What I Learned This Summer

The days are getting shorter and cooler.

As summer comes to a close, I’m looking back and reflecting on all God has taught me. Here are the top ten things I learned in this summer:

1.  Healing is a slow process that demands I slow (and it always takes longer than I think).

When the doctor looked straight into my eyes and told me I was overdoing it, I shrunk a little in my chair and hung my head. My expectations for life to return to normal (almost) immediately were unrealistic. Slowing does not come easy, but I learned (the hard way) it was the best way. I prefer doing and going and checking things off of a list. Watching life go on around me from a sofa is not easy. But slowing and resting are necessary in certain seasons, and we must embrace them too. And God’s voice is so much more audible when the swirl of life slows.



2.  Love is an action, and when it’s not, relationships suffer.

Even (especially?) after twelve-and-a-half years, marriage needs to be intentional. When it’s not, it soon becomes obvious. This summer has been an intentional effort of re-investing in our marriage and setting the pattern for the future. Love that man!




3. Waiting is a grueling exercise in patience and trust.

Some say the waiting is the worst, and at times it has been hard. The majority of the summer was spent waiting for test results to see if the cancer had spread or was contained. But God has been teaching me patience and trust through whatever He allows into my life. And when the news finally came, I was so grateful for the journey to that end.



4.  Life is often hard but God is always good.

We all go through seasons of difficulty that God sovereignly allows in our lives. But He can use those seasons to refine our character  and reveal Himself to us in ways we never thought possible. He is never more near than when His children are suffering. In some ways, it’s a sweet time.



5.  Good neighbours are a great blessing.

So thankful for the community of kids on our street who rang our doorbell and jumped on our trampoline and formed strong friendships with our kids all summer long.



6.  I recharge in solitude (and that’s ok).

I am a talk-to-me-one-at-a-time kind of mom. I wish I could do the happy chaos of many children and activities all swirling at the same time – I can for a while – but then I like quiet. When asked if I prefer to spend the day fishing with the whole family or being left alone to read and write, I chose the latter. And I’ve come to realize I’m a better person, more capable of serving others, when I am intentional about choosing periods of solitude.



7.  Living life distraction-free is a breath of fresh air and reminds us of what is truly important.

After eight days off the grid, I almost dreaded going back to the pull of technology. It was wonderful not to reach for my phone and instead reach for family. Distractions can keep us running from what matters most.












8.  Camp can bring new levels of knowing God.

They came home wonderfully exhausted every day from Bible Camp. And I’m in awe of the glimpses of growth I see in them. In the midst of all the glorious fun, they definitely met God.


9.  A singular event can evoke the most opposite of emotions.

A family wedding brings laughter and tears all mixed together. The summer closes with the wedding of my baby sister and her man. It was a day filled with great joy for the happy couple and great sadness over the one whose absence was so painfully obvious. My mom would have loved to see her beautiful daughter get married.














10.  Home is always the place I love most.

Summers are full of vacations and travelling and enjoying a slower pace of life, but I always love coming home to this life God has given us. I love getting back into the routine of school and ministry. Looking forward to what the fall will bring!

What has God taught you this summer?


What does your to do list say about you?

I passed by those stands eight times in four days before I finally stopped.








They are dotting the country roads this time of year, tall stems of beautiful flowers in pails of water. Only pennies a bloom.

Every time I passed I wanted to stop, but I was in a hurry. Late for something. I told myself I couldn’t afford the time to stop.

Luxuries like taking roadside flowers and arranging them in a vase for the kitchen are reserved for those who aren’t so busy.

My to do list is long these days. Some of it is legitimate. Some of it self-imposed busyness and wishful thinking.

Its when I realized I was looking with envy at couples leisurely strolling down the sidewalk after dinner – and the pang of jealousy that came when I read her status update about laying on the trampoline with her kids watching shooting stars – that I realized something had to change.

And then this on the screen made me freeze –

“Your to do list shouldn’t always be about what you’re doing, but who you are becoming” (Glynnis Whitwer).

Somehow I’d lost sight of this … again.

God is always more interested in my character than my list of accomplishments. He always would have me choose people over tasks. He is more concerned about doing a work in me than me doing work.

And life is not an emergency.

We are not meant to run breathless from one activity to the next. We miss His presence, His voice, and His counsel when we are consumed with our lists.

And what if – just what if – our lists don’t match His? What if our plans are not His for us?

Father, forgive me.

So today I stopped – at every flower stand I saw along the way!

I choose the prettiest blooms. And instead of rushing in the door and starting the next thing, I carefully trimmed them, chose a glass vase, and spent some time arranging them in front of the windows.





