Tuesday, April 29, 2014


My 2 year old, Ella, sits nestled quietly in my lap. Her golden ringlets are, as usual, a little tangled and sorta wild. But they’re perfect, because they’re hers. My arms are around her, holding her close. We’re sitting on a colorful, preschool decorated rug along with many other moms and caregivers who also hold their little ones on their laps. Together--parent with child--we sing, listen, and read.

The Circle Time transitions from action songs to a children’s story and we quiet down and focus our attention. As we listen to the Storyteller’s voice and look at illustrations on each page, Ella reaches one hand up behind her, almost absentminded it seems, and finds my face. She continues to listen as her tiny hand rubs the side of my face.    

Leaning forward I gently kiss her curls, remembering afresh something obvious and yet easy, in the rush of it all, to forget: life is about relationships.  

Yes, I’m sitting here with my two year old because rhymes, action songs, and finger plays are educational for a 2 year old. Yes, I’m here with her because I want her to learn from other teachers while yet in the safety of my own arms. Yes, music, singing, and literacy are all wonderfully important. And yet there is a reason I’m here that surpasses them all; of deepest importance in my daughter’s life is not the words being read but the arms that hold her close.

Of deepest importance is this: love, relationship, and closeness.   

Isn’t it so often the way? As parents, the time we spend doing activities with our children is almost always less about the activity itself and more about the connection—the relationship—between parent and child.

But when it comes to our relationship with our heavenly Father we so often discard this truth for something more certifiable; we discard the experience of intimacy for merely expressing theological truth alone. 

Theological truths expressed in prayer rouse our hearts and we murmur our affirmation. Yet sometimes, for those of us who belong to certain Christian traditions, we’re so afraid of being mystical or sounding like a mystic, that we’re barely bold enough to use the language God Himself uses in Scripture.

When I pray, do I sense God holding me in His arms?
When I pray, do I reach forward to grasp the hand that He has stretched out to me?
When I pray, do I feel the arms of an everlasting God upholding me?

When I pray, my words are often beautifully biblically sound and doctrinally correct. But am I aware that I am praying to a heavenly Father who is reaching down to hold me and to comfort me with His very own hands? Beyond my correct theology, am I remembering the intimacy and closeness of the God to whom I pray?

When I pray, do I believe that I can reach up and, like my 2 year old daughter, touch His face?

Recently Justin, my pastor and my husband, has been impressing upon me and others in our church how it’s helpful to spend a few moments reflecting on our Father, and our relationship to Him, before we pray to Him. 

Because we don’t want to merely repeat truths about our Father. We want to be held in His arms.

Earlier tonight I talked with my parents for a while on the phone. I’m not exactly sure why it was on my mind, but throughout the day I had been remembering being a little girl and my Dad taking me to this store called Top Banana. It was a bulk foods organic store in Ottawa, where I grew up. My family didn’t call the store Top Banana, though, we called it The Banana Man because the sign was this big, grinning banana dude. To us, he was The Banana Man. And my Dad made it fun to go there. I have few vivid, detailed memories of early childhood. But to this day, I can remember walking into The Banana Man with my Pop. He was a fun, slightly hippy, cool looking Dad with a big smile and dark brown, long ringlets. And he often wore this beige, corduroy blazer. But what I remember most was that he was holding my hand.

I was a little girl, reaching up. And my Dad was holding my hand.

Saturday, April 26, 2014


After the first, indoor hunt, my Mom also hid a bunch of chocolate eggs all around the farmhouse and even in the barnyard. The kids had a blast trudging around in their rain boots in search of the colorful eggs. What made it even more fun was having their beloved Aunt Natanyah and Aunt Micaiah hunt for eggs with them.

Below, Nana Ganz, Aunt Caiah, the three kids, and Aunt Nat. 
Thank you for two wonderful hunts, Nana!


Easter weekend 2014 consisted of a short but wonderful visit to my parents farm in the Ottawa Valley. My Mom is such a wonderful Nana, and prepared two fantastic egg hunts for the kids. The first of the two hunts took place right when they first woke up on Saturday morning, and was an indoor hunt. As the pictures make clear, Jake and Josh both were dressed up in some sort of costumes for this hunt. I'm not sure why. But the black ears and the black cape added an element of childlike magic to the early morning jelly bean hunt. 

Friday, April 25, 2014


As Christians, we desire the kind of grace and humility that flows out of us and into the lives of those around us. From creation, part of God’s good design was to have interconnection between people. Regardless of whether we’re naturally introverted, extroverted, or a combination of the two, a fundamental impulse of all humans is to have interaction and connection with others. In Christ, through Scripture, and as we grow in grace, our social interaction is refined and defined by God’s word. We no longer just interact with others however we want or however comes naturally. Rather we desire to interact with others (friends, spouses, children, parents, church family, co-workers) in a humble, Christlike, grace-filled way.

