Visits Home

69880890_898957227127775_3111926164998848512_nTwo months ago, my eldest daughter moved to Toronto. Somehow, like all of life’s upheavals, I survived this transition. That hollow ache—the result of the vacant space her colourful personality and limitless energy occupied—hasn’t been quite as insurmountable as I imagined it would be. I’m happy to report that it’s not all tears and pining, and I haven’t yet succumbed to numbing by chocolate! I may, however, be guilty of calling or texting her daily.

Last September was the first time in eighteen years that we didn’t return to homeschooling. A lot has transpired in a year. My eldest was married, my second-born began film school, my youngest went to “real school” and—as I mentioned—my eldest daughter moved out.

Despite being with my kids for untold hours over the years (people used to ask me all the time how I did it), I managed to reserve some space during our time homeschooling for personal pursuits such as writing, painting, and gardening. I understood that once my children launched I would have time to pursue these passions. That time tumbled upon me last September.

Now a full year has passed and after dedicating the year to my writing, I am earnestly awaiting the launch of two books, my novel, and my devotional/journal. Being a writer is a dream I’ve had since childhood which is now becoming a reality.

As precious as reaching this goal is to me, when compared to the depth of joy I have found in being a mom, the two don’t reside on the same scale. However much I adore writing, however cathartic I find painting, or pleasing I find gardening, I’d trade every page, canvas, and blossom for those conversations, those hours, and those moments of togetherness with my kids.

Maybe I’m being melodramatic. I probably am. My kids might say so and so might their dad. I know they need to make a life for themselves, but this heart stuff gets me every time. It’s not like I don’t see them anymore, it’s just that (apart from one) they don’t live here anymore. It’s the infrequent time we muster that makes me hang onto hugs too long, drive absurd distances to be with them, and take time for projects or events they deem worthy.

But that’s what love does. It gives. It sacrifices. It pours itself out.

Nothing is greater than love.

69700975_2340269146225248_8967045386447355904_nSo in the past few weeks since she moved (I make it sound like forever instead of just two months) when my daughter has arrived home for a visit, you can imagine the kerfuffle. The rush to the door, the exclamations of glee, the suffocating hugs, the kettle promptly warmed for tea, the over-attentive lean into a conversation, the questions so as not to miss a detail, a photo or two.

It strikes me that this is God’s posture to us when we come to him for a visit. If I’m this ecstatic to spend time with my kids when they arrive home, how delighted is God to spend time with me? If I listen attentively to all the details of my daughter’s life, how much more does God listen to me? If I treasure these visits, how glad God’s heart must be with ours.

Psalm 139:7-10 reminds me that no matter where I go, how infrequent my visits, how far I am from God, how poor my choices, how desperate my circumstances, or how destitute my soul, God is faithful. He never leaves me.

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.

If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.

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The love I have towards my kids is but a small reflection of God’s love toward me, his child. Even before I knew God, even before I arrived for regular visits, He loved me. His poured-out, sacrificial love was first demonstrated through his Son’s death on the cross. God gave all to have a relationship with us. That’s how much we meant to him and may be one of the reasons he so desires to spend time with us.

When was the last time you arrived for a visit? You can be sure that God already has the kettle warmed.

Coming Septemeber 17th, 2019

 

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ISBN: 978-1-4866-1537-7

Print Availability: Chapters/Indigo, Amazon, Word Alive Press, and wherever fine Christian books are sold. 

eBook Availability: Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple iBooks, Kobo, Google Play, Scribd, and in Adobe PDF format for additional vendors.

Open Arms

66117572_586387961768378_2838857366999400448_nKonnor came home for a visit today. Any mom will tell you that when your kids no longer live under your roof, any visit home is a precious event. This was demonstrated in the way Keira bolted down the stairs, threw her arms around her brother and clung to him, starved for his presence. I too adore seeing my son, catching up with him, admiring the man he has become.

The whole thing reminded me of how God must feel when we come to spend time with him, or when we return after a lengthy absence.

Since God’s love for us is even greater than a mother or father’s love for their child—or a little sister’s love for her brother—I can only imagine how happy God is to see us. His welcome is a door-flung-wide, arms-stretched-open sort. He is always thrilled to receive us.

But for some, their image of God is more of a looming, angry, and unyielding figure with arms-crossed in a posture ready instead to point out all the ways he’s been disappointed. For them, God is unapproachable, distant, and cross.

