No Regrets: One Married Woman Looks Back on Her Choice to Save Sex for Marriage…

Holding Hands

I was 22 years old and I knew everything. I stood on my desk in front of 23 grade 8 students and said one word. Sex. That’s all it took to get their full attention as well as many giggles amidst a prepubescent group of blushing kids. One word that carried so much weight and so many misconceptions. One word that could silence a room or start a heated debate amongst my circle of Christian friends. One, three letter word that I seemed to know everything about while at the same time knew absolutely nothing. One word that would end up looming over me for a very long time.

I signed a contract. You all know the kind. The kind that is written on the back of a bookmark or a track or a pink paper heart that is intended for you to stick inside your Bible to remind you every time you are in the midst of a make-out session in the back seat of a car. You know the kind. A binding agreement between me and God to keep myself pure and honourable and pristine for my future spouse. I can almost guarantee that it wasn’t that contract I signed at the end of some Teen Challenge event that challenged me to make a decision that would impact the next 20 years of relationships. Whatever the reason, I made a decision to save myself for my future husband. It sounded so easy and so righteous at the time. However, I never imagined that God would send me on a journey that would last much longer than I intended or planned.

I realize that sex before marriage is no longer a topic of prevalence with young Christians today. Some may have justified it while others may have made the same decision that I made as a teenager. Whatever the stance, whatever the Biblical perspective, and whatever the convictions, I have never had any regrets. I made my decision to wait for one simple reason: to honour my future husband as God intended.

You see, my future spouse was always real in my mind and in my heart even though he may not have been by my side for the numerous weddings I attended as a single person or even as part of a couple. I longed to honour him with all of my thoughts as well as my actions. This of course did not happen. I messed up and I did things and thought things and acted upon things that were in no way honouring at times. However, something deep within me knew that by offering all of myself in this physical way, I would be offering pieces of my heart along with it. Yes, I wanted my future husband to receive all of me as a gift physically, but more so, I wanted to offer him a full and complete heart.

I met several amazing men on my journey that loved the Lord and honoured me in every way. However, it took over 34 years for me to meet the man that I am married to today. The man that I chose in the midst of my journey. At the ripe age of 18 I never imagined it would take so long to experience this stage of life. In fact, my plans were always so different from my Lord’s. Was it easy to wait? Absolutely not. There were temptations, and failures, and forgiveness, and fears, and even more temptations. However, the longer I waited, the more I wanted to wait. The more I prayed for him and wanted to honour and respect my future husband in this way.

I believe that waiting to share this most intimate and God-honouring gift until marriage is possible. I am proof. I am proof that I made many mistakes over the years and pushed the limit of my convictions more times than I am proud of. I am also proof that waiting for marriage does not make the actual act of sex any better or worse or in between. It will not make you the star of some romantic movie on your honeymoon. In fact, it may make things even more awkward and uncomfortable, yet despite the physical act, I can say that I was proud to have the majority of my heart in tact. I would challenge teenagers and young adults and 40-somethings who have not married yet, to wait. Waiting is not something we like to do with anything in life. We are impatient people. We want what feels good now. We want to impress the opposite sex and be appealing and desirable. However, I challenge you to wait because the rewards will come in the end and those rewards will be plentiful.

I cannot speak for others nor can I claim that sex before marriage is happening more than it ever used to in “my day”. I can make assumptions. I can also challenge others to save themselves as a gift to give their future spouses that no one else can give. Along with giving him or her all of yourself physically, you will give him or her a heart full of life, desire, curiosity, and wholeness.

No regrets.

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View More: http://carolynbentumphotography.pass.us/camryn-kuhnCari is happily married to Kevin who hails all the way from Atlanta, Georgia. She is also the proud mama to their three beautiful children – Avery, Skylar and Camryn. Cari spent most of her twenties as a teacher and then moved onto become a principal. Now she enjoys devoting most of her time to making home for her family and can often be found scheming up creative adventures that she’ll embark on with her three little ones. Cari also spends time mentoring many young women who are struggling with many of the things she’s been through. 

Up All Night to Get Lucky: Meet Josh, a 28 Year Old Guy Choosing to Wait…

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About a year ago, I moved to a new city. I lived on my own. It was a big city,  and I could easily get lost. For the first time after having grown up in the church, gone to a small Bible College, touring in a Christian band and living in some kind of spotlight for much of my life, I was just a guy in a city.

