The “Chalet”…or… the Miracle in How we Got our House.

 

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One of my favorite “views” in Niagara. I first experienced this view of the Niagara River from the parkway near Queenston Heights when in college. Beautiful in every season, little did I know one day I would live a short drive away from it. It’s my current “think” spot.

 

Hi there! Please go and grab a coffee or a snack, then get ready to settle in, this is a longer post, but I promise you, it’s really great story. I’ve been journeying through the things God has done in my life so far, and this is a great one. I hope it inspires you, it still inspires me. Share it if you think it may encourage someone you know. 


In the spring of 2005 my husband and I found out we were expecting baby number 2. We lived in this lovely older home near the lake in central Niagara. We had enjoyed around 5 years there and most of the memories were good ones. It was a well thought out floor plan that accommodated our small family quite well. It was a quiet neighborhood and we had a large lot that boasted a lovely covered deck and sprawling gardens that included a fish pond and waterfall. The hours I spent in that backyard will always remain in my memory as some of my most peaceful and happy.

My father-in-law lived with us in the basement apartment and we had worked through the difficulties of sharing living space early on in the living arrangement, for the first couple of years my sister and other students lived with us as well as our 2 cats. It was the home we brought our first born miracle home to. We shared many family dinners there, many gatherings with friends, life groups, parties…

We didn’t really “need” to find a new place, we did have enough space to remain comfortable, we would just lose some work space, the baby would have to share a room with his/her big brother…but we thought, “it wouldn’t hurt” to see what’s out there.

A friend of ours, Nathan, was just starting out in real estate and we thought we’d give him a try… we mentioned to him about what we were looking for, price range, size – a little bigger, an additional bedroom, more property – but we still needed an in-law suite/ apartment for dad, and we still wanted a quiet neighborhood…we needed easy access to the highway to reduce the amount of drive time to work…

Nathan pulled together a few viewings and we set out to ‘look and see” – when we pulled up to what is now our home, we looked at each other and said – “ya…no” – It had several marks against it in our book – it was in Niagara Falls – after having lived in St. Catherine’s for over a decade, we knew there was a stigma about the Falls…that it was less classy… and the house was HUGE.

Not just a little bigger, but way TOO BIG. It was beautiful though, a chalet style cedar home with gorgeous hardwood floors throughout, and unique hand-designed plaster ceilings. The owner had custom built the home for his multi-gen family after a trip to Switzerland inspired him. He joined us on the tour, showing his pride in the details…Every inch was well planned and used for storage and use. It had a fully enclosed apartment upstairs with 2 huge bedrooms, a loft a gourmet kitchen and 2 balconies…

The ground floor boasted 4 large bedrooms, a full bath and a large formal living room. But no kitchen, he was willing to put one in…the unique home wasn’t selling as quickly as they’d hoped. The basement boasted a full kitchen another 3 piece bath and a full family room. There was a giant 2 car garage and separate shed and a bachelor pad above the garage. All of the bathrooms were bigger than any we’d ever had in any house previously. The décor was from the 80’s but the bones of the house were just unmatched – wood and ceramic floors throughout, oak cabinets, vaulted ceilings… There was giant vegetable garden with a makeshift green house and fruit trees and a brick oven…plus there were fig trees in the sun-room, which reminded me of my dad… and yes, it had a sun-room. It backed onto a hydro field and a reservoir so there wouldn’t be any neighbors building behind us, on the outskirts of the city, we were close the border and national monuments/ parks than the actual city of the Falls. The neighborhood was definitely quiet…but who were we kidding? this house was too big for our family of 4 even with dad… and WAY out of our price range. We laughed about it, Nathan said he had brought us just to get an idea of what kinds of things we liked in a home… it was a fun tour… and we moved on, looked casually at other homes and didn’t really think about the house again.

Consciously that is.

Turns out both Chris and I were having dreams about this house while we were sleeping. But we both just brushed it off… it was too unique, and too big…and too much.

Then we had kind of decided to not move. That we were fine where we were, we would make due until the circumstances were better for moving… we were content where we were.

But then the owners of that house had asked their agent to call Nathan and ask him to ask us (that young couple with the little boy and another one on the way) to put an offer on the house…any offer, nothing would insult them…Chris and I just laughed…no… No! What we could afford would indeed be insulting. We wouldn’t even consider it…we respected them too much.

