Thursday, December 31, 2009

Year in Review, 2009

I began 2009 with this goal in my heart.

Here's how I learned His ways, His paths, and His truths throughout the year...

January:
I asked the Lord to shake me up, keep me from becoming too comfortable, unsettle me.

February:
I asked God to reveal His agenda for my daily schedule and "to do" lists with my time experiment.

March:
I was learning about Believing God and persevering when victory demanded my all.

April:
God used our difficult trip to Disneyland to remind me of something that I find easy to forget.

May:
The Lord provided peace when I submitted to His will for our special needs son.

June:
God used an old post and an anonymous comment to encourage me. Interesting how re-reading those words just spoke to my heart all over again...

July:
Our family settled in to enjoy the snot-nosed, dirty-faced, sweaty-kid days of summer.

August:
I had the amazing experience of attending the She Speaks conference, and many thanks to Lysa who inspired me to begin my fast food fast.

September:
An answer to those prayers of mine - the ones to be unsettled... God nudged, we listened (albeit reluctantly).

October:
In the midst of preparing to move, God called Pat to take a short walk in the mission field. His heart is forever turned toward the people of Haiti.

November:
I spent some time trying to refocus my prayers and praises.

December:
A month spent glorying in the new lifestyle of our family, but sadly neglecting other important things (such as writing - for my book or on this here blog).

It surely was a Jesus year! I asked and sought and God showed my His ways, taught me His paths, and spoke to me about His truths. My world was rocked more than once. Adventure was had. Much time was spent on my knees. And some people say that following Jesus is boring...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Traditionally Speaking

Traditions are the glue that holds a family together, separate and unique from other families. Some traditions become such a part of the daily routine that we may not even recognize them as special, such as praying together at night or talking about the day's high and low points over dinner. Christmas traditions, though, are special.

Do you read the Christmas story together? Open stockings? Have a turkey dinner feast?

Last year, our family began a tradition that I'd like to continue. Together, as a family, we found a way to give to others. The tough part (which was also the most blessed part) of the giving was that it was sacrificial.

I don't think our kids are old enough to understand going with a "giftless" Christmas where we give all of our gift money to a worthwhile project. But there is no age limit on learning to be a blessing, to offer something that may mean you need to have a little less for yourself.

A couple other traditions that have bloomed over the years:
- Each kid gets a new ornament every year, and they hang their ornaments on the tree. (There is a slim chance that I missed a year along the way - baby brain - but I'm going to make sure each kid is all set for next year.)
- On Christmas Eve, the kids get to open a gift (pre-selected by moi). It's always new pyjamas.
- Santa fills the stockings in this house and leaves a gift (typically something that everyone can enjoy together). Of course, we always leave out milk and cookies for the jolly fella.
- At my parents' house, one of them will read the Christmas story before we devour the turkey and trimmings. Sometimes it's direct from the Bible, sometimes a version from a children's book.

I should share a little trick I came up with a few years back that seems to help with any sibling issues that occur around gifts (you know, no matter how you do Christmas and how much you try to focus on Christ and not the gifts, there is almost always one child who ends up whining to play with something that someone else received - this makes me crazy!). For any and all gift-giving occasions, a gift received by a particular child belongs solely to that child for a full 24 hours. After that day is done, the treasure is now for sharing. The exceptions to the rule are clothing and items that they choose to put in their special box. (The special box is a shoebox-sized Rubbermaid container, which the child keeps in his/her room. No one else is allowed to take items from the box. This little trick helped me deal with the child who was "hoarding" everything in piles on and beside the bed.)

Now, given that time is running short, I need to figure out what we're going to do as a family to be a blessing this Christmas. Pat and I have already come up with one thing, but it didn't involve the kids...

What are your family's traditions around Christmas?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Lazy Days

In case you wonder (or even if you don't), you may find it quiet around this little internet space over the holidays. I plan on being very busy lazing around in jammies, drinking entire pots of coffee, watching a million family Christmas movies, reading a couple novels, and maybe even attempting to do something fun with the kids (though we'll have to change out of the jammies to do that).

I realize that my blogging has been awfully intermittent lately, with the move and all. And I thank you for sticking with me in spite of my randomness. I'm sure some part of my New Year's Resolutions will involve a commitment to writing better material with more regularity - which means you can likely count on that to happen for a good two weeks. ;)

But really, I hope that you, like me, will just enjoy the slowing of pace that comes with the Christmas holidays. Be with family and friends, and take a little break from the routine. And most importantly, spend some time reflecting on the amazing gift God gave us in His Son...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

On the Loose

I am almost off for an evening away with a girlfriend. By the time you read this I will be off (she doesn't know where she's going or who she's meeting, so I scheduled this to pop up after I know she's gone -you know?). As soon as I get home tomorrow, Pat and I are sneaking off for a night. We'll go to his work Christmas party, then enjoy the luxury of sleeping in the next morning. (Yay, Grandma! Have fun at 6am.)

So far this morning I have:
- washed, dried, folded, and put away three loads of laundry
- had my chimney cleaned (unrelated, but it was scheduled for this morning)
- grocery shopped for snacks and quick foods
- packed for one night, stacked packing for the next night
- put tonight's dinner in the crock pot
- fed two children lunch
- taken out the garbage and recycling
- cleaned up 400 mounds of dog doo
- paid bills
- and paced anxiously waiting for the sitter to arrive (who, as I write this, is not yet due for another hour).

If you've never taken a night away with a girlfriend, you totally should. It's almost naughty how free you feel!

If you've never taken a night away with your hubby, you should do that one first. :) Just 24 hours of escape from the day-to-day can bring month's worth of refreshing to a marriage.

And if you ever have the blessed opportunity to do both in one weekend, be sure to thank the Lord and not take one moment for granted. Because time away - it is a blessing.

Anyone know how it is that on any normal day it would take every waking moment to complete that list of tasks? Really, getting away is good for the whole family - they've never had such a productive Mommy! :)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Moral of the Story

One of our children has an iron will. This child will dig heels in deep and not budge - ever - on whatever the issue of the day is.

Since school began this year (even before the move), this child has not been participating well in class. I don't know why, but I suspect it has to do with:
#1 - not wanting to look foolish doing silly actions and movements;
#2 - not wanting too much focus to be turned toward the child;
#3 - needing to be perfect and have things mastered before being willing to do them; and
#4 - a little bit of stubbornness deep down in this child's heart.

Said child came home a couple days ago proclaiming that there was no happy face in the agenda from school because the class was doing yoga and my darling wouldn't do it. To be honest, I was so proud of this child that I cannot even tell you - we have had many discussions about yoga and why our family believes it is best not to participate in it at all.

I began drafting an email...

Later, with some digging from Daddy, it was discovered that the child did not, in fact, refuse to do yoga, but simply refused to join in on the doing movement (you know, bend down and touch your toes, now reach up to the sky, etc.). Yoga was not for today, but they would be learning it later on, said the child. Perhaps this should have been my first clue that things were not all as they appeared?

I began revising the email... I had Pat read the email... I re-read and re-revised... And then - I hit send.

Yesterday I received a phone message from the teacher. As I did in my email, the teacher first addressed the child's issue and some solutions that had been brainstormed. Then the teacher addressed my concern and request that they not do yoga in school. The teacher informed that there has never been, nor would there ever be, any plans to practice yoga at school. Ahem.

The information my child had given us was incorrect, and no one has any clue where that information may have come from.

This morning, I drafted a new email. If email came with a picture, my face would be very red and my eyes averted. How incredibly embarrassing - to have written an email convincing the teacher of my reasons for opposing yoga in school FOR NO REASON. Oh, how foolish of me.

There are three morals to this story:

First, never jump to conclusions.
Second, when you learn information that upsets you the first thing you should do is ask, "is it true?"
And third, never, ever, ever take what a child says at face value!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The View from Up Here

Not too long ago, we were having a bit of family fun swimming. Abbey was having fun jumping off the diving board, but she suspected that the high board (5m) would be even more fun. Twice, she climbed all the way up that ladder, then climbed right back down.

Seeing a teachable moment about conquering our fears, I gave her a mini lecture/pep talk encouraging her to take the leap. When I finished, Abbey asked me, "Mom, have you ever jumped off that high board?"

