Summer Adventures in a Family of Seven

Sometimes I really get a kick out of people’s reaction to how many kids we have. When I tell people that we have five kids, first I’m asked if I’m Catholic, which I am not.

The next question on the list is if I homeschool, which I do. And the look of sheer amazement that follows is amusing to me… as if I should be runner up for the next “Duggar Family TV series” or as if they expect us to break out into a Von Trapp family singsong.

Which I am thrilled about. (The Von Trapp family part). And believe me, we do break out into many songs but more often than not it is the latest trending YouTube kids music artist singing, “It’s a cat flushing the toilet” or “Hamster on a piano”…Not quite standing ovation worthy, although now that I’m picturing it, I can see us doing a twisted remake of the songs and filming our cat on the piano, or flushing a hamster down the toilet (Gasp! Did I actually dare type that?? Yes, yes I did. Hamsters are just the WORST and should not be considered pets. Shudder.)

Moving on.

We are not that picture perfect family. My boys will often leave the house with stained T-shirts and ripped jeans, if I can get them into their jeans that is… More often than not it’s sweatpants again (I hate that this has become a “trendy” teen thing! REALLY?!? SWEATPANTS of all things?!?)

My kids can also be crazy and loud but they are also sometimes really well behaved. They say inappropriate things at the dinner table, but they also can be remarkably mature. They fight like cats and dogs, yet, unlike a lot of siblings these days, really do enjoy being together.

This summer is a unique one for me. Until now every autumn that follows has really been no different from the summer. My kids stay home for schooling and other than my mornings being much busier while teaching, my life doesn’t really change in the fall. However, this year my children will all be in public school come fall. And knowing this, has changed summer for me.

My mind is on the fact that summers will be the only full days that I have with all my children from now on. And I only have five more summers until Isaiah, my oldest, hits 18. That brings me to a place where I want to make the most of these days: Slowing down, being with them, doing the things we love. With this being our goal for the summer, we bought a larger above ground pool. Here I’ve found we have been able to spend many hours being together and enjoying our time together. Everyone likes swimming! Suddenly our five-year-old and 13-year-old have something in common! Put a trampoline next to it (safety first over here 😁) and it becomes a hit for teenagers to hang out.

Next we planned a couple of camping trips. We just finished the first one and now I’m dreading the second! Really. It wasn’t a great experience. That’s an understatement. It was quite literally the worst camping weekend of my life. And I’ve had a lot of bad camping experiences!!

The Storm of the century came through and we ended up spending WAAAY to much time in a little camper, which was cute for sleeping space, but for hanging out was just a little much for me…

Soooo ten hours of Bingo and watching spongebob square pants later:

Not to mention we lost our seven-year-old on the beach for nearly 10 minutes in one of the most terrifying moments of my life. Suddenly I had looked up to count my kids for the fiftieth time and noticed he was missing from where I had seen him last. Scanning the beach, I didn’t see his bright yellow shirt that we dressed him in and so I ran to the bathrooms by the beach thinking that for sure he had gone there and forgotten to tell me. I checked every stall, calling his name, before I started to panic. One lady noticed me and also started calling his name. My husband ran back to the campsite to check there and I began asking people on the beach if they had seen my boy.

No one had seen him.

At this point I was nearly hysterical. His bike was still at the beach as were his sandals so I figured he wouldn’t have gone anywhere else and I already had a group of people on the beach looking for him/calling his name. He was nowhere to be found. I finally began searching the water where I had last seen him, before my friend found him in the washrooms way back at our campsite 😱

He had simply forgotten that there were bathrooms closer to the beach and figured that he wouldn’t make it to the bathroom if he stopped to tell us where he was going. Why he left his shoes and bike behind is still a mystery to me, as it would’ve taken him for longer to run barefoot all the way…

So in all, I have decided that I’m possibly never going camping again unless all my kids have built in tracking devices that beep when they get too far away from me.

Speaking of which we also have swimming lessons coming up in a couple weeks… Drowning is one of those things that absolutely terrifies me, and I think it is so important that kids learn to swim well!

Another thing I’ve also decided to venture in this summer is to try new things when it comes to baking. There are certain things that I avoid making because the’ve never turned out for me. Pastries are one of those things…mainly pies. In the past when I’ve tried making pies it’s always been a disaster. The crust is crumbly and ugly and the pie ends up being too runny. Finally this week I perfected the pie (Made with hand picked berries from when we went camping).

The Perfected Pie:

(Don’t worry, I will be baking the other two as well, but they look so much prettier before coming out of the oven.) They were SO good! I will definitely be making more!