Yes, they are just flowers.

But they are more than that.

They are a constant reminder to pay more attention to who I am becoming than what I am getting accomplished.

(I have a feeling I might need to continually re-learn this).

(And yes I ordered the book!)




Facing whatever is coming this way

They’ve packed fishing poles and sandwiches and bug spray and loaded the boat in the back of the truck, and they are gone for the day.


The littlest one is wearing her pink hat and she hugs me hard and tells me she wishes I was coming.

The boy, preoccupied with that fisherman’s hope of catching the big one, forgets to kiss his mama goodbye as he climbs into the back seat.

All is desperately and gloriously quiet as I make my way down to the water’s edge.

The surface of the lake reflects the grey expanse above.



The wind blows hard in off the water and I turn to face directly towards whatever is coming this way.



Tomorrow is clouded in the unknown and no one can know, except the One who knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10).

The doctor had said four to six weeks for the test results and knowing the next bit of future.

The bandages have fallen off and the little one had stared at the thin upturned line etched on my neck and tells me it looks like I have two smiles.

Because who wouldn’t want double joy? 

I think about the possibilities. There will be great joy and celebration if the results say the skilled surgeon cut out every last cancer cell.

But wasn’t it James who said we were to consider it all joy when trials come (James 1:2)? Those same results could say the opposite – that the dark cancer is still lurking elsewhere in my body. And is there joy in that too?

The water is rippling straight towards me and whatever will come will come.

And who can add a single hour to her life through worry? (Matthew 6:27).



Will I turn and cower, or will I bravely face the future God has planned? Will I succumb to the fear and the what ifs, or will I determine to wake up and not live numb to this moment?

Because the here and now – this is a gift.

The hours stretch long and I find joy in lingering long in the Word and processing my thoughts with my own words. Finally that silver truck makes its way up the laneway and they all pile out with stories as big as the fish they caught.





Yes – this – this is a precious gift. Today is here and tomorrow will come, – and although unknown – it too will be filled with its own trials and graces.

As I usher them into the house I pause to gaze down at the lake one last time. The wind is gentler now.


I will turn and bravely face whatever is coming because my God promises to walk beside me.






When you are tempted to feel lonely

I call it the ‘Sunday night feeling.’

Every Sunday night as the sun was going down, week after week, month after month, year after year – for my entire childhood – my Daddy would give us all goodbye hugs. Then he would take my Mom and walk through that door and they would kiss in the privacy of the front porch, and then he’d climb into that truck and drive straight out the lane, the air horn blasting as he went.

As I watched those taillights fade down the highway from the kitchen window, the loneliness would wash over me like a tidal wave.

Even now, some Sunday nights that old familiar feeling threatens in the shadows.

Six days after my surgery I’m wrestling with whether to go or not. The trip north was planned well before cancer interrupted normal life. The safe and reasonable thing to do would be to kiss the three of them goodbye and watch them drive away and allow the quietness to settle like a wet blanket. Home alone for five days would mean rest and healing and catching up on things left undone over the last number of weeks.

But that Sunday night feeling is just too much for me to take.

And so after the pros and cons are weighed and discussed and prayed over – and then its after the pleading from those two who know just how to turn my heart inside-out – I pack my bags for the north.








Yet the loneliness still threatens.

Does leaving the comforts and routine of home mean leaving His presence? The uncertainty of when and how to spend time in the Word over the next several days causes that same familiar ache.

I’m still not quite sure I’ve made the right decision as we carry the sleeping children to the van in the dark of night and begin our eight-hour drive.

I’m dozing and praying as the sky turns orange with the first light of day, the trees black shadows against it, and its then that a sure knowing settles over me.

I am in Christ no matter where I go. 

Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me” (Psalm 139:7-10). 






Loneliness is not a reality for us because we cannot escape the presence of God.

“I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). 

I’m never lonely for Him. 

When are you most tempted to feel lonely? How can you turn to God in the midst of the loneliness and acknowledge His comforting presence?














When you wonder if you are able to wait well

OK…the truth?

This resting and recovery is hard. So hard.

Harder than dreading the surgery and all the irrational fears that came with it. Harder than submitting to needle pokes and IV’s and blood pressure cuffs. Harder than actually walking through those operating room doors.

Because life is still moving and the lists are growing longer and the kids want to play and there are so many things to do … so many things I want to do.

But my body simply will not cooperate. My energy will not last the length of the list.

Resting and waiting for healing is not easy for those who evaluate a day based on things checked off a list and accomplishments and performance. Aren’t most of us this way in our fast-paced, performance-based, instant-gratification culture?

