Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Honestly Speaking

Sometime before the new year, I made it out for a hike with just my kids. I love our winter hikes. I obviously use the word "winter" loosely.

A "winter" flower, maybe?
It's the closest I may get to fluffy white.

We love the dark shadows of the forest best. It's where there are more mysteries to imagine or uncover...

We take the 5 mile loop, with a very long stretch of uphill climb. Olivia and I are always far ahead of the boys.

Little gentleman Jack insisted on carrying the pack for me.

The plan was to hike up far and away, then to find a place beneath the oak trees and settle in for a while. I had brought a few snacks, a light blanket, and my Bible and journal. The boys were planning on exploring, while Olivia probably had a book or her sketch pad. I was looking forward to this down time, this quiet, restful time that my mind imagines when it needs rest the most. But alas, boys take a long time just walking. They seem to stop every few steps, bending down to look, feel, discover. I know it's good for them in ways our modern culture overlooks, so I don't mind. Eventually I could feel the temperature begin to dip as the sun neared the mountain edges, and our sunlight began to fade. We had just enough time to complete our loop at a slow, take-your-time-to-smell-the roses kind of way. It was nearly as good as the original plan.

This tree is our favorite place to catch our breath after the climb. 
Some boys think outside the box and climb up the branches, others are interdependent and look to a brother for help. Both methods have their advantages. Actually, Michael hoisted me up too, because there's no such thing as being too old to climb a good tree.

I'm sure the boys covered more ground than the 5 mile distance of trail; their path criss-crossed back and forth over the footpath. 

Finding trapdoor spiders... 
(impressive little home-makers)

I spy with my little eyes... one girl having a snack.

Tender, fresh green growth makes its way up and out after the rains...
Kind of like sanctification.

Around here, "winter" comes sometime mid-December; spring apparently arrives later in the same month.

The boys carried home samples of various mosses for their ongoing experiments and plans. They were impressed with all the varieties we found.



I’ve always desired for this little space of mine on the internet to be honest. Not that I have to write about every aspect of life, but honesty should characterize what I do share. That said, it’s perfectly honest to only write about the good stuff of life, perfectly honest to post a picture of something I find pretty even if the surrounding area is not, and perfectly honest to keep private the issues that affect others. ‘Honorable’ might be a better word for that last part, but the point is that I don’t owe anyone here the entirety of my thoughts, circumstances, or story. It is the responsibility of the reader, I think, to understand that people and situations and life in general is multifaceted and often complex. Obviously.

Blogging is so weird. You, dear readers, are a mysterious group to me! I have some indication of who you are among family and friends, but my stats show that thousands visit this space each month. With few comments, I have always been left wondering who you are. Interestingly, the occasional feedback I get from friends and strangers is often related to honesty, or at least about so-called “transparency” regarding the things I share.

So here’s something honest and very human. Despite the very real and true and honest fact that our holidays were sweet (as I have previously posted), I entered the new year with a fizzle. I rang in a NYC new year at 9 PM on December 31, with a tired, forced, and very difficult-to-muster type of smile.

The Lord has determined to bless me with a physical trial on a regular basis. This one started sometime in November and rapidly brought me down by the end of December and into January. I'll get to the blessing part of it in a moment (the honest good stuff), but the trial part is very real too (the honest difficult stuff). And it is a trial. This physical trial leaves me in a state where I am gasping for oxygen from the inside, but the real trial comes as I grasp and struggle to live well in every other sense. The feeling of inability, failure, and depression (gasp!) hangs like thick darkness.

It's more than "just tired."

I have spent an extended period of time in survival mode. I struggle to sleep because the arms and legs are freezing to the touch, despite extra clothes and mountains of blankets. I struggle to wake because I am always exhausted, my whole face hurts, and my limbs heavy. I am fragile in every way, especially beyond my physical state. I lay there each morning quoting Psalms, begging God to sustain and strengthen me, and asking for His supernatural assistance. And I thank Him for loving me enough to bring about that which He knows is for my good.