But then, the still small voice of the Holy Spirit gently asked…”Why haven’t you asked me whether I wanted you to have that house? Would you consider it, for Me? Maybe you can’t afford it, but I can…”

Dumb, dumb, dumb…I felt so small.

Later that day, I told Chris what I’d heard, and immediately we both repented.

In the New Testament, the word translated as ‘repentance’ is the Greek word metanoia literally meaning “after or behind one’s mind“. ‘Meta’ meaning after or with; and the verb ‘noeo’  meaning to perceive, to think, the result of perceiving or observing. Together they mean: ‘to think differently after’. Metanoia is therefore primarily an after-thought, different from the former thought; a change of mind and change of conduct, “change of mind and heart”, or, “change of consciousness”.

How small minded had we been? So we were content…but maybe He wasn’t. Maybe He had things he wanted us to do, that would require a bigger house and more land and easy access to the sights and the border. We were approaching His provision from our small human mindedness, and He was trying to get us to see it from His perspective… from an eternal one. We were limiting Him.  We’d been taught to store up treasures in heaven… that real relationships were more important than bigger, better homes and filling them with stuff…and that’s still true, they are…but we soon found out that when you have people stay with you, live with you, share life with you… that relationships can go deep. We had learned that small and simple was good… and it still is, but sometimes, sometimes bigger means you can do more. That God can do more…for everyone.

Repentance in this instance, meant that we needed God’s help in how we approached the whole situation…we looked at it like this: perhaps we were supposed to have this house, but perhaps God just wanted to get us to think differently in general… regardless, we felt liberated. True repentance always brings liberty.

First we examined our own hearts and minds… what the limits had we put on our own thinking… we explored everything from the overly proud, to the overly humble thoughts – we didn’t want to insult family members who had smaller homes (who did we think we were?); were we trying to “keep up with the Jones’ – we had wealthy friends who could indeed afford a home like that, but we knew we couldn’t…we’d made mistakes in investing already… would we just repeat them? We didn’t want to be “house poor”…but would we be? How would be explain it to our friends and family when we clearly didn’t need so much room… We began to realize that we were more worried about what people thought than we realized. We needed to change our perspective. Then we changed our thinking on finances and what was available and possible to us. Then we made sure we kept listening.

Sometimes when you have something that you know it was impossible for you to get in your own strength, then you never quite look at it as your own, but that it’s really HIS and you really are just a steward…and you are more willing to say yes…to anything. Also, we have found, that when it was impossible for us to get it on our own, we are more likely to keep looking to the One who provided it, to sustain it for us, to help us “keep” it…as long as it’s needed…and hopefully, to let it go when we need to.

We went on another walk through of the house… this time with dad and a few other family members, but also with open minds, eyes and hearts. The owners asked us to sit for a coffee. It was a short but nice visit. We could see ourselves in this house…we could see glimmers of what God might do here…

We contacted Nathan, and put an offer in that we hoped wouldn’t be too insulting. They counter offered. Our parameters were really small. We put in our final offer, thinking it would be rejected. It was. We were OK. We were free, our minds had been liberated, regardless, and that was worth it all.

That night, Chris had another dream. It woke him up…he couldn’t sleep. He felt like God told him to write them a letter. In it he thanked them for even considering our offer, for their time and that we were thankful for the experience. He explained briefly about our financial limits, but that it was fun even dreaming about it for awhile. He wished them all the best. I read it the next morning, it was beautiful.  (and I thought I was the writer in the family – ha!) We sent it via Nathan, not expecting to ever hear back from them.

That night, Nathan called us, laughing…his excitement palpable… they wanted to give us the house for our final offer… WAY WAY WAY below list price…probably below market too. He shared how at the final meeting he had given their agent the letter who gave it to the owner, and then owner asked him to read it to the room…he said at the end of the letter not an eye was dry… and then, the owner had said… “These are good people, a young family, they will love my house, they will be good for the neighborhood”…and then after a pause…”let’s give it to them.”

The whirlwind of moving while in my third trimester is a story for another time, as well as many of the challenges we’ve encountered after saying yes to the house. But I want to give you a brief glimpse, of how God had used us through his/our house to be the blessing He knew was needed…

Little did we know that we’d have not 1 but 3 more kids and a couple dogs, and that we’d eventually be homeschooling, and use every inch of the house in that adventure alone…we knew so little of what God had need of.

