Kids Coming & Going

Is it just me, or do other parents feel their heartstrings yanked apart when their kids leave? I know I’m not the only mom to experience that definitive ache when a child leaves for university, or moves into their own place, or gets married. But what about the incidental visits? You know, the ones that last a few days or a few hours? Why even then does my heart feel hollow after they leave?

It could be the whole enneagram four thing… I feel EVERYTHING. A LOT. It could be that we homeschooled for a bunch of years and became rather close-knit. Or it could be that somehow, despite that we homeschooled that long, my kids and I still get along shockingly well. Whatever it is, the dragging feeling that arrives on their departure can be difficult to shake.

Keira enjoying the company of her big brother.

It happened again this week. Elanna had a few days off and came home for a visit, and Konnor dropped by after a hair appointment in town. Whenever the big kids stop by it warms my heart more than I ever thought possible, and I drop everything. When we were in the thick of homeschooling, I used to dream of all the things I would do once they were launched. Hours of writing, painting, gardening, and tea-drinking floated around the fringes of my thoughts about my future. But now, when they come home, all of the things that seemed so shiny, pale in significance.

At the height of COVID, I could have chosen to begin my next novel, painted several paintings, or spent time thoroughly beautifying the garden or further decluttering, but all I really wanted to do was drink in these precious, unexpected, live-in moments with my adult kids. I mean, when was this ever going to happen again, and why would I waste it locked in a room plucking away at my computer or sorting stuff when they were once again under our roof?

Front lawn visit with Elanna, Kurt, Mariana (not pictured), and Monty.

As I’ve mentioned in past posts, about four years ago I embarked on a serious decluttering of my life, both my physical possessions and my use of time. The result was beautiful, wide-open space to breathe in all the blessings and truly soak in what mattered most to me—my family, my friends, and my God.

As if it were possible, COVID ushered in a further decluttering, an even fuller simplification of life. Despite the darker reason behind the need to make our lives smaller, we learned that we can do without many luxuries and still be okay. Our siphoned-down lives forced us to find beauty in simplicity and a slower pace. In our case, and maybe yours too, that more gentle period allowed precious time with each other.

One of the most beautiful feelings in the world, cuddling my grandbaby.

And so, between that extended, unanticipated ‘COVID’ regrouping of our family, and these sporadic visits, I find my heart sighing in its attempts to both embrace and release the comings and goings of my grown kids, like inhaling and exhaling without missing a breath. But in truth, hasn’t it always been this way at every stage of our kids’ lives? The gathering in and letting go to allow them to grow? And so, I find myself struggling to do so even now. My heart turned inside out with the welcoming embrace and tucked neatly right side ’round as they drive away.

I hazard that’s just how God feels about us. We show up for a time, have a chat, then go on our way. I can’t help but think that God is delighted with those visits, that they bring him such joy. That he gives us his undivided attention as he listens intently to all we have to tell him. That he anticipates the next time, and that his heart may somehow ache a bit when we are gone too long—like a parent longing for the presence of their child again.

Us grandparenting.

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
    and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
    I will not forget you!
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;

~ Isaiah 49:15-16

Looking for some uplifting and romantic summer reading? Find my novel One More Tomorrow at: 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.

Sacred Motherhood

It may not feel like it, but what you’re doing is sacred.

It doesn’t feel like it during the 3 AM feedings, or when you’re changing the seventh diaper before noon, or when you’re comforting a wailing baby while wailing yourself.

Kurtis, Konnor, and Elanna – 2003.

Motherhood doesn’t feel sacred when your two-year-old is asserting their freedom of speech at the grocery counter, when your three-year-old just completed a crayon masterpiece on the living room wall, or when your five-year-old just bit your best friend’s daughter’s arm.

It doesn’t feel sacred when the teacher calls home about misbehavior twice in one week, when you lose count of the times you’ve corrected for this misbehavior, or when you’re completely at a loss on how to fix it. 

It doesn’t feel sacred when your teenager is distant, when they impart that they just backed the truck into your neighbor’s Porche, or when you happen to notice cut marks on their wrists.

Mostly motherhood feels messy and raw. Like you’re wearing your heart outside your chest while walking in the wilderness without a compass. But it’s also brilliant, beautiful, and sacred.

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Our Family – 2010

Because mothers change the atmosphere. They change it with their love, their laughter, their prayers, their protection, and their presence. The countless times you walked through ordinary, produced extraordinary. All your unseen and uncelebrated actions piled one on top of the other, day after day, bumped into eternity.

The times you wiped a nose, a bottom, or wiped away tears. The times you got on your knees and played even though the house looked like a tsunami passed through, or later got on your knees to pray for the strength to clean up said tsunami. The times you administered hugs, Bandaids, advice, desserts, medicine, money, drives, and driving lessons—all selfless, sacred acts that had a profound impact.

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My kids and I – 2019

Because right now, right beside you, these little humans are becoming big humans. All you do for them and choose not to do (for their own good), is helping them grow into the person God envisioned from the beginning of time. The same child you helped learn how to walk, will one day run headlong into their own future and, eventually, into eternity.

Make no mistake, this is sacred work.

The way you love them, serve them, speak to them, look at them, and the time you spend with them has a profound impact. God chose you for the task. He has entrusted you with these little people, and when you trust him, he gives you all you need to accomplish this sacred work.

It won’t be easy—you already know that—but it will be worth it.

Kurt and Konnor
Our first year homeschooling. Kurtis (JK) & Konnor along for the ride. I apparently didn’t know how to spell tomorrow back then!

The years I raised and taught our four kids at home took more than I had. Some days it felt anything but sacred. But I believe that you too will one day look back and marvel at the impact of your selfless, sometimes mundane, day-to-day, imperfect, accumulated acts. That you too will see that every strand of your love wove a rich, strong, safe nest for those babies who are now, sooner than you imagined possible, ready to fly and soar on their own.

We get one crack at this thing called parenting. Let’s slow down, be present, and love them ridiculously well. Not one second of that time will be wasted! xo

“But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” ~ Isaiah 40:31

All the kids with Monty
Our kids and first grandson – Jan 2020.

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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

 

OneMoreTomorrow_Cover_042919

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

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?

Letting Go With Open Arms

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Last weekend, our first born got married to his perfect match. As if this weren’t enough emotion for this momma’s heart, on Monday of the same week we crammed the contents of our second born’s room into our van and moved him into his own apartment to continue his college education. On Tuesday, our littlest started school for the first time. I homeschooled our kids for the past eighteen years, and she is the first to go to “real” school. The same week, my third born left for New York City for a big audition. Continue reading “Letting Go With Open Arms”