Friday, 20 July 2018

Vines, Homeless Kids, and College

My husband is up early on his day off.  Where is he?  Watering the vines.  But we are excited.  The tiny little sticks that had no leaves on them are now growing little buds.  It's hard to imagine that a little bud can get you so excited, but it does.

We have some neat mentors in this whole process, one of whom is our neighbour who grows around 30 acres across and down the road.  She's a single mom/farmer who somehow does this all on her own.  I admire her so much.  She has taken a liking to us and shakes her head everytime we do something new and crazy.  How can some city folk take on a huge project like a new vineyard?  Yet we do, so instead of balking at our craziness, she offers her assistance.  We actually caught her in the vineyard the other night checking out our soil and plants to see how they were doing, very funny.

But we've had some naysayers, too.  One of our pruners heard my husband talk about the vineyard he was planning on planting.  He immediately discouraged him.  "Don't do it.  Stick with your day job.  Farming is hard work."  My husband's response was, "I know it is hard work, but I still want to try."  I'm very proud that he pushed back all the negativity and went ahead.  This has made him come alive again as his day job is just that, his day job.  We are so grateful for the work and the income, but it is not an easy environment to work in.  His skill levels are not challenged the way he would like and that can leave him bored and prone to depression.  But then he comes home and jumps on a tractor and voila - new person!  So, I'm so grateful for the farm.  He absolutely loves it.  He said to me recently if he could go back and pick a different career he would have been a farmer.  Wow.

The other thing he loves about farming in this day and age is that it's all precision farming.  The vines were put in with a gps.  Each vine has gps coordinates making them exactly parallel to the road.  Being an engineer and studying this precision farming at the college, he loved it and appreciated it more than even maybe the old school farmers.  Not the farming my great-grandparents did, yet it makes me appreciate what they did without all the high-tech gear. 

So we had a funny change in our home yet again - two more homeless kids.  My oldest son, 19, kicked out the two little boys out of his room.  That was it.  Enough was enough.  There they were just like they were the last time, a couple of years ago, when my oldest daughter said the same thing, "Enough is enough.  I need my own space."  So, for the second time in a row, they had to pack all their belongings and move into the hallway with a pillow in one hand, a blanket in the other, and all their worldly possessions (i.e. bird nests, rock collections, fossils, etc.) on their backs.  What was I to do with them?  Last time we had them sleep on either side of our bed for a few months on the floor.  But that was when they were little, now they were big.  Wasn't an option.

My oldest son had been mentioning this for a while.  But I just couldn't think of anything.  I couldn't just build an addition.  I couldn't put them in the hall.  But I knew he truly needed the study space.  I could see that his mental health was at stake as he was truly feeling overwhelmed by all their stuff, the noise, the fact he had no place to put all his textbooks.  He had been a real champ at sharing a room with these little guys for so long.  How many 19 year old young men say that they share a room with a 6 and 8 year old brother?  I actually think it has created a special bond with the boys.  But I could see he was starting to struggle as he has been planning all his courses for next year, needing a quiet place to go to, talking to academic advisors, etc.  So when he came to me, I was weeding my (pathetic) garden (that's another story).  But this time, I didn't dismiss him, I prayed.  I stood on my hoe, closed my eyes and said, "Lord, what can I do?  What do you want me to do?  Is there a way to help my overwhelmed son?  Is there a way to give him his own space and still give my little boys a place to sleep and play?"  And then, suddenly, it came to me.  The loft.  I can move them all to the loft.  My other son, 17, is up there with my 11 year old.  But if I move the 17 year old into the 19 year old's room, I can then move the two little boys up to the loft with the 11 year old.  They are small enough for all 3 boys to fit up there.  The only reason we hadn't done that before was because they were too young to navigate the stairs in the middle of the night.  I was always so afraid they would fall down the spiral staircase to their death!  But they aren't babies anymore, they are 6 and 8! 

I told the 19 year old and he loved it.  He got the 17 year old and within minutes they had dismantled the whole bunkbed that had been taking up all the space.  He spent the rest of the day cleaning the room and getting rid of all the boys stuff (into the hallway!) and just like that they were homeless. 

