Friday, 6 December 2019

Newspaper, Radio and a Reader

Patience is really all it took to get through this long time without our extra vehicle, but we are finally back in business, though we are all half-expecting something else to go on the truck any time as it is older.  The worst thing, of course, was the extra driving I had to do, but in the big picture, was that really so awful?  No.  I enjoyed all the extra conversations I got with all the different passengers I had and all the extra Bible lessons I heard on the ended up being all good.

But it was a funny week.  Right before the truck was fixed and we were still without it, an ice storm hit.  The power went out.  When it came back on the power surge must have done something that scared our fridge literally to death and die it did. We looked at each other with our, "That's about right" look.  But, knowing it was just another test, I have to say, we all took it in stride as we know by now, there's no point freaking out.  Somehow we would get by.  So, we took everything out of the fridge and froze what we could (at least we had a freezer with space), put some things on the back porch and threw out anything that wouldn't last anyway.  We had a small bar fridge in the basement and we trudged up and down the dungeon stairs (you have to see the basement to believe it) for a few days.  Then, a bizarre thing happened.  I honestly don't know how to explain it.  My husband says there is a logical explanation as he knows all about refrigeration mechanics, but somehow, to our shock and awe, the fridge restarted.  It was fully dead and it somehow revived.  Fully working.  We couldn't believe it!  So, it gave us a great opportunity to clean it, clean behind it (disgusting) and restock.  Thank you, Lord!  So strange.  I can't see that story making it into the Bible somehow, but it is in my life story for sure!

So two revived machines on the farm.  That makes for front page family news!  Speaking of news, my husband is not exactly a celebrity that the world would know, but he has enjoyed some minor footage recently in both a national paper and the local radio station.  We smile because this is not his cup of tea at all, but sure enough, there he is in a full page article featuring the college and the research that is going on in Niagara.  Then yesterday morning he was interviewed on the radio as well as Niagara is becoming known as a new center of both research and innovation, creating lots of new jobs for people to stay and work at as opposed to leaving to bigger centers.  His new position is giving him so many exciting opportunities.  When we first considered moving ten years ago we never could have guessed this is where God would take us and all that would be in our future.

But that makes complete sense in a way.  Every move we make is predetermined by a loving God who knows what we need and how He will provide.  Acts 17:26 says, "From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands."  I've always known this, that God has literal appointed places where we should live.  I've always found that so reassuring. Yesterday, I was reminded of this when I was reading with my 7 year old in his reader.  The story was about Isaac and about a famine in the land.  No food for anyone around him.  The reader paraphrases the story into easier words for children to read.  This is what is said,

"In the land where Isaac and Rebekah and the twins lived, there came a hard time.  The people did not have enough to eat.  Before Isaac was born, there had been a time like this, too.  At that time Abraham and Sarah had gone down to a strange land.  There they had food to eat.  But God did not want Isaac and his family to go to this strange land.  God said, "Stay in this land.  I will be with you."  Isaac did not need to be afraid to stay even if there was not much food.  God had promised to be with  him.  God told him where to moved so that he would have enough to eat.  Isaac moved to a new place, but it was still in the land of Canaan.  It was not in a strange land.  God kept His promise to Isaac.  Isaac planted a crop.  God made it grow and give them a lot of food.  They had plenty to eat."

That is essentially what happened to us.  We were living in a place prior to this where we felt there wasn't enough food, perhaps not literally, but we knew we weren't thriving.  For 7 years we looked and prayed for a place to go.  I love that number, 7, as in the seventh year in the Bible, freedom is often given.  In the seventh year of looking for us, we found the lot we ended up building on which moved us out this way.  Interestingly, it was still within the time frame of driving that made us feel we didn't have to move to a "strange land" either.  We were open to moving farther if God had wanted us to, but we're so grateful he allowed us to stay within the hour of visiting family on both sides.  "I will be with you," God promised Isaac and He has kept that promise to us.

My husband's work dramatically changed from having his own business which fed us for 12 years to a time of want where we sought the Lord again, asking Him what direction He was leading us, to this current work situation.  Once we moved here, we, too, have literally planted crops, from almost the time we arrived.  We've also had animals that are still feeding us.  I have beef in my freezer from one of our last cows from a while ago.  We have planted hay which has been a good source of income at just the right time more than once.  We have now planted vines, which tend to grow well in this area and happen to be a crop mentioned in the Bible all the time, so I love that. We will be coming up to our first crop this summer.  I pray that God will bless that crop, allow it to grow as He did with Isaac.

As I read the story with my son, he just read along without realizing the significance, but I read it and was thinking to myself all along, "Hey!  That's exactly how I feel!  We are so much like Isaac and Rebekah!"  Reading that story yesterday made me realize God never changes.  Just like He cared for Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, He also cares for me and my husband, and all the other couples of the world.  He knows about the famines in their lives and in each case allows them for one reason or another.  He knows whether they should move to a "strange land" or not and He customizes solutions for each family.  He doesn't do the same thing in each situation, but in each case, He provides.  In some cases, it's in the move to a strange land that He brings provision.  In others cases, it's in the provision of a crop.  But in all the cases, He says, "I will be with you".

