Jehovah was not in the wind. And after the wind, an earthquake: Jehovah was not in the earthquake.
And after the earthquake, a fire: Jehovah was not in the fire. And after the fire, a soft gentle voice. (1Kings 19:11-12)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Night Before Open-Heart Surgery

"The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit."
{Psalm 34:18}

This road has been extremely hard. I cannot say it any other way.

I'm weary. There is still a lot of hard to come.

The days of tests and waiting have come to an end (for now). Through them we have had an incredible peace.

Today we were told once again that my aortic valve needs to be replaced. If it is not replaced, my heart would stop most likely before I turn 40.

For the first time we were told by the heart surgeon that he was confident he could do it. It will be very high risk but I will be in good hands. For that we are so grateful.

I'm being prepped for open-heart surgery for 12pm tomorrow.

The only way forward is complete trust and surrender into the Lord's hands.

I know many are praying and we flat out beg you not to stop. Your prayers are upholding us through this time.

There are too many risks and requests to list here tonight, but we told Dr. David that many would be praying for him.

Pray for God's hand to be at work and that He would be exalted through all of it.

Thank you for walking with us.

{You can find a prayer schedule to keep the prayer constant here.}

{Updates will be made on the A Soft Gentle Voice Facebook page}

"When I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid." 
{Psalm 56:3,4}

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Praying with the Hope of the Gospel

"Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body . . . " {Philippians 1:18-20}

Our family has been humbled by the prayers of many saints and we give thanks for all who have partnered with us in proclaiming the goodness, faithfulness and unfailing love of God for the sake of the kingdom of God.

Tomorrow {August 27} I will be admitted to the hospital in Toronto at 11 am for more investigative testing to determine if open-heart surgery that has been scheduled for Friday {August 29} will be possible.

Our local church has set up a prayer clock for family and friends to be praying over the next few days in 15 minute intervals. If you are burdened to continue to join us in praying and you would like to commit to a time, you can find the times available here.

As we journey on, and you walk with us it is my prayer that you would turn your eyes toward Jesus and "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity."

"May I say to all I meet,
I am journeying towards the Lord’s given place,
come with me for your good." 
{Valley of Vision} 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

How to Fully Trust ~ Words of Wisdom for the Weekend

"Paul . . . learned a lesson that he never forgot; to rejoice in his infirmities. He said that the weaker he was the better it was for him. For when he was weak, he was strong in his Lord Christ. 
"Ah, yes, God will have to bring us down very low. A sense of emptiness and despair and nothingness will have to come upon us. It is when we sink down in utter helplessness that the everlasting God will reveal Himself in power. Then our hearts will learn to trust God alone.
"What is it that keeps us from trusting Him perfectly?
"Many say: "I believe what you say, but there is one difficulty. If my trust were perfect and always abiding, all would come right, for I know God will honor trust. But how am I to get that trust?
"My answer is by the death of self. The great hindrance to trust is self-effort. So as long as you have got your own wisdom and thoughts and strength, you cannot fully trust God. But when God breaks you down, when everything begins to grow dim before your eyes and you see that you understand nothing, then God is coming near. If you will bow down in nothingness and wait on God, He will become all. 
"As long as we are something, God cannot be all. His omnipotence cannot do its full work. That is the beginning of faith; utter despair of self, a ceasing from man and everything on earth and finding our hope in God alone."
"Let us say: My God, let my life be a proof of what the omnipotent God can do. Let these be the two dispositions of our souls every day: deep helplessness, and simple, childlike rest."
~ Andrew Murray, "Absolute Surrender" (pp122-123) 

Christa Wells: "How Emptiness Sings". If you cannot see this video, click here.


A Soft Gentle Voice

For other Words of Wisdom for the Weekend posts see here.}

Thursday, August 14, 2014

4 Lessons Learned While Walking a Hard Road with a Friend ~ Titus 2 Tips {on Thursdays} A Guest Post

When Rebekah asked me to guest post for this series, I decided quickly that I was going to write about teeth.

I wasn’t sure how it would fit into Titus 2 . . . maybe somewhere around drinking too much wine – red wine stain doesn’t polish off easily!! I could make it work. I am a dental hygienist. Talking about teeth is easy, it’s safe and it comes naturally to me. Blogging is scary, hard and something I have never done before.

But God. I have spoken those words to myself dozens of times over the past few days as I knew he was calling me out of my comfort zone to share from my heart.

