Nov 29, 2013

Muskoka: Part 3 - Lost and Found in the Muskokas

Okay, time for the third and final instalment.  I had hoped to wrap this up quicker but life is just busy these know...just living!  Nothing big, nothing exciting, just the everyday and that's great!  But I had promised that I would complete this and record it so that I remember all that happened during that wonderful, adventurous, convicting, uplifting weekend!


So part three is where I tell you that had I had been avoiding a serious reprimand from God but where in, He found me - deep in the Muskoka woods!

He tricked me! He did!!

You see, for some time now...I have been....let's just say...less then faithful with my daily devotions.  It was funny because in the cold dark months at the beginning of the year, I would rise faithfully at 6:00am to have my time with the Lord before the kids woke and my day was off and running.  In these cold, COLD, dark mornings I was ever so faithful...and then as the days got lighter earlier and increasingly warmer, my faithful wakings became fewer and father and farther apart.

Anyways, so for some time now...a few months really...I might as well be honest....I have practically had no devotional time.  Terrible, I know - you don't have to rub it in...He did a good enough job of that!  I will clarify and say, it wasn't as if I walked away form Him, it was just that I was letting life get in the way.  I was doing more of what I wanted then necessarily what I needed!
Even so, I was very excited to sign up for the conference - even though I felt I should probably get more faithful with my time spent with Him.  I mean, if I was going to a woman's conference about Woman of Grace, I probably at least should be...more spiritual...right??
But again...the days slipped by and before I knew it the conference was a week away and my devotional life had not changed.  Well, the truth was, what it was!  I knew in many ways, He understood, that He was being patient with me and soon enough He'd get my attention - as He so often has when I wander like this.


So the title of the conference was, "Finding a Peace Filled Pace in a Hurry Up World".  I thought, "Okay, this doesn't' really apply to me.  I don't necessarily fit the 'hurry up world' mold.  I mean we don't have a cell phone or even cable.  My husband only works four days a week and I'm a stay-at-home mom.  But I'm sure I'll glean something form this!"

I figured I was safe.  Safe from God calling me on my lack of devotions and that I would come back refreshed and jump into my devotions as if I had never left them.


And then the first night in Muskoka came.

Our speaker for the weekend was Kathy Butryn.  A lovely woman who was an excellent speaker!! I had never head of her before this weekend but I will never forget her now! 

So anyways - that first night came, with it's first session, with it's three and a half pages of note taking and it was only the warm up.  It was also the moment where I knew He had found me! 

I was in trouble, there was no way I was leaving this weekend unscathed!  For you see - the title that I had come under, the idea of what the conference was all about....well it was not the true message it seemed, for this weekend.  No, Kathy seem to have another title, one she mentioned many times, one that hit me and my dear BFF hard - the title the weekend came to be under was;

Returning Our Hearts to Him


And so, I knew He was calling me up on all that my heart was lacking and He wasn't going to let me off easy!  I knew that the originally title was just a trick, a ploy, to lure me to the Muskokas and for Him to reach me and call me back.
I listened, and wrote like mad, as she talked about the Peace Stealers in our lives.  Things such as the problem of wanting it all, of the 'hurry up' sickness that plagues many of us, about wanting it all to be about me.  She told us the solutions to help rid of us these Peace Stealers was to, trust in God, to seek Him first and to remember that He loves me!
Kathy reminded us (me!) that returning required a humble heart and that returning would restore fellowship -  that ever important, necessary and beautiful, fellowship.

And to finish the night, she left us with this thought on peace;
"Peace is not the absence of trouble but the presence of Jesus Christ."
Stacey and I knew we were in trouble.  We both had felt Him calling us and we both knew that the next session was going to hit home!  We knew it so strongly, that instead of packing a few kleenex in our pockets, we just brought the whole box!  Oh and we needed it!
I'm going to tell you all here that it was this second session that was why God called her and I to Muskoka.  It was the time spent that Saturday morning that He pulled our hearts back to Him, in the most beautiful and painful way!
The rest of the weekend was full of very good information.  Convicting and encouraging but I'm just going to talk to you about the Saturday morning from here on.  We did glean lots from the other two session but it was this morning session that humbled me so and brought my wandering heart home!
So it started well.  She had these five things to do to help in achieving a productive quite time with Him.  She told us (reminded us) about how spending time with God and having our hearts filled up with Him is the only way to peace!
She used the word S.P.A.C.E - to help us remember five key points to include while pursuing our time with Him.
Be Still
Intentionally Pray
Adore Him
Consistently Examine
And friends, it wasn't ground breaking stuff, it wasn't amazing spiritual insight I have never heard before - but it was exactly what I needed to hear, right when I needed to hear it.  As she talked, I kept having that prodding in my Spirit.  That nudge of Him, softening my heart, opening my eyes and calling me back.  As she talked it was if the entire room of people melted away and I sat there with her talking directly to me.  Each word and each point was a sharp poke in my spiritual side saying, "You know this!  You knew I would find you! You know this is what you need!"
That's when the power went out.
A few minutes later they were up and running on generators and Kathy was back in action.  She continued to drive home the importance of returning our hearts to Him, restoring our fellowship with Him and how we need Christ's presence, each and every day!

