A Father’s Hands…

Today was a day that reminded me of a  really bad day I blogged about a few years back.  I’m not sure if it’s the full moon, or what, but I needed a reminder that I’ve had worse days and just like then, today was “handled” – once I handed it over. Today it took a trip to the dog park, but it really did turn around too. I hope you enjoy today’s post from back in 2013…
Yesterday was one of those days.
It started out ok…
Then quickly spiraled down and out of control.
The oldest boy had ATTITUDE.
The middle boy was EMOTIONAL with ATTITUDE.
The youngest boy was WHINY.
They were all fighting, running in the house, making wrong choices.
The baby was cranky…teething? diaper rash? fussy?
All of the above.
Even the dog was annoying.
That morning I’d been reminded of a few personal setbacks…
Waves of  worry, fear, doubting self, doubting God…
Feeling like the little we had, would never be enough to meet the need.
Feeling unsettled, words in my mind wearing away at the Peace
That usually keeps me calm in the midst of these storms.
Feeling pretty ugly inside and out.
So I kept losing my cool…
yelling…
threatening…
lashing out…
probably worse,
I’ve blocked it from my memory.
We were all ready for a change of pace, a change of scenery.
I remember driving to the organic farm to pick up the veggies
On the verge of tears.
At the farm, the dear farmer sensed my duress.
She made me laugh.
A moment outside of the moment.
She encouraged me like only a mama of mamas can.
We drove home in almost silence. A hymn was playing on the radio.
The quiet was needed…appreciated.
The baby had fallen asleep.
The boys were not fighting, not even talking.
I pulled into the drive.
Thinking about what to make for dinner.
Giving instructions for unloading the veggies…
The middle boy was not in the van…
 Momentary panic.
Call the farmer.
He’s there. Relief.
Drive 25 mins back there to get him.
Beat myself up most of the way.
After all…how could I not notice he wasn’t in the van?!
Sigh…
I really felt like crying on the way home again.
Decided, that the day was basically lost now
A lost day…
When I should have loved my kids better…
When I should have been gentle, and kind.
 And now it was half hour to bedtime…
No time to make dinner…
MacDonald’s it is.
At least the boys were thrilled.
I beat myself up for not providing a healthier dinner.
In the drive-thru…I had to dig into the recesses of my wallet to pay.
Tucked inside a pocket, was shoved one of these.
I haven’t seen one in years.
(for my American friends – we have dollar coins here)
For some reason, it reminded me of my dad.
How his hands hardened by work, would always offer to give me money.
When I was around 9 and first allowed to ride my bike to the corner store.
When I was 16 and driving the car and needed gas.
When I was visiting home from college and always in need of a little extra cash.
How on a day like this, he would have put his arms around me…
And the world would have felt better again.
Sometimes we’d just sit in the garden, quiet.
I thought about how much I miss those hands,
How that final goodbye felt a few short years ago…
How much I wanted my daddy at that moment.
Mercy, the tears would not stop…
I almost had to pull over the van.
Then the kindest whisper…
A reminder really.
That there was another set of hands…
Readily available…
Hands that were not only work hardened…
But pierced.
For me.
Hands, eagerly waiting for me to surrender the day
Ready to provide,
Ready to take fish and bread, and meet those needs and more.
Restoring peace, reminding me of Eternity
and how my earthly daddy lives there now, with Him.
Redeeming the day, in a moment.
Making the world feel better again.
Oh how wonderful to to fall into my Heavenly Father’s Hands
To be enveloped in His grace and mercy.
Psalm 31:14
But as for me, I trust You, oh Lord,
I say,”You are my God”
My Times are in your hand…
 
And as the day came to a close,
Kissing soft cheeks, whispering thanks
whispering “I love yous”
Watching the steady rise and fall of little bodies at rest.
Peace…I am still.
Knowing the day is saved, and a new one is at hand.
A new one, that is in His hand,
As I am.
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Dream Stealers

Do you have a private cemetery where you bury your dreams. The ones that have been broken, shattered or destroyed? What about the stolen dreams…the ones you can’t bury?…do you carry around the shadow of the memory of them like me? Have you ever wondered what happened to them, how it happened?

I have my share of dreams that have died…dreams that will never be…but I carry around the traces of many “stolen” dreams.  Dreams that are not quite dead, but I can’t really “see” them anymore either…

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Sometimes I think it would be so much easier to imagine that it’s some outside force, some monster that swoops into my life and steals away my dreams. It would be easier than admitting the truth…

That sometimes… I throw them away, that I let them go into the wind because of fear.

It’d be easier to call fear a dragon, because then I’d be able to say it’s out of my control. That I  have no part to play in the story, other than that of the victim.

But often that is just not the case.

More often than not, I am not the victim.

Sometimes, I am the dragon.

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Sometimes I kill my own dreams.

With my fear, with my words, with indecision, with comparison, with “reason”, with passivity…

Yes, I have killed some of my own dreams…because I thought they weren’t worthy.

Because I thought I wasn’t worthy.

Because I thought I didn’t have what it took.

