Monday, December 15, 2014

Oh, the Joy...

...of trying to take family pictures!

In the future, I'm going to avoid taking family pictures at a location that has distractions. Taking group shots is hard enough under ideal conditions! If it wasn't the dirt the boys were playing in, or the trees or hillsides they were climbing, it was the lizards they were all trying to coax out of hiding.

Then a dare: "Dad, see if he will bite onto your nose or your ear!"

Real life picture!


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Decking the Halls

We are getting into the fun of Christmas decorating and baking this week. While the others finished up school work yesterday afternoon, Jack and I set things up and started the gingerbread cookies. We must always have gingerbread cookies when we decorate the tree! It's our little tradition that goes to our first couple years as a family when the cookies served as ornaments. Then when the babies grew to toddlers (and cookie ornaments slowly and "mysteriously" lost their body parts until only a soggy head hung from the ribbon), and our collection of real ornaments began to increase, I started serving gingerbread cookies while we decorated the tree together. The tradition has persisted.

It struck me last night as the kids hung their little ornaments and reminisced about years gone by, that they are all growing up way too fast! It seems like just a little while ago they were all in their pajamas with rounded bellies and cookie crumb faces looking into the tree for the perfect place to hang their special ornaments. I remember how I'd go back to the tree later in the evening and re-disperse the decorations since most of them hung in clusters on the bottom branches. I remember how in the days to follow, my kids would play all sorts of games in and around the tree with their toy animals, or lay on the ground with their little music boxes, winding up the music and watching the little figures dance.

Times are different now. Different, but still good.

The memories make me want to hug them tight and savor the moments all the more this month.


Thursday, December 4, 2014

An Explanation

The raindrops have been pretty steady for a couple days. This is eventful in our part of the country, and the novelty of soothing outdoor sounds and gloomy skies make us want to bundle up all cozy and gather around the fire. So we have been doing just that.

It doesn't seem that very many people in our area are eager to deck the halls with boughs of holly just yet. In comparison to other years, I haven't seen very many cars loaded up with a tree or houses decorated with lights. For us, we are still just undoing the fall season. Yesterday afternoon I took down all the little sugar baby pumpkins I had as decorations and roasted them in the oven. I made some savory pumpkin coconut soup (that turned out way more spicy than savory), and served it with fresh made rolls and a fall salad with apples and cranberries. Jon lit a fire by the dining table, and he and I lingered by it long after the kids were in bed, each with our work.

Coming home from various lessons and errands today, the house seemed so cold and dreary, even dark. So the kids and I made a fire, then busied ourselves with making gingerbread cookie dough (me), audiobooks and sketching (older two), and boardgames (younger two). Here I sit late at night still enjoying it's warmth. Jon is out of town tonight, and our cold bed upstairs seems so very uninviting at present.


It hasn't been a huge secret that the last few months have been a challenge for me, but I haven't been too specific here on my blog. My life is not different than anyone else's - not really - and everyone faces times of easy and times of difficulty. I wouldn't even say it has been a genuine time of difficulty, certainly not in comparison to other things I've lived through. However, the last few months stand out to me as just long, burdensome, and somewhat dim.

This week I sat in a comfortable recliner chair in a room that had calming nature scenes on the ceiling. The nurse poked at my arm trying to stick me in the vein, calling over another nurse for help before wheeling her stool around to my other arm and successfully starting an IV. A few moments later, thick brown liquid serpentined through the line and into my arm, and with it the hope that eventually blood would transport oxygen as it should. I looked away and fought thoughts of dismay, and consciously chose gratitude and eager expectation. It has come to this, at least as a trial, after many attempts through other means. They tell me success can be determined only in a couple months. 

It's just iron deficiency anemia. That's it. It may be a little more severe than the common variety, but it's still a pretty small thing. I sat in an oncology clinic on the days I received my infusions. Anemia, in comparison, is a small, small issue.

But in my world it has an affect. Fatigue affects everything. 

