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Sunday, 25 September 2011

The Whole of the Net

We have some neighbourhood boys who have taken delight in our big net-enclosed trampoline.  They head on over with their quad, ring the doorbell and ask if they can jump away.  I always smile and say "of course!"  Finally, I told them they were welcome anytime and did not have to ask each time.  So every now and again, I would glance out the front window to see these two boys jumping with big grins on their faces, doing flips and other acrobatics that leave me cringing inside for their safety, but thanking God for the safety of the net around them!

Sigh... I do suppose boys will be boys, right?

For weeks now I have watched them but earlier in the week, Anika came running in from the front yard yelling "THE BOYS MADE A BIG HOLE IN THE NET!!"  I made my way to the door only to watch the boys leaving on their quad.  Sure enough, I followed Anika who showed me a six square-inch rip at the base of the net.

At first, I felt really disappointed.  Could it be that the boys did not realize they had ripped the net?  That's a pretty significant rip to not have to have pulled your own foot out of.  Did one of the boys get hurt?  Did they take off because they felt ashamed or scared that I would be angry with them?  Should I go over and speak with them or wait until they come back?

Finally, Duane was the one who wisely said "Sometimes with boys, it takes them a few days to fess up to something they feel bad about.  Give them some time and they'll come by."

But several days came and went and I was sad to see that they weren't coming by anymore.  More than anything, I missed seeing their big goofy grins as they jumped ridiculously high.  I missed knowing we could provide these boys with something that made them laugh as they would.  As each day passed, I was sad that they were letting what I assumed was their shame from coming back... and I missed them.

To my delight, a couple of days ago, the eldest of the boys came to my door.  He looked truly sorry and could barely look me in the eyes.  I was just so happy to see him as I knew exactly why he was there.  He shuffled his feet and said with great remorse, "Mrs. Vaags, I am really sorry about breaking your net."  I just couldn't help myself and asked him if I could give him a hug and he nodded and let me pull this big tall young man into my arms.  I looked him straight in the eyes and said "I am so proud of you for coming and telling us.  I was hoping you would do exactly that.  We know that accidents happen and that you did not mean to break the net.  It's okay."  He seemed a little choked up as he asked "Is there anything we can do to fix it?"  I simply replied that we would do what we can to mend it but that in the end, it is just a net.  Finally I asked "Is this why you haven't been by?  Because you felt bad?"  He looked at the ground and nodded.  Again, I looked him straight in the eyes and said "I want you to know that you can always come to us if something has happened that you feel bad about.  I have missed your big smile when you jump on that trampoline and I'm just glad that you came by as you did."

As I watched him walk away, I had to fight the tears from my own eyes as it hit me like a tonne of bricks how often I have "hidden" myself from God because I have felt ashamed of my own choices.  How often has He simply waited for me to come to Him with the information He is more than aware of to be accountable?  How often has He missed me while I struggled with my sins?  And does He feel this happy when each of us finally takes that walk up to His door, dreading His wrath or judgement, only to be met with the sheer joy that shame has not kept us apart anymore?

So these boys reminded me of a very valuable lesson in my own faith.  Even as I type this, I think of how meagre my own joy is in comparison to what our very FATHER would feel when we finally come to Him!  I am grateful that there is a hole in our net.  Part of me doesn't know if I want to fix it or not (although the practical side of me says 'um, yes, small children need to not have their legs fall through that hole!).  But I am glad that even if fixed, the marked difference will be our reminder not to hide from our Father because we feel ashamed.  There is nothing He does not already know and He misses us more than we can realize when we create that separation from Him.

May these words find you thinking of times you have felt frustrated by something going wrong and the hidden message God slipped in there for you.  May you look back on those moments with the eyes to see what He longs us to see.... and may you feel lifted as you let go of past hurts realizing they have been your blessings all along.  Isn't that just how He works?  What initially feels like a punishment, is an incredible opportunity to see His grace and His love!  How many times have I missed it?

God bless you all out there and may you close that gap of shame that keeps you from knocking on his door to say "I am sorry."  He waits eagerly and misses you with all of His big heart.  And if you find there's a big lineup to His door, chances are you'll see me there, too!

