Monday, June 27, 2016

a speech for Sloanie's grad

i still remember giving birth to Sloanie, and despite her dainty cry that filled the room in those first seconds after delivery, the first words out of my anxious mouth were, “Is she alive?”

We named her Evelyn - meaning LIFE - her full name means, “warrior for life and truth”, and it has proven over these past nearly 18 years to be a prophetic name. Honestly, there have been times that i regretted giving her a name that meant warrior - wondering if it was this moniker hanging on to her like a secret, invisible marking that made it seem like she’s had to fight so hard for everything... i’ve watched her fight for her own character, for relationships, for grades, for growth, for peace in her mind, for answers... and as she grew into adolescence with an awareness of her own soul and worth, i’ve watched her becoming the most eloquent warrior that i know, for both life and truth. I AM KNOWN is her battle cry - and with it, she brings truth to light, and shines hope into darkness. 

When i started homeschooling, i remember joining an online support group of Alberta Homeschooling Moms. Other, more experienced moms would say to us newbies, “Always remember, homeschooling is a marathon, not a sprint...” At mile 1, i was full of purpose... i had two years of homeschooling under my belt as Sloanie started grade one. She had been an eager reader and by the time we started schooling, she was already devouring books - something that hasn't changed over all these years. We grew to be a team as we ran this marathon together. i lacked the experience and the talent that some other homeschool moms seemed to have, but i vowed to myself that i would make up for what i lacked by doing the things i was good at. i took stock of my abilities and found that i was good at two things: relationships and love. And so we built relationship. Much of our curriculum was built on conversation, discussion and debate. We learned about math and social studies, english and science... but we learned too, about character, ethics, compassion and kindness. 
Homeschooling Sloan has been my joy. We found our rhythm, and we put miles behind us… year by year, till i became the one nodding sagely to anxious younger moms, “Homeschooling is a marathon, not a sprint… you’ve got this… long, even strides, just breathe…” 

i got a chance to watch pieces of her personality unfurl as she grew, and i found myself - like all mothers do - falling in love with all the bits that made her different, unique… *my* softie. If you notice on the banner we made over there, we put some quotes from some of her favourite books. Sloanie has always been a fan of the sidekick. Caspian is good, Reepicheep is better. Frodo is fine, but it’s Samwise who she roots for. For her entire life, Sloanie has played the faithful, loyal sidekick. 
One day, when the girls were maybe 4 & 6, they had a little friend over to play. The friend was right between them age-wise and it seemed a sweet little mix, but from the kitchen i heard whisperings that sounded upset and i started paying attention. Cairo was standing shyly off to the side and Sloanie was in a furious whispered discussion with our guest... As i listened, i gathered the gist of what was happening. The guest was trying to get Sloan to come play a game with her, but was hoping to leave Cairo out... Sloan - who has worn the nickname ‘softie’ since birth was having none of it. Her little voice raised and her tiny foot landed solidly on the ground as she resolutely kept eye contact, “i SAID... not without Cai.”
Steadfastness, loyalty, faithfulness... 
Sloanie, you are the most worthy of sidekicks. 

Our feet got calloused as we ran. We got blood blisters, nausea, we lost toenails, it was a mess… and some days we wondered if we could continue, but we did. We ran… 
These past 2 years as Cairo moved on to her college education, and now with Peyton moving into public high school, Sloanie dutifully took on the biggest sister mantle. i think she missed her sisters on either side of her. i did too. She wore her big sister mantle differently than Cairo did... Where Cai’s strengths seemed to lie in organizing activities for our little ragamuffin troop, Sloan’s seemed to lie in burning the energy of a house full of small boys who were always aching for someone to chase them, to wrestle them... to tickle them and make eye contact while they told her what, exactly, was on their minds. They needed touch and her arms seemed perpetually open... and perpetually welcoming little blonde brothers. 
She wrote. She spoke carefully and with caution, but when she wrote, she wrote with abandon and a fierce honesty that made her writing great. Sloanie, i hope you never stop writing. It is a gift to both you and to the world. Share it. 

