Wednesday, March 25, 2015


Her dark brown eyes sparkled. Tight black curls were pulled away from her face, held in place with a ponytail at the nape of her neck. Nestled carefully on her head was a shiny princess crown, the kind young girls pick out with great care even though they’re only worth a dollar. She was laughing, and her smile brought joy.

This everyday princess was sitting at a table near us in the bright, bustling IKEA dining room. It was during March Break and my three children and I were out for breakfast together. (It’s not just that the kids actually like going there, it’s also that you can feed three hungry children a hearty breakfast of eggs, sausage and pancakes for about two bucks a plate.)

There we sat—me with my tea, my kids with their breakfast, and a princess with her crown. My boys noticed this girl before I did. In fact, the reason I even started watching her was because both of my sons had stopped eating and were looking toward her table, smiling.

Following their gaze, I turned to look.

This girl with the tiara on her head was sitting at a table talking and laughing with her father. They were playing Rock, Paper, Scissors! over and over again. When she won and crushed her Dad’s scissors with her rock, she’d laugh triumphantly and gently smash his hand with her own. When his scissors cut her paper, she’d grin up at him, eagerly waiting for him to pretend to snip her outstretched hand.

My five year old son, Josh, was sitting beside me. He leaned close and, still with his eyes on this father and daughter nearby, said, “That guy’s a good Dad.”

I’d assumed he was watching the girl but, interestingly, his eyes were actually on her father. My son knows how to spot a good Dad because he’s got one himself, and I suppose he intuitively knows that one of the qualities of a good father is a man who takes the time to play Rock, Paper, Scissors!

Years ago, when Justin and I lived in New York and were expecting our first child, we received some excellent and never-forgotten advice from Justin’s then pastor in Queens, New York. I remember it clearly--we were standing talking to Pastor Ed on a hot summer evening after a baptism service on Long Island and, upon learning the news I was pregnant, Pastor Ed said, “Remember the 3 Ds of parenting: Discipline, Dialogue, and Delight. Discipline your children in love. Communicate with your children continually. And delight in them! Enjoy them, play with them, and make your family a fun place where your children want to be.”

Though we sometimes fail at the implementation stage, parents seldom forget the importance of consistent discipline and honest communication. But for some reason we often forget that simply playing with our children is possibly one of the most important things we can spend our time doing. JC Ryle describes this part of parenting as “a readiness to take part in childish joys.”

I don’t know what tasks filled the rest of that father’s day after he left IKEA, but I know that what my children and I watched was worth something tremendously valuable. For that man, delighting in his daughter and playing a lighthearted game with her might have been the most important thing he did all day. In those few minutes while we watched, he wasn't distracted, disconnected, or glancing at a screen in his hand; his attention was fixed on the glowing, delighted princess in front of him.

She had his attention, and he had hers.

How we delight in our children is going to look different from parent to parent; how we create a family culture of joy and playfulness is going to vary depending on personality and many other things. But whether it’s a dad playing catch in the backyard with his teenage son or a mother reading Little House on the Prairie to her daughters before bed... or building Lego castles in a bedroom... or dancing in a kitchen... these things matter!

There is much in parenting that is complex and worthy of careful, strategic planning. And then there are other things in parenting that are utterly simple and yet somehow surprisingly easy to neglect or devalue. Watching the beauty of that father and his princess revitalized a parenting truth that can easily fade. Don't forget to play. Don't forget to create joy. Don't forget to have fun. Don't forget to delight. 

For the parent, there is surpassing value in simply being present, playing games, and delighting in the young lives entrusted to our care.

Sunday, March 22, 2015


Last week we were able to drive to the farm for a very short but very sweet birthday visit with my Mom. I'm so thankful for her, an amazing woman of faith, integrity, grace, and strength. She's an incredible mother and grandmother, and I give thanks to God for her life.

We love you so much, Mom.

