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

I will never say…like my mother did

How many times have I said, “I will never say…like my mother did” or “I will never do…the same way my parents did”?  I’m sure there are countless things about the generations before us that we swore we’d never do.  And yet as we mature, experience life and wisdom begins to invade the deeper recesses of our minds we find ourselves unable to say anything other than that which we’ve heard ringing in our own ears.

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Life is a journey!  I think we’ve all heard “life” made reference to in a number of metaphors or similes.  However, I think it’s safe to propose that we could insert any number of other words in place of “life”.  Marriage, a career, and yes, PARENTING!

The word “journey” (as stated in the Mirriam-Webster dictionary), is actually defined as “the travel or passage from one place to another”.  It doesn’t really include a description of how that journey takes place, i.e.. easily, with much difficulty, quickly, slowly, etc.  Just a basic knowledge that one will get from point A to point B as a result.

I’ve managed to ramble sufficiently so I’ll come to the the subject of my ponderings of late!  A struggle I seem to have a hard time letting go of…what makes a good parent, who is actually responsible to judge who good kids are, why are some parents so obsessed with how screwed up other people’s kids are, is there a right and a wrong way to parent and quite specifically what is God calling me to in my own personal journey as a parent.

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Someone on Facebook shared this picture today.  At first I just scrolled past it as I have MANY shared pictures but I came back to it a few minutes later and actually looked at it and then read the caption and I laughed…

Someone, somewhere captured the essence of AGAPE love in this silly little cartoon.  On Christianity Today Agape is defined as…”Agape is selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love”… If you check Wikipedia it says… Thomas Jay Oord has defined agape as “an intentional response to promote well-being when responding to that which has generated ill-being.”

Regardless of exactly which words you use to define AGAPE, the insinuation is the same.  No matter the situation, no matter how you feel at the moment, you intentionally sacrifice something of yourself to put the person you “love” first.  While it’s pretty self-explanatory it just reminded me that this is how I feel about my children, this is how I feel about my husband and thankfully I feel fairly confident that this is how God feels about me.

I’m not really sure how to put into words the thoughts in my head the last few days.  Many, MANY people have put their feelings, their heartache, their impressions, their solutions and beliefs into words through this amazing place we call “the web”.  Quite a few have been articulate, well thought out, beautiful, tributes to the lives lost just a few days ago.

At various moments throughout the last few days it has hit me.  Most of the time I feel silly at the threatening tears, recognizing that I didn’t know these precious little ones, their families, their classmates.  In no way at all does the tragedy of Friday’s events personally impact me.  BUT, the truth is as a mother, as a human being, it does…as the details of these little lives and the ones that survived are released I find myself pausing at random moments, struck with a heaviness of heart and a lump in my throat, pondering how difficult these next few weeks will be for those who are personally living this nightmare.  What I feel is the deep sorrow for the pain each mother has to endure.  The snuggles lost, the tender moments, the “I love you’s”, the day to day interactions that happen between a mother and her child that many times we take for granted, the sense they will always have that something is missing.

On a friend’s Facebook page the other day, she started a thread on what people did during the busy holiday season of Christmas to bring things down a little.  Things that helped them to focus on the birth of Christ or on family instead of the “rat-race” that can be December.  In our home we have a number of traditions that help us refocus and reconnect with each other and the birth of Jesus.  Even without these traditions though, Christmas is my absolute favourite time of year.  I love sitting beside a lit Christmas tree and reading a good book or drinking hot chocolate and snuggling one of my kiddos.  While it can be chaotic it can also be one of the most fulfilling times of year.

As a Christ-follower, I feel that somehow I have an inherent sense of peace during this season.  It’s almost as if December 1st hits me with an inexplicable joy and great sense of anticipation.  In all honesty, it has nothing to do with presents.  While I love giving gifts and, of course, receiving them, it’s more the festivities, colour, songs, etc. that sets my heart in a perpetual rhythm of gladness for one full month.

This year hasn’t been any different!  Don’t get me wrong, I have had many moments of being completely frustrated, of being over the top angry and just all around overwhelmed (just ask my husband he’ll have a few stories).  But the sense of quiet and “bubbling, beneath the surface excitement” is always there.  Amidst the chaos of Christmas parties, Christmas baking, Christmas programs, Christmas shopping, Christmas dressing we find so many moments as a family to connect and hang out.  Part of that is purposeful and part of that seems to be a natural inclination that we have as human beings to “need” each other.  I realize that I am blessed to have family, both immediate and extended, that constantly seek out moments to re-connect.  I have siblings that care to know each other, parents that cherish time with each of their children and grandchildren, in-laws that are more than eager to carve out time to spend with us, and a husband and children who actually try to be together and there for each other.  I also have friends that are more than happy to interrupt an already busy season with impromptu gatherings, or scheduled bake-offs, or even just random, deep texts about the realities of life.

