Changes
James is diligently working on a new blog site for me, which I am VERY excited about for two reasons.  One, because it’s going to be new and pretty.  Two, because my man is using his talents and what he does for a living to make something unique and special for me!  So when things are completely up and running I’ll let you know where to find me. Continue reading

This post is especially for my littlest brother, although he’s not very little anymore, in fact all three of my brothers are much bigger than me:)  Joelie is gearing up to enter the “real” world as he and his beautiful wife, Meghan prepare to welcome their firstborn sometime in May.  As an aside, one of the things that I’ve appreciated about coming from a larger family is the joys of experiencing new life many times over.  It was such a joy to hold my two nephews M and A for the very first time and I am just as excited to hold any other little blessings God chooses to give our extended family.   Continue reading

In light of recent, local and global events I felt compelled to blog a few thoughts. They’re personal opinions…nothing more…that’s the beauty of a blog.

In BC we’ve been overwhelmed with propaganda from all sides over the last two weeks. From the government, from the union, from the media. The reality is there is more than one side to every story and because we’re human our perspectives are always tainted with a little of our emotion rather than 100% truth.

I have opinions and ideas which at this moment I will choose to keep to myself! What I will say is what I chose to share with my 10 year old as he contemplated the job action and asked me who was winning…nobody. The answer plain and simple is that nobody in our current situation is “winning”. In fact at this point we are all losing.

But here is the dilemma I was hit by yesterday. This world has big problems everywhere. We live in a generation of connection. We’re connected to one another, across the globe 24/7. Our minds and eyes are full of the information to be analyzed, critiqued, processed and discussed on a regular basis and we rarely get a rest from it. When I popped onto Facebook yesterday I was assaulted by the sharing, reposting, commenting of a recently released video called Kony 2012. At first I ignored it…I’m a skeptic, when masses choose to share something it feels somehow contrived, forced. I want to discover on my own and not be told how to feel and think. Eventually the sheer number of people commenting and sharing the link caused me to start watching. I only got to watch the first 10 minutes and something unsettled me. I walked away for a meeting but felt sad at what I’d seen. Inexplicably my heart was heavy and I hadn’t even seen the bulk of the video yet. I determined to watch the rest but with a critical eye.

Later in the day I came back to it and watched the rest. I felt two reactions, one was an emotional reaction to the knowledge of the evil that exists in our world and the second was uncertainty. I knew the images I was seeing were truthful and that somehow, people in power continue to use and abuse children because they are small and weak, because they need protection. Uncertainty because the people that “represent” these children are often just as guilty of using and abusing the same children but in a different manner. Often more subtle and difficult to discern the actual motives.

This morning as I awoke with many of these ideas, thoughts, images and emotions swimming in my head I realized that personal evaluation, thoughtful discussion, informed decision-making is key to moving forward. People as a whole are emotional creatures. Even the most logical people are guided by what they feel and their own, internal perception of the “right” reaction.

In a day and age when we are inundated with information from all sides we HAVE to be aware and knowledgeable about how we intake and process said information. We have to be willing to take time, be patient, research and explore the implications of what we’re learning and how we proceed before we simply react.

If you have time and feel so challenged, below are links to two of the major issues I’ve seen dominating social media over the last week. Each has two, opposing views to the same issue. Try to watch/read both sides with a critical eye and make note of the times that you feel a check in your conscience.

http://cherylangst.wordpress.com/2012/02/29/teaching-in-bc-3/
http://www.newsroom.gov.bc.ca/2012/03/key-information-on-bctf-strike.html

http://youtu.be/Y4MnpzG5Sqc
http://justiceinconflict.org/2012/03/07/taking-kony-2012-down-a-notch/

As an aside, I feel that because of my personal faith, there is another element that must be considered. I know that everything I read, watch, hear and think must be viewed through a biblical worldview. I should be on my knees, asking for wisdom, allowing the Holy Spirit to keep my reactions and perspective in balance. I know that in my imperfect being I will likely react wrongly in many ways but it should never affect my desire to continue putting all my perceptions through the lens of scripture. So for those of you who share my beliefs, spend time considering what we are called to. LOVE, is the basic foundation in all we know…for our Saviour, for people and all of creation.

There isn’t much happening here these days! Life has been quieter than usual which is AWESOME! I have loved the time to relax in the evenings with my kids, chat with James (or to be more correct, watch him fall asleep on the couch), go to the gym, make sure meals are on the table, etc.