And one day it hit me, I’m here and nobody knows me. If I wanted to I could go out to a bar, pick up a girl, sleep with her,  and no one would “catch me”. It would be fun, boost my ego and be physically fulfilling.

For the first time in my 28 years, I had to decide how I wanted to live my life. I was still a virgin and finally had to answer this question for myself, “Why am I waiting for marriage?”

It’s easy for me to think I believe something, but when I am challenged with an opportunity, that’s when I find out what I actually believe. I know I’m “supposed to” wait for marriage to have sex… but why? Do I actually care? Does the Bible actually say that? And if so, do I actually believe it?

I believe that the Bible condemns sex outside of the marriage union. I believe that from start to finish, the Bible shows the intimacy that sex creates and that it belongs between two people in marriage.

I believe it because I see it in the Bible,  but I also believe it because of my experience. While yes, I am a virgin, I have had some exceptionally intimate and sexual moments. At the time, I told myself these moments were purely physical… but in retrospect I can also see how they affected my mind and my soul. I was very selfish. Whether you think the Bible forbids sex outside of marriage or not, it does tell us to love. And love and selfishness are complete opposites.

I know how intimate those moments were and I know that I don’t want to share another moment with anyone other than my wife. That was my selfishness at work. When I choose that path it not only affects me, it affects women, their husbands, my future wife, maybe their kids, maybe my kids, potentially more… Intimacy outside of a marriage is selfish, plain and simple. It may feel like love in the moment, but it’s not;  love puts the other person first. Let’s say (for the sake of argument) I wind up marrying the person I’m sleeping with – I am still engaging in an incredibly intimate and spiritual moment that may not be mine to engage in. Love, true love, is selfless and true love wouldn’t risk for a second, taking away a special moment from someone they love, or implanting a memory that will forever be with someone who is trying to be intimate with someone else. I know that there are memories that will forever be with me, memories I wish didn’t live in my dreams and at the back of my mind. And I never want to do that to someone again, especially someone I love.

If you were wondering, I didn’t go to a bar that night (or any night after) and try and pick up a woman to try to sleep with her.  As it turns out, I do believe it is best to wait. And it’s not because I’m “supposed to”, It’s because I want to. I want to live a life of love and selflessness – because that’s what Jesus taught me. I want to honour my wife and honour Jesus with waiting. I do have my mistakes, and I can’t take those back. But each day, each time I choose love over selfishness, and waiting over my wantings, is another moment, another gift I give to my wife, whoever that may be and another example of the life Jesus is calling me to live.

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1461215_10151745803800998_65942097_nJosh is a 29 year old artist from Eastern Canada. He likes to make music, write, cook, design and take photos of things, and brew coffee… but mostly he just wants to dance. He is all over social media and you can find him at “/joshuaamharris” www.atlanticreative.com, www.atlanticcommunity.cc

*Cover photo taken by Joshua Harris of his sister, Linsey and brother in-law, Greg. For the record, they both waited and are “so SO glad we did” :).

I Pledged Abstinence but am I the only one?

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I recently wrote an article for Converge Magazine. It was featured on their website this week. It deals with all of the stuff we’re talking about on the blog this month.

Here’s an excerpt from the article…

It’s pretty normal these days for Christian guys to have sex before they’re married. You’ll be hard pressed finding a guy who is still a virgin,” my brother says.

Somewhere along the way we had started talking about guys who sleep around. As if it’s normal talking about sex with your 22-year-old brother.

I grew up going to church. Actually, my Dad was a pastor, so I pretty much grew up “in the church.” So I heard the “save sex for marriage” talk at least once a year, usually during Valentine’s week. I even signed my abstinence pledge card in Grade 8, the one where you commit to wait until you’re married to have sex.

Being temped to be promiscuous was never an issue for me in high school, probably because I kept most boys at a distance, and probably because my self-esteem was at an all time low during those years. Plus, Grade 8 pledges are serious business.

It was during college when the idea of saving sex for marriage became something more than a pledge. Since I had friends who were sleeping around and who weren’t afraid to talk about it openly, I got the chance to ask lots of questions. It was during this time when I solidified my view that sex isn’t about only the physical.