I then approached the homeless children and told them my idea of moving them to the loft.  They loved it!  They took their belongings in 2 whole trips and moved in within minutes.  The 11 year old was not as excited to sleep with these little rascals.  He now sleeps on a couch!  We just don't have enough beds or space!  But who cares, it's working for now.  I'm working my hardest on getting my older ones to eventually move out, so it is a short-term solution.  The 17 year old also still sleeps on a different couch because we don't have a single bed for him yet, but again, short term and he doesn't mind.  So my house is one funny place.

Last night my 6 year old told me, "You are ALMOST the best mom in the world!"  "Almost?!" I said with raised eyebrows.  "Ok, no, you are the BEST mom in the world!"  What had I done to deserve the "Almost Best Mom" award?  I took them fishing.  I cannot believe that I did not know there was a fishing lake 20 minutes from my house.  I only found out last night at 6:30 pm from a gas station attendant while we were getting gas and worms.  I asked him if he knew of any good fishing places near here and he told me of a conservation area nearby.  We had been planning on going somewhere else.  This place was closer and way bigger (though it required a small fee).  My kids nearly lost their minds with excitement.  I actually did, too!  It was so beautiful and so quiet, no one around, but tons of little fish.  They caught somewhere close to 15 fish!  They had to release them all, but it didn't matter, they had so much fun.  So that is why I'm the "Almost Best Mom".  I felt like it was a gift from God to find out about this place.  Now, I'm thinking season's pass.....

One other funny change.  Our 17 and 14 year old son and daughter still have some school to finish from this past year.  They quit school a little early in May to go work at a greenhouse.  They made good money, but didn't get all their school work done.  We tried to work in the evening, but this didn't always happen.  Then the greenhouse stopped needing them so much, so we took advantage of this slow time.  I, again, was praying how to best guide them, how to best get them to get their work done, how to do everything best!  This time, the genius idea came to my husband.  He decided he would take them to work at the college!  Perfect!  They could work together in the library and literally be there working the same amount of time he was at work.  That way there would be no problem getting their work done.  At first they weren't too excited, but after we explained the logic of concentrated time, no distractions by these younger 4 running around, they bought into it and started to amazingly get excited.  It's been only 2 days, but they are getting more done than they ever did here.  That's another huge benefit of working at the college.  When he was taken away from the home full-time a couple of years ago, I was so sad.  He had less time with the kids, less time monitoring their lives, less time to disciple them.  We started to see the impact, but now, we're seeing the college as such a blessing with these older ones.  If he can't be at home with the kids, take the kids with him!  "There's more than one way to skin a cat," he said.  He gets to meet with them for breakfast, coffee, breaks, lunch.....he drives with them the 30 minutes, talking the whole way there and back about what they plan on accomplishing and then talks with them to whole way home to see what they got done.  I love it.  Another HUGE answer to prayer for me.

Today we water vines, pick up 250 bales of hay, pick up a new tractor (well, new to us) to go between the vines (our other one was too big) and maybe even go fishing again....always trying to be the "Almost Best Mom" ever.......


Monday, 16 July 2018

Not Your Typical Vacation

Who has time to sit down and write anymore?!  Not me.  My mornings begin just as the sun is coming up.  This is not by choice.  I actually wouldn't mind sleeping in a bit, but the puppies, who are now 3 months old, tell me, through their yipping and yapping, it's time to wake up.  I am the only one with ears to hear them apparently.  Everyone else sleeps through it all.  This starts the chickens clucking and then the older dog starts his wake up noises.  It's enough to drive a person crazy.  But, because I am the only one unable to sleep through it all, I have to get up.  I am praying all these dogs will sell soon!

We will be animal-less soon, we think.  We still have one cow, who will be leaving soon for the freezer.  Next, it's the chickens.  We love our chickens, but the eggs they lay are being eaten by the dreaded rats.  We're going to get rid of the chickens we think for a bit, get rid of the rat population, and then re-start maybe next spring.  We have one litter of kittens right now, leaving in a few weeks, and then hopefully the puppies any day.  After that, we're going to take an animal breather and focus on all the other things going on at the farm.