As far as I could remember, I had not taken that plunge. You see, I have a small issue with heights. I'm not technically afraid of being up high, nor am I afraid of falling (because I know that they don't let people continue to go up on high things if someone has fallen from it). But there is a physical reaction that occurs in my body when I look down from a high vantage point. And in all my years, the best I've been able to do is breathe deeply, cling tightly, and tell myself I won't fall - every once in a while this actually helps me. Most times, though, I have done what Abbey did - turn around, climb down, and back out.

I asked Abbey, in perfect teenage fashion, "If I do it, will you do it?" She grinned and nodded.

The climb up the ladder wasn't bad. Deep breath in, step-step-step, deep breath out, step-step-step. The walk on the first half of the diving board was manageable. Deep breath in, hold it, cling to the railing, steeeeepppp, steeeeepppp, steeeeepppp. But there is a point on every diving board where the railing ends and you are left to take those last few steps on your own.

I froze. My pulse hammered at my throat. The walls and pool seemed to shift and move, rocking with the twisting of my stomach. My legs literally trembled. I felt like a blob of jell-o on a plate that someone had just flicked to make it dance.

I took another breath, let go, and stepped. No! I stepped back and grabbed the railing. The board and I danced this way three times. I thought to myself, "I can't do this." I started to turn back. No! I told myself, "You can do this. Your little girl is down there, counting on you to do this. She is watching you, and will take her lead from your choices. Do not let her down!" My legs of gelatin cautiously carried me to the edge of the board, and I stood with hands extended to hold my balance. One, two, three, breathe, plug nose, and jump step right off that board. Victory!

It took a full half hour for my queasy stomach to relax, longer to feel as though my legs could hold me upright. Abbey proceeded to leap off that 5m high board a dozen times.

I could draw a million (or three) parallels and metaphors on how this relates to our relationship with God:

#1 - Sometimes faith is scary.
#2 - There are lots of times that we must simply step out in obedience, knowing the truth that God is with us even when we feel terrified and uncertain.
#3 - Someone is always watching what we do, and making choices about their own faith based on our actions.

But mostly, I just wanted to tell you because it's a darn good story. And hey - I jumped from the high board! Nanananana!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Pondering

I read some words this morning in my quiet time that brought tears to my eyes and a lump into my throat. They resonated with truth and made me feel so encouraged that I just had to share them. Both of these quotes are from Gary Thomas’s “Holy Available” (pp. 124-125).

“Have you ever realized that God purposely sets up our lives to reveal His glory? Speaking of one man’s healing, Jesus told His disciples, ‘This happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me’ (John 9:3-4).”


One thing I noticed about this story when I looked it up in my Bible was that this man was blind from birth. He was blind forever, for his whole life. He suffered a long time. Yet God healed him at just the right time that would bring glory to His name. It makes me think of things in my life that seem to be constant battles, going on and on. And I feel encouraged knowing that when God’s hand of deliverance comes for those issues, it will be at just the right time to bring His Name glory.

“God has a purpose for you, and He’s working to make this purpose come true. And because it’s His purpose and because He’s doing it, it’s never in doubt. It’s going to happen. God knows that it is so.”


Just before this statement, the author has shared that God put on his heart a passion to write a certain book. He wrote this book and received, consecutively, 150 rejections before it was picked up for publication. And through the whole experience, he continued to feel God pushing him to pursue it. So he did. I know that I often feel God has put a dream in my heart for something, but the longer it takes the more I begin to question it. Was that dream really from God? Maybe I made it up in my own head. Perhaps it’s time to give up. For me, these words were a good and timely reminder to “stay the course” and trust that God will do His thing in His time.

I hope that something in these words gives you encouragement as well.

Friday, December 11, 2009

From Dishonour to Freedom

Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. ~Isaiah 25:8-9 (NRSV)


In just two short weeks we will celebrate the birth of the Messiah, the One who removes our disgrace and wipes our tears.

Don't you just love that phrase, "He will take away our disgrace?"

Disgrace (n) - shame, dishonour, discredit, scandal, humiliation.

Disgrace (v) - bring shame on, bring into disrepute, tarnish, stain.

The coming of the Christ child was not just a promise to forgive our sins, but to remove the scandal of those sins, so that our names (and His) could not be brought into disrepute.

Do you find that you sometimes go to God seeking forgiveness, yet you continue to allow the sins you have confessed to stain your own view of yourself? You allow the shame of the sins to linger? I know I do. I'm truly sorry for the wrong I've done, but it never leaves me; it's always in the back of my mind. I can't share the gospel with this person - I'm too messed up. With my background, I should never be in public ministry. I can't possibly serve God in that capacity! I'm a liar, a failure, a hypocrite. Anyone who knows me will know the truth about who I am and what I've done...

Yet we are promised not only that we will be forgiven, but that our disgrace will be taken away. The redemption of Christ means that the stains on our lives are completely removed.

You know those laundry commericals? The ones where the "testers" grab someone in a grocery store and rub all sorts of goo and gunk onto her white shirt? Then they treat the stain with their special formula stain remover, wash the shirt - in cold, icy water, no less - and it's like the stain was never there.

It's the same when Christ erases our dishonour - like it was never there.

So don't let past sin hold you back. If God is calling you to teach a Bible study, to speak in front of a group, to share the gospel with your neighbour - do it! Your old junk doesn't matter - it was never there. Don't hold onto shame that Christ has already removed. It is the very fact that you are imperfect and you have a past that will bring glory and honour to the Name of Jesus. The fact that our tarnish has been brought to a shine is a demonstration of His greatness and grace.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. ~Romans 8:1-2 (emphasis mine)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

My Shoulders are no Longer Hunched over by the Weight of the World... or some other witty title that captures the intent of this post

When we decided to move, I knew that having Pat home every night would be special, wonderful, and a blessing to all of us. Because God has made it clear that we are to leave our families and cleave to our spouses, I knew that He would bless this decision. In spite of the heartache moving away from our extended family, friends, ministry, church, and overall support network, there was not a doubt in my mind that this was the right thing to do. (Lest you think that by "moving away" I mean we went far, we are only a 90 minute drive from our old home!)

You know what I had no idea about, though? Just how much difference it makes in life to have a second pair of hands around on a regular basis! I am not the only one on call in the middle of the night. I don't have to wrangle up friends and grandparents to assist with getting all the kids to activities. I am no longer chef, bus girl, and dishwasher for virtually every dinner. I'm not the only cog in the bath time assembly line. I don't have to do loving and teaching and discipline and homework all tangled together - on my own. Until I experienced the joy of having my husband home nightly, I had no clue how overwhelmed I was without him.

Don't get me wrong, it's not like Pat was never home. But he was away and working late just often enough that I settled into a comfortable (if not slightly harried) groove of doing it all. I didn't realize the weight of that burden until it was lifted from me.

Sure, we've gotten into a few squabbles along the way. I had a good system, but Pat employs different methods. Sometimes I forget that the end result is more important than the methods and I try to remind him that I know how to do things best. Thankfully, he understands the "planner" part of me and can help me loosen my grip gently.

You know what else has surprised me a bit? The simple fact that I really do like Pat! I can hear you chuckling... It's not that I ever didn't like him, but that I was worried that we might get on one another's nerves and grow tired of each other's company after so much "togetherness." But we're not! Well, I'm not; I guess you'd have to ask him if I'm getting on his nerves. :)

I like talking with him, hanging out with him, fighting over the remote control with him, planning out our week together. It's like we're dating again and don't want to be apart for any lengthy period of time - and I love it! All these gooey feelings kinda make a girl want to do something as an expression of all that love...like maybe make a baby. Nothing says "we're madly in love" than creating life together. Whaddya say, honey? Should we explore the possibility of going for #6?

Just kidding... Sort of.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Tree

Last night, we finally decked out our little tree with lights and ornaments. It is now a gloriously unsymmetrical mess of homemade ornaments.

As we decorated the tree and bee-bopped to some Christmas tunes, my mind wandered... Why do we decorate a tree for Jesus' birthday? This morning I asked my trusty friend, Google that very question. The answers were many and varied - many completely inaccurate, I'm sure. But I found a couple explanations that resonated...

The triangle shape of the tree represents the Trinity: Father, Son, Holy Spirit. The top of the tree points Heavenward.

The colour of the tree, green, represents life. Evergreen means eternal life.

The needles of a tree grow upward, like hands raised praising God.

The lights on the tree glitter and glisten like the streets of Heaven.

