Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

1. 40 Days for Life begins at the end of February... i want to go at least 10 times during the 40 days.  Wanna join me?  Check it out HERE or follow our blog HERE

2.  i need to be more intentional with some areas of our homeschool... This January, i hope to build on the good habits we've already formed & beef up our homeschool day just a little. 

3.  i'm not gonna quit bugging God about that whole, "unloved" thing... i had this dream - & i was walking, making my way along in a city?  the country?  through a town?  i was walking, walking... thinking to myself, "How'm i ever gonna get there?" (wherever "there" was...) when suddenly, WHOOOSH... i was picked up by something like a great cloud... It was so mighty and thick, that my face was squished right into it, and i couldn't see where or how i was carried to wherever it was i was going...

i'm hoping that my healing is something like that dream... where God picks me up & we cover a vast distance that i never could have navigated in my own strength... He's able.

There are some nameless, faceless ideas for resolutions too... i would like to run a bit this spring, i have an idea for nanowrimo that is a possibility, the sweetness of my marriage is on my mind - i'd like to be intentional about my relationship with my husband, neil is gonna be travelling a lot this year... i want to do this part of life *well* - even when it's hard...

i love the freshness of a new year - the opportunity to glance around, wake up a little, shake off the weariness, change direction, choose better....

The picture that i am carrying into the New Year is of soil being tilled and made ready.  Hosea 10:12 says, "Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers his righteousness on you."  i like that... 'break up your unplowed ground..'  There's gonna be work this year - & i'm ready for it.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

bible - how we do it

Mama's often ask me how we do "bible" in our house.  i'm fairly certain i've blogged about this before, but i felt like giving it another go today as we head into the New Year. 
Over these past good years, we've sure done a lot of different things to hide God's Word in our hearts... We used picture bibles when our littles were all little, telling stories from that Good Book in our own words.  i even remember Neil acting out David and Goliath when the kids were really, really little. 
Later on, when Cai started grade 1, i moved bible from bed time - to a part of our school.  i found i was too tired at night & i felt like i wanted to be more intentional about it.  We used different devotionals (many that came with homeschool curriculums) - some of our favourites for really little ones were: Leading Little Ones to God or Right Choices.  i love simple, child-like language and lessons that aren't trying to be "cool"... We purposefully chose books to read that would invite thoughtfulness and discussion about our faith - things like Little Pilgrims Progress, Patricia St. James books, the Narnia Chronicles... Every day, we would do "bible" - which was really more of a devotional with bible reading in it - and also do some read-alouds.  These read-alouds weren't always faith focused, but sometimes they were.  Regardless, reading aloud good, quality books has been a long established tradition in our house & it helped to be able to use this habit to further invite discussion about the things that really matter. One of the first "chapter books" my emerging readers would conquer would be the Beginner's Bible - (which would also be a good choice for a mom with little ones to read aloud). 
Eventually, as my little classroom got even bigger and older, i moved away from devotionals... (and to be honest, this has been one of my favourite seasons in our bible teaching in homeschool... away from any curriculum) & instead i would pull out my big brown bible & read out loud to them... stopping to read certain verses again.
It got so that i would pass my big bible around that breakfast table, but i found it was cumbersome for my littler emerging readers... my older girls would pull out their own bibles, but the small differences in translation were often confusing and frustrating to little ones trying to follow along.  Finally, i decided to buy a little stack of inexpensive bibles used solely for family bible time. i have seven children - only 5 are "school aged" & must sit quietly - the other 2 can do what they want.
Now, honestly - anyone with 2 preschoolers can tell you that it's a rough go trying to have bible reading with little ones who can't sit... but if i waited to do bible with Cai till i didn't have little ones anymore... we would have run out of time.

& this time has been so worth it.
We have learned so much in these good growing years.  My 2 big girls have chosen to read through their bibles independently too - & i believe that the small seeds of hunger that have been planted by a really flawed, but consistent habit of prayer and study - are going to cause my little ones to continue to grow and learn long after they leave my little nest. 

the checkmarks are last year, the dashes this year
So now with children in grades 10, 8, 6, 4 & 2... we get up in the morning.  If you get up early enough, you can have breakfast & a shower, but when i call, 'bible' (around 8am)... everyone finds a spot in the living room.  We open to whatever book we're reading, and we've fallen into the habit of reading until we hit the next chapter mark after we've flipped a page - so, roughly one page.  When we reach the end of a book, we take votes on what we'd like to read next.  Right now, we're finishing Joel, Amos & Obadiah.  i'd like to have finished the whole thing before Cai graduates (!)

Some things to consider:

*i think it doesn't really matter what you do for bible time... i think it's just an awesome habit to get into.  Reading one proverb a day for a month would be a great place to start & then you could go back do it again!  (or check out the books i linked above.)

*Prayer is a giant part of our bible time... i want to understand what we read, i want our hearts to be soft, i want the change to be internal - not just an external habit.  Prayer for us is sometimes a halting affair sprinkled with petty arguments and criticisms, "Don't pray like that!", "Mom!!  Don't let her steal my seat!!" Don't let these things discourage you... keep on - the habit will bring fruit... i promise.  A good place to start might be to memorize the Our Father prayer (Mt. 6:9-13) with your little ones.  We pray for our daddy, for our neighbourhood, for Sadie... & we bring our requests to a Faithful Father who hears...

*If you feel guilty for starting & stopping & starting again... don't.  Realize that it will get easier the more times you start.  Choose to do it at a different time.  Maybe like me, you're too tired at bedtime - maybe mornings are too busy.  Find a time when it feels comfortable... maybe when the baby is nursing?  During lunch?  With daddy - or without?  Change what you're reading - or how you're doing it.  Maybe if your littles are tiny, a devotional or a children's bible would make it easier... Gagey loves his tiny bible with 1 paragraph stories much better than our family bible time. 

*Pause if you find a gem & take the time to memorize it.  My littles have memorized chapters in Luke or Hebrews, Proverbs or Psalms... Worth it.  Worth it.  Worth it. Cai memorized Psalm 23 when she was 3.  That's a good one :) Most often, i print out the chapter i want them to memorize & then highlight their verses - it's so much more rewarding to memorize in a group!

*Yeh, i know... parts of the bible are a little x-rated.  It's a hard book!  It's uncomfortable & sometimes not appropriate for all ears... Don't pause and memorize those parts just yet :) ... read them if you want - but don't dwell on the stuff that will be way over their heads.  You won't be able to explain it all - & that's ok.   

*Don't think that i've got it all together.  i don't.  My kids have seen me cry a lot lately & i often feel like a bitter failure :)  Just so ya know... this post is meant to encourage - not discourage.  Take what's helpful & discard the rest. 

*Bible time is only worthwhile because God is who He said He is... He... is everything. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

How to start a riot

Riots aren't that hard to start. 
Neil can start one with a prayer. 
"Dear Lord, thank you for this food, for a safe trip and for some of my kids.  Amen."


If you are sick of my morose, boring blog, it's not my fault.  My 15 year old daughter has made, "calling" blog posts pretty much an olympic sport & she beats me to it everytime something funny happens in our house. 
Her blog rocks. 
You can read it HERE. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

that christmas

Hey little ones...
Dad & i were talking in the van on the way home from Auntie's the other day about some of our favourite years.  One of mine was the year Gagey was born.  That's why i call him sunshine boy.  It felt like for some reason - life breathed warm breaths, no clouds restricted the sun's access in my life & the year as a whole brought good things... Daddy's was the year he went from production manager to mill manager.  He said he felt like, "the man", his efforts were all fruitful and his talents were recognized.  We've sure had a lot of good years, your daddy & i.     
i gotta tell you though, little ones, there will be seasons of sorrow in this life too. 
This summer... i felt the season coming on... like a sailor will notice signs in the sky.  A streak of darkness, a sinister snap of thunder... the storm clouds began to move in. 
& my Father provided for that time. 
He brought me to a new place of prayer.  One that i had never been to before - & one i never plan to leave. 
& the rain began - just as He put that covering over me... and my parents filed for divorce, my niece began chemo, and the things i thought were strongest proved weak. 
& that's what brought us to experience, "that Christmas" this year.  The one in the midst of the storm.  The one where Sadie had to go to emergency with a fever.  The one with only half of us there. 
& your feisty auntie sent me a text before we arrived & i smiled as i read something to the effect of, "i want to weep on your ample bosom". 
i told her she's welcome to whatever i've got.