But I am highly vulnerable. Edgy. Severely and embarrassingly foggy-brained, light-headed, often assaulted by emotion, and keenly aware that I'm fighting a spiritual battle most of all.

Psalm 71 has been my standby scripture...

 "...forsake me not when my strength is spent" (v. 9)

"Your righteousness, O God,
    reaches the high heavens.
You who have done great things,
    O God, who is like you?
You who have made me see many troubles and calamities
    will revive me again;
from the depths of the earth
    you will bring me up again." (vv. 19-20)

But I fail. For instance, one misinterpreted/imagined sideway look from my husband at the late hour of 8AM, and I think he is looking down on me for laziness. My heart sinks further. Later, the boys and their jokes are loud and stupid to me and I snap. Too often I am in my head, partly by default and partly to protect myself from sinning with my words, but also at a cost to relationship with those around. I often succumb to emotion. Emotion, I have learned, is never a good controller.

It's a lonely place to be, but not hopeless. I have learned that my trials hold a promise of bearing fruit in due season, even if I don't feel it in the "winter." My ugly behavior horrifies me, so I learn to take my guilt back to God. I am humbled in my weaknesses and in my sins, but I remember that my righteousness was never, ever the result of any perceived goodness when life was easier. This humbled place -- though dark and painful -- reminds me of who I really am, and especially that I am a desperate sinner in need of a good and compassionate God. I am comforted to know these thoughts are simply and truly evidences of grace and the result of sanctification from past trials, and to know that it is through trial that I grow. Never do I feel my need to cling to God as desperately as I do when enduring trial, though the need at all time is very real.

He is my righteousness, and my hope. He is my salvation. His promises of deliverance are trustworthy, His character of compassion and steadfast love are sure.

And there is more goodness all around. There are simple joys and triumphs when if I set myself to seeing. For instance, the ability to just leave the house and get out in nature with my kids for an afternoon hike, or a 30 minute bout of exercise, is reason for thankfulness. This does me such good, and controlling a tired body brings a small sense of accomplishment, rather than allowing how I feel to keep me cooped up only to rot some more! Also, the warm feeling of laying in a beam of sunlight on the carpet in the afternoon, or hearing the three boys talking together like great friends for an extended period of time soothes my bleak outlook. With the help of the Holy Spirit, I feel a small victory when I can offer help with sincerity to those around me. And then laying skin to skin in the night...

Oh, of course I can't forget the fact that help is on its way now that I've received two IV infusions of iron. When my appointments were set, I told Jon it felt like I was way out at sea in a tiny little dingy at night but the rescue ship was shining in the distance. So for this I am very thankful!

It has become trendy to enter the new year with a chosen key word or two. If I were to pick I think it would be the words brave humility.

Sometimes it takes bravery to stop trusting in our own devices, bravery to sincerely admit from the depth of our soul that we are in fact useless for righteousness without God. We walk around saying we believe this, but not truly living it from daily conviction. This is humility. It takes bravery sometimes to humble ourselves in repentance before people, and bravery to say to the outside world, "Hey, don't look to me 'cause I'm pretty messed up. I am what I am by the grace of God alone, so look to Him!" ...and then actually live it. It's takes bravery to raise kids this way, too. Humility is absolutely necessary to trust God's backward way of living when my flesh thinks, "I can do it myself!" with a toddler-like attitude.

I read these good words to the kids this morning, and as they come to mind again tonight I think of brave humility to simply trust God with my all...

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts."

So there. Cheers to brave humility despite the degree of happiness we feel in the coming year! Joy, satisfaction, and confidence in God will always beat a fleeting, fickle feeling of happiness!  xo


Monday, January 9, 2017

Holiday Wrap Up and a New Year

We are firmly into a new year, and I feel a little behind the program in posting a few concluding thoughts. But that's how it is for me. Even though this blog is one of the first things to get pushed to the back burner, I still see the value in trying to keep a few thoughts and memories recorded. 