Being in the paper was a strange confirmation.  Though the story wasn't about my husband exactly, he was just the face they used as he is the "face of research", they could have used anyone's face.  Why his?  Same with the radio interview.  Yes, he is in the position of research and it makes sense they interviewed him, but why this week?  I have to say, it feels like God needed to show me, in a real tangible way, "See?  I'm in charge.  I brought you and your husband here for a real purpose.  I have a true plan for your life."  I wasn't asking for a picture in the paper, a news story or an interview, but that's what God sent to reassure me, as I have to admit, sometimes I get fearful still and God needed to shut me down with literal footage to show me, "You're good.  Stop worrying so much."  Then, he showed me a picture in a paper and said, "This guy?  The one in the picture?  He's your husband?  Yeah, he's got this job that I gave him and I'm using him here and I just wanted you and all of Canada to see that."  Then, in case I was still worried, He used not just a picture, but his voice over the radio, just days later, and again, "This voice you're hearing?  He's your husband.  He's in the exact job that I want him in right now.  I'm using him."  I shouldn't need that kind of reassurance, but I have to say, it helped!  We joked, what next?  A reality TV show on research?  I guess not. 

No one else will see or hear what I saw when these segments on my husband came out, but I saw them.  Reading the story in my son's reader tied it all together.  I know God loves me.  I believe it, but sometimes God allows these unusual confirmations to reassure me, but it takes some reflection to see it and I'm grateful that my eyes were opened to how He continues to work in our lives, provide, and then reassure me when the doubts creep in.

Monday, 2 December 2019

More Surprises, Emotional Interpreters, Parties and Perspective

I don't love surprises being planned for me, but I'm totally ok with planning them.  This time, irony of ironies, we pulled one off for my almost-16 year old daughter.  My sister and all the nieces were in town to see my bro's new baby, so I knew we had to use that small window of time to pull something off real quick.  I quickly messaged everyone and said, "Can we do this?!"  and, thankfully, they were all in.  It was easy to organize because everyone was staying over at my other sister's house anyway.  The next morning I simply had to show up with food and say "Surprise!"  Easy! 

They had all been up almost all night as my out-of-town sister didn't arrive till nearly midnight, but oh well, tired or not, we were having a party - nearly a month early.  My daughter walked downstairs into the kitchen and we all shouted, "Surprise!"  She was caught off guard big time as it was so early before her actual day, so a big success.

I was going to write none of her friends were there, just family this time, but that's not true...somehow over the years my sisters and I have been able to foster best friend cousins.  It is such a gift.  As each one of us went around to share what we loved or appreciated about my daughter, all the cousins shared that they were best friends, including the sisters.  Nothing could make us happier as moms.  We all feel so grateful that they are there for one another as each one has had friendships come and go, but as family, they are stuck together forever.  They all share a common faith heritage as well, so we know they will literally be with one another forever, too.  To hear them share their faith together and to hear them encourage one another in their walk with God, it's amazing.

The funniest part of the entire morning was when it was my turn to share my thoughts with my daughter.  Naturally, as everyone would expect, I couldn't get through it.  I had been led to share Proverbs 22:6 where the Bible says, "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it."  My encouragement to her was that we've attempted our very best to train, to sacrifice, to instill faith, to model a life that is pleasing to the Lord in our feeble attempts, etc. and then, big surprise.....I broke down....but, wait...who is speaking?!  My sister, who was standing right behind me, immediately stepped in and started talking for me, as if she was me!  She literally finished saying everything I would have said while I blubbered away in front of her.  It was so funny.  We were all laughing hysterically.  I started using "fake" sign language and she would then say what I would have said.  My brother, who was also there, saw this and said, "She's her emotional interpreter!"  We all howled.  So, there's a new career opportunity for my sister, she could be an emotional interpreter!  Or, better yet, I'll just bring her now for all my future speaking engagements where I typically cry, which is, oh, all the time.  But, that said something to all of us there, too.  Not only are the cousins close, but the sisters are, too, and also with our brother.  He had his baby there, barely two weeks old and that little girl was NEVER put down.  She is loved beyond measure.  Seeing my younger brother as a dad is so cool.  And what a great Dad he is.  Never in a million years could I have pictured this moment for him, holding a newborn, so amazing.

This week is going to be a pretty fun week for me.  I have always felt ripped off when my husband worked for himself.  There were never any Christmas parties to go to, never any fun staff meals, except with our family!  Never any gift exchanges....I was always jealous of those people who had those fun events through work!  But now, with his new job, there are events I get to attend!  Starting tonight we'll be a two different Christmas events this week, which is something I love to do.  Some might seem them as an obligation, but, being so social, I love them.

I'm grateful to be sitting here with warm air blasting at me.  It wasn't looking so good yesterday as we were without power most of the day after the ice storm that whipped through here.  I want to thank the hydro people who had to go out into the storm to fix the lines that were down!  Knowing how bad it was church was even cancelled and a good thing.  There was even an accident just down the road where a young person was killed because of the icy road conditions.  So awful.

Last week was the week of driving.  This week we are getting closer to having two vehicles again, but it isn't quite finished.  The fix is taking time as it is such a huge project, but we figured he is saving soooo much money by doing this.  Will I be driving all week again?  Probably, but oh well, I've learned to keep my perspective and to pray with perspective, knowing there is a greater picture being worked out in my life that I don't even see, even if it means being in a car many hours a day.  There are so many worse things that could be going on, so I'm grateful for whether I'm in a car or not.