I'm so thankful God made you just the way you are. 
Of all the mothers in all the world, I'm so thankful that you're mine.
 You're not only a wonderful mother and grandmother, 
you're also an incredible example in life and faith, and a true friend. 

I love you.

Saturday, March 14, 2015


It's now the middle of March, and with climbing temperatures, many of Toronto's outdoor rinks have closed for the season. But with all the freezing cold days in February and early March, there have been lots of opportunities to skate. Sometimes we've gone with friends, sometimes Justin takes the kids by himself. This particular afternoon--the only time I happened to have my camera close by--it was a magical time on the ice. The kids were starting to get the hang of it. The ice was smooth but the air wasn't too cold. It was during twilight. And then, if that wasn't sweet enough, it started snowing. Big soft flakes. I'm usually not a huge fan of cold and wet outdoor activities, but even I couldn't deny that this afternoon was almost perfect.

Friday, March 13, 2015


I quietly open the door and ease into the small, cheerful music studio where my son, Jake, is finishing his lesson. His teacher is working on a strumming pattern and, intent on what he's being taught, Jake doesn't even glance my way as I sit in the corner.

His teacher is explaining something about the counts, and Jake, eager to try it, nods his head in understanding. Almost before his teacher finishes talking, Jake says, "Okay, let me try again." He's closer this time, but still not exactly right. His teacher again demonstrates and explains, and Jake, again nodding eagerly, begins playing almost before his teacher finishes speaking.

The student was eager. He loved the song and wanted to master it. He understood his teacher's instruction and didn't want to waste any time before giving it another try.

Because when you genuinely enjoy something, you're not content to simply nod in agreement, you naturally want to try it, do it, live it.

Practicing guitar is certainly not always that way for Jake. In fact, I have yet to meet any parent of a young music student who doesn't, at times, have to insist to their sighing, protesting child that they spend time doing what they're supposed to do. It goes without saying that there's great value in those times of practicing even when it's not enjoyable.

But there's something wonderful about seeing a student who loves what they're learning and is eager and excited to try again, to improve.

As I sat on that studio floor listening to a music lesson, I was aware there was a quieter lesson hidden inside the obvious one. Watching my son's eagerness, I thought about how true enjoyment often naturally unfolds into actual activity--into doing.

It's true in the arts, and it's true in life, isn't it? There is a relationship between genuine enjoyment and the activity it produces. To put it differently, when a student doesn't enjoy what they're learning, when they're indifferent to what they're being taught, when they're bored, detached, or wishing they were doing something else, they're likely to merely nod at the instruction and glance at the clock. Is this lesson over yet?

In the life of faith, as we listen to the instruction of our Teacher, enjoyment of Him brings activity. Every Christian I know has experienced both the enjoyment of Christ that leads to fruitfulness for Him, and also, at other times, experienced an indifference to Christ that bears little fruit. There are times when all I find myself doing is affirming the truthfulness of the instruction without enjoying the Person who teaches; there are other times when my heart is stirred and I genuinely know the joy of close fellowship with Christ.

There are times when I'm like that young student who can't wait to do it, who's excited to live out my faith and bear fruit.

Not just passive listening.
Not just nodding my head.
Not just agreeing with His teaching.

Not just, "Good sermon, Pastor," and then off we go, unchanged in how we live.

When we're walking closely with Him and know genuine enjoyment in the fellowship of His love, we live differently. We can't help it. It's intuitive.

Doing what is right becomes the natural unfolding of enjoying Him.

And when we're enjoying Him, it's so much more natural to not just be hearers but doers.

The Christian faith is both simple and complex all at once. There's rarely a simplistic or singular answer to the complex questions of why those of us walking in new life with Christ still struggle through seasons where we're dry and seem to be bearing little fruit. But once the complexities have been acknowledged, sometimes there are simple questions that bring helpful clarity. Here is one of those questions: Am I enjoying Him? 

Because when we're enjoying Him, it's so much more natural to live for Him.