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Roy Sullivan was hit by lightning seven times between 1942 and 1977. The chances of this occurring are 4.15 in 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. I can relate. It seems like if something bizarre is going to happen, it’ll happen to me. I have no idea what it is about me that invites this.

Case in point. I flew down to Victoria to see my sister, brother-in-law and adorable nephew (I mean off the charts adorable) a couple weeks ago. My sister fed us wonderfully healthy and tasty food. (Some people were having trouble digesting all those beans. Ahem. But I won’t mention names.) And I initiated the Tube Olympics where we had to shimmy through my nephew’s play tunnel.

On my last evening there, my dad and brother left early and everyone else went to bed early. I was moping a bit about the fun being over. I went into the bathroom to brush my teeth, and I caught sight of the bathtub.

If you know me well, you know I don’t have running water which means that I have to heat water in pots on my wood stove and carry them to my little bath tub. It’s been about a year since I’ve had a bath with more than a few inches of water. And while it is a method of getting clean, shivering in a few gallons of  luke-warm water is far from enjoyable.

I tried to fight the temptation. “Rachel,” I told myself, “what kind of a guest would help themselves to a bath when everyone else is in bed?” But I was like a starving person rationalizing the theft of a hot-out-of-the-oven loaf of bread. “They know I don’t have running water. They’d want me to enjoy a piping hot bath with water all the way to my chin,” the other voice in my head said.

My willpower melted the longer I gazed at the tub. I locked the bathroom door, put the plug down, and turned the water on. I cringed at the noise of the thundering water. My sister had been up much of the previous night with her son, and my brother-in-law had a long day ahead. I hoped I wasn’t waking them up. “Worst guest ever,” I muttered while sinking down into the steaming water.

Bliss. For about one minute I was in heaven. This is so worth it. The water was as high as it would go, and I turned the taps to shut off the water. But nothing. The water still poured full force. I turned the taps the other way . . . and then one at a time. I had to start letting water out so it didn’t overflow.

This isn’t happening to me! Please, God, I pleaded. Please let the water turn off.

By that point I was out of the tub, dripping, and going back and forth between pressing my hands against my face in despair and trying with all my might to turn off the water. I watched all the hot water swirl down the drain. I paced back and forth between the toilet and the bathroom door. I got dressed and went to my sister’s bedroom door and tentatively knocked, but not hard enough to wake them. I pretty nearly just hung my head and cried while the water continued to pour into the bathtub.

Finally, I went down the stairs where my mom and step-dad were sleeping. “Mom, Scott. I tried to have a bath, but now the water won’t turn off and I don’t know what to do.”

So then the three of us were in the bathroom trying to turn off the water. “I just should have resisted the temptation,” I moaned with my head on my mom’s shoulder.

At that point, my sister and brother-in-law were wondering why the water had been running for half an hour and why the three of us were in the bathroom talking. Believe me, no one was sleeping and I was fervently wishing it was all just a bad dream.

By the end of it, even the landlord had to be woken up, and the water for the whole house needed to be shut off for the night. Turns out that the rubber ring inside the tap chose that moment to disintegrate.

Sigh. Groan. Sigh. When I shared my story with a close friend she just laughed, “It would happen to you, Rachel.”

I’m tempted to ask why. Why in all the time they’ve lived at this house—turning that tap on several times a day—did it decide to let go the one night I snuck an illicit bath?

But some people are just lucky like that. 😉

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A Longing Resurfaces

Intimate

Photo credit: Sona Psotova

I’m a dreamer. I’ve finally come to realize that about myself. Dreamers aren’t known for being practical.

My latest dream isn’t new at all. It’s been at—or just below—the surface for 20 years. All those years I’ve had a hunger to foster and adopt children.

There are times when that hunger buries itself in my chest, and I can think of little else—like after Haiti was ripped apart by the earthquake in 2010. “Can we please go to Haiti and look after the orphans,” I begged my husband. But Kevin is the practical one. He sees the consequences and obstacles with clarity while I only see the need and feel the pain.

I’ve tried to be more practical over the years. When I hear of suffering children—of orphans and foster children who never find a forever family—my heart squeezes with the desire to help them, but I remind myself that I’m raising six children in an unfinished house. “It’s not real,” I tell myself. “It’s just a dream.”

But last week, as I watched a friend snuggling her baby girl, I felt the desire to care for hurting children resurface. Maybe it’s time, I found myself wondering. Our house could be finished this summer. My youngest is four, and I have more time now. Kevin might even be semi-retired.

The next day, at an archery meeting, I overheard a woman talk about her experiences as a foster mother. I unabashedly drew near. “I’ve always wanted to foster or adopt,” I said.

“Really?” She seemed surprised. Maybe the idea to foster children crept up on her instead of being the culmination of decades of desire. She talked about some of the joy and pain she and her husband have experienced on their journey.

Over the years I’ve read dozens of books related to fostering children. Knowing that many children in care have special needs led me to studying about Down’s syndrome, fetal alcohol syndrome, and autism. I’ve also looked into caring for drug addicted babies.

