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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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.

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.

Good Pictures, Bad Pictures and Other Stuff Parents Don’t Want to Talk About

Sometimes what we have to talk about, isn’t what we want to talk about.

I’m currently homeschooling my four youngest children and life is busy, frustrating, amazing and often chaotic.

Being their only teacher, I am constantly aware of the huge responsibility on my shoulders to teach them enough. I not only need to teach them academics, but social responsibility, manners, character and faith! That’s a heavy load! And it often overwhelms me!

What was once a challenge having one or two children to teach, has overtime become an impossible responsibility with five kids. But being convinced that this is the best way, I trudge wearily on, albeit, blindly at times.

This is part of my reason for taking a break from homeschooling next year. To re-establish my passion for doing my best to raise up these precious kids. They are the next generation; the future. However my decision to take a break from homeschooling wasn’t made lightly. My oldest son has been in public school for three years now and I’ve seen the tremendous pressures and temptations that come from public school life.

I realize now, that I have to prepare all my children for the first time they will view porn.

What?!? You may choke out. You’re preparing them to view it?

Yes. Unless your head is completely buried in the sand, you have to be willing to admit that it’s no longer a matter of if they will see it, but when.

“When” came sooner than I had hoped for my oldest child. But thankfully, before he formed a habit out of sneaking off and viewing the filth, God spoke to me gently and told me it was time to order this book:

To be clear, I do not believe in having a one time “birds and the bees” talk with children. These days, that just doesn’t cut it. Conversations need to be had regularly, in an age appropriate way with children from young on, for them to become comfortable enough to talk openly about these things. When I gave this to my older boy, it was followed by prayer and intentional conversation, making it a great tool for us. Again, these books are not meant to replace actual heart-to-heart discussions!! They are simply an easier starting point (especially for someone like me who came from a very conservative background where these things were not talked about.)

My son read this book and said that it was so eye opening to him, and gave him such good, practical ways to reject porn, that he is convinced it saved him from an addiction to pornography.

This is HUGE, parents!

I had no idea that he had seen anything of the sort, in fact, when I first handed him this book he denied knowing what porn was because he had been so ashamed of what he had seen. Later though, he was able to open up and share his heart, as the book is so gentle and allows children to see that they don’t need to be ashamed of telling an adult, in fact, that is one of the steps encouraged!

Such a contrast to today’s parenting: “I’d rather not know…” or the famous “my kid’s a good kid, they would never do that!”

They’re almost all good kids!!! Are you seriously suggesting that only “bad” people view porn? Only terrible criminals?!? Then you are about to get your world view turned upside down…here’s some startling statistics for you:

Net Nanny reports that only 3% of teenage boys and 17% of girls have never seen online pornography.

According to Google Analytics, pornography searches increase by 4,700% when kids are out of school for the summer.

In 2015, Childline conducted a survey of 700 pre-teens/teens. They found that one in five reported seeing pornographic images that upset them. Furthermore, 12% of those surveyed admitted to taking part in a sexually explicit video.

Peter Liver, director of Childline, states, “We know from the young people who contact ChildLine that viewing porn is a part of everyday life, and our poll shows that one in five 12 to 13-year-olds thinks that watching porn is normal behavior.”

As a parent, these facts not only shock me, they upset me.

Yet all around me I see children as young as 6 who have full access to their own personal iPad and YouTube channels without any parental monitoring. This isn’t just foolish parenting, it’s dangerous and in my opinion, neglectful.

Where are the parents who still care about their children’s innocence? Why are we turning a blind eye to these harmful behaviours and addictions?

In a way, I understand actually. It’s difficult to start up the conversations. I really don’t enjoy the pressure or the start of them as I feel uncomfortable too. It’s much easier to just ignore the silent killer that’s lurking behind every screen. We know it’s there. It’s just easier to not think about it.

It’s easier to do nothing at all.

But the truth is, I’m usually much more uncomfortable than my children are to talk about these things. And in fact as I begin these conversations, I’m always amazed at how well received they are. At how open and honest my kids are. And for that matter, I have never once come out of a sex-conversation with them thinking “Well that was awkward! I’m glad that’s over.”

Not once. In fact, I’m already seeing the fruit from being open. It is so important!

Not long ago, I opened the Bible at the breakfast table to the stares and yawns of all my five children. It was clear, no one really wanted me to read. They were sleepy, they were bored and they just wanted to leave the table… everything in me at that moment wanted to shut the Bible, and just stop! Forget the devotions and get on with my long “to do” list for the day.