It has also been my norm, and to an extent, it's all I know. I don't believe my blood profile has been in the normal range all of my adult life-- my oxygen carrying ability varies in its levels of insufficiency. I can handle the normal variety of fatigue, but when my anemia takes another crash, my responsibilities and relationships begin to suffer.

For months I knew things were not right: my heart frequently palpitated even at rest, my mind was in a fog I couldn't shake off, I'd laugh and get light headed from the momentary disruption of breathing. I fainted a couple times. But life goes fast and who has time to be sick, right? I didn't think of it too much, and I made excuses (ex. I just need to eat, or it's hot and I got up too fast, etc.). It's the same cycle every time. This time, however, we are seeking the advice of specialists, going to new levels with treatment, and hopefully finding a way for me to feel normal... whatever that is!

So that may be a little bit of an explanation for those of you who have asked or just wondered from the other side of my blog. The other situations and circumstances from recent months have been experienced by me in this state, so perhaps they have been felt in an exaggerated way. I sometimes think of a young child falling apart at the smallest thing because she is tired. That, I think, has been me.


I often (almost daily) think of my life and what I am doing with it. I never pictured myself so tired that I stop laughing, or so foggy-brained that I struggle to connect with my loved ones. But this is what the Lord has given me to test and refine me. I pray that there will be an end to it soon, but more so I pray that I would be faithful in the midst of it. We are each given abilities and disabilities (strengths and weaknesses), resources in some areas and scarcity in others, and we are responsible to manage those in a way that honors God. Jon has been so wonderful to me in the midst of this trial. He has accepted my limits more readily and completely than I have, and he has provided me with assistance in my workload and restricted my commitments. I have needed that understanding from him; the evidence of his compassion and love for me has been tangible. 

So there. Another little part of my story to journal. I wasn't initially planning on sharing this bit, then decided it would fill in some of the blank parts of recent months. 


Monday, December 1, 2014

November Closing

It's Monday morning and back to the normal routine again. The break was wonderful, and wonderfully spent. Thanksgiving was fun and full and tiring and, well, satisfying in many ways. The days following were a chance to relax (or recover?). I think the days after Thanksgiving are some of my favorites of the year because everything is in place, yummy leftovers take care of meals, and the days are wide open to just be together with Jon and the kids. We took walks in town and on the pier, we had late nights piled on the sofa watching silly videos or a movie, Jon made us breakfast one lazy morning, and we did some yard work on Saturday. Sunday was Andrew's birthday, and celebration for his life was sprinkled over the course of three days. We are certainly entering a season of celebration, and, considering the events on my calendar, constant baking!

Today I am making little notes for myself in my binder of recipes. They will come in handy for the next Thanksgiving I host- memos for menu ideas, what worked, what could be improved, tips for timing and portions for a given number of people, etc. Things went well last week, which was encouraging to me and showed me just how much I've learned in the past few years; however, I'd like to have fewer instances where I cross my fingers and hope for a good outcome with a particular dish, or roasting times and cooking methods. In short, I hope to become a host (and wife and mother!) that is calm and collected, and mentally present to enjoy people! I want to be the type of host that can make quick adjustments for unexpected guests, happy to serve all types of people. I believe it is possible, it just takes practice.


The very end of November is for Andrew. He arrived on the evening of the 30th, now 10 years ago. Apparently, the 30th is also St. Andrew's Day in Scotland, a celebration of a patron saint and national day. It's a funny thing to see "St. Andrew's Day" printed on the calendar each year.

For his birthday my Andrew wanted to go ice skating, so we did that last Friday with some of his friends. His actual birthday was on Sunday, so after church he wanted to go to one of his favorite restaurants. Then his plan was to come home to open gifts and play, then have chocolate fondue and an evening out in the jacuzzi. So simple. His best friend couldn't join us that day, so we are still planning a time for them to be be together.

My pictures are a disappointment; with the sun hidden behind clouds all day, even the outdoor shots are blurry. Oh well.