A perfect example of seeing this “need” for each other happened the other day when Annie came home reciting one of her many, little pieces for her Christmas program at preschool and the oldest three piped up how they were planning on attending.  “Where else would they be”, they wondered!!  Little did they realize that the program happened during school hours and they would all be in their classes during her performance.  While I was thrilled that they were all planning on being there without question, I had my doubts about pulling them out of school just for a 15 minute program.  A week and a bit rolled by and the weekend before, James and I headed out of town together.  The kids were well taken care of by my brother and sister-in-law.  The Sunday afternoon when we got home, the kids were so happy to see us.  As the evening drew to a close, I realized that Annie’s program was the next morning and I hadn’t really given it too much thought.  I took a moment to think through just how meaningful it was that all the big kids wanted to show their little sister support and be there in her excitement.  We sat down and had a little chat about whether or not they really wanted to miss school, what they’d be missing, if they had projects, homework, etc. that was due and if perhaps they would like to just have a day at home all together afterward.  I was thrilled that a spontaneous day of Christmas cheer turned into a relaxing day with my children.  We saw Annie:

We had a few snacks with her:

And then I dropped the one child off who loves school for the rest of his day and the rest of us headed off to Wal-Mart to do some Christmas shopping.  I was blessed to see my children having a wonderful time picking out gifts for their cousins, thinking of others, happily enjoying themselves, together, as a family.

The rest of the day consisted of homework, cookie baking, Christmas music and finished off with a belated Saint Nicholas Day celebration.  While we couldn’t do everything we’d normally do for this celebration on this particular evening it was well worth the decision to follow through with a portion of it at least.  Listening to Sam pray at the dinner table that we’d all understand that the reasons for why we’ve chosen to celebrate Saint Nicholas Day during the Christmas season as a family was because it would help remind us to be kind, to give to others in need and remember that Jesus asks us to help those in need, was such a huge reminder to me that Christmas does bring a depth of joy that we don’t feel any other time of year.

Later as the kids opened their Saint Nicholas Day stockings and we planned our yearly Angel Tree trip for later in the week, we laughed, we read our Christmas story for the evening, the girls and I sang a carol or two and I was reminded that God is good.  He is good all the time, but we are so able to recognize His goodness during this time of year when we feel the joy of the gift He gave us.  When we feel our families reaching towards each other and finding memories in the moments we share as we join in the traditions that we’ve created, uniquely, as an individual family.

 So this year, I feel challenged to recognize each day a moment or two, when I feel the closeness of my Creator and to bask in it.  To savour that moment so that when the rest of the year traipses on I’ll remember the peace I could rest in during this particular season.

Just saying that word gives most of us that are parents a slight shudder. Well, those of us that are just entering that phase anyway…if you’re a seasoned parent, past the pre-teen stage perhaps you sigh with relief knowing you don’t have to repeat those years.

Honestly these were the years I was most looking forward to…getting to see my child being shaped into the person they will spend their life being! It sounds silly, I realize, but in all truthfulness that period of time holds some of the best memories I have of my growing up years and I long to provide that same type of experience for my children.

What I couldn’t have possibly accounted for is the change that our world has experienced and the impact it would have on my own child-rearing years. Namely the explosion of connectedness. I’m very slowly reading a book I picked up at the local bookstore a few weeks ago…”Tough Guys and Drama Queens”. The first chapter is dedicated to addressing what is so different in the culture today than in the early 20th century. One fact stood out to me beyond all other…

     “In the 1930s, written information doubled every thirty years. In the 1970s and 1980s, that amount
    of information doubled every eleven years. Today, codified information doubles every eleven hours.
    That means that you can end your workday being half as wise as you were when you woke up that
    morning.”

That’s insane, and in some ways makes our children smarter than us because they, more often than not, know how to access that information far quicker than the average parent.

How scary is that to have to navigate as a parent already feeling slightly inadequate. My mom has often said that she doesn’t envy our generation, having to raise children in the fast-pace, connected world that we live in.