This past week was my husband's week off.  But, it was hardly a week off.  He started by heading out to meet my nearly 17 year old in Alberta.  He was there checking out a flight school as my son's career path has taken a complete switch-o-change-o and he's thinking "pilot" now.  It was a neat opportunity as it was the very school my mom and uncle attended when they were in boarding school/high school.  It now offers a missionary aviation program and that was what he was there to see.  During the flight camp he got to fly 5 times (with an instructor) and I think it is safe to say, he loved it.  Now, to decide if it is the school for him.  It is very pricey so we are not ruling out any options yet.

Upon returning, the weather was hot and dry and that makes for perfect haying weather.  So even though he would have liked to just relax, he jumped on a tractor and baled over 600 bales this past week in the killer heat.  In the middle of all that he found time to get 5 acres and nearly 6000 vines planted in our field.  Not your average vacation.

Fortunately we didn't have to plant the vines ourselves.  He hired that out, but we had to do all the watering of each individual plant.  That was a lot of work.  These first few days after getting them in are like the first few days of a newborn's life - super critical.  If they don't get the water they need, they won't make it.  So my husband would drive the tractor that was pulling a tank of water.  Then two of my kids would each hold a nozzle/hose and water each plant one by one.  This was very time consuming as they had to keep going back and forth to fill up the tank.

But it makes us very excited as we've been planning this for a long time and it is hard to believe it's actually happening.  It ups the value of our land instantly.  It's definitely an investment for the future, both for ourselves and our children.  Each year now we plan on putting in a few more acres, ultimately replacing most of the hay fields.  It certainly doesn't look like a vineyard yet, but each year they will grow higher and higher and by the 3rd year, we should be producing grapes.  Even though it seems like such a long time to wait for the benefits of planting a vineyard, we figure either way the time is going to pass, so we may as well invest our time and do something with our land.  We see how quickly time goes.

It was another great project to have our kids involved in.  Last night I told the kids how every plant they water isn't their dad's plant, but THEIR plants.  They are helping us for sure, but I wanted them to know they are not just helping my husband and I in our retirement, but they are helping their own retirement.  I certainly wasn't thinking about retirement at their age.  Yet, it will creep up on them, too, one day.

We'll see if I get to write more this summer or if it will remain tricky....for now...I write when I can.

Monday, 25 June 2018

This is My Confidence

I've caclulated that on some days I am in a car up to three hours.  No wonder I'm not accomplishing all that I hope to each day.  Because I get so tired the second I get in a car, I now lie down for a few minutes, even if it's a 4 pm, to take the edge off before picking up my son at 7 pm.  It's the only way to survive!

We've now passed 9 years living in Niagara.  That has gone so fast I can hardly believe it.  We left the GTA (the suburbs) when my daughter was just 1.  She just had her 10th birthday.  I can't believe all that we've been through in those 9 years.  I can't believe all the people we've met, the places we've lived, the experiences we've had....mostly good, some not so good, but all have been used by God to mold us into the family He wants us to be.

I have to admit, I thought we'd be further along by now in our debt retirement.  It is hard not to feel disappointed by that and it can make me fall into that pit of discouragement if I'm not careful.  My husband reminds me all the time about the strides we've made, so I need to focus on that.  I didn't anticipate the needs of our older children and the financial impact they make on our lives and that is with them paying most of their way through life now that they have jobs.