That very first fall, just weeks after we moved in, a sister got married and all the extra rooms were filled with family members who had traveled to come to the wedding. Then another and another sister got married and we filled the rooms again and again. Chris’ dad lived with us until he passed away, we shared many happy memories with him, including our last Christmas together, in this home. We’ve had several people stay with us in the bachelor apartment – many recovering from divorce or financial ruin. We’ve had women and children in crisis stay with us, large families needing an “affordable” place to stay while on vacation, and about 25 long and short term students board with us from Asia, Europe and South America. We’ve been able to host missionaries on furlough and we’ve had family and friends that needed a place to crash following loss or just needing a temporary home. We’ve hosted large scale celebrations and countless small ones. The second kitchen and family room has been great for holiday gatherings and summer retreats from the heat… the yard has hosted chickens, a large veggie garden, tents for the kids and their cousins, the fruit trees have fed us in the summers and winters from preserving… The extra room and ability to take in borders has sustained us through financially tight seasons, and the closeness to the border made it possible to get cheaper gas and sometimes groceries with ease. The lower mortgage has been a blessing, and while we’ve not always had lot’s of cash to bless people with, we’ve been able to share all that we do have – a place to rest, something to eat, somewhere to be loved with God’s love, to everyone that comes through our doors.

We have incredible neighbors who’ve become good friends, and when we go for walks at night, sometimes it feels like we live in the country. We’ve grown to love Niagara Falls even more than St. Catherine’s, especially our little corner of it and take great pride in showing visitors our lovely part of the region… we know that our season here is far from over, but we learned a long time ago to not put limits on what God can do with the space you make for Him, as well as the space you let Him make for Himself. If you ever find yourself in Niagara, please don’t hesitate to call, we just may have room for you!

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circa 2009 Jodi Taylor Photography

 

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I’ll Always Wonder…Season of Sundays Part 2

Hi there! FYI, this post is a continuation of the post from last week entitled A Season of Sundays.  The recipe I mentioned in that post, is at the bottom of this post.

This is a tribute to one of the most beautiful ladies I ever had the privilege of knowing. Believe it or not, I began writing this on the anniversary of her passing, way back in February, but it’s just not been easy to relive all of it. She is missed to this day. She was one of the great ones of a generation the world has not truly understood their value. To me, she had a gift for hospitality that was unmatched, and I hope to one day be even remotely as “Great” as she was.


The last Sunday dinner Great Aunt Fern hosted was bittersweet. We gathered together as family had done countless times, knowing it was the end of an era. However, we also knew that it was a celebration of a lifetime of loving. Yes, she was ready to turn in her oven mitts, but we needed to be too. As always, the table was set with a table cloth, but she let us set the places this time, and bring the food to the table…over a simple chicken dinner, we shared stories of the best dinners and many of the bloopers over the years. The faces of cherished loved ones who are no longer with us etched in our memories, that night, and still. Their laughter faintly echoing in our hearts. That night, for our last dinner, she let us “younger ladies’ do her dishes for the first time, while she rested in a nearby chair.

Not long afterward, we gathered to help move her into a nearby residence. She was excited to be joining friends, and to socialize with people each day in person (and not just over the phone)… born in 1912, she had lived through both World Wars and the great Depression. She knew how to economize space – and how to “ration”. It took hours to deal with the saved plastic containers and rubber bands, stacks of paper and buttons. We packed up her lovely tea cup collection and other prized pieces of decor, each holding memories for her, but also for each of us. I carried her recipe books close to my heart, as if I were entrusted with the crown jewels. She had jotted notes to me over family favourites, entrusting me to “take care of her boys”, and to this day, it’s one of my prized possessions.

She spent several pleasant years at the residence. Chris recalls a humorous visit when he walked right past her in the foyer. He had never seen her in “slacks”. She had giggled a reply saying they were for her exercise class, so the “gentlemen wouldn’t try to get fresh with her”. We would try to visit every couple of weeks, usually on a Sunday. It was difficult to take 2 young boys into a nursing home and not develop hypertension – there are just so many red buttons begging to be pressed! But we did our best, and she was always at her best for us.

Slowly though, her sparkle started to fade. She mentioned that it was hard to get close to people, when you weren’t sure if they’d be there the next day, and they lived in a state of fear of viruses wiping out entire “wings” of the residence. When Chris’ dad passed away suddenly, it hit her very hard. He was the one person who called her everyday, sometimes more. She made it clear to us that she did not like “outliving” everyone.  However, the announcement of another pregnancy, our 3rd boy, seemed to help her rally. She loved those visits especially. It was precious to take her “treats” and she always hid some cookies and juice for the boys, that she had pilfered from the snack cart. Even in her tiny room, she was the consummate hostess.