In the quiet of these days we have decided to add a few things I’ve always wanted my kiddos to take part in…MUSIC LESSONS!!! Something I did as a child but we had yet to find time and money to have them participate in both athletics and the arts. It came up in a conversation with a friend of mine that she had been interested in beginning lessons with a few students. She was currently taking lessons herself but far enough along and avidly learning still, that she felt confident she could more than adequately teach beginner students. I liked the thought of presenting this opportunity to Lanae as she seemed eager to do something a little different (and to be honest I wasn’t interested in another kid opting for outdoor activities)! In the excitement of engaging Lanae in said piano lessons, Jake expressed an interest and Sam again expressed his desire to learn how to play guitar. Now don’t get all excited…we didn’t register them all in lessons (that would be a bit much on the bank account even with the new tax deduction the government offers for endeavors into the arts)! We decided to go ahead with lessons for Lanae with my friend and with Jake opted to use the material my mom had been using to teach Sam a few years ago. Although I am not a pianist by any stretch of the imagination I do know enough of the basics, note reading, rudiments, etc. to give Jake a good start and much of the material that’s out there seems to be geared to those who wish to self-teach. In Sam’s case it is much easier as James is an avid guitar player (or at least was, he hasn’t had the time or desire over the last few years to play) and knows a good deal about playing! We rented a smaller guitar from a local music store and James is setting up lesson times and plans to give Sam this opportunity.

In all the excitement of giving our kids this musical opportunity I feel inspired to brush up on my piano and learn the guitar as well. So far Lanae has had two lessons, I have done one with Jake, and Sam is gearing up for his first lesson this weekend with his dad and I have spent 15-20 minutes everyday on both the piano and the guitar reviving the small bits of musical talent I possess.

I am so excited to see where this takes us, although to be honest my main desire here is just to give our children an outlet to continue expressing their love of music. I have no intentions of pushing them to be concert pianists, rock star band members or anything beyond playing, singing, strumming for the sheer joy of music.

com·mu·ni·ca·tion [kuh-myoo-ni-key-shuhn] – the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs.

You might wonder why such an obvious post but really who doesn’t understand the importance of this concept. I am NOT an expert in this area…I struggle daily with the best way to communicate, who to communicate with, boundaries in communication, etc. However, I think my pet peeve is people who do not understand that we should constantly be seeking BETTER ways to communicate.

Of course, there’s a reason for the timing of this post but it’s not really an important or integral piece of information that I need to share…it was just a glaring reminder to me that people have NOT PERFECTED this skill.

What I love about the above definition is that it gives so many, DIFFERENT ways in which we can communicate. In this day and age of technology there is really no excuse for not communicating with those around you and yet I wonder if the ease of communication has made us completely ignorant of the need for effective, appropriate communication. The funny thing is the other day I was watching a talk show and one of the guests was joking about how her young children are really only asking for “i” devices for Christmas (nothing much really, wink, wink). Then the conversation veered to how well versed children are in operating these devices at such a young age and how one day there will likely be a university course on “eye-contact”! Kind of a sad statement on society if that really is something we regularly jest about. It means we’ve lost the art of face to face contact which is definitely one of the MOST effective ways to communicate.

I know and understand that so many factors play a role in our individual communication…upbringing, personal tendancies, knowledge, family dynamic, etc. Really if you asked someone who has actually studied communication I’m sure they could write a thesis on what factors cause an individual to be strong in communicating or desperately lacking!

Really I have no words of wisdom to impart in this area but I have a eager request…could we all agree that we each individually need to seek better ways to communicate with each other. Could we all agree that we each have lots to learn in this area and commit to doing better. A resolution for the New Year perhaps…find two or three ways to improve your communication with your spouse, your children, your family, your co-workers, really anybody in your sphere of influence.

I know that’s going to be a priority for me this year. If you know me, then feel free to challenge me on it:0 I’d love it if someone would say, “hey Elise, I really think it would be helpful if you tried _______________ in your communication with me this year!” Trust me folks, we’ll get on much better with each other if we just choose to expand our communication skills;)

Annie has always been a bit of a character. Not sure if it’s because she’s the baby of the family (although the most recent book I’ve picked up assures me that has something to do with it) or if her personality is just so incredibly unique and charming.