I also want to be more hospitable and so I’m trying to have one family down each week for a meal. This is one thing our generation is losing, the art of hosting and I feel like it’s such an important thing to keep doing! What better way to get to know people (and for them to get to know me) than to I have them in your home where they can see the real you? We like to meet places these days, to keep the mess out of our homes and make things “easier” but I really do feel like we are missing out on so much by doing things this way!

Finally I’ve been trying to keep up with my running a couple times a week and also my Spanish. There’s a little three-year-old girl at church that I talk to in Spanish occasionally. Last week I tried to comment on something and she giggled and said, “Dora??” I had to laugh so hard because I totally picked up that phrase from the show and she caught me 😂😂

Yes I speak Dora Spanish.

I’ve also been really enjoying the view from my front veranda. The farmer across the field decided to plant canola this year and every morning I get to look out on a beautiful sea of yellow. The view is just breathtaking! There’s nowhere else I would rather be than here right now.

So that’s where I’m at! Enjoying life, taking it slow and one day at a time. And trying to keep five kiddos alive…

Let me know what your summer plans are!

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Fury Like A Woman Scorned

“Heav’n has no rage like love to hatred turn’d, nor hell a fury like a woman scorn’d”

-William Congreve 1697

Some words just seem to stick on us long after we’ve heard them and this quote often dances in my mind.

Of course, this one in particular has usually been misquoted and attributed to William Shakespeare.

The first time I heard it (in its misquoted form of course) I was in grade 9. Someone had hurt my friend and I blasted this particular person with all the pent up rage and defensiveness my tongue could muster without getting me sent to the principal’s office, only to have the boy smirk at me and say, “Hell hath no fury like a woman, that’s for sure!”

His careless attitude got me even more upset and I responded that he hadn’t even seen the beginning of my rage (that much was probably true). But despite being bothered by his amusement of my anger, deep down, I took it as a compliment. The act of defending someone in a “righteous” rage, made me feel a sense of control. Like I had a special kind of anger no man could ever experience: The anger of a woman.

It’s no secret, women in particular are known for their protectiveness and their intense emotions leading to even more intense interactions and conflicts.

It’s why girl fights are often much longer lasting and emotionally damaging then guy fights.

It’s why women in particular are known to have far more friend conflicts than their male counterparts. Women are relational. But when they are hurt they can leave a nasty trial of destruction behind. They don’t call her Mama Bear for nothing.

I’ve been the brunt of some pretty hurtful words, emails, texts and notes in the past…and for the most part, I’ve been able to calm myself down, reacting rationally and even kindly.

But I gotta tell you, nothing, literally nothing gets me as mad as when you hurt someone I love or someone who is unable to defend themselves. It’s as if the protector in me jumps out of my usually passive nature and says:

“Hold on, they may NOT do THAT!!! They won’t get away with it!!”

I am a defender. A brewing storm. An earthquake about to happen. A wild cat, defending it’s territory. A fighter at heart.

The very thing that causes me the most anger is when those in a position of power or authority get away with abuse. The fire within me burns.

How dare they!!

My anger, my rage, longs to see them brought to justice, to see them suffer for all the pain that they’ve brought on innocent, unsuspecting people, those weaker than themselves like the true bullies they are.

I want to see them admit to the wrongs they’ve caused, to see them work to make it right! And until then, no, I do not wish good things for them!

Does one wish the best for the heartless?

For those who reap havoc everywhere they go?

For those in authority who abuse their power by cutting down the weak and the needy and deceive their followers into thinking its for the greater good?

In the end, isn’t the best wish one can have for them is for them to be caught and punished for their crimes? To be brought to justice?

Anger comes over me trying to control that which I have no control over.

After all, isn’t that what anger is? A false sense of control?

How can I say that I trust in God’s judgements if I insist on taking it into my own hands? This lack of restraint is dangerous and in my personal journey, led to me believing a lie that my unchecked rage was somehow a good thing and that lashing out at people was some form of justice.

My heart yearns to rest in a Father who knows and sees all.

He sees my tears.

He knows their injustice.

And he will one day make everything right.

But my mind cries: Will it be enough? Will it be soon enough?

Trust in Him, O my Soul. Trust in the God alone. He will avenge. He will repay. He will reveal the wrongs, even the hidden ones that no one sees.

He is coming to judge the earth.

Sometimes I wonder what he’s waiting for. Isn’t there enough pain? Isn’t there enough unrestrained evil going on?

There’s answers to these questions, this I know, but in the moment of pain and frustration none of the even comes close to comfort.

When will it be enough?

Have you experienced injustice? How do you handle it?