I like how the holiday season comes at the end of the year. To pull back from the mundane and to enjoy time with family and friends, and especially to celebrate the coming of God to earth for us, is like the great crescendo of the year. I always come away with more thoughts tucked away in my heart than I can (or have time to) describe here. Instead, I will write a few simple facts.

The fact that we always end up with a heap of gifts under the tree is always remarkable to me. I don't know if it's because of my upbringing, or simply because receiving anything is undeserved. Regardless, I am ever so thankful.

My younger two still enjoyed lingering around the tree to discuss, play, and daydream. I am already missing how all my kids used to gather around and play in, around, and under the tree when they were all little, even it it meant some things were broke and ornaments of gingerbread cookies were partly eaten. 

Andrew's way of posing for a picture.

 Christmas Eve was first spent at church, came back home and enjoyed a delicious meal Jon had prepared, and then we watched home videos together. The video watching has become a majorly cherished NYE tradition around here, and we always reserve that night for just the six of us.

Like most families, we had to break from our traditional Christmas morning routine because Christmas was on a Sunday this year. We entertained a few options, but our kids were pretty set on trying to keep everything as normal as possible. Since we were all serving at church in some capacity in morning (Jon preaching, Olivia playing bass with the band, Michael serving in childcare, Andrew and Jacob singing in the children's choir, and me working children's check-in) and some of us needed to be at church early, we didn't have much time for both opening gifts and having our traditional breakfast. No one wanted to forgo any part of our normal, which involves opening gifts one at a time and having a larger, slower meal together.

Instead, we opened our stockings and one gift in the morning and had just a small bite to eat before church. Afterwards, early in the afternoon, we opened the rest of our gifts while breakfast baked in the oven.

We love watching each other open each gift. I love to see the expressions, hear the words of thankfulness expressed, and experience the excitement of childhood and family. My kids all buy for each other some well thought-out gift, using their own hard-earned cash. I love that this is their default choice, not something we've ever suggested or imposed.

{Carol, this is a gift Andrew made for you the day before Christmas. There was no time to send it to you, but we'll make sure you have it by year's end! There is an origami bird suspended in the ball.}

We enjoyed a few special activities following Christmas day, but I have yet to sort through the photos I took. I really enjoy the down time between Christmas and New Year. The following are from an afternoon spent on the shore, and a few words scribbled out as I watched my boys...

"It's December 29, and I'm sitting on a Southern California beach in 70-something degree weather. It is absolutely gorgeous. Some might lament, "Lucky!" while others might prefer snow covered homes and cozy knit sweaters for the holidays. This is what I get to enjoy today, but I have discovered that enjoyment is really a posture of heart no matter where I am or what my circumstance.

While Michael and Olivia are ice skating with friends, I am here with Jacob and Andrew. They are testing their new skim boards while the tide is out, learning and quickly mastering yet another skill. I occasionally laugh out loud at their frequent and comical-looking flips and falls from my perch atop a large bolder. My hair is getting bigger and bigger in the ocean air, which is especially not great because Jon and I are attending a holiday dinner tonight. I have pen and journal in hand, and thankfulness for... well, so much just wells up inside.

We've had a wonderful Christmas season. It has been marked by service (which is always the surest way to receiving), by the de-emphasis in counting gifts and fulfilling all tradition, of finding community in our church family, and of closing the doors for purposeful time with our nuclear family. I tried my hand at my grandmother's infamous cuisine, and attempted to re-create the French Canadian menu of my childhood Christmases. Not surprising, nothing could compare with my grandma's dishes and the heart-warming feelings they evoked.

Today, I spent the morning rotating between doing home and ministry admin, feeding children who aren't operating on any sort of normal schedule, and taking down Christmas decorations. My mind shot backwards and forwards between the organization of a new month --schedules, appointments, meetings, classes-- and the reality of another year coming to an end. The Christmas ornaments and little music boxes were dusted off and carefully wrapped for storage, while pine cones were tossed into a basket by the fireplace to be used for kindling. The once-fresh garlands of cedar lay in the green bin, and tree needles lay scattered across the floor waiting to be gathered and carried away. The tree, which is still in fairly good shaped, will soon be dragged out to the curbside.