Either way this video is a clear indication of the fun and laughter she has brought to our household since the day she was born. I would love to show this video on her wedding day or at the very least save it for some special occasion when she’s older, not to embarrass her but to give her a sense of how much fun we had with her as a child.

Many of you have already enjoyed this so it’s mostly for my benefit to remain in the journaling I do to be able to go back and be reminded of days in my past. Either to laugh or to reflect on how blessed I really am:)

You know it’s funny sometimes how you read the bible with such sincerety and then in a flash of humor God just reveals something to you that makes you laugh.

This morning was one of those moments. Now just for the sake of clarity, it’s not like I was laughing hysterically or anything but I chuckled because God gave me such a clear picture of Himself I couldn’t help myself.

So background….In my current position I was recently reminded that I needed to fill some requirements of our Head Office, which we’d missed when I started working more hours. It’s basically an interview process in front of a panel of church leadership that assures the Head Office that I am in fact theologically sound in my biblical knowledge and teachings. To be honest, I knew I had to do this probably about 18 months ago but I thought by not reminding our Administrator I might be able to fly under the radar. Not the best approach I’m sure but having to fill out pages of theologically questions, provide references, then study for a one hour interview in front of 6 or so pastors is not my ideal forum for good times. My faith is personal, my experiences with God are personal, my understanding of scripture is often very child-like in it’s manifestation (at least that’s how I view it). To quote Beth Moore, “God is who He says is, God can do what He says He can do…”. I do question Him but as I’ve shared before my belief in His faithfulness has never really waivered. But one of the topics that really stuck out to me was the creation of mankind in the image of God. To my knowledge that means we are physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, etc. to some degree a replication, although not exact since we live here on Earth, of God’s being.

Anyway, getting back on track. So yesterday I was having “A day” with my kids. I had been at work, the five minutes I had with them after picking them up from school started out well enough but the next five and many minutes after consisted of a lot of whining, complaining, talking back, arguing, etc. “I don’t WANT to do the papers”, “it’s not fair”, “where is my snack”, “that’s not true mom”, “why are we eating THIS for dinner”. My responses were along the same lines. “I don’t care what YOU want”, “I’ll tell you what’s not fair”, “get your own snack”, “it’s true if I say it’s true”, “you have no idea what it’s like to be a starving child in Africa and if you don’t want to eat this then you can just go to bed without dinner”. Sad right. So I pick James up from work and the first thing out of my mouth is a frustrated “grrrr” and me informing him that I may very well strangle one of our children the next time one of them whines at me. I’m sure I’m the only mother who’s ever said that;)

Fastforward to this morning…I’m sitting in staff meeting and our devotional is focused on Exodus 33. We’ve been studying the Israelites and the journey from Egypt and their constant need to be reminded and shown God’s faithfulness. I’m sure there were so many more truthes and nuggets of goodness I could have pulled out of that but you know what I read and laughed at…verse 3&5 which are basically the same thing repeated, “Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.” I actually laughed out loud (quietly though because I didn’t feel like sharing my amazing revelation). I felt such relief and actual joy at the realization that we are indeed created in the likeness of our God. Now let me be clear that I am in no way comparing myself to God and my responses were not really acceptable toward my children, also God’s frustration and anger are definitely justified while mine is likely just selfish and unnecessary…BUT in reading the entire passage I saw that God loved/loves His children. He was still giving them the land and sending His angels with them but He was putting them at a distance from Himself because they had done nothing but complain, backslide, betray, disengage from Him over the course of their journey.

This great revelation gives me a moment to ponder that I need to re-evaluate in my own response to Him. How many times have I complained, whined, talked-back to Him regarding a circumstance that in my narrow vision appears unjust. If, as a parent, I experienced even a teensy bit in dealing with my children of what He experiences when dealing with His children I should be more than willing to step back and re-evaluate how I’m responding to where He’s put me. It also gave me pause to rest in the IMAGE I have of myself. When I see my reflection in the mirror I can have a greater confidence that I have been created to be a small piece of the greater reflection of who God is.

= a state of equilibrium or equipoise; equal distribution of weight, amount, etc.; mental steadiness or emotional stability; habit of calm behavior, judgment, etc.