Please God, Not Isaiah

Tomorrow my Isaiah turns 13. I thought I’d share this post again since I’ve had many new followers since I posted this two years ago. I thank God every year that Isaiah is still with us ❤️

Every Small Voice

When I was a teen, I remember watching a movie called “Losing Isaiah”. It was about a crack addicted mother who left her baby in a dumpster while high. Unknown to the mother, the baby is found and rescued, but thedevastated woman is left to desperately pull her life together. Years later she has gone through rehab, holds a steady job, and she finds out that her baby didn’t die, but is actually alive! After losing her child, she ends upreceivinghim back after all those years. The deeply touching film made me fall in love with the name Isaiah. The name holds hope and promise. It holds second chances and forgiveness. In Hebrew it literally means “The Salvation of the Lord”.To me, it simply means “God’s Second chance”.

For that is what Isaiah was to me.

I believed in God as a teen, yet I was stuck. I prayed desperately…

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Last Day for Homeschool

Seven long years gone by,

But all too soon it was done.

Like a lifetime it passed,

Then just like that it was gone.

From cute little voices and singsongy rhymes,

To difficult writing ups and chemistry times.

There was no climax,

No warning,

No bell.

No clock chimes to warn the end of the spell.

It just came and went,

The same as the others.

This very last day.

No extra sentiment or tears.

Just rushing through work,

Learning through play.

The same as the others,

But altogether different,

This very last day.

Still, the mind reflects,

A tad of happiness, a tinge of regret.

A bittersweet memory, a promise not kept.

From now on moments together will be few,

My role half way done,

My job nowhere through.

Long days of sighing past,

Only to sigh looking back.

Wanting what is behind.

And knowing I don’t want it all.

That last day passed us by,

I’m glad it’s done,

yet,

I wish there were more.

Two Authors, Two stories, Two Perspectives

I often read books on difficult topics like the holocaust, residential schools, slavery, war and about the horrors of living under communism. Some might think that I favor books like these because I’m a person drawn to drama – focussing on the negative events in world history…or that I’m a Debbie downer, one of those extremists who always seem to have their undies in a bunch about something.

In reality, I hate drama, especially in my own life and I’m incredibly sensitive when I read about it. I have to be careful how much I allow myself to dwell on these things, because I know that it affects my mood and my day-to-day life.

What was interesting is that in the past week I read two books: one written about slavery and the other about the horrors of residential schools in Canada. Both addressed the horrendous acts of those who felt that they had “God’s right” to behave the way they did. Both books shed light on some of the most shameful behaviour done by those claiming to follow God. Both highlighted racism, extremism and abuse. And of course, my heart broke for both of the authors and the torment that they had to experience in their lives.

But that’s where my comparisons end because each book was so starkly different from the other. They were obviously written for different purposes: One was written as a path to healing and the other tried to become the victim all over again, ever trying to draw sympathy out of the reader. It got me thinking about the real difference between the two books, and not just these books, but the differences between each of the books I have read about suffering.

I realized that the majority of stories on suffering can be lumped into two categories:

1) A message of forgiveness and redemption

2) A theme of bitterness and regret

The first category is refreshing and hopeful. The writing is hard, but uplifting. The experiences dark, but the message is light.

The second category is equally dark and hard, but comes about it with a feeling of hopeless. And honestly I feel gross after reading such books.

The one book, which I will not name in respect for the author and her experiences, ended her story with these words: “Some people say I need to let go of the past and learn to forgive… I say bullshit.”

This, my friends, is the saddest, most hopeless end to a trial I can think of.

In the well written words of author Lynn Austin:

Bitterness is one of the deadliest emotions we ever feel. You can’t look forward when you’re bitter, only backwards. Thinking about what you’ve lost, stuck in the past. In the end it devours all hope.

Bitterness is a subject that I don’t like to talk about much, particularly because it is one of those “acceptable” sins where we justify our legitimacy to feel the way we do. It’s also an awkward thing to address in others as one cannot simply listen to someone sharing about a difficult experience and then joyfully say, “just forgive and forget!” That would be cruel and cold hearted! Only a person with zero empathy could respond in such a flippant way towards suffering.

But one only needs to spend a few minutes with a soul who is deeply bitter, to realize that it is the most draining, depressing and deadly things to be.

I’ve shared before about a past church and the painful rejection my family experienced there with a leadership couple, but what I didn’t share much about was that at beginning it started with the confrontation: You are bitter.

To this day, this remains one of the most painful things that has been said to me. Not because it was said of course, but because of the timing and manner in which it was said. I was going through depression, health issues, loneliness, and a lot of changes in my life at the time. We had just moved homes, churches and jobs, and we had a baby that cried constantly. I was just beginning to open up about my struggles with it all for the first time and this well-meaning confrontation caused such a devastating break of trust in my life. Because of this painful experience, I avoided even using the word “bitterness” for a long time. But the truth is, no matter how hard it is for me to talk about, it needs to be addressed!

Bitterness.

