About Me · Faith · Family

An Up and Down Sort of Week

After months and months of the cold Manitoba winter and the heaviness of Covid restrictions, I have to say, I see a light at the end of the tunnel and feel fresh hope that hasn’t been there for a very long time.

I mean, it’s almost spring.

This week, the sun has been out, the birds are chirping and I’ve gotten to reconnect with many people who are very dear to my heart. As the current rules are still quite strict, it has been tricky navigating it all, but I think I have found a semblance of balance and sanity.

A couple days ago our provincial government proposed a few changes to the current restrictions. They say this is the biggest jump in freedoms since our circuit breaker lockdown started back in November. Here’s the list of those that would affect me (there’s a huge list of other proposals that make little to no difference in my current stage of life):

  • Only two designated households allowed to meet, both have to choose each other exclusively.
  • Only groups of ten (plus those living at the household) allowed outside on private residence.
  • Churches open at 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is less.
  • Businesses, retail, restaurants open at 50% capacity.
  • Sports, swimming pools, libraries, recreation, day camps, gyms, etc. allowed to open in varying capacity.
  • Masks mandatory in all public buildings.

Seeing as one of our only ways to legally see people right now is outdoors, we’ve been having a LOT of outdoor hot tub nights and winter firesides, which I have to say is an entirely new concept to me. I live in Canada; firesides are for summer. However, as long as the wind isn’t strong and the temperatures are close to zero Celsius, I actually have to admit that it has all been quite lovely. This is being said by someone who despises winter. I wish I could live some place warm, by the ocean, but my family is here… So I put up with winter.

I like winter firesides.

Something about the crisp air, the smell of wood and smoke, the heat radiating off of all the faces I love. Pair it with a cozy blanket and a cup of hot chocolate, it may just become a new hobby of mine. If sitting by a fire can count as a hobby. Maybe it’s because I just miss people so much that I’m willing to put up with the cold. Whatever the case, I have now gotten to visit with my sister’s family, our wonderful neighbors, three seperate groups of friends and our parents.

Suddenly life doesn’t seem so lonely anymore.

On Monday the younger two boys and I were alone for the day and we got to go on a walk. It was so warm, sunny, and peaceful. I even brought my sunglasses. Afterward we came home and enjoyed tea together. Then the boys played outside in their snow castle.

On Tuesday, my youngest boy Emerson turned seven!! I can’t believe how fast the time has gone. I remember there was one point that I felt like I was going to be pregnant or carrying around a carseat for the rest of my life. Now my baby hardly needs my help anymore! We were going to go celebrate by eating at a restaurant with the family for the first time since September… but unfortunately we were not allowed to sit together, as a family of seven, even though we live in the same house hold. Gah!! Moments like that make me wonder if the government is purposely trying to crush our businesses. I don’t seriously believing that of course, but please, tell me why a large family sitting together at a restaurant will increase the chances of Covid spread, more than a lot of smaller families sitting in the same restaurant?? There is no reasoning behind rules such as these. And whether people realize it or not, a lot of these rules discriminate against larger families. It is technically against regulations for our family to be invited anywhere (even an outdoor fireside), however, a family of five can be invited places. So I’ve been battling through some angry feelings toward the government, who seem to think life should totally stop forever. Over the past year, it was – in fact – their job to hire more workers, build more hospitals and equip our already overtasked healthcare system to handle an increase of patients. But, as always, they prefer to blame this virus on the average citizen that for months were doing their absolute best to follow all the rules, while trying to live life.

Manitoba, Canada has now been in CODE RED lockdown for 16 WEEKS now. We were told around thanksgiving that if we were “good” for another 3 to 4 weeks we could celebrate Christmas! Ha! We’ll be lucky if we’re legally allowed to all see our parents by Easter, which we also missed last year (at which point we were told “there’s always next Easter”). It’s blatant lies like this that make me wonder why anyone is fully trusting the government at this point.

Ahem…

Back to the birthday. We ending up making pizza at home, ate at home, watched a movie at home… well, you get the idea. I’m making it sound bad. We actually had a lot of fun together and ended off the evening with cake, a “hide-and-go-seek” in the dark game, followed by worship with the family. My boy was a trooper, he just smiled and said: “Well at least my birthday wasn’t cancelled!” But this mother’s heart hurt, even though I put on a brave face and smile for him.

Wednesday and Thursday were busy with homeschooling, more walks, a discouraging meeting that I would rather not get into, and a fireside (which got moved into our garage because of the cold and wind.)

Friday I hit a low.

A I-don’t-want-to-leave-my-bedroom-all-day kind of low.

It started as it usually does these days: with the announcement that our government is only making small changes and these will be in effect for 6 more weeks.

Six weeks. This means that code red will continue until April, even though my area now has ZERO cases. IT literally can’t get any better here. I cried. It’s just not fair. It’s not right. I feel completely helpless and hopeless that things will ever change. It’s like my free country has become a communist one. I haven’t seen my whole family together since October. The next time we will possibly be allowed to meet is in April… if they decide to lift restrictions… or, at this rate, more likely it will be June or July, outdoors.

It’s just not right.

Yet kids are allowed to go to day camp… some sports are allowed to resume. Work and school is allowed. But no still no church and still no family, the two most important things to me.

As the day went on, I spent the day asking God: “Why?”