Saturday, 24 September 2011

A Glimpse Into our Sabbath

Shabbat Shalom, dear ones!  Finally another week has wound down and I am actually sitting down to do things NOT on my ever-growing list of To-Do's!!  Ah... it's so nice to sit down guilt-free and do what I actually LOVE to do!  Sweet, sweet Sabbath, indeed!

On Friday nights when we watch for the sun to touch the horizon, we anticipate the start of Sabbath with cups of "Sabbath Juice" (grape juice) and a readiness in our hearts to reflect on the past week.  We start with the littlest one (who still grows in my womb) and we ask the question "What was the best part of your week?  What was the worst part of your week?  What would you like us to pray for?"  For our Littlest One, the best part of the week is usually "growing a little bit bigger and stronger!"  The worst part is "finding it getting squishier in here!"  The kids usually giggle at my attempt at a high baby voice but they love asking the baby these questions.

Next we go to Sivana who has typically already been put to bed by this point but whose highlight of the week is usually things like NOT getting any more bleeding noses (will explain another time) or eating food.  Worst part of her week is usually that she STILL has only TWO teeth!!  This makes enjoying her food a little more challenging.

Ethan's highlight of his week is, without fail, consistently "going for FAST quad rides on the bumpies!"  We have some big mud hills by the ditches around the farm and Duane often takes the kids up and down the sides of the ditches (not MY idea of safety, but the kids sure love it).  And Ethan's worst part of his week is when he DOESN'T get to go for a quad ride!  He always asks to pray for more rain for the fields... too cute.

Anika has a more worldly approach.  She gets the rolls of the eyes from Mina & Duane but I definitely get her heart.  She wants us to pray for the world, or for love, for everyone's family and friends.  The highlight of her week is usually when she gets to be helpful to Melina with chores and the worst part of her week is when she chooses to make bad decisions.  I get her heart because this is how I think about things, too.  But she and I are definitely considered the "cheese" factory of the family!!

Isabel's highlight of the week is when she's had fewer seizures and the worst part is often having had one big seizure that was scary.  As for prayers, we ask for continued health and safety for her and a life of less suffering.

Melina is usually glad that Friday has finally arrived and this marks the highlight of her week.  Worst part of her week usually has to do with disappointment with bad choices she watches her dear friends beginning to make and resulting sense of separation.  This saddens her but I have talked with her about this for the last few years telling her to watch with open eyes for these changes and to choose for herself if she wants to follow blindly like a sheep for the sake of being with all those peers or if she is ready and willing to take the narrow road which often looks like it will be lonely, but she will be most delightfully surprised at the presence of God she will discover there.  I am so proud of her wisdom and the journey she has embarked upon from wanting nothing more than to fit in with the rest of the world, to recognizing the true value of being WHO she is fearless of whether this finds her standing alone or not.

Someone once said, "It's better to be hated for who you ARE than to be loved for who you are NOT."

Duane and I take our turns summarizing highlights and downfalls of the week... my highlights having to do with new discoveries or special moments shared with someone and the downfalls being discovering a new weakness or inner struggle.  Duane's highlights have to do with the farm and his disappointments also reside in his deep desire to understand how to farm nourishing foods successfully without the use of any chemicals.  He longs more than anything to farm full time but with the big losses we've endured these last few years, had it not been for his firefighting job, we likely would have filed for bankruptcy twice over by now!  This obviously weighs very heavily on his heart.

With all of our hearts poured out, we join hands and bow our heads as Duane prays a blessing upon each one of us.  Then we lift up our cups and shout "SHABBAT SHALOM!!!" and the clinking of glasses resonates as we celebrate the start of a special day.

With a big purple moustache on the kids' faces, and Ethan licking his chaps and asking for more Sabbath Juice, I pick up the guitar and we sing some of our favourite songs starting with "Thank You God".

The time is sacred and had God not commanded this of us, the sad thing is that I do not know that we would have chosen this for ourselves.  But now that we do this, I could not imagine a greater blessing upon our family!  Just goes to show that He really does know best, doesn't He?  How many times have I sat there thinking that I am the ruler of my own life, that I know what's best for ME only to discover that what He had in store for me far exceeds my wildest imagination?

And as I learn His laws and discover the significance behind them, it is becoming easier and easier to TRUST that these rules are laid out for a LOVING purpose!  I seem to resist them at first, not recognizing the gift in them but surrender to them through obedience, only to discover the life-giving aspect of them to the point where I honour them through my love and TRUST in God.