We are coming into the last couple yards of our marathon, Sloanie. The crowd is going crazy. We see the finish line. Our muscles are aching, but we did it.
Warrior, side kick, big sister... we’re there...

i want to finish with one more story. 
Many of you know that Sloanie and i went to the twenty one pilots concert in April. i had never been to a concert like that - with a crazy roaring crowd and bodies pressed so tight my cheek could rest on the back of the person in front of me. Sloanie tried to protect me, often lifting me effortlessly so i could see above the crowd, as we half shouted, half sang till we were hoarse, the lyrics that had saved us both over the course of the past couple of years. We cried as we recognized our Saviour hidden in lyrics that invited the broken and spoke healing to the hurting. We danced and jumped and pushed until we were bathed in sweat and tears - both our own, and everyone elses... Somewhere nearing the end of the concert, she leaned to me... me... her 39 year old mother... and said, “Mom, i’ll lift you up. You crowd surf, you can do it, you’re little... i’ll lift you up!”

And even now, it makes me laugh... “I’ll lift you up... i’ll lift you up... i’ll lift you up...”
Because it seems to me that lifting me up is all she has ever done. 
So, today i lift you up, my softie, i’m so proud of you. 

i wanna leave you with a Franciscan Benediction that so fits with the warrior name we gave you when you were born: 

May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that we may live deep within our hearts.
May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that we may work for justice, freedom and peace.
May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in this world, so that we can do what others claim cannot be done.

Friday, November 6, 2015


Ephraim is learning to read. One of the things i've learned to be good at as a homeschool mama is consistency. Learning to read requires consistency, a daily habit of study and effort; and so we have diligently followed through.
It has been hard.
Many days, he leans his little blond head on my shoulder and almost persuades me with his charming, diverting conversation starters to abandon books and to cuddle and chat, but instead, i tap the thick black words printed in the book and we labour over letter sounds and blends. Week after week as our book got harder and harder, we worked - and he stumbled more and more, pausing, confused, guessing...
Softly, "Mama? This is really hard..."
"Yes. It's so very hard, Ephraim. Should we go back ten lessons and start there and work our way back up again?"
"Can we do that?"
The blue of his eyes is beyond description. It's light and vibrant - like the sky. It's impossible to gauge the depth of that colour. His skin is ivory and his white curls frame his sweet face as delicately as his thick lashes frame his eyes. He is looking at me earnestly, scanning my face for disappointment or disapproval.
i keep my voice light as i smile encouragement on him.
Of course i don't want to go back ten lessons. Of course i want all of our work to be easy, i have followed every instruction, we have been consistent, we put in our hours of work... we deserve to be moving along, swiftly... to go back now feels counter-intuitive.
i'm tired, i'm selfish. i want to be done.
But the reality blinks at me as i meet his tender gaze.
My goal is to hold his heart, my goal is to model patience, love, joy and peace to his sprightly spirit as i teach him to read. Ticking boxes, book completed, time recorded working - all of this has such a small role to play in fulfilling that goal. How many times have i lost focus of my true goals in motherhood as i impatiently shoved my little ones down paths they weren't ready for, through concepts they didn't understand, into expectations that i borrowed from whoever put them on me? Is it my goal to have a spotless house? Or is my goal to encourage thoughtfulness, consideration and etiquette? Is it my goal to have my kids clean their plates? Or is it my goal to teach them to listen to their bodies and learn to nourish them thoughtfully and carefully? Is it my goal to finish curriculum? Or is it my goal to create a desire to learn? Sometimes meeting those goals is messy, backwards, slow, plodding progress... Sometimes we pick relationship over rules, heart over success, our little person... over perfection.
We flipped the pages counting backwards, 68, 67, 66, 65... as though those hours of work had never been done... starting over again. 64, 63, 62, 61... the stories got shorter. The words were simpler. He scooted closer to me and we counted back together. 60, 59, 58... "K, buddy. That's ten lessons. Let's try to read this story and see how we do, ok?"
"i remember this one!" He offered quietly, his eyes still waiting, watching for me to sigh, frown, roll my eyes... i smiled genuine pleasure. i love him.
My mother's finger found itself attached to my hand and it tapped the first word.
His speech impediment burrows into my heart, softening, blessing, ministering.
The words flow. Murmured reminders escape through my barely parted lips as we read.
He pauses.
He's looking at me, and i look at him.
"i'm fast..."
"You sure are, buddy. That's some fantastic reading right there..."
And we soak in our lessons... absorbing what we need, learning and growing... teaching each other.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015


Cairo's fiancee asked if i'd be willing to answer a series of questions for a class he was taking a year ago. i sort of feel like anytime someone asks about your relationship with God, you should probably take the time to answer, so i did. These questions often only allow you to see how a person feels in just a snapshot of a moment - this was 'where i was at'... But it's a valuable exercise both to ask these types of questions, & also to answer them... When i found this post in my drafts folder, i decided i'd post my answers here just for posterity. 