I thought didn’t deserve them to come true.

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and here’s the truth.

I don’t deserve them… not in myself. I’m a dead man, dead to sin, I deserve nothing good…

But Grace…

Grace made a way…I didn’t stay dead… in Emily Freeman’s book ~ A Million Little Ways she says it like this…

“I can dare to move into the world as the person I fully am, because I am forgiven, empowered and united with Christ in His death and resurrection. Discovering what makes you come alive (your dreams) isn’t the goal of life, it is evidence of life.”    Emily P Freeman~A Million Little Ways (emphasis mine)

So my dreams, they actually are His dreams.His purpose for me. Things He prepared for me from before time began…

When I kill  or throw those dreams away…I truly am the dragon…walking about devouring the gifts of God. So, I must remember to walk in the light…because I am a child of the light. Not a dragon, not a child of darkness, not a dream stealer or killer.

When we embrace our true design, we experience little tastes of the resurrection, of Jesus coming alive in us, of us coming alive within ourselves… Mourning precedes morning, death comes before the dream… Emily P Freeman

I am made in the image of God, an image bearer…born to reflect His Light, His visionary, creative, image…in love.

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Here’s some good news. Dreams are born in light…and they have a way of coming back to life.

Like a flame that flares up in the ashes of the fire pit when the wood is all gone.All they need is to be stirred up a bit and add a little bit more dry wood…and a breath from heaven.

…and just like that, dreams can take on a new life, and burn warmth and vitality into our cold darkness.

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And the light shines in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. … That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it. 

That dream, that spark, that life inside of us, does not originate with us. It is from outside of us, and yet is within us, from before time.

It is drawn from that same source that birthed all of creation.

One spark can dispel the darkness.

One spark can destroy the dragons.

The dragon that prowls around us, and the one that tries to rise up within us…and we become dragon slayers by living out our dreams.

The Light has come…and the darkness is overcome.

Eastertide 2016

The last year or so I’ve been reading a lot on the Liturgical or Sacred Church Year. I am by no means leaning into becoming Catholic or Orthodox, but I have found that incorporating some of the rich aspects of traditional worship into my own observances has been so so beneficial.

An Enriched Lent

We began Lent on Ash Wednesday when I began this study on the the Prodigal Son, with Edie Wadsworth, from lifeingraceblog.com. She’s a Lutheran, and I’ve loved so much of her writing which reflects her deep faith and the highlights the Lutheran leanings toward the need for grace in our daily lives.

CandleI read somewhere about having 6 candles and lighting them all on Ash Wednesday, on each Sunday prior to Easter, eliminate one candle. Then on Good Friday extinguish them all. It’s like the reverse of Advent, to remind us of Christ conquering the darkness in the Resurrection. I don’t force anyone in the family to participate in this, I just take a moment to center my heart and mind on the season, and honestly, the entire process was just so powerful this year. By resurrection Sunday, I was full of this anticipation to celebrate!

A Beautiful Holy Week

Last year, we did a daily study of walking through the last days of Jesus’ life on earth leading up to the cross…and on Holy Saturday we made Resurrection Rolls.

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This year we changed it up according to our schedule. Each night of Holy Week we had our Family Time either after dinner or during Homeschool…

We did our main readings from this book by Vic KParker…It was very thorough (good for younger and older kids) and divided the week up perfectly…love the illustrations too.

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and added Easter Hymns to our binder we use for Morning Time/ Symposium most days…

Symposium Binder easter hymns

On Monday we read about Jesus clearing the Temple, on Tuesday we read about the Last Supper and had a “footwashing” of our own (we washed each others hands) and had communion.

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On Wednesday we read about Jesus’ praying in the the Garden and his betrayal. On Thursday we read about his false trials and the beatings he took for us. On Friday, the crucifixion. Saturday was a day of silent reflection.

And Sunday….we celebrated.

We joined with other saints at a service…which was beautiful. Full of dance, visual art, music, congregational singing and the gospel message…best of all, the expectation reflected on the faces of fellow believers.

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The kids got their baskets AFTER church (there was no way they were eating candy before church!)

groupThen the extended family came over for dinner. We all love to see the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins – but according to my dad…holidays were a must for the family to get together.

Dinner was complete with our singing, conversations, jokes and of course delicious food.

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I try to make our celebrations a bit more meaningful by taking an hour to plan a little “outline” that includes poetry, or scripture reading, some songs/ hymns, games, etc. This is what this year’s looked like…we had a “progressive reading” of the Resurrection Story as napkin rings. I found them here.

 

 I try to set the table the night before. This year I was on a tight budget, so created a centerpiece with silk flowers from storage, my sister ended up giving me some fresh flowers that day, So I incorporated them happily.The rest were decor I already had from years past. Loved stuffing old plastic eggs with the conversation starters, they were like Easter “fortune cookies”.

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DSC_0370 The kids table had an Easter I-SPY Game I found here…

After dinner we headed outdoors for the Egg Hunt…

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DSC_0424And back indoors for dessert!