And the giving of gifts is an act of love and charity; a reflection of the love Christ has for us.

Looking at the tree, beautiful and shiny, brought to mind another tree. A tree that was roughly carved down, limbs and leaves and bark stripped away, ugly and bare, made into a cross.

It's impossible to reflect on the birth of the Christ child without the mind coming to His reason for being born. As we celebrate the Saviour birth, we are reminded of His death. A sacrifice of love for our sins. It seems fitting, doesn't it, that we use a tree to celebrate His birth, and tree to celebrate His death?

(Yes, we can celebrate Christ's death, because we know that it was not the end, but the beginning. God raised Him from the dead, just as His Salvation pulls us up from the darkness of death.)

The Christmas tree...a symbol of the eternal life we have been promised through Christ.

Monday, December 7, 2009

And Again, as I Hop Back on the Wagon

God is speaking to me about my eating again. He's reminding me that He provided me with the perfect "diet" plan - a plan for eating His way. He's showing me that this plan was not intended to be a temporary, short-term suggestion, but a way of life.

I've been plugging my ears and singing, "La, la, la, la!" for a while now. I don't want to sacrifice. I don't want to work hard. I don't want to struggle. There's a little rebel inside of me that doesn't want to do the thing that everyone else is doing (makes sense, doesn't it - refusing to eat healthy and exercise so that no one thinks I'm just trying to be a part of the "in" crowd?).

What I've come to realize, though, is that what I am really choosing is self-abuse. I fill my body with junk that I think tastes good, and I get fatter. I grow more lethargic and lose motivation. I feel queasy on and off all day, I have heartburn at night, my back aches and my feet hurt, I have headaches and feel irritable. All caused by me.

God may not have given me a supermodel's body - thin and willowy, completely flat abs and curves in all the right places. But He did give me this body. He has a vision for how it's supposed to look and feel, and I'm pretty sure He wasn't thinking of this.

Here are some thoughts that I've jotted down the past while as I've pondered this subject:

- Why would God reveal His plan/purpose/calling for me right now, when I'm clearly too fat, tired, unhealthy, and lazy to fulfill it?

- Given the fact that the Holy Spirit dwells within all believers (that includes me), how can I accept giving Him a sub-par, unhealthy dwelling place? Someone once gave me this evaluation for deciding which shows and movies to watch: if Jesus were sitting right beside you, would you be willing to watch it? The same could be asked about what I put in my body.

- When I eat particularly terribly, I have noticed that I tend to be extra irritable and impatient with my children and husband. (And, my acne breaks out like crazy.) I shouldn't be surprised; it's basic math...junk in = junk out.

Quote of the day: Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy... And if we continue to make God's temple our trash can, we are helping the devil accomplish his mission - one meal at a time. ~Sheri Rose Shepherd

Friday, December 4, 2009

Top Ten Signs that You WAY Overindulged at the Olive Garden

10. You needed to undo the button on your pants between the appetizer/salad/breadsticks and the entree.

9. You requested the remainder of your meal to packed up, only to forget it on the table.

8. As you drive away you realize that, in your food-drunk state, you overtipped the waitress a LOT.

7. You and your spouse debate whether you should still go to a movie or simply crawl into bed and explode.

6. When you sit down in the movie theatre you again undo the button on your pants.

5. The smell of popcorn makes you nauseous.

4. You aren't able to hold your bladder through the entire movie because your stomach is putting too much pressure on it.

3. At the end of the movie you are absolutely certain that the best thing to do is crawl into bed and explode.

2. You have odd, unusual, and freakish dreams that keep you in a restless state of half-sleep all night long.

1. You awake at 3am - a full 8 hours after completing your meal - with such heartburn and nausea that you take 4 Zantac, sleep sitting up, consider calling an ambulance because you are certain you're dying, and eventually swear off Olive Garden for the rest of your life.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Computer Issues - Warning

Just wanted to warn my friends to avoid all the hype about Google Chrome.

I downloaded it, tried it, didn't like it as much as Internet Explorer (completely different menus and such - very annoying), uninstalled it.

From the moment I unistalled GC, hyperlinks stopped working in my email, in Word docs, etc. I was getting an error message that "this operation was cancelled due to the settings on my computer."

After much searching, someone suggested that this problem is linked to GC's uninstallation - that when you uninstall it, it also deletes essential registry stuff for hyperlinks to work. So I reinstalled. Now hyperlinks work.

Nothing is really more annoying than knowing I must keep a program I don't like and won't use, letting it take up valuable memory space, simply because getting rid of it messes with my system.

Just thought you'd like to know, so if you do try out GC you are making an informed decision.

Monday, November 30, 2009

A Tour in Pictures

Welcome to our new house. You'll notice the front-attached garage; I am so glad that it's large enough to fit my big honkin' Suburban because I hear the winters this far North can get pretty nasty! You will also see the cute little front veranda. I'd like to put an Adirondack chair on it this summer, so I can have a nice little spot to hide out from all the noise.



Now we're standing just inside the front door, looking at the room we are referring to as the "front living room." Right now this space feels kinda cold and echo-y to me, but once we get a nice area rug and a chair to cozy up in, I think it will will be perfect for visiting.


For all the pictures, I'll try to leave some overlap so you can get a sense of how all the rooms flow together...

This is the dining room, attached to/ right behind the front living room. To get this picture I am standing directly in front of the stairs that head up (which are just inside the door and to the right). Make sense???


Just past the stairs heading up is a hallway - imagine that I've just turned right and walked down it. Welcome to the "fireplace living room" or "TV room," depending on who you're speaking to. You can see a little munchkin cozied up in the new chaise watching TV. We finally gave up on our 12-year-old plush furniture and splurged on some new (discount store) stuff. It is very comfy and easy to clean (an important feature in this household).

The TV room adjoins the kitchen. I am still getting used to having my kitchen and dining room so far apart (you can see the dining room near the top right of this picture - see the candle hanging thingie?). And those stainless appliances...let me tell you about them. Very nice looking, modern, the latest in thing. Mmmmm-hmmmm. Imagine your entire kitchen covered in mirrors where small children can admire themselves and rub their sticky little hands all over. You can easily wash those hand prints, but if you don't want to leave streaks you must also dry them. Several times a day. Or, if you're me, not! Our family now considers fingerprints a decorative feature. :)


Tucked back by the door to the garage is a special little room - the office! Oh how I love having a room that is JUST for the computer. And the forest green paint below the chair rail and on the crown molding (yes, they really did dare to paint the crown molding forest green)...well, it's growing on me. LOL.


Back by the office is a little half bath (I figured you all know what a bathroom looks like) and the stairs to go down. At the bottom of those stairs you can go left (bathroom), right (family room), or straight ahead (Abbey's room).

Abbey is quite pleased with her new set-up. She's got a fort and a desk all rolled into one. And look! Her bed is made! As you will notice, that is an anomaly in our home.


Here's the family room. That little sectional was a steal I found on kijiji before we moved, and it's got a hide-a-bed in it for when we have lots of guests to house. (I just love that there is enough room in each of the kids' bedrooms to add bedding on the floor for more. So if you were thinking of a visit, we've got space...) That LaZBoy chair is part of the 12-year-old set. It's pretty worn, but the kids don't care what their furniture looks like.


There's a little nook built in to the family room, I think intended for a bar (you can see the plumbing hook-ups on the right wall). But since we're more likely to be hosting family game night than anything, we figured we'd put our exercise equipment in the nook. Funny that two people who prefer sitting on the couch to any and all alternatives have so much exercise stuff, eh?


And turning another quarter-turn in the family room you will find the "toy den."


Did you see that peek of blue at the top right corner of the last picture? That was the doorway to Braeden's room. Notice the bed - now that's more like it! He just scored a comfy double bed from Grandma and Grandpa. The downside is that he has to move out whenever we have house guests (and our guests get to cuddle like they haven't in ten years).


Now imagine that you are running up one flight of stairs, turning left down a little hallway, taking another left and heading up another flight of stairs (this house should really be helping me get my cardio in). At the top of the stairs is a landing that didn't warrant a picture (with TWO linen closets that totally warrant a mention). At the top of the stairs you can go left (master bedroom), straight ahead (bathroom), slight right (Kai's room), and far right (Meg & Shea's room).

The girls have plenty of space for their little playhouse and vanity. Beds unmade, as usual. And their dressers and closet are just out of camera range to the right.