She's funny & sometimes she can make you laugh till you cry...
& other times you cry till you just have to laugh too. 
It was that christmas for us this year.
The one that just had too many strikes against it to be normal.
But, it was also the one that brought us together with giddy joyful little ones who squealed and stayed up too late & made every effort worthwhile.  It was the Christmas Ephraim wasn't quite 2, and he loved baby Eva & they ran into each other's arms after her nap.  It was the Christmas that we ran out of chocolate, the Christmas of the Operatic Turkey Play and the Elevator Fart.  It was the Christmas we got those blinking reindeer noses, the Christmas the barn was finished, the Christmas Daddy awkwardly stumbled through his job change.  It was the Christmas Auntie jess got, "it's Friday" stuck in Daddy's head, and we listened to Dancing in the Minefields in silence while we waited for our toast to pop.  It was the Christmas of the comforting husband, the perfect weather, the song Hear Our Praises. 
& yeh, we cried... ample bosom or not.
& neil chatted with exclamation points all the way home. 
& this Christmas becomes, "that christmas" as it ends with a Silver fox pulling out of a friendly farm yard & i'm blinking back tears as the sun hits the snow and my husband murmurs, "You want a coffee for the road?"
& we wonder if those big extended family Christmases are maybe coming to an end?  These good years, sorrowful seasons - they come & go.  Some things you wait on your whole life & they never come.  Some reconciliations aren't yours to make.  Sometimes the seasons pass too quickly & we realize that in 2 years Cai will be in grade 12... & the winds of change are springing up all around us.
i'm grateful for this Christmas.
Even if it goes down in history as "that Christmas". 
Because the blend of the beauty and the sorrow - and the Faithful Father over all & in all... is a lesson i don't want to miss out on.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

driving miss daisy... ahem... paigie

i'm posting this on Christmas Eve... when most people aren't probably reading blogs.  i'm posting it for the ones who are hiding in their rooms, avoiding the festivities, or who just need some alone time.  i'm posting it for the introverts, for the ones who need a teeny grin, for those who will be glad to welcome a New Year.  i'm posting it for the ones who feel invisible - bleeding and dying on the side of the road - the ones who are crying out for Immanuel, "God with us"... to see them.
Hey, you know what?  i'm thinking of you this Christmas...
1.) Here is a verse that has been ministering to me... Hosea 2:14 “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her."
The whole context is a disobedient nation that needs to be punished... but He's going to "allure her... and speak tenderly to her..." because God?  He's like that. 

2.) Here is a post that might make you smile... Merry Christmas... now get back out there & Praise the God who speaks tenderly :) 

i was out with Cai the other night running errands & i had to laugh at my courageous 90lb daughter fearlessly driving our 12 passenger. 
She did great, navigating Christmas traffic and trying to muster the courage to actually go the speed limit.  We were working on breaking before a turn & hitting the gas midway through the turn and making wide "farmer" turns with our big vehicle into parking stalls.  She seemed to be absorbing every word i uttered (i turn into an auctioneer whenever she turns the key in the ignition).  But we were doing well, my little chauffeur and i, & i felt like, "k, we're getting the hang of this..."
We were all finished our errands & were coming out of that busy little shopping center on 130th when she took a turn just a turn just a touch too tightly and ran over the curb. 
"Whoops..." She barely whispered - nonchalantly under her breath as i gripped the seat and added in a shrill drone, "It'salrightkeepgoingjustalittletightontheturnyoucandothis!!"
As we continued out of the parking lot, i noticed an even larger, pristine 15 passenger - being driven by a Hutterite man.  We made eye contact & he had just the slightest smirk on his face... like he has likely been in my very seat at some point in his life. 
i saluted him as my daughter hit the gas, to take us home.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

God Bless the Hands Free Law

If i ride with Neil during work hours, i usually get exposed to a much more colourful vocabulary from his work associates on speaker phone than i'm used to at home. 
i'm pretty used to sitting in silence - listening in while he works & makes deals, gets pushed and pushes back... It's all a part of what he does. 
This January, he's switching jobs - leaving his employer of the past 12 years & starting somewhere new.  It's not a huge deal to me - his work will look the same - with possibly a little *more* travel... & so i haven't said much, despite our long conversations on the subject. 
We were riding home from an eye appointment i had down town.
i slipped in his "mobile office" after i was finished and he continued his phone conversation hands free while he navigated the busy traffic.
"Well, hey," his cohort said, "i hear congratulations are in order."
"Yeah.  i've got something a little new ahead of me.  i hope it's good... i'm looking forward to it."
"i hear you'll have quite a bit of travel..."
"Yep.  Should."
"You must have the best wife in the whole wide world - with all those kids & she lets you travel that much?!"
My eyes bugged out of my head... Neil's slow grin spread across his face...
i beamed as he glanced at me.  He looked caught.  i think he saw every molar i have.
"Yeah.  She's pretty good."  
& isn't it funny... some crazy little acknowledgement from a man i'll never meet just made my day? 
& so the New Year will bring my travelling man even more travelling - & i've got my work cut out for me too... this work doesn't come easy - the constant sacrifice & the texting communication... the late night flights & the cut off phone conversations...
But what we've got? 
Is something special - & i have no doubt it's worth it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

15 on Friday

This past Friday, i wanted to run to that church building... my heart was shouting, singing - my whole day spent in overflowing gratitude & prayers...
This 15 on Friday was the easy one.
The whole church yard was covered in thick, wet snow...
So, i stood on the sidewalk, letting the sun beat down on my head as i changed my posture - coming to that walled place that is just a badly constructed building... but changing my posture as a part of the *real* church...
The words bubbled out of me without hesitation... my feet wanted to dance, i wanted to shout... raise my hands and laugh as i stood on that sidewalk to pray.
The first 15 flew, and the second 15 too... but conscious of my little ones at home, & what felt like many, many people passing behind me - i finally decided to leave that little bit of wet sidewalk and head for home. 
i opened my eyes, and saw dozens of muslim men & boys heading to prayer at the Towne Hall, like they do every Friday... This was the crowd that was passing behind me on that sidewalk - brushing my back as i stood edging onto the grass with my face upturned & my palms open to Him. 
& i laughed that i had come - alone & a woman... insignificant & unworthy - to this piece of sidewalk in McKenzie Towne...
& He saw fit to meet with me there.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Are you ready for Christmas?

Wow - if i had a nickel for every time someone asked me that question...
i'd be able to afford Christmas. 
Heehee... i'm just kidding...
But seriously - that question always makes me wiggle a little in my seat... what to say? 
This year, i just smile & unblinkingly have answered, "yep!"
Even though i haven't bought a single present...
i have struggled with this one over the years - we have always done Christmas on a lesser scale than most, but this year it has shrunk to next to nothing. 
i put out our tiny nativity & i'm actually enjoying it - & Cai & i have done & will do more baking for friends & family parties, but i'm learning that i'm good with being different. 
i'm ready for Christmas - i'm ready for the candle light & the story of His birth.  i'm ready for snuggling my little ones & eating cookies & going to my sister's house for a few sleeps.  i'm ready to shout at the top of my lungs as we sing, "JOY TO THE WORLD!!!!!! THE LORD HAS COME!!"
(& pardon me if i grab my neighbour & sobbingly hug them as i sing it... it's just such. good. news.) 
So - i don't have any presents... & i'm pretty sure there will not be many... if any... bought.
But the reason i answer in the affirmative when asked, "Are you ready for Christmas?"
Is because i am.

Monday, December 19, 2011


"Hey mom?"
"Ya?" Without looking up as i wash up the dishes. 
"Kayla & i were working on actions for some Christmas songs for the kids program at church..."
"Well... What do you think would be good actions for, 'offspring of the virgin's womb?'
i collapse on the floor in hysterical laughter.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

one of these please...

What i want for Christmas...  

He's not God... but he's my gift *from* God.  God gives nice presents.

Friday, December 16, 2011

ACOD - pain - part 3

(part 1 is HERE)
(part 2 is HERE)

This is part three... even though i wrote it first & it has been sitting in my drafts folder for awhile now.
ACOD... Who knew there was an acronym for adult children of divorce? 
i'm learning new things these days... new language rolls off my tongue, and the jumbled mess of my feelings and thoughts heaves and lurches in my stomach leaving me feeling like a colicky babe.
Gravity isn't the same on this new planet i find myself on.  Temperatures, time and reactions all vary wildly from what i have been used to in previous years.  Gasping and choking - i'm trying to force my body to learn to breathe in this atmosphere that differs from the one i thought i would never leave... on that planet i'll never see again. 
My family is broken.
i have found that i spend a lot of time revisiting my childhood and trying to figure out just who exactly i am.  Sounds mellow dramatic?
i know.  Bear with me... or don't :)  i'm cool either way. 
i remember some of my besties when i was little were reeling from their parent's divorces.  i remember still the way they worshipped an absent parent, or looked jealously around our table at a family meal time.  i remember the bitter acceptance of new significant others in their parent's lives & a new patchwork of family that eventually became their new normal. 
It's different for me.  i don't have to choose where to live, and i'm all grown up with a marriage of my own, and tiny children to protect and nurture... It shouldn't affect me the same way it did for them... should it?
& yet here i am... a 35 year old child - who is gratefully clinging to the One Absolute that never falters, or wavers.  The more i seek Him, the more He reveals Himself... the more impossibilities i am presented with, the more i learn to bring them to Him, and He gently teaches me more and more... and impossibly more... Truth...
How can it be that though i find i don't even know myself, i find i know Him better than i thought possible?
i have been reminded through this (& i touched on it in my last post) that it seems to be a natural inclination in a believer's life to equate pain with sin... If you're grieving, or in pain - it must be as a consequence to your own sin... mustn't it? 
But i know that's not true. 
In this world... we're gonna have trouble.  (John 16:33) 
There's much to gain - much growth to do... many opportunities, in the midst of pain, to overcome, to submit, to love...
But God doesn't take marks off your test because you cried (& i'm so grateful He doesn't... i have cried too many tears these past months).  You won't fail because it took you awhile to work through your suffering.  He's not angry with you for not having had this understanding prior...
So, go ahead and grieve... bring your sorrows to the One who brings beauty from ashes.(< that's from isaiah 61).   Work through your suffering with honesty and diligence.

