Thursday, February 24, 2011

Money, Money, Money, Monn-neeeey!

Ever watched the show "Til Debt Do Us Part"? It used to be a favorite of mine for a while, when we had free cable. I would often "do my time" on the stairclimber while watching it.

The scenario is all too familiar. It usually stars a young family that has a moderate home, nice vehicles, all the best baby equipment and gadgets you might "need", and overstuffed closets. They, like many other families, enjoy eating out at the Keg and getting their kids Happy Meals when their busy family is on the go. They love to shop at the big-box stores like Costco, keeping their cupboards filled with their favorite easy-to-prepare meals and snacks. While shopping at Costco, they can also check out the latest in entertainment and throw some new yoga pants into the over-sized grocery cart (just because)!

The unfortunate revelation however, is when Gail Vaz-Oxlade (the host of the show), takes a morbid look at their finances and shows them just how in debt they have become, and, GASP! the fact that their debt-load has taken on a snow-balling effect of rapid increase that is nearly out of control. (Until she saves the day...)

It's a pretty sobering view that is all-too-familiar. It's certainly not something our success-driven society enjoys putting into the spotlight.

Instead, we like to ask: What if you could have it all???

Clearly Donald Trump has the margin on "having it all" but somehow missed out on the hair category. So I'll wager that he doesn't really have it all.

We are sold out on an idea of success, and like many of today's families, including those featured on "Til Debt Do Us Part", we fall hopelessly short of living the dream.

What is success anyway? Most would think of Fame and Fortune as the keystones of success. And since the majority of us will never become truly famous, we settle for popularity among our peers by having the nicest, biggest home, cushy leather couches and a fancy in-home-theatre with an enormous big screen HD-TV.

Okay, so I've laid down some of the misconceptions of success and money that are common and normalized by television (and magazines, and probably most of your peers). These thoughts all started when I was running the treadmill, staring out at the blizzard of snowflakes out the window, and I began to wonder: What would it be like if someone you knew and respected could take a close look at your finances? What if someone saw how you spent everything, the amounts on clothing, food, fun, eating out, etc., even the amount that you give to charity every year? How would that make you feel? Would you have areas that would make you embarrassed? Would you feel like you need to "explain" your spending in a few areas?

I guess the problem isn't money, itself, but the motivation behind your "riches". It's also important to consider the motivation behind your drive and efforts towards success. First of all, are you working towards the right kind of success in life (are your priorities in order?) If you are working mainly on a day-to-day, whatever-feels-good-do-it or buy-it mentality, then chances are you are living in a bubble on the verge of popping. I don't know many people who can spend whatever they want, however they want - in essence, spend based on "feelings", that can keep it up for very long. Or if you do happen to have a killer job (or your husband/wife does and you're spending their earnings) then the emptiness itself of your spending habits should be reconsidered.

There's something very strange about consumption and getting whatever you want. First of all, it gets boring and you end up craving the even more expensive and elusive foods, entertainment, travel, etc. (and this can border on craving things that aren't healthy for you or that are morally questionable). Additionally, I've noticed that when you buy whatever food you want, allowing yourself no limits to the amount of chips, candy, chocolate, (whatever it is that you like), it loses its appeal. Gain some self-control and avoid the chocolates for a week, and that Hershey bar suddenly become real tasty again!

We aren't all in a place of excess money however, and I've been through lots of tight times. So I don't want to exclude those with limited means from my post. I guess what I'm trying to convey is the power that money seems to hold. Whether you have lots, and your lack of prudence could be embarrassing, or whether you wish you had more to work with - money exudes power. We tell ourselves: "No, it isn't true, money won't buy happiness." and then we turn around and buy ourselves a "treat" to cheer ourselves up or we wish for possessions we don't have or we base our feelings of contentment and peace on whether there is "enough". Even the most willful budget-er can tell themselves they have "money" under control, yet become dashed to the depths of despair when an extra bill comes and throws the spreadsheet out of wack.

Ultimately, I believe in surrendering my life to God. I work daily to surrender my time, my kids, my relationships, and money is no different. To put it quite simply, Psalm 24:1 says:

The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it

I want to do my best not to hold back in this area. Towards the beginning of this post, I mentioned: how would you feel if someone you respected reviewed all of your financial transactions? Well, to me, that someone is God. He does notice where you put your money, and most of all, He knows your heart when you spend it. He knows what motivates you when you scrimp and save or hoard your excess, for fear of tomorrow. This isn't to say that God requires us to be poor. The scriptures are lined with nuggets about wealth and how you take care of your "riches"; not chastisement towards wise investments and money management. But the key in it all is who owns the money.