Malakai discovered the joy of hopping out of his crib before we moved. And since Braeden got himself some new digs, we convinced him to pass along the famous car bed. I will throw a party when he stays in bed the first time we put him there!


The master bedroom needs two pictures for you to grasp how much I love it. This is the first time ever that we have had more than just one foot of space to maneuver around the perimeter bed. In this picture I'm standing just inside the door. Notice the his and hers closets to the left. We have finally established who the true fashion diva is in our house, and I won't name names, but let it be said that my closet has a LOT of empty hangers!

Yes, we really need a picture above the bed there. Yes, I know that most grown-ups make their beds. And yes, those are separate blankets. All the stuff you never wanted to know about me...


Now I'm standing next to the closet door looking the other way. I bet you would have appreciated it if I closed the toilet lid, eh?


And though I've resisted posting any bathroom pictures for your viewing pleasure, I could not resist showing you the corner of our en suite. Because who doesn't love to sink into one of these babies?! (Now we just need a new hot water tank so that we can actually fill it enough to run the jets. Hahaha.)


So there you have it, for all you curious onlookers. And if you weren't curious - well, now you have successfully wasted half an hour. My apologies.

You know, I got to thinking that this would have been way easier to do in video form. But then I'd have to start all over again. Nix that idea!

In case I didn't mention it - we've got some space here for cramming in friends and their kids. So make a date to come visit. We'll make you hot dogs and macaroni and play board games with you. As long as you can bear the pungent fragrance of dead mouse trapped within basement walls, that is... But that's a story for another post

Friday, November 27, 2009

Look Who Got a Haircut, Finally!

The past couple visits to the hairdresser have resulted in such trauma, that we let this little man's hair grow for a veeeeerrrrryyyyy long time!

Notice the trendy "bangs in eyes" look we had going...



A good three inches later...



Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Couple Questions

Is it pathetic that I spent an hour in tears last night...watching "The Biggest Loser: Where are They Now?"

And if so many people can lose over 100 lbs, why is it so darn difficult for me to lose 20??

And why the heck does watching "The Biggest Loser" make me crave cake and potato chips like never before???

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Feet First

As a women's ministry leader, I've always had a heart for women who feel like they just don't "fit." I've spent many hours coffee-ing (I know, that's not a word) with lonely, isolated, broken women. One common theme I've noticed among these women is their heartfelt NEED for fellowship with other women. Which is why I've reached out even when it's inconvenient. Even when the invitation includes four children under the age of six (in addition to my own five), a ridiculous mess in my house, and two dozen hot dogs for lunch. Now don't get me wrong and think I'm some sort of saint - there are a million instances in my memory when I know I should have reached out and I didn't.

You know what else I've noticed? There are two distinct "types" among women seeking fellowship.

Type 1 is sad and lonely, she complains of being sad and lonely, she may even make pleas for friendship in conversation...but she doesn't actually take action. When she meets people she pulls into herself, allows shyness and insecurity take over, and she ends up with no invitations. This woman remains sad and lonely for a long time before someone reaches out and draws her into friendship.

Type 2 is also sad and lonely, feels shy and insecure. But she is different. This woman pushes past her feelings and makes herself do things that are not at all comfortable. She makes conversation when she meets people, even though she has a lump of fear in her throat. Rather than waiting for invitations, she risks rejection and invites near strangers for coffee. She steps out in courage.

Courage is doing what you're afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you're scared.
~ Eddie Rickenbacker


In this new and foreign place, I am choosing to be the second type of woman. In spite of the fear, insecurity, discomfort, and ball in the pit of my stomach, I am going to women's groups and reaching out. I am inviting people to my home for coffee and Christmas-sy get-togethers.

Some of the women I meet are saying that I'm brave. The truth is...I am terrified. But the knowledge in my heart that I NEED other women pushes me to do that which I am most afraid of. Because my fear of having no one is stronger than the insecurity and fear of rejection.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Consider it Pure Joy?

I have a confession to make... I struggle between wanting God to answer my prayers and pour out His blessings on me, while also desiring a deeper relationship with Him and experiences that grow my faith to maturity.

I will pray, "Lord, give me a deeper desire to know You and Your Word." Then, when difficult, stressful, frustrating things happen I cry out, "God, what is going on here? Can't You please stop this messy thing that is happening to me?!"

I ask for one thing, then when God begins His work in me - work that will transform my heart and give me that which I've prayed for - I quickly backpedal and begin praying for Him to just put everything back to normal.

It is difficult to remember that life's trials serve a purpose. Our struggles test our faith - we are supposed to draw close to God during such times. Experiencing this testing develops perseverance (determination, persistence, doggedness, diligence, resolution) in us. And perseverance grows us into mature Christ-followers. (Taken from James 1:2-4.)

Our trials serve a purpose. So often we ask God to provide what we want - health, peace, financial provision, a husband, children, and so on - without taking into consideration the possibility that God has a much bigger plan. Possibly, not receiving all that we ask for is the path to fulfilling His plan.

Lysa TerKeurst puts it this way, "We want the promises, but we don't want to get any dirt under our fingernails in the process." (Becoming More than a Good Bible Study Girl, pp. 201)

Yup, that's me. I want all of the good God assures me of in His Word, but I sure don't want to have to work for it. I don't want to have to struggle and experience pain and heartache in order to experience blessings.

Yet if I haven't experienced that pain, pushed through the struggles, clung to my faith in God, can I even recognize a blessing?

Having spent years in deep debt and financial struggle, I remember to thank God every time I can go to the grocery store and buy whatever I toss in the cart (even if the cart load includes a box of Lucky Charms). If it had simply always been this way - where we needed an item and could go out to get it - I would likely attribute the state of our finances to ourselves. But having experienced times of huge heartache and trials, I am all the more aware that any financial provision has been provided by our Heavenly Father.

I think this is what James means when he says, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds." (James 1:2) He's not telling us to be ridiculous and run through the streets exclaiming, "I praise you, Lord, that my child has a disability! I am filled with joy by having a special needs child!" Rather, he's instructing us to have a joy deep in our hearts, because of the knowledge that God is using our trials to mature us and draw us closer to Him.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Morning Solitude

I've had a couple friends ask me how to start getting into the Word more regularly. I'm no expert, nor am I am shining example, but I do have some ideas that have worked for me (during those times that I am consistent).

Why do Bible reading, prayer, journaling, etc. in the mornings?

I don't know about you, but if there is something I NEED to get done, I have to plan to do it first thing in the morning. If I am in one of those phases where I'm trying to exercise regularly, I MUST do it in the morning. If it's housecleaning day, or laundry day, morning is the time to get it done. It seems that the more time I let pass, the easier it becomes to put off what's important until I eventually decide to take care of it...tomorrow.

Time can slip by so quickly in the early morning. If I allow myself to do anything before my time with God, I typically run out of time. It's easy to tell yourself, "I'll just unload the dishwasher. That will only take 2 minutes. Then I'll sit down with my Bible." But we all know how women are about multi-tasking! One small job leads to another, and before we know it half an hour has passed and life is upon us.

So, to prevent the stuff of life from distracting you from your good intentions to spend time with God daily, it needs to be the first thing you do each day.

What if I'm not a morning person? Or I just don't have time in the morning?

It's hard to change your regular routine! I suggest you start small. Set your alarm for just 15 minutes earlier in the morning. Once you sit in your quiet spot: pray for God to speak to you from His Word; read a short passage of Scripture (maybe just a couple verses); reflect on what they mean and how they can apply to you; then get ready for your day. After a week or two, set the alarm for another 15 minutes earlier.

When I first started getting up earlier in the morning, I found myself very tired throughout the day. Mid-afternoon would often find my nodding off or yawning uncontrollably. Some days I countered the tiredness with an afternoon cup of coffee, some days (rarely, ha) I would do a few minutes of exercise, other days (more often) I'd grab a power nap. By the time evening rolled along, I would have a second wind and end up staying up late, making the next day even more exhausting. But after about two weeks of this cycle, my body fought back! It is not often you will find me awake past 10pm on a weeknight these days. You also won't find me dozing off during my supper prep time anymore.

I'm so tired in the mornings that I'm not remembering anything I read.