But God. Those words have carried me through the past 2 years as I have watched my closest friend face trials that I can’t even begin to understand. I have walked through all of my adult life with this woman. We’ve talked on the phone until 2am, stood at the front of the church when each other got married, held each others babies in their first hours and even by the grace of God raised our families on the same street for a few years. We have discussed theology until it was too late to think straight, texted each other out of bed at 6am to read through the Bible and tried to be spiritually accountable to each other. It’s been a blessing to learn and grow alongside her but its been truly amazing to stand and marvel from the sidelines as I have watched God bring her faith to life like never before over the past 2 years. There have been many doubts and fears in the process But God has proven Himself faithful repeatedly even as He has chosen to deepen the trials in her life beyond what she could have ever imagined. Any of you reading this blog has read my friend's story and can’t deny that God Himself penned it from page 1. 

I have told her story to many people. Sometimes to encourage them and sometimes to ask for prayer and I get excited every time I get to tell of all the ways that God has shown Himself so undeniably real in her life. You see God loves to write stories like this. Life stories that seem to glorify Him even more every time we tell them and that He can use to glorify Himself in others and teach them about Himself.

I have learned many lessons these past two years.

Watching Rebekah’s story unfold God has taught me that I really can trust Him fully with my future, an area I have struggled in fear with letting go of for years.

He has taught me that His Word is sufficient for any trial He may choose to take me through. At one point Rebekah asked all of us not to try to understand what she was going through but just to always point her to the Word of God. She taught me an important lesson in those words.

She has taught me that it’s ok not to always understand - a difficult lesson for my analytical mind to learn and that it’s ok to cry but the best way to cry is with your hands lifted high. I have taken this literally many early mornings on my way to work (one hand still on the steering wheel of course) as I have ached for the pain that she has been called to experience.

She has taught me that even in suffering God gives us a special strength to minister His love to all the others hurting around us and that maybe entering into their suffering makes our own a little easier to bear . . . Oh how mysterious are His Mercies!

I think I can speak for all of your friends, family and blog readers Rebekah when I say that we thank God for you and the things He has used you to teach us. We are honoured that you have invited us to walk parts of this hard road with you. We love you and we are praying daily for you as you face the next steps on this road. We love recounting the deeds of the Lord in your life, we are thankful for the peace that he promises you and we are confident that we can trust Him in the coming days and wait in expectation to see how He chooses to glorify Himself in you next.

Melanie lives with her husband Matt and 4 children in Haliburton, Ontario. 
When she is not busy at home raising her young children She works as a Dental hygienist in a private dental clinic and also volunteers regularly at the Haliburton Volunteer Dental Outreach Clinic a non profit organization that provides free dental care to local adults in need. 
Her family is active in their local church and enjoy serving the Lord together in their local community.
A Soft Gentle voice
I am honoured to host these guest posts in this series on women mentoring women 
Some weeks you may find tips from the kitchen or healthy recipes, tools other women have used to grow spiritually, hints to help us build up and love our husbands, and lessons they have learned as they have walked along with their children to teach them to love God wholeheartedly, habits they have developed in keeping their home, ways they have worked on to keep their behaviour respectful, or rhythms that allow peace and rest in the home and hearts that dwell there within.
You will find all the posts in the series here. 
"Older women likewise are to be 
reverent in behaviour, 
not slanderers or slaves to much wine. 
They are to teach what is good, and so train 
the young women to love their husbands and 
children, to be self-controlled, pure, working 
at home, kind, and submissive 
to their own husbands,
that the word of God may not be reviled."

{Titus 2:3-5}

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Come To Our Help ~ Words of Life ~ A Link-up

{Join us below for Words of Life Wednesdays with a link-up of your post.
We'd love to hear how God's Word has been nourishing you.}
{Also linking with Coffee For Your Heart}

Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord?

Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever!
Why do you hide your face?
Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?
For our soul is bowed down to the dust;
our belly clings to the ground.
Rise up; come to our help!
Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love!

She's stuck. Gone numb to the needs around her.
She wishes for the tears to come to water the dryness and barrenness of her heart
then she shoves them down when they threaten to flood her soul.

Dishes stack up in the sinks, laundry piles spill over in the halls
till her little one wonders where all her clean underwear is.

The list of to-dos would be endless if she cared to write them all down.
It's easier to pretend that there is nothing to do when you can't do them yourself.

What do these things matter anyway?
The world has gone mad.
Why should she care if the beds are made?

Rain breaks from heaven like unstoppable tears.
Thunder roars and lightening flashes across the sky like there is something
to pay attention to.
Something beckons her to look.
She turns her face toward the sky.
There are slivers of light;
Speckles of blue sky in the fast moving storm clouds.

Day after day she will wake up and notice that she did.
Her heart kept beating.
The storm rages on 
the madness races on.
Day after day she will speak to her own soul.
Hope in God.

