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A Beautiful Legacy

Abby reading to Melanie and Myra

A few months ago we learned that a dear friend’s cancer had returned full force and that unless there was a miracle, she only had a short time to live. Abby had just come to see us—she’d lost little of her vibrancy. She was still pushing a heavy mower around the yard and canning food. It was hard to believe that she was dying. So hard to accept.

A month later we went to visit her. I brought some soup and sandwiches and we planned on a short visit so we didn’t tire her. It stunned us to see how weak she’d become in such a short amount of time. Abby had reclined in her chair while we visited. Her nausea made it impossible to keep food down.

She walked to the door when we left, leaning against the wall for support. I hugged her tightly and we cried together. This might be the last time I see her, I thought—and it was. I talked to her once more by phone. Her voice was raspy and weak, but she was still thankful—thankful for medication that took most of the pain away, thankful for the care of her daughters and the love of family and friends, thankful for a full life and good Saviour.

I knew Abby when I was a child. She played the organ at the little white church that my grandparents went to. She had a bright smile—especially for children. Her family moved away, but we reconnected when I became a mother.

In the spring of 2005 we moved to a cabin on the Day property in Vanderhoof while Kevin built us a house nearby. Before that time the Days were our friends, but in the seven months we lived with them they became family.

It was probably the most difficult season of my life. We had four children under 5 in a 16’x16’ cabin. My youngest two children were six-month old twins with undiagnosed allergies. I often only got three hours of sleep a night. But it was also a season with some of my best memories. I got to be on the receiving end of Abby’s servant heart.

Our family of six had supper in their home three times a week. We bathed in their home. Abby’s son, Josh, helped to build our house, and Abby did our laundry.

She didn’t have a dryer, so she hung all of our laundry by hand on a wooden rack that she hoisted with ropes and pulleys where it could dry out of the way.  Every week Abby washed our clothes, folded them, and returned them to me with a beautiful smile on her face.

Many afternoons, my children and I would join the Days for their afternoon tea time. We’d sit in their bright kitchen and enjoy Bengal Spice tea and hot-out-of the oven molasses bread smeared with butter. It was a time of great conversation and lots of laughter.

Abby loved my children like they were grandchildren. She enjoyed them and spoke with love to them. She would take them into her lap and read to them. I found myself emulating her in tone. Being around her made me kinder and more patient as a mother.

Soon after we moved into our own house, the Days moved to Prince George. But Abby and I continued our friendship. We didn’t talk on the phone often, but when we did it was always for well over an hour. And she never stopped encouraging me. Every time we talked she shared relevant Bible verses and gave me some deeper insight into relating to my growing family.

It’s impossible to know just how much Abby’s gentle spirit, encouragement, and example has impacted my life as a mother, daughter, sister, wife, and friend, but I know that her influence has permeated my life in every area.

Today I came across a picture that spoke to my soul. It’s called ‘Life Within Death.’ It’s a Chinese lantern—the flower must die for the fruit to grow. Even after the fruit is ripe, the dried flower still encases it.

Even though Abby has left this life to be with her Father in heaven, her legacy lives on in her children, her friends, and the countless people that she ministered to.

We love you always, Abby.

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“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls

into the ground and dies it remains alone; but if it dies it produces much grain.”

~Matthew 12:24

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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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IMG_4332[1]We often define a creative person as someone who is artistic—perhaps they’re a gifted musician or painter or dancer. But I think creativity is bigger than that. It’s a state of mind that sees endless possibilities and dreams big, even after facing defeat again and again.

Inventors come to mind when I think of creativity. Alexander Graham Bell created dozens of useful inventions from the telephone to a metal detector, but he also faced hundreds of failures.

Obstacles only make a creative person look deeper and wider for the answers.

Last week I watched a short film on today’s educational system. It raised many questions. Does our educational system kill creativity and curiosity? Does it prepare our children for a changing world? Does it value their unique strengths and interests?

One of the reasons I decided to homeschool was because the current school system seems to be designed to fit kids into a certain mould. I don’t want that for my kids. I want them to love learning and follow their passions and not be afraid of getting a wrong answer—after all, those are the ones we learn the most from.