Thursday, 28 November 2019

I'll Take One Cup of Perspective, Please

It would not be an exaggeration at all to say that I spent ALL DAY in the car yesterday.  A quick look back and I think anyone reading this would agree....

8 am - drove my husband to work as his vehicle is still in the shop, nearly finished but still a ways to go
9 am - arrive home only to find out I have to drive my son and his friend to a city an hour away because my son can't find his wallet (with his license!), so now I have to do the driving.  This particular friend had been with us for several days and sometimes has a car, but not this time! 

9:30 - leave the house, but it starts pouring.  We end up having to drive a lot slower and will now be late for my son to go to work unless my daughter meets us with her car at an exit on the highway with all his work clothes!
11:45 - have now returned from the other town and meet my daughter at the exit, quickly switch clothes and kids - exit 1 from my car and enter 3 from her's!  Hilarious kid exchange happened.  If anyone had been watching they would have thought we were all clowns
12:02 - my son makes it to work, only 2 minutes about close call.  Leave for the next errand with 3 kids heading to the next town a half hour away
12:30 - grab a quick bite with kids in store and exchange some clothes
1: 00 - go to the next store, buy some groceries, and whip over to another one right next door and pick up a couple of gifts for someone else
2:00 - drop off my daughter at her art class and go to another store to exchange another item, shop at the store beside that one afterwards
3:00 - pick up daughter from art class and head home
4:00 - quick turn around, drop off kids and get back in the car to pick up my husband
4:30 - arrive and wait half an hour IN CAR for a half an hour as he got stuck in a meeting!
5:00 - drive home
6:00 - arrive home 10 hours after I first left that morning........

My son needed to be picked up at 7:30 that night.  I wasn't going.  I wasn't getting back in that car!  Just rewriting it makes me tired!  I have to admit, once I saw my husband at 5 pm, I wasn't the most chipper, especially after being left to wait an additional 30 minutes in the pick-up spot, but after we debriefed and he heard my very long day, all was good.  I realized I was being no better than the kids who I am trying so desperate to train NOT to complain.  I had to go to my one son and tell him later, "Guess what Mommy did today?  I complained to Dad like I was a kid."  He smiled.

Days like those are certainly challenging.  It already adds to my "I don't homeschool enough" feeling, but what can you do when things need to get done and you need a vehicle and your children and husband have places to go and things to do as well?  You just get in the car and drive.  It's all perspective though.  I wasn't driving to cancer appointments.  I wasn't driving to a hospital.  I wasn't driving to a funeral.  I wasn't driving to divorce counselling.  I wasn't driving to a food bank.  I was driving because there was money for gas, money for food, money for art classes, money for everything I needed to buy.  I was picking up kids, dropping off kids and husbands, but at least I have kids and a husband.  The weather was great one moment, awful the next, but I arrived safely everywhere I went.  My kids may have not finished every single subject, but they did do some when I was gone and at least they were still with me most of the day, even if they did complain some throughout the long amount of driving.  On those days it is "life school" where they get to see what a mom really does in her day.  I'm not sitting around eating bon bons and watching soaps.  No, I'm navigating a very complicated schedule, the whole time trying to maintain my cool which can be a challenge in those situations!  It's good for them to see that.

We sat around and debriefed as we try to do each night anyway, but I added a few new questions to the regular discussion that I had read about this week.  It was suggested that you ask each family member to look back over your day and see 1) when you had been kind to someone 2) when you had been unkind and then I added 3) when was someone kind to you and 4) did you make things right with anyone you had been unkind to that day?  It made for a great debrief that night as we looked back and I saw how my kids had stepped up when I was gone for the morning and then later that afternoon.  Each one had helped another child or done laundry, garbage, made a meal or something like that.  I was so impressed to hear about all the good deeds.  I also watched them beam with pride as they told what they had all done and then watched how they said the kind deed another one had done for them.  Hearing them admit their missteps was also good and then watching them make sure all was right was great, too.

Today is going to be another day full of driving, not quite as much, but a close second.  However, looking back on this day, I can see that I better start my day off right, with a good cup of perspective in order to not get into the grumbling and complaining like a toddler mom.  Complaining is actually very selfish.  When I started to complain to my husband, deep down it was because I think I wanted him to know, "My day was harder than your day and you better appreciate that!"  So rude and demanding!  In the middle of it all, I actually heard the verse/song in my head that I had made my kids memorize 15 years earlier, how annoying!  "Do all things without complaining and disputing so that you can be blameless and harmless children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and depraved generation among whom you shine as lights in the world." Phil 2:14-16

I quickly stopped and apologized and he did admit that I must have had a long day.  That was all I needed to hear and I got over it pretty quickly, because also deep down, it hadn't been that hard a day.  I actually had had a good day!  I had accomplished a lot and was very grateful to have been with my kids, even with the one in Africa!  He and I chatted back and forth a bit during the day on whatsapp and that was fantastic!  He's doing great.  One thing he mentioned was that he had been chatting with a 5th year med student and the guy had told him in his whole med school experience he had only intubated 3 people.  My son intubated 3 kids that morning.  He'd been involved with a cleft pallet ministry for a few days and had helped with all the surgeries.  He is getting such amazing experience that med school, if he manages to get in, will be almost annoying as no one will understand the experiences he's been exposed to.  Oh well!