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Happy Easter – Christos Annestis!!

PS – I was super happy with my easter decor this year. I spent a whopping $3!

Our Journey Through Infertility…Conclusion

Hi there!  If you are joining us for the first time today, you may want to go back to the beginning of the story part one is here , part two is here , part three is herepart 4 is here. and part 5 is here. As promised …here is the conclusion…

This time, we didn’t wait to tell our friends and family. I figured, most of them have walked most of this journey with us, might as well have them pray and walk along this stage with us too. So my younger sisters helped me a prepare a dinner for some good friends and we surprised them with the news…it was so. much. fun.

I don’t remember when we settled on the name Lucas, but I do remember speaking to him long before I could feel him moving around…I had minimal morning sickness and because I was still on Sabbatical I wasn’t overly tired because I could sleep whenever I wanted. But soon my sabbatical would be over and I would be returning to ministry and the school in the midst of a lot of upheaval…but I knew it would be short term for me because of mat leave, so the stress of it didn’t really effect me thankfully. The summer weeks flew by.

We had been invited to the wedding of some former students and now very good friends and had made plans to travel to Florida at the end of the summer…it would be just past the 12 week mark.

I was at work the day I was supposed to begin packing and I noticed some spotting…there was a moment when I felt all the fear and torment from the past 5 years rush up and try to overwhelm me…I rushed home without telling Chris, and ran around the house tearing open drawers and cupboards.

I had to find it…please don’t laugh, or roll your eyes, or get overly analytical.  I was looking for oil. It was this “anointing oil” a guest speaker had given out at a church meeting…I had scoffed at the time, thinking that if it’s in the bible, it doesn’t matter if you use olive oil, or coconut oil to pray with… I had not been convinced it was “special” , but “just in case I’m wrong” I hadn’t thrown it away…(BTW, I’m Still not sure it was special) but “just in case” I had dumped it all over myself and started thanking God that my joy would be full. FULL. FULL.

I was sitting on the floor in the room with the crib, covered in oil, when Chris got home later that evening.  BUT the spotting had stopped.  (I’ll leave it up to you what to believe, I’m just relaying my desperation in that moment to try anything…and I do give God credit for his grace throughout the journey, and for my children, and do believe I was healed that day, or earlier).

We called off the trip just to be safe…but after that day, there were no other problems in the pregnancy. The fall and winter came and went, I got bigger and bigger and happier and happier.

I started Mat leave about a month before my due date, and the next day my friends threw us a gigantic shower. Everything we needed and more was provided…we put everything away that night and I packed my hospital bag – well most of it…and the next day…He, the baby that is, decided to arrive early. Lucas would be our only baby to arrive 3 weeks early, the only one to be early period. I can’t begin to convey the joy in the hospital room…in fact the waiting room was full of people who had to be there when he arrived. Thankfully, it was in the afternoon. It was like a party hit the hospital. (Remember the friend who had called me while I was driving in Alberta? Her baby had been born the day before, in the same hospital, she was surprised to see us, because we were so early, but she just joined in the party) It was so much fun – after the grueling work of delivery that is!


After Lucas, 2 more boys arrived within four years…and I wasn’t sure if God thought he was just being funny – I mean 3 boys? I have 4 sisters, no brothers…”what does one do with boys?”… and then 6 years later our baby girl. Each of the rest of the babies took. their. blessed. time in arriving. Believe you me. But after each one, I knew, my joy was full. My cup ran over in fact. His grace is sufficient, and his love indescribable. But His joy, His joy is complete.

151017_Heaslip_048 (2)An interesting little note… in 2014 we were blessed to have Isabelle join our family. She is from China  and she is staying with us for all of high school. We love her parents like family, and she is definitely family, she fits right in, you’d never know she was an only child. She was born the year we lost Maggie. Isabelle makes every day more joyful for me, and our family. I had always said that I hoped to adopt a little girl from Asia someday, and maybe we will still…but maybe not. But I do know, that Isabelle was destined to be a part of our family from that day, and our hearts were being prepared to share life with her today, way back then. I thank God for her (and her family) everyday. Truly, our joy is full.

151017_Heaslip_024 (2)Thank you for sharing in this journey with me. Thank you for your encouragement and kind words. Someone had asked me why I decided to share now, and honestly, because I was finally ready. I want to keep writing, and I know writing through the hard stuff  is part of the process. I hope you’ll come back, I hope you’ll share some of your stories with me. I love hearing from you and thank you for your friendship and love,

xoxo

Tammara

 

 

Our Journey through Infertility Part 3

Hi there, if you are joining us for the first time today, you may want to go back to the beginning of the story part one is here and part two is here.

As a worship leader, I couldn’t do my job.

