Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Five Minute Friday-Full

Yes, I'm aware that Friday has come and gone.  Since I was away on holidays, I'm going to play catch-up. :)


 I stood up from the dinner table with a full stomach but an empty heart.  The fears from the last several years were pushing hard, screaming that I didn't fit it, would never fit in.  What I saw around me only served to enforce those lies.  As I wandered outside for chapel, people were taking pictures of their friends from this week.  There was laughter and excitement, but I was alone.

 As I waited through my daughter's rehearsal the feelings of isolation grew.  By the time service began, I was afraid of the large crowd gathered around me.  Had I been left to myself, I would have run away.  But my beautiful little girl was performing, so I had to stay and watch.  She sang beautifully, but even her songs and smiles didn't take away my ache.

 It was worship time and still my heart felt empty.  I tried to sing, hoping my enthusiasm would make up for this feeling of despair.  Instead I just felt like a fraud.  Not only did I feel rejected by people, I felt rejected by God as well.  How could He possibly use me?

 I seriously considered leaving my faith. How could I continue? But how could I walk away? Finally out of desperation I cried out to God "I doubt that you can use me or even that you want me anymore.  But here I am.  Even if you reject me, I'm yours."

 I'd love to say that in that moment, my heart was filled up again.  It wasn't, but the despair slowly ebbed away.  At the end of the service, I went up for prayer.  Again, nothing spectacular happened, just a slow emptying away of despair and a gentle infilling of peace.  By bedtime, my heart was quieted again, slowly slowly becoming full.


So, I went a wee tiny bit over five minutes.  In my defence, I had both a phone call and a demanding baby while I tried to write.  So it all works out. :)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Five Minute Friday-Loss

 Each Friday, Lisa-Jo invites us to write with her for just five minutes.


 I didn't expect it to hurt this much or for this long. I'd left a church before, but somehow this feels different.  Perhaps my lack of choice in this decision or the depth of pain play a part, but either way this is much more difficult than I expected.  I knew leaving would hurt, that I would miss people, but I also expected my reasons for leaving to overshadow the pain that comes with severed relationships.  Perhaps it's because we prolonged the process in our attempt to leave well that the pain still lingers.  Perhaps this is just natural over losing a community that was family in so many ways. Maybe it's simply that I had hoped I had enough value to be missed.

 Whatever the reason, I still hurt.  I can't go back, but I miss my church deeply.


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Seven Years of Marriage

 Seven years ago, we got all dressed up and pledged our lives to each other.  Neither of us really knew what we were getting into.  Really, who does?  I think we thought we'd ride off into the sunset of a wonderful life.  I guess in some ways we have.  We didn't know we were embarking on an adventure, one that would push us to our limits while testing our love, our faith and our sanity.

Then again, I did stand barefoot in a creek in my wedding dress.  Adventures keep life from being too boring.

 On that day, it was two become three.

 Just under a year later, the three became four.

 Now we're a tribe.  Sadly, this is the most recent family picture I have.  We'll have to rectify this soon.

 We've gone on many adventures together over the last seven years.  Some have been happy ones, like our many road trips.  Others, like my battles with depression, have been long and arduous.  We haven't always been sure that we would make it through.

 If you are going to get lost, wander through enemy territory and wade through the slough of despair, Steve is a great companion.  He's pointed me in the right direction, fought for me more times than I can count, and kept the faith when I couldn't.  When we're together, I find my courage.  I guess deep down I believe that he really can do just about anything, so that no matter what mess we find ourselves into, we'll be okay together.  I'm thankful for his loyalty, his perseverance and his faith.

 Babe, I love you and I look forward to many more adventurous years.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


 I wasn't expecting to learn something, not on a holiday.  Perhaps I'd read a sign of some historically significant event, or learn a cool new fact about butterflies, but I didn't expect to learn anything significant or insightful.  Clearly I was shortsighted as God used my family vacation to teach me not one, but two lessons.  Our first day there I learned about perseverance.  Abundance was to be the theme on day two.

 After a leisurely morning, we gathered our children and belongings together and headed to the Butterfly Conservatory.  The little nature lovers that they are, my children were delighted and enthusiastic with overtones of grumpiness. While waiting to enter the conservatory, my children spotted one of their favourite butterflies: the blue morpho.  Not only does this species have shimmering blue wings, it was also featured on a Diego episode that my children have watched many times.  Forgoing the informational video, they burst into butterfly area with great excitement.  Immediately they were surrounded by butterflies.

 At first my children were happy.  After about five minutes though, my eldest started showing signs of agitation.  She wanted a butterfly to land on her.  Although she was surrounded by many beautiful butterflies and was able to observe them up close, it wasn't good enough.  She wanted one on her head, hand, dress; it didn't matter as long as she could hold just one butterfly.  I encouraged her to be patient, but just then one landed on her father.  How unfair could the world get?  A butterfly landed on her dad and wouldn't leave! It just wasn't fair! She was on the verge of a meltdown.