A few more years passed and slowly her sparkle began to fade again. She was hit by a number of illnesses that she just couldn’t shake. Our visits became restricted for her sake – but really, I think not seeing the boys made it worse for her. Her wall became a photo gallery of her loved ones.

She turned 99 in September of 2011, and in that last year, I had decided to visit her every week, with and without the boys. I wanted to hear her stories, I wanted  her to know she was truly loved, I wanted to say thank you, by just being there. In those visits, I realized she had become reconciled with her own death…she gave instructions on clearing out her room, her will, her wishes for burial…she began to speak of eternal things – her “new” suite-mate had spoken with her about setting her affairs in order, and she told me she was ready to meet God. She told me she did not want to live to be 100, that while everybody else told her it was great, she said she was embarrassed and didn’t want the attention. She wanted quiet…and rest. That Christmas she caught a bug…and never recovered fully, it took root in her lungs and her breathing became challenged, she needed a machine to help her breath. She hated every step of losing her independence. Her niece would visit every day.

That February, Chris struggled with the decision to leave on a work trip, but she assured him he should go. So did the rest of the family. He and Aunt Fern had already said everything that needed to be said…two nights later he called and asked me to go be with her, she had declined quickly, the end was near, he wanted me to be with her…My mom stayed with the boys, I grabbed my purse and my bible and drove down the highway to her…praying. When I arrived, I realized that in my haste I had grabbed an old hymn book off the shelf instead of my Bible…

It was quiet and dimly lit, she was resting, she hadn’t spoken to anyone for quite some time, the sound of her struggled breathing engulfing the space. I pulled up a chair and sat down beside her, opened the book and quietly began to sing every hymn that I knew through my tears. Her breathing steadied…and at one point, when we were alone, she opened her blue eyes and very clearly asked…”no more babies?”. I hesitated…” she couldn’t know…I didn’t know…the whisper of uncertainty… I had just wondered that very morning about my cycles…maybe?…knowing she might rally if I said yes… but what if I wasn’t?.. It would probably carry her passed her 100th birthday… I blinked and whispered quietly,  “no, I don’t think so”…she sighed and closed her eyes again, barely squeezing my hand in hers.

Someone entered the room then, and we sang some more hymns together for another hour or so…I don’t know if she “woke up” again after that…but was reassured she wouldn’t be alone… I had to get home to my boys, I got the call early that morning, that she had quietly slipped away  in her sleep. Later that week, I took a pregnancy test… it was positive…our fourth baby, a girl, was born in September, a couple weeks after what would have been Aunt Fern’s 100th birthday in 2012…I will always, always wonder…what if I’d said yes?

…and the only reason we didn’t name our Elaina, after Great Aunt Fern, was because way back when I’d been pregnant with one of the boys, she had told me to NEVER name a girl (should one come along) Fern…or Muriel -her middle name. She emphatically told us we did not have her blessing to saddle a girl with those names…but to this day I still think about adding Muriel onto her birth certificate…I’m pretty sure she inherited some of Aunt Fern’s sass and spunk so it would be fitting I think.


Finally, as promised, here’s the PDF to the Butterscotch Cake I mentioned in last weeks’ post.

Butterscotch Cake

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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.

easter program

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!

A Season of Sundays…

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Sunday afternoons have been a sacred time in my life as far back as I can remember…

Growing up, they were the one day when everyone would consistently be home and we would usually spent the day together… at rest. Usually at least half the family napped, we would go for bike rides, trips to the beach or park, and there was usually a big meal at some point in the day.

When I met my husband, we spent a great many Sunday afternoons at his Great Aunt Fern’s home. She was as much a grandmother to Chris, as his own grandmother whom she had lived with up until his grandmother moved into a full-care home. His grandmother passed away shortly after we began dating, but we still had Aunt Fern. She was a treasure. The kind of treasures that seem to be becoming more and more rare to find nowadays. She never married, but was the “sister who took care of everyone else”, as far back as anyone in the family could remember.

She kept her cozy home ever-ready for visits from family and friends, and there were frequent visits. But Sunday afternoons, they were the crown jewel. By the time I met her, she was in her early 80’s, yet she would pull together dinner for 8 with ease. The table was always set with a pretty table cloth and china and the “good” silver. There were always flowers or a seasonal centerpiece and always fun stories and jokes ready to be shared or repeated.