I don’t know how to explain this…I couldn’t sing. I literally could not get a melody out. For about 6 weeks… I do not know why…physically, psychologically? Yes, I was confused, hurt and angry with God… I became obsessed with finding out why? Why us? Why me? What had I done? What had I not done? Was I not supposed to have children? Take this cup from me…

It felt like the loving God who had never let me down like this, was suddenly absent. Nothing. No answers, no peace. My journey to embracing grace, had begun that day…

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Then, on a Sunday morning in December, I remember, we crept into the church. It was the Christmas season, so part way through the opening songs we found a seat in the back.– I had started arriving late, because I couldn’t sing, and I couldn’t just stand there and pretend everything was OK, and I was trying to avoid the uncomfortable conversations.

Everyone else was happy and I was definitely not…

Then the band started playing this song which was not a Christmas song and…I knew for a fact, had been kind of “banned” because the pastor had found it theologically questionable (and even I didn’t really “get it” I mean it was catchy, but it was “me” focused and had this chorus that didn’t jive with the verses…I digress)

… and yet…

The band, the choir, my friends and co-workers…my people… began to sing it quietly…

“I’m trading my sorrows, I’m trading my shame…”

I almost walked out right then… but instead hung my head and let it wash over me. It crescendos you know… and I heard that sweet, quiet voice of the Holy Spirit tell me to try and sing… and I tried…

Choking and squawking I spoke-sang those words through tears until my voice rang out clear…

“Though the sorrows may last for the night, joy comes in the morning!”

and that chorus that never made sense to me…

“Yes Lord, Yes Lord, Yes, Yes Lord” became my cry, to walk in the awareness of trading that sorrow…would be a willful act, everyday.

Once my voice was free, my journey toward healing and wholeness had begun.

But that’s another story, it would be another 3 years before I held my son…

I’ll share how we got there, next week.

Our Journey through Infertility…Part Two

Hi there, if you didn’t read Part 1 of this series, it may be worth your time to go back and get the beginning of the story before reading here today…My hope and prayer is that this post is encouraging to someone today.

Maggie  

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The dark clouds had begun to gather…

I had taken the day off to set up for the party but in the afternoon I felt off. Then I felt nauseous, I had not had much morning sickness so far. I tried laying down, but couldn’t sleep. I was restless, I had too much to do…

Then there was cramping, and eventually I started spotting, nothing big, just dark little spots. We went to the ER. The doctor said, it could be nothing, but I could also be losing the baby. There was nothing to be done. Go home and rest. Put your feet up. Wait and see.

The phone kept ringing. We ignored it. How to explain something we hadn’t told anyone about yet? The cramping and bleeding got worse. We prayed, we claimed life, we claimed every promise we’d ever heard. We pulled out every “faith” resource we had. I called a my friend and co-worker, one of the few I had already told. Her mom was a midwife by training and a Christian. She sat with us, and prayed with us… once, after I’d been in the washroom, she looked in the toilet and told me not to look…but that I should go back to the hospital. We waited hours to have an ultrasound, holding out hope, but not sure what to pray… when the doctor confirmed our worst fears, this loud guttural moaning noise filled the room the the hospital bed was shaking, and I eventually realized it was me…

Like that, the dream was shattered. Our baby was lost…my God, in the toilet. Gone. No solace. No light. Nothing. My womb was empty, and so was my heart. I couldn’t breathe.

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I don’t remember much about the next couple days… I remember us holding each other on the futon in the living room. Counting the flowers in the wallpaper border…and of never feeling warm enough. Standing in a hot shower and not feeling clean. I remember my friend and her mom’s tear stained faces, even though they had already guessed the truth, they held back the tears until after the hospital. I remember trying to apologize for ruining his birthday, and choking on the words. Somehow we cancelled the party. That friend made all the calls, and gave some lame excuse about a family emergency. After that, I remember the phone kept ringing, over and over. Someone, another friend, had a hunch that something was very wrong, and wouldn’t give up until she’d talked to one of us. She cried too.  Then the terrible silence of a house ready for a party, with no guests and no special news.

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We shared our sad news over that week…It was next to impossible to see our own pain reflected in the eyes of those we loved. The outpouring of love from our community was overwhelming. Meals and cards and flowers started arriving. I have kept every card…the only evidence that there really was life.

. My pastors gave me time off. They spoke with us about how to mourn, how to let go.  I just remember wondering, “How do you let go of someone you never got to hold?” How do you ever feel safe to dream again? What’s the point? The unfinished pregnancy journal was mocking me from the table…

I took the time to grieve. Words that could only be spoken in quiet places, where an empty and broken heart was safe. Saying goodbye to the one who occupied my dreams that fall and facing the reality that now I was a woman with that story, whether I wanted to be or not.

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Eventually, we had to go into the world, our world, again…and the barrage of well-meaning but stupid words came at us. “You weren’t ready to be parents anyway”…”Maybe there was something horribly wrong and Nature/God took care of it so you wouldn’t have to”… “well obviously you weren’t praying enough”, “maybe there’s some sin you don’t know about, or aren’t admitting”…“you’ll have another”(like this one didn’t count)… Religion has a way of destroying the silence that real faith grows in. I was walking through an emotional mine field, daily. But there was one truth that I hung onto with all my heart.