Sometimes our children’s actions or choices upset us or ignite an angry response. Our kids make mistakes—as do we—but because we love them we forgive them and continue to champion them on their journey. God behaves likewise to us, multiplied many times. Take a moment to read below what the Bible has to say about God’s nature:

Psalm 30:5: “For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime.”

Psalm 116:5: “The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.”

1 John 1:5: “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”

Micah 7:18-19: “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.  You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”

I John 4:9: “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.”

Like earthly parents, God is capable of being angry at his children. When our behaviour defies his holy standard—and it will—it not only hurts us and potentially others, but also hurts him. But here’s the thing: God is not only slow to get angry, he doesn’t remain angry. And maybe that’s where we get stuck.

In our guilt and shame, we further belittle ourselves believing God has rejected us, that he could never forgive us, that he wants nothing to do with us. But the verses above show that nothing could be further from the truth. He loves us so much that he sent his son as the remedy for all our junk: past, present, and future. The moment we repent, he forgives us and no longer holds those actions against us. Nor does he remind us of our failings. In Christ, every moment is a fresh start.

Just as we celebrate when our children arrive home, excited to get all caught up with them, our God is delighted when we share our lives with him, tell him all of our news, and rest in his presence. He doesn’t force us to come home, but anticipates the moment we do. His love is endless, his forgiveness knows no limits, his compassion is for all. No matter where you’ve been—or for how long—his arms are always open.

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  1. When was the last time you had a visit with God? It’s never too late to start or begin again.
  2. If you’ve never received the free gift of salvation and forgiveness of sins through God’s son Jesus, it’s only a prayer away.

 

Letting Go…Again.

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She lights up a room. An extreme extrovert, she brings me out of my introversion.

Once again, my momma’s heart is being stretched. Our home, once full of bodies and books, is downsizing its numbers—again. And with it, I’m having to once again adjust as another of the great loves of my life launches.

Not yet a year has passed since my eldest got married, my second son moved into his own apartment, and my youngest started school. Now, my third born is about to plunge into one of her long-standing dreams. In less than a week, she too will fly the nest and move to Toronto to pursue her acting career.

I know we don’t have children with the purpose of holding onto them forever. I know they will eventually have to make their way in the world outside of the four walls we nurtured them within, but it still pinches the heart and stings the soul when the day comes to release them. That day always comes a little too soon.

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My little “Sussila” at ten years old.

The first day of school, sleepovers, the overnight camps are a mere dress rehearsal for the day you say goodbye for real—the day they launch not for a week but for forever.

I know how this goes. There I’ll be out on the front doorstep, where once I helped her climb, my heart suspended between aching and pride as I send her off. I’ll force myself not to over-hug lest she suspects the tears I’ll be fiercely trying to trap behind closed lids. But she’ll probably see them. I’m terrible at pretending and she’s particularly gifted at noticing.

All her zeal for life, energy, fun, and laughter will now be occasional guests in our home. The same place I often wished uncluttered and serene will now be perpetually so. The shoes I used to trip over, the clothes strewn on the floor, the discarded, damp towels (heaven help her housemate) will be replaced with floor! The debriefs over tea at the kitchen counter and the Starbucks goal-setting coffee dates will be replaced with infrequent catch-ups by phone or texts.

Everyone tells you it happens too fast but you brush them off. The days are long but the years are short they say. Listen. They are. One minute I was dragging my bone-weary body through 3 AM feedings, sweeping up countless crumbs, wearing out the knees in my jeans playing on the floor, puzzling over another math question, or nagging after something left undone. Don’t even get me started on the driving—I secretly loved it—but may have spent a solid five years of my life behind the wheel!

Now it all feels like a blink, a breath, as though I could have easily missed it for not paying enough attention. And I’m left with all those wondering whispers bumping around my brain asking, Did I do enough? Prepare her enough? Spend enough time? Teach her enough? Love her enough?

Of course I didn’t. But I sure as heck tried.

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Proud Mom. SO many dance competitions. SO many hours spent driving to dance classes. I wouldn’t have changed a minute of it.

It was all imperfect, as it will always be. A parent can never be enough for all there is in their little-grown-big-one’s life. All I can hope is that I send her off with my love securely tucked in her heart and mind, and trust she’ll take it from here. More than that, the God who loves her far better than I can ever manage goes with her, is beside her, is her biggest fan. That will surely be enough.