She was a lady, from the day when ladies were “ladies”. She didn’t bemoan much, but she did tell me more than once, she missed the days when ladies wore a hat and gloves to church, and to weddings. I have a picture of her in her hat at our wedding, one of my favourites. In fact she always wore a dress or skirt and blouse, with pantyhose and a small sensible heel and most often had jewelry to complete the ensemble. The first time we ever saw her in pants, was well into her 90’s after she moved into Albright Manor and was taking an exercise class. That’s right. She was always up for something fun.

She insisted on serving everyone herself, and would never let anyone help with dishes, which she would do after everyone left. They were usually simple meals, full of flavour and you could literally taste the love. One of the most frequently requested was “Pot pie” – not the typical pie-variety, but the Pennsylvania Dutch version…with roast chicken. There was always dessert, and she was famous for her desserts – which were always served with coffee, in china cups. I inherited a few of these tea cups and they hold a cherished place in my home. Our favourite dessert was probably “the birthday cake” – also known as “Butterscotch Cake” which was very very dry with a brown sugar fudge icing that was slathered on thick. It was also next to impossible to turn down a slice of her pie. Any of them – which were always fresh.

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I love seeing Aunt Fern’s lovely script in this cookbook of handwritten notes. See how at the top of the recipe she noted “Jack, Chris & Tammara Birthday Cake” – she added my name too. The tea cup is my favourite from her.

No one was ever in a hurry at Aunt Fern’s. She was a great listener, always punctuated with “hmm’s and Tsk tsk’s”, and would usually only offer her very direct advice when asked…directly. She was very very clever and usually was the first the “get” the joke being played, her giggle was contagious and she had a twinkle in her eye that is definitely a family trait. I see it in 2 of my kids all the time. But, like I said, no one was in a hurry at Aunt Fern’s. If you were one of the lucky ones, you got to have a nap on her couch…in the summer, baseball would be on, and in the winter, football. When there was no game…Lawrence Welk. Immediately after lunch, Dad would grab the big chair, Chris the couch and us ladies would usually go outside for a bit.

From spring to late fall she had something interesting happening in her small garden, and would take you outside to take a look or harvest something. She usually had something she had decided to preserve that week – it was from her that I learned you didn’t have to can a dozen jars, but could just do one or two at a time as fruit ripened, while you were cooking dinner.

When our kids started arriving, Sundays were all the more glorious for everyone. Chris is an only child, so having babies and small children around again, brought out the joy in everyone… Aunt Fern had saved the wooden block set Chris used as a child, and the boys would build towers while dad and grand-dad destroyed them, for hours. Aunt Fern would comment about the full circle and laugh…We enjoyed 12 or so beautiful years of many Sunday afternoons at Aunt Fern’s…and then the seasons of life began to change for all of us.

I’ll post the rest of my story later this week….and yes. I will be sharing the recipe.

 

Reading List 2016

Good Morning! Thought I’d take a break from story telling and share some of my favourite stories written by other people, in books  for today. Another day, I’ll tackle blogs 🙂 Hope you enjoy and find something you’d like to read on my list. I’d love to hear from you what you think, or if you have recommendations, please, please, please share in the comments.

I’d like to preface today’s post with a couple of notes…This is my Personal reading list. None of these are required for any reason other than my own interests and pleasure. I most likely will not finish all of the books on this list. It is ambitious and there will be others as I come across them in the months to come…especially fiction. You will see also some books from Last year’s list here, as I said, some take awhile, some just keep showing up on the list. Others disappear.  (titles with a * are books I’ve finished or almost finished at the time of this writing)

books

“Finding the right book in the right season of life is like finding the perfect pair of mittens the day before a snowstorm.”  THeaslip, 2008

Classics

*Orthodoxy…Chesterton            It has taken me a year to get through half of this. I’ve been taking it slow because it is so good…and also has a lot of words and references that I have to look up to understand it best. It’s a book for reflection. Serious reflection.  It also may be taking awhile because I started watching the Father Brown Series on the BBC (based on Chesterton’s character) J

Mere Christianity…CS Lewis       When I’m finished with Chesterton, I’ll move onto this classic. I’ve got a few other classics on my shelf, unread and I’d love to read them all, but classics require a non-distracted mind, and well, I’m lucky to get 30 undistracted minutes in a day.