“This loss, this pain, this grief…it will not own me”

I knew I had to feel the full force of everything. I could not hide from it or run, but I must walk through it, and win…no matter what.” I had to hold onto the truth that God was the same, even if my circumstances had changed. That He still…that he always loved me. I didn’t realize then that the journey toward healing and fulfillment had only begun.

 

 

Our Journey through Infertility…Part One

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We got married in the late nineties, newly graduated from bible school and ready to change the world with big dreams and what we thought, was unshakable faith. As one who was recruited to remain on staff of aforementioned bible school, we were in a unique social circle. Most of our close friends and fellow graduates had either moved on to further studies in other cities or they had taken posts in missions around the world. We were suddenly bereft of a social circle of friends who were like us, married, no kids. We were surrounded mostly by high school graduates starting out in Bible School or couples who’d been married several years ahead of us and were now moving on into the next phase of typical family life, having children.

Not having kids yet probably wouldn’t have been a big deal in a different place and time. But at that point, we felt a bit like we couldn’t relate to anyone. After a few months of marriage, the negative side effects of taking birth control caused us to decide that if we got pregnant that year, it was ok because we had both wanted a big family. A year passed and we enjoyed our couple-hood. He was busy travelling in his new job and I was working in full time ministry – I was happy to go to work every day and be with my students and co-workers. I was working in a Creative Arts in Ministry school, leading worship every morning, and also working in the music ministry of a vibrant church.

After that first year, we put a little more thought into family planning. We wanted kids, and my mom had never had any trouble getting pregnant (I have four younger sisters), so I figured it would be a piece of cake. I was almost 25 now. Time to make it happen if I wanted to be done by 30. Silly me, I thought it was up to me, this having babies thing. When another year passed, the niggling doubts started to creep in. Maybe something was wrong with one or both of us. So we went and got things checked out. The doctor said everything was in working order. Stop worrying about it, it would happen, eventually.

But, there was stress. The stress of things not being in my control. Of course this stress would mess with my biology. A vicious 28 day cycle of anxiety, hope and crushing disappointment became my new normal. For another year, I would slap on a happy face each day, because I was in ministry, and these were the days of faith without visible struggle. When doubts and fears and negativity in general were not acceptable. I didn’t want to be that woman, obsessed with her infertility. I had a friend, she cried with me every month, she already had 2 kids, and I’d even been in the room when the second was born. She mourned with me well. But the happy face was driving a wedge between God and I, because not being real on the outside, was causing me to not be real on the inside.

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”
Henri J.M. Nouwen, Out of Solitude: Three Meditations on the Christian Life

And then, one day… the light shone in. The cycle was interrupted. Hope was not followed by crushing disappointment. The darkness of the previous years was lost in the light of this little seed of hope. My heart came alive, my dreams took flight. I saw this baby in my heart. I prayed like never before, prayers of thanksgiving, prayers of protection and love. I had one of those books that had pictures of how she was developing each week – and each day I would offer up thanksgiving for the heart, the limbs, the feet, the spine…my joy was full. We heard the heartbeat at 8 weeks. I had been keeping a pregnancy journal and it was filled with hopes, dreams and plans.

My expectation  and my joy grew daily. We had decided to share our good news with friends and family on my husband’s birthday. We’d be just past the first trimester by then, so planned the party and waited eagerly for that November to arrive.

I had a feeling in my heart it was a girl. I liked the name Marion – the name was in both our families. We told my parents, and my father in law – with a balloon that said “Grandpa” – he was overjoyed. (He’d been asking for grandbabies since the wedding). He loved the name…”can I call her Maggie?” and I’d hear him whistle the Foster and Allen song – Maggie to himself, over and over. We also told that friend, the one who cried with me, and we laughed like school girls. That fall, everyday felt like I awoke to a world of sunshine and butterflies…

Until the night before the party…when the dark clouds began to gather…

 

Do People Wear Sweat Pants in Hawaii?

hawaii sweatsI heard somewhere recently that when someone wears sweat pants in public, it’s a sign that they’ve given up on life. It’s a thought that burrowed into one of the hidden shadows of my mind, and then began to itch, as most annoying little things do, like a mosquito bite. It’s been bothering me for a while now, and is now at that throbbing, can’t ignore it, what will make it stop? itching stage.

So here’s the rub…

You see, I have spent a good portion of my life in the company of people who have taught me to nurture having a hunger for something more…more money, more success, more happiness, just more. That abundance is good, and lack, is well, lack is bad. That having more was a sign of God’s blessing, and therefore, if you don’t have more, you are not quite as blessed as those that do. Mind you it was not always about material things, in fact it was often very balanced between having more things, or more money (so we can be a blessing to others) but also to have more opportunities, more fun, more friends, more spiritual gifts, more wisdom, you get the idea.

Then a number of years ago, we started having trouble with the more, (even though it was nowhere close to where we thought it should be). We couldn’t manage it properly. We started losing money and opportunities, and losing them fast. Then we started losing people too (literally and figuratively). We had had so many people in our lives we couldn’t take care of them all. We also lost TIME. So, so much time. Watching dreams and years of work go up in smoke. Our peace was shaken, almost destroyed by circumstances, and stress. Faith became work. Hard, impossible work. The harder we tried to hold onto things… the more we tried to scramble and be honourable, the worse it got. Our family was beginning to suffer.