The buffet is the first place any of my birthday kids look to in the morning. This was taken by early morning light.

Lunch with a Mexican "Japanese Chef"

Trying on new football gloves

A brother testing out the remote control car

Fun for boys of all ages

Then off to the field to test the walkie-talkies, football gloves, and car

Andrew is such a special kid. He stands out to me in his tender heart, his generous spirit, and his industrious nature. He is reliable, goal oriented and determined, and thoughtful of the people around him. He makes my job as his parent so pleasant, and I just love being his mother and friend.

Andrew is fairly quiet until he starts to laugh, then he cackles in an incredibly loud and distinctive way. It's kind of a laugh and a shout intermingled. Sometimes he does it at the most inconvenient times, too. I often know if he is playing in the upstairs hallway of our church after services. I'll be talking to some sweet lady when suddenly I hear that familiar sound. I never know if I must excuse myself to run upstairs and stop my son from laughing. Sometimes I think to myself, "He's just a boy laughing. I'm glad he is enjoying his time at church." Other times I see the disturbed faces of certain older gentlemen, and so I run up before they do!

At the age of 10, Andrew still wants to be an architect. He especially loves small houses and structures, clean lines, and simple design. In fact, he loves all things "tiny," including cars and technology. He enjoys any type of material he can build with, such as Legos and blocks. He still appreciates interesting paper designs, though his love of origami has waned. Given these interests, it's no wonder he would play Minecraft all day if only he could!

He is still afraid of being married, and he thinks that his wedding day would be the most embarrassing day of his life. The kissing business is too much for him. He would like to have kids, however, and figures he could just adopt them.

He loves to play football, and would love to practice everyday if he could. He is doing well in school, and completes his daily work in less time than it takes some of my other kids to get started! 

He is an interesting guy, and I hope to learn his mind and heart in greater detail.


Monday, November 24, 2014

To be Known and Loved

It's strange to think how quickly this season is passing, with fall and the start of school turning into the holiday season, and then a new year just around the corner. In a way it seems like we were just getting started. Still, I am looking forward to a fresh start. I like the anticipation of a new beginning.

We are now officially finished with sports for the season, and now we transition to the indoors, to food with friends and family, to memory making, and to a season of various festivities. Our Thanksgiving guest list is still coming together, but I've started planning and cooking for Thursday. Even now as I type here at the table, I am surrounded by open cookbooks and multiple lists.  It's a fun (and sometimes overwhelming) challenge: Not only am I still learning to be at ease in the hosting department, but my kitchen has a number of limitations. After many years of working with tiny or dysfunctional ovens in rental homes, I at least have a functional standard size oven to be thankful for (although two would be nice on certain days of the year!), but now I only have two small burners to work with. If my pot or pan is large-- and they usually are-- I can only use one burner at a time. So, the challenge comes in being creative and well prepared!

But the rewards are good, too. I sincerely hope they go beyond what is known and felt by me.


The kids and I spent one afternoon in town this past week. I got a nice hot coffee and tiny treats for the kids, then Olivia and I oohed and awed at some really fun, girly things in one of the shops. From the corner of my eye, I caught Michael purchasing something he saw as I was looking through the racks on the other end of the store. I guess he has started his Christmas shopping. Sweet guy. I had to convince him I didn't see what he bought.

We then took a stroll through a little antique store. It's full of small items that the kids like to look through, and they enjoy talking to the gentleman-owner. I imagined what I could do with a dish full of old chandelier crystals, and now I think I may go back and buy them for Christmas tree or garland decorations. They would look classy, I think, and they were less than the price of an average Christmas ball. 

After our shop perusing, we made a bee-line for the beach before the sun set. Oh, how we are still so very thankful we get to live here!

Kisses from the boys, all at once!

The wind was so still that evening. Olivia and I just sat and looked, mesmerized, while the boys ran and had their fun.