 Gently I took her aside, wrapping her in a hug.  Empathizing with her, I asked if we could pray together.  She agreed.  With a nervous heart, I prayed quietly with her, asking God to please send a butterfly to land on Aris.  It's hard to pray such an important and yet trivial request when I have prayers that God seems to have ignored.  I cling to my belief that God answers prayer, that He cares so deeply about us even in trivial matters, but I doubt this even as I cling.  How would my very sensitive and emotionally struggling child cope if God didn't answer her prayer?  I chose to pray, to trust, even as doubts ran through my head.

 We walked along looking at the butterflies on the path, flowers, people, even on a turtle in the pond.  My nature lover informed me that butterflies get salt from stones and turtles, sometimes even going so far as to lick the eyeballs of turtles.  She said she read it in a book.   Still, no butterflies.  She was sad, but okay.  As I turned from taking a picture, I noticed a butterfly on her shoulder.  As soon as I pointed it out, it flew away.  Just then, Steve noticed one on her dress.  I was filled with relief. God had answered my prayer!

 Butterfly after butterfly began to land on her.  She stopped fretting, instead trying to get butterflies onto her hand.  While she was kneeling down, a blue morpho landed on her back.  Then another and another.  Soon she had three large butterflies competing for space on her back.  All the while, she was kneeling down.  One by one the butterflies opened their wings.  For a brief second, all three butterflies had their wings open at the same time.

 Watching my little girl with her butterflies, I was overwhelmed with His abundance.  She would have been happy with just one butterfly briefly.  Instead God gave her about 15, including these three for several minutes.  It took some patience and some faith on the part of her mama, but God provided abundantly.  My faith is still tattered, with all these questions roaming about unanswered but in some unexplainable way those butterflies helped heal me just a bit more. If God could answer such a little prayer so well, perhaps He is in process of answering my bigger ones too.  I just have to wait for those butterflies to start landing.

 Joining with Emily and the rest

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Influencing with Jam

 I want to be an influencer.  One of the worst things I can imagine is to live a life with minimal impact on the world around me.  There are many areas in which I hope to make a difference, one of the chief being my faith.  Along with breastfeeding, birth, child rearing and husband-loving, food is an area close to my heart.  Not only do I like to eat it, I'm also passionate about eating sustainably, ethically and well.  I'm definitely a foodie.

 After a cooking experiment went wrong(quiche without a crust), my father banned me from further experimentation.  Although I still carried out my cooking chores, I stopped trying new things.  This effectively stunted my progress in the kitchen while encouraging me to believe that processed was best.  Several years later, as a new bride and young mom, I started wanting to cook it all myself.  It's an ongoing journey, with the end many decades down the line.  I will most likely still be experimenting in the kitchen as long as I can still cook.  My love for food and for making it myself is something I want to pass down to my children and to those around me.

 Yesterday we went strawberry picking meaning that today was jamming time.  After rising leisurely, I headed outdoors to hull, slice and smash my berries.  Shortly after setting up shop, a neighbour girl came by on her bicycle.  She was pretending to be a police officer on her rounds through the complex.  We chatted for a bit.  I shared my strawberries with her.  It may have been the conversation, curiousity, or simply a desire to eat more strawberries, but soon my little friend became my little helper.  She was impressed at how easy it was to make jam.  As we worked, we chatted about school, family and friends, but I also explained cooking concepts like a cup measure to her.  About halfway through our work, she commented that she now understands why Aris likes cooking so much.   It was a pleasure to jam with this little girl, but even more of a pleasure to open her mind to new ideas.

 While it may be many years before my influence bears any fruit, my labours today definitely did.  As I write jars of jam gleam on my counter, while the ice cream maker whirs its load of strawberry rhubarb sorbet.  Shortly before putting my daughter to bed, my friend popped by to try the strawberry vinaigrette I made to top tonight's salad.  It's been a good productive day.  Perhaps tomorrow we will buy peas. :)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Strawberries and Snakes

 For our first day of summer break, I took the children berry picking.  As I like a smaller ratio than 1 adult to 3 children, I invited my in-laws to come picking with us.  They brought my niece along, bringing the ratio to 3 adults and 4 children.  Much more manageable that way!

 Today was beautiful.  Warm, but not insanely hot.  The children were quite happy to play on the grass while our containers were weighed.  Once ready, they set off with enthusiasm towards the strawberry patch.  Aris and Kian were partners, Aris teaching Kian which berries to pick.  I was pleased with how well they worked together.  She lifted him over the rows and gave him lots of encouragement.  At one point, he came over proudly saying " I awesome at picking stwawberries!" And he is.   Between the two of them, they picked about half of what I brought home.

 Meanwhile, Zane and my niece were running up and down beside the patch.  Early on Zane declared picking to be too boring.  Instead they made up more silly games and stories.  Being his grandfather's grandson(my FIL may have started a spitball fight at a family birthday) , Zane started a berry fight with his cousin.  She was not happy with him as it was a brand-new shirt.  Poor Zane didn't understand why that was a big deal.  His mother did though, so he apologized.