So once again I find myself in this uncomfortable celebratory mourning. A conflicted state of I’m-so-happy-for-youwhy-do-you-have-to-go-so-soon. Not one or the other, but both. So I’ll sigh, surrender, and sink into another new normal while thanking God for all we shared, all the sweet memories I carry, and anticipate the visits—and texts—to come.

Bye sweet girl. You’re a wonder and a joyous gift. What a privilege it is to be your momma.

 

Mothers Matter

60061661_398175194371684_245086476180652032_nMom—you matter. What you’re doing for your kids is priceless. Every cry you cuddle away, every nose you wipe clean, each math problem you help solve, the listening ear you lend, all matter. Every time you show up—though bone weary and burdened—matters. The way you encourage from the sidelines of your kids’ lives is profoundly meaningful.

Though there are days you feel you have nothing left to give, you draw from a well of strength to water those precious humans enabling them to flourish. Though there are times you feel unappreciated, invisible, or empty, you humbly serve until others are filled. Though you have worries and wounds of your own, you set them aside to tend to scraped knees and bruised souls so they can be healed.

16997859_10154763987230091_8451233638891806965_nAnd though they don’t necessarily notice it, their little eyes absorb your selfless actions. Their hearts are nurtured by your words. Their souls are refreshed by your hugs. Their minds are cushioned by your love—all of this mothering an example they will one day reflect.

There will be days you’ll mourn your imperfect parenting. The way you grow impatient, irritated, or ignore what needs to be done. It might perplex you when you don’t have all the answers, and feel frustratingly at a loss to guide a wayward behaviour or resolve a sibling conflict. But through it all, you cling to the hope that—though imperfect—you did your best and trust God will do the rest.

The days are long but the years are short, and soon the little humans entrusted to your care need you less and less. More often you find you have to close your mouth and wait to be asked than offer your advice. There are no words to describe your pride for the remarkable people they have become. Somewhat bewildered, and strangely at a loss, you gradually loosen your grip so they can launch.

16507857_10154705964255091_4677011891195730862_nNow, the memories of playing with paper planes and toy boats float on the edges of your mind, a fluid reminder of time passed. Yet within the recesses of your kids’ minds and memories, and built into the fabric of their dreams, drifts the voice of their mother cheering them on. The former years of words and deeds compiled to form a foundation of acceptance and love that enables them to reach for their goals and build their lives.

For all your personal faults and frailties, the part you played was integral and instrumental in raising these humans. Like the formation of a log home, your mothering carved beauty, strength, shelter, and a lasting impression into their lives. If you failed to do it all, God met you at every turn. And as chink, he expertly filled in all the extra spaces packing it with his love.

61902_466304505090_5480924_nToday, be reminded that all you are, and all you’re doing, matters. Your sacrificial love and poured-out life is a gift to your children. Just as you can’t adequately put into words the depth of your love for them, they may never fully articulate all you mean to them. But God has seen it all and is cheering you on, aiding you on this lifetime journey of motherhood.

You are worthy, and needed, and so very precious. Happy Mother’s Day!

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From left to right: my mom-in-law, youngest daughter, mum, sister, and me.

Her children rise up and call her blessed. ~ Proverbs 31:28

Our Temporary Lives

44543176_186372598907522_1288013997185957888_nRecently, and rather inadvertently, I plunged headlong into a full-time job as a Teacher’s Assistant. I say inadvertently because I wasn’t looking for a job. You might recall in my September post: “Letting Go With Open Arms” that I was celebrating my son’s recent wedding and the milestone of completing many years of homeschooling.

I enjoyed three weeks of pure bliss. By that I mean, for the first time since I can remember, I woke up without any real “musts” or necessary routine. No school to begin, no rushing to activities, and, miracle of all miracles, an empty house by 8AM! Truly an introvert’s dream!

But then it all changed. A friend happened to mention that the school where she works was looking for a person to fill a Para-educator position. I thought, I could help out…just until they find a suitable person (while silencing the “don’t even think about its” from my daughter and close friends). But since listening to others’ logic isn’t at the top of my list of strengths, I gave it a second thought.

It wasn’t terrible timing. I had recently sent the manuscript for my novel to the publishing company, and assumed I had a few weeks before the edited version would be returned. And so, I found myself crafting a resume for the first time since my teen years. And shortly after that, I landed full-time in a kindergarden class.

