Absense Makes The Heart

Joining with Seth and Amber Haines to talk about marriage. We write letters to inspire each other to keep on…keepin on. This month the prompt is ‘absence makes the heart’.

Dear Joel,
Tonight I watched the sunset over the Rocky Mountains. You must have seen that too…perhaps over the Pacific Ocean or maybe a little further inland? Somewhere in the American Northwest, that is all I know. You are far from me.

Absense makes the heart…
Every time you go, even after all these years, we experience the Horrible Just Before. It is me. All me. See how I can throw every invisible thing in the room at you? Watch the ways I put everything I can find between us. Watch me leave you first. See that I never needed you in the first place? You can call me almost anything except dependent.

And then the second you leave I am filled with regret. The threat of your absence makes my heart hard.

The weeks have fumbled by without you. The house is still standing but it is hard to see the floor.

Four days ago I left home. We packed the car and headed east. There was a beautiful baby girl to meet and I could wait no longer. If I am honest nothing about this trip has gone quite as planned (save the baby that looks like heaven, smells like love). The rest though, every stop, every activity planned somehow failed me. Turns out the whole of Shuswap through the Rogers pass flys south for winter…boards up the nests. Museums close on the wrong days of the week and hotel pools close early when you forget the time change. I have attempted to steal every page from your play book…have done my best to turn every disappointment into opportunity, every mishap into a sermon illustration (or maybe a blog post). We found ourselves in the belly of a beast, there were 106 stairs.

We shut down the pool tonight then went to the drive thru at 10 PM. You should have seen Em on the water slide. The spiral stair case led to the tower. Out the window we could see the Rocky Mountain tops. Emily would not be stopped, would not be helped in any way. I made jokes about the over parenting parents (but Owen didn’t get it…He made a GREAT DATE the rest of the time though!). I am exhausted. I don’t know how you do that for everyone all the time…turn everything into an opportunity for grace and beauty.

Absence makes the heart remember.
Tomorrow we will meet back at home and you need to know I still don’ t need you. That is not the point. I choose you. I GET you. You are my team…together we are stronger. We make each other better.
I choose you.

Absence makes the heart…
You were missed.

Wild Eyes


It isn’t often that my eyes light up with a view of heaven. They were flashing wild though, when I looked at you with all flesh cornea and happened to see the kingdom version. You were a thing of reckless beauty.

It sounds crazy and I know it. I might be just one day away from camel shirts and locusts for dinner but I don’t even mind. I wish you could see it for yourself, I wish my wild eyes could act like mirrors so that you could not deny it. There would be no going back. You could be a dangerous thing.

I feel it in these creaking flesh bones, valleys rising. The lioness. I am more than ready to rise up, pounce, catch it all, run wild. There is nothing in me aching for the cages of old. Don’t take me back.

My son, he ran out into the woods, got so far ahead I could not see him. It is not the time of year for small boys to be alone in Canadian forests. The bears are waking with this early thaw. When I finally found him, I said “are you okay?” thinking his heart is already caged up like mine. But no. Instead his wild eyes turned on me and said “oh mom, I feel like my very own real and true self”. This is what is created in us, the Image of God on our hearts. I can’t understand why we submit to being bound and caged by the world we find ourselves. What will it take for you to remember your whole? The sozo of God, His plans for you are total restoration. Don’t settle for just a part.

I don’t want to hear about your yoke no more. Throw it off. I want to hear about the molds you shatter, your irrational hope.

You who lead? Don’t you dare look back. There is no faster way to yoke yourself again. Keep your eyes locked on the good shepherd. Keep the kingdom vision of your flock at forefront. Don’t settle in. Don’t wear failure like a cloak. Throw it off. Just for a moment, embrace the whole and free, the reconciliation meant for you. Only then will you ever be able to be a tiny part shattering yokes for the oppressed among us.

For Monday…Think Small

wpid-2015-02-04-06.13.18-2.jpg.jpegThere was a man reciting his poetry in front of the drug store last week.  I stood while the rain misted, my eyes welling as he went on. His words were filled with wounds and glory. My heart turned over, reignited. This tiny gift, his act of grace to me. I held out my hand, we locked eyes.

“Thank you. Thank you for sharing your gift”. He stuttered, stammered, looked down at his worn out shoes. No, he said, Thank you for listening.

Just listening.

I might not have stopped on another day but God has talked to me about thinking small. Talked to me about watching for Him in unexpected places, listening for His voice, not rushing on. I am a woman of Big Vision, Big Plans, Big Emotions. I am always, perpetually, ready for the next Big Thing. I can walk fast, multitask, organize the multitudes. You got a dream? Lets get it done.

All I keep hearing these days though, is THINK SMALL. All he wants me to care about is spreading Good Seed. And finding tiny Pearls in forsaken fields. He wants me casting any net I can find. Working a teaspoon of yeast into the batch.