I came across a song that is so moving and it describes my feelings exactly.  It is called "Do It Again", by Elevation Worship

Walking around these walls
I thought by now they'd fall
But You have never failed me yet
Waiting for change to come
Knowing the battle's won
For You have never failed me yet
Your promise still stands
Great is Your faithfulness, faithfulness
I'm still in Your hands
This is my confidence, You've never failed me yet
I know the night won't last
Your Word will come to pass
My heart will sing Your praise again
Jesus, You're still enough
Keep me within Your love
My heart will sing Your praise again
Your promise still stands
Great is Your faithfulness, faithfulness
I'm still in Your hands
This is my confidence, You never failed
Your promise still stands
Great is Your faithfulness, faithfulness
I'm still in Your hands
This is my confidence, You never failed me yet
The first two lines are what strike me the most....."Walking around these walls, I thought by now they'd fall".....that is it.  I thought my walls would be down by now and they aren't, not where I want them to be at least.  Yet, the next line reminds me quickly, "But you have never failed me yet".  This is so true.  I am not homeless, not without shelter or food.  I have clothes on my back, animals and crops in my fields, children in beds.....why am I so quick to see what I don't have?!

The song goes on, "I know the night won't last, Your Word will come to pass.....Jesus you're still enough".  His promise "still stands".  This song captures all I feel and if I put it on and turn up the volume I can barely get through it without tears.  I love it so much!

Last week when I was feeling somewhat overwhelmed by all my older kids' needs, out of the blue I got an email from someone I've only met once.  She's an older mom of 10 who has more than half of her kids married and I think only 4 at home.  We were on the large family panel at the recent homeschool conference.  She said my name had been on her mind for awhile and that she felt compelled to write me a note of encouragement.  These are some of her words to me, "You are a wife, a mother and above all a CHILD of GOD!  God is with you.  He is walking beside you holding your hand.  Remember He gave you the kids you have.  He doesn’t make mistakes. We do what we can when raising them, God takes it from there.  We can not make choices for them as they get older.  We must stand back and watch, praying God will send others into their lives that will help them and guide them in the Way they should go.  But this is hard... REALLY HARD! "

If that wasn't a message straight from God.  I couldn't believe it.  How did she know?  What made me come into her mind?  The song talks about God's faithfulness, how He never fails, how I'm still in His hands.....what a great reminder to me.  I immediately wrote her backing telling her the timeliness of her letter was perfect.  I'm sure she has no idea the impact it would have on me.  I've said it before, sometimes God just comes into our lives with "skin on".  He uses real people, letters, phone calls, texts to encourage us in our lower times.  This is not the first time this has happened to me.  Though the times where I feel down are not what I prefer, I'm always amazed how God meets me there and doesn't leave me there.

We had some of our old neighbours come over from the suburbs on the weekend.  As I showed them around the house and farm (they'd never been here before some of them), I was able to show them all the work we'd done.  It was a good reminder to me all that we had accomplished!  I know that we still have a long ways to go, but we have done a lot!  It is not the place we moved into, that is for sure.

They were hilarious....they wondered where I kept my clothes if I had no closets.  When I took them to the mudroom and showed them all the crates full of clothes, all their cell phones came out, snapping away, taking pictures of my "family crate closet".  It is picture worthy, I have to admit.  Then, when they saw my 10 kg of oatmeal and my 10 kg of brown sugar and whey powder and flax meal.......more pictures.  I guess they've never seen bulk food!  Most of them have one or no kids left at home.  To think I still have 8 kids all at home blows their minds away.  It explains the mess a lot and my need for bulk food and perhaps why we aren't making the great strides I hoped for!  Needless, to say, the wineries were not the great attraction, our crazy family was.  Very amusing to them, indeed.  


All this to say, I start my week off today full of hope.  The sun is shining, the breeze is beautiful.  I will be in the car again shortly, but now I'm starting to plan things we can do out the Niagara Falls way.  There are so many hikes and things to see out that way.  I'll also be planning yet another birthday tomorrow!  My rascally 7 year old turns 8!  I can't believe it.  He's the one that truly marks our Niagara experience as he never lived in the suburbs and truly grew up on the farm.  Total farm boy through and through and he's got the abs to prove it.  I'll probably have a discouraging thought try to enter my head today or one that tries to make me afraid, but I have found lyrics from that worship song (above) race around in my head and that is what sends the lies away and defeats the enemy.  This is my confidence....You've never failed me yet.