 My MIL and I were picking the same row and at the same pace.  Steve's parents recently returned from a silent retreat.  While we picked, she shared a bit about her time away.  I appreciated what I was able to hear, but the children interrupted a lot.  Still, it was nice to have grown-ups to chat with while working.

 Although my children were quite well behaved while at the patch, they collectively melted down after returning home.  It was rather stressful for about an hour.  We decided on a spur-of-the moment trip to the toy store and the fish/reptile store in the same plaza.  Our children were much more excited about visiting the fish store than they were the toy store.  We had fun exploring the store, finding many snakes, turtles, geckos, lizards, snails and interesting fish.  Aris' personal favourite were the anacondas.  They were obviously babies, being about the size of a mid-size ball python.  Later I learned that they were about 12 weeks old.   Our trip settled the children down nicely and they all went to bed very well.  Hopefully tomorrow will end well too, even if we have sizeable bumps in the middle.  I'm so thankful summer holidays are finally here!

Friday, July 1, 2011


 Yesterday I learned about perseverance.

 As per Zane's birthday request, we took a family trip to Niagara Falls.  Last year, we did this right before my husband left for his conference.  Our kids loved the family time and enjoyed the trip immensely.  Zane wanted to do it again, the same as last year.  As I'm not the biggest fan of Marineland(it's great, we don't need to go every year), Steve and I chose to add new attractions to our trip.

 As a couple, Steve and I went to Niagara, New York last year.  In all our years of living this close to the Falls, visiting it at least annually(for me) and crossing the border there often, we had never been to the American side of the falls.  Last year we gave it a try and fell in love.  It's beautiful! The Canadian side tends to be more of a Canadian Vegas, while the American side is a beautiful state park.  Our favourite was the Cave of the winds. ( I thought I blogged about this last year, but I can't find it anywhere.  Did blogger eat my work or am I losing my mind?)  After much thought, we decided to share this special place with our children.

 Our children weren't so enthusiastic about our decision.  How dare we drag them away from the hotel with two pools and a tv?  They were hot after a long drive and wanting to relax.  Instead their mean parents were dragging them away from their comforts, out into the hot sun.  We walked them long, the total walk over 7km.  The first 2kms were spent mostly whining.  They whined about the heat, their longing for the pool and their fears about the trip.  My oldest was scared of the border crossing, scared of falling, scared of everything.  We encouraged and hugged her, but still she whined.  Over children's heads, our eyes met.  We gritted our teeth, prayed the desperate little prayers one prays when their children are driving them around the bend and continued on.  At one point, I began to meditate on one of my memory verses.  Colossians 1:11 says " and being strengthened with all power according to His glorious Might so that you might have great endurance and patience".  It's a good verse for parents, especially this mother with an occasional short fuse.

 Finally we arrived. The oldest was still grumpy.  We stopped for a snack and then, in an in-between moment, the magic happened.  She began to share her chips with a cloud of sparrows.  They grew bolder and soon crowded around her feet.  She laughed in delight at the little birds and then offered them food from her hand.  It took some tries, but soon one was bold enough to eat from her hand.  Then another.  Not all of them were courageous enough, but she took pity and shared with the more nervous birds too.  All the while she continued to talk gently with them.

Her happy mood continued until we entered the line-up to the attraction.  Earlier I had mentioned that there were some signs about the birds of the area.  However, there wasn't a line, so we were flying past the signs.  She became upset, wanting to read them.  Even after I took her back to read the signs, she persisted in crying, worrying that she was making us late.  We reassured her over and over that we didn't have a schedule and that the attraction would be open for hours.  It didn't help.  Her crying lasted down the elevator, through the tunnel and all the way out to the other side.  It lasted all the way until she saw this:

 Her earlier anxieties melted away.  As others hurried past us to stand beneath the spray of the falls, our family lingered near the gull colony.  Thanks to reading the signs, I know that approximately 7, 000 breeding pairs of ring-beaked gulls make their homes there.  The top picture is a yearling gull, while the bottom is baby gull.  We watched them play, practice flying, be groomed and fed by their parents and sleep.  Eventually we moved on to the boardwalk, all the while keeping our eyes open for more gulls hiding around us.  We found them tucked into rocks and crannies around us, but we found rainbows too.

 We also found a wild iris.

 The walk back was much better.  Aris and Zane tied plastic bags to their beltloops pretending to be flying squirrels.  They ran, hiding between trees and then running some more.  We laughed, enjoying their fun and the chance to hold hands. (*gasp* We HELD HANDS on a family outing.  Is that allowed? Aren't hands only for children to hold? )  As we walked, the word perseverance kept running through my mind.  The first hour or so had been very rough.  It's hard to stay consistently positive in the face of that much whining, complaint and fear.  The pay-off was definitely worth it.  Those beautiful moments would have been fun, but not merely as memorable if packaged as part of a perfect day.   I may have lumped it into a beautiful memory category, enjoyed but forgotten.  Instead I am chewing on these happenings and how I need to apply perseverance to my life.   I will not soon forget this.

 Today I learned about abundance.