  1. Please describe how you became a follower of Christ and some of the changes that took place in your life after surrendering your life to Jesus Christ?
I was born and raised in a Christian home, and even from the tenderest first years of my life, I remember making the choice to be His. The changes that He has made in my life since my childhood conversion have never stopped – it has been a constant growth, ever more surrendering, a constant wrestling out my faith with fear and trembling – with very little, “arriving”.

  1. Why are you a follower of Christ?
I am a follower of Christ because He is faithful. His worthiness softens my hard heart and His kindness makes me want to be more like Him.

  1. What is holiness?
When I think about holiness in a Christian walk – I think about our, “otherness” – how this earth is not our home. When I think about holiness, I’m not thinking about a set of rules and obligations that I need to fulfil in order to somehow magically force myself to be holy, spotless and blameless. I’m thinking about how i have become His – and how as a result, there was a death to the old man (my sinful nature), and now I am new, alive and set apart. God is Holy – and because I am his girl, *I get to be holy too*. This holiness is the evidence I have of my life in Christ! Faithful Father that He is, daily, hourly, in every moment - He strips away the old, the dead, the diseased… and He clothes me in righteousness – inviting me not to strive, but instead to surrender. Holiness happens because *I am His*. 

  1. What is the purpose of Church?
That’s a hard question because The Church is the bride of Christ – the body of believers… but when we talk about church, most often we’re talking about the gathering of people at a building to worship together and to grow. I wrote a little blog post about church a couple of years ago – and I think it describes some of the purpose I see in this gathering…

this is the church i go to...

Hey, let me introduce us...
We're the broken - the sick - the lost - the dying...
We've struggled with death and disease, some of us have come here looking for answers, not knowing if we believe in heaven at all... some have become hard and calloused and don't even know why we're here Sunday after Sunday. Still others of us come because we need fellowship with other people who love Jesus...
Some of us are struggling with infertility, some of us have been cheated on, disrespected, abandoned by spouses who should have known better. Some of us have been happily married for decades. Some of us are lonely, guilty, shy, boisterous, bitter or happy. Some of us are reeling from circumstances that have spiraled far beyond our control.
This is the church that i go to...
Some of us mouth the words of the songs because our hearts would break if we *really* sang those words. Some of us are unemployed, former addicts, present day mess-ups, control-freaks or successful businessmen. Some of us are grieving our babies lost to miscarriage - others grieving our children lost to abortion - & still others are gratefully anticipating new life with swelling bellies and tearful gratitude.
This is the church i go to...
Our childhoods are as varied as the rest of our lives... Some were happy.... Some of us were neglected, abused, ignored or abandoned. Some of us were motherless, others fatherless - some of us got good grades & some of us are drop outs. Some of us still feel stuck in those years - the hurts won't heal & we come here looking for answers... looking for Jesus... so we can quit wasting away and start living.
This is the church i go to.
Some of us come straight from work, others from hellish, unimaginable situations, & some straight from a good night's rest... Some of us go home to empty houses, or warm lunches, or out to work again...
But on Sunday morning, we gather as a congregation...
We, who are daily becoming aware of our need...
He is the cup - and we are thirsty - parched, crawling and almost delirious with our need.
He is the bread - our frail bodies are wracked with hunger.
We're clinging to the cross...
This is the church i go to.

I guess, in short , I believe the church is a place to gather to pray, take communion, teach and to worship corporately  with other broken, needy people. 

5.How did you discover God’s will for your life?

I feel much the same about this question as I do about question 1 – in that there has been much growing, learning and changing – with very little arriving at a vocational destination. There have been times though, where I found that I had to do something to be obedient – any other action would have been flagrant disobedience. For instance, when I was 19, through my own disobedience and sin, I found myself pregnant and single. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God’s will for my life was for me to lay down my own dreams, desires and plans – in order to be a good parent to the small child who had come about as a result of my sin. Abortion wasn’t a thought – neither was adoption. She was mine, and I would spend the rest of my life protecting her like I should have by waiting to have sex until I was married and it was a safe place to welcome a child… God’s will is often less confusing when we realize that it’s about laying down our own rights and the things that we feel are owed to us in order to minister to the least of these…

