Thursday, May 21, 2015

Advice to my 23 year old self: grace

My 23rd birthday was exactly one month before my wedding day. God had brought a young man into my life, though we lived half the world apart, who was godly and loving, quiet and fun. He was even taller than me and could play piano, my childhood dream come true! After a busy summer renovating, it was great to be able to settle into our new home and into our new life as a married couple.

There are two pieces of advice I would give to my 23 year old self.

First: Contentment.
Second: Grace.


In our first year of marriage we were not blessed with a child. However, most of my married friends at church had a baby that year. We trusted that God would start our family in His good timing, but it was often difficult to see my friends enjoying God’s good gift of children while He withheld that blessing from me for a time. The advice I would give to myself would be "Don’t forget God is good and He works all things together for His good and for my benefit."

We had two wonderful years of marriage before God did bless us with the birth of our first child, a son. Looking back I see what a blessing those years of marriage were for us and our relationship. We were able to devote ourselves fully to our marriage without also learning how to be parents at the same time. 1 Timothy 6:6 "Now godliness with contentment is great gain."

Grace is an amazing thing. Unearned, undeserved favour and kindness! I think the more we learn about grace and see its beauty, the more we know we don’t know. During our first year of marriage we were very involved in our church. It seemed that we could be at church doing something almost every night of the week: Ladies Mission Circle, Bible Studies, Choir practice, Boys & Girls Club, Sunday services, speech nights etc. Why did I do all these things? Perhaps I wanted to grow in grace. Or, perhaps felt obligated to.

Looking back I can see that my motives were not always pure, sometimes they were downright ugly. When we have a view of God that He is constantly looking down from His lofty throne on high checking up on us to see if we are behaving, our actions show it. Often we frantically try to run around ‘serving’ Him. I don’t doubt that I was a believer, but I do know that I wasn’t awed with His grace.

God has taught me much about grace over the last years. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that I can do that will make me any more pleasing to the Father. The advice I would give to myself about grace is "When God the Father looks at me, He sees Christ’s perfect righteousness covering me and He calls me His beloved daughter!" And that is reason for holy living, serving and learning.

Colossians 3:1-4 -- "If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory."

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Amanda was my babysitter growing up. Hard to believe I thought she was sooo ooooold back then but not at all now! :-) I have many memories of "Mandy" coming to "play." Once upon a time we even glued coloured macaroni to paper. 

Thanks for sharing, Amanda!

(PS, Amanda is Jacqui's daughter...fun to have both Mom & Daughter contributing to the series!)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Advice to my 23 year old self: everything has been given to you from God

A few weeks ago my dear friend and sister in Christ Sarah asked me to write a letter to my 23 year old self. I am honored to be a part of her blog in this way. It has been fun reflecting the last while on what I would write to myself now that I am 48 (yikes!) to myself 25 years ago when I was so young and na├»ve. My husband and I were recently enjoying lunch in Vancouver at the harbor near Canada Place. I told him about this request from Sarah, he looked out over the Pacific Ocean as the sun was casting awesome shadows on the coastal mountains and said, “I am sure when you were 23 you never imagined that you would be living here 25 years later, eating lunch on the Pacific coast with your husband as a pastor!” WOW that just about sums it up...so here goes -- a letter from an older but still crazy and fun loving pastor’s wife, Mom to 5, MIL to one and Gramma to 3 -- to a brand new Mamma with a one-month old handsome first born son, living a life of solitude and peace on a pig farm with her slim, handsome farmer husband.



Dearest Self,

I am so happy to see you living such a sweet, contented life. Your husband obviously adores you and is so proud of your sweet one-month old son Scott. I am sure you are so grateful how healthy and strong your baby is. I need to remind you that it isn’t always like that. Someday you may have a child born with difficulties so always remember to be thankful for healthy kids. I admire the cozy home you two have set up out there on the farm. You look like you plan to stay there for a lifetime. Your plans to renovate the upstairs, so that you can have lots of bedrooms for all those kids, seems like such a great idea! 