Sometimes I sit and laugh at some of the 613 conditions as I cannot understand WHY certain processes are expected of us... but I realize now I am trying to pour the ocean into my limited bucket of understanding!  It is impossible!

But I see more and more everyday that I am WILLING and TRUST His word and His desire for us as His children.  He is proving beyond a shadow of doubt that His perfection and magnitude far exceeds what I can fathom or ever understand... that as He alone created the story from beginning to end, who am I to question such a meagre part of the middle where this tiny grain of sand now stands?

What a gracious God that He would grant us salvation through the blood of His sacred son, and what a gracious God that He would lay out for us His rules to live by that ensure we do not follow blindly like sheep being led by a wolf cleverly disguised... but rather EQUIPPED to know when we are being misled and strong enough in our love and desire to be with Him to turn away from the current of the crowd to seek His truth... even if it feels that we stand alone.

So my darling brothers and sisters... today I pray that your hearts recognize His truth within you.  It is there.  He has said that it is there.  It is His breath of life... His RUACH (spirit of God) that thrives within you, in the very temple that is your body.  So you ARE equipped to know what is truth and what is not.  So be fearless in honouring what draws you nearer to Him even if it means stepping away from the comforts of tradition(s).  Close your eyes and feel the very life flow through you... you, who are sacred to Him.  You, who are beautiful to Him.  You, whom He longs to be with.  He alone is our Shepherd who could never lead us astray.

I love you all out there... you, my brothers and sisters.  God bless you all.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Truly a day of rest!

Ah... the end of another Sabbath.  Duane has had to work at the firehall for the past four Sabbaths so today was the first time we felt united as a family in nearly five weeks... and it was beautiful.

To update you somewhat on our lives, the young woman I referred to as a potential live-in nanny was officially hired three weeks ago.  She has been immersed in our family and has been grafted in as a member!  She is like a younger sister / daughter to me and nearly our every conversation is about God.  She is passionate about sharing her God-given gifts in any way she can, being a servant unto others, singing His praise and offering up her life to Him.  Somedays, in the midst of the chaos that is our lives, I stop and ask her "any regrets joining us?" and she gets a big grin on her face and says "no way!"

Needless to say, she is a blessing to us and we pray to be as much a blessing to her in any way we can.

Our lives have certainly picked up a busy pace as school has resumed.  This means that every other week, I am driving nearly four hours a day bringing Izzy to and from her school in the city.  With our new live-in help, it is a HUGE blessing not to load up three small children and having them spend four hours of their day in a vehicle!  Now with harvest mostly over and our busy farm season slowing down, Duane will be able to help with some of those drives, too.  Three days a week, I stop at the gym for a good vigorous workout.  I am the heaviest I have ever been in my life and my concern is for my growing baby.  As long as I am pregnant or nursing, my body does not shed any weight so there has been no difference there despite five weeks of active vigorous workouts, but at least I feel healthier and like I am playing an active role in my overall well being.

Monday mornings, Anika has swim lessons.  Tuesdays, Melina has voice lessons.  Thursdays Anika has preschool while I do my weekly grocery shop and Fridays are busy with Sabbath prep and winding down from another busy week.

So today was a much welcomed rest!  Shalom (peace) filled our home and the praise that spilled forth from my heart was abundant and energizing.  I began to write a song about Jesus' quote "Let the children come to me."  Mostly it is about how they are given the eyes to "see"... that while I have often prayed for the little ones who are abused, raped, killed, abandoned, etc.. I often forget to pray for those who oppress them.  Afterall, I have known first hand what it is like to fall away from God and how darkness fills your head with thoughts that you no longer deserve to be in His light.  Something convinces you that you are undeserving, that you will never be worthy therefore why bother trying to change?  These are clearly thoughts from darkness but I know them all too well.  Even those who oppress children are still deserving of His grace... otherwise He would have never sent Jesus.  So the song is remembering that if He has given children the eyes to see, perhaps He has given them the strength to recognize that it is their oppressors who are not free.  And in the end, we are ALL His children and He wants us all to come to Him.  So that is the song in the works as of today.  We'll see where it goes.