All this to say, perspective changes everything.  I will try to remember that this time before my day even starts........

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Friendships and Verses on Trees, an Unlikely Love Story

I just finished the book, The Scent of Water, by Naomi Zacharias, Ravi Zacharias' daughter.  I picked it up at the art show she put on a couple of weeks ago when I went down with my daughter.  I really loved it.  I had no idea what her story was or why she had written it, but once I started it, it was hard to put down.

The reason I loved it so much was because I could relate to her so well.  I did not go through the same struggles that she experienced in her life, but I related to how she learned so much about life and who she was by just the people she met.  Each chapter she introduced a new character, but a real life person, not fictional, and each time, she reflected on the lesson that that person taught her.  Each person brought her to a new realization of who she is in Christ's eyes, not in the lies she has believed.  Naomi experienced wounds in her life from past relationships and she felt so deeply hurt that she wondered if it was possible to ever be healed, but one by one, another person came into her life that helped heal the wound.

It wasn't the same for me in the sense of being wounded, but it was the same for me in the sense that each friendship that God brought into my life, made it more and more clear who I was to marry.  I was so confused for such a long time.  Somehow I had developed strange thoughts about what kind of person was "my type", so that when the right person came along I nearly missed him.

One night, in the midst of my confusion, I had the epiphany of a lifetime.  It was as if my whole life of friendships passed before my eyes.  Since my first year of university I had lived with a different girl for 5 years.  Each girl had become one of my closest friends as so often happens with roommates.  Each girl understood me and was a true compliment to my personality.  We were able to share our most intimate fears and dreams and in all cases, there had been a spiritual element where faith had always been easily discussed making the friendship even deeper.  All of them were quieter than I was, more organized, thoughtful, kind, more reserved, steady.  I tended to be the louder, more outgoing, crazy, less-organized person in the friendship.  Yet, somehow because of that, we always clicked.  I had joked with one my these women that I just needed to marry a male version of her!

When my husband-to-be came along, I was still in my state of confusion.  How I prayed for clarity.  He had come to visit me in South America where I was teaching at the time.  He had mentioned the "marry" word without proposing.  I freaked out in my head and made it very clear to him that I wasn't sure, didn't know, was so confused.  Poor guy had flown all that way just to leave behind a confused soul who appeared very wishy-washy.

My parents had sent me "cassettes" of sermons from my pastor back at home.  I took the time to listen to one after RM left.  It was on Jeremiah.  I came across chapter 17,

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
    whose confidence is in him.They will be like a tree planted by the water    that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;    its leaves are always green.It has no worries in a year of drought    and never fails to bear fruit.”

Suddenly, I knew I was supposed to marry RM - he was the tree.  He was my tree.  He had roots that went deep.  He had no fear of heat or drought.  I had presented every single reason to him why I shouldn't or couldn't marry him and he didn't flinch.  I had been a wishy-washy, crazy person, and he stayed strong (he'd purchased the ring months earlier without me knowing).  Every time I presented a fear, a concern, a worry, he would confidently reassure me.  There was nothing I could do or say to make him upset.  He always, always, always stood firm in his resolve to care for me and just like the verse described, his "leaves" were "always green", he had "no worries" and he never failed "to bear fruit".  The image of him as a tree made so much sense.  He trusted in the Lord.  His confidence was in Him.  How else could his strength of character be explained?!  His roots were so deep that nothing, absolutely nothing could shake him.  Guess what a person needs who is easily shaken?  Someone who is NOT easily shaken - a human tree!  He was somehow, amazingly, willing to stand beside me no matter how long it took to get my thinking straight.  It was at that moment after reading that verse that the thought occurred to me (I can only think God brought that thought to my head) to reflect on all my past friendships and not just the acquaintances I knew, but my deepest, closest, best was almost like my jaw dropped open....they were literally all female versions of him.  As I thought of each woman and what I had most appreciated about them, I knew God had used them in my life to point me to RM.   I knew if I married him, I would literally be marrying my best friend in the whole world.  He was all of their best characteristics wrapped into one human being that I knew I had to marry.

Even though he had just left, I had to call him and let him know.  I'm sure he sighed a HUGE sigh of relief that I wasn't completely nuts and that, by God's grace, I had come around.  When he had left Colombia that week, he wasn't 100% sure I would.  

We had gone on our first date in June 18, 1994.  I had left for Colombia 6 weeks later.  He visited me in October.  I had my epiphany right after he left that week in October.  I arrived home in December for a few weeks.  He proposed Jan. 6, 1995.  I left to go back to Colombia, only to return that June.  We were married Sept. 1, 1995.  We were in each other's presence a mere 13 weeks before he proposed.  A fairly fast timeline, but I knew 100% he was EXACTLY who I was supposed to marry.  Everyone knew.  It seemed to take me a while to figure it out, but that's only because I had to get rid of my faulty thinking first.  Once I did, by God's grace, there was no turning back.

When I closed Naomi's book, I realized I could have written one, too. I could easily have described how God used each friendship to teach me something I didn't even know I needed to learn when I had first met them.  I didn't know how God was using each woman, each circumstance that brought our friendship together, for good.  God used these friendships to help confirm and clarify my most important friendship and relationship this side of heaven.  He took me literally across the ocean twice to meet certain women that would lead me to my perfect mate.  It's interesting to note, those women love RM and have more in common with him in certain areas than even I do when they get into specific conversations.  This makes complete sense because they are the same type of people!