Psalm 18:16
He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
17 He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
from my foes, who were too strong for me.
18 They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
but the LORD was my support.
19 He brought me out into a spacious place;
he rescued me because he delighted in me.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

part 2... on pain

So He loves me, eh? 
i have heard the story of Jesus Messiah - Redeemer... Saviour of the world... since i was a tiny girl. 
That's where i want to start part 2... with Him who was there since the beginning.   
i read something today & while reading it, i realized that i have developed a habit of letting my eyes gloss over that part where He loves me as an individual. For some reason, i shrug that part off. i think of myself squeaking under the wire.  He came to die for the awesome people... & i?  i just melted into the crowd behind them & He let me in like a bouncer letting in a large crowd who all arrived together. 
& i'm crying again & i feel it only a whisper as i type this today - i want so badly for you to see my heart... but...
He loves me. 
He does. 
When i arrived at the door to knock, He met me there Himself... He holds my cheeks in His hands - never letting my eyes drop from His, so that i can see the depths of His.  great.  love.  for.  me. 
& it's not because i'm awesome. 
it's because i belong to Him - that He loves me... that He measures my tears, that He hears my cries and crooning reaches down. 

Last night, i slept with ephraim while my husband, on a business trip - slept far away.  We stretched out in that king sized bed, my son & i - & i closed my eyes & willed sleep to come.  Suddenly, he cried out - not in fear, or anger - but it was a cry of intense sadness. 
"Oh, honey, honey..." i whispered in his ear, stroking his teary cheeks and pulling his tiny body close to mine... 

& How much more my Father?  How could i think less of His love for me, than the love that burns hot and deep in my heart for my tiny son? 

My friend wrote me this note....

Paige, when we have believed a lie for a long time it's like we have this deeply rutted path. When something bad happens, our mind automatically goes straight to the well worn path. And it's hard to get out. Try pulling a wagon in deep ruts and then try to pull the wagon out of the ruts. It is tough work. But it's possible....with God. So, you need to make some new ruts. Ruts that lead your mind to truth.

Are you in a painful rut like i am? 
The grooves that say, "Paige... you're not worthy of the love of God (or anyone)... you're weak, foolish and insignificant... your prayers lack power, you're just not worth it... "
Those grooves are deep.
But with whatever i can lay my hands on, i make my first scratch across that dry earth.  Scratches that will form the new grooves that my heart will take... a path that will lead me far away from this barren place - to a place where i'm abiding in Him. 
Those deep grooves won't disappear overnight... but the fresh ones cut - must be the only ones i use...
His banner over me is love.

(you can find part 1 HERE)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

For those of you in pain... part 1

My friend Fawne - over at Beauty in Weakness wrote THIS post at the end of November.  
It resonated with me in a deep powerful way - even though i am not barren. 
In it, she talked about pain - & specifically the pain of barrenness, feeling like God's curse...
& isn't that like our world?  To kick someone when they're down - to assume when their child is sick that there is sin in their life, to write them off because they've been through a divorce, to point out their greatest agony & then say, "God's doing that because you're bad." 
Sometimes pain comes into our lives uninvited.  This world can be a dark, scary place.  Pain... is inevitable. 
i want to add my voice to Fawne's voice of calm certainty...

pain.....for a God's stamp of love on your heart.

Pain is God saying...."Child. I am crazy about you."

Ohhhhh - & i hear you saying... (because i'm saying it too) - if this is true... wow - God is most certainly playing favourites with me.  See?  i've got these broken, jagged scars to prove it.  i've got my disintegrated family, my sickness, my loss - & it sure doesn't feel like God's love to me. 
But, He's in it...

He's in it.
Pain doesn't mean that you did anything wrong.  Pain doesn't mean you brought your current circumstances upon yourself by your own state of worthlessness.  Pain isn't something that only people who are the very smartest & best can avoid, & if it comes into your life... well then, you're a miserable failure.  Sometimes we get away with sin scot- free in this life... & sometimes in innocence, we're brought through a desert of pain...

i'm hurting lately.

i know... it's obvious... i don't think i could ever be one of those crafty mama blogs, or homeschooling genius sites... i don't have an amazing story - or an unusual talent... but i reach into my pockets & i pull out the little treasures he's put there... a nickel, candy wrapper, length of string and a plastic frog... i hold them up & like MacGyver, my God uses what little i've got & creates something amazing.
& so i'll blog my hurt - my current pain - i'll see it as His stamp of love & share the trinkets in my pockets - trusting Him to finish what He started.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Guest Post part 2

Yesterday i posted part one of my friend's thoughts after volunteering at the children's hospital in Brasov.  You can read it HERE.  Today is the second part in the two part series. 


Five weeks ago I accompanied Steffi & Gabi as they returned two children to their families in Apata, a Gypsy village not far from Brasov (I wrote about it in my last reflection.) Both had been ready to go home for weeks but there was no indication the parents were going to come get them. The social worker deemed their homes safe enough, the hospital deemed the children healthy enough, so legally the children needed to be returned to their families.

I had assumed there was a legit reason their parents hadn't come to pick up their kids; however, I recently found out that in these cases the families had not come to pick the kids up because they didn't want to - they didn't want *them*.

So now these young ones, a perfectly healthy (and beautiful) baby girl and a 7 yr old boy with special needs, are in the care of their parents living in a slum - unwanted.

Will they be held at home? Will they be kept warm? Will they be bathed? Will they be attended to?

FFR expects we'll see these kids (and their siblings) at the hospital yet again. We've seen them before. In fact, one of their newborn siblings *has* since been brought to (and left) in the hospital...

My bias has always been that if a child has a family let's do everything we can to support that family so they can stay together. That's ideal. And that has been the lens through which I've been caring for the babies at the hospital - holding them and loving them as one standing in the gap, but eagerly anticipating the day when infant is reunited with mom and dad.

I'm learning, though, that sometimes this isn't actually best. Sometimes returning unwanted children leads to abuse. Sometimes returning unwanted children leads to neglect. Sometimes returning unwanted children leads to more harm than the good that can come from a family reunited.

But what's the alternative? Placement in an orphanage? Living in the hospital? Foster care? Is there a best? And if there isn't a best, what's second best?

In some ways I find myself hoping some of these children do come back to the hospital. (Did I actually just write that?!) They are worthy of so much more than being caught in a cycle of poverty that exists in these villages, and we want the pleasure of loving on these kids! We want the joy of holding, laughing with, cuddling, and teaching these teeny ones what care feels like.

Ok, everyone out there needs to experience the absolute joy of picking up Bogdon, aka "Porky". He is the cutest, giggliest little boy, even though he's been in the hospital - healthy for the most part (except for recently catching the *measles* from a sick neighbour baby…) - for a long while. He's got a head full of lice, but an infective laugh that I *wish* I was allowed to capture on film.... I will remember Bogdon...

But that's selfish, isn't it? My true desire is for their own families to seek - and to be free to seek - the joy of holding, laughing with, cuddling, and teaching these teeny ones what care feels like. But the weight of life is heavy for these moms and dads. It's heavy enough for me and I only have myself to care for... and I don't live in poverty.

A few weeks ago a newborn arrived on the newborn floor. Just a few weeks old, this little one has colon problems and needs surgery to remove a portion of his large intestine. The mother left the baby in the care of the hospital... and now she won't return. She believes her child has 'special needs' and no longer wants him.

So here lies a teeny tiny newborn alone in his hospital bed awaiting surgery. We love holding him, and once he makes it through his surgery he is going to be *fine*. But his mom doesn't believe it. To her he is not worth it, and he is now effectively orphaned.

Can people really just abandon a baby they don't want? Seeking help is hard... and doing the work to arrange for adoption must be overwhelming. But to walk away?

Of course I don't know what's going on inside that mother, and the systems she would have to engage to get help. I don't know the challenges she would have to overcome to be able to take responsibility for the life born to her - from the power of the example her own mother showed her, to a severe lack of education, to being a child herself...

I suspect my compassion would be triggered if I were to visit her in her home - which is likely a cold and dirty one room shack with 5 to 8 people living in it... But from here, from the position I'm in right now seeing her tiny baby spend 90% of his day alone on his back awaiting surgery, at only a few weeks old... I have to admit - I find it hard to empathize.

My compassion *was* stirred last week while we were on the fourth floor changing diapers. The little girl being changed beside me had worms. I have never seen roundworms before - the kind that grow inside people - and her diaper was filled with *hundreds* of the buggers. I looked over as Alisha (FFR supervisor) let out a surprised startle. My first reaction was to cringe and shrink away.