Maybe you are wondering why we needed the Kleenex box.  Well, by this point my heart was melted.  He was talking to me.  He was reminding me of all that He had done, does and will do for me.  He loved me and He was all I ever needed.  At this point we had broke into the box, dabbing our eyes and trying to salvage our make-up.

And that's when she played the following clip.  Originally there was suppose to be a video with it but due to the power being out, only audio was available.  And both Stacey and I agreed - that the lack of video was a God send - because there was nothing to distract us from the powerful words that came.  I found the clip and I want you each to listen to it, really listen!  I have included the video but only because (it's easer for me to do) and because then you won't miss a word of it!  For some of you, this isn't new and for others this maybe the first time you have heard this piece. 

But for each of you - I want you to really take in the message.  To try to grasp all that is being said.  That the One being described is your saviour, your friend, your King!

Turn it up, grab some kleenex and listen intently.




And friends, you can see why my heart ached after that, why both Stacey and I did the ugly cry with hundreds of women around us, not caring one ounce and why we were so glad to have that entire box of kleenex with us!

As those words sunk in and my heart became complete mush for Him, I was both renewed and drained!  It was like falling in love all over again with Jesus.  I was completely and overwhelmingly humbled by the Christ, by my King, my Saviour.  And I took hold of that moment, that moment of complete disgrace in my sinful state and also utter joy in the hope and wonder of my Lord!

And so as we left Muskoka, both feeling a change within.  We knew that this weekend hard brought us back to the place we both wanted to be, at the feet of Jesus.  We left there completely humbled at our sin filled lives but with a renewed passion and desire to serve our God better.  We were re-awaken to the power of Christ in us, His cleansing, His grace and His love!

Our weekend in Muskoka was much more then we could have ever anticipated!  More fun, more food, more friends, more tears, more joy, more coffee, more awaking, more cold, more loving, more worship, more growth, more renewal and mostly more of Him!


I don't think we will soon forget the weekend that God found us in the Muskokas!

Nov 21, 2013

Muskoka: Part 2 - New Friends, Food and Fun

Okay, so the adventure lessened a bit after the initial arrival!  But the fun...well it was just getting started!

And so once we were settled into our semi-dark and cold room, we freshened up a tad and then headed to the dinning room.  It was just about 6:00 and we were ready for a good meal, eager to start the weekend and mostly...just relieved to have made it there at all!

We were greeted by a grand room, with large windows taking in the same gorgeous view as our own room, the was sun setting behind the thick cloud cover and there was table upon table adorn in candle light....because well, the dining room was also without power!

The dining room - in daylight, when the power was back on

Thank the good Lord that they had the kitchen running though!


Stacey and I briefly contemplated about whether to sit on our own or join a table that already held occupants, when both of our eyes fell on the only two people in the room - these lovely ladies;

Our two new gal pals - Noreen and Tammy


Okay, so they weren't really the only two people in the room but when both Stacey and I looked back on the night - it was as if they were.  We didn't see anyone else!  So we made a bee-line to their table.

"Are these seats taken?" we asked.  They politely said no.  "Well...can we join you then?"  They graciously said yes and being the friend making, people loving persons that Stacey and I are - we of course did not take the seats directly across from them - no, we plunked ourselves right down next to them!

And a friendship was born!

We ate dinner together, learning all those important facts that women can cover in about two hours and so we practically had everyone's life story by the time dinner was over.  And dinner people! Let me just tell you how good it was - actually let me tell you how amazing ALL the food was the entire weekend!!

And we had thought our dashboard sandwiches had us eating like Queens....well the food at the resort was a whole something else!!  Maybe it was the fact that it was all made fresh and from scratch, or maybe it was because we didn't have to cook it ourselves, or maybe it was the fact that we didn't have to clean or even clear the dishes that helped to make it so good but whatever came together to make that food so fantastic - well it was worth every moment of that crazy drive to get there!