We went to a wedding yesterday. It was one that Jon did not officiate, so it was nice to sit by him for a change. In fact, I feel the same way sitting in church when he is not preaching, though I don't think the overall experience of going to church as a family is ever the same as it would be if Jon was not the pastor. It's hard to explain, I guess, unless you already know what I mean! If you are married to a pastor, you know that he is always "on" in church, always aware of a myriad of details unknown to others, always available to the needs of congregants and visitors.

I suppose it OK to say this, too: At home, the thoughts and emotions of a pastor are often diverted or affected by all the details and situations of people's lives, not to mention the mental work of preparing multiple messages each week. I love that Jon has the desire and ability for the relentless work of full-time ministry. I am thankful to be his quiet cheerleader, a partner that tries to free him up and support him in some small way.

But truthfully, it isn't always easy.

I typically shy away from talking about being a pastor's wife. There are many reasons for this, but suffice it to say that it has been both a wonderful experience and a very difficult one, too.

Throughout the years, Jon's position has been a huge challenge for me personally. It would often seem that the skills and personal disposition required of me are the ones I possess the least! Marriage to a pastor has pushed, and pulled, and pressed me in so many ways. I hope I have learned more because of it, and that my character has been refine in the process!

The thing is, I don't really like to think of myself as the "pastor's wife," because there can be such a bizarre identity and list of expectations associated with that title. Rather, I think of myself more in terms of the "wife of Jon, who is a pastor." My biblical requirements are the same as any other Christian woman, that is to be a godly wife and mother, living above reproach and unstained by the world. It's not that I resent the role, it's just that I won't elevate it above my other duties. The bible has plenty to say about wives and mothers, but the term 'pastor's wife' does not exist.

The fact remains, though, that Jon's ministry affects nearly every aspect of our life. I'll even say that it has been a huge test of our marriage, and an impetus to fight hard for each other and for our relationship.

On one hand, the visibility of our life and the expectations to be and do have been pressures I've had difficulty with on occasion. There's this pressure (internal and external) to be and to do what is not comfortable or natural for me.

On the other hand, it has sometimes been a lonely experience. To some degree, a comparison could be made to having children. Whenever there is constant and significant competition for emotional, mental, and physical energies, the other spouse can often feel that there's hardly anything left over for them. We can be completely spent by the duties of our day, then we expect our spouse to understand and be patient with our role. However, this sort of patience and understanding in the long term eventually comes at the expense of closeness and unity in a relationship. Over time, we can begin to feel/ cause our spouse to feel over-looked, unappreciated, and unloved. Over time, the relationship can begin to erode. In deed, it's a difficult thing to meet the constant pressing needs of others (whether in the home or in the church), and still keep the best of ourselves for our spouse in the midst of it. It just is.

Some decide it's too hard and they pour themselves into their work/children instead (the visible, more pressing needs), and live in a fragile marriage of silent survival. Some leave the ministry, some get divorced, some wait till retirement before admitting that the relationship is so terribly fractured. Don't we all know how common this scenario is in our extended family and friends, and in the church? I'd venture to say all married individuals experience some sort of neglect (being neglectful or being neglected) at some point. I am certainly guilty of being and doing things wrong, and of causing harm.

Probably every marriage has it's hardships, it's fiery tests. Your tests, I am sure, are different from mine. I trust God knows what each of us needs, and lovingly ordains our story. And so with this understanding, we know that God intends trials and difficulties to purify and strengthen us, and we look to Him for the grace to obey in spirit and in truth, not in a manufactured, robotic type of obedience. I trust Him with the method in which He chooses to sanctify me.

I came across this quote a while back, and the gist of it was recently brought to my memory as I worked through my own feelings:

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”   Timothy Keller

We have this basic need for love. At least I do. I want to be known at the deepest level-- my quirks, faults, and insecurities included-- and still loved. I need to know that I'd still be chosen given the choice again.

It makes me think of the beauty of God's love, because He really does know me perfectly and still loves me unconditionally. In fact, He didn't choose me on the basis of my own worthiness or loveliness, but He chose me despite my wretchedness and based only on the righteousness of Christ. What a thought and a comfort!