Picture a large handful of living worms trapped in a diaper...

You don't want to picture it, do you?!

If I had been the one changing her I think I might have screamed and jumped three feet in the air (those of you who know me well know how readily I startle at unexpected movements.... :) My second reaction was to feel incredible compassion for that little girl. She's about 3 years old, one of the oldest kids in the 'baby' room. I don't know Romanian, but she's been crying for 'mama' every shift I've had on her floor... and I know what that means. Here she is feeling miserable with a head full of lice and a belly full of worms, and she's alone.

It is common for children growing in Gypsy villages to have worms, and apparently most of the diapers I've changed likely had one or two (I just didn't notice them, covered as they were in all that other stuff... ;) The culprit: roundworm eggs in dog feces are deposited in the dirt by the large numbers of stray dogs kicking around, and can last for years in the soil. Gypsy children play in dirt year round, and are not regularly bathed and cleaned. And they get infected.

One of the FFR staff was musing the other day about starting a de-worming program for the Gypsy villages they are working with. After seeing it firsthand, I think it's a great idea.

Ok - one more story. This one is about a little girl (7 or 8 mos. old) who arrived in the hospital long before I got here. I think she's been here for about 4 months - half her life. Her name is Andrea. Her mom is a prostitute, and doesn't want her. She has lice, but is otherwise healthy. She cries *desperately* the moment she sees anyone who might hear her, relaxes completely once held in someone's arms, then cries/shakes/convulses immediately upon being put back in her bed.

Oh Andrea - you break my heart.

But... Gabi got Andrea into foster care, and this past week Andrea was taken to a real home. I have no idea what home life there will look like, or how long she will get to stay there... but I do know that Andrea has a *lot* of love to give, and if given the chance to be in real relationship with a mother-figure she will thrive.

We are so happy Andrea has been placed. But so sad that she had to be placed.

I hate that families and people and systems are broken. Where's that perfect world when you want it?

One day...

Anyways, there are a million stories to tell and a million actions to take.

I came to Romania for a few different reasons, and I am so glad I did. Have I changed because of this? I hate that question. I don't know. What I do know is that I am grateful for what I have, for the life I've been given.

I have been lucky to hold these babies, and I have seen the difference that visiting with, holding, playing, and providing toys and stimulation to these little ones makes. Those that can't sit up get a chance to be upright. Those who might otherwise have their bottle propped get a real person to feed them. Those who should be walking get a chance to strengthen their leg muscles. Those babies in that 'busy' stage get toys to be busy with. It's an outlet for babies to laugh and cry, to smile and frown. It's a time to interact with us, and with each other - and it makes a difference in their lives. We facilitated a 'Doctor Appreciation Day' a few weeks ago, and as we handed out gifts to doctors to thank them for their work and devotion, over and over they thanked us for the love and care we extend to the children - they too recognize the difference it makes.

There really is nothing quite like caring for a vulnerable little one. In some ways, they have nothing to give back; they are solely dependent on us for everything. But in other ways, just by lying helpless in my arms they give so much to me - trust, honesty, presence, smiles. I'm softer when I'm with them. More kind and more gentle. (Of course, there are moments when their tears and sickness and discomfort are a bit too much to bear... and I discover other less wonderful qualities in myself...)

This experience has reminded that I love being part of communities that work together, that laugh together, that serve together, that learn together. I love being a part of something good. I love learning. I love listening. And I want to be part of good things happening in my own city and country.

Romania is not the only place of need. People everywhere are in need of love, care, education, opportunity, dignity, help. I am in need of those things! And I ask of you - my friends - please please please keep me accountable! I want to give of my self and my time to others when I return home. Help me do that, will you? I've been caught up in my own head for a long time...

Thank you Firm Foundations Romania for letting me come to volunteer alongside you for a short while. And thank you for staying here and being part of the longer edition of this story - caring for the immediate needs of these babies, but also working towards ending the causes of abandonment. I have been blessed by you and the opportunity you have given me to spend time with these newborns, babies, and toddlers.

(I am not so thankful for the lice I suspect I've contracted... ;)

**and FFR, if I've miscommunicated anything... please correct me!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Guest post - by rachelle

One of my oldest friends decided to celebrate her 35th birthday by volunteering at Firm Foundations Romania for 6 weeks.  During that time, she posted 2 notes that i loved so much i asked her permission to post them here.  i hope they encourage you in doing what you're doing... i hope they inspire you to seek out the hurting, the lonely and the vulnerable.  & i hope that God uses every gentle touch and soft word - to bring His hurting lambs Truth. 

Thoughts after my first week volunteering at the Children's Hospital in Brasov.

Everyday this past week I have woken up to sunshine. I have showered, dressed, sipped hot coffee, walked 15 minutes down cobbled streets to the Children's hospital, climbed stairs to the third floor and changed into a set of scrubs in the FFR (Firm Foundations Romania) 'office', a small storage room filled with diapers, toys, and crocs. And then I held babies - lots of them.
The babies we care for have been given clothes to wear and food to eat. The babies we care for have been provided with a bed to sleep in. And, most of the babies we hold, feed, and change each day even have families back in Budila or Apata, Gypsy villages just outside Brasov - they are not orphans.
Certainly the people we've met and the babies we hold are in need - but at first glance, they're not in need to the same degree as those suffering drought in the horn of Africa, or living through the disaster in Haiti, or those refugees fleeing persecution from their countrymen (such as the Burmese fleeing to Thailand) etc etc. I'm reading Half the Sky right now (by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn - definitely worth the read!), and the horrors of sex trafficking and slavery also seem more desperate than the situation here.
But there is something here that is troubling: these young ones are left without nurture. Most of these babies have mothers, but their mothers are not here. Those of you who have studied attachment theory will know more about the long term effects than I do... but children under the age of two who are not nurtured by a stable caregiver are prone to suffer the rest of their lives relationally, developmentally, intellectually, etc. The potential devastation to a person's life, and the community at large, seems like a problem that doesn't have to be. We can't stop drought; we can't stop disaster; but surely we can stop systems that facilitate babies being left alone unnecessarily in hospitals, no?
The reasons babies are left in hospitals in Romania are numerous, and complex. I can honestly say I don't get it... but my heart breaks to see the same children day after day lying alone in their crib with no one to soothe them - for hours on end. Today when I placed Christina (the most beautiful ~6 mos. old girl) back in her bed after only 20 minutes of cuddling, her crying convulsions absolutely broke my heart. She should be held for more than 20 minutes today. Of course at least she's crying; the little boy in the crib next to her self-soothes quickly - he's far to used to not getting responses from his cries than he should be.
One reason is financial: the government gives a monthly stipend to families with children under two, which is a wonderful resource - particularly for struggling families. The problem is that many Gypsy families seem to be abusing this resource: having babies provides a steady income. Daniel, one of "our children" in the hospital, has one such mom who continues to have children for the money. Since she doesn't actually want her children, she leaves them at the hospital for weeks/months on end. When the social worker and FFR team bring her children back to her, she simply returns them to the hospital a few days or weeks later. Daniel is 7 months old now, and he hasn't spent more than one week at a time at home with his family. Rather, he has spent most of his days at the hospital, in a room with 2 - 5 other babies also in cribs with bars that reach 1.5 meters tall. Some of his neighbour-babies are sick and in need of hospital care, some are not. In this particular case, social services has finally stepped in and beautiful Daniel will now be placed in Romania's foster care system, and his mother will no longer receive the government money. When the FFR social worker went to Budila to talk to Daniel's mother and let her know, she was not upset that Daniel was not coming home to her; she was upset that her government funding was stopping. However, she is already pregnant again, so her money will start up again soon.... and FFR expects this next child to end up in the hospital under their care as well.
Another reason children are left at the hospital is poverty. I went to my first Gypsy village today, and it is overwhelming and sad. I was accompanying Steffi (FFR staff) and Gabi (FFR/Hospital Social Worker) as they returned two children to their respective families. Both these children had been in the hospital for months, and though both had been healthy enough to go home for a few weeks, their parents had not come to retrieve them. I have seen slums in other parts of the world -- they are all terrible. What is different here from the others I've seen is that it is also cold. I was in my down winter coat, wrapped in a scarf and wool hat on my head -- and I was still shivering. These houses have no windows. They have dirt floors. Some have electricity; some do not. Regardless - they are cold. For some of these families, they know that in the hospital their children will receive warm bedding, clothing, and food... so they consider it worth it to send their children to the hospital. Further, because many families have several other children at home and can not afford to travel back and forth to the hospital to visit, they leave their child in the care of the hospital and will retrieve their children (maybe) in a few months time. ((Note - in these cases, the social worker deemed that both situations were safe enough for the children to return to and therefore better for the children to be with their families than in the hospital, and each was returned with warm clothing and blankets from FFR.))
Another reason is long term systemic issues... and these are the ones I'm sure I don't understand - so forgive my inaccurate/incomplete/simplistic attempt at articulating this. In 2005 Romanian orphanages closed to children under 2 (and as a result, many orphanages simply closed altogether.) However, for decades prior to this the State paid for orphanages to care for children that families felt they couldn't care for. Under the Ceausescu regime families were urged (or required?) to have at least 5 children... but so many were living in poverty and couldn't support their families and orphanages were a necessity to so many. But they were understaffed and the horrors of the Romanian orphanages of the past decades is well known. Now that orphanages are closing to young ones, the problem is not suddenly solved. It seems to be ingrained into the culture that if a family can't take care of their child, the State should. For example, one mom dropped off her two children at the hospital last week because she got a new job and didn't know where else to take them. The nurses fudged their intake forms falsely indicating that the children were 'sick' so they could be admitted, and now these two are living in the hospital (in separate rooms) locked in cribs surrounded by sick babies... and not for the first time. Finding affordable daycare is a problem in Canada as well, and I absolutely sympathize with families struggling to make life work... but I can't imagine leaving a child at the hospital, unattended, for days, weeks, months...
The nurses are, for the most part, wonderful. But as in Canada they are overworked. They administer medicine and prepare bottles, etc etc, but they don't have time to connect with the babies individually in any consistent manner.
FFR is doing a good job loving both healthy and sick, loved and unloved, children: holding them, playing with them, feeding them and changing their diapers -- as well as handing out clothing and extra supplies to mothers that do come to attend to their children! The nurses are thankful for the extra hands, and It's important for these children who are here now. I know I can't change 'the system' or 'the culture'. But I can hold Daniel, and Christina, and the other dozens of babies that are currently in the hospital today. And I can pray.
FFR is doing more than simply caring directly for the children that have been 'semi-abandoned' in the hospital. They work with a social worker to return children to their families -- their ultimate goal. They run a family sponsorship program to help meet the needs of families in poverty so they can keep their children rather than leaving them unattended at the hospital. They run teenage girl and teenage boy programs to help teach young people and inspire them for a better life. They run a MOMS group to teach young moms how to care for their infants.
Still, something at a deeper level needs to happen...
More Romanians need to get over their dislike of the Gypsies and be involved in transforming lives, and more Gypsies need to step up and make a better life for their children. How easy is it for me to say that?!! I know the history of Gypsy/Romanian people runs deep... and I am an outsider... and blanket statements are unhelpful... and I probably don't have the right to say that...
I am convinced that more education needs to take place - Gypsy kids need to stay in school, graduate, and be inspired to reach for a better life. Kudos to my friend Jenn Jacob for working with Gypsy kids and families in Bucharest and doing just this (and for any of you teacher types out there interested in being part of running an education program to help Gypsy kids, there might be an opportunity for you to be involved...!!)
And I am convinced of our need for God's mercy.
Anyways, these are my thoughts after 5 shifts - 25 more to go. The truth is, I don't really know anything. I don't yet understand Romanian culture, or Gypsy culture, or how the two interact. I can't speak the language and therefore rely on answers to my questions from others... I wish I could talk to the mothers I do meet myself. I wish I could talk to the nurses myself. I want to understand more.
Tomorrow I will go back to the hospital and I will hold babies. And change diapers (I am *very* slow at changing diapers... :) And I will do my best to interact with these little ones in a way that makes them feel loved and worthy.

