Down by the sea

It’s been 2am podcasts, reading a devo on my phone, or a verse here and there the past couple of weeks since Elizabeth arrived! This afternoon she was good and milk drunk so I warmed up this morning’s coffee, grabbed a couple of gingersnaps from the cookie jar, and snuggled under the fur blanket in our living room. There were floors to be cleaned, laundry to do, people to call… but I just needed a few minutes. Pippa curled up beside me, eventually snoring, and I laid into Mark 4, where I had left off about three weeks ago.

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I’m trying to revel in quality, not quantity these days. Mulling over a single verse or portion, rather than trying to digest a whole buffet of verses.  Asking myself, “what does this show me about Jesus, myself, my sin, his redemption….?” I’d rather walk away from 10 minutes with the Lord and have Him speak to me in the short quiet, than ravage through an hour of reading and walk away, patting myself on the back for doing my duty as my spirit remains unfilled.

As I reread Mark 4, asking myself, “What does this show me about Jesus?” I stopped and mulled over the first verse… “Again, he began to teach beside the sea. A very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land.”

First off, why did Mark even bother putting in this minute detail? I let myself envision what this would look like…. hundreds of people gathering around Jesus as he edged closer to the tickling of the cold sea water.  Jesus wasn’t one to have a ‘bubble’ or not want people close, so why, I asked myself, did HE get in a boat away from the people? Why didn’t he just have his disciples push people back like security at a U2 concert? Back away, give him some room, let him speak people.

I quieted my heart, and this is what came to me… because Jesus responds to our hunger and always moves for OUR benefit. He never pushes us away, or makes our desiring seem like an unnecessary thing. He moves. He gets where we can hear him, see him, learn from him, in whatever way is best. And immediately my heart felt silenced with His love…

Sometimes when we feel he is moving away from us, the Lord is actually getting ready for us to see him better. Clearer. More profoundly than we ever have before.

And those few moments I had with God as Lizzie napped was all my soul needed for today. Manna for today. As we speak, she is still napping, the laundry is spinning, and my coffee is now cold. Oh well. My heart is full 🙂

 

 

 

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A new adventure begins… we’re having a BABY!

Many of you will have already seen our post on Facebook (which, by the way, we were blown away with the love and support!)…

But I had to announce here, on this little virtual creative space of mine where I share the joys and the growths of life… that we are having a baby, and due March 20, 2016! Seeing that little one kick and turn on the ultrasound was such a surreal and beautiful moment… I could’ve stared all day!

Baby Lupul

This puts me at 13 weeks, so just into the second trimester. My mid-section is thickening and I’m starting to get past the nauseous stage, thank goodness! End of October we will find out if it’s a boy or girl… we just want to know and not call it ‘it’ anymore! I’m such a planner, and I figure the more I can be prepared before baby arrives the better. I’ve started a Pinterest board for nursery ideas, and our end table in the living room is several books high of “The Baby Whisperer” and “What to Expect when Expecting” kind of books that I’ve borrowed. With so many family and friend who’ve already had kids, I feel like I can glean so much from others!

We are ever so grateful for this little one, and would love it if you would pray for us and baby over the coming months!

Love,

Lani & Troy

Monday Minute: Prayer: It’s not about you. But it will change you.

I recently listened to a message on prayer by Timothy Keller, in which he talked about praying the Psalms. How the book of Psalms shows us all the different ways we can pray and how we can understand God’s heart even more through. Keller questions, has the Spirit of God really come to live and reside within us and transform us, if we aren’t drawn to pray? Troy and I are both reading his latest book, Prayer, and it’s now absolutely on the list of must reads!

I don’t know about you, but I can sit down to do a block of writing or prayer and suddenly that thing I had forgotten earlier now comes to mind. I get an idea for something that I am certain can be found on Pinterest. Or our budget and grocery list suddenly floods my mind. Yep. Distractions are everywhere, and they’re one of those pesky little things you can find without even looking for them.

quote-to-be-a-christian-without-prayer-is-no-more-possible-than-to-be-alive-without-breathing-martin-luther-king-jr-102531It seems like it should be a given. Simple. A no-brainer. As believers, we should be praying. Prayer is the gateway to which we really come to know God, and come to understand the identity we have in Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

For many years, prayer for me was more something I checked off a list. I felt good if I did 20 minutes. An hour made me feel really good. Because prayer was about making me feel like a good Christian, and that because of my time invested, God would give me what I asked for. I’m saddened to say that at times, seasons of increased time in prayer was more out of desperation than desire to KNOW Him better. But the last 2-3 years, God has been refining me, my motivations. Ah, convicted!

I feel drawn. Thirsty. I want to know my Father’s heart deeper, and now I feel surrounded by good teaching on prayer to guide me. So, I just want to share with you!

Dr. Caroline Leaf, a Christian neuroscientist, says that it has been found that 12 minutes of daily focused prayer over an 8-week period can change the brain to such an extent that it can be measured on a brain scan. Time in God’s presence actually changes us.

Two things I have drawn from recent listening and reading on prayer that might help you in your quest to drawer closer to God and understand His heart more clearly:

  • Prayer doesn’t have to be complicated, formal, or long to be heard. Matthew 6:7-9 shows that it isn’t about performance, length, or comparison. Which shows the motivation behind our praying is actually more important than what we say or how we say it. Jesus gives us a guideline in that chapter through the Lord’s prayer, that I think is amaaaaazing! Timothy Keller also preaches on this and it’s helped me understand where my prayer life was so lacking. (some parentheses are my own interpretation of each line, as well as what he teaches)

Our Father in heaven (starts with knowing our relationship/adoption with God as our Father)

Hallowed be thy name (adoration, worship)

Thy Kingdom come (God’s rule sovereignty)

Your will be done (God’s purpose)

On earth as it is in heaven (pray big!)