Monday, 11 June 2018

In a Fish House....For 3 Days

Though summer is not officially here....we are certainly acting like it and loving the weather.  Thanks to the greenhouse throwing out lots of flowers again, I was able to manage snagging a few on their way to the dump and planted our porch with the "throwouts".  Yeah!

I had hoped for a garden this year, but it isn't looking so good.  We are needing to focus on the house and even though it seems like an easy thing to dig up some dirt and put a few seeds in, it is not.  Every moment counts around here.  If, by some miracle, the garden does go in, I will be very happy, but each summer, I just let God decide if it will happen.  Surrender.  Even in my gardening.

This past week my son spent some time in the fish house.  This is one of the shifts he gets where he couldn't understand why he would be put there.  He wanted to be with the whales, not with the stinky fish, mixing up their food, pail after pail.  Talk about stinking like fish when we picked him up!  Get this, he was in the fish house THREE DAYS.    Sound familiar?  The belly of the whale department.  By the 3rd day, he was done and was glad to be back upstairs with the sun and the belugas.  But wait, he was called back in by another employee.  He had missed a few things that he needed to not overlook.   He wasn't in trouble.  He was unaware and they just wanted him to be aware.  But it still made him feel bad.

But this was when it occurred to me.  God was using the fish house, the worst job in the whole place to teach him another lesson.  The irony of it being 3 days, in the belly of the whale department was too crazy to not notice.  How I loved the picture!  He didn't, but I did!  He did, however, immediately realize that God was using the worst job to teach him another skill.  This week he's back in the fish house, but just for a day here or there (everyone has to take a day in the dreaded fish house).  He now goes in with his eyes open, wondering what he's supposed to be learning now, no longer dreading, but anticipating. 

This is what we all have to do.  We have to embrace the fish house we find ourselves in, the stinky place that no one wants to be in, but where God teaches all the lessons.  I love it.

Many years ago, I was in the fish house, in Barranquilla, Colombia, on the coast of South America.  I was teaching in an American private school far away from anything I knew.  It was my first year of teaching and I really stunk at it.  I had gone in with all these amazing ideas and the school just wanted me to follow their curriculum.  What was I thinking?  But teacher's college had taught me to be a free-thinker!  I was on the verge of losing my job.  It took me going home at Christmas that first year, meeting with all my former associate teachers and then heading back with a new plan to save my job, which I did.  I ended up with a glowing reference letter from the principal by the end of it all, but I sure had to go through a hard time in my own personal fish house in order to learn all the lessons God wanted me to learn.

My parents were praying their hearts out for me while I was gone.  This saved my life in more than one way.  I knew Colombia was a dangerous place, but I had no idea how dangerous.  They recently gave me a book to read called The Lord of Bellavista.  This talks about a prison in Medellin, which is a city I visited while I was there and how God transformed the prison from a place where 50 murders occurred a month (within the prison itself) to ZERO murders.  It is an incredible story.

I was there during the time of Pablo Escabar, the drug lord.  He was killed while I was there.  I remember seeing the picture of his bullet ridden body on the front page of the paper.  I knew I was in the middle of a historically interesting time.  The other teachers and I were careful when we went out, but looking back probably not careful enough.  The school where I was at had kidnappings regularly. The wealthy kids there had bodyguards.  Everyone knew someone who had been murdered.  I didn't want to live in fear, so I didn't, but I probably should have been more aware that I was a target, too.  The drug lords kidnapped for ransom money regularly.  I was so obviously a westerner that I could have easily been kidnapped.  This book made me realize how ignorant I was to what was going on all around me.  I'm kind of glad I didn't know the extent of it. 

It also made me realize how God was at work this whole time, too, behind the scenes, without me even knowing it.  I went to an alive church while I was there, all Spanish-speaking.  I got so good at Spanish that I could eventually hear a sermon and get something out of it!  I met with the pastor and people in the church regularly.  It was so great.  Their services were alive.  It made Canadian churches seem dead in comparison.  But again, reading the book, it made me see how much spiritual warfare was at play.  If God was moving in South America, Satan had to do something about it and in some cases, it seemed like he was winning.  Yet the book showed how, no, God was still in control and was using regular people to change that dark country.  It was such an encouragement to read how God could take these hardened criminals and then make them missionaries to other jails!  Wow.