Does the money own you? Do you own the money? Or do you simply use the money, allowing God to be the one in charge of it all?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tame the Dragon

There have been occasions where my temper is simmering like a slightly over-full pot on a burner, and it takes very little heat to cause the bubbling mess to spill over and create sticky, gooey, hard-to-remove stains on the stove's surface. I can start my day with all the right intentions, all the perfect plans and have my schedule worked out expertly - and yet things just disintegrate quickly with the little issues; things that are petty, that I shouldn't become so worked up about.

When has anger ever accomplished anything? What has it ever done for me?

I try to steer my anger like a wayward bucking bronco. Perhaps if I can manage it, it will make things work better, people will listen to me, and the world will somehow be righted. But it has a mind of it's own, and instead tramples emotions; tramples the people in it's wake.

I try to use my anger to ill effect. Instead it uses me. It becomes the controlling force, the wave of passion that shows little regard for reason.

The Bible is famously quoted for the words: "Be angry and sin not". Is this even possible?

Sometimes, I think the only way I can be angry and not sin, is if I am not near any other people when I'm angry. Unfortunately, I blame people for my angry feelings, so: cause and effect - the angry feelings come out when there are people bugging me!

The problem is, that we sin (and cause harm) by our words, not necessarily by what we are feeling inside. The wrong is done in what we say. This lines up with another passage of scripture, about the tongue:

James 3:5 A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything - or destroy it! 6 A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell. 7 This is scary: You can tame a tiger, 8 but you can't tame a tongue - it's never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. 9 With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image.

So my issue, and I must admit, isn't so much what I'm feeling at the time, but what comes out of me. The harshness; the words that I don't mean and the sheer volume (higher pitched and frustrated), are what need to be monitored and dealt with.

I think one of the primary causes of anger can be a sense of entitlement. We expect that we deserve to be treated a certain way. We think, that we are supposed to have exactly what we say or ask. Just have some kids and find out that this is not so.

Another cause of anger, and this one is blatantly obvious to me, is a lack of patience. (That seems to go hand in hand with entitlement being the "what" we want, and the lack of patience referring to the "when" we want it.)

What do I deserve in this life? It isn't necessarily what I demand. I am holding others to a standard that is not fair - and it's often a standard I don't require of myself. Or perhaps I do hold myself to that standard - like not to yell at the table and make messes, but those who I'm judging are merely too immature or have not reached the same sort of revelation about table manners that I have. Maybe the table manners seem like an obvious thing, and that relates to my children. However, even with adults, sometimes we expect behavior that we think is OBVIOUS, but they honestly don't know better or there is a particularly good reason why they are acting in a certain way. Once in a while, you aren't getting poor service at the restaurant because the server is bad, but because they just found out their sister was in a car accident, or they are failing school, or...fill in the blank with any sort of life's unpredictability that we all stumble upon from time to time.

I think the majority of the solution comes with an understanding of grace. We are asked by scripture to be gracious to one another:

Romans 12:3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.

We are all equally incapable of measuring up. We all have failed, and deserve far less grace than has been granted us. In this light, first of all, who are we to judge (and condemn, and become angry with) one another? Secondly, we ought to give out grace in the same manner by which we have received grace ourselves. (While we were still sinners, covered in our own mess and filfth, Christ died for us. He didn't wait for us to "get it right" before extending the greatest measure of grace imaginable. Phew! I'm thankful for that!)

So back to my first thoughts - what does anger accomplish? It seems more like a tidal wave that makes a bigger mess in the long run. It has no power to create desireable results - it is, on the other hand, degrading.

My prayer then is this, from Psalm 141:3:

"Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips."


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Extreme Life Makeover - Edition 3: Dieting

I can finally stop and take a breath. Of course, I've been breathing all along, but these past couple of weeks have been so busy, I've hardly had time to sit and think. So I'm finally able to take one of those long, deep breaths - the kind where you sigh a little at the end and can let yourself relax because you have time enough to think.

