Sunday, April 26, 2015

Looking for the Good

I was asked to give the morning devotion at our national conference of pregnancy care centres last week in Vancouver, and thought I'd share with all of you what I shared with all of my colleagues then.  While this was written very intentionally to people working in the pregnancy care ministry, please just hear it as my own thoughts and struggles.

I have been asked to give a devotion, I don’t know that this is really a devotion J  Just as Anne felt that she was called to be inspiring yesterday, today I feel that I am called to just be real. 

I've had comments about how many students I have as Facebook friends, but really, these are students that I didn't hesitate to accept their friend requests, because I’m the same person on FB as I am in real life All I know is what I've lived – what God has walked with me through and what I've learned, so that’s where I’m speaking from this morning.

I’d like to talk all of you, and especially our front line workers, those who have sat in the counseling room with a woman, and especially to those who have watched their client walk out the door, knowing that she was headed for the abortion clinic.

I want to spend a few minutes in one of my favorite books – Romans, specifically Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – we’re going to talk about this verse, and how this applies so much to the work we’re doing.

My mom is the youngest of 7 children by 18 years – my grandmother was in her early 40’s when my mom was born, and it was because of this that my mom and grandmother were very, very close, and when I was born, the first of 7, I was named after my maternal grandparents.

My grandmother’s name was Minke, and my grandfather Anne, and I am Monica Anne.  And while every grandchild is pretty sure they are the favorite, there was definitely a special bond between me and my Beppe.  Beppe is Friesen for grandmother – my grandparents were Dutch immigrants, coming from the province of Friesland in the late 1940’s, shortly before my mom was born.  We lived on the same yard as them, and I grew up spending countless hours at my Beppe’s bedside.

Beppe’s favorite verse was Romans 8:28, and for that reason alone it became a favorite of mine.  It’s one of those great verses that people like to claim and throw around very easily, kind of like Jeremiah 29:11.

It just makes you feel good, right?  But it’s not actually that simple.  Yes, God promises good will come out of our circumstances – but not that we will have easy lives, or that we will even see that good.

While I may have just adopted Beppe’s favorite verse for my own, it’s taken on a very special meaning for me in recent years, and even weeks.  Over the past few years I’ve been so blessed to see God work in my life in so many ways, bringing me to this place where I have this amazing job that I’m ridiculous underqualified for, I’m getting married in a couple of months to a wonderful man, all of these things where I’ve been able to see God’s hand through dark and trying circumstances, preparing me for what He had planned.

I’ve been able to see some of the good.

And isn’t that how it is with some of our clients?  Those clients who come in with their stories of heartbreak and sadness, their agony over this unplanned pregnancy, and then we see God at work – maybe that’s through a decision to parent, or an amazing adoption story, and we can see that through our obedience to God’s call on our lives to serve, He has worked good.

Don’t we love those clients?  Our success stories?  We plaster them on the front of our newsletters, shout their stories from pulpits, and invite them to our banquets to compel our donors to give.

But what about the tough ones? What do we do with those?  The ones where we don’t see good – none at all.  What happened?  We were there, we were obedient – and yet, she still had that abortion.
It’s so easy to see God’s hand and to praise Him in the good times – what about the bad?  Where is He then?

I flew out of the Calgary airport on Tuesday afternoon, after having spent the night with my 16 year old daughter, in her hospital room at Alberta Children’s Hospital where she’s been now for 2 weeks, and will likely remain for the next couple of months.

My beautiful girl – my firstborn – is fighting against something that is trying so hard to take her life.  And that thing is herself.  Katie is anorexic, and over the past 7 months has lost 50% of her body weight.  At 5’10’ and 90 lbs, she is literally nothing but skin and bones.

Well, God.  Where is the good in this?

But you see, that’s where we get tripped up in this verse sometimes.  Nowhere does it say that it’s all going to be good.

Tim Keller* says there are three implications found in this verse:  First, that all things happen to Christians, good and bed.  Let’s be realistic – terrible things happen to people who love God.  The verse says that in all things God works for good – that means all things.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.   Reading on in this passage, vs. 35 says “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?”  Those are all terrible things, and they can and will happen to Christians and non-Christians alike.