But instead, I took a deep breath and I read a verse, just one verse, and explained what it meant. I tried to get the kids involved in the conversation, but again I was met with blank stares. It took 5 minutes and it was over.

Useless! I thought. Why do I even bother?

Later that evening, my son came into my room. He looked at me with tears in his eyes confessing that he had google searched something inappropriate and was about to click on the link, when the verse that I had shared that morning popped into his head:if we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

He told me that he was sorry and that he wouldn’t do it again. He asked me to forgive him. I was SO unbelievably proud and not at all upset. I hugged him and thanked him for telling me.

He had been listening. It wasn’t useless! What 10-year-old boy tells his mom such things? Only a child who is secure in their parents love, who has understood the consequences of hidden sin and been taught the dangers of pornography.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking it doesn’t matter. Teach them while you have the chance. It does matter! And these children of mine are living-proof.

My Favorites: Faith, Family, Fitness, Food, Forgiveness, Freedom, and Friends

No this isn’t the “F” section in the dictionary, nor am I playing a random game of blog scategories…

These are seven “F’s” I came up with to describe my life and the things I’m passionate about. With pictures even!

Faith – My Faith is something I take seriously. I almost lost my way as a teen. The danger and carelessness I lived in almost destroyed me. When I met Jesus Christ and experienced his love for the first time, everything changed: That thick book of His that once bored me to tears became my all time favorite. I treasured it as my most precious possession. God became my rock, my hiding place and ever since I chose to follow God, I’ve had stability and love. I’ve gone through a lot of difficult seasons… but I have peace in my trials and joy even in the hard times.

Family – My first son was born when I was just 18 years old. He became my purpose, my reason to change. Fast forward 13 years…I have a husband and five kids. Yes. Yes it is crazy…My life revolves around feeding them, caring for them, teaching them, loving them, and driving them around. And don’t kid yourselves, in no way is this a one way street… I get just as much love and life lessons in return.

Fitness– I began running a year ago after being diagnosed with depression (which I had struggled with for years without having a name for the darkness I was feeling). I contribute my well-being mostly to God’s healing work in my heart and to what running has done for my mental health. Today I am doing better than I have in many years and I’m passionate about staying active. And recently, I even got my husband to join me 🙂

Food– I love food. Baking mostly. Trend Gluten-free diets have no appeal to me. No thank you! I not only bake for my family, but for weddings and other social gatherings as well. Cakes and cupcakes are my specialty 🙂 I love trying new recipes and am a firm believer that food shouldn’t just look good, but taste delicious as well.

Forgiveness– A few years ago I nearly had my heart ripped out in one of the most painful, heart-wrenching experiences of my life. My trusted friends, mentors and church leaders sent me and my family away, ignoring our messages, our love, and our extension of reconciliation over and over again. It was messy, it was humiliating, it was terrible and I was so hurt. But God brought me to the place where I learnt to forgive, not just in word but in action. Forgiveness means responding in love when others lash out at you or misjudge you. Forgiveness means returning kindness for hatred, blessings for curses. It’s letting go of our “right” to feel insulted and making the decision to step out of that dark dungeon called bitterness. It’s a beautiful thing.

And it also brings me to my next point which is…

Freedom– I have found freedom! Not through obeying the law in my flesh…this brings judgementalism and legalism, but through the cross and precious blood of Jesus. He gave his life for me, I now have the opportunity to daily give mine to him. This is true freedom. No guilt in life because I’m forgiven! No fear in death because he has conquered!!

Friends– This brings me to my last and final word: Friends!! Oh has God ever been good to me, for what I lost three years ago, God has multiplied fourfold! I am overwhelmed with the amount of people in my life who I can call up for coffee or invite down. Being someone who never has had many close friendships, I can say with confidence that I have more people in my life who care for me than I ever have before. Who knew that God could take such heartache and turn it for my good! Out of that season, came some shuffling and switching and now I have had the opportunity to meet a ton of great people!

How about you? What are your words? What describes your life right now?

A Life Worthy of His Calling

We all have a Choice.

Some would see this as radical Christianity, it isn’t. It’s Christianity as taught in the Bible.

The Choice is simple: To live and die by the flesh, or live and find peace by the Spirit. 

The flesh and the spirit are something we are all born with. They do not work in sync with each other because of the fall.

The flesh wants comfort, pleasure and ease. It is always thinking about itself and how to fulfill its own desires.