Finally, in the afternoon, I felt his gentle spirit impress upon my heart that these trials are actually his mercy. I am not ready for any kind of persecution, especially not the kind that the Bible warns us will happen in the end days. Lots of things have been exposed in my life through this past year. I have a lot of anger, resentment, impatience and sometimes downright hate in my heart. He doesn’t want to leave me in that state! These things need to be exposed through hardship so that I can move forward and actually grow in kindness, gentleness, love, joy, patience and endurance.

Oh, I just wish I wasn’t so slow to learn! I wish I was more patient through it all!

Hurry up and teach me Lord!

So I press on: grateful for the hope of spring, prayerful about the current state of this world and certain of God’s goodness.

COVID-19 · Faith · Family

The Day of Small Things

A Sudden Change

         “‘Mommy! Mommy!’ Her chubby two-year-old hand stretched out towards the familiar church building as we passed it by. ‘Church?’ she asked hopefully.

         ‘Not today honey, maybe next time,’ I soothed from the front seat.

         It had been weeks since she’d been to her favorite weekly outing and she was beginning to cry every time we passed the place that she had come to know and love. It was absolutely heartbreaking for me to see, but I reminded myself that it was only temporary. 

         ‘Soon we will go back,’ I kept telling her. Yet as the weeks turned into months, we kept passing the vacant building which was once bustling with activity and she began asking less and less.

          ‘No church,’ was always the reply. 

         And then one day she stopped asking. As hard as the tears were to hear, the most heartbreaking thing of all was that she had forgotten. My daughter no longer remembers church.”

A young mother I know shared this situation with me a few months ago and it has run through my mind many times. After almost a year now of closures, how is the next generation going to view faith and community? How are they going to view God? Are they going to realize the importance of gathering, of spurring one another on?

A Different Sort of Church

            As we adjust to life in all the ups and downs of 2020, one of the greatest challenges we’ve had to face is no longer being able to gather in the ways that we used to.

             Maybe the scene above feels all too familiar for you. Or maybe, for your family, it was a welcome change to be able to watch kids church, sporting your comfiest pjs at the breakfast table, avoiding the usual chaos and rush of Sunday mornings. Whatever the case, we all have to admit that online church is just not the same

            We all miss something about meeting together… whether it is seeing your child make it through kid’s church without your number being called for the very first time, seeing the parking lot packed from end to end with each weekly activity, visiting with friends in the café, listening to an uninterrupted sermon, or missing LIVE worship (let’s face it, worship on a screen is just not the same). As the heartbroken mother above shared about her little girl’s fading desire for church, she brought up some very real and valid concerns many of us parents are facing: Is my child growing up without experiencing the church? Who will teach them about Jesus? Am I enough for them in this season?

            Where do I even start? 

            The church’s strength has always been in working together, becoming the “village” our children need to develop a love and understanding of God and others. But what about when we are apart? Can we still be the body of Christ and raise the next generation to become passionate followers of Jesus? 

We Are the Church

As a mother of five myself, I have to say that this year has been one of the most difficult and stretching years of my entire life. Not only have I had to deal with my own confusing emotions, I have to help my kids navigate these same thoughts and feelings as well. As a routine person, not being about to make concrete plans for the next week, never mind the year – has made me feel like I will lose my mind. Add distance learning to the mix (HELLLOO CHAOS!!) and my capacity for anything else is at zero…

And I’m doing this mostly alone. 

We all are.

Never before have we felt so isolated and far apart when we need each other more than ever before. We hear words like: “we’re all in this together” but it’s really difficult to feel “together” at all. But… we are still the church. We are meant to shine now, more than ever before. We believe this. How do we live it out?

Don’t Despise the Small Things

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin…” Zechariah 4:10 (NLT) 

            When the Israelites began rebuilding the temple after the exile, it was a pitiful sight at first. Those who remembered the former glory and beauty of their place of worship must’ve felt complete despair at the sight. The task before them was enormous. Their workers were so few.

 Which makes it so incredible when God encouraged them with these words: “Do not despise the day of small things.”

I would dare to say that God is speaking a similar word to parents today. He sees the tears, the struggle and the stress. He sees the overwhelm and the loneliness. He sees the despair of having nothing on the calendar to look forward to. And he’s calling us to remember the small things. God’s not expecting us to rise up in impossible and grand ways. He’s looking for the little things and rejoicing at each act of worship, no matter how small.

Maybe its picking up your little one and telling them once again about the powerful wonders that God performed for his people in slavery. Or about the many miracles Jesus did on earth.

Maybe it’s turning on worship music and dancing around the kitchen, just to lighten the mood.

Maybe it’s taking an afternoon with your kids to make cookies and cards, then going on a drive together to drop them off for someone who is struggling with sickness or loneliness.

Or maybe it’s simply the broken moments. The moments where you fall on your knees, exhausted and at your wits end, begging for God to help you through another day.

Don’t despise these moments, however small. Let the Father, who sees the small things, speak to you. The small beginnings are important, they are valuable and he rejoices over each effort to come to him.

Canada · COVID-19 · Faith · Family

Good Surprises

“Oh great,” I thought, “More bad news to pass on to my already discouraged family.”

 It was a couple weeks into November 2020. I waited most of the day, dreading the thought of telling them that more restrictions were being made… once again. Upon hearing the news of schools being shut down again, my son burst into tears of frustration: “It’s like the month of bad surprises!” 