It appears in this world that He may be asleep.
That while she lays low in the dust
she must cry out for Him
to wake up.

to Rise up.

to Come and rescue us from ourselves.

To Redeem us from the darkness
for the sake of His steadfast love.

Nothing will separate her from His love.

It's in the slivers of light and speckles of blue sky:
The way her brother comes and empties the dishwasher,
and friends bend their knees, and pick up the phone
to boldly speak truth to her in her darkness,
the way her husband keeps on loving her,
and her sisters know the ache and cry for her,
and her sister-in-laws cook meals for her,
and her Mama comes and helps to get things in order,
and her Dad holds her,
and her children need her to laugh at the days to come.

It's in the snuggles, coos and smiles of her niece,
the belly laughter of her nephews,
the sweetness of watermelon, and maple syrup on waffles,
 and strawberry jam surprises,
the zucchini loaf, and cookies and spaghetti sauce
made lovingly by her nieces,
and Lincoln Logs villages her boy made in the living room,
and precious prayers with her daughter in the morning,
and the way he kisses her fast pulse on her neck at night,
and clean underwear for her baby girl on a new day.

It's the way the sunsets in their lives 
and promises to rise again in their love.

Joy comes in the morning.

She looks back.
She remembers.
She speaks to her soul.

She may be stuck, but not forsaken.

God never slumbers or sleeps.

He will not let her go.

In the darkest of days,
He is Light.

In the hatred in the world,
He is Love.

In the brokenness in the world,
He is Peace.

In all things,
He is Sovereign.

Come to our help.

Make things right
and new
and beautiful.

Come, Lord Jesus
She cries with the saints who long for Him to



Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Carpe Diem: Lean In. Listen. Love One Another

"Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils.
But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you.
Go on, lean in.
Listen, you hear it?— Carpe— hear it?— Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys,
make your lives extraordinary."
{Robin Williams, Dead Poet's Society}

"You heard it here first. Robin Williams is dead." a baseball mom yells out. "Apparently, suicide, they say." She hollers as our sons and daughters hit balls and run bases. I catch my breath.

At the first murmur of the news from a mom who checked her Facebook while her son sat on the bench, there was a hushed gasp. Then this outrageous announcement, that someone who gave so much laughter could possibly take his own life.

I sink back into my navy-blue, worn camping chair, while everyone shouts out their favourite movies starring the man who made the screen and stage come alive with side-splitting humour and heart-rending dramas.

My favourite: 'Dead Poet's Society', but I keep the thought to myself. 

He brought laughter and tears to so many faces, but his own heart was searching for deep happiness and it had lost its way.

He left a legacy.

He made his life extraordinary.

He was capable of great things and accomplished much. More than his one iota.

His heart still needed more.

The word for today may be, "Carpe Diem", but what on earth does it really mean?  Literally, yes, in Latin, in means, "seize the day" but what about in life?

How does one in deep sadness and hopelessness, really seize the day when they just want the pain and the day to end?

Today, I don't have the answers, but I'm asking the tough questions.

The world is spinning too crazy today. It appears that all is going to spin right out of control. Hearts are breaking, breath is expiring, humans are being ravaged by war, desperate souls are ending their own lives.

Seize the day? Seriously? 

This day? Seize it for what? More heartbreak? More despair? More inner groaning? People want the pain to end, not to hold on to it.

If laughter and money and family and fame and freedom isn't enough, what in the world can make life extraordinary enough to keep you from thinking that becoming fertilizer is better than seizing the day?

Where is the joy? What about justice? Grace? And hope for those who want to hang themselves?

I need to seize the day, the moment, the pain to pay attention to what is really going on in the world.

Lean in. Closer.

Cause in this world that is reeling as it spins, there is a God.

A God who sees what we don't. 

A God who knows what the answer to the questions is. He gave us the answer, but we keep refusing to seize it. 

A God who loves. He demonstrated so great a love so that we can know the deep joy to cure the deep sorrow in our hearts. We keep turning a blind eye to this love until one day it's too late.

I don't want to wait till it's too late to lean in and listen. To figure out that I need to listen to the hearts of those around me and answer with Love. It's love that makes lives extraordinary. Love that mends hearts and allows the hard questions and deep sorrows.

It's time to be brave enough to ask the hard questions. It's time to be bold enough to love the hurting, the lonely, the depressed.

It's time to listen to those whose laughter is revealing a deep pain down into the heart of the person. I can't wait till it's too late to listen to the laughter of those who so desperately need love.