Contemplation is an art. My mind is at work all the time - even when my head hits the pillow, if I'm not utterly exhausted then I am considering the next day's schedule: meetings that I will be attending, birthday parties I need to plan, etc. But contemplation; the type of thinking that is lingering and meditative - that type of thinking doesn't happen on busy days or when there is a ton of background noise or even just the constant media clutter that we are bombarded with on a daily basis.

Sometimes I feel myself drifting into the world of deep thought and introspection while I'm running. My feet pad away, and I'm in my own world with no responsibilities but the task of staying safely on the treadmill. It's a quiet place for me - for although I'm surrounded by other gym-goers, I'm quite alone. No one is asking me for a snack or expecting me to pick up after them! So it's a safe place to commit my thoughts to my hopes, fears, concerns and in essence pick up on what God is saying to me. I find my lips moving in silent prayer to God more, when I get in that "alone" state.

I feel like I need to slough off some mental junk, however. I think there is a lot about our world and culture that coats us with it's sticky slime and slows us down. I wonder what it would look like if I were to keep a media diary the way a nutritionist would ask a patient to keep a food diary. It's very tedious, keeping a food diary - every bite and slurp must be accounted for to get an accurate picture of what is affecting your health. This can be challenging for someone wanting to lose weight - and not just challenging but utterly necessary for someone who has to "diet" for various health reasons. I remember my best friend had gestational diabetes when pregnant with her first child. All sweets and treats became poison to her body, and she had to be quite strict with her meals until her baby was born.

Consider a professional athlete, like a gymnast who depends on a particular physique to compete effectively and, hopefully be the best and win a medal. Obviously they don't tend towards binging on ice cream and pizza whenever they want. Everything is planned out for them in accordance with their caloric requirements and the vitamins and minerals that are essential for repairing tissue, building muscle and keeping off fat.

So what are we doing with ourselves mentally, emotionally and to a greater degree, spiritually, when we look at our visual/audio/media related diet? There are times when my thoughts are sluggish and I feel like I'm sinking into quicksand, down a negative pathway. That's a good time to ask what my mind's "diet" has been. If I were to write down most of the things that my eyes have focused on over the course of a week, would it mostly be "junk food" for my soul or would I be consuming what is wholesome, good and life-giving?

Phillipians 4:8 tells us "Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious - the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse." (the Message translation)

Also, the Bible talks about being spiritually minded vs. being carnally minded.
Romans 8:5,6
"Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; " (NIV)

One way to look at it, is to consider what is in your life that is of eternal significance, and what is temporal. I can spend hours a day on Facebook and reading news articles and watching videos on YouTube, and it does little for me. I'm not even talking about the "bad stuff" (subjective, of course - whether it is watching a horror movie or MTV - I prefer not to fill my head with that kind of media). So if it's not bad, then perhaps what you need to ask is how much good that consumption is doing for you? Does it have a positive effect, encouraging you towards your goals and dreams and inspiring you with new vision? Or is it like filling yourself up with mental popcorn, all fluff and no substance at all? Or maybe it is that "bad stuff" that I mentioned, and your mind is filled with a negative sludge because of the continual foul language, sinful behavior and foolish ways you've filed away in your memory due to hours of today's most popular reality tv show.

I might not actually write down my own "media" diary, calculating the hours and minutes of consumption. However, I'm thinking that this follows the theme of my life lately - to trim down my life from excess, to simplify and create a more meaningful pattern of existence for myself and my family.

One way, could be by just turning the computer OFF. No screensaver or hibernation - just pull the plug (figuratively) and keep it off except for the brief email check at the beginning and perhaps the end of each day. It seems like the computer can be an annoying friend - every time you walk into the room it's exclaiming about one thing or another that you really must pay attention to, and forget whatever it was you were doing before!

Another way of controlling my mind sludge would be with books I read. Typically, I'm an avid reader and I love to get lost in a good novel. Lately, though, I've found myself reading a lot more non-fiction and just feeling generally uninspired by fictitious tales that promise to take me to another world. I have too big of a job to do in my world. I can't afford to be emotionally drained and overwhelmed by something that is not even real! I'm not saying that this type of media is wrong - but I feel like it can take the edge off my concentration and commitment to my purpose and vision.