Here are a few quick tips to make the most of your learning and retention from your Bible times...
- Always pray first, asking God to make His Word clear to you and asking Him to speak to you in your life from what you read.
- Read shorter passages and focus on them, rather than trying to read through several chapters at once. (Personally, I find that most of those 'read the Bible in a year' schedules have me reading far too much at once. Sure, I may have read through my whole Bible, but I haven't taken much of it to heart.)
- Write down a passage that really speaks to you on an index card. Carry it around with you and meditate on it throughout the day. Look at it when you're stopped at a red light, standing in a line, waiting on hold, taking your coffee or lunch break.
- Write in your Bible! Make notes beside passages that hold special meaning for you. These notes will not only help you remember what you've read and how it spoke to you, but they will hold special meaning to the people in your life who love you. I consider my Bible study notes to be a huge part of the legacy I will leave for my children. My hope is that seeing my faith walk, my joys and struggles, and my spiritual growth will inspire and encourage them as they walk with the Lord.

I want to read my whole Bible, but every time I get started I find myself bogged down in Numbers and I give up.

The best thing I ever did to read through my entire Bible is that I stopped trying to read it in order! The Old Testament (OT) stories are fascinating, but there are books of the Bible that sure do seem to take more effort to dig through. My system (though not necessarily the most theologically sound) is to read from the OT - a book, maybe two if they're shorter - then reward myself for the hard work and focus by reading a book from the New Testament (NT). To keep track of what I've read, I just check off the books in the Table of Contents of my Bible...next time through I turn the checks into Xs...next time I circle the Xs...

Some other ideas I've heard include reading a passage from an OT book and a passage from a NT book each day, progressing forward through each. Many of those 'read the Bible in a year' systems provide you with an order to follow. Or a new thing that I've heard a few people rave about is the Chronological Bible - the books of the Bible are rearranged so that everything flows in order chronologically.

The most important thing is to do what works for you! Personally, I like to have guidelines to follow. If you don't, just pick up your Bible and read, spend time in prayer, write out any thoughts you have, and go with the flow! Either way, God is pleased when we choose to spend time with Him each day. And life just makes more sense when each day is started being filled up. No, it's not perfect or easy, but there is a unique peace that fills our days when we start them out with God.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Crisp White Beauty

Look what I woke up to in the wee hours this morning!


Isn't it beautiful?

Don't get me wrong - I am NOT a fan of winter! But given that God has blessed us with this incredibly long, snowless, unseasonably warm fall, I see this snow in a new light. Our first snowfall of the year! And not until November 21st! Amazing.

Little known fact about living in the prairie provinces: it is a rare thing to go trick-or-treating on Halloween without winter boots and parkas on. In Alberta, we always buy costumes that are three sizes too big, so that they can fit on top of the winter gear.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere I go....

Friday, November 20, 2009

The God Chronicles - 11/20/09



I use The God Chronicles as a journal to record the many ways I see God actively working in my life, so that I can pass the stories on to my children. It would bless me if a bloggy friend or three joined in and linked up to TGC, sharing and preserving your stories.

I frequently write about those times when God has done a wow! kinda thing in my life. But God is active even in the everyday, little things of life, so I wanted to jot down one of those for today...

----------------------------------------------------

I often take off my rings (wedding band, engagement/wedding combo ring, family ring) in the evening and set them on my bookshelf. Every now and then, though, I will set them in some other totally convenient location. I once set them on top of the microwave.

The next evening (almost 24 hours later) as I was getting ready to head out somewhere, I began searching for my rings. And searching. I could not find them anywhere, nor could I recall where I had set them the night before. I shrugged it off, thinking it was one of those places that will come to mind later. But as I grabbed my purse from it's perch beside the microwave, I discovered my wedding band peeking out from underneath.

One of the kids had likely been grabbing something and bumped them. Or, there's always the possibility that someone thought they would be fun to play with or wear. But I try to think the best of my kids. ;)

I set my purse down and started looking around the kitchen for my other rings. After a minute of two, I stumbled across my family ring on the floor against the baseboard. Unfortunately, no matter where I looked and from what vantage point (crawling, standing, squinting) I just was not finding my precious diamonds! After about five minutes knots began to form in my stomach and throat.

A thought popped into my head... Pray. That was countered by the thought, but what a ridiculous thing to pray about! There are children starving and people dying of cancer, families breaking apart and worse. No matter how I tried to ignore that thought, though, it kept coming back to me. So I stopped and asked the Lord to help me find my ring.

After I prayed I wasn't sure what to do. Wait for an idea to come to me? Continue searching? Stop searching altogether? I took a deep breath, picked up my purse, and prepared to leave the house - trying to trust that God would take care of it. Somehow.

On my way out the door I stopped to straighten out the mat (as I often do - a crooked mat makes me crazy!). A glint of something flickered in my peripheral vision. Could it be? Nah. As if God would literally answer my prayer two seconds after I prayed it. I almost ignored that little glint, but my curiosity got the better of me.

Sure enough, tucked in the corner right by my front door - only a couple inches away from the heat register - was my ring! The tension instantly lifted from my neck and shoulders, I slid the ring on my finger, and headed out the door smiling.

As I hopped in my vehicle and turned the key I felt a little whisper in my heart, you're welcome. And I paused again for just a moment to give honour and praise to the One who cares about what's important to me.

Words to Live By

No food tastes as good as being healthy feels. ~Sheri Rose Shepherd


This is promptly being printed off and stuck to my pantry door.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

An Email from Me to You

I have been trying to find a way to word an update on life around here...a way that wraps up God's truths in good writing. But every post I began resulted in an unfinished draft sitting on my dashboard. I decided that the best I can do is to copy and paste an email I sent to a friend about life in our new home. After all, we're all friends in this place.

The house is so fantastic! I LOVE it, LOVE it, LOVE it! It is big and beautiful. Now we need some furniture to fill it up a bit better. :) Last night I joked to Pat that I sure hated all the hardwood and vaulted ceilings b/c they made the kids’ noise echo. LOL.

The neighbourhood is lovely. We’ve met one neighbour (Abbey’s teacher) – she gave us her daughter’s name and number b/c her daughter does respite for families with kids with special needs. I can’t get over how super good God is to me! I’m going to call her this afternoon to set up an “interview.” We saw a little girl across the street who Abbey wants me to take her to see, and there’s a boy in Meg’s class across the street who also has an older brother (just a bit younger than Braeden). So looks like a buddy for all the big kids. We have yet to go meet all these people and set up play dates… All in good time.

We visited a new church on Sunday. I found it a bit stoic (contemporary music, but very reserved in their expression of worship – Pat told me I was the only one who raised my hands during the singing, lol). We are not totally sure about it, but we’ll keep visiting for a couple months to give it a fair shot. It’s the largest church in town, closest to the size and number of programs of CrossRoads, so we figured that it might feel the most comfortable.

Yesterday I went to the women’s coffee group there. It was okay. I enjoyed visiting with other women. But overall wasn’t totally sure if I connected with anyone. Mostly just surface. One woman at our table was preparing to be a surrogate for a friend, and I had a difficult time processing that information, so it may have distracted me from making good connections.

Today I went again, but this group is the Bible study group. I cannot even describe how great it was! These women want to go deep, and they were open about their struggles even though I was new in the small group. They were very welcoming and inviting. One of them also has a girl in preschool with Shea!

There’s a women’s Christmas event this weekend – either Th night, Fri night, or Sat AM. I couldn’t decide which night to buy for when I was at church Sun, so I asked which night they needed to sell more tickets for. Ended up with a lonely ticket for Th night. Turns out that five women from the group today are also going Th night! And they’ve invited me to sit with them. Seriously, God just knocks my socks off! I feel so special to Him, that He would take seriously my prayers for a fast friendship.

I am likely going to WW (Weight Watchers) tomorrow. Gained back a bunch since my fast. Needing some discipline and structure. I prob won’t stay for the meeting, as Kai is a trouble-maker, but paying for the weigh-in is often fairly good motivation and accountability for me.

(An addendum for my bloggy readers.)

Lest you think life is all sunshine and roses, I should mention that everyone seems to be struggling a bit to settle in. Though school is going well for the kiddos, behaviours at home are most definitely in the category of "acting up." Emotions are running high...bickering is frequent...tears come easily...defiance is the only rule. Oh, and the dog finally broke her hunger strike just today!

But I know that this is all part of the transition. I still believe that God has called us here for a purpose, and I know that when He calls us it is not always easy. Through His strength, we will all work through the tough weeks and come out the other side closer to Him and one another, ready to step into our calling (whatever that is, lol).