Always remember though that a man’s heart plans his ways, the Lord directs his steps. (Proverbs 16:9) It may be a good idea to leave your options open and not become to set in your ways. Hold the earthly gifts and treasures God gives you lightly; be willing to let them go. Life may not always go as you thought it would. 

Be willing to listen to your husband’s desires, dreams, plans and callings. Encourage him to be all that God would have him to be. Pray for and with him. You may just be surprised when your life takes some interesting twists. So awesome that you and your husband are raising your son in the same church you were both baptized and raised in. 

It is a huge privilege to be able to worship with all your parents, siblings and extended family and to spend Sundays socializing with family. I have a bit of advice for you about this – as lovely as that is being in church with your extended family – it may be too comfortable and stifling for you. In the future God may just call you out of that “comfort zone” so that you can grow more in the communion of saints. It can be very refreshing spiritually to become part of a different fellowship of believers. Embrace this opportunity to learn from others about their walk of faith and let them be an encouragement to you. 


Dear self, God has blessed you at such a young age with so much! Many new moms don’t have the rich heritage you have been given and the supports around them that you are privileged to have. Be compassionate and be there for the down and outs in our society. There are so many hurting people in this broken world. There are kids being neglected and abused – consider sharing your love and your home with them. Help out the moms who do not have the supports you enjoy – give them encouragement and practical help! Show respect to the homeless – speak to them, feed them and support them anyway you can. 

Always remember that anything you have has been given to you by our gracious heavenly Father. My advice to you as an older Christian woman is most of all to always remember that you are not your own, but you belong to your faithful Savior Jesus Christ. 

Live your life by His strength, in His will, always living for His good pleasure and glory!

With Much Love,
Your Older Self

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Where to begin? Sue has played many roles in my life: my Pastor's wife, boss man's wife, co-worker, and friend. She was the perfect pick for a reference on my resume when I decided to apply for jobs on PEI!

We have had so many amazing chats, many when either or both of us really should have been working...but the fellowship we had together was much more important! 

Since I moved out here, Sue followed her husband's call to Chilliwack, BC, where he is now pastor of the FRC in Chilliwack after spending most of my growing up years in St. Thomas. Needless to say we are not in the same physical location any longer, so good talks are far and few between. I'm thankful Sue was willing to share her story here today! It 'almost' feels as if we are together again. :)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Advice to my 23 year old self: ...and you'll grow, grow, grow

Dear Sarah,

Congratulations on your upcoming birthday. 23 is a big year, or at least it was for me.

Two days before my 23rd birthday, I witnessed my best friend getting married. I flew the next day to South Korea to spend a fun, perhaps a little wild, couple of weeks with my sister. Shortly thereafter I met my husband-to-be and also started my final year of nursing school. It was during this year that I got engaged, after a 6 month long distance relationship, I graduated university, left "home" to move to a new province, started my first job, and planned a wedding: my own. So they say, when it rains it pours, and rain it did, only to true of all the changes during this year of my life.



When looking back I do not like to say that I have regrets, because I believe everything happens for a reason. That reason being God's plan for my life, and to shape me to be the woman He desires me to be. However, I have been able to think of numerous pieces of advice that I probably "knew" at the time, but there is a world of difference when general advice becomes personal application. I am going to keep it limited to just a few thoughts.

God's timing is perfect; don't try to rush your own agenda. He makes all things beautiful in His time. I remember getting so frustrated with waiting for my nursing license to transfer to Ontario, it was going to happen eventually and I didn't have to get so worked up about the whole situation. I also wanted to get married ASAP, when in reality we could have waited a while and kept my family a little happier with the whole situation.



Which brings me to my next point. You don't have to make everyone happy, it's not your job. Do not compromise your values, and yet, still try to live at peace with everyone. Most of my life I have tried to please people, as best as I could, especially my parents, which was most often was a good thing. During that year I made some decisions that my parents weren't completely thrilled with and I knew that. However, it was part of breaking away from them and helped me to be a stronger person. I just had to re-adjust my focus to living my life in a way that pleases God. Where is my motivation? It should be devotion to God. (Jerry Bridges)

Another piece of advice that I had probably heard a million times, dress modestly (no explanation needed.)