When Naomi was travelling the world and she would meet each person, she didn't know how God was going to use them in her life.  It was in her reflecting that God showed her the lesson she was supposed to take away.  This is the power of journaling, writing, praying, reading.  It helps bring clarity to the confused soul.

When I think about my life and I read about another woman's life and the people God used in her's and mine, it reassures me that God is going to use other people in my own children's lives to bring them clarity where they have confusion and that He is going to use all of their life circumstances to teach them lessons.......if, and this is a big IF, if they choose to stop and reflect and ask God to show them what they were supposed to learn.  Would I have heard God's voice if I hadn't sat there with my Bible open, begging for clarity?  I think it goes back to the verse from Proverbs 25:2, "It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings."  If I hadn't taken the time to "search out" the matter, I would have most certainly missed out on this person I can now happily, gratefully, call my husband.  My prayer for my children is that they, too, will search out this all important matter, that they will reflect, that they will consider all that God allows them to go through in order to learn these all important life lessons that can ultimately lead to who they are supposed to marry.  It might not look exactly the same way that my searching happened, but whatever they do, I trust that they won't miss what God intends for their good.  It would have easy for me to overlook.  I'm so grateful that God heard my cries for clarity and showed me so clearly, in such an amazing combination of ways, Scripture and past friendships, to confirm who I was to marry.  This year we will celebrate 25 years of marriage.  Amazing.  

Monday, 11 November 2019

Babies, Art and Writing Contests

What an exciting weekend!  We welcomed the newest member to our family yesterday afternoon and praise God, the little one arrived a week early and is safe at home already after a few short hours in the hospital.  She's about the size of a kitten, but that makes sense as my sister-in-law is as well, never even buying maternity clothes throughout her pregnancy except for one or two things!  I hope we can meet her soon except we're supposed to reach record snow falls for the area today!

We also had a quiz meet on Saturday and though my kids didn't do as well as they have in past years, I always have to remember the point is to get Scripture on their hearts, not just win - though winning has always been fun, too - maybe another time!

However, two of my children did win in a writing contest recently!  It was just for our local homeschool group, but it was very exciting for them and they won a little money!  My daughter submitted her story on how they had managed to raise so much money this summer for my oldest son heading off to Africa.  The judge wrote on her story that it had made her "tear up"!  The sign of a great story!  My 9 year old wrote on his "Night of Doom" when he described his experience of poking himself in the thumb with a carving tool.  His story also gets lot of emotional reaction from disgust to horror to lots of laughs as he ends his story with a great line.  He wrote that he had learned his lesson and that from now on he always goes to bed when his mom says goodnight, followed by a ".....sometimes....."  He got 2nd place while my daughter took first.  I love feedback that my kids get that isn't just from me.   Hopefully that will enforce why we need to write and why it is important to learn to communicate well.

Friday, my 11 year old daughter and I, went into Toronto for an art exhibit that the Canadian branch of Ravi Zachiarias ministries puts on every few months.  We went with my very pregnant sister-in-law who is sort of an artist herself and knows that my daughter is also an aspiring artist, so it was her idea...who knew she was about to pop!  This time the artist they were showcasing was an American artist and a photographer.  They had taken pictures and then painted them of Indian women who are victims of "bride burnings".  These women are burned by their husbands when the bride's family hasn't paid a big enough dowry or other awful reasons like that.  The exhibit was called "Beautiful" because it showed the women's beauty internally despite their outward appearances.  It was hard to see but very powerful at the same time.  I was so impressed that the artist came right up to us to meet us.  We were able to have a great little chat and he encouraged my daughter to press on and learn all the technique that is the basis for more free-flowing art.  It was also exciting to be in the same room as Ravi's daughter, Naomi, who runs the humanitarian arm or RZIM, called Wellspring.  She is doing some amazing things as a result of her life experience.  I'm reading her book right now and am very moved by her story.

I think what I enjoyed most about the experience was that my daughter got a glimpse into using art for God's glory as both the artist and the photographer were Christians.  If God has given her a talent there must be a greater purpose for it.  We headed off to the Art Gallery of Ontario after that to see other artists.  Who knows how these little trips into the city and meeting these people will impact her.  It is probably no different than the book I wrote about last week.  My daughter's life chapters are being written right now and once again I have to wait just as much as she has to wait to see what doors God is going to open in her life.

