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Drawing credit: Cieleke

Do you break dishes weekly? Burn yourself every time you use the oven? Find large bruises and not know where they come from? I feel your pain, friend. I’ve been there.

I remember one year that was especially full of injuries. I was six or seven at the time. It started with jumping on my parent’s bed with my little brother. I always get carried away. I tripped over Dan and smacked my forehead on the headboard.

I reached up and touched the sticky wound. It didn’t hurt until I crawled up onto the bathroom counter and saw the blood all over my face. I was screaming so loud when we got to the hospital, that the doctor decided to apply a butterfly bandage instead of stitches. Yes, that is the scar that you see in the middle of my forehead.

My folly is that I don’t learn from pain. It’s so quickly forgotten.

We went to the circus a couple of months later, and I was entranced by the woman on the trapeze. Effortlessly she swung from a bar high above the sandy floor. I held my breath when she gracefully hung by one hand, her legs splayed, toes pointed out. She tipped her head back and held on by her teeth as she gently twirled.

I never was one to play princess. I would be a circus girl. I would soar on a trapeze.

I shimmied up the rope that held our tire swing, grabbed a hold of the other end of the rope with my teeth and hung there spinning. I imagined I was soaring through the air on a swing high above a crowd. I fell.

That was my first broken arm of the summer. You’d think that one would be enough.

There are rumours that I broke my other arm when I jumped out of the fort with an umbrella. I don’t deny the Mary Poppins impersonation—but that’s not when I broke my arm. I was just climbing the ladder when I was distracted by a squirrel. I missed the rung and ended up making another run to the hospital with my harried parents.

Apparently three trips to emergency in half a year warranted my parents being sent out of the room while I was questioned about abuse. I don’t remember the conversation, but I must have passed the interrogation.

 

Fast forward two decades, and I was still injuring myself daily. I would burn myself while cooking or jump down onto ice and fall and hit my head. I have a cracked tooth where I smacked my cup against it every single day.

My husband had enough when we moved into our new house and I fell down the stairs three times. I had bruises from my ribs almost down to my knees. “You start paying attention and stop hurting yourself!” Kevin’s voice was tight with worry.

My twins were 25 pounds each at the time. I packed those babies up and down the stairs several times a day—and I never once fell when I was carrying them. I realized that I was careful with my babies, but not careful when it was just me.

I decided to try caution—more to put Kevin at ease than anything, but it worked. I’d tell myself, “Pay attention. Don’t fall,” while I walked down the stairs. I learned to move my cup slowly towards my mouth instead of whamming it into my teeth.

I know this sounds ridiculous to most of you, but some of us are born with our heads in the clouds, and it takes conscious effort to learn a little caution and care.

I’m proud to say that I can’t remember when I last broke a dish, and when I have a bruise—I usually know where it came from. Small successes, but successes none the less. If I can do it, so can you.

Have a fantastic—and safe—weekend!

<3 Rachel

Miriam and William

Miriam and William

This post was written last year by my dear friend Miriam after she watched our children while my husband and I were on vacation. She is a continuous blessing to my children and to me.

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“I picked this for you, Miriam!” A little four-and-a-half year-old marches proudly into the house from his typically lengthy jaunt to the outhouse, holding out a fresh-plucked dandelion in his chubby hand. His sweet face is lit up by a huge and loving smile. My heart completely melts. “Thank you, William! That’s so sweet of you,” I exclaim as I accept the gift and add it to the steadily growing bouquet of flowers, smiling widely in return. Indeed, How can one help but smile when one is so blessed by the love of a child?

The baby giggles happily as I rock him to and fro and sing his favourite bedtime song, “Jesus loves me,” with a smile on my face. We are having so much fun together, that I start a new song right after, which includes the phrase, “God is always there watching you.” The baby catches the phrase, squealing in delight,” God watching me? God watching me!” I assure him that God does indeed love him and watch over him (and Mommy and Daddy and his brothers and sisters, too!) as I settle him into his crib, tucking the blankets around him and saying a little prayer. Precious moments, these!