I'm certain most young ladies at this age are married or possibly pursuing a husband or at least dreaming of the idea. I was quite content to be single on my 23rd birthday, but a few months later that changed. After I met Trevor, it did not take long for us to get pretty serious and within a year we were married. Although there were challenges along the way, I have been very blessed by our marriage and I am grateful for God's faithfulness in my life. I am thankful that we are walking in the way of the Lord, that we hold each other accountable, and are raising our children in light of His word.



After just reading Tim and Kathy Keller's "Reason for Marriage" this year I have discovered many new insights that are too numerous to share, and I recommend reading this book to married or singles alike. The following is some practical counsel that they give to marriage seekers.

Do not allow yourself deep emotional involvement with a non-believing person.

Feel attraction in the most comprehensive sense. Too many people chose their marriage partner on the basis of looks and money -- that they often find themselves married to a person they don't really respect that much.

Don't let things get too passionate too quickly. The kind of love that lasts a lifetime is not only a matter of emotions. It has to be a commitment strong enough to move us to glad, non-begrudging sacrificial service of another person even during the inevitable seasons when the emotions are dry or cool.

Marriage is God's gift to the church. Through Christian marriages, the story of the gospel -- of sin, grace, and restoration -- can be seen and heard both inside the church and out in the world.

The main practical piece of advice I can give is from the words of a simple children's song, "Read your bible, pray everyday, and you'll grow, grow, grow."

Always serving Him,
Tanya

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Tanya and I met only a few months ago, but I've enjoyed our time getting to know each other. We attend the same Young Adults/Young Couples Bible Study and I always appreciate her input. 

Besides Bible Study, we have been known to get a little crazy and play ultimate frisbee on a Sunday night (party animals!) with our peeps.

Thanks SO much for contributing Tanya! This advice is golden!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Advice to my 23 year old self: get involved!



I've been trying to think back that far as to what exactly I was doing at age 23 LOL!! I guess that would have been 1979, so in July Tim would have been born! That is 33 years ago this past summer. I was busy trying to figure out little kids (I was more into playing baseball outside with the boys than playing with dolls when I was younger!) I never did much babysitting, so babies always intimidated me quite a bit. Even now, I love my grandkids, but enjoy them mostly at an older age...I look forward to when they are teenagers LOL



Thinking back on that time, I remember one thing vividly that I learned around that age that it's much better to get out and do something for someone else than sit at home feeling sorry for yourself or bogged down! As a young Mom I felt quite isolated at times, but would invite a friend over for coffee, or make supper for someone. It gets your mind off your own issues and you bless someone else.

My motto was always, "There's more to life than housework" and that included friends who were welcome to drop by anytime of day regardless if the house was cleaned up or not. However, you can only do that to a point eh? You do need to try to keep on top of the dishes and laundry to feel in control of your housekeeping. This is something I still keep working on as procrastination is one of my big temptations. 

For any age group, keeping in the Word of God is critical! Get involved in something in the Church and another charitable organization to 'do your part'.

Keep your eye on God to lead you through life keeping your eyes open for new opportunities to serve him while being faithful to present commitments. Go with the flow, keeping your eyes focused on Jesus!

Hugs,
"Aunt" Jacqui

P.S. That reminds me....adopt lots of nieces and nephews!!

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Aunt Jacqui was my babysitter's mom, my mom's friend, and just another lady from church until I caught the sewing bug! I have spent many a night at her house, thoroughly enjoying her big sewing room,  learning many important life lessons - and even some times sewing tips. ;) (I attribute all I know about quilting to her!)

You can read her sewing adventures over at Treadle Quilts 

Thanks, Aunt Jacqui for your advice!!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Advice to my 23 year old self: the Lord is always faithful

Looking back...when I was 23, I thought I knew everything. I thought I was successful, invincible and oh so HOT!! I had HUGE 80’s platinum blonde hair.  I wore HUGE 80’s shoulder pads in all my neon colored NYC fashions. 

I was also newly married. We had just purchased our first home, which I decorated with lots of hearts and stenciling and loved painting with all those popular “country colors”.

