Tuesday, April 22, 2014

under the label

"We kissed, so we're married." He claims his spot on my lap and smashes our faces together. He's four. The days of wanting his mama for a wife are definitely numbered. His eyes are a dazzling blue. They're striking to me lately since I spend so much time gazing into his baby brother's eyes... Elmer's are different - kind of a blue/green with a ring of brown around the inside...
A whole passel of little boys we have, and in these days it seems i eat, drink and breath motherhood. Gage is full of empathy and protective maturity for the younger set. Ephraim is the class clown - his face, like a magical chameleon capable of every impossible expression. Elmer is growing into his personality, trying it on like a costume - now his eyes glinting with humour that a ten month old begins to grasp, now communicating with confusing body language his desires, now furiously misunderstood.
They wrestle like a litter of puppies wiggling over each other, guttural growls and terrifying, careless leaps.
This is a part of the work I'm doing in my thirties.
And it's the same as it ever was a dozen years ago when I had three girls instead of these three little boys... And I wonder if I've grown at all when I've kept on doing the same thing instead of wrapping up one phase of life and moving on to the next...
I'm still changing diapers. I'm still breastfeeding. A dozen years after stumbling through grade 1 with my firstborn, I'm still stumbling through grade one with my sixth born, this time while watching my first complete the requirements for graduation.
And so many would use my extended season of motherhood to label me.
"She's the one with eight kids..."
And if I'm honest... I do it myself. Oh, how I dearly love these little people.... Even the ones who have grown taller than me. Even the three that went Home before me. Each one tearing me as they stretched me so that I'm not even the same person I was before they came...
But even so...


Strips me of my beloved label of "mother".


Strips me of the sweet label of "wife".


Looks deeper... past my outward appearance.
Way past it.
He. Sees. Me.
And as I'm seen, I'm scrambling for covering... used to hiding behind, cheering from the stands, sitting in a shadow.
Not Neil's wife, or Ephraim's mama...
No, under the label, I'm His.

28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’    Acts. 17:28

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Book Ends

It was a dreary morning for the middle of April. We woke up to more snow, and honestly? It affected me more than I want to admit.
We opened the book of Romans and studied chapter 14, exploring the greys in life - all those areas that make us uncomfortable or are a matter of conscience. Romans has been kind of heavy - and some of the questions i asked were met with silence. i didn't blame them... i was tired too, and sometimes when the world is covered with grey, we ache for less grey... more light...
We prayed together... and that's when it happened.
"We still haven't picked a new book!" Charter moaned.
We had finished _Where the River Begins_ by Patricia St. John last week and we still hadn't picked our next read aloud.
I had been meaning to scour the bookshelves to see what we haven't read out loud yet, or to find an old favourite that we'd want to read again, but these past couple months have just been killer and each day seems to dribble over tasks left undone into the next until the days are too full and so much seems left undone, unfinished or forgotten.
i looked around the room, and my eye tripped on my first born.
Her blond hair was tied up in a bun with a few wisps framing her pixie face with those impossibly huge eyes and Neil's familiar forehead.
"Hey Cai..." i said without thinking, "You should pick. It'll be one of the last books we read while you're in our school..."
She barely hesitated.
"i pick the Narnia Chronicles. Might as well end with what we started with..."
i remember buying the series before she ever started school... i don't know how many times I've read those books to our little home academy in these past 12 years, but i know that by now, the covers bend easily into place, and that when i get to a familiar passage, there is more than one child who is able to mouth the words and mimic my voice and inflection... i know that they laugh at me for crying, but that they cry too. Imperfect allegory that it may be, it has been a vehicle that has opened up our hearts to Truth and to ideas about faith, relationships and heaven...
i smiled. It was perfect.
Someone ran to grab The Magician's Nephew.
"We'll have time for at least one or two before i graduate, right?"  I do the math in my head.
Her last exam looms just over 2 months away...
Surely we have time for at least one or two, don't we?
i tried to laugh past the lump in my throat...  "Maybe you'll still do devotions with us in the mornings before you head off to college next year..?"
i cleared my throat and pretended to read the first line, purposefully saying the words all wrong...
"This is a story... about a girl named Dori and now my story's begun..."
"That's not how it starts!"
They know when I'm bluffing, stalling...
i started again, and this time, i continued. i ignored the squeaking baby and the fidgeting little ones and i read - like i do every morning - like i'll continue to do... after she graduates... when this little school is just a part of a jumbled mess of her memories from childhood...

"This is a story about something that happened long ago when your grandfather was a child. It is a very important story because it shows how all the comings and goings between our own world and the land of Narnia first began..."

Gagey, at only six years old, is unfamiliar with the story line. His blue eyes threatened to glaze over, but i stopped and the older ones animatedly explained and gave context... i kept glancing up as i read to see his reaction to Digory, Polly... and the terrifying Uncle Andrew. I tried not to lose him.
And i vow never to lose her.

It's a fine beginning to his schooling....

And it will make a fine ending to hers.

Friday, April 11, 2014


Sloan is participating in 5 minute Fridays, hosted by Lisa-Jo Baker, so I decided to join her today. 5 minutes is just a teeny tiny snippet of time.  Today's word was *paint*.