We think to do and do and do is far better than to be.

But God is far more interested in who we are than in what we do.

Resting and waiting on God is not easy.

I remember when I was convinced I would have my firstborn on the day he was due, and fourteen weeks before that date circled in red on my calendar, God told me to rest, and He put me flat on my back in a hospital bed for seven weeks.

Resting and waiting on God is down-right difficult.

So often we want to work our way into God’s graces – to do something, anything to fix or improve our situation, or maybe to feel better about ourselves.

Cease striving and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).

But God demands that we approach Him through grace not works.

Works says you have to do better and be better. Grace says Christ is better and has done better.

Works says you need to be good. Grace says you are desperately wicked but God is gloriously good and Christ has done everything you need to clothe yourself in that goodness.

Works says this is the way to please God. Grace says God has done the work to make us pleasing in His sight.

Works says if you perform well you will be more loved and accepted by God. Grace says you are already perfectly loved and accepted because of what Christ has performed on your behalf.

Habakkuk had it right. He wailed and cried out to God about the state of the land – the state of his circumstances. But then he said,

“I will stand on my guard post and station myself on the rampart; and I will keep watch to see what He will speak to me, and how I may reply when I am reproved” (Habakkuk 2:1).

Translation: “God, I’m going to stand right here and wait for what You have to say.”

Habakkuk expected God to answer and he was willing to wait.

I too need to expect God to do a good work in this time of rest and healing and I need to be willing to wait.

Wait for the Lord

Rest and wait.

  • When it seems like God isn’t answering? Wait.
  • When it seems like nothing is happening? Wait.
  • When it seems as if God has turned His attention away and has forgotten you are waiting? Wait.
  • When it seems as if nothing good (read: productive) could come out of this period of inactivity? Wait.

And maybe – just maybe – God is able to get our attention during rest more easily than when we are too busy and distracted with normal life.

Maybe He is able to do a far greater work in us as we rest and wait.

Perhaps this period of rest is a precious gift.


A Tribute to Dad for Father’s Day … {better late than never?}

I was the boy he never had.

I trudged along beside him in rubber boots to the barn every evening to watch the cattle noisily lick up every kernel of corn.

I stood on the back of the little corn planter riding round and round the field watching the little seeds drop into the ground.

I skipped along to check the groundhog traps on summer evenings and cheered when we got one.

I hugged him wild the day I came home and there was a horse in the barnyard … all for me.

Every Sunday evening he’d walk out the front door, suitcase in hand, and kiss my mother goodbye on the front porch. All week long she would have to answer the question from three little girls, “How many more sleeps until Daddy comes home?” Then on Friday night when we finally would hear that air horn and see the big truck pull in the laneway, we’d run and wave wild until it came to a stop, then climb up those big steps and into his arms.

I am so grateful for the childhood he worked hard to give me. Space to run wild and free. Room to grow and make mistakes, yet always come home.

When he told me I couldn’t go, I slammed the door hard and told him I knew better, and then flew halfway around the world to explore the land down under. I know now I must have sliced his heart right in two. I can’t imagine how he must have laid awake at night wondering if I was safe. Four months later when I realized home was the place I was loved most, I didn’t tell him I was boarding a plane to come back. Truth be told, I wasn’t sure if I’d be welcome.

It was in the dark of night that I came through those never-locked farmhouse doors  and climbed the stairs to their bedroom. With my heart ready to beating wild inside my chest, I gently shook him awake. When he realized the long-lost daughter had returned home, he sat straight up and hugged me and said, “You’re home! Let’s party!”



That’s the heart of a father. Always ready to welcome and celebrate a prodigal home.

That’s the heart of our heavenly Father when we repent and turn home.

Thanking God today for my earthly father …


When Cancer Becomes a Part of My Story, Will I Respond with Faith or Fear?

Fear can leave us wild-eyed and pounding.

I sit across from the specialist nervously wringing my hands in my lap. Her knee-high boots, fur bomber jacket, golden hoop earrings, and thick black mascara project an image contrary to the care and concern expressed in her gentle eyes and soft voice.

She draws a diagram. The dark lumps are here and here she says. My hand moves immediately to my throat.

The fear is rising like a lump, black and threatening.

I try to focus on what comes next. A needle to extract some of the lump for the microscope to test for – that dreaded “C” word. I nod.

And do I have questions? Yes – many. Why God? But I shake my head.

I think back to the papers that came in the mail on the eve of Christmas Eve. I was scrubbing hard at the stove in my childhood home, my dad chatting steadily, his loneliness painfully obvious.