“The soul is healed by being with children.” So Russian novelist Dostoevsky said; and certainly many times when I have felt ‘low’ – even for no particularly good reason – my spirits have risen just by having the chance to play with and read or listen to one (or more) of my friends’ little ones. There is nothing like caring for children to bring us out of and beyond ourselves – I find, anyway. I am so very grateful to those friends who have shared not only themselves, but also their precious ‘littles’ with me over the years.

Today more than ever marriages and families are in dire need of help and encouragement, as the attack against them (on both a physical and spiritual plane) grows steadily more prevalent and powerful. I have discovered that just because one happens to be unmarried, it doesn’t mean he or she has no role to play in the lives of the families whom God sees fit to place in his or her life.

Indeed, I believe single persons (as well as other married ones) may have a powerful role in supporting the parents’ training and work with their children, not only by being an example to them by how they live their lives, but also by teaching and affirming the parents’ instructions both in word and deed. For no family is an island to themselves; each requires the positive examples and strong support of other outside influences as they grow to maturity, be those influencing factors from individuals or from families, at home, at church, in schools and daycares, from various teachers, or from counsellors at a summer camp.

Does recognizing (and seeking, as able, to walk in) this role mean I no longer desire to one day have a home filled with a husband and children of my own? Certainly not! I do, indeed; but more than this longing, I desire to glorify my Lord with my life, whatever my marital and familial status might be; and I perceive that if I cannot learn to be joyful, content, and productive in serving the Lord during this season of my life (which in His Providence may last all my life), I shall not discover greater joy in any other. “The best preparation for good work tomorrow is to do good work today” (Elbert Hubbard), “for while we are executing any work, we are preparing and qualifying ourselves to undertake another” (William Hazlatt).

As happy as my visits with my friends and their children may be, oftentimes I still drive away with tears stinging my eyes; but they are tears of joy rather than of sorrow. My arms may be yet empty, but my heart is, oh, so full!

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“Who are you and what have you done with my wife?” Kevin pulled away from me, and his mouth fell open. Moments before we were getting ready to pray together—like we do every night—when I asked him if our daughters could go on a school trip to Hawaii.

It was out of character.

Since our oldest daughter was born, we’d held our children close and sought to protect them. When other 5-year-olds boarded a bus and went to school, I kept mine at home to teach them myself. Our children stayed with us during church instead of going to Sunday school. We felt that it was our duty to teach our children the Bible.

Of upmost importance for both of us was to protect our children. Too sheltered? A greenhouse? Maybe, but our children were happy and thriving, and we wanted them to be strong and have a firm foundation before being thrust into the world.

I’m not sorry for those years of holding them close.

But it dawned on me that there had to be a time of letting go too. In only a few years, our oldest would be old enough to go to college. We’d protected her and sought to teach her truth, responsibility and honesty, but what had we done to prepare her to stand on her own?

I was notified of a Biology 11 class that included a trip to Hawaii. It sounded like an incredible opportunity for hands-on learning, and both of our daughters have interests in that field. The thought of sending them that far away terrified me, but I prayed about it and then asked Kevin what he thought.

“Do you really want them to do this?” Kevin finally asked.

“I don’t know, but Myra’s 14 and she might be leaving home in four years. We need to be thinking about ways to prepare both her and us for this.”

We decided to send them to camp last summer and see how that went before deciding whether or not they would go to Hawaii. Even sending them to camp was hard, but a close friend was going to be the camp nurse for the summer and the kids’ home teacher would be there too.

The girls had an incredible time at camp. They came home tired, happy, and more confident. We signed them up for the Hawaii trip.

The interactive class completely engaged both girls. They took part in v-classes with their teacher and the other students. They did group projects, and were forced to look at some big issues—like evolution—and learn where they stood on them.

They were scared the day we stood in the airport. They cried when they hugged us goodbye, but they were ready for this. We’d spent years loving them, protecting them, and teaching them. It was time to fly.

Of course I worried about them. I’m a mom. On the morning we were to pick them up at the airport, I had a few meltdowns. The hotel put us down for the wrong time for the shuttle to the airport, and the girls’ plane was ahead of schedule. I was beyond upset at the thought that we wouldn’t be there when they got off the plane.

As it turns out…we were there an hour early and by far the first parents there.