One day my six-year-old son was painting a ceramic mug to be fired. I admired his bold use of colour. He’d painted a person with brown hair and lovely pointed shoes.  “Who’s that?” I asked.

“It’s you,” he said shyly, looking up at me through his long eye lashes. “But the mouth dripped.”

My heart squeezed with love as I looked at his rendition of me. The dripping black mouth resembled a beard. But it was me he chose to grace his mug. I was honoured. “It’s a beautiful painting.”

I hope he never loses the joy of creating. I pray I never make him feel stupid. I dream that he follows his dreams.

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Here’s the film I watched last week. Very thought provoking! B.C. is bringing in some big curriculum changes for next year. The goal is to create an educational system that prepares kids for a changing future, focuses on their passions, and honours their strengths. I’m proud of my province. 🙂

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Good Stress

Photo credit: Mirabail Michel

Is there such a thing as “good stress?” We all know that stress is bad. It causes ulcers and headaches, hypertension and adrenal stress. Bad stuff. That’s the stress that comes from worrying about if the money will stretch to cover the loan payment. Or it can come from overbooking ourselves and feeling the pressure to do more than a mortal is capable of.

But good stress is the stress that comes from pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zone to do things that are important to us.

Last week I talked about facing our fears, and this week’s post is about accepting the fact that when we do something new and hard and brave—a certain amount of fear and stress can be expected. It’s okay. It means we’re challenging ourselves.

This morning I came across a Pinterest board that I made for Naya—the main character of my novel. It contains pictures and quotes that hold a lot of meaning for her.

One of the quotes was, “It’s okay to be scared. Being scared means you’re about to do something really, really brave.”

I realized that some of the changes my characters went through in my novel were a reflection of the changes that were happening in my own life.

Today, I’m going skiing with my kids. I haven’t skied since I was thirteen—twenty-two years ago. I’m excited but scared too. But that’s okay. 🙂

Have a great weekend!

You can view the Pinterest board I made for Naya here.

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Photo credit: Erik Nyrtsm

Photo credit: Erik Nyrtsm

I’ve been working on pushing past my fears over the past several years. I started a blog, became a birth doula, sailed a one-man sailboat, and wrote a novel. All of these things scared me, but I knew that facing and overcoming my fears would give me joy.

But harder and scarier than writing a book is trying to sell it. Nineteen days ago I started querying literary agents. To get your manuscript into the hands of the big publishers you need to get the interest of an agent first and that requires sending out query letters. If an agent likes the sound of the book, they’ll request the manuscript.

After sending out 21 queries, I received a couple requests for my manuscript, but mostly I received very nice rejections. But even a nice rejection is disappointing.

Yesterday afternoon, after assembling my flute in readiness for band class, I checked my email and saw a response from an agent. I sighed—probably another rejection. “What happened to your optimism?” I asked myself. So I squared my shoulders and opened the email.

It was a request for my manuscript from an agent whom I respect and admire. Of course this is a good thing, but it’s just one small step on a rather terrifying journey. One of the agents reading my book needs to fall in love with it and be willing to get behind it, then they’ll need to pitch it to an editor who loves it, then the editor needs to pitch it to their sales team. That’s a lot of people to convince that I have something worth saying on printed page.

I sometimes have the desire to whisk my book away from all these seasoned eyes and keep it safe from rejection, but safe isn’t what I signed on for. It’s not really what I want in life.

What I needed to do is haul my fear out of the dark closet and have a good look at it. What am I really afraid of? What’s the worst thing that could happen? Well, after spending hundreds of hours and bucket loads of devotion on a manuscript, the agents and publisher who have already shown interest might decide that the book isn’t a good fit for them. Or my book could make it to publication and bomb—failing to find an audience.

It would be a sad moment to tuck my book into a drawer and lay it to rest, but it wouldn’t be Armageddon. So what would I do if the worst came to be? I’d put my bottom in a chair, open my laptop, and write another book—a better one.

Taking a good look at my fear and making a plan for the worst-case scenario has helped me to move on and to remember that I’m doing what I love—raising my family, attending births, and writing books. And doing what I love requires not giving into paralysis-inducing fear.

Photo credit: Manu Mohan

Photo credit: Manu Mohan

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