The work is exhausting, rewarding, eye-opening, and, did I mention exhausting? I awoke the second day and wondered how I’d managed to let my dream-like days dissolve so quickly, and if perhaps I should have heeded the counsel from my obviously wiser daughter and friends. After all, I was supposed to be writing, painting, and de-cluttering. All that to say, I’ve put aside, for just a little longer, all those dreams and goals I’ve long-held onto, to serve little people and one big person – the teacher.

So now, for the past three weeks, my days consist of bending over to decipher the sometimes not so fully formed words projected from little mouths, wiping crumbs from little tables, pushing in little chairs, and helping little souls learn their ABC’s, 123’s, and how to spell their names, so that one day they will know much more than that.

I now have a collection of painted masterpieces taped on my chalkboard at home – precious gifts from these little people. I also have a collection of memories in my heart too. I hazard I won’t soon forget the smallest of them all, a little lad who frequently takes my hand and presses it to his cheek while waiting in line to wash his hands at the sink.

On just my second day, while assisting the student’s hand washing routine, one little girl peered up at me and asked, “Are you staying for always?” And the next day, the same question from another. My heart ached because I knew I couldn’t; that my days there were to be only temporary. I’ll do what I can for the short time I’m there, care for and encourage them, hopefully make a small difference, and then go on to the other purposes for which I’ve been made.

And that’s really the essence of it all, isn’t it? I mean, the essence of our one life. Our days here are only temporary; we’re just passing through. Time is short, and we do the best we can with the short time we’ve been given, care for and encourage others, hopefully make a small difference, and then go on to the other purpose for which we’ve been made: our forever life with God in heaven.

So I’ll make the most of it all: the time with these treasured little humans, and the time I have with the precious others God has tucked into my life – both of which are laden with opportunities to serve God with the resources He’s given to us. We’ve been gifted with life, and, perhaps like you, when my days are spent I hope to reach the end and hear, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”

 “Then the king will answer, ‘The truth is, anything you did for any of my people here, you also did for me.’ 

Matthew 25:40

“His lord said to him, Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter into the joy of your lord.”

~  Matthew 25:23

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  1. How are you spending your days? Look for ways serve those around you either with a small act of kindness or a word of encouragement.
  2. Are there any adjustments you could make to serve God out of the riches and gifts He’s given you?

Finding Thankfulness

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I’m thankful for my hubby.

Confession: Fall isn’t my favourite time of year. I much prefer hot, hazy mid-summer days. I adore my garden at peak performance showing off its full glory. I relish a few lazy minutes of reading on the porch with the birds’ chorus adding to the unfolding beauty. There’s the endless, sunspun blue skies, and the warm evenings begging us to linger outside and squeeze the most out of the long days of light. Even as I write this, I’m still mourning summer’s end. 

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I’m thankful for my garden.

But its fall and, in Canada, that means a few changes. And with the changing season come a few things I could stand to be grateful for. Things like: apple cider, the smell of smoke sauntering out of hundred-year-old chimneys, the blazing leaves letting go, comical gourds, pumpkin pies, fall Mums, and cosy sweaters. Maybe you could add a few of your own.

My daughter adores this time of year and makes a fall list – traditions that she keeps each year. Among other activities, she decorates her room, visits the pumpkin patch with a friend, then painstakingly carves the perfect pumpkin once home. She makes procuring a pumpkin spice latte a must, makes a fall play list, and even dresses up for Halloween to hand out candy at our door. Through her, I’m trying to increase my affection for fall.

But no matter where we find ourselves this autumn, no matter how much you cherish the changing seasons, how amazing, or not-quite-so-amazing, your circumstances may be, the truth is we can always find something to be thankful for. Thanksgiving is an ideal reminder that we really should be living each day thankful, not just one weekend.

Here are some things I’m thankful for: a simple breath of outside air, the late-day sun on my face, a flock of migrating birds crossing overhead, a sip of warm coffee, the bite of food in my mouth before thinking of the next, and a moment of stillness in my home (like this one when no one is making a sound). I’m thankful for my dear friends who love and cheer me on, my children who encourage me to do big things, and my husband who still loves me after 26 years of intimately knowing my every fault. And I’m thankful that God, who knows me even better than that, gave His Son because He thinks I matter.

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I’m thankful for my kids.

This act of being thankful has a way of brushing the cobwebs of ingratitude away. Like the way we gripe in our childish entitlement, or the way we have mini-fits when the world doesn’t give us all we asked for. Thankfulness acts as an automatic attitude-shifter, and the everyday, moment-by-moment practice of it helps us approach our minutes with a healthier, life-giving focus.