But what is it like to love a child and then lose them? What if we did decide to foster children, but the pain eroded our family like a sand castle caught in the tide?

There have been times in the past when my dreaming and scheming have gotten us into trouble. Maybe I’m finally learning. Maybe that’s why I don’t want to rush into anything this time.

I found a book titled A Baby’s Cry by a foster mother about her experience with fostering a newborn. She and her two children form a deep bod of love for the baby, and then they must let him go when he is returned to his birth mother less than a year later. It’s helping me to understand what it’s really like to willingly suffer pain to offer a child a home and love—for a time.

I started reading A Baby’s Cry to my whole family a couple days ago. I don’t know if I’ll ever be a foster mom, but I need to believe that the ache that lives in my heart is there for a reason. Maybe some of my children will remember reading this book and decide to one day foster and adopt children themselves.

Maybe the time will be right one day for Kevin and I to welcome some of these little ones into our own hearts. I don’t know, and I’ve come to realize that I don’t have to know. I accept the pain and pray that one day I’ll have the chance to alleviate some of the pain of a hurting child.

 

A Baby`s Cry at Amazon.com

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Image credit: Lora Bates

Image credit: Lora Bates

I bought my new phone just after my husband bought his. Kevin couldn’t wait to get his new phone set up. Mine sat on the counter in its crisp little box for months. Why bother? My old phone worked fine.

Finally, I decided to contact Telus and have my new phone set up. I used my husband’s phone to make the call.

I’m not sure if I can write out the following events and have it make any sense at all. I went through hours of frustration when the agent switched my husband’s number instead of mine to the new phone . . . the call dropped . . . I called back on my phone and was put on hold . . .  I totally confused another agent when I tried to fill him in on what happened . . . he put Kevin’s number back on his phone and discovered that they’d wrecked the SIM card by putting Kevin’s number on it . . . now I had to go buy another SIM card.

Argh. Sigh. Groan.

The Telus agent offered to put a $15 credit on my account and apologized for their mess up.

“I’m sorry if I sounded irritated. I know this wasn’t your fault,” I told the agent at the end of our long conversation.

“You have every right to be frustrated. I’d be pretty irritated too.”

“Well, thanks for your help.”

I set the phone down and rested my head in my hands. Why did I buy a new phone anyway?

We drove into town to buy a new SIM card . . . the store was closed. The next day, when I finally got the stupid, puny little card—it was almost $2 more than Telus had given me to buy it. “Just let it go Rachel,” I told myself.

Thankfully, the transfer went smoothly this time. “Are you sure it’s my number?” I asked the agent for the second time. She was patient with me.

Whenever I feel like freaking on someone in customer service, I’m reminded of my years as a waitress. If someone is angry because the food is too cold or it takes too long or doesn’t meet expectations—they take it out on the waitress. Not fun.

I few years after I’d quit waitressing, and while we still lived on Cortes Island, Kevin and I were grocery shopping. Our town trips were always stressful and rushed with ferries to catch. We stood in the lineup as the cashier moved with the rapidity of a frozen sloth.

“Would you like your milk in bags?”

“No, it’s fine!” I replied, snatching the milk jug from her hands and packing it into the cart.

Later, as we sat on the ferry and watched the trees slide away, Kevin turned to me. “I was shocked when you snapped at the cashier. You more than most, know how hard it is to deal with angry customers.”

I nodded. An image of the woman’s hurt expression flashed in my mind. “You’re right.”

I’m glad Kevin said something to me that day. It doesn’t matter if Telus cost me hours of time and $1.81 in cash—I’m still responsible to treat others with respect and to apologize when I fall short.

This is even more important to me now that my daughters both serve at Tim Hortons and try to meet even the rude customers with a genuine smile. Everyone makes mistakes from time to time and kindness doesn’t cost us anything.

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The twins I prayed for

The twins I prayed for

I kept myself awake last night coming up with a list of the craziest things about me. Sometimes we just need to embrace our unique side. 😉

Yes, I really do have six kids. And, no, I don’t have running water. Part of me has always loved simplicity. For most of my life I’ve been convinced that I was born in the wrong century (until I had a good think about what it would be like to have a tooth pulled without anaesthetic). We catch water off the roof and store it in tanks under the house. Once a week, we use a small pump to fill up a barrel that we dip out of for dishes and bathing. We heat the water on the woodstove during the winter and on the propane stove in the summer. But I’m ready for a well and running water now. This summer . . . please.

I love giving birth. This is my favourite thing to do. I’d rather give birth than go to Europe or to a U2 concert. I don’t just love the baby-after-the-birth part. I love the birthing part. I love being woken in the night by contractions or my water breaking and the feeling of wonder and excitement. I love the building contractions that force me to withdraw from the world and focus within. I love meeting my babies for the first time. I’m proud of the fact that I caught my first and last babies with my own hands. Best thing ever.