I don't know if I could go back to Colombia now.  I'd be afraid in some ways.  However, it really is the most beautiful country and has so many amazing places I want to show my kids!  I guess for now I have to wait, but maybe one day.  Anyway, I'm grateful for the memories the book stirred up in me.  It reminded me of my hard time back in my early teaching career and also of how God used that time to shape me, to teach me utter dependence on Him, though I hated almost every moment of it.  He used the prayers of my parents to keep me safe, just as I pray for my own kids now.  I'm sure they wished they could have taken away the pain of my hard time, but being overseas made that impossible.  They only had prayer which was enough.  I was also kept safe because of their prayers, I'm sure.  I would like to take my kids out of their own hard times, but I know those hard times are what shape them.  They shaped me. 

I won't willingly walk into a fish house now.  They stink, but if God wants me or my kids to be in one, so be it.

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

To be continued

The amount of posts certainly reflects my new season of life.  And I thought babies were hard......

Our plate is full, but we realize, yes, we may have brought some of the busy-ness on ourselves, but what would be doing with our time otherwise?  Sitting around eating bon bons?  So, in a strange, backwards kind of way, I don't mind all the activity.  In fact, I would actually say I enjoy it.  I'm a person who needs something to look forward to.  If I admit it, then I actually need something to look forward to everyday.  When I have to drive my son to work, or we have art class, or one of them have a dentist appointment, I actually look forward to it!  When I ask myself, "Why is that and what is it about me that enjoys and looks forward to those things?"  I realize it is because that is how God has wired me - I like people, I like getting out, I like going new places and even the same old places, I look forward to conversations with others, and it is a chance for me to be alone sometimes in the car and even pray or listen to a sermon while I'm out....I'm good with all that!

A couple of funny things from yesterday.....RM and I were sitting at the table drinking coffee before he headed off to work and we kept hearing this thumping sound.  It was kind of a windy day, so we thought it was maybe a branch banging against the side of the house.  We had no idea and weren't really concerned, though it my mind I kept thinking, "What could that be?!"  He left and I forgot about it.  If the noise went on throughout the day, I didn't notice.

Later on that morning I was trying to get the kids to feed cats, do chores, deliver laundry....all the usual stuff, but my 7 year old, who is always about "not doing chores" and "inventing his own chores", said, "I'm going to fill up the bird feeder."  Not on the list, but fine.  But then I remembered the chickens had dumped the entire bin of bird feed the day before and there was none left for filling.  I said this over and over, but he wouldn't listen to me, adamant that he could fill it up with something anyway.  I walked away as steam was starting to come out of my ears.

When I saw him later, he said, "Mom!  Something funny happened!  I lifted the bin to fill up the bird feeder (it had been upside down when it tipped over) and a chicken walked out!  She had laid an egg!" 

Suddenly, it dawned on me....the noise we had heard had been a chicken stuck under the upside down bin!  She had been banging and banging trying to get out!  Poor thing!  When the bin fell off the bench, she had inadvertently gotten stuck, long enough to lay an egg!  So funny....

Then, last night, I had some last minute tidying before bed and I asked the younger 3 to help out.  They are doing waaaaay more than ever now that their older siblings are gone so much.  They aren't so keen on this.  Oh well.  I asked the 6 year old to pick up some shoes in the kitchen and to put them in the mudroom.  "Sure, Mom!"  He was so obedient and quick to listen, I was so happy!  But then I found out he only picked up his own shoes, no one else's.

I said to him, "You need to pick up these ones as well." 

"They're not mine!" 

"I know, " I told him, "but I'd like you to pick them up, too." 

"Fine!"  He grumpily picked them up.  Goodbye to the good attitude.

A couple of minutes later he came up to me and said (speaking of his 9 year old sister), "She does NOT appreciate it when I pick up her shoes!"

I had to cover my mouth in shock - NOT APPRECIATE?!!!  How does he know a big word like that?! 