Then the thoughts of “maybe we were wrong” crept in.

Maybe LESS is best. Maybe we should let go a little. Maybe we should be content with what we have (even though it won’t be enough to get the kids through college, and at this rate we’ll never be able to go on those missions trips we’ve dreamed of, or write those books that will help people, or just be able to be a part of changing our world, heaven forbid an emergency comes up) Maybe we should throw in the towel and put all our stock in our kids…maybe we should just go quietly into the night. Maybe it’s game over for us doing anything notable.

But the old way of thinking, dreaming, hoping, imagining the world covered with God’s glory…well that was still there too. Though just a whisper…

Somewhere along the way, we started to give up a little. Letting go of little dreams at first. Then the big ones, not outwardly, but inwardly. Letting go of everyday opportunities for fear of making things worse. Having grown weary of the struggle, we stopped trying to do good with what we did have. We went into crisis mode and got stuck.

But you see, internally, I still had this subconscious voice telling me that “more is better”. So on top of giving up on so much, I started eating more, because more food made me feel better, even if momentarily…we used to talk about a trip to Hawaii, but then I began to think that was a selfish pipe dream…less is better.

And one day, I found myself going out in sweat pants.

Just once.

Then a couple times… and then it got to the point that none of my non-yoga/sweat pants even fit… and I didn’t have a choice in the matter. At that point, it was easy to take in more food, in fact I’d think that “I was never going to wear a bathing suit in Hawaii, so why not eat what I want today”…so I ate, but it didn’t help me deal with the itch long term.

The warring thoughts and beliefs needed to be put to rest and the appropriate choices must be made between more and less. I knew I would not be less tired by carrying around the extra poundage, but I will be energized by doing things that are exciting to me. And helping people is exciting to me. Travelling, making small differences in people’s lives energizes me. I am not meant to “go quietly into the night”. This decade of struggle will not be in vain. I have a reason, beyond myself for being alive. I repent, I turn away from this double minded thinking. I think the biggest struggle is not when your beliefs are challenged, but when you give yourself over to thinking the opposite of what you have always known to be true.

I have known that I am not here on this planet just for myself. I am here to be an image bearer of God, the one who created me. In order to bear His image, I have to reflect what I know to be true of His nature. His beauty, His grace and His love. His justice and mercy. His provision and compassion. The God who held nothing back, not even his Son, to save the entire world and to do away with sin, once for all.

Is living with less a fair representation of Him to my kids? Maybe regarding some things, yes. But with limitations on my joy, peace, ability to share and provide, health, dreams, creativity, adventures? Perhaps not.

On the other hand, is taking more of whatever I can get (like food) a good representation of Him? Absolutely not.

So, here’s what I walk away from the struggle with..

An open hand.

Not closed, not grasping.

But open.

Receiving in rest.

Resting in the One whose image I am to bear. A return to faith that is not work, but simply faith. Yet, knowing still that faith is exercised by works. Not for my own profit, but His, through faith, and not by my human strength or understanding, but through His rest.

As always, I’m reminded that this is nothing new, Paul the Apostle summed it up in Philippians 4 this way:

Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious – the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies. I’m glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess – happy that you’re again showing such strong concern for me. Not that you ever quit praying and thinking about me. You just had no chance to show it. Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.

So there was a moment, a few nights ago, when I said no to that night time snack. I said no, because I thought “just maybe when this battle over my weight has been won, when I can lose the sweatpants for good. Just maybe we’ll be ready to make that trip to Hawaii”… didn’t feel like a selfish pipe dream anymore.

It felt like a possibility. I returned to the way of thinking that maybe the Hawaii seed was dropped in there, because there’s a reason to go to Hawaii bigger than me… and that the goal to get rid of the sweatpants is bigger than me too…

There is the grace that I can be thankful for, even in this season. When I’m on the other side of hurdle, but still growing through the struggle. This old dream has been given new life, and the journey to renewed thoughts has begun again.

It takes a Village…Yes, But first you need to find the village.

When I became a mom for the first time…11 years ago, what?! Yes Tammara, 11 years ago, I remember how daunting it was. How wonderful and utterly terrifying it felt to be holding this small bundle of lif e. A bundle that I did not know yet, even though I had spoken to him for months as he grew within me. In fact, he was the only one of my four children who had a name throughout my pregnancy…and still, I didn’t know him at all. What he liked or didn’t, what he needed. I desperately clung to the schedule the nurses gave me, as the only “known” – the cycle of feeding, sleeping and changing kept me going for about 5 months.