Biography

This Time Together…Carol Burnett          I still pull up clips of hers on Youtube for laughs…I think she’s amazing, as a woman and a pioneer in a field dominated by men. She made her way with grace and dignity…and she brought joy to the world making people laugh, and still does. Can’t wait to dig in.

 Fiction

The Princes of Ireland…Rutherford         I’m a big Rutherford fan. I read the first Rebels of Ireland last year and enjoyed it. His books take on huge swathes of history and you kind of get sucked into a different world for awhile, so I’ve been waiting to start this one until a time when my family won’t mind my getting lost for a while.

Viral…Kathy Reichs       

I’ve read all of her Temperance Brennan books and enjoyed them, this one is a stand alone, so we’ll see if I like it.

*The Blythes are Quoted…LM Montgomery          As some of you know I’m a huge LMM fan and usually re-read one of her Anne Books a year.  Came across this one and snatched it up as I hadn’t read it. It’s her last manuscript of the Blythe family and the book itself is surrounded in intrigue as publishers and editors all squabbled over the contents. I’m a third into it and loving it…it’s similar to her later books like Ingleside and Rilla of Ingleside with a bit of the Stories of Avonlea (but of course on Nova Scotia) this time.

*Emily of New Moon…Montgomery         My aforementioned “reread” of the year.

Home…Marilynne Robinson      First time I’ve ever picked up one of her books, I’ve seen her quoted a lot and the title drew me in.

The Canaan Trilogy…Marek Halter          Recommended by a good friend, based on woman from the bible, I’m wondering how similar they will be to Francine Rivers’ books with similar threads.

*Sons of Encouragement…Rivers  & The Last Sineater…Rivers          Speaking of Francine Rivers…she has yet to write a book I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed. One of the few Christian Fiction Authors I can say that about. Both of these books were great. The first, 4 “supporting roles” played by men in the Bible. The second book, set in the Carolina Mountains of the 1800’s. Very moving.

Memoir

*Mr. Owita’s Guide to Gardening…Carol Wall   I loved this book. I read it in a day, and had to repeated put it down to cry and take a breath. It deals with grief and forgiveness in a beautiful and powerful way.  I honestly think this book is what pushed me into writing the series on infertility this past month.

Unstoppable…Christine Caine

Recommended by my book club. Looking forward to it.

Notes from a Blue BikeTsh Oxenreider

I love her blog/vlog. Found this on clearance at the Book Outlet – and it’s a new book! Looking forward to it.

Cartwheeling in Thuderstorms…Rundell

Looks like a winner. After last year’s forray into memoirs, I just picked it up…

*Blood Bones and Butter…Gabrielle Hamilton   Technically I read this last year after my sister started our Cooking Club. But I’ve never included it on my lists, and it deserves mention.It was amazing and really turned me on to that style of writing. Thereafter I read everything by Shauna Neiquist, who writes in the same style, storytelling with truth. (see. Bread and Wine, Cold Tangerines, Bittersweet and most recently Savor, all by Neiquist. I also read Atlas Girl…by Emily Wierenga last year, also not on list. 

 Non Fiction

*A Million Little Ways…Emily P. Freeman So far, this has been my favourite read this year after Mr Owita’s Guide. I love her style, her vulnerability. My copy is highlighted and dogeared. I gobbled it up. About releasing your art, your story, finding your purpose in a million little ways.

Trust Me I’m Lying…Ryan Holiday

I had started this one several times…and I don’t why I don’t get further than chapter 3.

The Idea Hunter…Boynton Fischer

Because I want to read something my husband is reading.

The Power of No…James Altucher

…again, I want to read something my husband is reading

Baseball as a Road to God…John Sexton

Our summer is baseball, thought this book was fitting.

A New Kind of Christian…Brian D. McLaren

To mess up my own mind, like I did after reading his other book.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years…Donald Miller 

Loved his Blue Like Jazz, looking forward to this.

Sacred Marriage…Gary Thomas

This one was from my mom. Looks good.

Why Men Hate Going to Church…Murrow

Read a blog on this one. It annoyed me. Thought I’d read it myself.

The Fringe Hours…Jessica Turner   

Started reading it, got distracted. We’ll see if I continue.

Where There is Love, There is God…Mother Theresa

Jesus Among Other Gods…Ravi Zacharias

Keeping the Feast…Paula Butturini

Looks good. It was $2 in scratch and dent section. I love the Book Outlet.