But am I in the minority? Is it pretty normal for Christian guys (and girls) to be sexually active before marriage? And has waiting become so overrated that we just aren’t willing to do it anymore…

Read the rest here (I’m Waiting To Have Sex: Am I The Only One?).

I would love to know your thoughts!

“I’m Sexy But No One Knows It”: Thoughts From a 29 Year Old Virgin…

I’ve posted on singleness many times. I’ve been single for the better part of my 29 years on this planet. There was a brief stint in high school (like 11 days brief) where I technically had a boyfriend, though I’m not even sure at this point that I count that. I’ve dated a bit, but haven’t been out on more than two dates with anyone since then.

And this is the shocking part.

I’m OK with that.

But I’ve never once talked about celibacy in this platform before. I’ll be honest when I admit that I’m a little nervous to write this. And I’ll also admit that it’s one thing to write it with the intention of handing it over to Darcie, but I’m nervous to post it on my own blog….to my own readers.

I’m single. I’m also a virgin. I have a few reasons for having made that choice, and for having maintained it all these years. And this may be surprising, but the reasons for still being single and a virgin run deeper than “because the Bible tells me so,” although that’s a completely valid reason.

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Firstly, I’m single mostly by choice. I haven’t found anyone yet for whom I’m willing to give up the independence I’ve grown to love deeply. But I also have a lot of experience in watching absolutely broken relationships, as well as phenomenal ones. As a result of the combinations of those, I’ve made a conscious decision not to settle. If it means I’m single until the day that I die, I’m ok with that.

Before I came to grips with this for myself, before I was really ok with that (even though I’ve been saying it for a long time), I had many people tell me that it’s better to be single than in a bad relationship. I knew deep down that they were right…I did. But it was very hard to internalize that. When you look at a good relationship though… a really good relationship… you see the things that are worth waiting for. They respect each other. They have each others’ best interests at heart. They share a common love of Jesus (when they’re Christians — I’m not at all saying that healthy relationships don’t exist outside of Christ, they do…I just don’t want to be in one of those). They know how to disagree with each other. They share common values and aren’t completely opposed to each other on really key things like how they raise their kids. They’re friends — they know how to relate to each other in all circumstances because they do life together. They share a sense of humour. They’re equally committed to the success of their relationship.

I am holding out for a relationship with a man who can share that kind of relationship with me…. even if it never happens. In the meantime, I have incredible friends – I’m so blessed. I have a family who loves me dearly. I have a church community that I love. I have great interests and things that I invest my time in while I continue to become the best version of myself I can be in Christ. I’ve waited this long, I don’t intend to settle for less than wonderful.

Now…something that goes hand in hand with this is that I’ve never had sex before. Absolutely, it’s something I’d like to do at some point…and I won’t talk about that any more….but I made a decision really early on in my young years that just like the Bible instructed me to do, this was something I’d like kept for my husband. It’s my sincere hope that when I do find a husband, he’s done the same for me, though I hope if that’s not the case that I can be full of grace and understanding.

But for me it’s more than just a “because the Bible tells me so” kind of commitment. I’m a product of the youth group era where we glued paper together and showed the damaging effect sleeping around can have…we get all torn up and we’re damaged. And then I grew up and realized how terrible of a message that is without the other half of it — we’re covered by grace and there is beautiful redemption in the arms of Jesus if we didn’t make it to marriage. I have an issue with the amount of shame that was pushed on us while I was a teenager, and it pains me to know that we’re still preaching the same rhetoric without the love and grace.

Anyway — beyond the Biblical reasoning, beyond the possible diseases, beyond all of those typical reasons…my biggest reason for keeping sex inside of marriage (if I ever get there) has come in the last couple of years, when I would say I’ve really owned this decision and made it for myself and really thought it through. My biggest reason has come from something really profound that a couple of friends of mine (who are married to amazing men) have expressed to me. The type of relationship you have with your partner outside of the bedroom will impact the type of relationship you have with your partner inside the bedroom. It would stand to reason then that it’ll be better if I wait until I’m in an awesome relationship…and if I’m holding out for a God-glorifying relationship before I commit to giving up my singleness, why wouldn’t I hold out for the God-glorifying sex that goes along with that?