The thing is, he wasn’t wrong.

There were so many disappointments and we were all having an extremely difficult time navigating all of it. Our grandmother had died. Our family of seven had all gotten COVID-19. Schools were closed. Life was once again grinding to a halt. We were all stuck at home all the time. And this had just been the past month! Hadn’t we tried again and again to “make the best of it?” 

There was just nothing to look forward to anymore.

So many thoughts ran through my mind. I was tempted to wallow in my grief, but I’d been in that pit of depression before, a place so dark that life seems to fade into a black and white blur. It is in this desperate place that I called out to God: “Father, I need a plan to lift my family out of this. Please, give me the gift of creativity; ideas to bring joy to our family. I need something that will brighten our cold, dark winter nights, so that next few months aren’t just filled with disappointments for my kids.”

What about a month of good surprises?

The idea took root and began to grow.

Yes! That was it! We could, within the walls of our own home, create an atmosphere of anticipation each day of the month, with a new surprise to look forward to every evening. Sort of like a twist on the typical advent calendar, it would be a bit of work on my part, but, with proper planning I knew we could pull it off!

Now I was excited. As fast as I could, I grabbed my day planner and made a rough sketch of the month:

There were games nights, worship nights, and nights to “get out” and drive around, looking at Christmas lights or simply blessing others. There were activities for me (like ice cream sundae night) and some purely for the kids (games in the dark and “make up our own recipes” …as I shudder… SO. MUCH. SUGAR.)

By the time I had finished filling in the calendar, I was grinning from ear to ear. It was, in many ways, so simple – but I knew it would brighten our evenings. Here’s a list of a few of the “good surprises” our family enjoyed at home:

25 Good Surprises

1. We had a create our own recipes competition. Everyone in the family grabbed ingredients to make a small portion of their own creative treat! The evening ended with us rating each other’s creation on a scale of 1 – 10. First of all, my oldest son created the funniest recipe. He called it “Dr. D” – I’ll leave the ingredients to your imagination. (And not to brag or anything… but I won 😁)

2. Grabbing bags of popcorn, we got in the van for a tour of Christmas lights. Complete with Christmas dubstep music. It was a blast! Except for vacuuming up the popcorn from the backseats later on… not so fun.

3. One night we pulled out old home videos and watched them together. We had many laughs and my heart nearly burst when I watched the cute videos from their toddler years. So adorable! 🥰 Then each person wrote a note to a grandparent, thanking them for some of the fun memories we’ve had with them. (This ended up being one of my favourite evenings!)

4. Family games in the dark night. There’s nothing like running full speed into the wall as you get chased in the dark. These nights are sure to get everyone excited. If you’re like our family and like some added intensity, put on a soundtrack from Lord of the Rings and bingo, you’ll have kids so terrified that no one will want to venture into the basement. “Sardines” and “No Bears Out Tonight” are our favorite!

5. Skating on our backyard rink has been a highlight this winter. Our family is seven total, so we don’t make an even split for a team… almost makes me wish we had just one more… 😉Thawing our feet in the hot tub afterwards completed the fun.

6. We skipped a few days of school to go sledding at a hill nearby. Sometimes it was just us, but sometimes we met up with friends. The fresh air did us well.

7. Family worship night! Dad grabs a guitar, Isaiah a drum, Bella plays the piano and we sang our hearts out. There’s nothing quite like worship to lift a discouraged soul.

8. Christmas Coloring contest. Print out a Christmas picture to color and everyone colors their absolute best! Then we each pick our top two favourites and the one with the most votes win (Dad won this one!)

9. Family card or board game night. (Our current favorites are Dixit, Wizard, Jenga and Settlers of Catan)

10. A day in the wilderness with friends. Okay, this one creeped me out a bit. We were in the bush, in the middle of nowhere, off trail and our kids were running every where. It was a bit terrifying for me at first and I prayed they wouldn’t get lost. However, once we settled in and made a fire in a ravine I settled down. The kids took their sleds down random hills. Of course, we brought hot chocolate and hand warmers. The adults chatted and snuggled in our blankets around the fire. Snacks were passed around. The peace and stillness of the forest was amazing.

11. Facetime call nights with the grandparents or family. I’m getting tired of so much stuff online, but it is always wonderful to see the smiling faces of the people we love.

12. Make and decorate sugar cookies. Yes, kids always add far too much icing… and if you give them anything else to decorate with (smarties, chocolate chips, sprinkles, etc) it gets WAY out of hand.

13. We went on a few outdoor walks, followed by hot chocolate and snacks of course.

14. Winter fireside night in our backyard. We actually started the fire with flint and steel! I felt like a true survivalist. And then I went inside to make hot chocolate with my electric kettle, because it’s too much work to boil water over a fire. LOL!

15. Ice cream sundae night! We had dozens of toppings to choose from and could each choose THREE ONLY because, let’s face it, my kids would’ve put on every topping if allowed. My favourite toppings are caramel, dark chocolate and sea salt!

16. Family movie night with popcorn and Nibs. We have now started doing a movie night each Friday and we take turns picking a movie. IF anyones complains about the choice, they miss their next turn to chose. Finally, no more arguing about what to watch!