I was also finally able to go next door to visit our ninety-four year old widowed neighbour.  I was able to bring her some soup and some apple crisp and some fresh coffee to share together.  She is feisty (I think you have to be to live to ninety-four and STILL live on your own in the country!) and I loved every minute with her!  She shared how she wept for three years when her husband died... in fact, I learned that he died right here on our property!  He had been sick for a couple of weeks and just wanted to get out of the house for a while and came by to visit Duane's father and to pick up some hay, but he collapsed and never got up again.  I felt honoured that she shared what she did.  It was nice to be with her and to listen to her stories.  She truly is an amazing woman!  I only pray and hope I can work even half as hard as she has in her life and with the same amount of gusto!  "I will never leave this place" she said to me "even though everyone says I am crazy.  But it would kill me to leave here... this is where my husband's memories are."

The day was filled with the Lord and it felt so blessed.  I wish every day could be like this but without the piling up of dishes!! :)  It feels right when every conversation comes back to God... as though He himself is the very foundation of everything!  After all, I suppose He IS our rock from which we are to build our house!

The children rejoice in days like today, too.  Mommy and daddy are present, reading books and singing songs together, making time for each other and for the sake of togetherness.  And the mental permission to be at rest in every way makes it easier to surrender fully to a holy day, and to greet these family times with more patience and grace.

So there you have it, my dear loved ones.  Life is abundant and your prayers bless our family beyond words.  My baby grows healthily and my hand is often making its way to rubbing my belly again.  I cannot imagine a life richer in blessings than ours and I feel as though it is thanks to the blessing of your prayers out there.  I hope so much that our prayers for all of you are near as potent as yours!

May this find you enjoying whatever moment you have right now.  May the peace of our day pour forth through these words and find their way into your hearts.  May you join us in the sanctity of this day through your willingness to be a part of our family through this little blog.  And may our prayers reach you and bless you as you have blessed us.  In Jesus' precious name... Amen.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Hearing the hearts cry out

I was laying there trying to rest this afternoon while the little ones were sleeping when I felt stirred to come down and reconnect with all of you.  So hello, my dears!  I have missed you!

My thoughts have been to many places but just now they landed on the realization I have had since I was very little... that fear keeps us from being WHO we are.  Fear of what others may think, fear of awkwardness, fear of rejection and/or ridicule.  These are all very real and hurt very deeply when we put ourselves out there only to feel as though the door has been slammed in our faces.

That's when God taught me to give from my heart so that once it leaves who I am, it is no longer mine... whatever happens to it cannot affect me.  Then my heart can truly become, a gift.

So I have often asked myself "what fear is keeping me from being completely myself?"  And "what am I prepared/willing to do about it?"

And so I will share with you something about who I am that I often reserve for when I have truly gotten to know someone.  Even then, there are times I think it may create too much awkwardness and I merely keep it to myself.

Well, I no longer want to be the judge of what other people can handle or not.  I will be authentic, real, genuine and trust that you will decide for yourself if you want to create awkwardness between us, or accept that this may be "unique", or appreciate the risk I have taken to be as real as I can with you... without fear.

Here goes...

Since I have been little, it's as though I can "see" people's hearts.  Perhaps "feel" their hearts is a better word to use here.  I think that is why people's anger towards me or harshness does not always cut deep because my eyes see past that to their hearts and the cross that they bear in their life and I see my equal as a sinner, as a child of God, as someone struggling in this life no differently than I am.

Some people have a light that shines through their eyes.  I call it "God light."  These are people whose hearts I can feel serve others, give unconditionally and rejoice at being a servant unto others.  It's not to say they are faultless... none of us are!  But their hearts emanate a strength or harmonious rhythm that is in sync with God's love.  Does that make sense?

I actually believe we ALL have this ability... to see each other for who we really are, but sometimes we let our egos and hurts or FEARS build up walls or barriers that make us turn a blind eye to what is real in our fellow brother or sister.  In fearing being seen for who we really are, we miss out on seeing who others truly are.

Sometimes this gifts extends into that person's health.  I have sometimes sat next to someone and have felt overwhelmed with the pain emanating from a specific part of their body.  Other times it comes in the form of an image.