So I asked him, "How do you know she doesn't appreciate it when you pick up her shoes?"  (smirking to myself, trying not to laugh out loud...)

In his most angry voice, "She doesn't say 'thank you'!" 

"Oh really!  Do you thank me when I do the laundry?  or make dinner? or.....or...or.....?" 

Now sheepish, "Uh...no...."

He got it.  I loved how his eyes lit up.  He realized maybe he wasn't the only one who isn't always appreciated.  However, I made sure my also-smirking 9 year old, went up to him and thanked him for putting her shoes away.  Lesson learned for all of us.  Be grateful, appreciate others.  Even a 6 year old needs a little appreciation around here!

I have been reading 4 books at once recently.  In the few moments I have before I go to bed exhausted, I try to read a little.  They are almost always books about real men and women and their true stories.....but more on this tomorrow.....kids are up....!

Thursday, 24 May 2018

A Tale of Stinky Fish

I never thought I would complain and say something like this before, but this is what I'm complaining about now - my son smells like a fish.  He got in the car yesterday and I had to stop myself from gagging.  All the windows were down.  It took me a few minutes to get used to the new sea salt/fish smell, all the while breathing through my nose, before I could carry on a conversation without the gag reflex. 

My son didn't care and the truth was, neither did I, because the reason he smells like a fish, a really bad, smelly fish, is because he is around fish all day, actually huge mammals, doing the dream job of his life, feeding these stinky fish (thus the smell!) to a bunch of beluga whales all day long.  He and I both pinched ourselves many times this week.  We just can't believe he's working in what he feels lis a giant movie set of Dolphin Tale.  He said yesterday that even another employee said to him yesterday, "I can't believe I get to work with whales!  This is the best job ever!"  My son had to agree, "I know!  I love my job!" 

So the drawbacks - he stinks every time I pick him up.  Really badly.  But, I really don't care.  I get to pick up my son who is so happy I could cry.  He is going to have a really funny tan.  The backs of his legs are so red from leaning over the pools to feed the whales.  His ribs are sore from leaning on the cement.  His arms are sore from carrying the 60 lbs of fish the belugas eat all day (times 32 - that's right, there are 32 belugas - they have a very successful breeding program apparently!). 

And, the drive.....oh, the drive.....we have to figure this one out.  It is a 40 minute drive one way to drop him off and potentially much longer as I have to pick him up during rush hour.  I haven't minded, it just means a huge impact on our schooling again, which I have pretty much had to pack in for the year seeing as I'm never home anymore.  The kids usually have to come with me when I drive as they are too young to be on their own for that long.  So, there has been impact with this new job, but the little kids can't believe he works with whales all day at an amusement park, so they are actually ok with it, too!  They are so thrilled for him!  (I think they secretly hope that we'll get season's passes to the park, which I don't want to get, but may have to.....)  But, each time we've driven him together, we stop and do something fun and they now don't mind going with me knowing it'll always end up being a great time.  We school in the car, talking about all the things we're learning. 

We're still debating about getting another car just for the summer, but we aren't sure.  I always end up listening to more sermons than normal when I drive this much and I heard some great programs yesterday, one in particular related to money and young adults and debt.  The average American student graduates with $37,000 in student loans when they finish school.  The guest on the show suggested that this doesn't have to be the case.  We would agree which is why all our kids are working so hard to put themselves through school.  So far, all our kids are debt-free with school and they are paying for it themselves.  However, if they get cars, then everything changes.  We aren't quite sure what to do there.  One friend suggested that perhaps I continue to drive, but he pays me a percentage for the gas and my own car care, just not the full amount he would have to pay for his own car.  That's a thought.  So, we are praying about this one 'cause it is a challenge for me and the kids to be in the car so much.  It is a challenge for us with all the gas.  It is just hard all the way around, but we know it'll all work out in the end.  In the meantime, my son is living a dream and I don't want to spoil it by complaining about the drive.  It's actually really fun to drive with him all the time.  He is one of my funniest kids, and has me in stitches most of the way there.  We also get to talk about his India trip, or his struggles, or whatever it is that you just don't normally get when you aren't driving your child for an hour and a half!!!  So I thank God, I really do, for the challenge this new job has given us.