17. Family snow ball fight. (Which ended in a real fight! Surprise, surprise.)

18. We played “Wink Murder” and “Mafia” which is quite morbid now that I think of it, but we have a great time guessing the murderer. It’s amazing how convincing some of our kids can be when they are claiming their “innocence”…

19. Decorate a gingerbread house. (More candy… there’s a theme here.)

20. We picked up pizza one night and dropped one off for our parents as well and had a quick front door visit.

21. Random acts of kindness night! We picked up 3 dozen donuts and delivered them to some of our friends/family we missed so we could see their faces for a bit. The kids came home so happy (but it was a lot of driving!)

22. Sleepover by the Christmas tree. Probably the best and worst thing ever. I wouldn’t recommend it if you like your rest. We fell asleep listening to Adventures in Odyssey together around midnight. In the middle of the night the couch felt like I was sleeping on rocks. My back still hurts. And we all woke up at 5am. This will most likely never happen again.

23. On Christmas Day, my husband led us in some Christmas Carols on his guitar and then we read the Christmas Story. Afterwards we ate our traditional family Christmas brunch and opened presents.

24. We had a fancy candle light dinner one night. Complete with a four course meal, the fancy table cloth, and mandatory table manners (yes, with a family that has four boys, table manners is a special event!)

25. I planned a Minute to Win It Game Night. Again lots of work to put together, but it was so much fun! A few of our favourite games include “Mad Dog” and “Dizzy Mummy”. We also laughed pretty hard at “Junk in the Trunk”.

 Yes, it’s a month into 2021 and we’re still mostly at home. However, we’ve been doing our best to be at peace with where we’re at.

Best of all: I have seen the joy returning to our family.

They have something each day to look forward to and for that I pray with a thankful heart: “Jesus, THANK YOU, for the gift of creativity. You know it doesn’t come naturally to me… Thank you for bringing joy back into our home.”

Family · Loss

A Life Worth Remembering

I used to wonder how it would feel to observe my own funeral. How many people would be there to mourn? Would they be sad? Would they be relieved? What kinds of things would they say about me?

What would I be remembered for? My fancy cakes? My blog with a handful of readers? My lame jokes?

And now, I see the funerals of 2020 and 2021.

Five people allowed. Masks, which cover our faces. No hugs permitted.

And I am suddenly glad that the departed don’t have to watch from above. Would they wonder if they were loved? Would they even know how much they are missed? Would they understand that it pains us inside, to say goodbye like this?

My grandpa passed away last week, at the age of 92. As the restrictions are still quite tight here in Manitoba, Canada, my biggest prayer was that we would be able to honour the memory of this very loved man in a way that did justice to his life; a life well-lived.

It looks like these prayers are being answered and my heart is filled with peace, even as I mourn the loss of this very special man.

I got the privilege of putting together a video of our family giving tributes about Grandpa. It was touching to see a large family (he had five children, like we do) with so many different hobbies, careers and personalities all sharing about what “Dad” or “Grandpa” meant to them.

As I wrote mine, I found it hard to sum up all that this amazing man meant to me in just a short, one-minute paragraph. So, of course, I turn here to expand my thoughts. Surely, a one minute tribute doesn’t do justice to how I feel about my grandpa.

“Grandpa Reimer” as I called him, was always very special to me, and I don’t think that I can properly put into words everything I felt for him. I remember my Grandpa from young on, as a man who cared deeply for me. I can still close my eyes and see him jumping up from his chair, with energy beyond his years, rushing to help me with my school projects. He, like myself, loved history and books. He had shelves full of them, many old ones too, including an 800 year old Bible.

Unlike most other grandfathers I knew, my Grandpa was a “techie”. He loved new technology and was somewhat of an inventor himself. I was always impressed with his innovation and willingness to try new things, which most other people his age either feared or rejected altogether. He also collected antiques. I remember his juke box, also a phonograph. I remember his old phone which dialled with a crank and had a long earpiece attached by a cord.

He collected so many odds and ends. I loved looking through his spoon collection, his stamps, his hockey cards and licence plates.

I remember caring so much about what he thought of me. I wanted so badly for him to be proud of me.

Family was a priority for Grandpa Reimer. This was evident in the way that he spent his time and money. I remember often showing up at his house on Sundays. If it was hot, we would swim in my grandparents in-ground swimming pool.

I went on two very memorable trips as a child, which I could very well say are the clearest and best memories of my childhood… you guessed it, he was the one who took us on them. He rode right along on the rides in Disney Land. He dragged us along to flea markets, always searching for new treasures… an old record, a valuable newspaper, a book.

My Grandpa was a man of such diversity himself. He loved music, I remember him playing the accordion at our family gatherings. He was a turkey farmer and a grain farmer. He loved hockey and game shows.

No he was not perfect. He struggled emotionally with anxiety in ways that make me feel all the more love and tenderness for him. I’m sure, like I’ve seen in myself, at times this great storehouse of emotions has hurt or even manipulated the people around him. But the important thing is, he knew this about himself. He would often exclaim, with depth in his eyes, “How God must love us, that he would save a sinner like me!”

If I have inherited even an ounce of his passion, faith, wisdom, authenticity, and gifts, I would be blessed.