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Quick Reminder




The God Chronicles will be going up on Friday. Please join me and link up!



I'll be back with something to say tomorrow. For today, I'll leave you with this...



Girls really do just wanna have fun. :)

(P.S. I was four months pregnant, so don't knock the belly.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Greatness

What makes God great?

Is God great when He provides for our needs?

Is God great when He protects us?

Is God great when He heals us?

Is God great only when? What about those times when we ask - we beg - and He does not?

What do you suppose would happen in our hearts and lives if, instead of praising God for His provision and protection, we began simply praising God?

Lord, You are great. You are always with me and will never forsake me. You are the living water. Thank-you for Your unfailing love, for Your forgiveness of sins, for Your gift of salvation. Your name is holy and beautiful. I praise You, God, simply because You are...

When our praises are for who God is rather than what He does, our perspective shifts. Our joy is no longer tied into our circumstances, but is wrapped up in our relationship. This is the joy I long for - it's the kind of joy that will cause others to take notice of the fact that I have been with Jesus.

Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of His holiness. ~Psalm 48:1 (KJV)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Reinvented with Grace

Moving to a new city - starting fresh - provides the opportunity to reinvent yourself.

I had visions of grasping this new start with both hands, and being the woman I really want to be.

I would be a great mother - patient, firm, fun, involved. I would teach Scripture memory verses at home after school. I would be in attendance at all school events and extra-curricular activities. I would not yell at my children. I would take joy in them and not allow irritation to overtake my face and my countenance.

I would also get back to eating well, going to a gym, looking great and feeling confident. I could dress a little more fashionably and do my hair and make-up daily.

There are a million things I'd rather be than who I am. Now is my chance to become that girl. Sherwood Park Tyler could be everything Red Deer Tyler wished she was but couldn't be...

Then reality came crashing in on me. We moved, we ate junk, I gained weight, I wore exercise pants for days, the children went crazy, I went crazy, I yelled and scowled and growled. Why can't I just change into who I want to be?

The truth is - I am not my own to reinvent. I don't get to become someone new and different simply because I wish it. I am who God created me to be, and any change that happens in me - in my heart - will be because He has made it happen. Because I am HIS to reinvent.

Lord, reinvent me with Your grace. I don't want to be someone who I'm not - I want to be the woman You will for me to be. Reinvent me from the inside out. Begin by changing my heart and my perspective to match Yours. Let me not measure my worth by the standards of appearance. I don't want to "look" like a good mother on the outside but have the stain of anger covering my heart. I don't want to put on the mask of put-together-ness and remain broken on the inside. I want to be changed by You, through You, for You, and for Your glory. Father, please, reinvent me... As Psalm 51:10 says, create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

Soak me in your laundry and I'll come out clean,
scrub me and I'll have a snow-white life.
Tune me in to foot-tapping songs,
set these once-broken bones to dancing.
Don't look too close for blemishes,
give me a clean bill of health.
God, make a fresh start in me,
shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.
Don't throw me out with the trash,
or fail to breathe holiness in me.
Bring me back from gray exile,
put a fresh wind in my sails!
Give me a job teaching rebels your ways
so the lost can find their way home.
Commute my death sentence, God, my salvation God,
and I'll sing anthems to your life-giving ways.
Unbutton my lips, dear God;
I'll let loose with your praise.

Psalm 51:7-15 (MSG)

Monday, November 9, 2009

In the Thick of it

The house is packed!

Two talented movers packed everything in our house in about four hours. They returned the next day to pack up the garage and shed - which took them less than three hours. And today they have the giant truck and trailer out front. It's amazing how quickly they can move seven peoples' possessions.

Tomorrow is "moving day." That is, we are actually moving in to the new house tomorrow. That will be followed by many, many days of unpacking.

I've turned over the reigns of WOW to the new Ministry Lead, Stacy. Yesterday I gave her my keys and files and binders... It wasn't as hard as I expected it to be.

I think the toughest part of this move is over - the saying good-bye. Now I'm just ready to get on with it!

I do apologize for the lack of updates (and especially the lack of any quality writing) on this here blog. I see that a few precious friends have deleted themselves from my list of "followers" during this lull. *wiping tears* For those who remain, if you'll just continue to stick with me through the next week or two of chaos, I promise to get back to some deep thinking soon.

Until then, I can barely think at all! :)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Good Medicine

Laughter, hot spinach dip, dessert you didn't make at home...these things are good medicine.

You may have noticed that it's been a busy week. It's been difficult to pull together a coherent thought for this place. But our conversation last night was of great help in that department.

We were expanding our vocabularies and our horizons over food and giant glasses of iced tea.

Somewhere in the conversation I mentioned the word ginch (or was it gonch). This brought shivers of disgust to my princess friend. Apparently that word provokes her mind to visual images of icky, dirty ginch (or gonch) with bacon strips. If you're as uneducated as I, you are wondering, "what the heck are bacon strips?" Apparently, this is the new and improved terminology for "skid marks" left behind in said ginch (or gonch) after not wiping properly.

I want to thank my girlfriends for the vocabulary lesson. I will never again be able to enjoy fried bacon.

Monday, November 2, 2009

This might hurt, it's not safe...

During this busy, sometimes stressful, all-too-often emotionally overwhelming season of life, the temptation to get caught up in it all is great.

I feel myself wanting to get all wrapped up in my stress.

I hear myself thinking that maybe it would be easier to step back now, distance myself quickly before it hurts too much.

If I give into either of those, though, I know I will be letting the enemy have his way with me. Getting all wrapped up in me keeps me from praying for the needs around me. It's so easy to slip into praying "God, be with me, bless me, help me" and neglect praying, "Lord, be with her, bless him, help them." Pulling away, while it would perhaps ease the painful parts of moving away, would leave me empty. It's impossible to pull back from the people around you and stay close to God. And without closeness with Him, my heart is a great, big hole.

This song has been drawing me back, helping me keep my heart where it needs to be - in the here and now, on Him.



This might hurt, it's not safe
But I know that I've gotta make a change
I don't care if I break,
At least I'll be feeling something
'Cause just okay is not enough
Help me fight through the nothingness of life

I don't wanna go through the motions
I don't wanna go one more day
without Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don't wanna spend my whole life asking,
"What if I had given everything,
instead of going through the motions?"

No regrets, not this time
I'm gonna let my heart defeat my mind
Let Your love make me whole
I think I'm finally feeling something
'Cause just okay is not enough
Help me fight through the nothingness of this life

'Cause I don't wanna go through the motions
I don't wanna go one more day
without Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don't wanna spend my whole life asking,
"What if I had given everything,
instead of going through the motions?"

take me all the way (take me all the way)
take me all the way ('cause I don't wanna go through the motions)
take me all the way (I know I'm finally feeling something real)
take me all the way

I don't wanna go through the motions
I don't wanna go one more day
without Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don't wanna spend my whole life asking,
"What if I had given everything,
instead of going through the motions?"

I don't wanna go through the motions
I don't wanna go one more day
without Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don't wanna spend my whole life asking,
"What if I had given everything,
instead of going through the motions?"

take me all the way (take me all the way)
take me all the way (I don't wanna go, I don't wanna go)
take me all the way (through the motions)
take me all the way

I don't wanna go through the motions...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Aching Heart

This week, my heart has been wrenched to and fro.

In addition to the surprise on my date night and the blessing at the church staff meeting, I was blessed and honoured at Friendship Factor on Wednesday. You wouldn't believe the trickery of those girls! People who haven't been at FF in over a year were tracked down and invited to take the morning off work so they could attend. (Bless their hearts, several did.)

Nothing is more humbling than feeling really, really loved. Did you know that? I would have thought hearing all these people telling me how great I am (I know they are selectively forgetting the bad stuff right now, but hey) would make me feel prideful and oh-so important. But it just doesn't. It makes me feel a bit shy, a bit confused, and very tender.

I cannot wrap my head and heart around it. It seems only last week I was a just-past-teenage mom with only one friend in the whole world. And these past couple of weeks have shown me that I have more friends than I know what to do with. (You should see my calendar these days as I try to have coffee with everyone I love. I am not getting anything done besides socializing!)

Each blessing I receive just makes the loss more profound. Not that I'm really losing these friends - I know that! I will be back at least once per month, and I will insist that they come my way periodically, and the modern miracle of email will keep us in close touch. But what I am losing is a culture of friendship and fellowship. It's something that took six years to develop, and moving away from this church family is...ouch.