Is our daily social interaction defined by humility and grace? Here are three biblical and simple principles that cultivate grace in our interaction with others.

1. Assume the best about others. Sometimes it feels like the default setting of our hearts is to assume the worst about others, even about those people who have given us every good reason to hope the best.

A friend recently shared a story about how he had written an email to a pastor that he admired, and the email he received in response, from this pastor, was abrupt and almost offensively dismissive. My friend described how not only was it personally disheartening, but how he intuitively assumed the worst about the man involved. A little while later, after he’d already assumed the worst and even formed an opinion about this man, his inbox notified him of a new email. The pastor he had emailed hadn’t seen the full email or the content attached, and after eventually seeing it and reading it, wrote back a kind, generous, encouraging response. Our friend sat in our living room that night shaking his head, asking the questions we should all ask: Why do we do that? Why do we so often assume the worst about people instead of hoping the best?  

2. Look outward instead of inward. We all experience moments when we feel on the outside looking in. With a variety of factors at play, some people experience the discomfort of this feeling more often than others. But we’ve all known the feeling. Perhaps it’s when we’re in a new social setting (new church, new school, new workplace) and don’t have established relationships. Or it could be that, throughout life, we tend to find ourselves feeling on the outside of social circles looking in. It’s so easy, in moments like this, to focus on ourselves: How does this make me feel? Why isn’t anyone noticing that I’m standing here alone? Why aren’t other people more sensitive and inclusive? (The answer to those questions is a different topic.)

But here’s the thing: all those questions are completely self-focused and keep our gaze focused inward on our own needs. In those crummy moments of feeling on the outside looking in, instead of keeping our gaze fixed inward, what if we lifted our eyes and looked around for other people who could use sensitivity, inclusion, and an encouraging word from us? Grace-filled social interaction looks outward, seeking how we can encourage others, instead of looking inward, seeking to meet the needs of self.

3. Care more about people than perception. For the reflective person, though it’s often helpful to be reflective about social interaction, something else can happen to the reflective person, too. We can become too aware of how our words sound, of how we’re coming across, of how we’re being perceived. Of course to some degree it’s helpful to be aware of such things as to avoid being unintentionally hurtful. But I’ve seen in my own heart how, at times,  what begins as thoughtful sensitivity evolves into a self-centred preoccupation with how I’m being perceived.

It’s good to realize the power of words and to use them carefully; it’s not good to care more about how our words are perceived than about people. It’s good to reflect on interactions and clarify if there was something that might have been misunderstood; it’s not good to be motivated more by how we’ve been perceived than a sincere care for the other person. We ought to care less about whether we seem authentic, and more about whether we actually are authentic.

Three simple ways to grow in grace-filled interaction: assume the best; look out instead of in; care more about people than perception. All three flow from a humility rooted in Christ.
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus…” ~ Philippians 2:3-5

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


Some of the most joyful moments with kids come and go quietly in the ordinary, everyday moments of life. Recently in our home, these moments have come when we listen to our little ones learning how to pray. For the past few weeks I’ve been jotting down some of the light, funny moments with our children when we’re praying together. (I've shared a couple of them previously here.) Below are a couple more.



We love listening to our 4 year old pray. Josh, though wildly rough and tumble, is also a sensitive boy and often, without any prompting or reminders, asks for God to love and care for others. I'm so thankful to see this desire in his little heart.

But in addition to praying at length for the needs of others, we’ve also sat through lengthy prayers where Josh has first given thanks for numerous animals throughout the world and then, one by one, with detailed precision, prayed that they’d all have food and that they’d all be safe. It's almost as though sometimes what begins as a thoughtful mention of certain animals turns into a rather long, exhaustive, comprehensive prayer of thanksgiving for all the animals he can think of. Safari animals. Jungle animals. Domestic pets. Bugs. You name it, he’s praying for them.

In a similar fashion at meals, Josh doesn't always consider it sufficient to pray that the meal we’re about to eat 'would be yummy.'  Instead, Josh has prayed that 'breakfast tomorrow would be yummy, and lunch tomorrow would be yummy, too.' (I’ve enjoyed sweet times of explaining to him that the reason we pray before meals is not to request a last minute miraculous intervention that the food would somehow taste good, but rather a sincere expression of gratitude for what God has already provided.)  