The papers described how they had cut her open hours after she died to examine every square inch of her lifeless body. And yes, there, on the fifth page, disguised in medical words we didn’t understand, was the undetected cancer lurking at her throat.

The same as her daughter – my sister – had years ago.

If my mother and her daughter had the same cancer, should I be worried?

That’s how I ended up in an ultrasound room, and then later here, across the desk from this soft-spoken woman.

She was giving me statistics now. Odds were in my favour. But are we really a number to God and nothing more?

O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. (Psalm 139:1-3)


Then months later I find myself in a sterile operating room counting ceiling tiles while waiting for the radiologist who will pierce my neck. The whiteboard to my left lists all the procedures these kind nurses will oversee today.

9:15. Thyroid biopsy. That’s me.
10:15 Liver biopsy.
12:00 Abscess drainage.

I shudder.

After the contents of four needles are handed to the lab technician I go home and wait until my next appointment.

Wait to see if my life will change. Wait to see how God’s good plan will unfold.
But the doctor’s office calls early and says the results are in and the doctor would like to see me sooner.

My mind races. Could this mean …?

No, I reason, the test came back early because it’s negative and they likely just want to set my mind at ease.

My man wraps his arms around me and asks if I want him to go with me. No, I’ll be fine. It’s going to be negative and then it would be a waste of his time. I’m sure its fine.

I smile weakly.


And so I find myself again, sitting across from the same specialist, her kind eyes find mine and she smiles.

I’ll be fine.

These are the moments that can forever alter your life. And yet these are the moments that are not a surprise to God. In fact, He has them written in His book before the foundation of the world. All of my days were numbered before I was even born.

…in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them. (Psalm 139:16)

She holds papers in her hands.

“Your mother and your sister had thyroid cancer, right?”

I nod.

Had – yes, one lives cancer-free here on earth and the other cancer-free in heaven.

“… and I’m sorry to tell you, you have cancer as well.”

I take a sharp breath.

“But you knew, didn’t you?” she asks.

I knew? I was hoping not – praying not – but perhaps I did know. Perhaps God had been preparing me for this.

She’s drawing the diagram again with those same dark lumps. And she’s talking about a surgeon – the best one in the area, she says – to cut out the whole thing, cancer and all. Who needs a thyroid anyway? And she says she’d like this to be done sooner rather than later.

I nod agreement.

And after surgery, is that it? Is this nightmare done and over with?

Maybe … assuming the cancer hasn’t spread.


But we can’t know that now, not until the surgeon has cut me open to peer inside.

Do I have any questions?

My mind is blank, except for one reverberating phrase …

I have cancer. I have cancer. I have cancer.

I shake my head. No questions.

The shock waves are still reverberating through my body as I leave her office.

What does a person do immediately after being diagnosed with cancer? She gets her hair done, of course. I’m sitting in the chair in my pre-booked, unavoidable, appointment, foils all over my head, gratefully listening to my hair stylist chat easily about family and Jamaica and her new house.

And all I can think is…I have cancer.

As I’m driving home, I finally allow the tears to come.

What does a husband do when his wife has been diagnosed with cancer? He brings home flowers, of course.


Later as he wraps his big strong arms around me and my eyes again fill with tears, we talk about all the what ifs. We talk about how this news changes life. And what about our plans? And how do we tell the kids?

My mind races with all the possibilities and refuses to be quieted. In the middle of the night I lie awake thinking of the worst case scenario. Satan uses the dead of night to make the dark press in closer and he whispers all manner of fears into my mind.

When I can stand no longer stand the assault, I slip silently from the bed and downstairs to my Bible. I need to combat these lies with truth.

I sought the Lord and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. (Psalm 34:4)

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea. Though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at is swelling pride. (Psalm 46:1-3)

One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek. That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple. For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; in the secret place of His tent He will hide me. He will life me up on a rock.  (Psalm 27:4-5)

When I return to bed a while later, these life-giving verses are running through my mind, and I finally sleep.

The future is uncertain, but I know this, God is still good. He is completely in control and He is abundantly good. He loves me perfectly and can use all things for my good and His glory.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. (1 John 4:18)

I resolve this: To continually choose faith over fear. To use this valley to speak of His goodness and glorify His name. To allow Him to do a good work in me.

This cancer needs to be cut out – yes – but there is so much more that needs to be cut out of me, a cancer that is far more deadly. God is doing His good work of cutting away all of the sin that so easily entangles and trips me up. And if He needs to take me through the valley of the shadow of death to do it, then so be it. I will humbly submit to the Great Physician’s knife.

