Saturday, May 24, 2014


When our children are young we have many hopes and dreams for their lives. We pray they’ll know joy, that they’ll become men and women of integrity who pursue justice, that they’ll develop their gifts and intellect, that they’ll have a fulfilling vocation, that they’ll marry someone who loves them, that they’ll know the blessing of children.  

But above all this, we pray they’ll be saved and made new in Christ. We long for their salvation because we know it matters more than anything else; all those other things—good as they are—are temporary. Their souls are eternal.

Though the path a child chooses doesn’t change a parent’s love for them one bit, when the path isn’t following Christ, the Christian parent’s heart aches for God to come along and, in His grace and mercy, make their child’s path straight.

Last night I had the privilege of teaching a group of women in our church family. One sweet, godly older woman, who is a mother and grandmother, shared with us how her two adult sons are not walking with the Lord. This mother did everything right; imperfectly, of course, but right. She and her husband pointed her children to Christ and lived out the Gospel in front of them. But her grown boys, though wonderful men that she’s proud of in every way, don’t believe in Jesus.

They don’t have the one thing that matters to this woman most, because they don’t have Christ.

A heavy-hearted parent can be tempted to repeatedly recite the same old guilt-laden questions: Where did we go wrong? What did we miss? Why my kids? Where is God in this? Why has it turned out this way?

For many of these parents I know, the guilt they feel is utterly misplaced. Yes, like everyone else they weren’t a perfect parent. Yes, like everyone else they sinned and fell short in small and big ways. But God is bigger than our failures, and God’s grace covers all our sin. 

Last night in our ladies study, after that woman spoke, the conversation moved forward in a different direction from what she shared with us about her children. But I've continued thinking about her words, and if I could have paused the conversation last night, this is would I would have said. 
When your heart is heavy, your soul weary, and discouragement presses in, remember that there is every reason to yet have hope. Don't give up. Don't stop praying. But don't carry a burden you're not meant to carry.
And remember what is hopeful and true.

1. Remember that God is the One who gives life. When writing about some of the trials of family life, and specifically about the trial of when the children of Christian parents aren’t following Jesus, JC Ryle writes this:

“We may use all means, but we cannot command success. We may teach, but we cannot convert. We may show those around us the bread and water of life, but we cannot make them eat and drink it. We may point out the way to eternal life, but we cannot make others walk in it. ‘It is the Spirit that quickeneth.’ Life is that one thing which the cleverest man of science cannot create or impart. It comes ‘not of blood, nor of the will of man’ (John 1:13). To give life is the grand prerogative of God.”

Heavy-hearted parent, the new life you long for your child to have is not something within your power to give. It’s not your burden to carry. Give this burden to Him. Because God, not you, is the One with the power to soften hearts of stone and turn them into hearts of flesh.

2. Remember that God's timing is different than our timing. If we had the power to plan how the days of our children’s lives would unfold, there would not be a day they lived without Christ. But we don’t ordain their lives any more than we ordain our ownBefore your child was knit together in the womb, God knew your child perfectly and knew every day of their life before they lived even one. God is the One who ordains our children's lives, and God's timing is often different than our timing.

In a wonderful little book called Grace in Winter, Faith Cook takes the reader through some of the letters Samuel Rutherford wrote to his friends. Cook includes the words Rutherford wrote to his friend, Lady Culross, when she was discouraged because of her children’s lack of faith. Here is Cook's description:
“Lady Culross was often deeply distressed in her family circumstances for, in spite of her rare godliness, most of her children grew up in unbelief. In heaviness of heart she writes: ‘Guiltiness in me and mine is my greatest cross. I would, if it were the Lord’s will, choose affliction rather than iniquity.’ Rutherford deals sympathetically with her problem: ‘As for your son, who is your grief, your Lord waited on you and me, till we were ripe, and brought us in. It is your part to pray and wait upon Him’ (Letter 222).
What a picture of God at work. With each one of us who knows Christ, God chose, in His time, when to bring us to Himself.        

3. Remember that your child’s story is still being told. Sometimes when we observe the path a person has chosen, we lack faith that God will ever reach down, pick them up, and set them on the pathway of life. And while it's important to acknowledge that God’s word never promises the Christian parent that their child will be saved, God’s word gives the Christian parent every reason to have profound hope.

Dear heavy-hearted parent, 
The Lord your God is with you, the mighty One who saves. Just because salvation may seem unlikely today does not mean God will not grant it tomorrow. Don’t lose heart. Don’t lose hope. Don't stop praying. Your beloved child’s story is still being told. As long as they have life's breath in their lungs you have every reason to persist in hope and prayer that He will breathe new life into their heart. 