So I hope to shed a little mental weight and see greater levels of peace and contentment in my life. If anything, I know that a little bit of "portion control" when it comes to media, will allow me to meditate and focus on the right things. I believe it will give me a clearer connection to the thoughts and plans that are a lot closer to God's heartbeat. I'd like more opportunities to sit down and not be bombarded by the most recent mental popcorn jumping into my thoughts - rather, I can commit my thoughts to the Lord and meditate on His goodness.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Extreme Life Makeover - Edition 2: Family

Rewind a thousand years or so, and family life was extremely different than the way we live today. Your identity came from your family, and around 1066 AD, when communities began to grow, surnames were adopted to differentiate between all the Johns, Williams and Marys in Britain. Their surnames were adopted based on occupation, location or sometimes were even based on nicknames (Long, Young, White, etc.) Take for example the Cooper family - the origin of their name denotes that they are the town's barrel makers. Perhaps you are from the Wagner family: you'll be looking forward to a lifetime of wagon making! What about Susie Baker? Well, that one is pretty self-explanatory.

I find something quite comfortable and naturally simplistic about the idea of family names connected to your family identity. Maybe this is just a romantic notion, one that suggests we can label each family, and say: "You will be known for building" and to the next family "Your job is to bring healing". Fast-forward to this day and age, and you see that most youth throw off the confines of their family heritage in an effort of self-discovery. Who am "I" supposed to be? What am "I" good at?

So is there any possibility of a family walking together, arm in arm, in a single direction and vision? What would we look like as a family?

I think for our generation, your "family name" has less to do with occupations and careers, and a lot more to do with overall passions and purpose. Now, I'm not talking about your legal last name, but when people think of your family, what are some of the first characteristics that come into their minds? Hopefully the word "busy" is not the first thing that pops into people's minds!

The words I feel would be great descriptions of a family are things like: Compassionate, Generous, Joyful, Adventurous, Friendly, and Warm to name a few. Further to these characteristics, I believe that having passions and goals that you subscribe to as a family would strengthen your family identity.

Now I will get personal. My husband is a pastor. Inevitably, this is a career choice where we have little say how people will look at us - most often, with a magnifying glass! I imagine that anyone reading this blog can immediately call to mind some pastor's family -whether in a positive or negative context, and the proverbial "PK - Pastor's kid". Growing up in church, I had my eye on quite a few pastors and their families myself - and often babysat for some of these families. There are probably very few careers that bring you more in the public eye and under the scrutiny of so many people, than that of a Pastor.

So the question becomes, how do we identify with the role of being a pastor's family?

For many years I resisted the idea of being in "the ministry". I felt that I had seen far too many fakes and flakes. It didn't make sense (and it shouldn't) that so many pastors said one thing on stage, and yet had disconnected marriages and families at home.

This is where the identity comes in. Most jobs don't require you to bring your work home with you. If you are a lumberjack, you needn't wear boots and flannel and carry your chainsaw to the dinner table. (Although I'm sure some men out there would think that sounds appealing.) That's where pastoring can be different. It isn't a role that you should put on like a uniform. It is far more about who you are, inside the home and out, than any training or program or conference you have attended.

However, this is where it can get frustrating. I personally have struggled with the idea that our lives are not our own. My husband's job asserts a level of commitment that is high. We are, essentially, on-call day and night. Even if we are out of cell-phone range, the Holy Spirit may speak to our hearts and ask us to pray for someone in the congregation. Oh, and did you notice that I'm saying "we"? One of us is on payroll, but I need to support my husband in his calling as a minister, because we are made to walk together and serve as one before God.

How about the rest of the family? I have always wanted our kids to feel a part of our decisions and a part of the important things we do. This doesn't mean we consult them and "ask for their blessing" before we make a decision - but I don't ever want them to feel shuffled to the side, as if they are second-class members of the family. I don't want them to see us doing important things and being passionate about ministry, without realizing that they can (and should) be a part of it. I believe that when God calls someone to the ministry, He is completely aware of both the spouse and children of this person, and therefore He calls the entire family. I think it is key that our kids see themselves as part of the team and that we give them opportunities to help and be involved. Their ability to be kind, compassionate and generous to the people in our lives is a big part of being in the ministry as a family.

What if you are just a "regular" family? I suppose that is where you discover your unique family culture and characteristics. Are you adventurous? Then, as a family you can passionately pursue adventurous things. If you enjoy company, then teach your kids as a family to be hospitable - even your toddler can set the table nicely, and be ready to share toys with any visiting guests. This is where you set the standard. You can say to your kids: "Andersons" are generous. That's who we are as a family. When you make statements pertaining to your family's characteristics whether they are ones you desire to see or have already attained, it is as though you are setting up signposts for your children (and yourself).