My love for Grandpa goes far beyond these few experiences, reaching to feelings expressed in fragments, rather than full thoughts:

-A sparkle in his eye

– The imprint of his body in his favourite spot on the blue couch

-A bright blue can of Pepsi

-A deck of Skip-Bo cards

-A soft heart

-Tears not afraid to fall

-His thumb held up as he says to me with a grin, “Right on!”

-His body curled up, almost childlike, in the hospital bed as he slept.

-A trembling hand, writing shaky words

-His voice as we sang hymns, still remembering all the words

On our last real visit almost a year ago, before Covid restrictions came into effect, I picked up a joke book on his table to read to him. He warned me: “It isn’t very funny,” but I proceeded to read the jokes anyways. Turned out, he was right. As I turned to leave, for my rushed lunch break was over, little knowing that it would be the final one… he grabbed my hand and said: “Thank you for coming.”

I smiled and flippantly said, “I was happy to come! See you again soon!”

Sorry that it was so much longer than I imagined, Grandpa. But I am confident I will see you again.

Authenticity · COVID-19 · Faith

Preparing for 2021

I admit I’ve been quieter this past month. It seems like all I think to write about is that “thing” we all seem stuck on, and quite simply, I’m just tired of talking about “it”.

But we’re approaching 2021, so I believe an update on my life is fitting.

Some exciting news: I’ve been asked to help out the families in our church by contributing regularly to the family ministry blog in the New Year.

Our church is going through some very difficult times, as are many, and I believe supporting families in this way is incredibly important now. Especially since we haven’t been allowed to meet in person much of 2020. As a result, most of my efforts in writing these days are being poured into future blog posts on the topics of parenting, families, leading our children, bringing them to Jesus, having joy in our homes, etc.

I also lead a moms group of nine incredible women.

However, I’ll admit, emotionally I just feel drained with this.

How is one to support and encourage these young women over a Zoom call, when all they need is a morning out with other women and someone else to hold their baby for just a couple minutes?

How do you comfort someone from afar when they just need a hug and to be prayed over?

How do you assure these precious women that they can keep going and raise children in these uncertain times?

It’s so very difficult.

Are my long distance messages and those few words over video chats doing anything? Is it worth the effort? So as I approach the New Year I’m crying out to God for an olive branch; a small sign to see that this year of separation, of long distance relationships and of far too many Zoom calls is coming to an end.

I hate Zoom.

I wish I were bold enough to say that I would never use it again. But, then, I realize that God has used even Zoom in this troubling time.

A sad piece of news to end the year: My only remaining grandmother is now in the hospital.

And my heart mourns that I haven’t seen her for almost a year. A few months ago we started having weekly phone calls which I SO enjoyed. Our last call was rushed and I promised to call her soon.

Now she is isolated and I have no way to reach her; to tell her that I am praying for her. A full year of “protecting” her by staying away. Of keeping her “safe” in isolation.

It wasn’t right.

No one deserves to suffer alone.

It is with a cautious approach that I state these things. But if I were to be truly honest with those around me, I would say it simply: I disagree that we are protecting seniors in all this. I think it’s wrong that we are not giving them the choice whether they want to keep on seeing their loved ones in their final years on earth.

They should have that choice.

However pro choice seems to only apply to woman who want to end another’s life instead of sacrificing nine months of theirs. And the irony hits me that we’ve all had to put a “nine month” pause on in 2020 for the sake of “life” – A much more inconvenient and painful pause than any pregnancy, I may add.

Where are the “pro-choicers” now?

But my voice seems to be unheard, unacknowledged, and ignored. I have felt for years that care homes are no place for our beloved parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, friends.

They deserve to live with family.

I feel this as strongly as I feel orphans need a home and not an orphanage: A place to belong and be loved. A place to be apart of something bigger. To contribute and to be given much in return.

This year has opened my eyes up to this more than ever before. So much so, that I’m looking at my future path with a very different set of eyes: What do I need to do now, so that I can be in a place to care for the elderly in years to come?

What skills do I need to learn? Should I pursue a nursing degree? Are there legalities that would prevent me from doing this? What other obstacles may I face as I consider these things?

And so, I turn my face to my Father, and say:

“Lord, in 2021, may your will be done. In me. In your church. In the world. Our systems may fail us, many hearts may grow cold even as others are being purified through the trials, but my eyes will stay trained on you – the One who holds it all together. May your kingdom come. May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

God holds it all together… and because of that I have hope.

No, I don’t believe 2021 will hold all the relief from 2020 that so many are dreaming of. As a matter of fact, I think it may be an even harder year.

BUT if God is allowing this, I know it’s for a good reason.

Hearts are being revealed as they are: Innocence is all the more sweet. Kindness shines a bit brighter. Friendships are all the more precious in such dark times.

Humanity is so fragile that a simple virus could cause such calamity.

Many voices are screaming to be heard. People are watching the world events carefully, wondering what this is all coming to. Some think the world is forever changed. Others seem naively hopeful that by summer life will be back to normal. The “tolerant” are more intolerant than ever before, ready and more than willing to destroy anyone who thinks differently then they.

Evil seems more evil. Good seems more pure. The words of the book of Daniel come to mind: “…many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.”

2020.

What an altogether horrible and beautiful time to be alive.

Faith

Taking It For Granted

2020 has been hard.

At times I have been in deep despair. Other times I’ve felt supernatural joy and peace that goes way beyond the bizarre circumstances around me.