There is a whisper of something in the world that we need to be able to really seize the day in life.

I can't do this in my own strength, by my own power or will, with any special formula, or best-laid plan, or man-made evangelical strategy. What we need is a God-given love.

It's not in the harsh-hollering. It's the love-listening. Listening to hurt-reeling hearts of humans longing to be made whole and allowing the overflowing of God's love in my heart to spill over to theirs.

Love brings real joy. Love makes lives extraordinary. Lean in. Listen. Don't miss it.

Carpe Diem. The key to do this is Lean in. Listen. Love one another.

(A Second post for today; asking tough questions, leaning in, listening, and praying for love to fill my heart while my own heart hurts and reels for a world that desperately needs love.)

Risk-Free Heart Surgery {Open Hearts Series}

The surgeon’s secretary pencilled me in for open-heart surgery at the end of the month.

The ‘king of hearts’, one of the nick-names for the world-renowned heart surgeon, is going to take a peek at my mine and see if he can fix it. Dr. David was confident he could, until he heard I only have 30% lung capacity. Yeah, that makes open heart surgery tricky for even the top in the world.

Or it could make surgery impossible. The risks might be too high. First, he will do some more investigative tests to see if I can handle having my chest cut open, my heart and lung stopped, and a valve replaced after some creative corrective work is done on a damaged area of my heart.

It’s a strange thing to try to prepare for open-heart surgery without getting your hopes up that everything can be made well. I can’t quite describe my feelings as I wait to know if my heart valve can be replaced. It’s eerie, scary, a little overwhelming. Something like that. But more. All I really know is I need faith. So I keep asking God for more of it.

No one knows how long I’ve lived with a sick heart. We do know it is damaged from the cancer treatments that ‘cured’ the cancer I was diagnosed with as a three year old. Yeah, the cancer that tried to kill a kid; that disease that damages for life if it doesn’t destroy your life.

I happen to be a “good statistic”. I survived.

I’ve lived almost 35 years since I began the fight. I graduated from school, completed college, worked at a job, got married, had three children. These things are just a normal part of life, but for a childhood cancer survivor, it’s beating the odds to succeed at any of them. According to one study, the average age expectancy for a childhood cancer survivor is 37.6 years. I am 37.9 years old today.

I don’t boast in any of that. How could I? I’m still fighting. This war is still on. In fact, it never ends. I’ve passed the average, but long life is not generally a gift handed to the likes of me.

I’ve been given another gift: the intimate knowledge that life is a vapor. It doesn’t matter how long your life is, what matters is how you are living your life in light of eternity.
Your heart will stop beating sometime in this life. That’s guaranteed. It’s a given that life on this earth will expire.

We may be concerned about life expectancy, but life eternally is the crux of the matter.

To read more . . . 

I am honoured that Katie has invited me to share over on her blog for her Open Hearts series. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

A Perfect Way to Fill A Summer Day: Plan An Ice Cream Social ~ Five Minute Friday

He's been known to sit down with a friend and polish off a tub of ice cream without any trouble.

I recall a story a friend told at our wedding reception that had something to do with Turtles and ice cream and the crazy things guys can pack away in their college and career days. They probably didn't even use bowls, cause they were probably still dirty in the sink. But, I don't remember if that was a part of the tale told and it might not be a fair assumption.

Yeah, he still likes his ice cream. Although, you wouldn't be able to tell by looking at his tall, lean stature.

So, when my son and I had an idea to have an ice cream social for our neighbourhood, he had no problem buying 20 litres of ice cream and a few packages of M&M's to go with it.

A glance at the calendar of the remainder of summer days didn't leave many openings and the forecast for the day at hand was sunny and warm, so no better day for an ice cream party than the present one.

Invites were made, Facebooked, and hand-delivered to neighbours and friends. We filled our day planning to bless our neighbours. And, oh, how it got our minds of our own heart-heavy burden.

At 7pm, our front lawn began to fill with friends who still had the evening available to join in our last minute party.

Milkshakes were sipped, ice cream ran sticky down the chins of children, and the adults shared laughter and a small snippet of life together.

All the while we polished off almost 20 litres of ice cream and when everyone made their way home, our hearts filled to overflowing with joy from the opportunity we had to open up our home and hearts to share our crazy spontaneous, simple ice cream social.


Joining Kate for the sequel to Five Minute Friday.

Today's writing prompt is the word : Fill

Thursday, August 7, 2014

A Fine Balance ~ Titus 2 Tips {on Thursdays} A Guest Post

If you know me at all, if you’ve even read a small portion of the words that I’ve written in my little corner of the world wide web you will know how much I have grown to love community.