So we press on in our pursuit and love for each other, each striving to obey as we are conformed to the image of God. There's no one I'd rather do life with than my husband Jon (who is a pastor)!


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Still Here...

It has been a while, but we're still here! Occasionally in recent weeks I have journaled in my head hoping to find a time to transfer thoughts into type, but then the opportunity or the energy seemed never to come. I keep telling myself not to give up on this journal, just to write about the present and not feel obligated to fill in all the blanks.

But now there is a moment, at least to get started. I am watching over the kids as they play in our cold pool. They have wetsuits on and are cruising around on an unusable inflatable mattress before we throw it out. The boys are having a grand time; Olivia is frowning because she wishes they would just sit still and relax.

The seasons are changing, but we've had some hot days nonetheless. Marine fog has been rolling in at night, and our mornings have been blanketed under a tick duvet of white. It makes the atmosphere quiet, cozy, and relaxed. I'm thankful for this weather change, thankful for the atmosphere it brings. I think we all are appreciating it.

I have felt on the verge of burn out more than once this fall, like I'm tinkering on the edge of determined "I can do this," and fear of "I'm going to snap!" It does no good to rehash all the circumstances but it would seem that many areas of my life (spiritual, physical, emotional, relational, ministerial) have been under attack or strain. I feel weak, weary, and tired. Today there was something new, another unexpected trouble, right in the middle of the morning. Sometimes, though, there comes a point when it seems almost laughable because of the irony!

I had a little melt down several weeks ago. Maybe it was more like a tantrum. Sometimes I think the Lord needs to bring me to the end of myself so that I see my need for help. I have needed help but didn't want to admit it. I prefer to think of myself as capable, and the giver of help rather than the receiver. Then there's my husband, the perfect mate for me. He is so understanding. Maybe not in a way that says he gets me, but definitely in a way that says he loves me. More than once I have thought of the verse in Ecclesiastes 4 that says, "Two are better than one... For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow." He has made sacrifices for me that say he loves me, and I am so grateful for him and for the way he leads us.

The Lord always know just what we need and when we need it, so He also sent me my mom. She braved air travel in America where the English is harder for her to understand and she came to spend a week with me. She did not know how I had been doing or that I was needing help, and her visit (which are quite rare) providentially came at the very best time. She came and she served. She just lived with us in the midst of our normal chaos, helping out where it was needed. She ironed a heap of clothes, cleaned off shelves, helped prepare meals, managed the kitchen each night after dinner, and cheered me on with her encouragement. I finally felt like I was able to climb up and out.

So these are good things from God: humility, a loving husband, a serving mother. I can't help but so say that I am thankful.

There has been plenty of good in other ways. We hosted a game night for the youth group of our church last Friday night, and the whole evening was such a good time. There were kids everywhere in my house! I have committed to helping out with youth events - something that is so good on so many levels. A few weeks ago I helped to organize a beach night, and next month it will be a Christmas party. I've had fun doing it, our family enjoys those occasions, and Olivia has been so appreciative that I'm enabling relationships and social time for her. Besides serving the church, I hope to foster good friendships and to promote an environment within our family where my growing kids know their friends are welcomed in our home, and that we (their parents) are invested in the relationships they have with others. The youth leaders are pretty rad, too, and I enjoy getting to know them.

We have a few more weeks of sports left, but already things are wrapping up. Olivia's soccer team won their last play-off game last weekend. It was such a good season for her. She has come out of her shell a bit since the beginning of the season-- for her, girls are harder to play with/against than boys!

In other news from this week, Jacob swallowed his loose tooth at lunch time, and I pulled an old thorn out of his scalp. He wasn't surprised at all when I found it, and casually said, "Hmph. No wonder my head hurt." His head is such a attraction for injury: His nose and both brows are scarred, his head is recovering from a bad fall on the cement several months ago that left him with a temporary bald spot, and his eyeball was nearly shot with Andrew's arrow (it got the lower lash line-- imagine my fright when he came in with what looked like a bleeding eyeball). Some boys are like that. Injury finds them.

