Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Practice Joy

I've had an ongoing conversation with a dear friend of mine (waving to Margaret!) about the difference between joy and happiness. Imagine my pure delight to stumble onto this thoughtful section in, of all places, a homeschooling book I'm reading called Help for the Harried Homeschooler: A Practical Guide to Balancing Your Child's Education with the Rest of Your Life by Christine M. Field:
One of the best ways to dispense with discouragement in your life is to practice joy. How? By learning to love your life just as it is....God never promised us that life would be all sunshine and happiness. We know as Christians that we are not entitiled to "the good life." By God's grace, he gives us what he gives us....Joy comes in tiny segments. If we deal with life as it comes, moment by moment, one step at a time, we'll find it. Now is all God asks us to handle.

I wish I had the skills to communicate how much this concept has transformed my life. I've struggled with worry and perfectionism and control since I was a young child. The idea of practicing joy tells me that it is something that can be learned and that it is a choice I can make, to live my life joyfully. It says nothing about my natural disposition and neither does the Bible qualify those who are promised joy as the "sunshiney perky crowd." I am so thankful for this and I have begun to experience true joy in my life, despite circumstances, as I've looked at it as something I can actively seek and practice.

The first area that I have seen the effects of this change of attitude in is in my approach to mothering. Practicing joy means putting off chores when a child asks to be read to, playing a marathon-length game of Monopoly on occasion, choosing to care for a sick child with kindness instead of impatience and irritation. I think, I hope, most of the time this is something that can't be seen as I know that the person it impacts the most is me. It affects the memories I'm building of my time as a mom to young kids and I want those to be sweet ones.

Practicing joy hugely impacts my marriage. As Gary and I approach the anniversary of our first date (yeah, we're sappy and remember stuff like that), I asked him recently about how he is feeling about our relationship. His comment that I seem more settled and less confrontational is a huge compliment to me. Through the choice to practice joy God has blessed my marriage. I am so thankful for that.

Right now I'm off to practice quiet. Gary and the girls are off skating and Noah is outside playing with a neighbour friend. A Sunday afternoon nap just might be on the schedule.

More later!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


I've been having Blogger issues and could not log in here for some time. Good grief! Isn't technology supposed to contribute to our leisure? Glad that I could finally get on here to post!

We have come out of our extreme cold spell and into normal winter conditions. Still pretty cold but not too cold to prevent outside play. Towards the end of our 3-week cold snap (with -30C temps and colder), my children just had to go outside. We bundled them up so just their eyes were showing and out they would go, delighted to run and play and jump in the snow. It amazes me how strong this need for play is and how many different ways I see our culture discouraging this natural way of learning. Ours has been a much happier house with some more fresh air and stretched out muscles.

Another sad goodbye yesterday. A young married couple who have become sweet friends of ours have made a very significant life change in moving to SE Asia as career missionaries. We bid them farewell at the airport last night and I displayed my Olympic-calibre ability to shed tears. I admire these women who hold their emotions in so well or who have a few dainty little tears roll down their cheeks. Not me. I go straight for the ugly cry. Thrilled for them and the people group they go to share life and Jesus with, sad for us as we live life without their nearby friendship. I'm telling you, this is a hard place to live in terms of having to say goodbye. And I'm not good at it.

Thank you for the kind comments after I shared my personal journey of motherhood. I'm always cautious about revealing stuff like that, especially online. I think, generally speaking, that we aren't real enough with each other about parenting. Pride gets in the way of sharing how difficult it can be at times. Shouldn't something worth doing cost us something? I know I value the relationship I have with my children even more for the struggles I have had. My goal is to be one happy and doting grandmother!

The above layout is one I worked on at the women's retreat I attended the weekend before last. I so enjoyed having some time to visit and create on Saturday afternoon. I'm convicted even more of how precious it is to be around like-minded women from different walks of life. I missed my family more than usual though and was thrilled to arrive home to Georgia's "Mama, mama, mama!"

More later. And not as later as last time, I promise.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

{Love Multiplied}

Four. Seemed like a nice number that January evening as Gary and I discussed our plans for the future. Recently engaged, there was a whole world of topics that we needed to discuss and decide on, seemingly that day. It wasn't even a hard number to come up with. Gary is the youngest of seven and I am the oldest of two. We both wanted something different than we had experienced and four just seemed like the right number.

Then Noah arrived. And rocked my world. Not in a good way. Those first months of parenting were so desperately difficult. I'm not sure who cried more, the baby or the mother. A difficult birth followed by difficult times. That conversation from the January night years before seemed to mock me. How did I ever think I could do this? Was God angry with me? Why did some women seem to ease into motherhood with such grace and everything in me screamed out for the life I felt I'd lost?

Still, we knew our family was not complete. Olivia came along, an exhilirating birth experience and an easily comforted baby. Not the mother though. Still struggling with fears and worries and sadness beyond my ability to control. Anger and disappointment towards my husband who could not pull me out of this pit. Silence is what I perceived as God's response.

Then came a diagnosis of depression from a wonderful and understanding doctor, a surprise pregnancy, and a peace inside that I had never experienced. An understanding developed of the blessings in my life: my precious kids, an incredibly patient and supportive husband, and a God who had not abandoned me. Another surprise pregnancy followed shortly after Sophie's birth and, with Georgia, we reach the number: FOUR.

