Monday, November 28, 2011

Capturing A History Of Faithfulness

I find my way to an aisle seat for a good view of the platform, and I plop my camera bag on the next chair. I search the familiar faces, nod and smile, and commence photographing the faithful congregation of Stoney Creek Community Church. I'd done this same thing before, in celebration of their twentieth, and here I am again, rejoicing alongside of my childhood friend, at her little church.
It all began with just four of them, Pastor and Mrs. Clarke, my friend and her sister. They left a prestigious life behind to embrace the call to the ministry in another province. Many times they struggled through hardships no pastor ever wants to encounter, but here we all are at twenty-five years, praising God for His faithfulness.
I have vested interest here. You see, when I was a teenager, and times were tough, it was this couple that wrapped their arms around me in their living room and prayed over me. It was their daughter, who remained my friend over the years, us having babies together and celebrating milestones. And so, as I travel the sanctuary, focusing and clicking the shutter button, I'm capturing not only faces, but saints who have persevered and designed a welcoming place for the weary life-travellers of this city. I watch as person after person step forward to share how they've been changed here and loved--I too, am silently one of them. We know that the Lord is first and foremost in this haven.
With an ear to the pulpit, I float quietly about the room, as they had asked--an invisible historian. The congregation laughs, I see them wiping tears. I am moved. I am humbled. I love it here and they do too. One couple speaks and sings, another couple shares their thoughts, children sing and play instruments, a celebration blanket is presented, Scripture is read, stories are told, and the Pastor tells of God's goodness to him and his family. And as we boldly raise our voices in the Doxology, the unity of the body of Christ in strong in this room.
God bless you, Pastor and Mrs. Clarke and family. You reflect God's faithfulness to us. I love you.

Gratitude:
1064. persevering Christians who don't abandon their faith through tough circumstances
1065. for those who've returned after abandoning--He's faithful to forgive and receive you back, no matter what!
1066. Virginia and Yvonne who have taught our little group so much about hearing God's voice
1067. for Yvonne's blankets
1068. a bride's excitement and tears during her shower... she's waited so long :)
1069. sisters who always give me something to think about after we've been together
1070. a vision of promise coming to fruition

Monday, November 21, 2011

I DON'T Want To Smile

I strolled into the kitchen this morning and quickly remembered my dishwasher is broken and we've all been too lazy to take the stinky dishes out and do them by hand. I immediately felt deflated. Not to worry for too long, I was determined to have a good school day and so I gathered my chicks in the school room to get started. Somehow, between the doorbell and poor attitudes and other distractions, we lost it. I decided on an early lunch break but, amidst the preparation, I attempted to make Christmas gifts and time got away on me. Four times today, I tried to upload photos on my computer and someone shut it down to do their own thing. Tears came to my eyes and I sunk into a chair, unable to see past the clutter all around me. On top of it all, I received an email from a friend, struggling in her marriage, that was very discouraging. I began feeling like I was losing control altogether. 

My husband arrived in the driveway with one of the tractors. He yelled into the house for me to come and lift him in the bucket up to the roof. He whistled and worked merrily on stringing the Christmas lights along the eaves troughs. His mood bugged me, especially when he noticed my sour expression. So, he called down to me, "Hi Heather!", which is what he calls me when he's being silly... and chipper. I didn't want to smile.

I began to cry out to God after a few hours of this overwhelming cloud of despair. In His grace, He began (gently and slowly) to reveal ways in which I had received negativism in my day, how I accepted defeat. Instead, He wanted me to begin my day with Him, to be filled with His Spirit's contentment first. I blasted my worship music and immediately was uplifted by lyrics that empower the believer to persevere in trials and rest in God. How I ever attempted to face the day without that, I'll never know, and I don't want to try again.

It's nearly dinner and I'm filled with gratitude. I still have dishes, arguing children, and a friend in trouble, but the Lord is shining a light on my next step. The power He has to turn a mind from depressed to joy is only LOVE.

Gratitude:

1056. a husband who is even-keeled in his moods
1057. happy, noisy, energetic children
1058. my health
1059. praise music
1060. Advent celebrations
1061. just enough light for the step I'm on... and the next
1062. bubble baths
1063. how He never changes, but He changes me

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What Breaks The Heart Of God...


He sits behind the glass in bright orange coveralls, holding the black phone to his ear. He's smiling at us but behind his smile are a thousand thoughts and with only twenty allowed minutes, he's itching to get them all out. My mom listens and I watch his moustached mouth moving incessantly. She's whispering a word now and then to keep me part of the conversation. He shifts his weight on the stool and begins gesturing with his hand. He's telling her all about his dog. He's asking her to retrieve the little Jack Russel Terrier from his apartment building superintendent and take care of her until he's out. He misses her terribly and Mom passes the phone to me so he can brag about all the tricks he's taught her. I listen, nodding and smiling. Rosie fetches his glasses, plays dead, can balance a ball on her nose. There's adoration in his voice and I think about what makes a man who's so sensitive and gentle, punch someone in the face.

It's not the first time he's been in here and it's all anger related. But there's a teddy bear deep inside and I am angry at the enemy for prowling in his territory, for taking advantage of a vulnerable and sad little boy, a boy whose mother left him. Now, close to fifty, he doesn't know how to let go of this lifestyle. I hand the phone back to my mom as they work out details and street names. I quickly glance to the left and right at the other inmates--faces also desperate to make time slow for the connection they've been waiting for all week. One visiting woman is crying and just staring through the glass at her loved one. Another brings her baby and holds the pudgy bundle up to the window. Is that Daddy?