And so it is with a closing year. We wrap up our little treasures to be stored up in our hearts, carefully preserving them for the future. The good things that stand out are cherished and kept safe so they can be recounted in years to come. The dust, the useless things, and the trash are wiped away, swept up, and thrown out. Just like the crud of life that lies behind us.

God calls us to look backwards and forwards.

We are to look back and recount His mighty deeds of old, and His wondrous works in the lives of His beloved. One generation to the next, we are to speak regularly of these things and praise the Lord for them. His works are recorded for us in the Bible, and His faithfulness and steadfast love is still evident in His story for us. The rest of it --that which is the result of the Fall-- is already dealt with. It is wiped away, burned up, and cleaned out. In fact, it was mercifully dealt with at the cross.

We are to look forward, too.We look with expectation and hope for answered prayer, we look to the fulfillment of promises, and we run straight ahead with our eyes, our hope, and our faith fixed firmly on Christ.

Yes, I do believe the best is still to come!"

Happy New Year to you all.


Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas

Another year draws to a close and we marvel at the undeserved goodness of God in our lives. We are confident that He does all things with divine purpose and care, for our good and His glory. He has never faltered in His faithfulness and love towards us, and we praise Him for it!

As we think of a babe in a manger this Christmas, may we rightly recognize the complete love and utter humility of Christ in coming to die for our salvation. May the salvation He brings be the reason to be merry!

Aside from my salvation, my greatest earthly blessing is my family. This precious family began with Jon and me before the arrival of our children. God began to knit us together long before adulthood, long before I had any clue what constituted a good life partner. Although I can't imagine life without Jon, I especially cannot imagine it without the sanctifying power of God in us. God has blessed us with each other, and has carried us and strengthened us despite each other. Our marriage is what it is because of God's continued work!

Jon proposed to me on Christmas Eve 1997, in a snow drift on Parliament Hill overlooking the river and the Ch√Ęteau Laurier. I have worn his ring for nearly half my life... my heart has been his for much longer. I am amazed that our commitment to each other continues to deepen through the years, amidst all that life can do to tear us apart. All glory be to God!

And then came the kids! More evidences of God kindness and grace!
They are precious to us and cause us to depend on Him all the more!

Jon and I are proud of each one of them. They have each grown and matured this year, and their unique personalities and gifts are thrilling to see unfold and develop. We are thankful for the friendships they have with each other.


Sensitive to the things of the Lord
Patient, kind, hard-working
Intelligent, creative, purposeful
Serves her church, family, and peers
Music writer; Guitar, ukulele, and bass player 
Soon to be behind the wheel!


Loves the ocean, reptiles, nature
Daydreamer, researcher, planner
Comedian, outgoing, jokester
Global-thinker, designer
Growing academically, and very tall
Serves at church with sound (audio setup), clean-up, toddlers


Organized, orderly, systematic
Loves body boarding, football, unicycling
Experimenter, engineer, builder
Dependable, thoughtful, hard-working
Loves his family and friends
Tender-hearted, affectionate, committed


Free-spirited, day-dreamer, independent
Fascinated by succulents, cacti, mushrooms
Creator, experimenter, designer
Loves football, skateboarding, swivel boarding
Sociable, affectionate, tender-hearted
Enjoys time alone to think about the Lord

The location and props for our pictures this year were a last minute decision, but looking at them I can't help but notice a theme. We are traveling this road of life together as a family. It has been a wild journey of learning and maturing, both through comforts and trials. God has sovereignly placed us together for this; it is a blessing to share burdens and cross bridges of life side-by-side.

God will be our guide and our light, and so we look to Him as the author and perfecter of our faith.

May your Christmas be filled with the knowledge of the goodness of God toward mankind. May you know true peace that comes from reconciliation and relationship with God, which is gifted to those who repent and believe on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. May you know deep and abiding joy now and forever!

From our family to yours, we wish you a very merry Christmas!