I watched them come through the doors trailing their suitcases. They scanned the crowd. Anxiously. Looking for us. I waved, and they came running. They threw down their bags and suitcases and squeezed us tightly. I wasn’t ashamed of the tears on my cheeks.

The girls had been on the plane all night and had slept very little, but it didn’t keep them from talking excitedly about their trip most of the 11-hour drive home. I laughed when Myra said she woke up on the plane and saw Melanie sleeping with her head face down on the table in front of her. I laughed even harder when I heard the story of how they accidently stole a cooler from the beach and when they opened it, it was full of rice. Cooked rice.

It was a celebration. We were together.

Myra is now looking for a job. She wants to go on the school trip to Europe next year. A longer trip. Further away.

They grew up on this trip. They are more confident, more vibrant. The letting go has begun.

I grew up on a little island with a couple of small stores and one country school. The nearest mall was two ferry rides away.

I left Cortes Island twelve years ago, but it stays with me. Its landscapes and familiar places are often in my dreams. I don’t think I’ll ever move back there, but I’ll always be an island girl at heart.

My grandfather came to Cortes sixty years ago to do some work and he stayed. He married a local schoolteacher—my grandmother.

They built a home together. My mother was born in that house down a road lined with blackberry bushes. The “Old Folks Home” is gone now. It was a shed where the elderly ducks and chickens lived in leisure once they were past laying. The sheep ran from us kids when we got too close. We ran from the geese when they strutted towards us and hissed menacingly. So many memories.

We went back recently to attend my grandfather’s funeral. There were tears and laughter as we reconnected with family and reminisced together.

I got to rub my beautiful sister’s pregnant belly. My brother and I laughed while we remembered our friendship and feuding over the years. Family. A huge part of who I’ve become.

At the funeral, I visited with one of my favourite school teachers, friends of my mom’s from before I was born, extended family that I was meeting for the first time, people I hadn’t seen for a decade or two, and the woman who taught me horseback riding when I was eleven. I shook hands with a great-uncle that looked so much like my grandpa that I had to fight tears. There is something very powerful about grieving together. It joined us.

“Mom,” said Myra on the evening of the funeral, “we’re just now meeting family that we didn’t even know existed, and we’ll probably never see them again.”

It’s true. Some of the people that we hugged and shared meals with and cried with—we’ll never see again. But I’m thankful for the time we had together. I’m glad we went home.

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On the ferry

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On March 6th—the day after Melanie’s birthday and two days before Joel’s—my grandpa passed away. Nothing can prepare you for that moment suspended in time, that moment of loss that changes your life.

Most painful was being separate from my mom, my grandma, my brother, my sister. My heart yearned to be with them as they remembered Grandpa together and shed tears together.

Tonight, what really hit me, is that I’ll never see him again in this life. There is a hole left in my heart that can never be filled. Grandpa was special.

Grandpa was gentle. One of the deepest memories I have of Grandpa was of him as a shepherd. As far back as I can remember, my grandparents had sheep. The sheep would sometimes graze on a neighbour’s property up the hill and across the road.

I remember walking with him as he led the sheep down the lane. The shadows were long as the sun sank below the treeline. Any other time the sheep would run away from me, but they trusted Grandpa and they meekly followed him home. Sheep have always reminded me of Grandpa. They’ve always made me feel peaceful.

Grandpa was young at heart. I can hear his laughter now! Grandpa loved to tease and we loved to hate it. He had a song for each one of us grandchildren when we were little. Mine was “Rachel Dawn what’s that diaper you have on” sung to the tune of Delta Dawn.

“Grandpa!” I’d yell and then I’d stomp to show my disapproval. Grandpa’s eyes would twinkle, and his laugh would make me laugh too.

Grandpa was devoted. Grandpa was always there for his family and friends. Twice a year, while their health permitted it, my grandparents would make the two-day journey to see us. Nothing made Grandpa happier than being put to work. He grabbed a hammer and banged the trusses of our house together in the hot sun. He helped to wire our house, or he’d grab a shovel and work the garden.

Grandpa was a great teacher. My love of learning came from my Grandpa. It was his gift to me. When I struggled with math, he showed me the joy of numbers. He knew the balance of showing by example and encouraging. He lovingly tended his garden and taught my brother and me to grow massive pumpkins by nicking the vine and placing it in sugar water. In a moment I’m back there—the black, moist earth. The lush, green vines.