Today I had to take one step further yet. You see, today we chose the woman who will take my position. The only job I've held in six years (besides those of wife and mother). A job that exists because it was on my heart and I asked if I could do it. Frankly, I see this ministry more as my baby than as my job. A baby I laboured over, nurtured, prayed for, and loved with my whole heart. And today, I chose an adoptive mother for my baby. I have just over one week to hold this baby close until it is time to extend my arms to the one who will take over the job of its care. And no matter that I know it is God's will, and it is time, and that it is not only for my good and my family's but for the baby's good as well - the ache in my gut just may kill me.

And as I sit here letting the tears flow freely, I hear a gentle whisper in my soul...

Jehovah-Shammah, the LORD is there. I AM there. I AM in Red Deer with WOW, and I will not let it stumble. I AM in Sherwood Park where you will go, and I will not let you stumble. The name of every city you visit, every church you worship in, every ministry you serve with will be: the LORD is there. (from Ezekial 48:35)

Though the ache remains, I know I will live through it, for He is with me.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I Heart You

Today I was surprised and blessed by cake, ice cream, words of affirmation, and prayer by the staff at our church.

I commented to someone the other day that I feel a bit like I'm attending my own funeral these days. Everyone is talking about me in an odd mix of past and present tense, and all they can say is how wonderful they think I am/was. It's very awkward, a little bizarre, and incredibly humbling.

It is so special to feel loved and appreciated, and to know that I will be missed. It blesses my heart to see friends, co-workers, and pastors shedding tears when we talk about my upcoming move. Honestly, it just makes me feel so...like I belong. It's difficult to know how to respond, and I've found in myself a little imp that likes to blurb out bits of inappropriate humour (not inappropriate as in smutty, but as in bad timing - kinda like laughing at a funeral, my funeral).

Since I am better in the written word than the spoken, especially when I'm feeling undeservedly loved on, I just want you all to know how I feel about you.

Jordan, you have been a friend, a mentor, a father-figure, and a cheerleader (but I'd appreciate if you wouldn't wear any cheer outfits, kay) for me these past five years. When I screw up, you set me straight. When I do good, you let me know (and you tell others, too). And when I need encouraging, you send me away for a weekend of refreshing. I could not have asked for a better "boss" in ministry than you. I know Pat loves you too (in a guy sorta way). I hope that you and Kathleen will pop by for a day or even a weekend sometime.

Stu, you see right into the heart of me. I know that I can't tell you everything's "okay" if it's not, because you are always willing to take the extra few minutes to dig deeper and ask meaningful questions. The most amazing thing is - you really do care! You have encouraged me and prayed for me more times than I can count, and you also saw my need for that very special weekend away. Thank-you for being you (and for being blue, teehee).

Dan, I cannot express how thankful I am for your wisdom and teaching to me and our church family for the past...um, forever. You challenge me, make me uncomfortable, push me to change and grow. Your advice in times of struggle gave me the courage to lead boldly and stand behind my decisions and my actions, as well as gave me the strength to admit when I was wrong and seek forgiveness. I can't express how thankful I am that we now have live streaming, so I can continue to be with family learning from you.

To all the other church staff, who are numerous and awesome. I love you guys!

Mike - you rock. The love you have given my son has grown him in ways we as his parents never could.

Kendra - your gentle spirit inspires me to be better. I watch how you lead and serve, and I learn what it means to be beautiful.

Linda - girl, you have the patience of a saint! Thank-you for always being willing to work hard with me and for being so flexible.

Ryan, Blayne, Wally - you guys are too cool for words! The work that you do is so thankless, yet you serve and smile and crack jokes. Thank-you doesn't even come close to letting you know how much I love you guys.

Nicole, Cariann, Janice, April, Pam, and Wilma - the way you make yourselves available to help us dummies in ministry is amazing. We run around like chickens without heads until we find you girls; you make this church go 'round.

Dallas - I had hoped to get to know you and Kathy and the girls, and I'm sorry that I put it off. I pray that you find the family I have found at CrossRoads. And by the way - worship has been fantastic lately (sure, I like the songs, but it isn't that - it's the spirit of worship that you bring).

Rob, Rob, Barry, and Jordan - what can I say? You guys make life fun around that place! Without you bunch of smarta@# guys around there, we'd be a pretty boring group of straight-laced Christians.

Khristie and Ginny - I am disappointed that I haven't had the chance to know you better. But let me tell you this - those bunch of fools wouldn't know what day of the week it was without you! You girls are super.

Anton - though I haven't spent much time with you, I have been thanking the Lord for bringing you to us. A huge gap has been filled in missions, and the work you are doing with the teams is simply amazing. Thank-you for seeing the importance of equipping and debriefing, and keeping in touch with our missionaries. You are a blessing.

Maggie and Aaron - words cannot possible capture what you do, what you mean to me, and how you bless me. Thank-you just doesn't seem enough. I love you!

Charlene - you keep my head on straight when it comes to the dollars and cents of ministry. Thanks for taking care of us, so often in the background. You are so appreciated.

Dwayne - no, I know, you're not staff (yet). :) I want to thank you for the way that you have mentored me and encouraged me from the very beginning. Your wise guidance and prayers have meant so much. I want you to know that BOB is you and you are BOB - they are interchangeable. It's because you walk your talk.

Mary - I saved you for last for a reason. Mary, you are a beautiful woman with much grace. The work that you do, cleaning up behind us and ahead of us, is unending. But you continue with diligence. I want you to know how precious you are to our family at CrossRoads. I'm sure you don't hear it enough, but we could NOT do ministry without you. Thank-you for all that you do.

So thank-you for loving on me today, for blessing me, for making me cry. You guys are family, and no matter how far we live (or for how long) you will always be home. You guys are what makes CrossRoads. And Jordan, fyi, I got the impression today that you don't really have that much of a problem with providing encouragement after all. :) I heart you.

P.S. If I somehow inadvertently missed someone - someone please email me right away! Yikes. Because it's so important to me to tell you all by name that I love you. After all, God called you by name to be where you are.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Making Friends

I've been reflecting a lot lately on making friends, trying to remember how to do it. As a child it was so easy - see someone about your age at the park or in the school yard, walk up to that person, introduce yourself (although, this step could easily be done much later, or omitted all together), and ask the other kid, "Would you like to be friends?" As an adult, it seems so many more personal insecurities play into the friend-making process. How did I do it several years ago when we joined our church and I felt lost, alone, and depressed? I knew I needed someone, and now I have many someones - but how did it all happen?

I remember walking into the basement of the church on a Wednesday morning, terrified. So many women, all smiling and chatting over their crafts. Ugh, how I loathe crafts! So I make my way to the coffee pot, feeling tentative but trying my best not to look either afraid or stand-off-ish. I stand back and peruse the tables filled with friends.

Where should I sit? One table seems to be "older" women - ack, one of my high school teachers is sitting there! Another table of very young women (maybe close to my age, but I feel older). There they are...a table of women who are laughing loudly, talking back and forth and over each other, shouting out greetings to women walking in the door. They look welcoming. So I take a deep breath, stand up straight, put a smile on, walk myself, my coffee, and my craft supplies (ugh) over and ask, "Is this chair taken?"

I sat, I crafted (ugh), I listened, and every now and then I talked. And though I didn't feel comfortable - no, not for one moment - something in me knew that I could be comfortable in the place...eventually.

Wednesday after Wednesday, I went, I looked, I sat. And one week, the dam broke. I had tried a couple different tables over the weeks, but this week I was back with the group of loud outgoing gals. One of them said something that got all my senses firing. I heard her say, "When I had post-partum depression after..." That whole morning I waited for a chance to talk to her somewhat privately, because she knew my pain. Eventually, over another craft, that moment came. I can't recall if we made some small talk first and I somehow led the conversation around, or if I just jumped right in. But with a choked voice and tear-filled eyes I shared with her how I was struggling with post-partum depression. And that common-thread drew us together.

The next week she invited Pat and I to join the life group they were part of. Through that group, friendships bloomed. I began to learn who I was, what I was looking for, and who I wanted to spend my time with. Because of the love from that group (which, ironically, included my old high school teacher and her husband), I found healing in my broken places and friendship for my empty spaces.