  1. Would you describe your experience with spiritual disciplines, in which have you participated?
By spiritual disciplines, are we talking about prayer, devotions, bible reading, weekly church attendance? i’ll share a couple of stories that have shaped me in these. When I was around 27, I found myself hungry for answers. I had a million questions for God – and specifically on one topic that I found baffling in the lack of teaching on it in the church. After asking several pastors, and getting what I felt to be half hearted opinions that felt like a dismissal, I decided to open my bible, and see if I could find any truth there. Over a period of three and a half months, I read my bible cover to cover, highlighting each verse that I felt shed some kind of light on the subject. I found when I reached the end of my bible that I was satisfied with the answers that I had found there – the cultural ambivalence about the subject mattered less to me, now that I had read how my Father felt about it.
The second spiritual discipline that had an enormous impact on my life was my participation in 40 Days for Life – a local prayer vigil outside of our city’s abortion clinic. Never in my life have I had such times of agonized prayer, lonely petition, praise and worship or just companionable silence with God. I learned that praying for an hour, for two hours – was hard. I learned how to pray scripture – how to listen for His voice. I learned to question the value and purpose of prayer – and IN PRAYER, I found the answers to these – and many, many other questions. I fell in love with my community and with the people in it… God changed me, challenged me and grew me when I met diligently with Him in prayer…

  1. What does it mean to fear God?

When I talk about “fearing God”- I mean respect and honour. When I got pregnant at 19? I think that I had ceased to fear God. I loved Him, but my sin was precious to me… you know that Thomas Watson quote, “Till sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet. ”?  I guess it’s sort of that – my sin isn’t funny, mild, small, petty… precious. It’s bitter… and fear of the Lord – is the beginning of the wisdom that takes me far from it. 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

It's a new season - HOPE

i thank God for fresh new mercies every single morning...
But i do get  special breath of inspiration after the winter break as the new year dawns and i feel more refreshed and bold - full of optimism and confidence as i look ahead. It has become a bit of a habit to choose a word in the new year, but this year instead of choosing a word for the new year, my word chose me...
It came to me in verses, instagram posts, conversations. It was pointed out by friends, my kids, in our devotionals... It became almost comical as i laughingly predicted out loud to my kids one mid-December day that the word would be confirmed to me one more time and then texting them the mind boggling confirmation hours later.
i've wrestled with hope over the years. The delicate balance that exists between contentment and desire - between drive and acceptance; this has always been something i carried awkwardly. i could easily jump on to eternal hope - but got bogged down when i tried to carry hope into the here and now of my life. i'd lose hope when things got hard, when things didn't go my way, when i didn't see any possibility of redemption this side of eternity.
But Hope chased me down at Christmas time and i let it catch me. Winter melted into spring and hope was relentless. Summer burned itself out and the blazing glory of fall colours refused to sing an ending song; instead they called me to hope - ever louder, with increasing urgency.
A friend recently encouraged me with an off hand remark that she admired my flexibility with life.
It almost made me cry - this friendly encouragement about something that has been so hard won. i've been wrestling with and praying about this new season that we're heading into, (not having babies and simultaneously my oldest babies stretching out wings and preparing to leave the nest). i think i've felt at times almost like i could lose myself... like so much of my identity rested in child-bearing that i wouldn't know how to navigate the transition. i didn't want to transition. i resisted transition, fought it, cried over it, grieved it... And finally, i buried my face in my Father's chest and poured out my heart... "My hope is gone. The end of this season of life, brings the beginning of the season of death, and i'm not ready... i don't want it."
Gently, tenderly, mercifully... He has been leading me to a deeper understanding of hope. Hope that transcends time - hope that sustains me in the here and now... It has gone hand and hand with surrender, of all things... surrender.
Surrender of beautiful, worthy things is hard. i know it... And it often feels like this surrender is in direct opposition to hope. But when we surrender and our hope becomes not a specific thing or time or person - but instead we begin to hope for what most brings Him glory - it is life giving. When you think you hope for solitude, but God sends noisy, boisterous teenager company... You learn to joyfully hope for those teenagers. When you think you're hoping for your husband to come home, but he's gone and instead you have more time to devote to little boys and stories and all the housekeeping that gets shoved to the side when he's home, you learn to hope to fill your time wisely. When you hope for life to be easy, but instead it's hard, you learn to hope for the fortitude and the character to do hard things.
These lessons didn't happen overnight. The beginning was agonizingly tedious as i'd habitually want to control things that weren't mine to control. i kept track of each set-back... noticing when surrender felt impossible and even wrong... i gave myself a time line - two hundred days of surrender... of hope. Two hundred days where i would be flexible, hope for the good in the change and welcome joyfully all that came to me uninvited. i didn't know what would happen after the two hundred days, but i felt like i could shut my mouth for two hundred days... make notes of my rants, discomfort and failure... and practice a little grace. This summer, i celebrated my two hundredth day and it passed like any other - no fanfare, no burning desire to free myself from the shackles of hope. Maybe it was evidence of my own transformation that i let it pass in anonymity and woke up the next morning ready for more of the same.
i'd like to tell you that everyone around me was amazed by my efforts and by the fruits of obvious change in my life... but i don't know that anyone really noticed... except me. There was the discomfort and pain of surrender, and i knew that part was gonna be hard, but i wasn't prepared for the joy. It snuck up on me the same way the green sneaks up on the grass in spring. Less fierce control - more of the flexibility that my friend assumed was just something that had always been a trademark... There was a fierceness to my newfound joy. My happiness was genuine. i felt good, i felt strong, i felt hope in the here and now, in the daily grind, in the mornings and in the afternoons too. i was transformed by hope.
And i guess part of what i've noticed each year that i learn to recognize my Shepherd's voice is that the things i think i know - are always almost unrecognizably unfamiliar when God teaches them to me. It's so hard to explain a heart change in words - it's so hard to acknowledge His hand when it's internal, eternal, impossible to hold or describe. Surrender, flexibility, humility, joy... hope... words that are familiar and yet now, they're somehow changed; they're strange and new to me... These are the words that He's stirring in my heart in this season, and i'm doing my best to pay attention.

