Friday, November 30, 2012


"How old are you again?" 

I know this guy better than anyone in the world, but as we sat around the breakfast table this morning, celebrating our birthday guy, I couldn't quite remember. Was he thirty four? Thirty five? It was one of those two, I was sure. (I can't help but speculate that it's not a good sign if the years are already beginning to blur and we're only in our mid-thirties.)

He's thirty five.

He proceeded to unwrap the gifts that the kids and I had picked out, and though he loved what we got him, neither item fit. Justin is my husband, my best friend, the person I spend countless hours hanging out with. I know intricate details of how his mind works, what subtle facial expression indicate certain emotions. In so many ways, I know the contours of this man inside and out.

And yet I needed to double check his age, and the clothing I bought him didn't quite fit.

After opening presents, I read to my husband a song so fitting for birthdays; a song about the One who created us and designed us and knew the course of our lives before there was yet a day lived; a song about the One who saw us and knew us in living color and full detail even when we were yet unborn, yet in darkness to others but in full light to Him.

As we sat there savoring our coffee and I read aloud the words penned by King David in Psalm 139, we found ourselves freshly humbled by the contrast between creature and Creator.

I may know Justin well, but highlighted by the reality that I forgot his age and chose clothing that didn't fit, there is One who knows him so much better. All those years ago, on the day of my Justin's birth, God knew who this baby boy was and what kind of a man he would grow up to become. The thousands of days of Justin's life from birth until now, they've been mapped out, every detail ordained and brought to pass.

The details look something like this: Justin's a man who is strong but tender, wise but humble, lighthearted but caring. He's a man who is lovingly devoted to shepherding the people in his care. He's a man who loves his children, who plays with them, who teaches them about the living God. He's a man who loves his wife way better than I deserve to be loved. He's a man who seeks after Christ every day of his life. He does all this imperfectly; he's just a creature, after all. But in all the ways that Justin is so excellent, I know it's only because of the incredible mercy of a sovereign Creator.


Justin, you are so loved.

Happy Birthday. 
(How old are you again?)

Sunday, November 25, 2012


I stand in their room watching them sleep, warm light from the hall making them visible. The two of them, they're in brand new pajamas twisted tight around their curled up frames. Dreaming faces rest sideways on pillows, squishing up their yet-chunky cheeks. I walk over to Josh who's sleeping on his side, little hands curled up in fists under his chin. Leaning close I whisper into his dreams, "I love you, my child." I kiss a chubby cheek and walk over to look at Jake. He's sleeping peacefully in his new, bright blue superman pajamas--ones he was so excited to put on for the first time earlier tonight-- and my breath catches in my throat; my beautiful first born has gotten so big, so boyish, almost lanky.

Baby turned toddler turned boy.

I think to myself how it really is true what all those old ladies say, those ones who stop young families in the grocery store.

You know the ones.

They're the ones with the silver hair, the twinkling eyes and the kind smiles. They're the ones who've been watching us from across the cucumber bins and seen how I've sighed with exasperation at my toddler who has once again reached into the shopping cart behind him, grabbed a cuccumber wrapped in cellophane and indiscriminately taken a gigantic bite of plastic mixed with vegetable.

They're the ones whose eyes dance merrily as they've watched me lift Ella's jaw from the germ-covered shopping cart handlebar that she's vigorously using as a teething ring.

They walk over. Our eyes meet.

In each setting the words might be slightly different, but the message is always the same: "Enjoy this time, dear. Enjoy this time with your little ones. It passes so quickly. Mine are grown and have kids of their own. Enjoy this time."

Do they literally mean THIS moment? This moment where Jake has wandered off looking for clementines and Josh is munching on indigestible plastic and Ella is happily teething on the germ-laden shopping cart handle?

The answer is so obvious.


Enjoy this moment, and not just because it's passing. Enjoy this moment because our lives are a connected sequence of ordinary, grocery store moments.

Sometimes it's easier to do a good job at the big days and to delight in the important days, the days that require special breakfasts or novel treats. But most of life is made up of the days and moments in between, the days that involve groceries and errands and cooking and cleaning and laundry.

The measure of productivity, as a parent, is not necessarily in how many items I can cross of my "To Do" list, important as those items may be. As a parent, the measure of ultimate fruitfulness is often when I seek the grace to grind the pace to a halt, and rather than rushing through the moment to complete a specific task, instead pause, looking into the eyes and hearts of my little people.

The words of those older, kind souls in the produce section of the grocery store? They are words that have emerged after a life lived, after years passed. They're words that one day, when my own hair is gray and the wrinkles around my own eyes have become pronounced, I too will say to those younger parents in my path.

One day that will be me.

My children will be grown. The fantasy of sleeping through the night will have once again become a reality. And I'll think back through laughter and tears to those precious years with my own little ones. It will seem a distant memory, them sleeping in their brand-new Superman pajamas.