Amusing Ourselves to Death…Neil Postman

Started reading this 2 years ago. Get about ¾ and then am distracted by the very things the books warns us of…media, etc.

Misfits Welcome…Matthew Barnett

The co-founder of the LA Dream Center. I love his stuff.

Made to Crave…Lysa Teurkhurst 

Loved her recent book The Best Yes. This one’s next.

A Year of Biblical Womanhood…Rachel Held Evans

Love her blog. Looking forward to this.

Adventures in Churchland…Dan Kimball 

Have enjoyed some of his other work on the Emergent Church.

The following books piggy back on the books I’ve read the last number of years. They are follow ups either to a specific author I enjoyed (ie. Webber) or subject (Sacred Year)

The Origins of Paganism and Christian Beliefs…Edward Carpenter

Common Roots…Robert E Webber

The Sacred Year…Michael Yankoski

Christianity…Bamber Gascoigne

For Teaching at Home

More Charlotte Mason Education…Catherine Levison

Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions…George Barna

Barna has done a lot of research on generational Christianity and church growth. I figure he knows what he’s talking about.

How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare…Ken Ludwig

We cover Shakespeare in the boys Performing Arts Co-op so I thought it may be a good idea to study it at home a bit. This book was recommended by Sarah MacKenzie at amongstlovelythings.com

 

Our Journey through Infertility Part 5

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 here and part 4 is here. I promise, the end is almost here …

That summer That Friend got pregnant with her third baby, and one of my newly married students too, by accident. By accident?  …and jealousy reared it’s ugly head. But she was that friend, and I was not pregnant. We went on vacation together and I had an ovarian cyst painfully move through me. We cried together again.

Time continued to roll along. It was busy, filled with work and students and travelling. Our world changed with the events of 911 and the months rolled by. My friends, and many other babies were born..and then that following spring another miscarriage.

Image result for pics of 2002

Again, I cried out to God, asking for something to root my faith and hope. If I was to continue to believe for children, I needed some kind of anchor….or I would devote myself to missions work and move on happily. As I was reading in the gospel of John one day, it came. The words that would carry me…

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14

 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. John 15  

 Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. 21 A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. 22 So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. 23 In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. Jn 16

My doctor also spoke words of encouragement, he was convinced I would conceive again. They found out I was Rh negative, and addressed that concern medically.  After the second miscarriage, I cannot explain it,but I had a sense of resolve. I knew I could get pregnant again, and for the time being, that was enough. I knew, my joy would be full… I went out on tour again, with a different bunch of students. The summer passed and another school year began. I set up the crib in the spare room, and every time I noticed it I whispered, “my joy will be full“. I stopped paying attention to the 28 day cycle. I don’t know when it happened, but during that year, my hope and contentment completely took over. I was legitimately happy at baby showers and all the events that had previously brought me pain. That season became one the times I felt most creative and alive. While I was going through my journals to confirm the timelines, I realized they were interspersed with poems and stories wrote during that time.

The following spring I went to visit my francesister who was living in France. It was one of the best weeks of my life…and while I was there, I decided to ask for a sabbatical from work.

I honestly don’t know why… things were going well in every area and I was content…but I finished out the school year and then started my Sabbatical in May. I joined my husband on a business trip out west. We were staying with friends, and the wife announced that she was pregnant – they’d been married almost as long as us and hadn’t had children either, so this was such great news for them. calgary_mountains_by_ps8I was so happy for her. While driving between Calgary and Red Deer, another close friend called long distance. She wanted me to know she was pregnant…didn’t want me to find out through someone else. Was I ok? I had pulled over, and I realized I definitely was. I was quite happy in my life as it was. We prayed together as it was a special baby for her, a sign of complete healing and restoration for her after a difficult time. While we were out west,  I was quite happy to hang out with my newly pregnant friend, she was nearing the end of her first trimester, so  we napped, alot, and ate good food, alot….

It wasn’t til I got home that I realized I still wanted to eat and nap…all the time.

Yep, I had been pregnant the whole time we were in Alberta, and not known it.