I think that the people who claim that you can’t really know someone until you’ve slept with them (I had a guy try to pull that one on me after we’d spoken on the phone once… ick!), are wrong. Because while I know that this isn’t a popular stance in the culture I’m in, God’s designs for us aren’t meant to be culturally popular. In fact, normally they’re counter-cultural…. and I’ll trust the designs of my Creator who knows best for me before I’ll take the advice of my culture.

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1415764_10100315611180360_358670549_nLaura is a 29 year old primary teacher living in South-Western Ontario. She grew up in the Niagara Region in a great church with a great church family, but really had to start owning her own faith in God since she moved out on her own and started teaching in 2008. She loves to write, sing, play the fiddle, watch movies, and read. Laura would gladly quit her day-job and write full time if someone would hire her. Please check out her blog where she writes fairly frequently at http://thisblogisepic.wordpress.com

The Sessions on Sex: Where’s Your Starting Point?

purity_ringI’ve come to believe that in North American Christianity, saving sex for marriage does not matter anymore.

There are a number of reasons why I’ve come to believe this.

To begin with, I’ve heard it first hand.

I go to a Christian university and I’ve been around the church scene my entire life. So, I know for a fact that the number of people I meet who are saving sex for marriage is a much smaller number than those who just don’t think it’s a big deal, or who think it’s actually important to have sex with their future spouse to test compatibility, or who have made a “mistake” in their past relationships, and will most likely choose to make the same mistake in their future relationships.

Second, I hear less and less being taught about this issue in Christian environments, including churches.

I can’t remember the last time I’ve been in a Christian service, study, or talk of some type and heard someone talk about the importance of waiting until you’re married to have sex. There has been a strong movement to elevate the importance of singleness but I hear little talk about what it means to be single while still being a sexual being.

Thirdly, we’ve moved the standard.

For a long time, a person’s virginity was assumed on the wedding day. Abstinence was encouraged to the point that youth were chaperoned by adults whenever they were in the presence of one another. Young people were challenged to sign a purity card, pledging to save sex for marriage. Boundaries were the focus of many youth group talks. Perhaps we grew tired of these things and have decided to push back, or perhaps in an attempt to be more culturally relevant we’ve placed the subject of these things to the back burner. Somewhere in all of this, the standard has been moved with only the sole proof that it’s getting harder and harder to meet a Christian young adult who is still a virgin, and who thinks it’s even important.

Fourthly, there’s been a family shift. 

It makes sense that if parents haven’t waited, then they are most likely not teaching their kids the importance of waiting. Like it or not, the kinds of values kids are raised with actually does affect who they are as young adults and adults, whether it be negative or positive. If kids are raised to believe that there is great value in saving sex for marriage, if they are raised to have open and honest discussion around this topic, then there is a good chance they will think long and hard about their choices, when it comes to relationships and boundaries.

Here’s the thing, I don’t believe that having sex before marriage is the unforgivable sin, I don’t think it makes you a bad person. The reason I believe that waiting until marriage to engage in a sexual relationship is important is because I think this shift in Christian culture to not wait actually harms our relationships, our definition of love and our ability to persevere through difficult things. 

So for the month of February, I’ve invited several guests to weigh in on this topic and some themes surrounding it, based on their experiences and personal beliefs. I’m looking forward to engaging with this topic a little bit more, and I hope you’ll consider engaging with it as well. I encourage you to think about where your starting point is. Does waiting to be married to engage in sexual intercourse matter? Are Christians settling when they allow themselves to be sexually involved with multiple partners? If you’re engaged to be married, then is sex ok? What are your thoughts?

As always, my desire is to engage with these topics in a healthy way that promotes positive discussion and thought, so let’s keep any comments in this spirit too.

So with that, where’s your starting point? Are you for or against premarital sex? Why or Why not? Have we moved the bar?

Welcome to February – a month for the sessions on sex!