Because it took us so much longer than most of our friends to start a family – most of them were not new parents. Even those who had managed to be pregnant around the same time as us, were welcoming their last children, not their first. They were already accustomed to having a new life in their homes, they were already occupied with older children, or even dealing with teenagers. Everyone had stories that identified with ours, but they were all past tense, spoken not with condescension, but with that knowledge that only experience gives – and only experience truly identifies with. Knowledge and experience that we were just gaining. No one we knew well, was walking through this new season, as new parents, together with us. And though, we knew we could and would learn much from them, we needed more…

There were new parents in our lives, just not people we knew well, yet. They became the people I felt drawn to. People who were just as newly sleep deprived, bewildered and as excited as us, over every small thing that annoys all non new parents the world over. One newer friend, Alex. had sort of pushed me into organizing a new moms group. (Most people know this – I love to organize things and people, but they don’t know that I usually need a really good push, from God or other people – usually both, to get started, it’s this mental thing about not wanting to be bossy by choice) – anyways, Alex, she pushed me and I contacted all the other new moms I could think of and word spread, and before we new it, a group of 8-15 moms was meeting regularly. It varied over time, usually copious amounts of coffee and tea were consumed, usually lunch and snacks were shared. Various living rooms were littered with car seat carriers, receiving blankets and baby paraphernalia.

Oh the idyllic days  of not having a schedule. In Canada we have a whole year of maternity leave so we’d talk for hours, holding our own or each others babies, nursing or bottle feeding, changing diapers and sharing hearts. Fears, frustrations, hopes, victories – 4 or 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep was always met with cheers and envious congratulations. As the months passed, the group evolved. We’d go for long walks with the strollers, have lunches, share hobbies and recipes, photography tips, flower arranging…sharing all the firsts, first smiles, steps, teeth…

mommy and me2Some moms went back to work, some moved away. Then as some second babies arrived, we morphed again… we would plan play dates – with the larger group and sometimes smaller ones. We’d go to the zoo together, or to the park. Always sharing, life and hearts.

Then, as we approached the school years, things started to change. Life got busier, we were tethered to our respective neighbourhoods and the schools therein. There were other parents to get to know and teachers, and our little group met together less and less, but more than that, the sharing changed. Maybe I changed, maybe we all did. It was harder to share our fears, our frustrations with parenting, with school and with life. It was little harder to identify with it was harder not to judge and not to feel judged for differences. It was harder to admit we still hadn’t figured things out.

So slowly, and then for us, quickly with the onset of outside circumstances, financial stress, a church split, relocation of good friends and family, schooling stresses…our circle, our village, got smaller. We withdrew, but what we really wanted and needed was to hold on.  For us, the circle, the village got really really small, at a time when we really needed something more. We needed the village to help hold us together when we were falling apart…

but then this wonderful thing happened…

We pulled out of everything…we started to reconnect as a family, then with friends from before, and friends during and most importantly…

We started homeschooling.

Once again, I found myself in a small group of moms, each of us terrified and overwhelmed. Each of us only armed with the knowledge that this was right for each of us, for our families, for right now. That first year, when we were bleary eyed with frustration…only to laugh in a wild hysteria when we realized that we all had “one of those weeks”…at the same time. … when no one is getting along, no one seems to be learning a thing, mom feels like a shrew losing her cool every half hour and dad gets to put out fires when he gets home kind of weeks…and we had all felt too alone and afraid to pick up the phone and share the vulnerable feeling of not having it all figured out, until we saw ourselves, in each other…

Only to find out that, in the month of February, EVERY homeschooler (new and veteran) it seems has one of those weeks.

This group of moms quickly grew to include not just new homeschoolers, but of all different shades – some with or two kids, some with 5 or 8. Some with kids in school as well as home schooled.All different styles of schooling, all different faiths and leanings. Drawn together usually consuming copious amounts of coffee and tea, packing our own snacks and lunches in various kitchens, parks and yards… sounds oddly similar doesn’t it. Though now our shared transparency is concern for our families, our children’s educations and the world around us.

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We have found a village again. Reconnected, found new and rebuilt by the Lord.

Case in point, last Friday, while at Gym Day – snack time arrived and the boys pounced on me with ravenous hunger – as if they hadn’t eaten for days, and not just an hour earlier. For a moment I couldn’t see our 2 year old, Elaina, though she was only 3 feet away. The next minute, the loud smack of skull on concrete resounded through the gym. The room grew silent as we waited for the cry to tell us what kind of hurt it was, and which child it came from. Someone yelled her name and I instantly knew it was bad. Elaina was scooped up off the floor and carried to me through the fray…she was limp but looking at me and trying to catch her breath or cry, I couldn’t tell… and then she started to black out. That scary eye roll and almost seizure like movement…and wanting to sleep on my shoulder. I started to pray the only way I knew how, thanking the Lord for His promise, His protection, His healing…while asking for someone to call 911, while my boys started to panic. One of the moms grabbed my bag, one of them started to figure out rides and care for the boys if needed. Several drew near to pray, another called for prayer, laid hands on us and spoke the Life of Jesus into the situation…all the while I prayed and kept her awake, even as the firetruck pulled up to the door…when she suddenly started talking, lucidly to me. After they checked her out and gave her the all clear, she was back to her jumping, happy self within hours. It took a bit longer for the boys and I to work through the stress, but I was again reminded of God’s faithfulness and the love of community. The following days we had numerous inquiries about Elaina, how she was doing, how the boys and I were, lot’s of well wishes and love and blessings… and I’m almost brought to tears to be loved so well, but such a beautiful village.