We have always begged God for the straightforward answer, what is the Kingdom like? What should we do? What is your plan for my life? God just says, Go Love Everybody. I don’t really care how. I want you to watch out for my prompts and leadings in each of your moments.

Isn’t it always, by the skin of our teeth, the head of a pin, the edge of a knife, the split second or just by a nose? Aren’t the most life altering things a single cell? We dare not despise the days of small beginnings. Big things only serve as spaces for the small to make manifest, to provide the conditions for the seed to sprout.

Give us this day, our daily bread. Tiny rounds of yeast grown into something that sustains us. Feeds the whole world. The Kingdom Come.


What you call Holy…A Marriage Letter


Marriage letters are back with Amber Haines. I absolutely overshare with these but have loved the challenge of them and have absolutely believed that if we go hard after our marriage…if you see it…it might inspire you to go hard after yours too.

Dear Joel,

The coyotes howled like stuck pigs last night. It was not a romantic sound, no silhouette against the waxing gibbous moon.  This was all whelps, angst, and the biting among them. There was an outsider threatening or a battle for the alpha role. Our big dog whimpered at the door, then ran at the fence, murderous rage. Our little dog…barked. As ever. Life can sound like that. Obnoxious. Exhausting. Dangerous. Our marriage…your wife…can sound like that too.

It is in these moments where we are sleepless, the sermon notes are missing (and I am digging in the trash because I rarely clean but when I do I am ruthless), when the children fight, the bank is blank and the truck has no heat, that it is hard to make space for the Holy.

We do. Somehow we do. You look at me with the scales chipped off, you see the traces of Saint in me. I see you. All the ways he has made you over, made you new.

I laugh at the way you feel God’s pleasure on a motorcycle. How seeing you there makes me feel like Hell. How hellish you feel when I force you to walk in the ways that I flirt with the Holy. Filled up journals, slow walks, photos of beauty. You sense the Holy in the loud and powerful…crashing waves and crashing symbols, bold declarations of relentless dedication. I sense the holy in swaying pines, the strings at work, awkward prayers, whispers of chaotic hope from the poets. These are the places I meet with God…where I establish communion with Him, where my obedience, my submission takes root and is born under His gentle corrections.

We are just so different. That is the beauty of it…a marriage…a church…the way our crooked and broken brains, our mistakes, take shape into a body that can walk even when it limps. Together we get something closer to functional.

I watched a young couple this week…they are just in the process of falling in love and they make me happy. There is a subtle but sure, invoking of the best of each other. There is a settling of the trying-too-hard to be something, a calming of the discontent, a hopefulness. This is never about taming or changing. This is the gentle ways we can inspire the best in each other. The way you inspire the Holy to rule in me. The one who brings the best of me to the surface and lets the rest be pruned and burned.

So let the coyotes howl, the wind batter at the shutters, slam our screen doors. We will stand…calling this marriage…all it forces us to be…Holy.


All the Things


I am one of those who gets excited about words like subversive. That is just the thing for me. You can go and make your life make sense in all the practical forms, I’ll just be upside down and backwards. I hope this life never makes sense to the powerful.

Find me, chasing down back alleys and sitting at bus stop coffee shops even though I am not going anywhere. Isn’t this where the truth got dropped off?

I met a man on Commercial Drive the other day. He wanted to take me on a date to the Union Gospel Mission….amazing food for just a couple of bucks…dinner on me he said. I told him my cab was coming to take me to the airport, he waited it out as he didn’t want anything bad to happen to me. He stood a bit too close and the speed of his movement didn’t set me at ease. But wait he did. He said I could catch the bus to anywhere after lunch, he would show me how. I said I am always going too many directions and I do need someone to tell me which way to go. He stood with me, closed my yellow door,  watched me go. He waved me off like I was a loved one crossing an ocean.

I’ve thought again about all my directions. Like how my best friends have never met my work friends, who don’t know my church friends who have never met my running buddies who absolutely have not met my family, not even my husband. The parents I visit with every day after school do not know that I keep a blog, that I make friends on the internet who I hold quite dear. Nobody knows that I write short stories as the day turns to night or that I read depressing articles about the abyss of this world non-stop but also how I consume books that lay out the formula that will turn the abyss inside out and kingdom side up. I’ve a twitter account for my job and a facebook page for this blog and I manage social media for ministries I start and all the directions I go. I am excitable you see. You can say a lot about me but unenthusiastic is not one of those things. I keep pushing at doors that are locking me out and I’m reading it as a sign of change coming and I’ve said for years how ready I am. I know a dream when I see it, and this hasn’t been mine but it pays the bills you know. So tell me how it is I turn all these passions to purpose, and purpose to something that pays back the bank?