Yoga and Faith: A Guest Post by Amanda Newhouse…

a-blog 4I don’t do yoga. In fact, I can’t even touch my toes. So when Stand Up Paddle-board (SUP) Yoga started to grace the cover of every fitness and lifestyle magazine and the requests to put on a SUP Yoga class came pouring in, I figured “hey, those that can’t do, teach.. right?” Just kidding! I hired the best instructor in town and away we went. This added another program to my Stand Up Paddle-board business that I recently started this past summer, called Fearless Females. And now after reflecting on a great first season on the boards, I can’t help but think that sometimes my relationship with God is kind of like doing Yoga on a Stand Up paddle-board.

As mentioned, I’m no Yogi. As an athlete I can respect the flexibly aspect that can be obtained by doing yoga, but I truly believe that strength comes from the Lord, and not from a person’s centre or from “within”, so hear me out as I explain my theory and some experiences from this past summer.

Yoga is all about balance and so unfortunately, when you’re doing yoga on a board in the water,  the consequences are a little more severe when you lose your balance. Every time I take a beginner out, I make sure to explain the parts of the board, and explain “the sweet spot”- the position on the board where you will find the most balance. Too much one way or too much another and you’ll end up in the drink! Keeping this sweet spot in mind is crucial when doing yoga on the board, and this brings me to my first point… having a good relationship with God requires balance. I used to find myself way too far forward – always worrying and fretting about what was next, trying to control the future, and getting ahead of myself instead of staying balanced and leaning on God. I’m often too far to the right – consumed by friends, social gatherings, fitting in, or I’m too far to the left and lusting over the things of this world instead of focusing on His kingdom.

I continually tend to find myself trying to do everything on my own; in turn taking a step backwards and leaving that prefect balance and sweet spot with God. This reminds me of my favorite (and most hilarious) fall of the summer – it was almost slow motion as one of the girls began to lose her balance and took a step back, this was accompanied by a panicky “No!”, and another step back again with a frantic “No” as the board started to move forward! She continued to take a few steps backward until there was nothing left but open water! This made for a lots of great laugher and fun, but I can’t help but think that I continue to find myself taking those steps backwards and landing flat on my back, only it’s not water, and it’s not so funny. Luckily, with God’s grace, just like in paddle-boarding, we can hop back on, find our sweet spot in perfect harmony with the Lord, and continue on our journey.

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Me about to fall in the water in 3, 2, 1….

After our first couple of classes I couldn’t help but laugh every time I saw the perfect image of a girl doing SUP yoga. Not a ripple in the water, a prefect sunny day, the girl standing on her head.. completely dry.. sureeee! This makes for a lovely picture, but when you show up to the lake with a group of eight+ excited participants and that strong north wind is blowing, some adjustments need to be made. We quickly and resourcefully solve the problem of drifting away from each other and blowing into shore by posting up in the weeds.. yes we park ourselves right in the thickest, most potent weed patches we cab find – the thicker the better! Nothing like breathing deeply inches away from warm seaweed, and dead floaters to create that “Zen” yoga atmosphere and truly connect with nature.

Magazine Image

Magazine Image

Actual SUP Yoga.. in the weeds

Actual SUP Yoga.. in the weeds

Sometimes it’s easy to portray this prefect image of being a Christian by going through the Christian motions; showing up to church every Sunday, saying things like “I’ll pray for you” and conveying this spiritual images that on the outside all look fine and dandy and right with the Lord, but really when we take a second and think about it – our relationship is “in da weeds” (great Jamaican saying for “in trouble”). Busyness consumes our spiritual time, praying and talking to God seems farther and farther apart, and our bible seems to be getting buried farther and farther in the bottom drawer. There has definitely been times, dare I say seasons, where I’ve been doing life with God “in the weeds”.

I’ve come across every excuse in the book on why people can’t come paddle-boarding, but then they give it a try and volia! Some direction, words of encouragement, a little guidance when the water gets rough and they are paddling like champions! Sometimes, I’m the one with all the excuses and doubt as God tugs little strings and puts different ideas, things and people on my heart. But again with some direction from his word, encouragement and guidance from other believers and mentors …and Volia! However, even when I fail or fall off, with God’s grace he continues to pick me up and encourage me as I climb back up and try it again.

Did my yoga skills improve this summer? Probably not. I still can’t touch my toes and I will again have to hire someone next year to teach the class, but we had fun, shared great laughs and survived our first season of SUP yoga! Who knew yoga could teach me so much about faith?!?