It could be in the concluding pages of your child’s story, perhaps long after you’re dead and gone, when the Gospel seeds you planted in their childhood will spring up in wondrous new life.

Sunday, May 11, 2014


When my three little ones are calm, peaceful, sweet, obedient, funny, and lovely, it's easy to love them. Of course it is. Every parent knows what I mean. When we're snuggled in cozy with our children for bedtime stories and they're quiet and attentive, heads resting against our shoulders, it's effortless to feel loving and to act loving toward them. 

But children are not always calm. Or peaceful. Or sweet, obedient, funny, or lovely. Sometimes children are easy to love. But other times they're rowdy, mean, nasty, and selfish. 

Of course  in some ways my love for them is entirely unconditional and, no matter what their behavior is like at the moment, I'd lay down my life for them in a heartbeat. The struggle is not one of unconditional love, but of speaking and acting in love. 

Sometimes when kids are being obnoxious and rude, it's a struggle to be a compassionate, merciful, and kind parent. I know from talking with other parents that this is a common struggle, that this is the norm: it's easy to be gentle and gracious when our kids are peaceful and sweet, but challenging to be this way when they're rowdy and rude.

But here's the thing: the test of how we're doing as parents is not how we respond to our children in those moments when they're being sweet and lovable; the test of our parenting is how we respond to our children in those moments when they're challenging us. 

The test of our love is this: how we love our children when they're hard to love.

Today was Mother's Day, a hallmark holiday, sure, but still a day when it's natural to think about motherhood and reflect upon what I'm doing right and what I'm doing wrong. By God's grace, there's much I'm doing right. There are wonderful and tangible ways that I'm loving and raising my kids well. But as I pause and reflect, and as I talk with other friends who are parents, a trend emerges: it's so much easier to love and teach our children with kindness and grace when they're being sweet and kind in return. 

The true test of our parenting, though, is how we respond to our children not when they're being cuddly and sweet but when they're being nasty and rebellious. In the moments of their sin, do I have a short temper? Do I respond in anger? Am I unkind? Do I yell? Am I impatient? Am I nasty? Or am I compassionate?

 This morning my husband preached to our church family from the book of Jonah. Among other themes, one emphasis was this: Our God is One who is compassionate and who is inclined toward mercy. 

It was a challenging and encouraging sermon that prompted me and many others to look up to our God and to behold His grace and His mercy afresh. But it did something else for me on this Mother's Day, too. It prompted me to ask myself this question: Am I a mother who is compassionate and inclined toward mercy? Would my children, were they asked, describe me this way?

If they were to answer honestly, the answer, at best, would be this: sometimes. I'm sometimes compassionate, and I'm sometimes inclined toward mercy. 

But not God. His mercy is unfailing, and His compassion never ends. 

Throughout history and, more personally, toward me, God has shown the most amazing compassion and inclination toward mercy. And it hasn't been when I've been easy to love. It's when I've been a rebellious, rowdy, noisy, angry, ungrateful, nasty child. 

As this Mother's Day draws to a close, my prayer is to become more like my Father who is described like this: 

"The LORD  is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
nor will He keep His anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
 nor repay us according to our iniquities." ~ Psalm 103

Wow. Those words. That's our God. That's our heavenly Father. 
I want to be a parent who becomes more like Him in the tough moments of parenting. I want to love my kids--to be gentle, gracious, and compassionate toward them--not only when they're being easy to love, but especially when they're being annoying, sinful, and rude.

Because that's how He loves me.

The test of true love--of godly love--in our parenting is not how we love our children when they're being easy to love, but how we choose to love them when they're being utterly sinful.

Dear God, thank you for my children. 
Thank you for allowing me to know the joy and blessing of motherhood. 
I know this is a gift from your hand, and I give you thanks for it. 
But so often I fail to love my children the way I ought. 
Oh Father, let me become more like you. 
Let me parent my children as you parent me. 
Let me love my children as you love me. 

Friday, May 9, 2014


It’s a warm, bright Spring morning.

Warmth. It seemed like it would never come, like the cold gray would linger. But new life springs forth because the seasons always change. Always.

On this Spring morning I’m pushing Ella in the stroller and walking along busy Keele St. to pick up a few things from the store. I vaguely hear the words my two-year-old is singing and there’s the din of morning traffic and city busses rushing by in both directions. We’ve got guests coming for dinner and I’m mentally compiling a short list of the items I should grab.