The second thing that Keller points out is that when things work together in your life, it’s because of God.  When our businesses do well, and we’re able to be successful financially, it’s not because we’re so smart – it’s because God has blessed that venture.  When we have good health, it is simply because God is holding it up.  When we have good relationships in our life, it’s not because we’re so loveable – it’s God, in His grace, working all things together.

The third point that Keller brings is the most basic – although bad things happen, God works them for our good.  It doesn't promise that as Christians we’re going to have better circumstances just because we love God.  No.  Rather, we are promised that in the bad, God is working.  In the middle of that divorce, or as your business is filing for bankruptcy, in that hospital room, or at that gravesite – God is working.
We need to remember, though, that God promises to work all things together for good – but that doesn't mean that when something bad happens, we can automatically expect good the next week.  Or the next year.  Or maybe even in the next decade.  In fact, we may never see the good that God promises.

Think of the story of Jim Elliot – he was a missionary who went into Ecuador to share the good news, and was killed by the locals before seeing a single man come to Christ.  But through his dedication and obedience, the door was opened, and since then many, many have come to know Christ, in part by the work of his widow Elizabeth.

The promise is not that we will see how every bad thing in our life works to our good – it’s that God will make sure that all the bad circumstances will work together for your life in its totality.

It is in this confidence that we do the work that we do.  How else can we, day after day, client after client, continue to present the information needed, with no control over the effects?  How else do we deal with the frustration and heartache of that woman who walks out the door, firm in her plans of abortion?

This is how.  Knowing that through our obedience to God’s call on our life, He will work good.

John Piper says this about Romans 8:28:

“When it comes to the architecture of promises, there are not any bigger buildings than Romans 8:28.  This structure is absolutely staggering in its size.  It is massive.  The infinitely wise, infinitely powerful God pledges to make everything beneficial to his people!  Not just nice things, but horrible things, like tribulation and distress and peril and slaughter.  What brick would you lay on the top of this skyscraper promise to make it taller?  “All things” means all things. 

Once you walk through the door of love into the massive, unshakable structure of Romans 8:28, everything changes.  There comes into your life stability and depth and freedom.  You simply can’t be blown over any more.  The confidence that a sovereign God governs for your good, all the pain and all the pleasure that you will ever experience is absolutely incomparable to the refuge and security and hope and power in your life.”**

So what do we do with this?  We work.  And we trust.  That’s all.  Our God is so much bigger than we can imagine, so much bigger than all of our plans.

Those abortion minded clients?  We don’t always get to know the end of the story.  Sometimes we do….when we see them uptown, and they’re not pregnant anymore. Or they’re coming back, looking for post-abortion help.  Or sometimes we get a glimpse of the good, when we see our clients with their newborns.

We look for the blessings and we look for the good, thanking God when we can see it, trusting Him when we can’t.  I find that in knowing that God is in control, that He does have a good plan, I look for the good, look for His blessings.

Katie’s situation is a terrible one, and I don’t know what God has planned for her.  I pray that someday she will be able to use this and be a help and inspiration to many, that God will use her mightily.   But maybe He won’t.  But I know that God will bring good.  I've been able to see a piece of it – through this entire situation, I've gotten to see the character and integrity of my fiancĂ©e. 

In all of it, God is in control – and He is working.  His good.  His good plan.

I grew up in the Reformed church, a heritage which I love and hold dear to my heart, and part of that heritage is the Heidelberg Catechism.  The Heidelberg Catechism is a confession, written in the 1500’s based on Scripture, used to teach Christian doctrine, and my favorite, and the favorite of many, is Q & A 1, which I’d like to leave you with.

Q. What is your only comfort in life and death?

A. That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil.

He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation.

Therefore, by his Holy Spirit he also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for him.


*http://www.monergism.com/christian%E2%80%99s-happiness-romans-828-30**www.desiringgod.org/sermons/called-according-to-his-purpose

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Because He Lives

Well, here we are again.  Logged into my blog, and it's been over a year since I last posted.  A lot has changed in that year, and that's why I find myself sitting behind my computer, writing out my thoughts again.

The events of the last couple weeks have been cause for a lot of reflection.  Last week this time Terry and I were rushing into the ICU of Children's Hospital, not sure of what we were going to find when we get there.  Today, Katie is back in her regular bed on the ward, improving, and I am at home, celebrating John's 15th birthday.

God is so good.