Friday, December 9, 2011

No Room

i see the signs across our culture - like a sign on our nation in flashing neon lights that reads, "No Room"...
& out for coffee with a friend one day, i find the courage to ask if she knows of anyone who could teach my girl to knit.  My girl is so undemanding... this one who willingly changes poopy diapers and works hard for this family every single day.  She has asked a couple of times now if she could learn to knit & i felt a keen disappointment that i couldn't teach her.  i wish for grandmas... for aunties... or for the skill to teach her myself.  But i see clearly that this is something that is just beyond me to learn right now... and so i'm left questioning a friend who i trust.  She says she might have a few leads & mentions a name i had secretly hoped would come up. 
i feel a hesitation though.  This woman, with the sparkle in her eyes & the quick smile... she has been off from her demanding job for the past while as she has gone through chemo & radiation... maybe asking her for a favour now... is just asking too much. 
i thank my friend for the suggestion & head home... feeling that hesitation brought on by human pride that would keep me from opening up... from knocking on her door, asking for help. Arriving at home, i find 2 emails in my inbox; one from my friend saying she has already asked & that Sheila said yes - & one from Sheila - confirming her pleasure in taking on a project with my girl. 
Sloanie is thrilled.  Nervously, we find Sheila's house that first day - and at our knock, she swings the door wide.  Those days, she always had different coloured scarfs adorning her head... often matching her eye shadow and dangly earrings - a serene smile for my staccato, awkward conversation. 
Shyly my girl enters, and i wave and walk home...
It wasn't long and they exchanged numbers so they could text to coordinate their meetings.  Sloan would pack her knitting bag - and walk away from the noise and chaos that is a part of being in a big family - to the peace of Sheila's tidy home to knit in the quiet comfort.
We would pepper her with questions when she'd get home... What do you guys talk about?  What do you do?  Is it strange?
& she'd smile that slow smile & answer... "Sometimes we're just quiet... but it's not that awkward quiet... it's that peaceful quiet.  We knit.  She shows me how and then she watches me do it till i'm comfortable.  i love it there..."
& then the projects started taking shape, tiny dishcloths that are overused in our bustling kitchen, a dainty pair of slippers, a jaunty red hat and a striped toque for little Sadie - whose chemo treatments have left her blond hair thin and oily...
& my bookworm would proudly show her creations - & i would marvel at her even rows - always a little awestruck when my little ones learn something that i never learned how to do...
When supplies were needed, they planned outings - Sheila and my girl.
Could she know the thrill that my soft one gets riding in her tiny smart car?  This girl who most often rides in a 12 passenger van full of noisy children?  Does she know how much it fed my sweet daughter's soul to be taken out by her adored teacher - to finger the yarn and buy what she needed for her next project?
& my girl watched her - as she encouraged a tearful woman they met at the yarn store who was about to embark on her own journey through chemo... my girl watched her as she talked about all that God had done for her - her need to write it down because His blessings were too many to count and she didn't want to forget any of it... my girl watched her as she opened the door of her home, and welcomed her in, in the middle of life with her husband, in the middle of her healing, in the middle of her busyness... my girl watched her.
Quietly one day, "Sheila's hair is coming back in... and it's beautiful.  It looks so soft and pretty..." And when i see her next, i see that it is, indeed, coming back in... and she sure does look beautiful to me.
A teasing little sister threatens, "i'm gonna ask Sheila for knitting lessons!" And i see my daughter roar, "NO!  Sheila's my friend, she's mine!" & i grin to hear her beloved teacher referred to as property. 
And then it was time for Sheila to start work again - slowly inching her way back to health and strength & i wondered... if she would need to end their lessons.  i wondered if her days at work would require her full attention - it seemed like it might be too much, balancing work and home... and my sweet girl's lessons too.  But they kept on - my girl watching the clock, "She's off work now... but her bus ride takes another hour... i'll text her then."
& it's as though i see Sheila... without a thought, bare hands full of strength - tearing down those signs that would keep out any who would want to enter - those signs with the message that there is no room here - the glowing lights blinking out on the floor in shambles... She opens wide the door for the thirteen year old girl that the Saviour brings when he knocks...
"Is there room in your heart for this one?" i hear Him say...
& maybe she'll never know... the blessing that she has been to a tired mama... who is doing the very best she can... with her own little Inn.  Maybe she'll never see the tears of gratitude i shed when i saw sloanie's confident smile as she opened a Christmas card reading, "There's nothing special about this card, except the person reading it...", and my happy face when i entered Sloanie's tidy room and saw the flower vase full of knitting needles...
As i reflect on Christ's coming... and the ones who turned his mother - heavy with child away... As i look around me and find that there isn't very much room left for people in a culture that is completely absorbed with self... As i daily try to hold open my arms and in whispered prayers tell my Saviour i'm willing... i'm grateful to say that this season of Advent... has been modeled to me beautifully, encouragingly and inspiringly...  by a Christ-follower - who found room.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