The Spirit simply wants to do the will of God.

The flesh hates God’s will – for it is often difficult, self-sacrificing, messy and painful. It requires humility, absolute obedience and above all, TRUST in the Father. It requires faith that moves without seeing the future. This is living in the spirit.

When we are born again, or saved, we receive God’s own Spirit in our hearts. Yet, somehow, we still have to choose daily… which will I follow? The comfortable flesh? Or the somewhat uncomfortable, yet deeply- rewarding Spirit?

There are many Christians who love the thought of this spirit-led life. They watch all the faith building movies and love to read stories of others who have walked before them. Stories of courageous men and woman who have left comfortable lives to walk dangerous paths, who’ve witnessed to drug lords, who’ve stood before unreached villages and people groups; people who have been mistreated, tortured and martyred. They love to get their emotions stirred, to hear about God’s mighty hand in the lives of others.

Yet…never once do they step out of their own comfortable homes and take hold of this lifestyle for themselves. It doesn’t have to look the same, maybe it looks differently in your life… Sharing Jesus with your coworkers. Having unbelieving neighbours over for dinner. Striking up conversation with a discouraged stranger. Fostering a child who needs a loving home. Stopping and praying for the beggar. Yet although these things are possible for any one of us to do, most Christians simply aren’t doing them. They are far too comfortable in their own lives to look outside and see the needs around them.

A Christian who is inspired by the faith of others but is unwilling to go out and walk by the same faith themselves is a Christian who is still living in the flesh.

Reading a book about martyrs no more makes you a saint, then watching “Captain America” makes you a superhero.

Walking in the spirit requires action and faith of the most difficult kind: A kind that gets out of the pews to walk the broken streets.

We have been given everything we need to live the spirit-led life. The question is, are we willing?

Don’t Forget the Good

This is a repost, but today I thought it was an important reminder for me to stop and see the good in others.

I mentioned a few posts back that I’ve been sifting through old journal entries. A lot of the entries focus on my frustrations, my failures, my kids failures.

But then there was this one, a complete gem, that made me vow to start keeping track of the good as well. This entry was so touching that it had me sniffing back tears and smiling all at once:

Date: Aug 16, 2012

Yesterday my children put me to shame. I heard of an orphanage being built in Ethiopia that would house abandoned babies. It is already being built in faith that the needed funds will come in. But until the house is completed they are by law unable to take in any of the babies that are left in the wilderness to die. The government has strict rules on this so they need the money desperately – lives are at stake. Innocent lives. I had already had it in my mind to give $500, which is already $200 more than we usually give every month. As I wrote out a check, my eldest son, Isaiah, asked me what it was for. I told him the story of these babies and he ran to his room to get his piggy bank. He pulls out EVERY bill, toonie and loonie, only keeping a few cents for himself. It came to $75 – his entire life savings. Then, my next child (Bella) saw this and pulled out her piggy bank and the next child (Jonas), giving over half of their own money. Together, out of their own will, they gave all the money they have been saving from their birthdays, Christmas’ and other earnings. It came to $105. And here I am sitting on a big savings account. God, bless the tender, giving hearts of my children! It will take them years to save this money again! Isaiah is only 6, Bella 4, and Jonas 3…and already they are being generous for you. I wrote out a new check to cover their balance and have it in my mind to secretly put their money into the bank for them. Thank you for kids, who continue to teach me lessons that completely amaze me.

 

Often I just see the things that need to be changed in my kids lives, and quite honestly, the lists of behaviours and irresponsibilities they have completely overwhelm me.

What can I say? They’re kids…and there’s five of them.

BUT then, I read this and step back to actually see my children. And the truth overwhelms me: In many ways they are FAR more sweet, pure, forgiving, compassionate and gentle than I am.

And I am instructing them??

I shared this journal entry with them one morning asking for forgiveness. For too often focusing on the bad. For too often overlooking the good.

They are GOOD kids.

They are obedient, sweet, unselfish, and I often feel the opposite about them because I get stuck on teaching what needs improvement, forgetting that the most important thing in a teacher is the ability to see the good in their students and call it out.

In doing this, we don’t try to make our children become something they aren’t, rather they begin to see who they are and flourish into a mature version of that. When I am told I am good at something, it pushes me to try even harder, to learn even more. But when I am told I’m terrible, or a failure, it makes me want to give up and not try at all. Teaching my children, has taught me this in a very sobering way.

I think God has a sense of humour, because I see myself as their teacher, but quite often they are mine.