I know for sure if I looked myself in the eyes and gave that girl my best advice I would talk about a concentrated focus and setting my eyes on the prize set before me. I would tell myself that life is never about our place in the race but about how our legs keep moving forward. I would tell myself to catch the bus to nowhere, that seems to be where the adventure is.

But there are small winter boots kicking at the inside of my dryer tonight, scuffing it up with black rubber. They remind me of my people here and how much I wish I was the sort of woman who could attend a PAC meeting without having to crack wild jokes to throw off all that would bind me. I wish I was the type of woman who could care about manicures and cleaning my mouldings. I wish I could be the kind of person who could put all of THIS on strips of paper and into a paper cup, draw out just one and make a life out of it. I wish I was the kind of woman who could be tamed and bridled. I just keep kicking at the trainers, bucking off the rider, biting the hand that feeds me. I am a mustang, kicking at the fence, let me race. I don’t care where.

I wish I had gone to the mission for lunch. Perhaps his directions may have helped.

Training Grace


I stepped in a muddy puddle today. It looked like ice but it wasn’t. Loosing your footing happens mostly on ground that looks solid. There isn’t anywhere to truly trust your steps except the rock. Everything else is quick sand, speeding treadmills.

So here we are, half past January and I’ve starting watching Sherlock like I am one of his fiends. These cold days, it can’t be helped. I hope for so much more, but here it is. I squeeze all I can from the days, nestle quiet in the clear black nights.

I’m torn up by the state of the world. Desperate to find my place to stand. Solid footing. You know that space? The pressure point that keeps the tear from reaching deeper, the world from ripping in half. This seems to be my permanent state, right here, the simultaneous devastated heart-break, and an overwhelming sense of hope, and profound peace. If that is not proof of God then I don’t know what.

Grace, crumbs, spinning planets, dirty dishes and the setting sun…we begin again. People doing the best they can though it seldom looks like that. That is the nature of the kingdom coming, the way it begins in our broken hearts. The way we never split in two.

Today I read about the training grace. And I thought yes. That is it. Training. The point is in the walking, the ever more deliberate gait, the learning to recognize and trust the worthy footholds. Learning to walk with him even if the belt seems to be spinning beneath our feet and the progress is slow. This is the training grace.

Jump In…The Water is Fine

We will not go where we can't see our

Dear E,

Ever since your first birthday, I have had to hold you back from the water. You would run towards it and leap in to any lake or river, giving no notice to the fact that you could not swim.


Much of the time, at snow-fed creeks in early June and waterfalls and oceans in October we would have to actually HOLD YOU BACK so keen you were to jump in.

DSC_0365Even with our deliberate and hands on parenting, even with our hand on your collar, even still you would often find a way to get your feet wet.

DSC_0117 So then, you can imagine my surprise when you would not get into the surf pool with your daddy. I had stayed in the hot tub and you returned to me five minutes later, tears streaming down your face,

“Mom, I am the only girl in there. I don’t belong”

I guess. Logic would tell you, if you don’t see yourself then, of course, you do not belong. But you and me? We are not only people of logic, we are also a people of hope. Some days, it is all we have. And so.

We walked hand in hand and you rode that wave with your face glowing. You watched those teenage boys, doing tricks, you asked how they did it. Oh girl you dove in. It was beautiful. There will be times my darling, to live life in the fullness you are called to, you will be the only one in the water. Do not be afraid.

So many would not have had the courage to tell me why they left the pool. I hear things all the time like “I just don’t feel like it”, “I am bad at math”, “I can’t do it”. But yes you can. Being afraid and being incapable are two very different things.

My girl there will be places that people have not been yet. Places that someone has once upon a time said you were not made for. But let us go there together. This week, I’ve thought of how you are watching me. I found the camera you used this summer. Of the 800 photos on it, 300 were of me. Me…jumping into lakes…freckles blazing, mascara washed off. Me…after a 18 km run…panting and flush. Me…camping without a shower, without any make up. ME. That is what scares me sometimes darlin’. The way you watch me, the way there is no mask with you.

wpid-wp-1421127837542.jpegBecause…I need to tell you. Some of this stuff scares me too. These are the days of Boko Haram turning little girls into bombs and unprecedented domestic murders in our own nation. These are the days of women of THIS LAND disappearing and dying and none of it is ok. These are days of terror. But do you know what? These are also the days of Malala and the days of MY Emily. These are still days of HOPE and do you know that you and I? Well…we were called and born for SUCH A TIME AS THIS. There are places that I have not been, that I am not sure I am meant to go, but watching you is teaching me that sometimes I am just afraid to go to places that I have not seen myself.

wpid-2014-12-22-10.14.19-1.jpg.jpegSo my sweet. Jump in. The water is fine.

With all my love and all the courage I can muster,