If this year has taught me anything, it’s that previously I’ve taken so many things for granted. In the past, December always felt so busy and at times – chaotic. Much to my shame, the gatherings, christmas concerts, and banquets had often become a source of complaints throughout the month.

This December is different. It’s quiet. It’s restful. (Sometimes too quiet; often boringly restful.)

And I miss the things I used to grumble about.

The Things I Am Missing:

  • Gatherings with the people I love. Homes packed full with the joyful faces we know; the sound of laughter ringing through the air. Board games, gift exchanges, singing carols and hearing the Christmas story read aloud.
  • I miss sharing food. My favourite meals are when everyone brings a dish and we dig in buffet style, not worrying about who’s germs are on what spoon or how close we are standing to the next person in line. We are focused on what really matters: THE FOOD!
  • I miss Christmas shopping in stores! I miss slowly walking through the beautiful aisles, all lit up with lights and decorated for the season. I miss the Christmas music playing softly (or obnoxiously… haha) and being able to browse for the perfect gift; picking up one item and humming and hawing, before returning it to it’s place and resuming the search.
  • I miss the piano recitals and school concerts; the instruments of the children squeaking and squaking, and slightly out of tune. The smiles of the little performers, dressed in their Christmas best. The beauty of the effort put into the show. Mostly, I miss the hot chocolate and cookies after it all is over – and the lovely conversations among other parents, teachers and friends.

One could go on and on with lists of what we miss, but as I reflected upon these things today I realized: had these things not been taken from me this year, there is a very good chance that I would have been complaining about them.

So I began to think of other things that I still have, which I could someday be missing… is there more that I am taking for granted?

I hope not. But here are the things I hold dearly these days:

  1. Giggles in the morning, of happy children playing together while I lie in my bed.
  2. The sound of the hockey puck slamming against the boards as the kids enjoy the rink outside.
  3. The many family evenings we are having these days – yes, we may miss so many others, but we are together.
  4. The cheerful call my husband gives out: “I’m home!” when he returns from a day of work!
  5. The younger two boys, snuggling in close as I read them yet another chapter.
  6. Fridays and the excitement of “Pizza/Movie Night”.
  7. Waking up to the smell of vanilla/hazelnut coffee.
  8. Going to bed with a full belly.
  9. Evenings spent in the hot tub, staring up at a clear sky of beautiful stars.
  10. Wrapping paper and gifts to put under our homely, but brightly, decorated tree.
  11. Looking through my full cupboards in search of what to make for supper and realizing that there are always plenty of options.
  12. A cozy bed in a warm house.
  13. Pens, paper, journals, craft supplies, laptops, and the ability to create with these tools.
  14. Looking up anything I need to know on google.
  15. Brown packages arriving at my door from Amazon.
  16. Electricity and the internet (although I’m so tired of everything online these days, I DO have to admit… it’s still better than nothing!)
  17. Hearing the doorbell ring and seeing a familiar face at the door coming to drop something off.
  18. The word of God, which encourages me daily.
  19. The Holy Spirit, who guides me so gently, even when I’m grumpy and stubborn.
  20. Jesus, whose birth we celebrate at this time of year – Emmanuel – God with us.

May I not take one of these for granted, even as I wait for the things I miss to be restored.

Authenticity · Faith

The Small Things

This week is my “rest” week. (If a mother can ever call any week rest while homeschooling five children). As in, I literally worked myself to getting an infection last week and now my body needs to recover. This week, I’m forced to slow down. Sleep longer. Just maintain the home, rather than improve it.

No worries, this is a welcome change. Next week the projects will resume and I will again get to create a list of sorts.

My exhaustion has me wondering if every mother is feeling the lack of mental space to keep a blog running these days, or whatever other hobbies they may have. Having my kids around 24/7 with no sport or music programs, no public school, no church events or parties for the past three months was, in some ways, a welcome break from the normally busy schedule. But if you’re slightly introverted like me, any people, even your own children whom you love will drain all energy for other things.

Is anyone else out there, like me? Completely mentally drained?

Last week I shared that I haven’t found energy for reading, writing, running or other hobbies because of projects. But with more thought, I think it’s also been draining to have my kids around without any breaks. I feel rather uninspired to write about anything.

Now if you’ve followed my blog of any amount of time, you would know that I’ve homeschooled for seven years prior to this year (this was my “break” from homeschooling year… LOL!!! But apparently I’m not allowed to stop homeschooling.) I’ve already had my kids home for much of their lives, however, this has been different. It’s that kind of situation where they have nothing else.

Just home.

Just me and their Dad.

They’re bored. I’m never bored. I’m too busy homeschooling, gardening, cooking and cleaning to feel out of sorts. But I’m trying to sympathize and hang out with them. When I’m tired of being their entertainer, I find them chores to do. And though life is slowly returning to normal, there is an unusual amount of white space on their calendar where their lives are concerned.

I’ve been spending money to help with the boredom… we renovated the bathroom, we purchased a dirt bike and a hot tub this month, plus tons of extra supplies for our pool. The hard-earned/slowly saved money was originally supposed to go to our first ever HUGE summer vacation, but since the borders are closed, we are bringing the fun home.

Someday, we will travel. This year we make the best of our situation. On the bright side, the hot tub will hopefully last us for years to come… vacations come and go so quickly.