Since I posted a couple of weeks ago about Katie's journey with an eating disorder and subsequent hospitalization, I've had people comment how brave that was, how courageous.  It really wasn't though.  We - me, Terry, Katie, my boys, my extended family - we have found ourselves in a horrendous situation that honestly we wouldn't wish on anyone ever, and we need help.  We need to know that our community is supporting us and praying for us.  There is nothing courageous in it - it was simply just a plea for help.  A mom, scared and broken, looking for her community to stand around and lift up her baby in prayer.

And you did.  By the tens and the hundreds, you have gone before the throne and interceded for Katie, for me, for the boys, and I thank you.  From the bottom of my heart, I thank you. For the personal messages that have come, with concern and encouragement, thank you.  For comments on Facebook, thank you.  For texts, phone calls and people just checking in, thank you.  For entire congregations praying for us during their Sunday service - thank you.  For the meals and practical help - thank you.

I remember someone telling me that when you run into hard time is when you find out who your "real" friends are and who your "good time" friends are.  I have discovered that I don't have just "good time" friends - they're all "real" friends. Everyone has stood by us and supported us.

I've been reflecting on Romans 8:28 for the last few days, preparing for a piece I need to write for a conference this week in Vancouver, and am once again comforted by God's sovereignty in all of this.  God does have a plan for all of it, and He loves Katie more than I ever could.

Unfortunately, this is just the beginning of Katie's journey battling anorexia and all that comes with it.  It's going to be a long, uphill battle, but I'm so thankful that we're now headed up that hill.  That we've seen improvement, and things seem to be headed in the right direction.  We covet your continued prayers as we adjust to this "new" normal of Katie being in Calgary, and us being here.  For safe travels back and forth, for extra energy on the long days, for wisdom in knowing when to go and when to stay here.

Last weekend we celebrated the greatest sacrifice ever made, and the words of the song "Because He Lives" were so poignant.  "Because He lives, I can face tomorrow" - it's so true.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Looking back......looking forward

Years ago, my pastor spoke in a sermon about the necessity of looking forward. He said "If you're driving down Mayor Magrath, and all you do is look in your rearview mirror, you're going to get in an accident.  Instead, you need to look ahead, with quick glances behind you to see what's there.  That's how we need to live our lives.

Seems so appropriate today.  The New Year always bring with it a time of reflection, and I think that's good.  It is healthy to look at the year gone by, celebrate the victories, mourn the losses, and learn from the lessons.  But we can't stay there.  We need to keep looking ahead, keep moving forward.

Reading over my post from January 1, 2013, it's interesting to actually compare how the year turned out.  The kids have had a busy year - I love having all three of them at the high school, and it's been a good transition for Nathan.  

The Centre has opened!  We've been open now for two months, and while it's been slow, there are clients coming in, and we're getting to help them.  It's been an adjustment for me and the kids, being gone all day, every day.  We're still figuring that one out - instant meals from M & M Meats have definitely become my friend.  Hoping to get better at the balance of working and being a mom this year.  

The Wind family grew again this year, with the arrival of little Emberly in February, and is continuing to grow, with 3 new additions expected in 2014.  God is so good!  We were all able to be together in Fairmont, and almost all of us went camping this summer.  I'm so thankful to be part of a family that values each other so much, and that as adults we are as close as we are.
University:  first two university courses are done (with A's!), and halfway through the next 3 - and it's going well.  :)

The divorce is final, has been for a few months, and that marked the end of that chapter.  It's been good to have closure there, for me and the kids.  

Last year this time, my Beppe really wasn't doing all that well.  There's plans for her birthday party in the next couple weeks - she's doing so much better.  I even got to see her this spring, for the first time in over 3 years.
There's been loss too - I went to more funerals in 2013 than I have in a long time.  So many families that will never be the same.

So, 2014.  What do we have to look forward to?  Honestly, I'm hoping for a calm, "boring" year.  To get settled into the Centre, and really watch it grow.  To figure out this whole work/mom thing.  To keep going on the university courses.  Really?  Just more of the same.