“Hold still, child. This will hurt. But afterward, you will look more like My Son.”

Yes, Lord.

What is causing fear to rise dark inside of you? Will you join me and choose faith in a sovereign loving God over the fear that threatens to overwhelm?

She Calls Me Mama

There is a little girl on the other side of the world who has cried tears beside the grave of the one who gave birth to her and has felt her heart break into a million pieces.

We’ve never met – this sweet little girl and I – and yet she is my daughter in love.


I’ve never heard her voice, yet I’ve felt her grief.


Her mother had written to me faithfully. Her letters were so full of joy. She was a woman of very little means but of great faith and love. Her words were often convicting.

Then one day the letters stopped.

And then the formal one saying, “We regret to inform you …”

It was cancer that took her life, quickly and cruelly.

What could I do for a little girl halfway around the earth who had just lost perhaps the most important person in her life?

And then it was my turn beside the grave of the one who gave birth to me.

I knew then what I could do. I could love that little girl by telling her I know how she feels. I could write her letters and send her gifts, and go before the throne of grace for her and beg for God’s mercy and comfort in her life. I could pray that she would know God’s love, which far surpasses our understanding.



Shortly after I said goodbye to my own mother, this letter came in the mail. My hands shook as I held the very paper she had carefully penned the words on, and my eyes brimmed with tears.


Can you call me Mama? Yes! A thousand times, yes!


I want to hug you too, dear child.

Maybe – just maybe – we go through suffering and grief in order to comfort others. Perhaps that’s the way God has designed it.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. ~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-5


There is a little girl on the other side of the world who calls me mama.

And I am blessed to be a blessing. I have suffered to comfort.


What difficulties has God graciously brought you through that you can use to comfort others in their time of need? God wants to use every trial, every bit of suffering to change you, to bless others, and to bring glory to His name.



Lento or Allegro?

How would you name the pace of life?

I’ve quickly scrawled those Italian words on flashcards and she mumbles their definitions between bites of egg and toast.


Adagio … a slow tempo.

Larghetto … a little faster than largo.

It is piano lesson day and she was supposed to have them memorized. How did a week pass without my notice?

Presto … very fast.

Prestissimo … as fast as possible.

Sometimes this life feels like it is spinning as fast as possible, out of control.

The clock is ticking and the lunches are still empty, dishes are strewn all over the counter, and the boy has gotten dressed in clothes not at all appropriate for the weather. The phone rings and their voices raise in that incessant bickering, and I feel like I want a time out. Stop the clock. Or better yet, can I turn it back?

Why am I continually racing the clock?

She’s done her breakfast now, but the words aren’t coming easily for her. My suggestion of doing them one more time is met with a groan.

Andantino … a little faster than andante.

I think about those words ranging in tempo from very slow to very fast.

I wonder at the slight difference in how a piece of music is played as the tempo increases from one term to the next.

Sometimes it feels as if life is moving so slowly and other times way too quickly.

Almost exactly a year ago today, the clock was barely moving as we waited in a tiny room of clinical chairs after she was wheeled into surgery in a fruitless effort to save her life.

Largo … as slow as possible.

Then the next morning as I try to hold her restless hands still so my Dad can sleep for a while, the clock has all but stopped.


Yet there are other times I want to push that relentless clock ahead fast.

Waiting for the test results for what seems like an eternity. Waiting for an outcome, a decision, a direction, some change in me.

But then there are times I want to slow life down.

When I look through the albums at baby pictures and I wonder how he grew to reach my shoulders in the blink of an eye.

When summer afternoons stretch into warm evenings at the farm and their voices echo across the hazy sky, I want to capture these moments forever.

The truth is life just keeps marching on, seconds, minutes and days ticking by at the same pace they always have.

Andante … moderately slow, at a walking pace.

The difference is my perspective.

In those chaotic moments of busyness, will I determine to slow so as to not miss the grace?

In those seemingly endless moments that drag on far too long, will I do the same? Be fully present in the moment so as to not miss His grace, with one eye always towards the sure and certain hope of our future.

She’s remembered all the words now and skips upstairs to brush her teeth.

As I clear away the dishes I am reminded again that we’ve all been given a finite amount of time, and only our Creator knows our number of days. Perhaps the more important consideration is if I’m being a faithful steward of the time He’s allotted to me. How can I take this day and use it in a way that impacts the kingdom?

The clock will end.

This earth will stop spinning.

And we will be ushered into a glorious existence where time will not be marked.

But for now, I chose to move through life at the pace He sets for me. No rushing. No clinging stubbornly to the past. One foot in front of the other.