some 15's... on Fridays

The last couple of Fridays have been odd scrambly affairs... One of them being at my sister's house in Grande Prairie & the other in San Diego. 
In Grande Prairie, i switched my fasting to Saturday morning & stole a few quiet moments to offer my prayers. 
The Friday in San Diego was possibly my favourite Friday thus far in my tiny voyage learning about prayer in this new Friday habit... 
Neil & i woke on Friday & i told him i'd still like to fast from breakfast till supper - i wasn't expecting him to join me since he gets kind of nauseated when he misses a meal, but he shrugged his shoulders kinda like, "How hard can it be?"
i found my time to pray in the sunshine by the pool... It wasn't hot, but i could feel the sun's rays as i turned my face upward and held my hands up - empty - ready to give, or receive whatever He chose for me. 
The day ended up being kind of an active one.  We logged about 5 miles walking around, taking a bus to La Jolla beach and strolling along the sea shore.  We walked up & down the streets, peeking into the stores & enjoying our extended date. 
By the time we got back to the hotel, we were both hungry... but Neil had decided he wanted to go to the "best sushi place in San Diego" that night. 
Our information said that it was two and a half miles to get there & even though we had already walked a lot, we decided to walk there too.  "We can just hail a cab if we get tired..." we thought. 
& so we walked.  We visited as i trotted along beside my long legged husband.  We held hands like we're so rarely given the opportunity to do - with babes, groceries, older children's hands usually in ours...
It got dark quickly & we found ourselves walking through rougher and rougher neighbourhoods, but more worrisome was the look of intense hunger on my husband's face.... On & on we walked, two and a half miles stretching themselves out to the length of a full marathon with our empty bellies and inappropriate footwear slowing us down...
The last block, i honestly thought he was going to leave me behind & break into a full on gallop to get there, but somehow he managed to hold himself back, & i jogged to keep up as we found our little treasure, "Sushi Ota". 
He swung the door fully open & we were stunned in this little hole in the ground, out of the way restaurant located between office buildings and a 7 11, to find the most bustling little sushi restaurant known to man.  Neil stumbled to the front.
"For two please..."
"Do you have a reservation?" She asked brusquely...
Neil's face fell... i honestly thought he might cry.  It was all he could do to choke out, "No... but we've been walking & walking to get here... and we heard it's the best sushi in San Diego..." He paused hopefully (i'd say his lip was quivering, but he's been reading my blog lately, so i'll leave that tidbit out).
"If you can eat in one hour, i give you table." She said without emotion. 
Neil exploded in gratitude, and we found our seats & devoured some pretty stinking good sushi before deciding we felt like walking back to the hotel too.
Maybe he'll never fast with me again... but i felt like this whole trip was a smile from God... an undeserved blessing... a strip of light that miraculously breaks through the clouds - & this 15 on Friday found me so grateful for my family.

ps - prolife groups are calling tomorrow, December 9th, a day of fasting and prayer for PEI.  It is currently the most difficult place to get an abortion on demand in Canada & is under fire for their unusual limitations.  (Abortions are available if a woman gets two referrals - or without paperwork, she can pay out of pocket at a private clinic). 
Tomorrow i will be praying for God's hand of protection on PEI, that these limitations wouldn't be stripped, so that women will be given every opportunity to rethink this life-ending decision.  Will you join me?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

driver's rage

i was driving in an unfamiliar part of the city one day and it was crowded and busy.  i had my big van and drove carefully through the thick traffic. 
At one point - in one of those unavoidable awkward traffic moments, i irritated the driver behind me.  i can't even remember what happened, but i do remember that it was one of those things - that even if i had the chance to do it over again - the outcome would have remained the same because i was powerless to change the chain of events that brought it about.  Regardless of my innocence, i waved my apology to her and proceeded to continue driving.
But she roared her engine behind me.  As i pulled onto the deerfoot, she pulled her vehicle up beside mine and layed on her horn so that i would look to see the fury on her face that accompanied the gesture she waved at me out her drivers side window. 
My heart raced.  i was terrified, undone, completely cowed. 
i see that scene in my mind again now.... and contemplate my fear. 
i find i am afraid of anger. 
i hadn't really considered this before, but i am now. 
My mom tells me i have always been a peace-maker.  i like the diversity that exists in humanity, and i like watching people interact with humour or kindness - as i stumble awkwardly through small talk...  
But anger... especially when it's directed at me... makes me afraid. 
i learned a long time ago that shame doesn't come from God - but i'm learning in my time of vulnerability and weakness - that my childlike fear doesn't come from Him either. 
i liked that God didn't make me an angry person... but i'm realizing now that even though i didn't feel angry, i was still a prisoner to the wrath of others with my debilitating fear of it... i was an easy target, manipulated by hints of disappointment or coming anger. 
i don't know how i'll overcome this fear... but maybe the recognition of it is my starting point?

Monday, December 5, 2011

people watching

i have always been a people watcher. 
i remember being singled out on the playground, "Hey kid!  Got a staring problem?"
& apparently i did, 'cause Neil still gently mutters under his breath every time we're out in public, "Stop staring, hon... it's not polite..."
But i can't seem to help myself.  People are so terribly interesting, always doing such unpredictable, or predictable things - & i can hardly bear to tear my eyes away from the spectacle. 
Lately, it has been couples that catch my eye.  Couples long married with silver in their hair and a familiarity born of years in the same company.  i drink them in like an addictive substance.  i watch their mannerisms, their body language... their eye contact, touch and tone. 
i have a staring problem. 
On this trip, maybe Neil gave up trying to make me behave - or maybe in his vacation mode, he graciously gave me a free pass for my people watching habit, but opportunities abounded with grey haired pairs constantly stepping into my line of vision.  & so i watched to my heart's content whenever my husband needed to reconnect with his blackberry... i couldn't hear their voices, but my eyes - without little ones to watch - found plenty to keep themselves occupied. 
As we strolled through the airport in our final moments of alone time, i saw a woman with a grey bob hair cut lay her head on her husband's shoulder.  He didn't flinch or shrug her off... but they sat - comfortingly together.  And then there was the couple where he walked a good three paces ahead of her.  And the ones who made eye contact while they ate and talked, barely letting the other catch a breath between sentences. 
But my favourite moment was on the plane.  We had landed midway & i hadn't noticed yet, the couple sitting in the seats directly in front of us.  She stood up first, and gently picked up her bouquet of fresh flowers.  She had wrapped the bottoms in damp paper towels and was carefully smoothing out the stems as she stood and checked each tender blossom... He stood next - and at first i thought he would fall over.  He seemed a little doddery from the flight.  He reached up into the overhead bin to get his jacket & as he pulled it out by the collar, the whole thing fell out & flopped right onto her flowers. 
They made eye contact... this prim little wife and her little old man... and i had a front row seat. 
Suddenly, he didn't look quite so old as the hilarity crept into his damp eyes.  A smile crept onto her face too as he whipped his jacket from her flowers and his face broke into a grin.  & it was funny that he rumpled her bouquet - & they knew it...  perhaps it was an oft repeated scenario of clumsiness in their marriage... or maybe there was something else that hit their funny bone that was the oldest, most friendliest kind of 'inside joke'... but the laughter never dimmed from their eyes till they turned down that aisle and walked off that plane. 
& can you see why i love people watching? 
The man who was trying to hit on the woman sitting across the aisle from him - passing her his business card as i bit my cheeks & tried not to smile... The woman reading a book - (who i desperately wanted to read over her shoulder to find out what she thought was worth reading)... i wondered who would be waiting for her at home... The grandma and grandpa who took their tiny granddaughter between them as they let their adult children carrying stroller, diaper bag & all manner of baby gadgets follow behind...
With a sigh, i sat down next to my husband on the last leg of our tiny twosome trip.  He's a big man for a little plane & i curled into my seat next to him, late afternoon already causing the skies to dim... As the plane flew through the sky, bringing mama and daddy home to our little ones, i let my mind ramble over these sweet days. 
Suddenly a blast of noise shook me from my reverie and i glanced over to see Neil clawing his earphones from his ears, furiously pushing buttons to make the sound stop.  His eyes met mine - dancing, shining with the joke on him.... you see... my husband is never ridiculous, so he'd never plug his earphones in to an outlet that was at full volume. 
i threw my head back & laughed. 
"Shhhhh," He cautioned, "People are watching..."
Well, let them watch... let them see our years of inside jokes, and comfort and life lived beside... let them wonder at this oddly matched couple and the history that so magically brought them together... let them see the mannerisms that speak of love and joy - and the happiness that resides here...
And my hungry eyes shut. 
Love found. 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

First, not last....

This might be our first solo holiday... But we hope it is the first of many...
i'm remembering some easily forgotten things about this man I love, and gratitude overwhelmes.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

i wonder

i wonder if Neil is tired of the salty taste from kissing away my tears?
i wonder if he's as ready as i am to sneak away... to soak in the sunshine that is our mutual company, to strip away every hindrance or barrier that would encumber us for our reprieve? 
i wonder if love is tired of being examined, measured frowned over?  i wonder if she wants to run spritely free leaving behind the sweet scent of bliss - as our laughter and tears confirm her existence?
i wonder how much my children catch?  And how much they miss?
i wonder if i am carving wounds in their sweet spirits that only the ministering of the Holy Spirit can mend, and i beg a merciful God to stay my hand!
i wonder when i'll wake up & i'll find the ache a little less, the memories a little softer and the hope a little stronger? 
But mostly, i'm grateful the tears get kissed away, that the reprieve has come.  i'm so thankful that i can see our love so clearly and that i have children to worry over.  i rejoice over the memories, the hope, and the Saviour who gently leads...
And in wonder, i slip my tiny hand into His, and press on.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