Now that it is 21 years later, I realize I knew nothing. I had no children to love. I was self-consumed and my priorities were twisted like a pretzel.  My relationship with the Lord consisted of all the things that I was supposed to do, things that made me look good in the eyes of all my friends. I was living in a bubble of comfort and ease. 



I had no idea back then the blessing of trials. The importance of seeing God’s faithful hand in the workings of our lives. The utter dependence one feels when life’s lows are lower than you could have ever imagined. Looking back, I must chuckle to think I knew anything about the amazing plan God had in store for me or how hard living out my faith would be.



Life has surprised me over the last 21 years. There has been loss and pain and humiliation and amazement. However, through it all, my God has been “my Rock & my Redeemer”. So, if I was allowed go back and give myself one bit of advice it would be: “don’t be afraid to: ask for help, to cry out for the Lord and TRUST that His plans are always better than mine and that He is ALWAYS faithful.”  

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I've been so blessed to live with Albert and Sue for the last month. Seeing their family's interaction, as well as the whole-hearted service to others into which they pour themselves has been a wake up call to me, to see how I can be a better blessing to others around me as well.

Sue is outgoing, kind, crafty (if you've ever seen her stampin' up room you know what I mean!!) and a huge book fan. She teaches teachers, and is currently working on her Ph.D. All kinds of smart, people.

Thanks, Sue, for taking time to share some advice! 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Advice to my 23 year old self: be content



At the age of 23 I was married to my high school sweetheart, Rob, for two years and we had a one year old boy named Caleb. Rob had just been hired at Hudson Boatworks after a couple of part time jobs. Life was becoming financially stable.




Looking back I would tell my 23 year old self:

1. Not to always look forward to the next big thing, but to remain content exactly where God has put me. This is important in any stage of life really, but especially when you are in your early twenties. Always looking forward to the next big life event can make us discontent. "But godliness with contentment is great gain." 1 Timothy 6:6

2. Think more about others and how you can help or bless them. I was pretty consumed with my own life and I thought life with one baby was busy. I wish I could have told myself to look outside of my own home and see other's struggles. Helping others and being a servant is a good way to avoid discontentment.



3. Be more hospitable (like Belinda mentioned.) I know we were blessed by the hospitality of many older couples in our home church. I thought hospitality was something you did when you were older, or it was just certain people's gift. We did have other couples our own age over frequently, but hospitality is not only about having those few friends you are comfortable with over.

4. God is in control. We have hopes and dreams for this life here on earth, but God ordains our steps and His plan is not always our plan. I have experienced this many times in our married life. God's ways are not our ways but He is gracious and gives us the strength we need to walk the path he has placed us on.

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Taun and Rob have been married 11 years and have been blessed with four children and another on the way this winter! After spending the last several years in Michigan they have moved back "home" and are enjoying their time so close to family and friends once again.

Taun is my cousin, by the way. She blogs over at Day by Day. Thanks, Taun, for sharing some advice!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Advice to my 23 year old self: seek the Lord



When I was 23 I had graduated from college and was in my first full time year of work and preparing for my wedding. My advice to me/you would be:

Seek the Lord as you dream about your future. As long as your dreams are in line with God's, have the courage to pursue them and the patience to wait for what you truly desire -- NO COMPROMISES. If you are truly living for Him, He will give you the desires of your heart. Bypass what is good for what is GREAT!


Follow your gut, your inner promptings - this is the Lord guiding you. Don't ignore this, it can often be that still small voice that guides you in your best decisions for the future. Don't let anyone but the Lord influence your decisions. Listen closely only to those who know you best and have godly advice, even if it is not what you want to hear.

And on a lighter note - DON'T COLLECT CLUTTER! Get by with only what you NEED and/or LOVE. Don't let your house fill up with meaningless clutter. Instead of having lots of stuff, only choose meaningful high quality things. It will make your environment special and easier to manage.

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Lori is Executive Director at Fresh Start Maternity Supports. For over two years I called her "boss-lady" but we became easy friends and still keep in touch on a regular basis.

Thanks, Lori, for your advice - I always appreciate your perspective!
 
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