Lunch on the last day - I forgot to take pictures of the rest of the that to say:
I didn't stop long enough from mowing down on the deliciousness to take a photo!

So us and our new found friends headed to the first session, at 8:00 that evening.  It was great, like three and a half pages of notes great - and this was just the welcome/warm-up session!  There is so much to say about all that I learned/re-learned from the speaker but I'm saving all of that for part three of my Muskoka adventure fun!

The session ended and we were all invited back to a large gathering room where there was a cozy fire going in the woodstove, fresh fruit to munch on and oodles of tea and coffee.  The four of us grabbed a table and some hot drinks but turned down the food - because we were all still quite satisfied by our delicious dinner!

And there we sat chatting the rest of the already short evening away.  Tammy was wise and headed to bed at a semi reasonable hour - but Noreen was up for chatting and since we had no heat in our room, neither Stacey or I was in a hurry to leave the warmth of the fire side!

It was amazing how God blessed the time the three of us spent together - for only knowing each other for a few short hours, we could see that this was a divine meeting.  I don't want to say much but just that God had placed Stacey and I there to be a comfort, encouragement and light for our new friend.

Oh and don't worry, we got our 'soul food' from the speaker and she (as in He) had much to whip us into shape about - so it was amazing that we got the opportunity both to do His work as well as to be chastised - He's good like that!  I'll talk more on that in part three!

One of the neat light fixtures!

So we eventually made it into bed, buried under our piles of blankets and talked some more - and some where in the wee hours we fell asleep.

The next day brought more delicious food, *sigh* I'm drooling just remembering it all!  Endless coffee and of course our new friends for company.  We sat, chatted and then headed off to the next session.  This is where I got a butt kicking of Spiritual proportion that I am eager....and not so eager to share about....know what I mean!?!

And so, after that session, we met for lunch and was amazing!  They had this squash soup and people....I.DON'T.HAVE.WORDS! It was unbelievable!  Seriously, I know, this weekend was about God...really it was.....I swear! And I really did take a lot away in regards to my spiritual life- BUT the food.....

Okay....I'll try to stop...sooo goooood.....


So yes, after lunch we had free time until supper.  A nice chunk of time to just be.  I fought the urge to give into my body's desire to succumb to a food comma and instead decided a walk would be the better choice!

Stacey and I grabbed our cameras, donned our runners (being so thankful we had stopped back at my house to get mine!) and headed out to explore all the Muskoka beauty up close and personal!

And beautiful it was!  We toured around the resort, taking in the water, the mountains and exploring all that the facilities had to offer.  We then we headed off a little ways down the road and discovered this lovely waterfall nestled in the woods.  We tromped around in there for about an hour and I took serious advantage of the lessons I learned in that 30 Day photo challenge!!

I have oodles of pictures to share from our little excursion but I will save most of them for the third installment - they shall entertain your eyes as I tell of how God spoke to my heart through this weekend.

After our jaunt, we headed in and found a cozy spot to read and sketch by the wood stove.  It wasn't long before the reading and sketching was forgotten and chatting resumed, we had soaked in so much from the mornings session and we just wanted to mull it over with each other.  And then who should find us but our new gal pals.

We spent the remainder of the time, snug and warm by the fire side, chatting away, drinking some of the best flavoured coffee I have ever had and meeting more people.

There was dinner, speaking, more chatting after and finally a semi-decent bed time - in a HEATED room!

The next morning was breakfast, speaking/worship service, lunch and then before we knew it - we were heading back on the road!  But not before one last photo with our much loved new friends.  These gals were certainly a highlight of the weekend and I think we created a friendship for life!  We may not see each other too often and only talk on occasion but we shall always, have Muskoka!

We made the 'goodbyes' quick and surprisingly without tears.  We loaded the car and with one last look over the beauty before us, we were off!

The trip home was pretty smooth....other then when I realized 40 minutes into it, that I had left my wallet back in our room!  We stopped for gas and then found a shorter way back....thanks to Dianne?!?!...we retrieved said wallet, said "Goodbye" to Muskoka again and headed on our long trip home.

We were a little bummed that on neither the way there or home did we see a single moose and we were more then a little un-nerved at the two times we had to abruptly break for deer in our way!  But we made it home - the men were waiting with open arms and safe and sound children!

It was a glorious time and the events of the weekend keep playing out for me!  I would love to go again but we shall was such a wonderful time of rest, renewal and re-connecting!

So that sums up most of the 'activities' of the weekend but I'll be back to post on the actual speaking and worship components from those three days!  Because let me tell you - that's nothing to be forgotten anytime soon!

Blessings to you all!