Also, Andrew's braces have recently come off. I'm still not used to his new smile, and his cuteness makes me laugh each time he does. He is finally getting over the awkwardness of flashing his new teeth. Now it he can only manage to not loose or break his retainer...

Most of the time my mom visited, one or both of our vehicles were in the shop. It meant there wasn't much opportunity for going out, but we did manage to make it to some tide pools and into the historic part of the city.

It's a boys' paradise.

Olivia's painting from an afternoon not too long ago. It reminds me of my home province, Qu├ębec.

I read this the other morning in a little devotional...

“ ‘Only trust,’ is Jesus’ word. ‘This is all I ask of thee, the utmost thing I require at thy hand. I demand no costly sacrifice, no wearisome pilgrimage, no personal worthiness, no strength, wisdom, or endeavors of your own. Only trust me. Only believe that I wait to answer prayer, that I am gracious, that I have all power at my command, that I have your interest at heart, there is no good thing I am willing to withhold, that I, and I alone, can guide your present steps, can unravel the web of your difficulties, guide your perplexities, extricate you form the snares that have woven their net-work around your feet, and bring you through fire and through water into a wealthy place. Only trust me!’ ”

Octavius Winslow

Morning Thoughts, 539

And to that I say a hearty, "Yes!" Life is wonderfully simple for those who belong to Him.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Out to Play

It has been a full work day for me here. Some days I just have to move from one thing to the next, knowing full well that I can't possibly get to the bottom of the list. God doesn't expect me to do any more than I can, just to be faithful with my time and energy. I just finished scrubbing a shower and bathroom, and changing out ANOTHER load of laundry.

Life is not just about the work though! Good thing! I think a break now and then will only help me push forward later on. So this is it, a short break here at the computer for just a while.

(I doubt it will be uninterrupted though. Already I've had to help settle an issue between brothers, and stop one of their activities and redirect to another. I gave Michael an old modem to take apart, and he keeps coming in from the garage to show me the long strands of copper, or the tiny lights, or to explain to me how the pieces are soldered together. He says things like, "Mom! I just made an awesome discovery!" We now have a nice supply of copper for his science experiments. The little boys are now squealing as they run around in their swimsuits outside, throwing a wet ball at each other, and I wonder how our neighbors feel about us! Andrew came in to tell me I've got some pretty roses in bloom, and I went out to collect them for the kitchen island. Now where was I...?)

Some days I need a longer break, other days I sense my kids could benefit from a break from the usual. Now and then I think running around outdoors can be the best use of our time, regardless how much work awaits. This typically rubs agains my grain, against the way I'm wired. I have the tendency to want everything to be done before I can relax and have fun.

Anyway, this is what we did on Monday. It was just a spur of the moment outing. We remember these outings more than we remember dusted shelves and folded laundry.

Above: I failed at getting our start-of-the-year picture, a little tradition at the beginning of a new school year. I guess this will be it.

It's mostly a boy-world around here, but she and I band together. Actually, we're both probably more comfortable doing the boy stuff than we are with girly things.

My new hair cut. Kinda, sorta. It has already been a month since it was cut, and this is two-day old hair! Talk about not having everything done before heading out the door!

Michael had carved a little wood arrowhead, and he wanted to know my opinion. Olivia kept taking pictures...

Running free, making discoveries...

Funny mushrooms.

 Jacob looking at his brother, amazed (perplexed?) at the things he finds to do.

A little bun, held together by a stick.

Leave it to Olivia to find a tree swing!

And leave it to Michael to test it out first...

Oh, the joy!

I'm the trusty holder of treasures...

Puckering up when I made an exception and allowed the walking stick to come home. There are endless "special" sticks with my boys!

Oh, that I would not be overcome with my work and forget to enjoy my husband and children! I'm working at letting them know I enjoy them!