Give us this day our daily bread (provision, needs)

And forgive us our debts (repentance)

As we have forgiven our debtors (mercy)

And lead us not into temptation (deliverance, strength)

But deliver us from evil (victory!)

Notice the way Jesus taught us to pray begins with knowing our Father and His nature, and through that we have the ability to worship, ask, repent, and walk in victory!

  • I need to know my Father’s heart, as that affects every other area of my life. And a good place to start, is the Psalms. I’ve been reading in Psalms, so now I have started a part of my journal where I write down characteristics of God as they jump out at me from chapter to chapter. For example, “He guides us with counsel” (Ps 73:24), “He is a sun and a shield” (Ps 84:11), or “He is good and his steadfast love endures forever” (Ps 100:5).

For me, and likely for you too, when I write things down, and then think and meditate on them, they go from my head to my heart. Timothy Keller says, “Prayer is not merely a way to get things from God, but a way to get more of God himself. God will either give us what we ask or give us what we would have asked if we knew everything he knows.” Because He is a good, good, Father. 🙂

So take these two examples of things I am learning:

*Use the model of the Lord’s prayer as a guide. Prayer is not about reciting a laundry list to meet my needs and get what I want. But it’s ultimately about learning HIM. Yes, we are to ask (Matthew 7:7). But ultimately, when we know God’s heart better, those needs are more freely given into His hands when we do pray.

*Try your own way of writing down and meditating on God’s character. Write it in your phone or journal, or Bible even. Think on it. And let the understanding of the grace and greatness of God really go from your head to your heart. He wants us to KNOW Him!

 

Have a great week! We leave for holidays tomorrow for two weeks…VERY excited!

 

Bookworm: Lewis, Omartian, Voskamp

Does anyone else read more in the winter? I do, and I’ve had some pretty good reads that challenged me lately, so I thought I would share with you. Here’s a few titles and a brief synopsis to maybe get you started on some summer reading (I’m reading a memoir right now so hopefully that’s a little lighter summer reading than my usual! LOL)

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“Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis

Mere Christianity

For me, C.S. Lewis’ books take a little bit to get into, but once I do, I’m hooked. He has such a way with words and explaining theology and the heart of God (in such creative ways as Narnia!), that one can’t help but love his books.

I finally sat down (let’s be honest, I laid down), to read Mere Christianity, probably one of his all-time most popular books. If you ever have trouble breaking down or understanding the Christian faith, Lewis really lays it out well from the meaning of the universe, what Christians believe, to behavior and the trinity. If you’re like me with Lewis, you’ll need to read a chapter or so at a time (very doable), and decipher what he is saying bit by bit. Lewis is not an author you speed-read!

Here’s one bit from the Christian behavior portion where C.S. Lewis lays out how behavior modification is not actually the gospel (love it!)…

….”A world of nice people, content in their own niceness, looking no further, turned away from God, would be just as desperately in need of salvation as a miserable world – and might even be more difficult to save. For mere improvement is not redemption, though redemption always improves people even here and now and will, in the end, improve them to a degree we cannot yet imagine. God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better med of old kind but to produce a new kind of man. It is not like teaching a horse to jump better and better but like turning a horse into a winged creature. Of course, once it has got its wings, it will soar over fences which could never have been jumped and thus beat the natural horse at its own game. But there may be a period, while the wings are just beginning to grow, when it cannot do so: and at that stage the lumps on the shoulders – no one could tell by looking at them that they are going to be wings – may even give it an awkward appearance.”

 

“The Power of a Praying Wife” by Stormie Omartian

Power of a Praying Wife

Stormie lays out chapter by chapter how we as wives do better to pray for our husbands than nag and try to change them. She expresses how much God wants to unite us with our husbands as we put Jesus first. When an issue arises in the marriage that say us as wives don’t like, she suggests we pray about it, before we even communicate our frustration or feelings to our husbands. Time after time, she shares testimonies of how it is the Holy Spirit that moves on hearts, rather than a nagging wife 😉

She covers topics such as “His Emotions”, “His Reputation”, “His Sexuality” and “His Walk”.

I think it’s a book that I will go back to time and time again as Troy and I build a life together. I was able to go through this book with a friend who has been married longer than I, which was such a gift!

 

“One Thousand Gifts” by Anna Voskamp

1000GIFTS

I came across A Holy Experience blog through a post a friend shared on Facebook, sometime last year. Anna is a farmer’s wife in Ontario. As a fellow Canadian, and mother of six, I thought what she had to say about making thankfulness a forefront of our lives was worth investigating.

She shares how, at an early age, she lost her sister in an accident, and how that created a distrust that God was good that followed her for much of her life. Only through digging into the Word and learning to meditate on all of God’s goodness, does Anna come to realize that in everyday life there is SO much to be grateful for.

She starts a journal in which she aims to write out 1000 Gifts and her journey of discovering how good God really is. Eucharisto, the practice of giving thanks, takes over her life and she begins to see the beauty all around her. The goodness. She gives thanks for simple things like “Boys humming hymns, laundry flapping, squeak of old swing swaying, laughter…” and so forth.

I find her to be a very poetic writer. With her descriptive rhetoric, you’ll find yourself wanting to start your own thankfulness journal!

***

What are you reading this summer?

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

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

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

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

So world, meet my friend Ann Marie…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hugged her and cried.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 ***

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

UPDATE JANUARY 21, 2015: Ann Marie has been declared free of cancer from her doctor this week! Praise. Thank you for all who prayed!!

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