I stop, almost impatient, because the light’s red and we can’t cross. But really, we’ve stopped because He ordains our steps and, whenever He wants, He stops us in our tracks. With nothing to do but wait, I look to the side.

Beside an ordinary, gray city sidewalk is a tree in full, shimmering light pink bloom. How can it be so easy to miss the blossoming of life?

I walk a few steps closer so that I’m underneath her beams and can breathe her fragrance. 

Smooth gray branches. Dark pink buds. Golden green leaves. Pastel pink petals. I know I must look odd standing there on a busy street corner, gazing up, breathing in, speaking to Him. Thank you for this. Thank you for stopping me. Thank you for creating this beauty for me to enjoy.  

With a gust of wind that brings a tearing, a falling of petals, I remember the words we’d heard read and preached only a few days earlier.

“All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” (1 Peter 1:24-25)

His word—living, treasured, hidden, whispered.

In early Spring, when buds first begin to bloom, it seems like the soft, delicate pinks and whites that swirl round strong branches will last long enough that we’ll feel like we get enough, like we’ll be satisfied. The beauty of today will still be here tomorrow, we reason. Tomorrow I’ll still be young. And the beauty of today is lovely enough that we anticipate feeling no sorrow when the petals collect in heaps in the gutters, for it’s still such a long, long way off.

Spring evokes something within us. Reflecting the creativity of the Creator, artists paint Spring's beauty on canvas and poets write of Spring's brevity in verse:

"Nature's first green is gold, 
Her hardest hue to hold. 
Her early leafs a flower; 
But only so an hour. 
Then leaf subsides to leaf. 
So Eden sank to grief, 
So dawn goes down to day. 
Nothing gold can stay."

~Robert Frost

In Toronto, we’re yet in the sweet stage of early Spring, where flowers resolutely cling to their tree branches. Buds have just opened and flowers are young, fresh, and strong. The petals leave only slowly, quietly, and unnoticed. Later on that will change--later on a single breath of wind could strip entire branches bare in one gust. One day we’ll be old. But for now, it’s all happening slowly.

One by one, the petals fall. 
Day by day, our lives pass. 
Quietly, slowly, at first. 
And then in strong, powerful gusts.  

But in this passing—as seasons change and flowers fall and grass withers and skin weathers—is there more we’re supposed to see?

We gaze at the beauty of life in full bloom and our minds recall the words first written by the prophet Isaiah then quoted by the disciple Peter and later spoken by us. We rightly think about the contrast between Creator and creature; we rightly remember that we’re but a moment and He is forever. 

But is there something else He wants us to remember, too?

Could it be that, as our days pass and life’s seasons' change and flowers fall and we mature from young to old, He wants us to remember, too, those words of promise that He spoke in His heart all those years ago? An enduring promise that is fulfilled even as, one by one, each petal falls: “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” (Genesis 8:22)

When the tree’s blossoming glory falls to the ground and, year by year, the vitality of our youth weakens with age, we’re not only to consider the brevity of life. There’s more! In all this passing, there’s more.

 Each petal that falls, each day of our lives that passes, each season that changes one to the next is a reminder of God's enduring promise to Noah, to all creation, and to us.

“Never again.”

Spring’s blossoms will fall. The young will grow old. But in all of it, petal by petal, day by day, season after season, the word of the Lord remains forever.  

Saturday, May 3, 2014


On Easter Sunday afternoon, I spent some time snapping some pictures of the three kids. It's funny, in the moment I always want to capture pictures of the children looking sweet and smiling, but when I'm scrolling through pictures afterwards, the ones I love best are always the ones where their true personalities are visible--where they're free. We were away from Justin for the weekend (he was preaching in Toronto and we were visiting my folks in Ottawa) so there's no pictures with all five of us, but my Mom was sweet to snap a few pictures of me with the three of them. Far too often, since I'm the one holding the camera, I forget to have someone take pictures of me with the children, too.


In what is becoming an annual Spring tradition, a few days back the kids and I met up with my dear childhood friend, Kate, along with her little ones. We spent a morning catching up and discovering new life in our city's beloved Riverdale Farm. 

We were delighted to meet fluffy baby chicks and adorable kids and lambs. In between the adventures of walking through the farm, meeting new animals, learning from a farmer about goats, and playing in the pond, we settled onto a bright red blanket for a Spring picnic.  

It was a perfect morning.