Nov 14, 2013

Muskoka: Part 1 - The Adventure

Wow! What a weekend that was!  I don't know where to start....I don't know how to even write down and capture all that I experienced, learned and all the amazing, God filled events that unfolded over those three days away!

So I finally decided to break it down into a few posts.  I'm starting with the adventure of it all - because oh what an adventure we had!  Okay, so no it wasn't climbing mount Everst kind of adventure - but a fun, road trip, kind of adventure just the same!

But before beginning I want to pause to say; this weekend would not have been possible if it wasn't for our two AMAZING husbands!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Stacey (my BFF that you so often hear me refer to) and I feel extremely blessed to be the help mates, best friends and loves to our wonderful men!!  They made it all possible for us to go and we couldn't thank God enough for these two godly and loving men!!

Thank you Richard!
Thank you Dave! back to the weekend adventure.  We headed out Friday - with a pit stop at the Starbucks for my favourite hot beverage; an Americano!  We then made another pit stop back at my house because I had forgotten my runners and....the directions!


So we were then on our way!  Open road, great coffee, good tunes and five and a half hours of travel a head of us!

The day was windy and us in her little Yaris were having a grand ol' time keeping it on the road.  We ventured quite aways before finding a little...settlement to stop in, use the facilities and make our picnic the car. 

Since I supplied the snacks for the trip, my gal pal brought us an amazing lunch.  Complete with homemade bread, bacon and some of the most delicious cheese around!  We ate like Queens we did, in that little Yaris, with the wind roaring and the locals staring.

Changing drivers, I was now behind the wheel and the rest of the trip lay before us.  I had printed out Google map directions as our only means of a 'map' - but so far we had been doing pretty well - with nary a turn around or wrong way.  We did have my GPS for a back up...but...and I'm not sure if I have mentioned this before or not but my GPS has this terrible habit of trying to kill us!


We call her Dianne.  Why does she have a name?  Because...well you have to name your GPS'!  I mean if someone is going to tell you where to go and what to do, they need a name so you have something to say when you are cursing talking back to I alone on this????

Anyways - we hoped to only have to use Dianne as a last resort!

And until we were only about 15 minuets away from our destination we left her packed away.  That was, until we came upon this scene...

Apparently a wind storm have blown through the night before and it had caused some damage.  At this point in our adventure....5 hours and fifteen minutes in...only FIFTEEN more to go - we were at a stand still.  A tree had fallen, knocking over a power line and starting a fire on the side of the road. 

We stood there....Google map directions in other map....and knowing we would have to now trust Dianne.....or move the pylons and hope to out run that cop there.... was a hard choice...but we decided to go with Dianne.

Yes, you may think this sounds dramatic but seriously this GPS has it out for least my hubby and me!  She's taken us down back roads with swamps across them, telling us to continue through, she's taken us down dark roads, under heavy construction, with giant car sized sink holes being hid by planks of wood and she has even once taken us down a pedestrian walking path at a University! 

So do you see our hesitation to follow her and how the contemplation of out running the cop was a close contender???

But alas, we punched in the address and headed off into the Muskoka woods.

It started well, when she had us turn off the nice, paved road and travel down a side road.  It got better when we came to this road and she told us to continue on....


In case you can't tell...that road is barely a car width wide!  There were creeks on each side and oh, yes, lets not forget the sign - "No winter maintenance beyond this point"...and the sign above that?? It wasn't even readable!!

Right Dianne...right. 

But what choice did we have?!?  So we ventured on!

This winding, small, dirt road was pretty...I'll give you that!  We dodged fallen branches and hoped that no one else would meet us on this pathway ...err....'road'.  Eventually it became wider.... just in time for this next little obstacle...