The whole day almost got missed though.  Seeing as we're still down a car, I had to do lots of negotiating of drivers, vehicles, trains, buses, kids, kid care, food......the list goes on and on.  When it looked like my sister-in-law wasn't able to make it and that the weather was too bad, I took the out and cancelled.  It was too much work and I couldn't swing it easily.  But then I called her and she actually wasn't cancelling at all, I had misinterpreted her text.  Good thing I called.  I quickly tried to renegotiate the day and put it all back into place.  When I finally got downtown, who knows how, I saw her and she said, "So, how was it getting down here?  Did it all work out ok?"  At first I thought of not being completely honest and saying, "Oh, yes, it was no problem."  But then I realized, "No!  It was hard!"  However, this is the thing.  I told her the truth - it was hard.  It was very complicated.  It was 100 things to think about in order to just get away for a little bit.  I had so much to organize and my kids all had to be on board.  I left my house in disarray. I knew for sure I would have lots to do when I came home because of that.  I left my daughter in charge and she did not look happy.  I knew I wouldn't be able to guarantee that any school work would get done.....on and on.  BUT - that is life, my life and it is just the way it is.  In order for my one daughter to get this special experience, everyone had to sacrifice.  I think that is what I love about having a large family.  We all have to put the other person first in order to make each one have a special time here and there.  We did a lot of sacrificing in order to get my son to Africa and I'm convinced if we hadn't all pulled together, it wouldn't have happened!  Same with Friday....if everyone hadn't pulled together, then again, it wouldn't have happened and my daughter would have missed out.  As a mom, I was trying to make it a happy experience all day.  My daughter didn't know how much was going on in my head all day.  By the time I got home, I was undone, but she had a great day!  Will I do something like that every day?  Uh no.  But I am glad I powered through the complicated day and I think it ended up being very worthwhile.....all in the name of finding what her door will be one day.....

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

It is the Glory of Kings to Search Things Out

Yesterday was an AWESOME shopping day.  I never shop.  I actually have learned to detest shopping for clothes.  It takes too long to drive there - all the malls are a half hour away - I never have enough time or money to do the amount of shopping I wish I could do (buy whatever I many kids around distracting me.....)  So I just make do and I always seem to have enough because of kind sisters who donate to my cause!  But once in a while, I will go to the thrift store as they have a $1 sale once a month.  I NEVER remember to go.  I NEVER know what day it is half the time.  I always forget....but this month, I remembered.

I told the two older ones at home, "Get in the car....we're going to BFM...(the old name of the store)."  They love that store and so it didn't take much convincing.

I had some birthday money (thanks Mom!) and so I knew I had extra cash I didn't normally have and I went around picking stuff off the racks.  I never go in there looking for me either.  I'm always picking up mugs, bowls, spoons, or clothes for kids.  It was very fun looking through the racks for me!  I made my thrifting daughter go, too.  She actually likes "thrifting", but was feeling sick, so wasn't as into it, so I had to make her look.  The funny part was, when I remembered to go to the store, I literally only had 25 minutes to shop.  I had to pick up the younger ones from their piano lessons.  So I was scooting through that store.....I ended up leaving my 2 older kids there for 2 minutes (I'm so grateful everything is so close to me!) and came back to pick up what I was buying.

This is the funny thing - I didn't try on a single thing.  No time.  I figured if it didn't fit, I had lost a dollar but could re-donate it!  My kids managed to throw in a few things, all a dollar, and even a basketball hoop for indoors.....the grand total?  For a cart full of clothes?  $36.  Yup.  That's it.  I felt like hugging the lady behind the cash register.  I left the store with my heart so full.  I felt so grateful that this store, or the people in administration, or whoever it is to thank, does this sale.  They don't realize the impact it has on me and my family. 

We drove out of the lot trying to calculate what it would have been if we had bought everything new, assuming most new items would have cost between $20-60, not on sale.  We figured it would have been between $1000-2000!!!  Isn't that incredible?!  And I spent $36.  I have to admit, I didn't buy anything except casual clothes, so nothing over the top, but even so casual clothes these days cost a lot of money.  My oldest daughter has fallen off the thrift band wagon and "doesn't ever find anything" when she goes thrifting, so being poorer than she thinks, she buys new.  It is easier for her to walk into a store and see all the sizes and the latest trends, etc.  She always comes home happy for a few days with her new finds, but then sad when she sees her bank account.  Meanwhile, I come home happy with my bank account and happy with my finds!  Sorry about that!!!  I'm hoping she'll jump back on the band wagon eventually.

The day ended in the most hilarious way possible.  No one will ever believe how I spent my evening last night - playing bingo.  Yup, at a hall, with a bunch of people from my husband's job.  It was a fund raiser.  All the money I had saved on clothes got eaten up by the fund raiser itself, but it was for a good cause I guess.  I sat there shaking my head all night.  I had my bingo "dauber", my game cards, the chips and all the classic bingo atmosphere.  It was a lot of laughs.  The prizes were amazing, but sadly none of us won anything.  We took my husband's parents who are now technically shut-ins because of my father-in-law's stroke and losing his license, so they had a great time!  It was a lot of fun.  They're already excited about next year!

Looking back over the day, I had prayed, starting off the day feeling a little low, asking the Lord to show Himself to me in some way and I have to say, by the end of the day, I had definitely seen how He revealed himself to me.  I had heard a verse on the radio earlier on - Proverbs 25:2, "It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out."  The woman speaking on the radio talked about how the Christian life is an adventure and how learning to listen to God's voice can be like searching for something that is hidden.  He longs to show us, but He wants us to search for it.  I knew what she meant as soon as she said it.  That describes my walk with God all the time.  I am always searching, looking, trying to discover how He is speaking to me.  Yesterday was one of those adventures.