The kids and I are going to Edmonton for a couple of days in March, and I'm excited for that.  The CAPSS conference is in Hamilton this year, so I'll get to spend some time there.  Katie gets to go to Mexico in February, and I'm so thrilled for her!  She's taking part in a mission trip with the Taber EFree group, and gets to go see Auntie Karen. There will be another summer of camp - Katie is hoping to spend all summer there.  :)

Watching the kids grow and mature - such an experience.  Katie is discovering a real interest and enjoyment in mechanics, and is exploring the option of the RAP program. John has picked up a couple of routes for the Shopper, and is showing real responsibility and maturity there.  Nathan, my little Nathan, is in Junior High!  He's becoming so helpful around the house, and is really starting to grow in that area.

I've got some stuff I need to work on this year.  Money - need to nail down a budget and stick to it.  Need to lose some weight, get in shape.  I need to really intentionally work on my relationship with God, and time in His Word.

The biggest change for us is the fact that God has brought a wonderful man into my life to share all these things with, so it will be a year of change and adjustment as we walk this new journey in life.

So, here we stand at the beginning of a brand new year.  A clean slate.  A whole year ahead, full of possibilities.  I can't wait to see what God fills it with.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Choosing Thankfulness

Thanksgiving.  All over this great country of ours, people are getting together with family, sharing the things they are thankful for.  Facebook is full of statuses of gratefulness. And so it should be.  We do have so much to be thankful for, me especially.

  1. My kids.  Honestly, there are days that I just stand back, look at them, and think "Wow, God, I don't think I've wrecked them too badly!"  :)  Seriously though, they are amazing.  To see them moving into young adulthood, to watch them grow and mature is such a gift to me.  
  2. My parents.  I'm not exaggerating at all when I tell you I really do have the best parents in the world.  Now, they're not perfect (sorry, Mom!), but when I need them, they are there.  When things go south, when something exciting happens, when I'm lonely, when I'm happy, when I'm sad, I can call home (and I do!), and Mom will listen.  I think it's pretty safe to say that I would not have made it through the past couple of years without them.
  3. My family. If you know anything about the Wind clan, you realize this is not a small statement.  There will be 28 people sitting around tomorrow's Thanksgiving table, and that doesn't include Alex who had to stay in Mexico, or the little one who will be joining the family in February.  Anyhow, they are amazing.  I just said to one of my sisters the other day that I'm pretty sure the reason God gave me this many sisters is He knew how many cheerleaders I would need.  And they are that.  Add to that their willingness to let me stay at their house, let my kids stay at their house, fix my van, you name it, they're there for me.  And I love them for it.
  4. My friends.  While I often talk about knowing the entire world (and I really do know a lot of people), I don't have a ton of close friends.  But the ones I have a pure gold, and I love them dearly.
  5. My church.  I honestly cannot say enough about our church family at EFree Lethbridge.  I'm so thankful that I'm able to serve in Worship Arts again this year, as I so missed that.  The leadership staff, my kids' small groups, my WOW group - all of it.  Such a major part of our lives.
  6. My school.  Even though I don't work there anymore, and I definitely don't attend there, Immanuel Christian High School will always be "my school".  The community there is also our family, and I'm so thankful for the love and support that the kids and I have gotten.  It is such a blessing to be able to drop the kids off and know that they will be receiving a quality education drenched in the Gospel, and be loved on all day by staff who truly care.
  7. My house.  We've lived here now for almost 8 months, and I just love it.  Every weekend when I clean house, I still think, "wow, I get to live here!"  It's amazing.
  8. My job.  Actually, it's so much more than a job, it's a career.  And more than that, it's a calling.  To be able to work in ministry is amazing.  I am getting so excited to see the doors to the Centre open and to start serving our city - I can't wait!
  9. My university opportunity.  While there are days that I think signing up for my degree was singlehandedly the stupidest thing I could have done, I'm glad I did.  It's a challenge, but it's a good one, and the feeling of accomplishment when a paper comes back with a good mark is fantastic.
  10. My divorce.  I know, doesn't seem appropriate, but I am thankful.  In the next few weeks, I should be receiving a piece of paper from the courthouse saying that I am divorced.  I'm thankful that this journey is over - it's been long and hard, and I'm ready to move on with my life.
Just like that.  10 things that I'm thankful for.  And I could go on.....and on.....and on.

So then why am I still so sad?  How is it that when I have so many good things around me that I still feel so empty?  There are so many people suffering, so many people who would give anything to have a life as good as mine.  But I don't look at them - I'm too busy looking at all those who seem to have it so much better.