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431513_473219552696636_274994554_nAmanda Newhouse is a young entrepreneur, running her own company called “Fearless Females” which aims to link ladies in Niagara to action, adventure and actives! In the summer you can find her out on the water – running her Stand Up paddle board programs or with wakeboard in hand, and in the winter she enjoys hitting the Slopes with Snowboarders for Christ . Keep up to date on the all her Fearless Females activities by liking them on facebook: Fearless Females Niagara and visiting SFC online. 

 

My Favourite Things To Cure Those Winter Blues…

It’s freezing cold outside. My car reminds me with an annoying “ding ding ding” sound every time that I start it up that it’s too cold to move. It’s easy to feel blue and down when the days are long and cold, so here’s some of my favourite things that bring some warmth to my heart and maybe will bring some to yours too…

olympic_collection_fullzip_hoodie40.jpeg.size.xxlarge.letterbox1. The Winter Olympics are almost here and there’s no better way to support Team Canada then to wear the gear while cheering them on. 4 years ago I bought one of the Team Canada hoodies from The Bay and 4 years later it’s still in great shape. There’s a great selection of sweaters and although you might pay a little bit more, the clothing is great quality, will keep you warm, and celebrates our great country and its athletes! Go Canada Go! I feel like I should start singing the “I Believe” song! 😉

51o43qenbpl-_sx500_2. It’s that time of year again! Most of us who are Downton Abbey fans have been counting down the days until season 4 and finally it has arrived. If you haven’t gotten into the show, I highly recommend it. The other seasons are on netflix and available at Wal-mart and Best Buy. Catch up and enjoy season 4 along with me on Sunday nights at 9pm.

tetley-earl-grey-vanilla-tea3. In my opinion, this is the best tea in the world! It’s got the taste of the classic early grey, with jut a touch of vanilla. It’s perfect for a cold day and will warm your insides, while delighting your nose with it’s calming smell.

williamfitzsimmons-2404. Winter storms call for a night in your pj’s listening to some sweet melodies. What do I recommend? William Fitzsimmons! And here’s the great thing, you can sample his stuff for free, it’s available for you, for FREE right here. Get to know the Noisetrade website, there are a ton of amazing artists that you’ve probably never heard of, and their music is available for you…for free! Doesn’t get any better than that!

733961206739_p0_v2_s260x4205. I’m a big Jane Austen fan but I’ve never given in and purchased the BBC version of Pride & Prejudice (the one with Colin Firth) because it’s always been out of my price range. Well, not anymore! Wal-mart is selling the BBC version of P & P for $15.00…what a steal! It will make for a great night of entertainment….and really, can it get any better than P & P???

url6. I love make-up because it’s fun and can add some colour to the greyness of winter. I’ve been experimenting with different products and colours but I’ll share with you my favourite blush of all time. It’s called Orgasm – sorry for the name, not my choice, I assure you. It’s made by Nars, a very popular brand for make-up. The unique thing about this blush is that it works for every skin tone. It’s subtle and adds just a bit of colour to highlight your cheeks. Give it a try, you won’t regret it!

CaramelPecanCrunchFrozenYogurt7. I love ice cream but unfortunately ice cream just doesn’t go along with my attempts at living a healthier lifestyle. I’ve found that frozen yogurt is a much healthier option. On those days when I’m struggling with a sore throat, all I want is something cold. So my favourite snack of choice is Caramel Pecan Crunch. 96% less fat and oh so yummy! It’s bound to make your taste buds happy!

single-woman-cover8. I love to read. Although it’s hard to find time for it while I have so much reading for school, I like to slip in some time for my own personal reading before I go to bed. This book won’t really hit home for any of my male readers but it’s a light hearted and encouraging read for the ladies. It’s a book called “The Single Woman: Life, Love, And A Dash Of Sass” by Mandy Hale. I highly recommend putting it on your bedside table for some before bed or early morning reading sessions. The chapters are short but leave you with lots to ponder.

9. – Laughter is medicine for the soul, especially when we are feeling down. This post is bound to make you laugh. Check it out here.