Tomorrow, I will share the conclusion of our story…

Our Journey Through Infertility Part 4

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 , and part three is here

Time passes extremely slowly when you are waiting. That spring was difficult. In our social circles it felt like  everyone was pregnant and having babies. All of a sudden people didn’t know what to do with me. Do we invite her? Will she be ok? We can’t not invite her… every invite that came in the mail hit me like a shock to the heart, but I was determined to work through the pain, so I went. To every single one.

broken heart

I tend to be a bit stoic – you know the type, the ones who hold it together so they can go home and cry…particularly handy if you tend to be an ugly crier. The problem is this, I didn’t know how to rejoice when my own heart was broken? I would give the best gifts I could afford and put love into the wrapping, I’d play the games and eat the food…and go home and cry…On top of this, we had returned to the 28 day cycle of viciousness…and it felt like all the showers, happened not in the hope part of the cycle, but when I knew for sure I again, was NOT pregnant.

I had picked up a copy of Sarah Ban Breathnach’s book, “Simple Abundance” and in an act of defiance to my situation, I began a gratitude journal. My greatest solace in that season though, was my work. Working with Bible School students was not only fun, but an around the clock distraction. They had constant needs and the programs were intensive. It was highly rewarding to pour into those precious and receptive young people. I was back in the band every morning and teaching in the afternoons, leading field trips in the evenings and on weekends and still working part time in the music & drama departments…the heart was empty, but my schedule was full.

I was asked to assist leading the Student Band on a cross Canada tour and jumped at the chance. We packed up when classes ended and headed out to the East Coast. I have found that it doesn’t matter how busy you are, if you have things that need dealing with, the quiet moments become loud with thoughts of the very thing you are avoiding. I was avoiding the fact that my due date was coming up quickly, and I was still not pregnant. Deeper than that was the fact that here I was doing everything I could to provide opportunities for others to connect with God (in leading worship) but my own heart was closed to him altogether.

mothers day due date

In a cruel twist of fate, my due date had been Mother’s Day. Yeah. So that May Sunday, I found myself alone in the Pastor’s office of a small church in New Brunswick, crying out to God for the strength to get through a service that would include a special time for mothers… The team had decided to share testimonies throughout the service, I had planned on sharing about how I became a Christian, but the words came out of my mouth about my Baby in Heaven who should have been born that day, and how I would choose to rejoice in my sorrows and draw near to God anyways…and it was like a warm oil poured over and though my heart in the moment and the pain of loss was gone… there was still the awareness of it, but no pain. A number of women found me after the service, sharing their own stories of loss and shame and hurt and I found instant fellowship as a we prayed together through our shared loss. A day that could have destroyed me, became a day of healing.

 

 

 

 

Word for 2016 – REST

I didn’t choose this word. It was chosen for me.

I keep bumping into it. Everywhere I go.

It is both a noun and a verb.

It is constantly on my mind.

I am contemplating it, and God’s desire for me to have it continually.

Rest

New Tradition – Chinese New Year

This was our second year hosting a Chinese New Year Dinner. We hosted it on the Eve before because the actual New Year was a school day and it just worked better to host it on a Sunday. Our Isabelle and I (with input from a few of her guests) came up with a menu and did the grocery shopping. It would take a few stores to find what we needed and keep it within budget. It is fun to research and add a couple new traditions each year. We all had a great time trying new foods and learning more about Asia – specifically Hong Kong and Korea this year. As always, I love to set a great room/ table. Each time I host students, they bring gifts from their countries that I can add into the decor. This Year is the Year of the Monkey.

Most everything is symbolic in Chinese culture – even the fact that you must have leftovers to “have more to spare in the year to come”… and the colours, Red and Gold indicate Life and Wealth. We even had a discussion on whether or not to use the black napkins because they represent death and that is unlucky at Lunar New Year.

This is called a “tray of togetherness” with many dried fruits and sweet treats. Families traditionally put these out New Years day for all the guests that visit. It is generally a day of open house visiting to friends and family, followed by a meal and a trip to the Flower Market. I’ve added being in Hong Kong on Lunar New Year, to my bucket list.

 

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Isabelle and her lovely friends cooked up a few special dishes to round out the menu Isabelle and I came up with.

Just a little bit of our spread. Cabbage Salad, Spring Rolls, Dumplings, Dim Sum, Egg Rolls and those heavenly eggs Isabelle’s friend made in the top right photo – I forget the name. We had rice (plenty) and long noodles (long life), steamed eggs and Cokacola Chicken Wings and more…

And of course, desserts. We had mango jelly, fruit trays – all symbolic – citrus pomello and mandarins for wealth, dragonfruit for many children blessed, and the egg tarts and Nian Gao which has many versions, we chose the coconut one we discovered last year…and Oolong tea.

I’m already planning for next year!