Alright… now to deeper matters:

Yesterday, my husband asked me a question. It’s a question I’ve always hated, but I humoured him and answered it anyways.

If you were given a million dollars, what would you do with it?

I hate this question because it stirs up unhealthy pride/greed in people. I feel it in myself. Because there’s two ways to answer: I either list all the things I’ve wished for in my life but could never afford, or I act all spiritual and generously give it to those in need. I didn’t want to answer the question, and I told him so, to which he replied: “You are such a ‘Debbie-downer’, it’s just a fun question that reveals a lot about a person’s interests.”

So fine. I answered it.

  1. I want to go back to school to become a nurse.
  2. I would pay off our mortgage.
  3. I would hire someone to give me a magazine perfect yard and finish off our projects because I love to host family and friends.
  4. I would consider adopting two children (of course, HE would have to agree with that one haha).
  5. I would give 10% or more of it away, because I have found that giving brings me FAR more joy than spending money on myself.

He was surprised. He honestly thought I would travel the world. But as much as I DO like travelling, I don’t like being a tourist. Meaning, I love the places, and the people. Not so much the luxury. Whenever I am served by others, either in restaurants or on a resort, my mind wanders to the verse:

“For the son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45

And I feel guilty. Because I know very well I’m not here on this earth to be waited on. I’m here for the very people who are serving me. To care for them. To show them kindness and bring them joy. Ultimately to show them the love of the Father.

Maybe I am a Debbie Downer.

Yet… I just want to live with purpose! And purpose means radical, right?!?

Hmm… but often, it’s not. The longer I live, the more I am learning that a fulfilling life starts with the small things. In fact, the small things are very often more important than the big things.

How do I treat those who serve me?

How do I treat my own family?

How am I talking to the people around me? With respect?

Yesterday Ryan asked me a question and I said nothing because I wanted to think about my answer for a bit. Which was very unlike me, if you know me at all. I respond first and think later. But an hour later, after I had carefully thought through my feelings and reasons for them, I responded gently, without picking a fight.

He smiled and said, “I respect that, you know. When you think about it and respond thoughtfully. Now I can understand your feelings about it and I’m good with doing things your way.”

And I’m like, “Wow! Why haven’t I done that before?!?”

So… small things. That’s what will make me a loving person. Not the big “save the world” attitude that I so often push myself to have.

A small thing: we ordered limestone to build a pad for the hot tube and pool, but my family scheduled a visit during the time I had planned to work on it. At first I found myself getting so worked up. Why did it have to be that particular day? Why not a better time? But, I took a breath and I pushed off my schedule to “window” visit my elderly grandpa. He beamed when he saw us all there. I cried half of the time. It was SO worth it.

Such a small thing, but it made the world of a difference to him.

Life Lesson: I don’t have to be everyone’s hero. I just need to love in the little moments. Pause to think before I speak. Switch my schedule around to make room for someone else’s.

THIS is true greatness.

 

 

 

Authenticity · Canada · Writing

Unrealistic Expectations

Is it really nearing the end of May? I feel like it’s passed me by in a blink.

I took a pause to write today.

Not because I really wanted to or because I had a lot to say, but mainly because I’ve been working non-stop on projects this past month and I need to just stop. Stop and remember that there are more important things than work.

“All work no play makes Jack a dull boy” …and it makes me a “grumpy, task focused, tired gal.”

My mind is drained. My body is weary. I work through the aching back and sore neck. I strain through the blisters, the cuts and the bruises. For what exactly?

To distract myself from an uncertain and unfamiliar world.

It’s easier to focus on things, rather than people when it’s people we’re told to avoid. It’s easier just to stay home and ignore the outside world while I work myself to the bone. It’s easier to watch “how-to” videos than the current news.

So I shut it all out and focus on one thing: Making home better.

It took a good sit down this afternoon to realize how hard I’ve been pushing myself and how ridiculous my expectations are. You wanna know what I expected to accomplish this month?

-Lead a weekly bible study on zoom.

– Homeschooling 5 kids.

-Finish our downstairs bathroom (from dingy, concrete floor bathroom to Pinterest post).

-Handtill and plant my garden.

– Repaint my front door.

-Sand down and paint my large back deck and veranda.

– Organize my closets, shed and garage.

– Plant 12 trees on my yard.

– Re-level our ground to set up the above ground pool. Also order a new cover, heater and filter system for it.

– Make front Garden Boxes and fill with soil/shrubs.

-Keep up with all the housework, meals, etc on top of everything else.

I seriously had it down to eight hours of work a day besides my cooking, housework and homeschooling. And it took three weeks of this before I realized that it’s just too much to expect. You think just reading through my “to-do” list would have snapped me back to reality, but in reality, it’s that very “to-do” list that keeps me going at sprinting speed from morning until night.

No time for texting, writing, social media, baking, running, personal care… just my list.

And so I stop, taking the time to write today because I need to. It reminds me of what’s important. God. Family. Laughter, relationships, rest.

And I delete. Check the boxes I’ve done. Let the accomplishments sink in. Cut the other goals in half. They will happen. It does not need to be this month.

Homeschool kids. Check.
Plant a dozen trees. Check.
Feed the family. Check.
Work on basement bathroom. Check.
Next To Do: Find time for joy

To Do:

Level ground and set up pool

Sand and stain deck & veranda

– Repaint front door.