2.5.13.simplyorange10. It’s the season for sore throats, coughs and the sniffles. Make sure you are taking your vitamin c! Another great source of vitamin C is orange juice. My favourite brand is Simply Orange Juice – pulp free. After trying a few other brands, it is hands down my favourite brand of OJ. Grab a bottle at your local grocery store and keep those winter colds away!

So what are your favourite things to cure your winter blues?

Dying Grace.

734117_10153674637135594_718303557_nRight before Christmas my 84 year old Nana had a stroke. She’s a feisty one. She lives alone, still walks to her part-time job and stay up until all hours of the night. She called 911 herself when she felt her speech starting to slur. It’s a miracle she’s still alive. She’s been left almost paralyzed on the right side and she’s quite weak and tired but we are so thankful she’s still with us.

We’ve been spending lots of time at the hospital with Nana. My mom and my uncle are there pretty much everyday. A little while ago my Mom and I spent the afternoon with Nana. We washed and cut her hair because the length was bothering her. We painted her nails and massaged her legs with cream and we chatted while she went in and out of sleeping.

At one point I sat and watched as my mom fed her mom dinner. I listened as she spoke softly to Nana and encouraged her to eat just a little bit more. I watched as she adjusted the blankets on nana’s bed, brushed her teeth and took her dentures out for her. As I watched daughter care for mother, I could not help but think that it was Nana who gave birth to my mom and now here they are years later in a hospital room with roles that are very much reversed. Isn’t life a funny thing? The way that it changes us from child to adult, from daughter to mother, from receiver to care-giver. The way that it takes from us before we’re ready to let go. The way that it gives us gifts when we least expect it. Isn’t it funny how life ebbs and flows?

Life is not static; it never stays the same. Life forces us to change and to adapt. The tension makes us fight and cry and search for safe places and arms to land in. It’s the tension that makes me hug my mom a little longer and tell my dad that I’m so glad he has life in his veins. It is the tension that makes me search for joy and laughter because we need more everywhere. No, life does not stay the same.

As I watch my Nana struggle to recover, I’ve been thinking about our bodies and how they get to a point when they just won’t work like they used to. They grow tired and slow and it’s kind of like they are longing for heaven, to be new again. Being young, I struggle to appreciate this. But my Nana is 84 years old and she has earned those wrinkles. She has lived a full life and while I dearly hope that it’s not her time to go yet, especially because she’s told me she plans to be at my wedding, (and only Jesus knows when that day might be) I realize that her body and her mind are starting to long for heaven. And it just might be harder for me to think about letting her go than it is for her to think about going home to heaven.

I’ve heard about this thing called dying grace. It’s extra grace given to those who are getting ready to die. It’s this type of peace that those of us without it just can’t understand. It’s the kind of grace we all hope to have when our time comes. Even now I can’t understand it because I long for life, a long life lived to the fullest. I hate death, I hate thinking about loss and separation. to the point that I feel great anxiety when I start to ponder these things. But as I have begun to watch my Nana in the last stages of her life, whether it will be weeks, months or a few years that she has left, I have become so aware of the beauty there is in aging. It’s this helpless type of beauty that breaks down all of society’s notions of what beauty is. Aging creates a longing for heaven in a new way. One day, and I do hope it’s a long way off, I hope that when my grandchildren look into my eyes and speak with me in my last days, I hope that I will long for heaven. I hope that my years of living life fully will bring me to the time where I long to go home and walk beside my saviour.

My prayer for my Nana is more life here on earth, but if God’s plan for her is life in heaven, then I ask for dying grace for her. I ask for a deep longing for heaven to exist in her soul, one that surrounds her with peace and a deep excitement to meet Jesus face to face. Dying grace that takes away her fear of dying, her fear of separation and any longing for this world.

While I pray for dying grace for her, I pray for living grace for the rest of us. Grace that reminds us to live fully while we can. Grace that allows us to keep going when we feel the separation and loss of those we love most. Grace that reminds us that life ebbs and flows and our seasons of grief will not last forever. Grace that whispers to us that we’re not alone.

So today, this evening, this morning, this afternoon, wherever you find yourself, I pray that you will experience living grace, right where you are. And may you hear Jesus whisper to you that “you are not alone”.

Start Again.

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I have come to believe that sometimes in life you have to give yourself permission to start again.