Is it a lack of forgiveness? Is it a negative outlook on life? Is it resentment towards your position in life?

I think to some degree, we all experience bitterness in different areas of our lives. Some experience it to a much larger degree than others. And some people are more easily offended than others! Whether it’s towards coworkers, or spouses, extended family or friends…

OR maybe It’s not towards people, but towards the suffering in your life, towards your situation that seems helpess…maybe even to God for putting you there!

I know I most definitely have felt bitterness. I’ve seen it too.

During the most difficult time of this conflict in the church, I met another couple who were going through a church split. I was having a hard time forgiving and processing our own experience so I felt some comfort in being able to share my struggles with this woman. However, when she began sharing her experiences and I heard the hateful words come out of her mouth: “I just wish they were dead!” I realized that forgiveness wasn’t just a good option, it was the ONLY option.

Bitterness unchecked is ugly. And it kills.

Offences committed against us and the pain that follows MUST be dealt with in a compassionate way, with much grace. The more painful the wound, the more time it needs to heal. One cannot expect to be fatally injured one day and then skip about smiling joyfully the next…such an expectation is unreasonable and unhealthy.

Forgiveness is much like taking a difficult course. At first, you may sit down and have no clue what the professor is talking about. The books don’t make sense, the assignments are daunting… but as the course goes on (provided you’ve decided to continue), you begin understanding more and more about the subject. The longer you take to study and absorb the material, the more your experience and capacity is expanded. Only after long months of lectures, homework and studies, are you ready to write the exam.

However, just stepping into the room and writing the exam on the first day would’ve never worked out! It couldn’t of been expected of you, you wouldn’t have passed! You needed time, growth, knowledge and experience.

You can pass the exam, but you need to first decide to say in the class and keep working at it!

The first step to forgiveness is simply deciding to walk that path.

At first it’s so confusing and difficult you may even doubt you’re on the right path. But as you begin learning and seeing the situation in the right perspective, the path suddenly doesn’t seem so impossible.

Yet there are always difficult days! Dark thoughts and painful feelings will come out of nowhere. This is expected. Don’t get down on yourself.

Keep walking forward, don’t look back. The secret to forgiveness and redemption is this: Don’t give up.

The moment you give up trying to forgive, is the moment you let go of the lifeline that is saving you from the deep pit of bitterness and offence.

My Computer REALLY Hates Me

It sat there.

Mocking me.

Daring me to try again.

And I did. I naively did.

Our pictures…gone… Cute videos of our family growing up are lost too.

Oh, the joys of this digital age. Sometimes I love it, other times I hate it.

All I have are the albums I’ve made and the few favourites that I happened to save on a USB (that is, assuming it’s not fried as well).

Ahh, that feeling of helplessness and despair, knowing you probably could’ve taken better measures to safeguard these priceless memories, these irreplaceable snapshots in time, only to take it seriously too late. And then there’s also the frustration of staring at my almost finished novel. Thankfully it is still saved but I’m unable to do anything but read it until my writing programs are reinstalled and computer is working properly again.

Writing a book is a very personal thing. It’s intimidating, difficult, frustrating, lonely and sometimes even embarrassing. When I mention to people that I’m writing a novel, I feel sort of like a child who is telling the world that someday they’re going to be a NHL player.

Oh, that’s cute.

Yet I go to the library and can’t help but stare at the hundred of shelves filled with every kind of literature and feel encouraged.

Others – millions of others, have gone before me and prevailed. They had a story to share and they did it. Now it sits on the shelf, proudly boasting its accomplishment.

Yes it’s true some are worn from years of being loved by all. Some are ancient and forgotten. Some are displayed front and center – the best-sellers, and some sit in the corner waiting to be read…

But they’ve all been written. They’ve all been finished and all of them, every last one, was loved enough by somebody to make it to the shelves.

So I wait and try ever so carefully to do nothing which may upset my fragile FryMac further and cause more damage to the precious files it holds within.

I wait.

Knowing that soon my time to write will come again and that one day, my book too will be on a shelf (or perhaps many).

More Than a Building

I have a vision of a worship service that feels like a family gathering – a group that looks forward to meeting together, serving together, eating potluck meals together after singing and praying together.

A small, intimate like body of believers that live like Jesus lived.

Where the old are respected and teach the young, and the young are appreciated by the old.

Where the hearts of the fathers are turned to their children, and the children are turned to their fathers.

Where children are seen as a welcome addition to the church, rather than a burden to be dragged along.

Where the youth are the spark, not the dead.

Where the most hardened criminal is welcomed, loved and changed.

Where church means more than a building with brick walls, great big sound systems, fancy lights, and a large pulpit.

Call me a dreamer. Call me old fashioned. Tell me it’s not possible.

I will see it. I promise you.