God, help me out of this pity party!  I have been so, so richly blessed - help me to see that and to remember it.  To live in the gratitude that can only come from the knowledge of the saving grace of Christ.  

So that's what we're going to do - choose thankfulness.  Because honestly?  I'm so blessed, I have no right to complain about anything.  




Monday, October 7, 2013

Cornerstone

What a day.....there's so many things I would like to say, but I don't even know what to say.  To see so many hearts breaking today, it was devastating.  All I could think was "Father, help them....".

So, for today, this song sums it up - "through the storm, He is Lord, Lord of all"



Friday, October 4, 2013

Hold on tight.....with open hands

Today is one of those days that I am just weary with this world and all of its brokenness, and just long to go home.  It's one of those days that you just can't help but think, "Why, God?  Why so much?"

Today, one of my favorite families, the Lights, laid their mother and grandmother to rest, celebrating her life here on earth and her "promotion" to glory, while mourning their loss.  This is the same family who just stood beside a gravesite a few weeks ago, saying goodbye to a brother and uncle.

Today, the Bydevaate family is making plans for the funeral of their 28 year old son. What?  How is this right?  Joel, a young man in the prime of his life, killed in a farming accident.  This is a family I've known my entire life, a family that has already gone through so much.  Really, God?  Why?  We know You're in control, and trust Your sovereignty, but why?

Today, the Hodges family said goodbye to their mother as she passed into glory.  I think of Roy, who stood at my doorway, tearing up just talking about his sweet Doreen in the hospital, and wonder, why?

3 lives.  3 families.  3 people who are spending this Sabbath in glory.

And yet life goes on.  In all this grief and tragedy, we need to keep going.  So what do we do with this?  In times like this, it's easy to spout off Scripture like Romans 8:28, that God will work things for good, or Jeremiah 29:11, that God has a good plan for our future.  It's all true.  We can share all sorts of wonderful "Christianese" platitudes, about how these people are in a better place, that we can celebrate their lives and be thankful they're in glory.  That's also very true.

So what we do?

We hold on.  We hold on to the promises of Scripture like a lifeline, because that is what they are.

And we hold on to those around us, not taking for granted the gifts that God has given us, since we don't know when He will take them back.  Holding on to our children and our families with open hands.  Holding on to the little moments, and appreciating them.

As I'm sitting here writing, this picture flipped up on my digital frame...
This was taken a few weeks ago.  We got to spend a Sunday afternoon in Waterton with my folks.  We were sitting down having an ice cream (because, honestly, you can't go to Waterton and not have ice cream), and Katie was just taking pictures of different things. She sits down beside Dad, who says "Hey, let's take one of those....you know what they're called.....like Cheryl always does."  A selfie, Grandpa?  Yup.  :)

So, the picture is not super quality, but I love it.  Just a random little moment, a selfie with Grandpa.  But so precious.

So tonight when you tuck your kids in, and say good night to your loved ones, hold them a little longer.  Thank God once again for all that He's given you, because even in all this grief and sadness, there is still joy.







Sunday, September 29, 2013

My poor, neglected blog....

Somehow, in the midst of life, I seem to have forgotten that I have a blog.  So, in a quiet moment this afternoon I remembered, and when I opened it up, the newest post was from March.  Not good.

Basically, things have just been really busy.  Since my last post.....

  • John turned 13
  • I got a tattoo 
  • I spent a week in Victoria at the CAPSS conference, along with a little stop in Surrey to visit my Beppe
  • the kids finished a school year, including Nathan graduating from grade 6!
  • the kids and I got to get away a bit this summer, including a night away in Fernie & Three Hills
  • got to take part in the first ever Wind family camping trip
  • Nathan turned 12
  • Katie got to spend an entire month at SABC - 3 weeks working, and 1 week as a camper
  • I finished my first two university courses, and got an A in both of them!
  • the renovation at the Centre got underway, and now is just weeks from completion
  • got to spend a great Sunday afternoon in Waterton with Grandma & Grandpa, reminiscing about their honeymoon there 38 years ago
  • all three kids are now at the high school campus, and I have one in Senior High!
  • Katie turned 15
....and so much more.  I'm sure there's more, but those seem to be the things that are coming back to me right now.  

So, to sum it up?  Things are good....busy, but so good.  :)