After finishing a rough first semester where I failed miserably at life, I am now embarking on my final semester of my undergrad (insert shouts of “finally” here). As the Christmas season is over and the new year has been ushered in with the clinking of glasses, the kiss at midnight and echoes of things we will change this year. As 2013 is no longer, I have been thinking about what it means to start fresh.

I think there are many of us who aren’t very good at letting ourselves off the hook. These are the sensitive, guilt-ridden worrying types. These are the overachievers, the perfectionists and the ones who think too much. They are the ones who have grace for others but leave little for themselves. We feel the weight of expectation, when in fact the heaviest burdens come from the expectations we have for ourselves. We are our own worst enemies. And this year, in 2014, it’s time for a heavy dose of grace, for ourselves. Because sometimes it’s ok not to have straight A’s. It’s ok not to take on every burden that passes your way, and it’s ok to make some time just to breathe and just be, in fact it’s time you did that.

So in 2014 I’m deciding to start again. I’m choosing to create some margin in my life. Margin for coffee and sleep and a good book. Margin for seeing the gifts right in front of my eyes, margin for visiting my Nana in the hospital, margin for dinner with my Mama, margin to be more aware of Jesus and the ways he’s moving in my life. And maybe 2014 is your year for creating some margin in your life. Maybe you need some margin to stay in your pyjamas all day, margin to go the gym or take that cooking class. I’m starting to realize that it’s in the margins where we often find Jesus, and when we don’t make time for them, we so easily miss him. And it’s our loss.

So here’s to a fresh start, here’s to creating margin, and here’s to giving myself permission to let myself off the hook every once in a while. Because I don’t want to miss the life that comes from creating margin.

Welcome 2014, let’s start again.

Imagine: A Guest Post by Natalie Frisk

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I love John Lennon’s song “Imagine” minus the first verse. I just don’t want to imagine “no heaven.” I like heaven. But imagine: no countries, no religion, no possessions – sounds a whole lot like the kingdom of God, doesn’t it?

I don’t think Lennon had any idea or intent to point to a kingdom theology in his song, but he sure does. No international borders, no religious trappings, no possessions that stand in the way of relationships – this is the kingdom of God. This is what Jesus declared, unlocked the door to, and laid down his life to usher in.

And so, when Jesus said love your enemy, I think he meant it. I think he also showed it with incredible implications. The cross is often pointed to as the ultimate act of enemy love – Jesus died for all people. Imagine. People who warred against him. People who insulted him. People who hurt him.

But Jesus also does something incredible the night he is betrayed. A mob is coming to take him to his death. (A mob, in fact, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders – imagine your church leadership sending a mob after someone.) As this happens, they take hold of Jesus and one of his disciples busts out a sword and lops off the ear of the servant of the high priest.

Jesus practices enemy love. He is in the act of being arrested. He knows that his arrest will lead to painful things and end in his death, and yet, here he is stopping a scene from going from bad to worse to more bloodshed. Jesus stops them from further violence. But he doesn’t end his efforts there.

Jesus restores. Despite the fact that the injured man was coming to arrest him and lead him to his inevitable end, Jesus stops the violence and heals this man. This enemy. He doesn’t leave him wounded. He doesn’t simply help this man find a bandage. He restores him.

Imagine.

Imagine if we took a play from Jesus’ book. Imagine if we could lay down our own feelings of betrayal or pride or hurt and seek the same kind of restoration. What would that look like?

I know there is a cynical voice somewhere who says, “But I’m not Jesus.” You’re right. Thank God you aren’t. But we are called to be more like him each day. And what does it look like to be more like Jesus? To lay aside our own feelings of personal injustice, of pride, or of betrayal and love unconditionally?

It looks hard. It looks like work. But it isn’t impossible.

“You may say I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one. I hope some day you’ll join us. And the world will be as one.”

Imagine.

And then live it.

~ ~ ~ ~

485743_484959431574895_2036711021_nNatalie Frisk is the Curriculum Development Pastor at The Meeting House Church – a multi-site church in Ontario, Canada, and an ordained minister with the Brethren in Christ denomination in Canada. She is married to Sam and together they have an awesome daughter, Erin Penny.

Read more of Natalie’s writing at nataliefrisk.com and follow her on twitter @NatalieFrisk.