I sat next to a young woman once at a party whom I did not know, only her name.  I felt a great heat radiating from her stomach and I swallowed my fear of making a fool of myself and asked her, "are you suffering a great deal with stomach pains?"  She blinked at me in surprise and looked slightly uncomfortable but answered "yes... very much so."  The feeling of motherhood swept over me and the image of two siblings so I asked her, "you have two siblings?"  Again she blinked and said "yes."  "You are not the eldest but you take care of both of them, don't you?"  She nodded in dismay.  Then a fatherly figure flashed before my mind with a crippled left arm so I interpreted that to the best of my ability and continued, "Is your father quite sick with a crippled left arm?"  At this point, she seemed to have surrendered to whatever you'd call this interaction (almost relieved) and said "yes, he has cancer in his left arm."  "And that is when your stomach pains started?"  At that question, she did the math in her head and seemed amazed that the two incidences seemed to coincide.  Her heart was heavy with the burden of parenting her two siblings and the stress/fear of it all was affecting her stomach.  She suffered this quietly, which is when someone's heart cries out to me the most, as these are the ones that suffer the most.  Finally I said to her "Everything will be just fine regardless of what you do.  Please resume being a loving sister and daughter and know that you cannot control whatever the outcome may be.  But know that whatever that outcome is, all will be perfectly fine."

To my dismay, tears were falling from her eyes and she gave me the biggest hug.  I have no idea what the outcome turned out to be but I took a big risk because I feared her own heart's well-being over my being ridiculed.  My ego was no match for what I felt crying out from her heart.

One time I did let awkwardness keep me from speaking out.  There was a man in his late forties whom we saw on a weekly basis at community gatherings but he and his family mostly kept to themselves.  One day I looked at him and was amazed to see a very old and sickly man!  I had to blink my eyes as I thought perhaps the lighting was playing tricks on me.  And then I felt a cry from his colon (yes, I know that sounds positively silly) but I even said to Duane, "I think that man has colon cancer."  Duane seemed surprise as this was a very healthy family and this man was still so young but sure enough within three months, it was announced that he was diagnosed with progressive colon cancer.

If I had not been afraid of misinterpreting the "feeling" and of creating awkwardness between us and this family, could I have helped them gain some critical time in fighting this?  Why did I let fear keep me from sharing what I felt?

I am amazed at how much our body's ailments seem to coincide with things we have struggled to let go of.  And that is sometimes where people's hearts cry out.  Sometimes I hear them, sometimes I do not.  I pray that these instances are gifts from God but sometimes I feel afraid that they may not be.  Afterall, what am I to do with them?  There are many times I have kept my mouth shut for fear of ruining the relationships I have, or for fear of misunderstanding the "feelings."  But do I "see" these things because they are meant to be addressed?  How can this bring glory to God?

I know He changes my heart when He does these things because it challenges me to look beyond a person's current state of mind (grumpy, irritable, angry, vengeful) to see deeper to the heart of the matter.  Every single person struggles through life... I have not felt a single heart that did not have to push through traumas, painful events, etc...  Maybe that is why it feels effortless to love you all out there... I KNOW you suffer.  I KNOW you weep.  I KNOW you feel afraid of what you may be or what you may not be, and of what others think you are.  And worst of all, I know so many of you suffer these fears ALONE.

And it makes me wish that God would grant me the biggest/longest arms in the world that I could stretch out and collect every one of you, and rock you lovingly on my lap reassuring you that you are precious, that you are designed to heal, that nothing can touch your soul... not your past mistakes, not the ones you make willingly, not the ones you make unknowingly.  Your soul belongs to God and God alone which means you contain His beauty within you.  Do not ever LIMIT yourselves to your mistakes!  They could never DEFINE you!  But they will play key roles in SHAPING you!  Do not let shame prevent your mistakes from teaching you... and do not let shame keep you from sharing your new-gained wisdom with others.  We're in this life together, good and bad.  May we be loving and gracious in our interactions with each other.

And please, please, please, do not rob yourself of healing by telling yourself you cannot share your pain with others because you may be perceived as weak!  It takes far more courage and strength to reach out with your pain than to contain it within yourself.  And trust me, I hear the hearts cry out whose suffering is so loud with loneliness and no one on this earth should bear that burden alone.  No one.

So may this posting reach out to you and love you just as you are.  May you be freed from fear of being alone in your faults and mistakes.  May you be loved for being here by God's Will... and may you forgive yourself your mistakes and let them shape you in wisdom.  I love you very much, truly, from the bottom of my heart.  And if this meagre, struggling human being can love you this much, just imagine how much God must love you!!

God bless you all out there!