The memory that keeps coming back to me is one of walking with my grandpa. I loved to go with him when I was small.

“You walk so fast, Grandpa,” I said.

He chuckled. “One day you’ll walk faster than me.”

I couldn’t imagine that day. My feet crunched, crunched in the gravel as I took two steps for every one that he took. Maybe if I took big steps like Grandpa, I’ll be able to walk as fast as him, I thought. I stretched my legs and took great strides and we laughed together.

I’ll spend the rest of my life doing that—trying to walk like Grandpa did.

Grandpa

The Sunrise

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Photo credit: Datapro

Mothering is tough. It just is. I struggled with discouragement most of today. It was a beautiful day, but inside me was a storm. I was feeling overwhelmed by the bickering and grumpiness of 6 kids. I finally went for a long walk and talked to God and poured out all of my frustrations. The air, the sunshine, and the prayers cleared my head until I could face my family again.

I love being a mom, but I choose to love it. It’s not all sugar and spice. One thing that I’m grateful for is that I’m not alone. I have the support of family, friends, and readers. And most of all, I can rely on God’s promises. I was reminded of that again as I read this story from my dear friend Christine. Be blessed!

 

~     ~     ~

 

I’m awake, but I don’t want to open my eyes.  I know what the day holds for this mama when she gets up. Laundry. Fussiness.  Dirty dishes. A grimy bathroom–lying in wait to greet me.

Despair.  I don’t want to move, yet I must.  I must fight. Maybe some time in the Word will refresh my soul.  The words I read are true and my mind knows it, but my heart is numb.  I read “His mercies are fresh every morning”

Now the stillness of morning is gone, and the children are rising like the sun. Bright. Ferocious. Intense. Tears are spilling on the floor over breakfast preferences, and little ones are refusing their mama.  I want to run.  Why is the fight so hard?  I know his mercies are afresh, why can’t I feel it?

I want hard evidence, I want to feel, I want to know His grace is sufficient.  I run.

Leaving my cares inside our little bungalow, I rush outside.  I feel urgency, maybe even panic.  Must feel, must know.  How do I know it’s even morning?  I can’t even see the sun rise.  Buildings all around block out its awakening and warmth.  I climb.  Must fight for joy and sanity.

I find a way.  Sure it’s not conventional but it will work.  Haphazardly, I climb on top of the freezer chest, balancing on two plastic containers.  Must find a way.  My body pulls my weight up, and I have made it. I can see the hard evidence.  I can feel the warmth.  I can see and know His promise.

I feel hope.  I don’t care what the neighbourhood thinks.  This country girl needs to pretend she’s not in the city.  I soak up the sunrise atop our small shed, and know that His Mercies are fresh every morning.

 “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

Lamentations 3:22-23

 

Photo credit: Jan Willem

Photo credit: Jan Willem

Today, as I think about my friends, I’m so thankful. I can’t imagine life without these women encouraging me and setting examples of strength and inner beauty.

Even though I am rich with good friends, I rarely have the chance to get away and just hang out with them. Life is busy with mothering and homeschooling, but an opportunity came up at the end of November for a weekend away with some of my closest friends. I didn’t turn it down.

It was a time of crazy hilarity and soul baring honesty. We shopped at thrift stores, went out for dinner, swam, ate lots of chocolate, stayed up late, and slept little. We prayed and sang. Laughed and cried.

Friendships like these don’t just happen. It take openness and humility and coming through trials together to ripen into deep life-long friendships. And it’s not an argument that kills a friendship, but the lack of forgiveness and understanding.

I always feel uncertain when a new friendships hits that place where there’s a misunderstanding or hurt feelings. Sometimes the friendship fizzles out there, but when there is forgiveness and healing, the friendship goes to another level and depth.

We are at the beginning of a new year and many of us are making resolutions to exercise more, eat healthier, quit a bad habit or cultivate a good one. All of these things are great, but here’s another resolution to consider, one that’s at the top of my list–be a true friend.

Wishing you a Happy New Year!

<3 Rachel
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