Such a funny word and yet the ultimate achievement for women around the world today. The last few months have challenged my choice of how I balance life…what priorities I put on being a wife, mother, daughter, employee, friend, volunteer, etc. The list for today’s woman goes on. I can choose to busy my schedule with unlimited activities, many of which I have incorporated into my routine: work, bible study, PAC, sports, newspaper route, child-minding, cooking, cleaning, baking, volunteering, organizing, educating myself and on it goes. I list these things not to receive praise but to acknowledge that we all fill out time with MANY, MANY activities. Then we lament the loss of simplier days!

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not presuming to suggest that returning to the days when women stayed at home all day doing what women do is the answer to the desire to find balance. What I am suggesting is we need to re-evaluate how we prioritize. The reality that a day will come when we will regret the lack of time spent with our little ones, the loss of opportunity to prepare feasts of baking, cooking, snacks will hit us square in the face as we sit to a meal of two (or even one).

The moment that brought me to a screeching halt occurred about two months ago on a Tuesday morning at 8:30am as I pried the smallest fists from my neck and handed the small, tense body of my screaming two year old to my mother-in-law and walked away to go to work. I could hear her sobs even from a distance and her cries for “mommy” broke my heart. In that moment all I could ask myself was whether all the money in the world was truly worth the devastation I felt at leaving my youngest child in such a state. Of course, I knew she was safe, she would be loved and cared for but how could I walk away knowing her only desire in that moment was to be with her mommy. Thankfully, checking in later I was reassured that she was fine…a trip to McDonald’s and shopping with Nana was a quick fix to her discontentment.

It left me wondering all week what we hold dear. I haven’t quite determined what order the things in my life should take but I know one thing, I am tired of wasting the precious time I have with my little family. It’s not a matter of cutting everything out and holing up in my house but I am determined to be more intentional with my time. Be deliberate in everything I do. Schedule my hours so while my children are out of my home I am making the most of of “my” time so I can then focus my attention squarely on their needs.

As we enter the busy season of Christmas I am reminded how easily we get caught up. Often it’s the kind of caught up that has a negative connotation but for me it’s a purely postive kind of “caught up”. I personally love the peace I feel at driving with Christmas jingles playing in the car, hearing my children belt out tunes that are only played once a year but they are the same ones I sang as a child. I love the coziness that I feel about all things Christmas everywhere I go. The consistency that the next 6 weeks brings…it occurs every year, at the same time with the same amount of ferver.

What boggles my mind most is that as much as the world has tried to remove Christ from this season, I feel an inexplicable amount of anticipation and joy at what is coming. At this moment I will revel in that and try my best to carry that through the rest of the year. I challenge you as moms, daughters, sisters, wives, employees, volunteers…women of Christ to be caught up in what this season means. Be the light in a place that is very dark for some. Set aside time to share with your family the love you have received from your Heavenly Father. Be intentional about what you have to offer the people God has placed in your family and in your direct sphere of influence. Don’t be afraid to re-evaluate your priorities, in fact it’s an exercise you should engage in every six months or so. As the face of your commitment changes so do your priorities.

On a side note, my littlest has become much better about leaving me but I have the luxury of spending one day a week with just her for 6 hours straight and she is very aware that this is her “mommy-time”. We can’t all do that but there are so many resources available to help you plan the time with your children.

A few ideas off the top of my head (some my own and some from other families)
– choose one night during the week that everyone is at home (try to make it a weekly occurence or at the very least every second week). Plan nothing, be spontaneous but creative in the activities you do…games, movies, popcorn, etc. things that everyone can participate in.
– a date night once a month with each child (this can get pricey, time-consuming and overwhelming if you go overboard so keep it low-key). Something as simple as hot chocolate and a donut can bring an immense amount of joy to your child. It’s the fact that you took a few minutes to just get to know them.
– sun-up to sun-down…a girlfriend told me about this one. She took one of her sons to watch the sunrise, had breakfast with him, took him swimming, just spent the entire day with him and then they went home (they missed the sunset). This wouldn’t be something you’d do often but it’s worth it if you have a day and a few extra dollars to spend.
– date night in. My husband and I are aiming to do this once a week. We choose not to afford a sitter on a weekly basis and we have wonderful parents who watch our children so I can work so instead of going out we wait until the kids are in bed and have a nicely prepared meal, dessert, chat and movie together. It saves on the budget since we’re not going out but it affords us time together and focusing on our marriage.

A few thoughts to leave you with. I would love to hear your ideas on ways you keep your family and marriage connected! So post a comment below:)