And when it's me, older, grayer, wiser... I too will pass along such words of truth:

"Enjoy this time. How quickly it all will pass."

Friday, November 16, 2012


 On any given night if you were able to listen-in while our family’s making our way home, driving across Humberside Avenue, you’d likely hear Jake or Justin playfully say to Joshua, “Hey, Josh! Look. We’re almost at the beautiful house. Are you about to get mad?” And with a grin, Josh would probably reply with something like, “I’m about to. I’m about to get really mad at ALL you guys.”
This family joke started about a month ago. Actually, the fuller context started long before that.

The Junction / High Park neighborhood is mostly comprised of beautiful, old brick homes. Traditional. And lovely. Of course it’s true that beauty really is in the eye of the beholder, and like all subjective things in life, when it comes to architecture and style, some people simply prefer modern over traditional. I’m not bashing the preference for modern. One of my best friends loves modern architecture and while I don’t ‘see’ what she sees, I understand that beauty in architecture is subjective. Also, on a side note, and maybe just to ensure that aforementioned friend-who-likes-modern-architecture doesn’t read this and think I’m a total jerk, this friend of mine has a far better eye for style and decorating than I do, and whenever I’m in her home, I’m inspired.

Disclaimers over. Back to the story.

There is a particular house on our traditional, brick-home lined street that has been totally gutted and renovated and turned into a very modern structure. It’s essentially a big, jutting black box with some bright orange, metal trim and three stories of frosted glass balconies. At night, these glass balconies light up a bright, neon purple.

Justin and I always have fun talking about this house while we drive past, and our conversation generally goes back and forth something like this:

"I wonder why someone would take a beautiful, brick home and do that?"

"It was such a beautiful house and now it’s so… cold."

"But it’s not just cold. It’s strange. And the purple lights are so ugly."

So one night, we’re mid-conversation, unaware that the kids have clearly been tuning in, when Josh forcefully interrupts:

“Daddy! Mommy! It's not true! The purple house is NOT ugly. The purple lights are NOT ugly. This house is byooaful." (Josh can’t pronounce the ‘t’ so beautiful comes out as byooaful.) "You always say it’s so ugly. I am so ANGRY at you guys right now!" (He is tearful, but shouting at the same time.) "It’s not ugly. It’s BYOOAFUL!"

We weren’t sure how to respond, and both Justin and I were struggling to keep from busting out laughing. Josh’s anger was so passionate and so inappropriate at the same time. Had our conversations about this house really offended our three-year-old so deeply? Certainly not. And yet we could tell that our little guy’s heart was actually grieved about this.

I spoke gently: “Hey buddy. Can I ask you a question?”

Josh, still fuming: “Is it going to be a RUDE question? Or a NICE question?”

Me: “I think it’s a nice question, Josh. I guess I’m just wondering… Why do you care so much about this house?

Josh, fury slowly turning into sorrowful lament: “You guys always say rude things about the purple house. It’s not ugly. It’s not weird. The purple house is byooaful.”

At this point, Justin entered into the conversation, explaining to Josh that while it wasn’t OK for him to be so angry at us or shouting at us, it was most definitely OK for him to have a different opinion about the house. I’m pretty sure that the explanation about the subjective nature of beauty was lost on our three-year-old, but he got the main point: we don’t need to agree on which houses are beautiful.

As Justin and I reflected upon this funny incident later that night, we realized that poor Josh probably loved the bright colors of this house and always enjoyed driving past. Here we were, his parents, unaware of his ardent affection, openly and regularly criticizing something that he found to be lovely. For sure that would get annoying.

The day following this “byooaful”-house meltdown was a Saturday, and in the morning I was sitting with the boys on the couch watching some cartoons. Josh was perched on my lap, mesmerized by the Max & Ruby drama unfolding before him. I suppressed the knowledge that I should not do what I was about to do and did it anyway: leaning in close, I whispered in his ear, “Hey, Josh. What would you do right now if Mommy started telling you that the purple house was ugly?” He didn’t pry his eyes from the screen or give me his full attention, but I saw a faint smile cross his lips as he sweetly whispered back, “I’d probably have to start getting angry at you again, Mommy.”

Thursday, November 8, 2012


It’s been just over three years that Justin has been pastoring here in Toronto; three years that we have been a part of a wonderful church renewal work in the best neighbourhood in this city. In ways we don’t deserve, these three years have been ones of joy and growth and encouragement. We love the people in our church and are so well loved by them, often experiencing God’s love and grace through their lives, their words, their generosity, their intentional demonstrations of love to us. We’re so blessed. 

But life, and certainly ministry and church renewal life, is never all joyful; never only encouraging; never wholly free of uncertainty or doubt. This is by no means a confession but rather a reality shared by all, even including those heroes of our faith whose lives we read about in the pages of Scripture. In addition to profound joy, there are times of real discouragement.