reflections on a busy November

So i am home. 
i am safe and comforted, poured out, used up and finished. 
My dry little soul praises my Maker for what November brought. 
The ladies tea in Ponoka was a night of uncertainty.  Would God come?  Would He meet my needs when i was broken and afraid? 
He came. 
The memory that persists from that night was the woman who might have been in her 50's.  She came up to me and tearfully told me about her losses.  They far outnumbered the children she was given to raise.  She almost whispered, "i never heard anyone share about miscarriage before.  Thank you."
And then there were the four nights God gave me in Sexsmith.  Each one unique and beautiful in it's own way.  The third night was awash in tears, awkward pauses, strange mistakes and blunders... but i trust that even there, God can use my weaknesses for His Glory.  The fourth night, i asked God what the evening would hold & felt a deep, honest peace... That night was my favourite - i felt like a baby soothed by it's nursing mama - and i felt like i finished with His blessing.  i walked off... found a quiet corner... and closed my eyes with gratitude knowing that *home* was only hours away.
Once home, i hermited at my computer for a couple of stolen hours and wrote about eight hundred blog posts that begged to be captured (actually, only 6... but that felt like a lot!), a couple that i've shared already & others that i'm still figuring out - fingering the edges, considering their texture, their deeper meaning, the value - or lack of value.    There is something comforting about the solitude of writing and the camaraderie that comes from sharing what you've written.  Thank you, for reading here... it means a lot to me to have you come. 
i sold all the books i had... and then a couple more that i will have to ship... and December brings the blessing of time away with Neil - & it makes me laugh that my Father knew how i would finish this month empty & He provided for replenishing in the next.
i hope December brings joy, sincerity and reconciliation.  i hope it brings growth, honesty and clarity.  i'd love to feel understood, but i'll settle for better understanding, if He'll let me.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


My life comes to me in pictures lately. 
i see myself. 
i am some sort of being, part plant, part flesh... That much is unclear.  i look, and behold the wild fragility of God's creation. 
i am 35.
Most of this being matches that age, and the passage of time has brought about appropriate growth, but there are parts of me that have grown far beyond what is possible in 35 years - thick branches that are strong and beautiful... the areas that He blessed me in and caused me to grow.
i approach this being and draw apart the thick folds of both foliage and humanity, and gasp as i see the wound.
i am concerned as i see the branches around the wound are stunted.
It is, as i told my friend, as though in those areas, i am a mere child.  The growth has slowed or stalled - and the leaves are sickly and ill formed.
The wound is infected.  Over the years, there have been bandages applied, and they are soaked through - pathetic attempts at healing, dirty cloths oozing puss and blood.

Fear is my raging fever.   Unlovable is my delerium. 

And then the Gardener comes. 
He is knowledgable in all things plant and flesh. 
His eyes meet mine, and i know that this moment... this moment... is ordained to bring about healing. 
He parts the thick branches of blessing, and lays bare the rotten bits with dying flesh and stunted growth...
i turn my face away, even now - while i gaze upon the scene with my mind's eye.  It's horrible and painful... it's terrifying and grim. 
But He's there... and my life is in His hands.

Monday, November 28, 2011


i went for coffee with an old friend. 
My tears are frequent, and disobedient these days - never staying where they are put, but constantly, freely flowing...
We caught up on our families, what God has been doing in our lives - and how he is causing us to grow.  i told her about my family... and found the words came sparse and hard... "i feel like i'm a child again..."
"Well maybe..." she suggested gently, "God doesn't want you to remain a child in that area of your life any longer.  Maybe, He wants you to grow."
Her words washed over me - brushing away some of the confusion, lighting a small light so that instead of complete darkness, i could see the grainy outline what might be. 
i can explain that moment like this:
Imaging you're hurtling down the highway, making great progress towards your goal.  Suddenly, you come to a stretch of the road where it's not only unpaved, there's no gravel road, there's not even a trail and the grass and trees grow freely there, water runs through it and you have no idea how to get across.  You look behind you to see if you've turned the wrong direction, but the beautifully paved highway leads you directly to this very spot.  You strain your eyes to see in the distance, and can see the shiny blacktop beyond this patch of wild... and know that it must be crossed, but don't know how. 
Up until the moment my friend offered the gentle suggestion of growth, i had turned off my vehicle and was sitting on the side of the road crying. 
& it's ok to grieve. 
It's ok to know that what is ahead is rough and untamed. 
It's ok to be afraid - knowing that there will be difficulties, pain and slow laborious progress to get back to that highway...
But with her words, i found the strength to put the key in my ignition, and put my vehicle into drive.  Maybe it'll get stuck and i'll have to abandon it.  And instead of driving, i'll be forced to continue on foot for the remainder of my journey.  Maybe it will be easier than i anticipated, and before i know it, i'll be flying down that easy smooth highway again... but regardless, the wilds await me.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

i miss these people

So, i'm in Grande Prairie with my big sister - doing the Ladie's Tea at Grace Bible Fellowship in Sexsmith. We are doing 4 nights in a row... one night down, three to go.  i already sold most of the books i brought, so it's a nice feeling to have those go too...
How's it going? 
i don't know. 
But i do pray that God will use these loaves & fishes in some small way to bring dark places to light & to comfort to the hurting. 
i am homesick. 
i'm honestly so glad to be here - and i feel, if nothing else... obedient. 
But i really, really, really miss my people. 
At least i brought a cheerful Charter, and a snuggly, clingy Ephraim to keep me company & to nourish my mama heart. 
i like singing - & i like telling stories... telling others about the Faithful Father... and i love the people who live here.  i'm grateful that He brought me this opportunity.
Even at this funny, hurting juncture in my life. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


We were playing a rousing game of charades... 
Mostly because i suggested it when i was too tired to oust my body from the couch to go downstairs and play hide and go seek in the dark. 
Neil's cousins were visiting, and the littles were each trying to out do the last with their acting. 
Peyton stood up. 
She delicately held up 2 fingers. 
"Two words!" we shouted.
She held up one finger.
"First word!" we continued. 
Charter was visibly impressed with this charade short cut that he had not used before. 
"Two words, first word, second word... i like that!  That sure makes it easy to know how many words long it is!" He muttered, absently bouncing in his seat as that little marble rolled around in his brain. 
Peyton finished her turn in seconds and returned to her seat.  Charter was up next.  He wracked his brain for a few seconds and then leapt from his seat. 
Beaming, obviously pleased with himself, he just had one question, "Hey Kari, how many words is chainsaw?"

Monday, November 21, 2011

how many fridays left?

i think there are only five.  That means i've muddled through 11 of these already.  Searching, praying, grasping, learning...
This past Friday we got a dump of snow and a taste of the real winter to come. 
i bundled up as warm as i could (it was not warm enough) and i headed to the church. 
The accusing voices are getting easier to understand these days - while in the past, they just made me feel an abstract, 'can't put my finger on it', foolish - now i hear the precision of the attack as those arrows whiz around me and my family...
"Who are you to pray for family?  Look at the state of your own... Whatever you thought you knew, is obviously false - do you think you really have what it takes to build a marriage and a family that lasts?"
"It's too late... whatever you wanted to accomplish has failed.  Give up."
& the worst one - the one that gets under my skin the easiest...
"Neil doesn't love you... You... are utterly unlovable..."
So i turn off my van,  i text the man i love, "i'm at the church.  i will never, ever give up on us.  i love you."
The phone buzzes in my hand and i glance down..."Love you too." i pray to God that i could please believe it, accept it, trust it...  even with this broken child's heart that i seem stuck with these days...
i trudge through the snow, bringing the accusations of the enemy to my Father - who loves me in my inadequacy. 
i feel His tender mercy - and the hot tears freeze on my face as i pace the concrete steps of my church building. 
i pray the Daily Office to help me avoid distraction and stamp my feet to keep out the cold...
..."to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace..."
"Darkness is not dark to thee, O Lord; The night is as bright as the day."
And the fifteen on friday count themselves to their end... i follow my footprints back to my waiting van and drive home to the warmth of my lovely little family...
There are still more questions than answers.  i feel like i'm better understanding the faith that it takes to obey without understanding, without seeing the 'why' or the 'what' God will do.  Five more fridays to go - five more appointments with God...
& i'll thank Him now - because i know... i know... He hears.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

exclamation points

neil has been using more exclamation points in his texts as of late. 
i think he's subconsciously trying to lift me - add a little spark, a little expression, a little excitement to his communication. 
"We should have chicken burgers for supper!"
"i took out the garbage!"
"i hope ephraim sleeps tonight!"
& i feel the corner of my mouth curl in a reluctant smile... He's poking me, prodding me to find the happiness amidst my grief. 
i'm gonna find my footing, babe... i am. 
i'm gonna laugh too loud again & interrupt your stories to tell mine.  i'm gonna crush your toes when i stand on them to wrap my arms around your neck and kiss you even when you flinch.  i know you have a hard time communicating your love - especially to me right now in my frailty... but i hear it. 
i do!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

what's on my mind you ask?