It began with my prayer in the morning.  Then it became my sudden remembrance of the $1 sale.  The store itself is literally down the street, 2 minutes away.  I don't have to drive 30 minutes.  It's in wine country, not your typical thrift store location.  I remembered the sale when my younger kids were all gone to piano lessons, so it made it easier to go.  Their piano teacher is the one who charges me literal pennies each week and insists on them learning hymns.  What teacher does that?  What teacher charges that?  What teacher would allow three busy little kids in her house for an hour and a half at 70 years old?!  Only a teacher given by God, who also happens to live down the street?!  I was starting to see how God was revealing Himself to me.  Then, as I shopped, I saw so many things that I really loved (still don't know if they fit, but I'm hoping for the best!).  I felt blessed in that alone.  Then, when my husband left for work that morning he was trying to get out of bingo.  We thought it was going to be such a cheesy activity, but part way through the day, it occurred to us how fun it would be for the in-laws and that's when we decided to go.  It ended up being the most fun ever.  I got to meet a lot of my husband's colleagues and it was a lot of fun all around.

By the time I got home, I realized it had been a super day.  It had started off with a prayer and perhaps looking back over the day anyone else would have not seen anything spectacular or thought it had an ounce of the Divine in it, but I, not by coincidence, had heard that verse right in the middle of the day, and I knew, yes, that is exactly what God does, and maybe just maybe, He was already trying to reveal the secrets in my day that are so easily concealed.   He speaks to me in ways only I can hear sometimes.  I know His voice when He is speaking to me.  Looking from the outside, it was just a lady who dropped her kids off at a piano teacher's house, went shopping at a store, picked some things up, went out on a date with her husband and in-laws, went home and fell asleep - regular day.  Nothing could be further from the truth - as I explained earlier, I didn't just drop off my kids at just any piano teacher's house, but the one who charges me nothing and lives 2 minutes away.  I went to a thrift store, also 2 minutes away, that just happened to have a sale on the one day I happen to remember and had things I liked on the racks.  Then I happen to go on a date that is supplied by the college with all my favourite people and have an insanely fun time when I didn't expect to....the list goes on and on.  Yes, in a way, God "conceals" this knowledge to an outsider and even to me, if I'm not deliberate and looking for God to reveal Himself to me.  It actually takes a lot of thinking and working and reflecting for me to see, yes, God answered my prayer yesterday - in soooo many ways.

I'm sure God is trying to speak to me all the time in all sorts of ways.  I just don't take the time to always see it. Yesterday was a great reminder to me to pray and then watch more intentionally for how He answers.  I must remember it is "the glory of kings to search things out".  So search things out I will.....

Monday, 4 November 2019

A Door in the Wall - A Mother's Book Report

Last week was a busy week.  We seemed to be out a lot, but I know me, and I loved it.  One of the neatest things we did was attend our first-ever book club for kids.    What a genius idea.  I have been involved with a book club for women before and I really loved that, too, but this was even better.

We were required to read the book together before the day we met of course.  Then we were told to dress up in the period clothing of medieval times as that was the setting for the book.  We also had to bring a snack that was known to be from that time period as well.  When we got together there would be different activities such as carving/whittling soap, making a coat of arms and also a constellation out of paper. 

The event itself was held in someone's re-done barn.  That was something to behold as well as it was incredible.  Once everyone was in and settled, we all introduced ourselves in our medieval name as often in the medieval times one's last time was created by what you were most famous for, such as John Go-in-the-Wynd, as he was known as being a swift runner.  My kids loved that.  Then we split up into discussion groups where we went through a list of discussion questions.  I couldn't believe how everyone participated so well and were so insightful.

I have to say, though, it was one of my favourite books of all time.  It was called A Door in the Wall, by Margeurite de Angeli.  It was a Newberry Award winner and, generally speaking, all Newberry Award winners are winners for a reason.  It took me a while to see why it was so good, but as the book got closer to the end, that was when I saw what an amazing writer the author was.

Initially, I have to admit, I thought "this book is boring!"  and I didn't know how I was going to keep the kids engaged.  I'm used to cliffhangers at the end of every chapter.  This one had nothing exciting going on at all and from chapter to chapter I kept wondering when it would pick up.

The main character, Robin, was a little boy whose mother and father worked for the queen and king and had left their son at home with someone else to watch him.  After they left, though, he got sick and his legs became so weak that he couldn't walk anymore for months.  He finally ended up being in the care of a monk, Brother Luke, who took him back to his monastery where other sick people were being kept.

The next series of chapters describe how he passed the time slowly healing.  One chapter would describe how he picked up the art of whittling wood and then how that slowly turned into a very good skill of woodworking and the making of instruments.  Another chapter described how he learned to slowly read and write as he had never had the opportunity before.  In other chapters he learned the importance of patience over anger as his ability to carve would was always being tested.  Then he learned how to swim as a way of strengthening his arms and legs.  He was brought down every day by the monk no matter how cold the weather was and eventually learned to go in, even in icy water.  He also learned to use crutches and got so fast at using them that he could run faster than other boys.  All of this was interesting, but not exactly gripping material.

Eventually he was told his father had sent for him and asked the monk to accompany him on his journey.  He ended up at a type of castle waiting for his father there.  It was nearly the end of the book by this point.  All along in the book, besides in the title itself, the phrase, "a door in the wall" was mentioned.  The monk would tell Robin early on,

"...remember the long wall that is about the garden of thy father' house?"

"Yes," said Robin, "of course.  Why?"