Organize closets, shed & garage

Make front garden boxes and plant shrubs

See you later “to-do” list. I’m taking the rest of the day off.

…Ok. Maybe after I finish planting the garden 😉

Authenticity · Vulnerability

Grieving what we’ve Lost

We’ve lost some difficult things.

Today was the day we were supposed to wake up our kids in an hour and pull them mysteriously into the van. They would blink their eyes in confusion at the suitcases and surprise packages around them. We would then tell them the news:

We are going on a SURPRISE family trip!

There were packages to open along the way: a new iPad. Blank comic books. Candy and travel games.

They would scream in excitement and awe that we had surprised them. The next six days would be driving, restaurant meals, family visits, and water park rides.

BUT… today I mourn because instead, I wake up to a completely different day: Ryan’s alarm going off for work. I will wake up and make breakfast, homeschool the kids and then try to keep them joyful for the rest of the day. Surprise travel gifts and the iPad were opened a week ago, now used for school work.

My kids don’t know about the trip, thank goodness we decided to surprise them. It’s just one less disappointment they have to face.

Still, my daughter was discouraged yesterday. Deeply discouraged. As an optimist at heart, I did what I could to be upbeat and see the blessings. But mainly, I just listened because there wasn’t much to say: I am sad too.

I shared what I was sad about… I’m mourning the normalcy of life, as we all are.

I was sad, because I did my hair and makeup to go get the groceries this week. I cry, because I’m sick of people on screens. I cry, because there’s no hopeful message… just experts repeatedly saying: “It’s going to get worse before it gets better.”

I long for an end date. We all do.

I’m mourning family gatherings, church events, and meeting with people. I’m mourning date nights with my husband and visiting my grandparents.

I shared as we put together a puzzle.

We went on a walk, the air was crisp. She shared her heart, her tears. As we walked, she visibly brightened. The sun started setting. The fields were beautiful with the spring water glistening in them. Then we came back home and gathered the family for a drive. Picking up some drive thru iced cream and drove around until dark, looking at some of the beautiful homes people live in.

My youngest pipes up from the back: “When I grow up I will find the biggest house and choose that one.”

We laughed at the innocent comment and came home FULL. The grieving had allowed small glimpses of joy to set in. The grieving allowed us to move on.

So friends: grieve. Then keep going.

Authenticity · Depression · Faith

Waking Up on the Wrong Side… with No Coffee

This morning I woke up feeling angst.

Now, I do struggle with insomnia, but this post isn’t about grumpy mornings where I’ve literally gotten no sleep. Because last night I slept great. Probably got in an eight hour night, which for me is amazing.

I had a great day yesterday. I went to bed content and happy last night.

I woke up sour.

How does that even happen?

Cue about a dozen memes about coffee… which also doesn’t apply, because I don’t particularly love coffee. I mean… I drink it most mornings, because as of turning 30, I forced myself to become an adult.

But this morning, this particular morning, I had it in my mind to drink some coffee with my cream. Yet low and behold, it was GONE!! (Not the coffee, the CREAM) My husband finished the cream.

Now I was even more sour.

But not drinking coffee doesn’t affect me. I am not an addict. I am not an addict. I won’t admit to it. (Still grumbles inwardly about not having coffee.)

Then, to top it off, my daughter asked me a question that annoyed me. On most days it would’ve been an honest, innocent question.

But this morning my body tensed.

She asked this question just to get me mad. My irrational self thought. Why, she was probably scheming from the moment she woke up on how to make me miserable. My husband probably was doing the same.

My four boys were quietly playing downstairs.

I was angry at them. Because, it was too early for them to be playing already. Surely, they had missed doing their chores. I called them up, like a drill sergeant. “Have you boys done ALL your chores?” They nodded. I still didn’t believe them. Didn’t want to believe them. I listed the chores one by one.

Check.

Check.

Check.

Then, feeling like I needed to get them to do something, I made up a new one. They obeyed nicely. Still, I was annoyed. At everyone.

Please tell me, how does this even happen?

As the kids left for school and my husband for work, I was painfully aware that something was off with me, not them.

I went on the treadmill, because if depression has taught me anything, it’s that my body was made to move. I need it for my health. I need it for my sanity. I didn’t feel like running. So I walked. I didn’t feel like walking, so I grumbled while walking. Then I dumbly closed my eyes to pray while I walked.

Of course, I fell. I should’ve been filming the moment, as I would love to watch how stupid that looked. I’m sure that alone would’ve cured any sour feelings inside.

So… you may be wondering, what’s the point of this post? Will I give you another amazing conversation where God told me exactly why I was feeling this way and why? Some grand lesson I learnt? Some attitude change that made all things better?

No. Because there was none.

Me: God, why am I feeling this way?

God:

Nothing. Silent.

This is just as real as my good conversations with him. And you know what? Sometimes there is no good reason other than the fact that life isn’t always sunny. Sometimes the reason comes to me later. Sometimes I never figure it out. Sometimes its a day: A bad morning, waking up on the wrong side of the bed.

Sometimes its a full season that lasts years. I’ve had those too. But surely as winter is cold and dark and drags on far too long… spring comes.

I’m learning to wait.

How about you? How are you doing? Are you in a good season right now? A hard one? How do you cope with the difficult days.