There are times so bewilderingly dark, so emotionally or physically painful, that it seems virtually impossible to find a single thing to be thankful for. But even when the light is scant, look hard. There is always a small ray of hope shining in that darkness and lighting something of which to be thankful for – even if it is that next breath.

And, like anything, the more we practice thankfulness, the easier it becomes. What if this weekend we start, and then just keep going – this month and this year – and develop a solid habit of finding something to be thankful for each day, and especially in times of difficulty? I have an inkling we might experience an increased dose of contentment, peace, and joy.

     “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”                      1 Thessalonians 5:18

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  1. Have you made a “Thankful List”?
  2. Develop the practice of finding things to be thankful for each day and even each moment.

52 Things I learned During our Home Schooling Journey

 

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Elanna’s Graduation – June 2018

Eighteen years ago, I embarked on an unlikely journey of teaching my children at home. I only planned to continue until they reached high school, but the three oldest chose to home school through grade 12.

We learned a lot of things during those years, but what sticks with me the most isn’t the multitude of things we gleaned from books, but the things we discovered about life and ourselves. Those years weren’t always easy. Life still happened. And though I was far from a perfect teacher or mother, we came out the other side loving and respecting each other. Today, I am humbled and blessed by the close relationships we share.

Below is a random list of some things I learned. I’m sure I can’t think of everything, but these are a few that easily came to mind. Although it refers to our home schooling journey, I have a feeling you’ll be able to relate, or, at the very least, may find it an encouragement!

52 Things I Learned From Home Schooling:

1. Show up, even when you don’t feel like it.
2. Any effort is better than none. It all compiles.
3. Bear with one another.
4. Patience is necessary – it grows when exercised.
5. If it’s not working, try harder. If it’s still not working, try a different approach.
6. Meant to and actually doing the job are two very different things.
7. It’s hard, but nothing worthwhile is ever easy.
8. Quitting isn’t an option. Redirecting your effort is.
9. There’s no such thing as perfection, but hard work, perseverance, and a good attitude are a close second.
10. Don’t compare yourself to others or you risk feeling both inadequate and missing what you were created for.
11. Laugh. Cry. Start again.
12. Speak truth when needed.
13. Don’t worry about what others think.
14. Character, integrity, and wisdom are more valuable than all the knowledge in the world. There are plenty of intelligent jerks.
15. Figure out what your passions are and build on those.
16. Nothing is wasted. No effort, trial, or experience.
17. Put down the books, leave the work, and go outside.
18. Play often.
19. Be kind. Speak gently. Smile freely.
20. Not everyone will agree with you. That’s okay. Accept your differences.
21. Make your encouragements more prolific than your critiques.
22. Those entrusted to you rise to your expectations. Set the bar achievably high.
23. Forgive yourself and keep moving forward.
24. Even if it’s difficult, monotonous, or thankless, you are still making headway.
25. Nothing stays the same forever. Cherish now.
26. Life has seasons. Learn what you can from each one.
27. Read beautiful stories out loud to your kids.
28. Besides God, be your child’s biggest cheerleader.
29. Expect the best in others.
30. Catch your kids doing good.
31. Tell your kids what you like about them, and about the good you see in them.
32. Keep hugging your children even if they appear to no longer appreciate it.
33. A little mess won’t kill you.
34. Say sorry when you’re wrong, then ask for forgiveness.

35. What you do speaks louder than what you say.

36. Talk your kids openly about your faith and failures.
37. Let them work alongside you so they learn from you.
38. Help your children see the beauty in nature and in other human beings.
39. If possible, travel with your children. These experiences offer priceless bonding and provide hands-on experience they won’t get from books.
40. Teach them to serve others so they won’t be self-serving, but compassionate.
41. Guide, don’t control.
42. They aren’t you. Don’t try to make them be. Give them ample space to be who they were created to be. Celebrate their individuality.
43. Take each child out on one-on-ones. You get to know them better this way.
44. Love your spouse.
45. Set clear boundaries and stick to them.
46. Help them form strong habits to achieve their goals.
47. Champion their dreams.
48. Let them make mistakes.
49. Don’t do for them what they can do for themselves.
50. Pray.
51. Let your children go and be the miraculous humans God made them to be. It was always the end goal.
52. Choose love first, always.
“Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.”
~ Colossians 3:14

 

Konnor and Kurtis’ graduation – 2014 & 2016

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1. What could you add to this list?
2. IS there one you could work on this week?