i'm expecting overnight company tonight.  The sweetest, best kind of company - the family kind...
My kids are just finishing off their antibiotics & are still coughing and several of them are breaking out in a rash... is it from the antibiotics or their new pj's? 
What will i make for supper for my company tonight?
Neil will be gone till tomorrow night. 
The 2 big girls have 3 hours of violin at the college tonight... my company will babysit while i drive. 
My house is a mess. 
i need to read with Charter & catch up on math with Peyton. 
The 2 bigs need to practice for their classical lessons tomorrow. 
My cough has prohibited much practice for my singing stuff that's coming up.  i'm really nervous to sing & speak *5* evenings this month - and i hope i don't make a fool of myself with my hoarse voice...
My laundry bag is missing. 
Neil said the basement is a mess, but i don't have the heart to go down there. 
My baby still isn't sleeping through the night & i'm leaving him for 3 sleeps in 2 and a half weeks... i don't know how he'll do.
Wondering if i should take the rash kids to the doctor or wait it out? 
i have a meeting today that i really want to go to & won't cancel for anything - even though it's totally inconvenient. 
Everytime i sit down at the piano to practice, Ephraim cries.  Neil promised to take the littles swimming on Saturday so i can have some time to practice & talk out loud & 'time' my music & speaking all alone. 
i'm nervous that i'll say something stupid.  
i'm insecure.  & i'm tired of being insecure.  i'm ready to find my confidence again...
i feel like laughing and crying at the same time. 
Cai just walked into my room as i was making my bed & i blurted out that i love being a mom & i meant it... y'know how 'out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks'?  i now know what's really on my heart - & it's good. 
It's my niece & my nephew's birthdays today - & my darling niece is spending hers getting chemo & my nephew has hit that incredible milestone of 16 years... i wish i lived closer to my family. 
So there you have it... the gurgling thoughts on my mind.  Yes, i know - it's a jumbled mess - i won't post a crazed post like this very often, but for today - i thought it would be ok to post the frazzled mess of threads that are running through my mind & to laugh at my weakness & to pass the whole ball to my Father who soothes, sorts and organizes - he tenderly unravels, finds patterns and puts these threads to right.  He takes them on one by one and gives me the strength to take on each new task and worry...
i'm resting in Him today. 

Monday, November 14, 2011


It's been a rough go. 
This blog - is for my little ones.  Maybe one day it will be helpful for them to see their mama 'in the thick of it all' & know how very hard i wrestled out my faith because of my love for them.  And yet even though i write with that small audience in mind, i've chosen to be public in this seeking place - hoping that He will use even these tiny loaves and fishes and multiply them for His Kingdom...
Sometimes that makes it more challenging - because of the privacy of others, but i don't know how to embark on this next stage of learning without gently, brokenly stating that my parents have filed for divorce.  i'm not gonna talk about them - or their marriage, but instead i need to take a long hard look at myself - the walking wounded child of divorce - and explain to my children that yes... i'm drowning, but i promise you all that i will pull myself together.  i will press into the heart of my Father, and accept His comfort.  i will learn what He has for me to learn and i will whisper the truths He teaches me through this present pain into your ears and hearts.  Bear with me, little ones, i'm still reeling. 
i just feel like grabbing Neil & hiding & making him tell me that we'll still love each other when we're 60 and still flawed - that we'll laugh at our differences - hold hands when we walk together and cradle each other when we cry... i want to crawl inside his head and fill it with memories of our past & our dreams for the future & all the things we are to each other. 
My friends tell me it will get better - it will get easier as these nighmarish days pass and we find our new footing, but right now... this is where i am... feeling a little orphaned, blinded by darkness, feeling my way along a dangerous pathway, praying for morning. 
i hate looking at marriage with fear - & that's what i can't seem to stop doing right now...

Friday, November 11, 2011


There is a constant tampering with the vacuume at my house so it was no surprise when i went to vacuume the upstairs of my house and i realized that the middle tube was missing, making it the perfect height for my 3 year old to use.  i called downstairs for my 9 year old to find the missing piece & bring it up to me...
Moments later, he burst through the door shouting triumphantly, "Ta-DAAAAAA!!"
He swung his trophy in a glorious arc and made a huge gash in the wall of our room that Neil had just finished freshly painting after 5 years of abuse... (the walls were abused, not Neil... :) 
We both stood in shocked silence for a minute and then he smiled at me with his teeth-too-big-for-his-face 9 year old smile, "Sorry mom!"
He was still swinging the tube in his hands and i was watching it warily, "k, bud.  Put that down before someone gets hurt."
He tossed it into the hallway & leapt all gangly away.  He took the entire stairwell in 2 leaps humming haphazardly to himself... 
Nine is all gawky & strange - partly grown up with rarely washed hair and teeth that forget to be brushed.  Nine still cries in frustration sometimes, but is learning to listen to reason.  Nine is cheerfully genuine, forgetful and clumsy.  It is the absentminded professor, with good intentions and questions borne of deep thought...
Nine doesn't realize how far his arms will fling when he spreads them wide, hoping to please his mama by meeting her present pressing need. 
Nine is heartbreakingly brief - and sweet and funny - and worthy of the flair of a little captivating entrance. 
So don't cry to me, yellow walls - your fresh coats will come & go - but my son will soon turn ten... and i'm too busy loving nine. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

& then...

All seven lambies seemed to get the same horrible cough... it kept them up at night & robbed the whole family of sleep.  We kept thinking, oh, one more day... one more day... it should be getting better tomorrow - & we'd limp through another interrupted night of sleep and slog our way through sleepy days. 
Finally after three weeks, we decided i had better take a couple of them to the walk in to make sure that there wasn't something else going on.  Sure enough, they got diagnosed with bronchitis, so i drove my babies home & picked up the remaining 5 to take them back to the doctors to get their diagnosis & prescriptions too...
& as i bundled my loves in & out of doctors & pharmacy with my bulging bag of antibiotics... i thought about how lucky i am to have all my chickies under one roof.  These years are so fleeting - and soon they'll be calling me to tell me their children are sick and that they spent the night soothing a distraught child, or comforting a feverish babe... & i'll remember this week of bronchitis - hacking coughs and the smell of menthol & halls & wistfully remember these child-growing days. 
So i'll take this present shared sickness - i'll measure out doses and count pills... i'll make sure my little ones are comfortable and comforted - and i'll count it all joy that these moments are mine. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

he winked at me

My sister described arriving for her daughter's appointment at the pediatric oncology unit and being greeted by a familiar face from her church as feeling like a, "wink from God"...
The image stayed with me after reading her post, because isn't that just like our Father?  Sometimes quietly standing in the shadows - showing us His mercy and love... His gracious compassion... with a wink? 
i have found myself lately in the midst of a really, really busy and heavy season.  i had the prolife conference last weekend, and a music/worship conference this weekend at our church, and as far as my eyes can see into my future, it's full of commitments, appointments and promises. 
And - i can't even tell you this whole story... because it's one of those stories that is still unfolding and unwrapping... & parts of it are mine & parts aren't...
But the part that i want to tell you about is mine...
& it's the part where He winked at me.
i got in my van to head to the church for the first evening of our music conference.  Graham Ord and Norm Strauss were speaking & to be honest, there wasn't a lot else that could have coaxed me out of my house that Friday night.  i felt heavy and blue - weary in a spiritual sense.  My introvertedness was rearing it's ugly head and i was craving solitude.
i was probably only a block from my house, when suddenly it felt like my whole van was full of this heavy, crushing inescapable gratitude for my husband Neil.  Now, looking back on it, i'm sure that it must have been God...
Our goodbye had been casual... Him whispering, "Sneak out so ephraim doesn't notice, k?" and me grabbing my purse and tiptoeing out the door with a, "Seeya".
It was completely ordinary.
There had been no fight, no awesome romantic moment to bring about this overwhelming gratitude - but i was so moved by it that i could barely wait to pull into the church parking lot so that i could text him and tell him how i felt.
i grabbed my phone and typed, "i'm so glad i married you.  Best thing i ever did."
He responded, "Ahh what?"
i persisted, "It just hit me again.  Grateful."
"i am grateful too."
"Love you."
That felt like the moment when God made eye contact with me. 
i tucked my phone in my purse and carefully averting my eyes from my friend's cheerful greetings, i went and found an empty seat to sit in...
i slouched in my seat, letting the words pour over & into me.  Soaking in what i could - and letting the rest sit in puddles around me.  Suddenly norm pulled out his guitar...
"Can we sing a song?" He asked. 
He started to play... and i softly sang along...
father of lights, you delight.... in your children.
father of lights, you never change... you have no turning. 
every good, and perfect gift, comes from you -
father of lights....
Midsong, he stopped singing - and still playing softly, he said... "when i sing, sometimes i like to just sing the things that i'm grateful for."  His eyes were closed, and he turned his face upward and sang, "i'm so thankful for my wife..."
And my ears rang. 
Because it was so unexpected, seemingly out of the blue. 
i felt the whisper in the wind, "you've got something there, paige... I've given you a precious gift & it's something you need to be grateful for."
& i'm pretty sure He winked at me.
& maybe it seems like a funny little coincidence, but how many times do we try to explain away the supernatural?  How cynical and unbelieving we can be when we roll our eyes and mutter, "That's it?  That's the best you can do?"
Because a wink from God... seems pretty significant to me...


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