In these past three years, there has been a recurring question that Justin has asked me, asked us both, in those moments when our hearts have been heavy or discouraged: "Whose kingdom are we building, Elisha?"

It’s a simple question. It’s a rhetorical question, even.

Whose kingdom are we building?

I’m a Christian, and so the answer is as straightforward as the question itself. We’re here to build the kingdom of Another. We’re here doing ministry, on the joyful days and the difficult days alike, to build the kingdom of the One who saved us from our sin with His own precious blood.

In those moments where I’m restless or discouraged because of pride and the desire to see faster growth or prettier success in our church, this question stands alone, even without reflection or answer, stripping away pretense and exposing the ugly contours of self-importance. Whose kingdom are we building?

In those other times, when my discouragement has been legitimate (legitimate in the sense that it hasn’t been a discouragement born out of pride or some other sin), this question has often pierced through sadness and compellingly lifted my eyes to the Answer. Whose kingdom are we building? The One who has already known total victory over darkness, over sin, over death; the One who laid down His life for His bride; the One who can not and will not stop building His church until she is complete, magnificent, glorified. 


Whose kingdom are we building?

The question. And then the answer.

It’s become a theme for Justin and I. Discouragement may still linger. Heaviness isn't always instantly dissolved. And maybe that’s OK. But even at times while yet discouraged, this simple question has brought hope, lifting my eyes to see Christ.

Monday, November 5, 2012


A few mornings back, Justin was rushing out the door after already doing a round of goodbyes, when both the boys ran over to the gate that adjoins our living room to give him one last kiss before he left. Ella, watching from across the room, and clearly wanting to give her Daddy a final kiss too, began the methodical and precarious walk towards him. 

This walk across the room was clearly going to take a while, but suddenly it didn’t matter to Justin that he was in a rush. Higher priorities. He was going to wait to get this goodbye kiss from his determined baby girl.

With two older brothers cheering her on, Ella would take two or three tentative steps forward and then pause, as though assessing the distance and figuring out if she was still balanced over her two little feet. Invariably, her body would start that slight back and forth inexperienced-toddler sway and she’d eventually fall all the way back onto her diaper-padded bum with a light thud.

Down, but not for long.

Eventually, and precariously, Ella made her way over to her Daddy. Two or three steps. Pause. Assess the balance situation. Sway back and forth. Thud. Stand back up. Balance. Listen to her brothers’ cheers. Start again. She was determined, and eventually made it across the room to the gate where she tilted her face up towards her Daddy’s, opened her mouth wide (that’s how she kisses right now), and waited for a smooch. In the background, her brothers encouraged her: “You made it, Ella! You walked all the way across the room!”

Sometimes I’ll say to Ella lightheartedly, “You don’t get a moment’s peace and quiet around here, do you?” Two older brothers and there is almost always activity and noise and various places where Ella, by default, finds herself lugged. Being the third child, the pace of Ella’s life, from the very beginning, has been busier. There have been less educational-baby-flashcards. There have been less candlelit-classical-music-baths. There have been less meticulously-prepared-turkey-applesauce-meatloaf-fingerfoods. There has been less pom-pom-textured-material-play.

But, third child of mine…

Every day of your life, there have been two older brothers who have loved you and praised you and encouraged you. Jake and Josh, they have delighted in you, their beautiful baby sister, from the day you were born. Everything you do they think is either hilarious or brilliant. In response to your first and often indistinct baby words, your brothers would declare how clever you were. When you first started smiling, you had the faces of two little boys gazing at you continually, smiling back. When you learned how to bring your hands together to clap, your brothers cheered. When you learned how to crawl (during the 2012 summer Olympics) your brothers repeatedly gave you gold medals and standing ovations. The details of your life have been celebrated.

As I sat there the other morning, watching you unsteadily make your way across the living room while your brothers encouraged every step and every thud, my heart rested.

Third Child, your life has been busy. No doubt about that. But you are so, so very loved.

Friday, November 2, 2012


A couple months back, the kids and I watched Peter Pan for the first time. They were mesmerized by this classic story, and so this year, our home was invaded by one charming Peter Pan, one adorable Captain Hook and the most darling Tinkerbell I've ever seen.

Ella's tutu was a handmade gift made by this designer.


For trick-or-treating, we were joined by a portly capitalist, Sir Topham Hatt (aka Jack Clary), and a little Molly Monkey.

Nana Ganz was in town for this special day. Who better to lug around an irritated Tinkerbell than her Grandma?

On the day after Halloween, after a day of fun and intense sugar highs, I left the boys in the living room for a couple minutes while I was in the kitchen. When I walked back in, I first saw Josh. He crashed hard. 

And his big brother did too.

Today, the candy has disappeared. Gone... and almost forgotten.