...yes that's a tree trying to bring down a power line...and this view is from after we went under it.  The road was one long trail of wind blown debris and we had a grand ol' time dodging all the fallen branches that littered our winding, hilly way!
But things got better and we were thanking Dianne when a 'real' road appeared before us and it match our Google map directions!  She hadn't try to kill us after all...
And so we were just about there!  Check in started at 3:00 with dinner to be at 6:00, it was 5:15!  We saw the sign, "Hallelujah!" and turned the corner and.....saw this in our path...
But by this time we were pros at dodging trees and power lines and with barely a blink of the eye we pulled on through!
So we had made it!  Five and a half hours, surviving Dianne, back roads, fallen trees, it was all good!  We were there!
We got out, stretched and found the check in location.  Only to discover....that half the resort was out of power!
The lady at the desk said that some rooms had power and some did not.  Some had power in parts of the room and not in other parts of the room, so we were to go to our room and check it out and let them know if we did not have power.
I took one look at Stacey, "You know our room won't have power!"
We headed out to find our weekend abode.  Originally we had signed up for a room with two queen size beds and it's own patio or deck - but being the procrastinators that we are - those rooms were already taken when we when to book.  So we ended up booking a room with a queen bed plus a double bunk bed.  Ah well - it wasn't about the rooms but the experience...right?!
Anyways, we found our building and were pleasantly surprised to discover our building was next to the main one - which means we were pretty centrally located to all the happenings for the weekend.  We were also surprised to discover our room with it's own door plate...
A suite?  Fancy!  And it was a pretty nice room - yes, it still had the bunk bed but it was a huge room, with oodles of closet space and even a mini fridge!  Turns out it was the room that the guest speaker, if traveling with family, usually takes!
Well, well, well!
Oh and the view, was okay....if GORGEOUS is your thing!
And did we have power???
No lights, no heat!
So Stacey said she would go and tell the lady at the front desk.  A few minuets later she returned.  "I told her we have no power." she informed me "and she wrote it down and then gave me this!"
I glanced up to see a tiny flashlight in her hand!
Hahaha!  Well, it was going to be a fun night!
And well...that's where I shall leave you all for now.  I will say, that no, there was no heat until supper the next day.  So the first night was C.O.L.D - but hey, it's the Muskoka's, so what are you going to do?!   We buried ourselves under piles of blankets, chatted until the wee hours and still we were up and ready to roll by 8:30 the next morning! Thank goodness we at least had hot water and there was of course, plenty of good coffee to go around! 

Nov 12, 2013

Humbly Blessed!

Well, folks - I did return and my weekend away was just about as fantastic as one could imagine...actually even more so then I imagined it could be.  So much so, that I am still digesting it all.  I have finally sorted through the few hundred photos between my BFF and I and I'm trying to compose a post about the whole adventure.

But it's hard!

There was a lot packed into those three days and I'm trying to capture it I thought I'd put that on hold and work on it more this week!  Because I do want to capture it all but I have to figure out just how...and in how many posts!


In the mean time I wanted to share an encouraging story.

The other evening, as I got up to use the washroom - an ever going hobby of mine these days - I took note of a car that looked as if it had apparently turned around in our driveway.

It was completely dark out, so I only saw the tail and head lights as they drove slowly past our home.  It's not often people turn around out here but not entirely uncommon.  And wanting to get back amongst the warm blankets, I returned to bed and didn't give it a second thought.

The next morning, at breakfast, the bacon my hubby was cooking was smelling a deciding that we should probably not eat the odd smelling bacon (that we realized had been in our fridge for a couple of weeks already), he took it outside to toss it in the field for some lucky coyotes to enjoy later.

Upon opening the screen door, there on the porch lay three large department store bags. 

That's when I remembered the car from the night before.

Hubby deposited the bacon across the road and came back in with the bags in hand.  And to our utter amazement and disbelief, there inside were two brand new snow suits for our girls and two fleece sleepers for the boy and a pair of pants for him as well!

We were shocked!

Our girls were in need of new suits, but we just couldn't afford the (crazy!) prices of them.  We had a decent hand-me down one for Catherine and though it was on the small side, I was hoping to make it work.  For Olivia we had some hand-me down snow pants, quite worn in the knees but I was thinking they might make just one more winter.  As for her coat, I have searched the whole house, even the garage and it is no where to be found!

I was planning on hitting up some snow suit drives soon but had yet to hear word of any.

And as for the boy - well dear hubby had gone through his clothes while I was gone and our little giant has out grown everything we have!  He was down to only about four sleepers...and for whatever reason, his night time diapers...well they don't hold as they should!  So new sleepers were on the list of need to get!

Hubby and I ate our breakfast in complete silence, trying to digest this generosity!  Trying to let this blessing sink in and being entirely, completely humbled by all of it!

Who would have done this?  Who would have thought of us so and be willing to give so generously?  Who took the time to shop and then, in the cover of night, bring these parcels to us?  Why?

God has used someone to bless our family.  Bless us before we could even ask, before we fully even realized the need was there.

It's incredibly humbling to be blessed in this way!

Not humbling because we lacked providing for ourselves but humbling in how God worked in someone's life to bless little ol' us!  How someone was moved to think of our family, to care for us, to spend money and time and to be so incredibly thoughtful!

So no, we haven't figured out who it was - but we do know that our heavenly Father cares for us and that He has put some amazing people in our lives!

THANK YOU to whom ever has humbly blessed us - you are a gift from God!



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