Monday, September 28, 2015

the ring

i was 19 when he gave it to me 19 years ago. i felt like i was disgraced and i had mumbled red faced that not only did i not deserve an engagement ring, i didn't want one anyway. My mom didn't have one and i wanted to have a simple gold band, just like her.
He didn't care.
He went to the store and bought the tiny diamond held in twisted gold... inexpensive, yet extravagant in this tender hour of our lives.
i was embarrassed to wear it to school. i missed him. My morning sickness was severe, classes were hard. i imagined knowing smirks on my classmates faces as my body rounded, my grey face making obvious the changes as my body grew.
i bought our wedding rings with gig money. Simple gold bands... His was large enough to engulf mine. Mine was notched out to fit the bend of my delicate engagement ring.
"You can get them soldered together after the wedding," the jeweller suggested as i tried them on together, admiring them on my hand.
At night, i would replay his sweet proposal...
i almost took it away from him with all my words, "You don't have to..." i interrupted him, knowing what was coming.
"No. Let me." i'm so grateful he insisted. i needed to hear those words affirming his love. Our love. The tender bud that we promised that night to nurture forever and ever.
And now, the mists of time have stolen his words from me. The only ones i remember were his gentle insistence, "It's not because of the baby. i want you to be my wife..."
It was dark and cloudy that February night when he put that little ring on my finger and i agreed to be his.
And she grew.
We loved her.
Together, we loved her.
i finished school and came home for good only one week before our wedding, and when we were finally alone, i pressed his big hand to my belly so he could feel her kicks. i searched his face for fear and found none. If he searched mine, i am confident that all he found there was adoration.
This love?
We got something we didn't deserve.
Oh the grace... Oh the mercy... Oh the kindness.
And this week, i gave that ring away. i pulled it off my finger, like i've known i was going to do since that tiny pale creature told me when she was wee that my engagement ring was something she would like to have one day. i pulled it off my finger like it didn't matter to me - and i placed it carelessly in front of the boy who had just asked us for our permission and blessing to ask her to be his wife.
He had started off with words running over each other, nervous, maybe a little flustered, "i had a fancy speech prepared, but i'll forego it..."
i didn't want him to regret rushing, so i stopped him.
"We want to hear it..."
And so he wove his words carefully, looking us in the eye and telling us his hopes and dreams. Their plans and wishes... Hers and his. Together.
The ring sat on the table.
"You can have it." i said.
It means less than nothing to me when you compare it to my love for the girl who will wear it from now on.
Our girl.
And maybe one day, she will write about the ring. Maybe one day, she will chronicle her happy marriage, and her mother's before her.
Let love be the theme that runs deep and wide from my love story to hers... and to any and all that follow.


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