It's good to remember that time. Though my friendships have changed over the years, and I am no longer connected with the people from that original life group, I will never forget the impact of knowing them and being welcomed by them.

As we step into this next place, I will remember. Be bold. Do not be afraid. Don't allow discomfort to make me shy away. Be real and open and honest. Look for opportunities. Be willing. Friendship will come, if I look for it. But it means stepping outside the bounds of where I feel comfortable, talking to people I don't know, possibly doing crafts (ugh), and looking for that common ground.

We've all had to make new friends at one time or another. What did you do to find those connections?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Photos from Wed. Night







See why I love them so dang much?!

P.S. Today I have Megan at the children's hospital to have her tonsils removed, in hopes that this will resolve her sleep apnea. We'll be spending the night. Prayers and email/comment love appreciated. :) (Thanks to Grandma taking the day off, I am free to be here with her and can rest assured that the other 4 - while possibly making her crazy - are safe and sound.)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Loved

* If Heather emails me a picture this morning, I will add it asap. :)

I had a date night planned last night, with my sweet friend April. She picked me up when she got off work, and we headed to Tony Roma's.

When we walked in, I found it odd to see a couple gals I know - Peggy and Heather - sitting at a table with balloons on it. I thought to myself, "Hmmmm, looks like they're here for a baby shower. I wonder who it's for? I wonder why I wasn't invited? Oh, get over yourself! Go say hi and then let them get to their party, just enjoy your night out." All of these thoughts occurred in just a split second. Then I hear April ask if I'm surprised. So I pause and consider. Then I look to April, back to Peggy and Heather and their balloons, and it dawns on me - the party is for me!

To say I was shocked is probably the biggest understatement of the year.

Just after we sat, another friend - Ifie - arrived to join us for dinner. The five of us completely pigged out and enjoyed one another's company. I got to wear a special pink ribbon on my shirt that labelled me "Most Loved."

Instead of going out to a movie as we had planned, we headed back to April's house to enjoy a movie on her big movie screen. A few more friends joined us there - Angela, Karalee, Stacy, and Frieda (my mom). Of our women's ministry leadership team, only one sweet gal was missing!

The movie was loud and funny, with a few special tear-jerker moments for us girls. After the movie we roasted ourselves in the hot tub for a while (they had even lined up a bathing suit for me), and visited some more. The night was filled with conversations about marriage, sex, ministry, friends, food, clothes, and all things girlie - with a healthy dose of laughter throughout it all.

A few of these girls have regular, ongoing commitments on Wednesday nights. When it occurred to me that they had ditched out on those things to do this for me, I was "this close" to bursting into tears.

These women - I love them with my whole heart! It's hard to imagine that I will ever find such a special group of friends in our new city. Friends who will not only say they love me but show it in ridiculous, fun, and sacrificial ways. The thought of moving away from them makes me sad.

But I know that I know that God is good and He has a good plan. And I believe that He can and will provide someone special for me in SP. And as our pastor told us...moving doesn't need to mean leaving our home, it will mean that we have two safe places to call home.

Girls, thank-you for loving on me last night. I can't tell you how special and blessed I feel. It is a privilege and an honour to call you my friends and sisters. And I totally can't believe you managed to pull one over on me! Seriously, no clue...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Family Stuff

Just a little something I jotted out last night after a time of learning, praise, praise, and worship...
How to Train our Children:
- to love God with their whole hearts
- to serve God and others as an outpouring of that love
- to worship without inhibition

• worship music playing at all times
• stop to pray, praise, worship at set points throughout the day
• invest time in them for fun
• invest time in them for training in obedience
• invest time in them for discipline
• love God with our whole hearts
• model service to them and to others
• worship without inhibition, inviting them to participate
• family memory verses
• family devotionals
• bring God into every conversation
• share our prayer requests and praises with the children
• teach them to pray out loud, without inhibition
• pray out loud with them, without inhibition
• love one another (as a couple) with passion and purpose
• love one another (as a family) with passion and purpose
• obey God without question or hesitation, and tell the kids about it
• give generously as a couple and as a family
• model the fruits of the spirit

• stop yelling
• stop swearing
• do not be impatient
• do not be angry
• put the needs of others before self (ie., kids before computer)
• do not disobey God
• stop repeat sin

We need to develop a plan as a family. A vision, mission, and values perhaps? A goal to aspire to and the methods to attain it. A common objective.


So, anyone out there have a "family vision statement" of sorts? Will you share it?

Monday, October 19, 2009

The God Chronicles - 10/20/09

Want to join in, chronicling the hand of God in your life? Please, your stories are so very welcome...

When we move next month, our plan has always been to rent this house out.

Renter #1 - A girl who used to work with Pat, bringing her boyfriend and her brother. She said she wanted it, Pat said she could have it. I felt unsettled, but was prepared to stand behind Pat's word to her. But I really felt like this house is a family home. When we got to serious talking about leases and such, she changed her mind. Coincidence?

Renter #2 - A couple...a blended family...just starting fresh. There were no red flags with them, but numerous yellow flags. For example, he was employed, but just started at this new job a week earlier due to a layoff. We were uncertain if we needed to heed these yellow flags or if we were supposed to be compassionate and give them a chance. We prayed about it. We asked them to come for an interview. They declined. Chance?

Renter #3 - An African family with 5 very young children. Very friendly and appreciative. They kept talking about where there things would fit in this house. We both felt really good about them. They wanted to stay and fill out a rental application on the spot.

Renter #4 - Came to look on the heels of #3. A young couple with 3 kids. Friendly, social, very interested in the house. We both really liked them. They also wanted to stay and fill out an application.

We were unsure, but decided to go with our gut feeling on the first family. It was a risk, because they could change their minds in the meantime (before we got damage deposit). And then the second couple could have found something else. We'd be back at square one... But we prayed about it and felt that "this house is home for the African family."

When we told them we wanted them to be in our house, the husband exclaimed, "praise the Lord!" When we told the other couple (#4) that we were renting it to someone else, they seemed relieved.

The wife later told me that they had been looking at a few places to rent, but none of them felt right to her. They were about to pay the deposit on a house and she asked her husband to wait another couple days. For some reason, he decided to search the internet for other rentals. She told me that he never searches the internet, and that before this day they had never even heard of a website called kijiji. On just that very day, renter #2 didn't pan out, and I decided to re-post my ad on kijiji. When the husband googled "houses to rent in Red Deer" the very first link that came up was our ad.

She tells me that she believes God has provided this house for them, just for their family. She said she can feel that the Holy Spirit dwells here. She says it already feels like home. I told her that we have been praying for just the right renters, and that we believe God has provided them for this house. Good luck?

I don't believe in luck, chance, or coincidence. Nothing is done by accident, without the foreknowledge of a loving God. He is as concerned with the small details of our day-to-day lives as he is with big global issues. He is a God who cares.

This couple isn't able to officially rent from us until December 1, due to their current rental agreement. Interestingly, our mortgage payments on our new house in SP don't begin until December 1.

Only God could work out every detail so meticulously to ensure that just the right people are living in our house. Renters who, I believe, will take good care of it as if it were their own home. And a house created for a family of seven, with all of their needs in mind - right down to the extra water heater.

Nope. No coincidences here. Just God-incidences.

Sunshine Bound

Today Pat (my hubby) and nine others are on the first leg of a trip that will bring them to Grand Goave, Haiti.

The team will spend two weeks working alongside Haiti Arise Ministries, with several of the team members leading medical clinics and others (including Pat) doing some trades work to help complete HAM's school building. Since the school is a trades school, as they work the team will have students watching and helping.

I am so excited to hear the stories, and so proud of my man for taking such a big step of faith and obedience. What do you think the chances are that he'll come home with a little Haitian baby... (Kidding. Sort of.)

If you think of them these next two weeks, please lift a prayer for their ministry, their safety, their health, and the people they will be spending their days with.

If you think of me these next two weeks, please lift a prayer for us - for us to have joy, love, and good attitudes.

A couple facts about Haiti:
- poorest country in the Western hemisphere
- roughly half the population practices voodoo
- only half the population is literate
- children are routinely sold into slavery

Haiti Arise:
- founded by Marc Honorat, former child slave
- their goal is to educate the people of Haiti so that they can both provide for their families and stimulate the economy
- they currently run a vocational college and numerous community projects
- they will eventually run a children's home for children orphaned and/or rescued from slavery