"Dost remember, too, the wall about the Tower or any other wall?"  Robin noon.  "Have they not all a door somewhere?"

"Yes," said Robin again.

"Always remember that," said the friar.   "Thou has only to follow the wall far enough and there will be a door in it."

"I will remember," Robin promised, but he wasn't sure that he knew what Brother Luke meant to say.

Later on in the book the author would write a line such as, "out through the door in the wall of the courtyard, they went, into the street..."  She just kept including the phrase "a door in the wall" all throughout the book. 

Finally, in the last few chapters it all came together.  The castle where they were staying had been attacked.  Someone needed to go send for help, but there was no one to do it.  Suddenly Robin volunteered.  It made no sense.  He was too weak and young to go, but he insisted for those very reasons.  No one would suspect he was suspicious.  Instead the enemy would assume he was harmless.  The problem was he would have to go over unstable and treacherous land and with his crutches it would be a challenge.  He would also have to swim across the river which would be a challenge for anyone.  As I read all of this, suddenly the boredom of the previous chapters all made sense.  He had been prepared for this moment all along.  Every single boring thing he had done helped him in this time that required his willingness to go.  He had learned all the necessary character traits, including bravery.  He had strengthened his hands and arms through all the long days being carried around on someone's back and through carving wood.  He had strengthened his legs by all the swimming and running with crutches.  He was, in fact, the only one who could go, who was strong enough to cross the river and make the difficult journey to get help.

He had to fight fear the whole time, but he kept saying to himself, "Anyone could not do it."  In other words, it's easy to not be willing.  Anyone can say no.  Courage is the ability to say yes when everyone else is saying "I won't".

At the end of the book, his parents both finally return to the castle where they have learned of their son's heroism.  His willingness to go had saved the kingdom.  He was called forward by the king himself and is told, "You are a true son of a noble father.  Though but a youth, you have shown courage a man might be proud to call his own."

In the final lines of the book he his found by Brother Luke and he asks him,

"Where am I?" he asked in bewilderment.   "What has happened?"

"Thou'rt here, Sir Robin, " said the friar.  "Safe with all thy loved ones.  'Tis the Feast of Christmas, and thou hast found the door in thy wall."

As I read those final lines, I have to admit, I was very choked up and could barely read them to the kids.  I was specifically thinking of my oldest son as I read this book, all the kids, really, but this one son in particular.  Over and over he came into my mind, especially as the theme started to unfold.  Anyone reading a book on his life would think, "not very interesting, maybe even boring" as day after day would pass without much happening, but suddenly I realized, as I read the book and then pictured his life as a book.  Each day of his life became a week, became a month, and a then a year and, in a way, they all represented a certain chapter in his life. 

From birth, the early chapters of his life were about bugs and nature.  The next few chapters were about his passion for reading and learning all about history, weapons, wars, planes, cars, animals of all kinds.  The following chapters were about his hobbies such as woodworking, knife-making, bee keeping.  Then, the next ones were about his ability to memorize multiple books of the Bible through Bible Quizzing.  There were other chapters on his unique jobs such as veterinary clinic assistant to greenhouse work to managing our farm.  Each chapter appears boring on its own as he was following his "wall", always wondering when the door would appear.  And then his first door opened into university.  That was a BIG door for him.  It taught him even more that he needed to know.  Then another door - India.  That was also so significant as it prepared him for what was ahead that we could never have imagined.  Then, the biggest door yet - Africa.  And from what he tells me, this is the most amazing experience yet.  This could lead to yet another door - potentially med school, Lord willing.

Did the author intend to write this book for a mom like me?  No.  She didn't know I existed!  But I took away more from this book then she will ever know.  I'm not positive if she was a Christian, but I know she had a strong church background.  She even begins the book with this powerful verse from Revelation 3:8, one of my favourite verses, by the way:

"I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name."

An open door.  Little strength.  No one can shut it.  I closed the book feeling more confidence than ever that my kids' lives are in God's hands.  Not only does He know their deeds, their "boring" lives, but He knows mine.  He knows that I am not the best teacher in the world, that I have "little strength".  But He knows my "deeds", that even with my little strength, I've done my best and I've committed my kids' and their futures to Him.  He then has taken each one of them and all the chapters of their lives and He's going to open doors for them in ways I cannot even imagine.  Even a year ago I didn't know my son would be in Africa.  I had no idea what was ahead.  Who would have guessed all the little chapters of his life would all add up to this door in the wall?  I couldn't have seen it.

Today, I can embrace the boring piano practice, the regular subjects, their unique skill sets they all have, the people in their lives, the time each day developing certain character traits they'll need....all because God is in the middle of writing their books, their life stories aren't done.  Oddly enough, I'm part of their story.  God is using me to help accomplish their final novel (maybe I'll get a mention at the dedication page of one of their "life books"!)

That is why I loved the book soooooo much.  It opened my eyes to what God is doing, that the mundane chapters of their lives are actually so important.  They can't see it when they haven't found what their "door" is.  I can't see it for some of them yet.  Both they and I have to keep "following the wall" until we find the door in the wall together.  What is so great and the most encouraging thing I take from the book is that GOD is writing the book, not me.  If it were up to me, I would make so many mistakes.  But God uses even my mistakes and my weaknesses.  And for that I'm so grateful.  

There, that's my book report for the day.