I wrote a book in a month. There’s actually an event—NaNoWriMo—for the thousands of people around the world who are crazy enough to give up sleep and their favourite TV shows to write an entire novel in a month. So if you notice me wandering around with dark circles under my eyes, talking to myself, and it happens to be November—then you know why. 🙂

I wanted 20 kids. For real, and I’ve never even seen the “19 kids and counting” show. I wanted to birth 10 and adopt 10, but my husband didn’t want to have any kids, so we compromised and had 6. Notice that I compromised more.

I brainwashed myself to enjoy summer and winter. I grew up on the west coast where it snowed once or twice in a winter and the white stuff was gone by lunch time. And then we moved north. Our first winter we had close to four feet of snow. Turns out we’d bought our house in the “snow belt.” I hated winter and we were stuck with six months of it. But at some point I made the decision to embrace it. I went for walks every day and tried to see the beauty of winter. It worked! I actually started enjoying the winters. I decided to try my whole “I love the seasons” thing on summers, since I hated the heat of summer too. I’d go sit in a chair in the sun, close my eyes and say, “I love the heat. It feels so good.” No kidding—it also worked! It’s the spring I have trouble with now. I’m not sure if I’m going to try the whole brainwashing thing again. I don’t think, “I love mud and mosquitoes is going to work.” I might just keep one season to hate. 😉

I prayed for twins and got them. No, twins don’t run in the family. I just got it in my head that I wanted twins, so I prayed for them. Soon after that I got pregnant. We were in a little church at that time—maybe 100 people—and a girl stood up and announced she was having twins. I was ticked. Obviously, there wouldn’t be two women pregnant with twins at the same time in that little church. I was ridiculously convinced that she was having the twins that I prayed for. When my midwife told me I was measuring big, I brushed it off. “Nope, Amanda’s having my twins.” I didn’t even want an ultrasound. At 24 weeks, I was feeling my belly in the night, and I felt two heads! For real—I self-diagnosed twins. They came 10 weeks later.

If you’re shaking your head and thinking, “What a nut,” then I accomplished my purpose for the day. Have a great weekend!

❤ Rachel

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Joel and William

Joel and William

It’s hard to believe my youngest will be turning four in two months—he’s growing up so fast. In the midst of the busyness of raising children, it’s difficult to imagine a time when there aren’t little ones about, but now I find it’s just around the corner.

It’s been my goal for these sixteen years of childrearing to treasure the time with my children. I’ve often failed in this. There have been seasons when my focus has been elsewhere. But God has been faithful to remind me that the time is short with my children, and to draw my heart back to delighting in the simple joys of mothering.

During this time of raising children, I’ve experienced more pain and more joy than I ever thought possible—and if I had the choice I’d do it all over again.

This is life—raw and uncontained—where I’ve discovered the depths of love in a thousand acts of devotion, from a droopy sunflower handed to me from a chubby fist to heart-shaped cards found hidden in my suitcase while away from home.

Were the sleepless nights worth it? Yes! Or the horrifyingly embarrassing moments when my children have vomited in restaurants or knocked over shopping carts? Yes—worth it even then.

Tonight we went out for Chinese food and several times my three-year-old, Joel, had us all laughing. At one point he belted out, “I need champagne!” (He meant chow mein.) After our meal he was handed his very first fortune cookie. Everyone was reading their fortunes when one of my sons asked Joel where his fortune paper was. “I guess I eated it,” was Joel’s solemn reply. I’m afraid I laughed long and hard at his deep sigh. (His big sister soon made it all better by giving him her fortune.)

I’ll miss having a three-year-old around! It’s always at this point—when my youngest is two or three—that I start begging my husband for another baby. But I promised I wouldn’t ask him again, and I am content with my six wild and wonderful children…but I’ll still miss having a little one to make me laugh.

I’m enjoying every stage—teaching my six-year-old to read, being startled when my eleven-year-olds jump out of dark closets to make me scream, watching my thirteen-year-old blossom in her first part-time job, learning chemistry along with my fifteen-year-old—but I’ll never have another one, two or three-year-old again.

And so here I am—making a recommitment to…cherish the moment.

 

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Photo credit: Aiyaz Kidwai

Photo credit: Aiyaz Kidwai

Did you know that the largest man-made explosion prior to the atomic bomb happened right here in Canada?

Our family’s been delving into Canadian history with Canada: A People’s History. I always thought that Canadian history was more boring than counting snowflakes, but homeschooling has given me a second chance to fall in love with learning about the history of our beautiful country.

I feel like it honours those who have gone before us to learn their stories and share them with our children.

Back to the explosion—it happened December 6, 1917 when two ships—one of them full of explosives—collided near Halifax. A pressure wave from the blast flattened the community of Richmond, and a Tsunami that went out from it completely destroyed a community of Mi’kmaq First Nations people.

 

To learn more about the Halifax explosion, check out this interactive website: cbc.ca/halifaxexplosion/

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A couple weeks ago, my oldest daughter compiled this video of the poem “In Flanders Fields.” I hope you are blessed by it as we remember the fallen.

❤ Rachel

 

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