On several occasions when Josh has been praying before a meal and his words have wandered far off course and he’s started petitioning for the following weeks lunch or pleading for the safety of panthers, and when we can tell he’s trying to find a way to wrap up his prayer but is having trouble getting to the word Amen, sometimes either Justin or I will help him along and gently affirm the words he’s spoken. We'll wait for a natural pause and then say, 'Amen. Thank you, Joshua.'

Evidently Ella, the 2 year old, has noticed this occasional conclusion.

One night a few weeks back, after bedtime stories and before the final kisses, I was sitting on the floor between Josh’s bed and Jake's bed, with Ella cradled in my arms. Ella snuggled in contentedly, gazing up at me with big blue eyes, her pink and purple soother plugged neatly into her little mouth. (She’s since been weaned from those pink/purple pacifiers of hers and I have to admit, I miss them so much. Babies with soothers are just so cute, aren’t they? Or maybe I’m just clinging to the babyness of the last baby. Who knows.)

On this one night, Jake lay quietly in his bed. Ella was cradled in my arms. And Josh lay on his bed praying aloud. It was one of those prayers that, though sweet and heartfelt, at some point transitioned into a long list of giving thanks for any and all of the things that crossed his mind. I was in no rush to help him wrap up, and was enjoying listening to him pray even though it didn’t seem to be heading toward a conclusion any time soon.

Apparently Ella didn’t share my enjoyment.

At some point during this lengthy prayer of her big brother, I could feel Ella start to squirm and get antsy. I opened my eyes and looked down at her just in time to see her reach up to her mouth, daintily yank the soother out of it and then say to me in a quiet but commanding voice, “Mommy, say Amen.”

I smiled at her but didn’t say a word. Instead, I gave her a kiss and shoved her soother back in her mouth.

And sweet Josh kept praying.

Friday, April 4, 2014


Do I want to be a wonderful Christian woman? Or do I want Christ Himself? Is there a difference between these two?

I’m 35 years old, an age that is, in many ways, still quite young. During my years in Christ, though I’ve known much grace, there’s still so, so much about who I am that I long to see changed and remade into something far better. 

When I picture the woman I want to be in two, three, four decades (should I live that long), what I hope for is something wonderful--the kind of spiritual wonderful that only years of His refining hands could bring. 

I can see my future, refined self, and she’s a beautiful, godly Christian. She’s holy, humble, patient, gentle, disciplined, grace-filled, passionate about Jesus, radically generous, boldly preaching the Gospel, and overflowing with compassion for others. She’s a wonderful Christian and her life is the kind of living sacrifice that points to God's refining work.

Certainly there are ways now, even this very day, that I see both the beginnings of such fruit in my life and genuine loyalty to Jesus. Yet at the same time, I also see much lingering loyalty to sin. There are ways I’ve been made new, and yet still much that stubbornly resembles the ugly, old self.

This future me--this wonderful, faithful, radical Christian—is someone I've met in both the pages of scripture and in real life, too. Christian examples like this exist all around us both in history and today, and I so badly want to grow into a person who breathes grace. 

My heart longs for this kind of life and faith and maturity.

Here’s the question, though: do I want to be a wonderful Christian, or do I want Christ? Does my soul long to be a better Christian or does my soul long for the living God? Do I simply want to grow in Christlike character or do I want deeper intimacy with the Person of Christ.

Because those two longings aren't exactly the same. 

Recently I've detected that, at times, it almost seems as if the longing of my heart is for a better me, instead of more of Him. 

When the heart's motive is pure, it’s right and good to want to grow, and to be remade into a person more holy. It’s a good desire to want to throw aside dirty, sin-stained garments and instead be clothed in the beautiful garments of Christ’s righteousness. But does this kind of beauty come through desiring to be a more beautiful Christian, or through more clearly beholding Christ's beauty?

Is this a trivial or false distinction, I wonder? Desiring to grow in grace is surely an evidence of God's Spirit at work within. It's a good thing to want to become a better Christian. But as we walk through this life of faith, are our hearts too often preoccupied with our own sanctification and not preoccupied enough with the glorified Person of Jesus.

In our desire to be free of the sin which so easily ensnares, do we sometimes focus too much on freedom from sin and not enough on the Author of our faith?

Because sanctification happens not primarily through desiring to be sanctified but rather through desiring Jesus.

Scripture is full of Spirit-inspired saints--like King David and so many others--pleading with God to change them and remake them into His image. Longing for purer, better hearts is biblical. Yet sometimes there's a subtle but distinct imbalance of desire that should prompt us to ask: do we ultimately want to be wonderful Christians, or do we want more of Christ Himself?