I'm snapped back from my thoughts as Mom hands me the phone. Do I have anything I want to say? All I can manage is, "We'll be praying for you." I know it's what he needs more than anything and he drops his head in gratitude. Our time is up and the phone line is cut off. He and Mom, being closer in relationship, hug themselves and point to each other, loving through the barrier. We stand and wave. He's not leaving until we walk away, like catching one last sight of hope on the other side--a picture to carry with him of two people who cared enough to remember him today. I smile one last time and turn toward the locked door.  

I had reluctantly come to "visit those in prison" as it is written in Matthew 25. This afternoon was to be company for my mom. I had felt I didn't have time to come but my husband had said I "needed to go", that we all need to experience this. He was right. The atmosphere of this place is humbling. How different am I from this unfortunate man? I too, am a sinner dealing with anger but I can hide it a lot better than he can. Does that make me more righteous in the eyes of a Holy God? Do I break His heart when I do what I know I shouldn't? Mom and I stroll through long corridors and return to the entrance of Maplehurst Prison, pick up our belongings and return our locker key. I speak the Holy Spirit's peace to our friend because His Spirit is resident in me, so I can. I open my heart to God moving me through this experience today. I want to see life through Jesus' eyes. I want to go where He wants me to go, without reluctance. I want to praise Him for the grace that allows me to wake each morning in my own home, regardless of my sin. I want that which breaks His heart, to break mine.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Couple Of Requests

I pick up the teaspoon and stir the orange pekoe slowly as I listen to little voices drifting in from the living room. I hold the spoon still for a moment, as I realize my husband is doing bedtime prayers with my two middle girls. Molly's voice is soft and she sounds thoughtful but I can only make out a few words; some are about Christmas. She ends with, "And, I'm going to cancel the iPod Touch."

Well, phew! I suppose I can cross that off my list, lol!

Next is Emily, and again, I can only catch bits and pieces. She's thanking God, with fervor, for the coconut I just bought her at the grocery store. She had asked for it for a few weeks and I finally said yes. She was so excited to try something new but being bedtime, we told her she must wait until tomorrow. Then, attached to her gratitude for the tropical delicacy, she adds, "I'm sorry that's it's really not big enough to share with my family."

I peek around the corner and catch my husband's contorted expression. He stops her in her tracks, "Hey! I think you can share your coconut with us."

Emily closes her eyes and continues, with all seriousness, "And, please, help me to get up before seven so Daddy doesn't eat my coconut before he goes to work. Amen."

Who is raising these children anyway? :)
I will be sad when their prayers become less amusing, lol!

Gratitude:

1044. innocent prayer and the faith that God will do it!
1045. developmentally delayed simplicity in answering questions from my story (at Friendship Club)
1046. Reese Peanut Butter Cups (have I mentioned that one before?)
1047. pre-teens and their antics during Christmas play practice
1048. a very patient drama teacher (you rock, Lisa)
1049. knowing that God is breaking generational strongholds
1050. all the new babies in our church (I want to keep them all :)
1051. my in-laws, who faithfully run Friendship Club, with passion
1052. a "word of knowledge" that blew me away (God cares enough to tell someone else about a negative belief I needed to deal with)
1053. Adventures In Odyssey
1054. clothes and cool toys that are constantly passed to Oliver by his cousin (thanks, Braden!)
1055. art ideas from the talented Miss Tanya--thank you, Friend!xo

Yes, Oliver is drying his art with his helicopter propeller :)

 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Out Of Their Hands

video
A very short video to share of us feeding the birds.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Unexpected Pleasures

Raking leaves into a pile.
Crispy, paper-thin bits of nature that bring pure joy.
I tell them to start a leaf fight with each other.
They gather arms-full.
But wait, where are they going?
oh dear.
Hey!
I pass the camera to Emily and brush off the leaf confetti.
That's it... I'm so gonna get that boy!
(Emily would rather take pics anyway)
Don't even think about it!
Ha! You're all mine to do with you as I please!
You must now be buried in leaves for tricking Mommy!
He doesn't really mind :)
Big sisters join in the fun.
Leaf wrestle!
Has anyone seen Meghan?
Crazy-haired raker.
Everyone goes at it.
Interesting shot... each girl went down for an arm-full but the photo looks like another matter, doesn't it?
Gratitude:

1034. trees emptying of their goodness for us
1035. sibling play
1036. surprisingly warm days in November
1037. Christmas play rehearsals
1038. making chili for the first time and it turning out deliciously
1039. school bazaars and the baked goods there (and I will try not to buy too many--but it's for a good cause, right?)
1040. honest and forth-right people who make me laugh
1041. how God loves our questions, even our admitting we're angry with Him (He can deal with it and will reveal His truth!)
1042. Women Of Faith conference!!! Such a blast again!
1043. unexpected pleasure of my two little ones deciding together, in a split second, to turn on me and bury me in leaves--so hilarious :)


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Sensing God

We round the bend that takes us to the tree all uprooted and my children go running and I breathe in deeply. I love the smell of Him. Wouldn't the fragrance of what He's created carry the scent of Him? When I catch up to them, they've pulled out the sunflower seeds and I'm giddy as the first birds alight within seconds. I see Him. He's here with us, Immanuel.

We're used to the sweet call of the chickadee but when the nuthatch peeps his gratitude for our gifts, I hear Him. Oh, the birds are all in a bold flutter today! I merely hold out a finger, with no seed to offer, and one lands and grasps it tightly! I can even walk a little before he flies away. And I feel Him. Surely, since the Creator's fingerprint is everywhere, we can know Him by being near to His creation.

I sit my children down on a wooden bench and I'm overwhelmed by the treasures He's uncovered for us on this balmy November day. We must praise Him and so we bow our heads and thank Him that we can truly sense the God of the universe as we walk along a little boardwalk in a small town. And He hears us and is pleased with our acknowledgment of His artistry.

 Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
Psalm 34:8