In reflection, even when our village seemed small, it was still there. The thing that was absent, was the freedom and safety to be vulnerable, and it very well may have been our weakness at the time, but I am so very thankful that we again find ourselves in such a rich and beautiful place where vulnerability is welcomed, respected and shared.

Pausing on May 1st

So many thoughts rumbling around today… but many of them with a similar theme…I guess someone is trying to get my attention…

I read this quote in my devotional today…

Going through life without pauses (big and small) would be like writing without punctuation! Commas, periods, or new paragraphs help us make sense of things., take a breath or organize, and to know where one chapter ends and a new one begins. We need these pauses in our lives as they unfold as well!              

~Amy Cooper Collier

from the devotional itself by Julie Bogart…

Maybe today we can all pause – simply long enough to be present to ourselves and to our families in this moment in time. To pause is to cease what you’re doing for a moment, giving yourself an opportunity to be.

and then this post from blogger Shauna…must pay attention…

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Pausing to think about a sisters birthday today. A sister who is lovely and gentle and kind. Silly and funny, quiet and thoughtful. Pleasant and loyal and deserves a really good year. A really, really good one. Happy birthday Aya – I love you always.

Pausing to reflect on my daughter. The joy it brings me to see those words before me. My daughter… all my life I wanted a daughter. She was worth the wait. Her name, Elaina, means light. I was thinking about how,she was born at the beginning of a new chapter. We’d had several years of darkness in our family so to speak. Death and disillusionment, disappointment and loss…and through it all we kept walking – rather stumbling, falling and crawling and even, being carried by grace. Grace and faith…at times, even hope was gone, and even the road didn’t look like a road leading anywhere good…but Jesus…he was there…and then, the road turned sharply, the clouds parted and the valley was behind us. Breathing deeply,the gasps of survivors. and we were bathed in light. The kind of light you can feel on your skin. The kind you can’t help but turn your face to. The kind that warms your insides, heals your soul, refreshes your hope and brings clarity to your mind…and the path ahead.

Light… reflecting on the daughter conceived in the final steps of that valley. Elaina, is certainly delightful, almost always happy, loved by everyone… last week I posted a cute pic of her online, and it had over 50 likes, overnight. She loves to jump and sing and dance. She loves hugs, and her family. She has this bright smile and sparkly eyes and this curly blonde hair that when the sun hits it on a certain angle, looks like a halo. She makes me pause…a million times a day. To hug, to sing “twinkle” – for of course – Twinkle, twinkle little star” –  a million times a day, to “jumpy mommy!”…she’s full of things to say and share and learn…a reflection of the promise.

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I pause to reflect on the years my womb was silent, when the hope for children was crushed again and again. I’ve often thought, why didn’t God just tell me then, what I know now…that it really was too early? That He had things for me to do that would be impossible to do with a family…and that I would look back on that hard season as one of the best of my life? That He knew me better than my 20 something self knew me… that I would want to share motherhood with my sisters who weren’t even married yet, rather than the friends who shared that season with me, but are no longer nearby? That  I would want my children to share memories with their cousins…not just grandparents. So the timing, though unexplained, difficult…  five years of waiting and loss, was in Him. Why didn’t he just whisper it to me? Maybe He had, and I just wasn’t listening. 20 somethings don’t often know how to pause.

Pausing to reflect on those sons – the first, the promise child – who causes me to cling to hope and continue to trust in the Lord’s promise, that the work of faith wasn’t fulfilled in his birth, but in the walking out of motherhood with him. The second son, the talker, the joker, the fun-maker. The one who pushed me away when he was months old, and still isn’t sure if he wants to pull me closer or push me away even now. A riddle I am challenged with loving in his own unique way, for forever. And the 3rd son. Born 6 months between the deaths of both grandfathers…the child who was peaceful… though rarely slept. Who cried every night, until you picked him up. Who just wanted to be held in the midnight hours…and now I wonder if instead it was he who was holding me…through his early years, the path our family walked, grew darker still and yet, this child continued to be a watchman – the one constantly seeking to comfort others. A picture of God’s peace in the midst of every imaginable storm…knowing now that God was holding us all up, together, and drawing us forward into a season of light.

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Pausing again, as our first chinese “daughter” returned to visit last night. Reflecting on 3 almost 4 years ago, and where we were then, at the very beginning of this chapter – when I was expecting Elaina and welcoming light in…and where we are now, where the Lord has brought us…wondering if she saw the difference? Wondering if the light I feel radiating inside me, is felt outside me at all yet?

Pausing, to reflect on Grace. Where we’ve been, where we’re going. To let the light shine, to let the light in and to give thanks.

“My name is now Christian, but my name used to be Graceless.” ― John BunyanThe Pilgrim’s Progress: From This World to That Which Is to Come