was so excited.  But there was a problem when i got excited.  Excitement almost always triggered that debilitating fear.  It was always a fear that I would ruin it somehow.  I would throw up or faint, or lose control. However irrational, the fear wasn’t something that I could just talk down.  It was very real and  very terrifying and it overtook me.

I was eleven.  I went to the bathroom,   and I fell in a heap on the floor,  crying.  I remember this as vividly as I remember yesterday.  Feeling the cool tile on my legs.  Lifting my hands up to the sky in desperation, I cried,  “Lord,  when are you going to hear the cry of my lonely soul and see the desires of my heart?”   The cry of my soul was to be free.  The desire of my heart was to be free.  I just wanted to be free.  With all that I had within me,  as a child of eleven,  I just wanted to be free.

During an episode,  my right hand would shake violently.  This day was no different.  I couldn’t control it.  I sat there sobbing for a bit.  I waited until it subsided, until my hand stopped shaking, until I could face the world again.  No one would know the moment that I had in the bathroom.  I got up and splashed water on my face and walked cautiously out of the bathroom.  I tried to busy myself  so that I wouldn’t get another episode like this.

That night,  we went to the meeting and I was sitting in the front row, as I always did.   The minister walked up to me, looked me in the eye and pointed his bony finger right at me.  “The Lord wants to say something to you.”  I looked up at him,  for a moment terrified that I would have another episode but a peace settled on me as I met his stare.  “ The Lord says,  ‘Daughter,  I hear the cry of your lonely soul and I see the desires of your heart…”   Word for word what I had cried out to the Lord in sheer desperation just hours before.   It was in that moment I knew that I would serve the Lord forever.

  My nervous episodes didn’t disappear immediately, as you might suppose.  I was not delivered from them that night instantaneously.  But there was something about the fact that God knew me.  He knew me so intimately that he quoted word for word what I had said - I knew that I could make it.  I knew that it was going to be okay.  God knew me.

There was a woman in the Bible that said the same thing.  Her name was Hagar

She was carrying Abraham's child and although it was at Sarai’s suggestion,  she began to be a bully to Hagar.  She wasn’t treating her well.    Hagar couldn’t take it anymore and she ran away.

I can imagine what she felt like -  afraid, devastated and totally alone.   But while Hagar was on the road an angel of the Lord met her.  He gave her a message from the Lord.  He told her she was going to have a boy.  He told her the future and he told her to go back to Sarai.

What the Lord told her was hard.  They weren’t easy things to hear and he had asked her to do something incredibly difficult.    But suddenly her world was different because God knew her.  She built an altar and said,  “The Lord sees me.”  You see,  God didn’t change the circumstances in Hagar’s life.  But the revelation that God saw her, changed her life; it changed her perspective.    She was justified in running away.  She was going through some  awful things.  She wasn’t just being weak.  But she could obey God in returning home, she could live in those circumstances again and bear it,  because God saw her.  Really saw her.

Today, as you read this,  God sees you.  He sees you if you are lonely.  He sees you if you are terrified.  He sees you if you are broken.  Even if no one else sees  you.  Even if you feel like you are carrying your burden completely by yourself - you are not.  Because God sees you.   

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Spring

I knew this would happen.  I knew it would.  I have been through enough seasons to know that eventually it will come.

After such a long winter, after so much loss, so much pain, so many unanswered questions, uncertainty, hail and storms and bitter bitter, icy cold,  it is spring outside.  The cold did not overtake me.  It did not kill me.  Even though it felt like it would surely swallow me up,  it didn't.  And today it's spring.

And I feel the newness of spring.  I feel it in my bones.  I feel the change and the reshaping and the redefining and I am not terrified anymore.   Maybe tomorrow I will be again, but I am not today and I will take it.  I will take it one day at a time.  I won't waste time worrying about what tomorrow will bring,  because today it's spring.

Spring speaks of newness.  It speaks of hope and beautiful warm days.  Spring embodies new life and leaving the old behind.  This morning I was reminded of Saul on his way to Jerusalem to capture Christians.  He was full of passion.  He was propelled by the certainty of the vision that he had within his soul.  And then on that day, on a lonely road to Damascus, riding on a black Stallion, clutching a sword at his side, sure of everything in his life,  God literally knocked him to the ground.  He completely changed the course of his life.  He redefined who Saul was.  In a moment he was changed from being a man who despised christians to being one of them.  In a second, he was changed from being passionate to kill the Christians to being fiercely passionate about bringing everyone into the Christian world.  On that day, when Saul's life was so certian, when Saul knew what he was doing, knew what he had to do and knew what his life's purpose was, he became a man who was rattled to the core.  Everything that he lived for, everything he fought for, was reduced to nothing and he became, for a season, a man vulnerable, weak and completely blind while God himself took His big Hands and reinvented him.

What a beautiful picture of God's redemptive love.  What a beautiful picture of God coming to meet, to change, to revolutionize.  It's never to late to change.  It's never too late to be reinvented.  When God says it's time, then it is.  When God puts a finger on you - it's never too late.