Years ago, I remember asking my women's Bible study to pray for us.  We were considering moving to the country and I didn't want to go.  I had this son, I told them, who clearly loved nature and animals, and I felt like living in town was just not the best place for him.  So they prayed.  My son was 5 at the time.  Now he's 19.  God did not answer that prayer right away.  It took 7 years before we moved to the country, but we did move, and it was really motivated initially because of that little boy. Not only did we move to the country, but we moved to a part of the world that has whales!  We never thought about that when we first moved here, but really, only people who live near this amusement park can work there (unless you move!).  I never would have told my husband 12 years ago, "We should really move to a neighbourhood that has whales."  No, I would not have even known to say that.  So, I marvel, that God in His sovereignty knew that years later my son would need this kind of a job to get him more animal experience.  He also moved us to a place where we would meet the right people who would help connect us to other people who would help us get this job!  Some would call it all coincidence, but I can't.  I know our life would be so different if we had stayed where we were.  I knew my son was a different kid from the beginning and he needed a different place to live.  I thank God that those prayers were answered from so long ago.

Friday, 18 May 2018

He's Back!

Thankfully, our son arrived safe and sound last night.  Even on time.  Small mercies.  I don't know how he got through customs.  He came back with an unusual amount of weapons and knives, as well as a dead scorpion that he had caught under some Indian rock.  The guys who had lived there for over 5 years didn't even know there were scorpions in that part of India.  Leave it to my son to find them.  He apparently became known as "Rock Turner" because he was always lifting rocks looking for them or unusual bugs.  We saw that from the time he was a little boy.  Still does it!

It sounds like from what we heard so far that it was all we had hoped for.  He was able to deworm hundreds of horses, cows, sheep and dogs as well as assist in surgery.  He even learned to stitch up animals which is a great skill if you become a vet!  He saw diseases that are apparently very rare here but run rampant over there.  He was treated to Indian hospitality whatever village he was in and learned to drink salty tea, which he didn't love, but knew he had to try it!

It was also great to work with the local missionaries who are not called or known as missionaries there.  It is a Muslim area and there is no evangelizing allowed, so they are there under the premise of running a business.  They then hire locals and have seen several come to Christ.  It was good for our son to see this and meet the families that are risking their lives every day for the gospel.  They could easily be thrown out of the country at any moment.

I was so curious if he had packed enough warm clothes.  Had he forgotten anything that he had wished he'd brought?  The week before he left we had been sent a list of all the essential things he would need.  Some of it he had, but some of it we needed to buy.  My husband was willing to make the investment and go all out and buy new at MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-op).  I couldn't stomach it.  I knew, even if he went another year, we didn't have to buy new, did we?  I suggested we take one trip to the goodwill store and see if they had anything and then, if not, make the trek to MEC.  I think what pleased me most was that my son was open to that.  He was willing to go to goodwill.  Off we went.

We scoured the racks and to my pleasure we were able to find EVERYTHING he needed at the goodwill store, including what could have been a pricey vest, jeans, hiking boots, windbreaker, etc.  The rest of the things he needed we got at the dollar store!  If we had bought those things at MEC, we would have been looking at a bill that was hundreds of dollars.  I felt God blessed us with the exact things we needed at a fraction of the cost.  Thank you God and goodwill!

His new marine mammal caregiver job will start next week, so he has the weekend to recover from jetlag and then he's off to a new adventure.  We will hear more and more about his trip as the days unfold.  It sounds like it was a great experience.  The vet/friend of mine he traveled with took me aside and told me she tried not to mother him!  She watched out for him, but said he did fine, so I got the true story out of her, I think!  She's gone on this trip for 5 years now.  Will he go again?  I don't know, but he's open to it!  Praising and thanking God for his safe return, for the opportunity to travel and gain experience in the veterinary field as well as his first exposure to overseas missions - he sure packed a lot into one trip!