There were those who suggested, meaning well, that maybe we should stop having children when we had TWO. I am so glad that God saw fit to bless us with TWO more. There were lessons I needed to fact, I think the lessons were all part of this bundle of being a mother of four. Life has mellowed. I still struggle. There was a bit of a grieving process over not being this "natural mother." But, you know, I've grown into it. Matured into it. I had a lot of "self" to give up along the way, but I've found a me who is a whole lot more comfortable in her own skin. Happiness is fleeting but joy is everlasting. Love multiplied.

I hope you are having a wonderful Valentines Day. I've been sneaking Hershey's Kisses to my children at different intervals throughout the day, "kissers" as Georgia calls them. Know today that you are loved, dear ones!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

On Saying No

Saying no has never been something that I've been very good at. Give me an opportunity and, for the most part, I will jump at it. An opportunity was presented to me on Thursday with some flattery attached. Initially I thought I would go ahead and accept this but I asked for a few days to talk it over with my husband, think on it, and pray. Once I sorted everything out, I came to the conclusion that this is not a good time for me to add anything more in my life. God is showing me that there are other things filling my life right now. I am feeling a contentment with homeschooling that I haven't experienced in some time, if ever. While I finished teaching the women's Sunday School class in December, I am still actively involved in ministry in a few different roles. Gary has ministry responsibilities that tend to carry over into my life. He is coordinating a class this term and I continue on with my music students. Life is full right now but not in a way that makes me panic. It was time to say no.

So why is it so hard? Why was it hard today to go to this individual, look them in the eye, and say that I cannot do this right now? I think the fact that someone had specifically requested me to fill a role had something to do with that. This request came through a third party and I specifically did not ask who had mentioned my name as I thought that would likely sway me further. Gary has been so good to free me up to do some things outside of caring for our family and initially was encouraging me to accept this, until he heard how settled I am feeling right now. This will be a season (and who knows how long it will last) of a bit more restfulness for me. I'm enjoying the settled feeling I am experiencing at home, not having so many things taking up room in my head. Having enough emotional energy to pray for the things that I do have going on right now. And having the peace to wait on God for further direction.

And that is why I need to sometimes say no.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Yearning for Summer

It was fun to choose some older photos for this layout. This was our first "real" family vacation. I say "real" because we had been places to visit people for events and such, but this was the first time where the vacation was the point. It was still a combination, as we stayed with my sister and brother-in-law, but we had so much fun going to different places and enjoying some great summer weather. My sister and her husband had just built their first home, a lovely one, in a subdivision with a wonderful lake. It's a man-made lake but designed to be as natural as possible. They hauled in granite for the lake bottom, there is a wonderful sandy beach, and some terrific play structures which we used and abused. It is a "residents only" facility, meaning they pay a yearly fee for access, but we could get in if we were with them. There are even kayaks and canoes available for use. Noah was so funny! He just loves the water and had to be the first one in each time we went, yelling like a banshee all the way into the water, shocked at the initial cold but fully immersed before it really hit him. Good times!

Certainly a contrast with our -20C and colder weather. No break in sight yet. I'm trying to think of a creative way to take our minds off it this weekend. Not sure how to do that yet. Maybe Gary and I will use one of our Christmas gift cards to go out for a pre-Valentines Day dinner? Maybe we will stay home and stage a luau? Maybe we'll just blast the furnace and go through the weekend in t-shirts and shorts? Stay tuned!

Oh, yes I did watch Wife Swap, for those of you who were wondering. Not a stellar program, I doubt you need to be told that. My favourite line was this motocross mom telling the environmentally aware family that "for the next week we'll be throwing our garbage in the garbage can, like normal people." My composting husband (not that he himself is compost, he just has his own bin) got a good eye roll out of that when I related that line to him. (Just to be clear, I'm sure he'd want me to let you know that he doesn't watch the show, nor does he really approve of others watching it either. There. I've given my media review and reprove for the week.)

Off to make this place look like a bomb did NOT indeed go off before Gary comes home from work. Our weekend begins now as he is off tomorrow! More later!

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Thought I'd have something to share...

but I don't! I received a cool book in the mail today that I ordered a while back. It's Easy Patterns for Scrapbooking put out by Creating Keepsakes. Really detailed patterns for creating several different layouts and wasting very little. My kind of thing, I like to have a pattern. I cut all the paper for three 2-page layouts and started putting one together. It turns out that it calls for machine sewing, which I've been wanting to try on a layout for sometime. I take a deep breath and head downstairs to where I've had the sewing machine set up since my mom and I hemmed a pair of pants on New Year's Eve. Someone took the spool of thread off.

I know, doesn't sound like a big problem. This machine, however, is ancient and I no longer have the instruction manual. My mom and I spent a good chunk of time threading it (is that what you say with a sewing machine?) when she was here. I don't remember how we eventually got it to work properly but I thought I would just leave it all assembled with this nice neutral coloured thread. Apparently one of the short little imps around here had a different idea. Hoping to devote some time to this tomorrow. I vow to conquer that machine once and for all!

Everyone seems to be feeling better here. Certainly a strange virus going around, this high fever thing. It's bitterly cold out this week and the forecast shows little change. By February we have just had it with being shut inside. The kids have been quite eager to get bundled up to play outside once they hear the school bus returning their friends from across the street. I'm all for it! They say that little groundhog didn't see his shadow and spring will be early. What does that mean in Saskatchewan? Like May 31st instead of June 1?

More later.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Perfect night of TV viewing...

In Style Celebrity Weddings followed by an episode of Wife Swap. It doesn't get any better than that. Glimpses into real marriages? I think not. On both counts.