And TODAY, as I look outside,  my soul matches the weather.  Today it's spring inside too.  It's been a long bitter winter but as my friend so aptly puts it, spring will be glorious indeed.

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WordsWords.JPG

The other day a friend of mine sent me this picture.  Immediately I smiled.  I remember when I slipped it in her Bible.  She had left her Bible at my place so before I gave it to her,  I slipped a few notes in her bible like this.  And suddenly I remembered all those words I have written to people.   There are literally people all over the world that bare my words on their heart.   You see,  I decided a long time ago that I wanted my words to carry life.  I want my words to carry healing.  I want adults to remember a woman when they were children - I want them to remember a woman with a flowing, crazy sparkling dress and flower in her hair that said,  "You can" when they lived in a world of "you can'ts."

Do you remember those people in your lifetime?  Do you remember those people who believed in you;  who encouraged you to not give up and to dreams big dreams?  I have those people in my life.  I remember one such lady in my 8th grade.  She was my English teacher.  I can't even remember her name.  I loved that woman.  I was going through a difficult time in my life at that time.  She picked up on it.  I don't remember why.  I don't remember if my grades were slipping or if I shared something in my journal writing or what.  But she had me stay after class so that she could talk to me.  And really she just listened.  She just listened to me tell her everything in my life that was upside down right at that moment.  She listened and she encouraged me.  She encouraged me to write.  She encouraged me to dream.  She told me that it would be okay.  I won't ever forget that.  I have never told her how or what that meant to me.  She may never know.  But she touched a chord in my heart.  She made a difference in my life.  I want to be her - I want to be my English teacher to other people around me.

I've thought of people in the states, in Japan, in Canada, in the Philipines, in Thailand - that I have spoken words of encouragement to; words of hope.   How many of them still have those pieces of paper, those text messages, those cards, those emails?  How many still remember?

We have to remember that our words hold life or death in them.  We have to remember the power of those words.  Because what my friend didn't know is that the exact time when she sent that picture to me,  I was asking God if I had made a big enough impact; if I had been enough, if there were enough people changed and healed and loved through my actions and through my words.  She doesn't know (until now) how much that one text message impacted me.

This is gold.  This is what the Christian life is all about.  This is what community is all about.  Life giving words.  I believe that this is what Jesus meant when he said,  "Your faith has made you whole."  He was encouraging - he was saying "good for you."  He was patting them on the back for a job well done.

I want to leave in the wake of my life,  people impacted by my words - whether or not I ever knew it.  At the end of the day,  I want a line-up of people clutching little pieces of paper; holding text messages, remembering words spoken like gold; like treasures.

In this crazy mixed up world that we live in, everyone needs to be loved; everyone needs to dream; everyone needs to believe that they are worth it.  I want to be that voice; I want to be that whisper into their soul:

You can do it.

You are worth it.

You are loved.

Who do you need to encourage this week?  Who do you need to speak words of life to?  Close your eyes.  Ask God - he will tell you.

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We Grew Up Together

We were just kids when we got married; hardly dry behind the ears.   We were young enough to know nothing, but believe that we knew everything.

I married Jeremy,  obviously because I love him deeply, but also because I knew that life wouldn't be boring with him.   I never wanted to be one of THOSE women.  You know the kind -  the kind that most girls dream of becoming.  I never wanted to be the woman who got married and had kids and lived in a sweet little house with a white picket fence and did laundry and made meals and lived happily ever after.   That sounded boring to me.  I wanted adventure;  I wanted the unexpected; I wanted big dreams.  I must admit, on a side note,  that since I married Jeremy,  I have indeed prayed for" boring" just a few times for a little while.

I remember when I first started dating him - he took my breath away.  I could hardly stand when I was around him.  You can ask everyone who went to Bible College with me - my heart would melt when he played the piano or sang.  I would end up laughing giddily while I clutched my heart.  I was a mess.  I would pay people to drive me across town where he worked at Farrells Ice Cream Parlour -   even though there was one much closer to where the Bible College was.   And he never got to sit with us.  He was too busy.  He only got to wave.  That's all.  I paid people so that I could see him wave.   He really got me.  I absolutely knew that he was the one.  Who cares that neither of us knew how to do anything but preach?  Who cares that we didn't have a dime to our name and he didn't have a job in his home town?  We were in love.

When we first started going out we were both cautioned - both of us separately;  we were told that this wouldn't last; that this wasn't wise.   I had just (and when i say "just" I mean two weeks prior) gotten out of a long term relationship and really they were right - for the typical couple, it wasn't wise or the right timing.  But for us,  it worked.  It's not something we would ever advise anyone to do but for us it was perfect.  We were perfect.

When the year at Bible College was over,  he came back to Lethbridge and I went back to California where my family was living at the time.  Now keep in mind that this was before the internet and before iphones and before skyping and facetiming and twittering and instagram and all of the other wonderful things that keep us connected now.  We did snail mail and we did 20 minutes on the phone weekly.  He called one week and i called the next.  And yet we survived.   We survived during our dating, during our courtship and during our engagement.