In truth I feel even more honoured in a way, that I was entrusted with the four children I have during this period in history. Does it raise the standard in terms of being more involved as a parent? Absolutely! Recently James attended a seminar hosted by an RCMP officer that specializes in social media, the internet and youth. Although my husband is quite savvy when it comes to such things I suggested he go instead of myself as he would be more likely to understand half the jargon AND when it comes to implementing techniques in relation to the “inter-web” and other connected devices he would probably be better at it. He came home, first and foremost, with a deeper sense of assurance that we were actually doing a pretty good job introducing our children to these different ways of connecting with the world BUT also a greater sense of urgency to openly communicate with our children what they already knew, not because we’d shared it, but because they’d encountered it at school, with their friends, stumbled across it, etc. Also a pressing desire to engage in constant discussion in regards to how to navigate these waters cautiously and together.

One of the things I have valued as a parent is openness. It means addressing the issue even if it’s uncomfortable. It gives kids the opportunity to ask the questions of me, as a parent, rather than their friends who don’t have all the information or maybe none yet. An example of my most recent experience was the first discussion I had with Sam regarding certain aspects of sexuality. While we hadn’t purposely avoided it, in all honesty, it just hadn’t entered our realm of discussion. Having the opportunity to sit down and talk with him had been on my mind and he hadn’t asked any questions yet so I felt the need to broach the subject with him. At first it was awkward, I wasn’t sure where to start, he wasn’t really excited to share what he already knew, but once we began the discussion it led to some great dialogue and I felt better that he knew I was approachable even with topics he wasn’t quite sure about. It wasn’t a long, drawn out discussion but I think he walked away with some things to think about.

Being willing to be open doesn’t just involve discussions related to sexuality…it has to overflow into every aspect of life related to your child’s growing experiences. For us open discussion has been key in helping us delay the introduction of a cellphones or any other personal device of that sort. It hasn’t been because we wanted to isolate or shelter them but discussing with them our reasoning, our desire to see them become more responsible, to understand the reasons for having said devices and how they will be used in our home has allowed us the luxury of introducing in the timing we feel appropriate for our children rather than what their peers deem appropriate. It isn’t always easy and sometimes we’ve been perceived as the bad guys but in the end it hasn’t been a battle.
I think one of the main lessons I’m learning during this stage is that the more open, up front and honest you are with your pre-teen/teenager, the more likely you will be to have the privilege of walking with them through the tumultuous years that have the greatest impact on shaping their character and values for the rest of their life.

Where have I been you ask…or maybe you don’t! Either way the truth is that I have had a multitude of things I could have blogged about over the last months but I haven’t really felt the desire to sit down and hash it all out via bloggo-sphere (not sure that’s an actual word but it came to mind). Life has been full and rich…full of great moments, family memories, laughter…rich with teachable moments, reflection, understanding and revelation. Lately I’ve been reminded of the fact that God has created me to be who I am and if I believe that, then I must honor that God has indeed created others to be who they are. In acknowledging that fact I feel that it’s opened a whole new set of questions and feelings of inadequately understanding our Creator. If I started listing them it’s unlikely that I’d be able to stop. In this realization I’ve become somewhat aware/disappointed in how Christians today are extremely judgemental and black and white in their view of the world. I know what I’ve been taught over the years in church about what’s right and wrong but I have also lived in this world for 33+ years and become a mother in this world. There are very few things in this world that is black and white and as such I think it’s fair to say that we must be willing and ready to navigate these muddy waters with care and empathy. More often than not I see a world full of people screaming out to be heard, listened to, loved and validated. Many of them have lived their lives being marginalized and their opinions squashed and as a result they lash out with their views. When their values are threatened, they attack and they don’t care who stands in their way. What I find myself wondering is how would God call us, us being those who have engaged in a personal relationship with him, to act? Or better yet what would Jesus have done? Would he have stood on the latest, greatest corner (ie. facebook, twitter, blogger, etc.) and yelled for the world to hear what he KNEW was truth. Or is his example much, much more difficult…personal relationships with those who then invited him to speak truth into their lives. I realize that Jesus had a major advantage in that he knew when a person’s heart was ready for acceptance but the amazing thing is that when we opt to develop deep, meaningful relationships with those around us we become aware of when they’re ready, sensitive, and actively seeking for truth to be revealed in their lives. I also recognize that some might say that Jesus did in fact stand on his proverbial soapbox, as he spoke in from of hundreds at a time but no where in those accounts were those people bashed over the head with his message. I’m determined to keep exploring how these ideas/revelations swirling in my head affect my daily faith journey. How to best live out God’s truth while honoring that he’s created an entire world of individuals walking their own walk, discovering who they are through their own set of trials, strengths, weaknesses and most importantly, valuing how God has chosen to reveal himself to them without judgement.

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.