Paint - Go

I had a dream. I often dream, but the other night I had kind of a strange dream about a painting. It was a children's painting on black paper. Colorful smears were all across the page and the colour blocked out the black of the back ground. There was a sky and streaks across it that were meant to be birds, and water and the sand of a shore.

I was in the painting.

Sometimes when I would move, it would crack the paint that had hardened to provide the colour - and sometimes the cracked paint would chip, and come off the painting and all that would be left would be the black of the background. It was dissatisfying to have every mistake expose the fragility of the colour... and the darkness of the background.
Suddenly I moved backwards, out of the painting - (so hard to explain a dream in words) - but in that moment, I was no longer in and a part of the painting, I was in front of it, looking at it as it crumpled and fell to the ground. The imitator made way for the imitated, and the gentle watercolour of a real sea sky filled my eyes with reality rather than the thick plastic texture of children's paint. The birds moved across the sky, synchronized slivers gracefully balancing in the air that made the painted birds unrecognizable as any kind of reproduction of the original.
And my dream reminded me of heaven.

It's as though we see through clouded glass. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

It's almost as though we live in a children's painting. Gaudy colours slathered on black construction paper, echoing something that is yet to come.
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. (Revelation 22:20)


Thursday, April 10, 2014


I still remember the first time I prayed for reflexes.
Maybe I was praying for discernment, maybe spontaneity, maybe Christ-likeness...
But the word that came out spoken in the darkness was reflexes.
I was in my early twenties. I had been out with friends during a season of life when my home life was so consuming and physically exhausting that I hated going out. Every once in a blue moon, Neil would gently nudge & my conscience would remind me that I should make an effort to make friends and I would grudgingly leave the house and my babies and go out with a bunch of girls.
That's how it was - I wasn't very friendly or gracious or lovely or loving...
But I went - and I found that I was no good at conversation. Small talk grated, and big issues ignited a passion that made others uncomfortable.
I wasn't fun.
So I would sit red faced, trying to jump in to conversations that either didn't interest me - or interested me too much...
And my reflexes were poor.
Sometimes I would say too much and my words sounded like they were harsh and lacking love. Sometimes I would say nothing when the situation begged for a few words of mercy - or truth. How many conversations was I a part of when truth rang clear and unspoken in my mind... because it was awkward or heavy or altogether impossible to lovingly put forth?*
Every time, ('every time' is generous - these outings were so sparsely sprinkled over those years that they probably only happened a handful of times) I would go home to a silent house... I would tip toe to my room and my bed would be full with my huge husband and any number of bedraggled blond heads attached to soft little bodies. I would transport each little friend to their bed before climbing in beside Neil... and in the dark as condemnation loomed, reminding me of my failure to 'wear Christ' (Romans 13:14) I would beg God for better reflexes.
Reflexes... like when sin is exposed between friends and love is the first emotion witnessed rather than revulsion.
Reflexes... like when you wrap arms around open wounds - recklessly refusing to 'think through' anything - ministering as the Holy Spirit prompts.
Reflexes... like when you don't have to think WWJD because your reflex - your first instinctive reaction - shows the world that you're related to Him.
Like Father, like daughter became my prayer.
These are the types of reflexes that are formed when we, "put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,  and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness." (ephesians 4:22-24)

Reflexes! Gimme reflexes!
I want to be like You, Father...

And as I learned to listen, my reflexes have improved. He has whispered truth to me in my dreams, as I've read His word, as I've met with Him in worship and prayer again and again as the years passed by- and He  has proved Himself a faithful teacher.

And He saves me... He calls me to a holy life. Not because of anything I've done, but because of His own purpose and grace. (2 Timothy 1:9) He calls me His girl. He lavishes me with love. (1 John 3:1)

And it makes me smile that in response, my reflex is to feel gratitude.


*disclaimer - I still struggle with this in conversations... :) Still wrestling to find my way and what God wants from me...

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

River Baby

At the end of my pregnancy with Elmer, when I would pray for him - for God's glory to be revealed through the life of my little son, for protection, for anointing, for Abba's hand to claim my little one as His...
I had a picture in my head for Elmer.
I still remember - being painfully swollen, but dropping to my knees - acknowledging the sovereignty of God in every area of my life- including as mother of Elmer, precious life in my womb. So much had been stripped away. My body was tender in those very last weeks. My joints were loose, preparing early for birth, my husband travelled more than usual, I relied heavily (without shame) on the kindnesses of friends - who carried me daily in prayer and in practical ways by feeding us, helping us and loving us.
So often when we're stripped bare, it's our best opportunity for communion with our Father... and I took that opportunity - with every dip of my eyelids, I found Him there - and I could agree with the Holy Spirit that the tiny son in my womb was created by God - knit together, fearfully and wonderfully made. All of his days ordained for the purposes of a Holy God, before one of them even came to be. Even though his form was hidden from me, he wasn't hidden from God. He wasn't created by the will of an earthly father - no... there was a bigger purpose even than that...
And then, I had that picture in my head.
The picture was a river.
The story of Moses' mother sending her son - surrendering him - down the river - would wreck me. And it was all I could do to imagine my fingers pried one by one off my precious one, understanding that His ways are better than mine.