I have written post after post about how we were made to live in community with intention and purpose. We were meant to be breaking bread with each other, encouraging one another and wrapping our arms around those who weep and shatter.

I believe to the core of my being we were intended for the purpose of living in community. Gospel is lived out by daily embracing those whom God has seen fit to fill our lives. We were not meant to live this life in an amoebic state, thinking only and solely about our own well-being.

There is a fine balance however, that often tips the scales from living in community to living from community. It’s all about the preposition; community is something we enter in to, not something we use for our own gain.

Living in community is about the Christ in me recognizing the Christ in you and coming together without fear of abandonment. Living in community is about accepting one another as integral parts of the Body, each relying on the other as means of seeking God’s greater purpose in the world and then moving as one toward that purpose.

Living from community is about looking to others for your happiness, your reward, you purpose. Living from community is about not recognizing yourself as a beloved, not recognizing that God is all you require and He is enough.

It’s hard in a world that seems to spin on the axis of social media, when our lives are lived out in Facebook posts, Instagram feeds and the wittiest Tweets we can fit into a 140 characters. I know it’s hard because last month God showed me how my online interactions were beginning to replace my relationship with Christ.

It all begs the question: How do we move within the balance of maintaining an intimate relationship with Christ, seeking Him as our only source and engaging in the deep relationships that make up our communities, whether they be in real life or on-line?

The answer is in the question: Seeking Him as our only source. Anything else is suspect and lacking, anything else clouds our motives and our desires.
“We can serve people only when we do not make our total sense of self dependent on their response.” – Henri Nouwen
Think about that for a moment, just take a minute right now to re-read those words and think about the consequences of relying on other messy, fallible and broken people as your identity.

For a time we’ll find comfort in the words that soothe our egos and manifest themselves as misplaced praise. For a time our hearts will feel lighter, happier; for a time we will be satisfied.

We will be satisfied until we realize that those words come from the messy, the fallible and the broken. We will be satisfied until we realize that nothing absolutely nothing can replace the whisper of hope that cups our weariness, the voice of Christ calling us, Beloved.

This does not mean that we shouldn’t be issuing words of encouragement to each other, that we shouldn’t extend a word or thoughtful gesture in hopes of making someone’s day brighter. It also does not mean that we should not expect those things for ourselves. What it means is that we need to remember in Whom our identity lies.
“… our identity can find its basis only in Gods’ word to us that we are beloved not on the worlds’ fickle promises.” – Henry Noun
Just like Moses confronting his own humanity and recognizing his own inadequacies at the burning bush, we too must confront our humanity in the deep and lasting relationships that we build with one another and remember that He is “I AM” and that it is sufficient.
“Community, then, cannot grow out of loneliness, but comes when the person who begins to recognize his or her belovedness greets the belovdeness of the other. The God alive in me greets the God resident in you. When people can cease having to be for us everything, we can accept the fact they may still have a gift for us.” - Henri Nouwen
We must remember that when God calls us to community He is first and foremost calling us Beloved and until we can look in the mirror and believe it we will struggle with finding the Beloved in others.

We must remember that we are intended to live IN community, each of us a gift to one another and, not FROM community where our primary motive is for our own desires or self-gratification.

Can I encourage you today soul sister, to seek out your community, seek out those whom you love and respect and let the Beloved in you recognize the Beloved in them?

Tonya is the wife of 22 years to one good man and the mother to Mikayla (19) and Dylan (16). She is learning that even though her and husband are entering their "empty nest" years the beautiful task of mothering is never ending.

Tonya loves Jesus and hunts daily for the gifts of His grace. She writes over at Stone to Heart in hopes of having others recognize the beauty of their own story despite life's circumstances. 

Tonya and her family along with their two cats and one dog make their home in Southwestern Ontario, Canada. You can find her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.
A Soft Gentle voice
I am honoured to host these guest posts in this series on women mentoring women 
Some weeks you may find tips from the kitchen or healthy recipes, tools other women have used to grow spiritually, hints to help us build up and love our husbands, and lessons they have learned as they have walked along with their children to teach them to love God wholeheartedly, habits they have developed in keeping their home, ways they have worked on to keep their behaviour respectful, or rhythms that allow peace and rest in the home and hearts that dwell there within.
You will find all the posts in the series here. 
"Older women likewise are to be 
reverent in behaviour, 
not slanderers or slaves to much wine. 
They are to teach what is good, and so train 
the young women to love their husbands and 
children, to be self-controlled, pure, working 
at home, kind, and submissive 
to their own husbands,
that the word of God may not be reviled."

{Titus 2:3-5}

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