I remember Jeremy telling me about our apartment that we were moving into.  Tiny, run down in an edgy part of town.  But it was perfect for us.  One of the times he called me he told me about the brown couch that was given to us.  That tacky, brown fold out plastic couch was what we had for the first four years of our marriage until God miraculously provided for us the couch of my dreams.

In essence,  Jer and I grew up together.  Together we learned the value of life.   Together we learned the value of commitment and together we learned the value of budgeting.   Together we learned to trust God when we didn't have money for our rent or for our groceries and for our toilet paper.  And boy did we see God provide - time and time again.  We were raised in families that lived by faith; now we were growing up together - learning first hand what our parents had taught us from tiny children.

We may have had nothing when we got married and yet we had each other - so we had everything. Our lives were full and rich.  I would never advise a couple to get married so young - so fresh out of high school.  And yet,  more importantly,  I would never advise NOT to either.      It was the right time for us.  I don't regret a minute of being married.

Marriage is a challenge anytime you do it - whether you are 18, 20 or 45.  Each age brings its own special challenges.   Marriage means you can't store up your arguments or the hurtful things you said to each other or the disappointments you have in each other inside your soul and stack them up to make a fortress for protection.  Marriage means you have to learn when to let go or when to hold on for dear life.  Marriage means you have to have a soft heart and thick skin at the same time.   It means you have to be willing to stay up into the night and with tears streaming down your weary cheeks,  talk about some really hard things.   It means you have to really invest and fight for what you hold dear because you know that good things are really hard work.  Good marriages don't come easily.

Jeremy and I have been through moves, and church splits and losses, and pain and job searching and identity searches and rebellious teens, and terrible twos and crazy, scary pregnancies,  beautiful grandkids, lovely vacations and treacherous vacations. We have been through it all together.   Now, we look at each other and we know what the other person is thinking.  We can finish each other's sentences most of the time or start in the middle of a thought we were thinking months ago because we know what we are talking about.  Because it's been 30 years.

There were times in our lives when all we knew was that we had each other and we had God.  And that was enough - for a time, that was enough.

Thirty years of watching those around us moving on,  getting divorces, having affairs - and yet we have been the lucky ones.  We have been the ones who got dealt a very good hand - and that was each other.

Together we learned things about each other.  I learned that I was NEVER to call the waitress back and have her bring his dish back if it was wrong (did I say NEVER?) and he learned to NEVER tell me that my tears were "just my period."  I learned that if he punched me in the middle of the night,  he was truly just asleep and would never remember in the morning - therefore he wouldn't know why I wasn't talking to him.  And he learned that he should never write new music and or look up new things on his computer when I was trying to share with him the deep issues of my heart.

We learned that we may be really angry with each other today,  but tomorrow was coming and if we didn't forget about it entirely,  it just might not matter so much anymore.

We learned that being rich didn't always mean having money in our bank account and being happy didn't always mean having our ducks in a row.   We learned that we could have peace in really tough situations and we could give even when we had nothing.

Jeremy and I are totally opposite in just about everything in life.  I am actually not kidding.  If i look at some type of food or furniture or vacation choice - if I love it,  I can almost guarantee that Jer wouldn't like it at all.   I am a people person - my refreshing time is being in the midst of a loud party and people everywhere - his refreshing time is being alone with his guitar.   I think a meal is not a meal without meat.  Jer is a vegetarian when he can be.   I love to shop - especially at christmas time when all the lights and music and people and bling - so much bling everywhere.   At Christmastime,  Jer is on stimulation overload when at the mall.   He loves vanilla icecream and I just can't think  of why anyone would even like vanila ice cream when there is "chocolate with nuts and caramel and marshmallows and whatever else you can stick in there" icecream.

One of our biggest differences is this:  I need to get things done RIGHT NOW and he needs to get things done RIGHT.   When we dieted,  I exercised 2 hours every day (no lie) and he did ONE MINUTE of jumping jacks perfectly.  The sad thing is,  he lost way faster and way more than I did.  What's up with that?!  Now this is the way we are in EVERYTHING in life.    We are so different.  And this is what we learned about our differences.    Instead of judging each other for our differences.  Instead of criticizing or mocking (Ok,  we mock in fun sometimes still)  we have learned to not only accept our differences but to celebrate them; to actually appreciate them.  At the end of the day I need his differences and he needs mine.  I need him to stabilize me.  I need him to be my rock.  And he needs me for inspiration.  He needs me to go shopping and buy stuff - otherwise we would still have that same tacky, brown, plastic couch that we had  30 years ago.

We learned forgiveness - not just of each other but of ourselves as well.  Forgiveness for immaturity, for mistakes,  for wrong choices, for being imperfect; for being human.

Together we learned to give and give and give.  And we learned when it was time to take and take.  WE learned the rhythm of life together and with each other,  however  beautiful, painful, lovely and hard it is.  We learned it together as we grew up together.

That was then and this is now.  We are still learning.  We are learning about life and God and each other and pain and laughter.   We will always be learning and there is no one I would rather learn with but Jeremy Hazell - Happy Anniversary!!!!We_grew_up_together_and_we_learned.jpg

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