There was another little life, 18 years ago growing in my womb. I was 19 and scared. My love for her was a gift from God and I would have fought to the death for her fragile life... I still would.
Last night, a pastor picked her out of a crowded room and spoke words of truth and blessing over her life. He asked those around her to lay their hands on her and he prayed for her life - for her influence... He spoke Matthew 5:14-16* over her, my precious girl - a light in this world... He spoke of her entering a new era of leadership as she becomes an adult in this next year -

and there's that river again...

And maybe most mothers understand that picture that I have in my head of a river. Maybe all of us choose to surrender our own will to God's in a mighty way when He sends these little ones to reside in our bodies, and we raise them to live their lives as living sacrifices (all of Romans 12) - holy and pleasing to God...

Sometimes I feel like my heart will burst with the magnitude of this holy work that He has given me in being wife to Neil and mama to these children...
And I send my own self down the river too - surrendering my all to Him.

*“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."

Monday, April 7, 2014

on compassion

I'm in the tiny change room at the chiropractor's office.
They have a full length mirror and I notice that my stomach is not nearly as flat as it was before I got pregnant with Elmer...
I turn around and examine the blue bruises on my back.
I feel like an idiot - I slipped on our top step leaving our house, and landed on the stairs on my back and it hurts.
It hurt so bad I lay there and panted trying to catch my breath for a full minute watching the snowflakes melt under my fingertips.
It hurt so bad that I could only lay in one position all night and if I accidentally shifted, it felt like I was being beaten with baseball bats.
It hurt so bad that I went to the doctor, and a week later when it still hurt so bad, I went to the chiropractor.
Surely something must be out of place for it to hurt so constantly and consistently?
Both told me I had just badly bruised my ribs and that there is still quite a bit of swelling and that it will get better, I just need to give it time...
And maybe I'm just tired from tenderly trying to nurse the baby in the night without moving and curling my body around his little frame.
But when I closed the door and took off the gown to pull my sweatshirt over my head, I could feel that tears wanted to fall and I asked myself, "What's up with these tears, little heart? Surely you've felt worse pain (I have) and you'll just have to be tough for a couple of weeks as your body heals. It could have been worse, couldn't it (it could)?"
And my heart acknowledged that my mind spoke truth, but the lump in my throat refused to be swallowed.
In that moment, I felt like I could understand Elmer's longing, reaching, reaching in the night. I felt like I could feel just how it felt to be Ephraim and sneak into our room to find us at three in the morning. I felt like the child who has fallen off their bike, scraped their knee and doesn't cry till they make eye contact with their mama.
I felt like sympathy and compassion are qualities like grace and hope that make the world a sweeter place to live in...
We don't have time to hear about suffering anymore. It makes us uncomfortable. "Talk about that later when I'm not around..." "Quit whining!" "Ugh, Suck it up..."
And instead of alleviating suffering, we alienate the sufferer...
Instead of comforting, we demand strength...
Instead of grace, we vent annoyance...
I know so many times I've been impatient with those who are suffering - not having ears to listen, or eyes to see a need. I've so often given my own discomfort or my own inconvenience over another person's suffering a higher priority.
I want to be a tender mama - a gracious friend - one generous with compassion and full of selfless love...
And if a tumble down my front steps is what it took to teach me this lesson, then I'm grateful for each bruise.

Friday, April 4, 2014

5 minute Friday - Writer

Sloan is participating in 5 minute Fridays, hosted by Lisa-Jo Baker, so I decided to join her today. 5 minutes is just a teeny tiny snippet of time.  Today's word was *writer*.


i never thought of myself as a "real" writer.
i had a blog and i loved the idea of capturing - like a photograph of words - parts of my life, their childhoods, our marriage. 
But then one day, i decided i wanted to write a book. i wanted to capture - for my little ones, and their little ones - some of my thoughts on prolife. And so, i stumblingly found a story line that i could use as a vehicle for these ideas, (borrowed generously from my life and anything, everything i could see around me) - and i started to write. Shoving those words aboard, creating space for ideas, for story, for characters that i want to remember from my real life, melted together and poured into new molds. 
Just a little book came out of this exercise. 
It's not fancy - it's self published, and is so sparingly edited that there remain typos and errors that i'll not likely ever go back to change. i sold a few copies and i still have a couple on my shelf... 
But i have them - those thousands of words bent and sprinkled and sometimes forced and awkward - on pages of paper that represent my heart for life - for the unborn and the born - for the dying, the unwanted, the unplanned. 
And i'm shy of it's lack of greatness. It makes me feel a little odd to put out there something that has probably been said in a million (better) ways. My book is a pretty humble little offering - created out of time stolen from dishes and laundry - from a woman who was (and remains) a sleep deprived stay at home mama, wife to a travelling man. 
It's not amazing or great. 
But it's written... 
So, this morning, when i saw the word was "writer"- honestly? i felt a little shame, thinking of that little blue, self-published book.... 
But what silly pride to let my own smallness take away my voice. 
i'm a writer.



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