So my challenge is this: Seek out your family identity and vision. Give your kids a sense of purpose and direction, to establish who they are in a chaotic, disconnected world. For a society that is so technologically connected, I see a lack in the lasting deeper and more meaningful areas of connection. By developing your identity and vision as a family, you give your children (and yourself) something by which to anchor your lives. This develops roots, and even when storms come, because they most certainly will come, deep down inside you know where you came from. You know who you are and you will be known for who you are.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Extreme Life Makeover - Edition 1: Simplify Me

"Hurry up. Put on your coats. Where are your shoes? Stop whining. Get in the van. Let's go!"

Does this sound familiar? I wonder if the quality and value of sentences spoken to your children is an appropriate indicator of a need for change? When things get busy, we become stressed. And if you are anything like me, when you are stressed, your words don't come out nearly as kind or as well thought out as they should!

It's odd.. we live in a rich nation with so many modern conveniences designed to make life easier, and yet we are busier than ever.

I'm on a quest to simplify. I know that there has to be a way to slow down, take my time and enjoy life with my children. It seems but a moment ago that I, nearly a child myself, held my first baby in my arms and thought that I had a lifetime ahead of me. Now as the years slip through my fingers like tiny grains of sand, I'm stunned at how much there is to do, with so little time!

A couple of years ago, I heard a very wise woman (a mother of 10) speak about raising children. One of the points she made was: "You have all the time you need to do exactly what God has planned for you."

Could it be true? Can we really get everything done that we need to do? I think that's where we need take a long, hard look at our priorities and figure out if we're on the right track or not.

We spend so much time rushing about, trying to do "stuff", and the question I'm asking is "Why?"

I've been reading a great book by a family psychologist, John Rosemond called: "Family Building - The 5 Fundamentals of Effective Parenting". Right off the bat, Mr. Rosemond attacks the family schedule. Are you doing too much as a family? Are your kids doing too much?

When I look at our schedule, I see quality activities. Gymnastics, Piano, Violin, AWANA (a church based Bible club), and swimming lessons to name a few. Multiply that by the fact that I have 4 kids old enough for extracurricular activities and it makes for a very busy schedule, which has to be perfectly balanced with no hiccups along the way or we'll be late for a lesson! Am I a super-mom to be able to handle this sort of life with so much to do, or am I just crazy? (I'll admit, there is a little of the former and a lot of the latter.)

I want to give my kids the opportunities that I never had. I want them to explore their talents and gifts, and to thrive! I, like many other parents out there, want my children to have the best life possible and to be happy.

Now hold on a moment. Therein lies the problem. I don't want to burst the bubble, but life isn't necessarily about ensuring happiness and having everything work out well. My job as a parent isn't to come alongside my children and make sure they have everything they could possibly want, a rich variety of experiences - fun and festivities at every possible moment. My job is to train my kids. To raise them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord - at least that's the promise I made when I dedicated them before God and my church family.

To make matters even more sticky, I'm not so sure I ascribe to the Disney princess theme that we seem to have heard from more than one heroine "All your dreams can come true". Why are we telling our kids that the world is their oyster and not explaing that oysters require some serious force to break into, and not every oyster contains a beautiful, costly pearl? In fact, more often than not, you are going to rough up your hands and get cold and wet harvesting oysters, then you risk cutting yourself when you pry it open, then... if you are lucky, you will end up with a swallow of dubiously delicious "sea jello", if you're into that sort of thing! (I tried them once, and I'm not sure I grasped the culinary appeal nor experienced the aphrodisiac qualities that is claimed to be produced by eating raw oysters.)

It's not that I don't believe in "dreams". But I wonder if we are falling off course by spending so much of our lives and providing great experiences for our kids. How much is too much? If we list all these "accomplishments" (things like: music lessons, soccer, hockey, art class, pony club) and grade ourselves as parents based on what sort of amazing life we are giving our kids, what does it really accomplish in the long run?

Activities are so much easier to use as measurements in the so-called quality of your parenting than the things that really matter. When I think of my past week of taking care of my kids, and whether I've done a good job or not, it's easy to just think of all the places I took my kids, and all the activities I let them be involved in.

When I begin to think about my children's hearts, and the sort of individuals I would like them to become, I find those activities lacking in the depth of their substance. Of course they are not wrong or evil in and of themselves, but when your live is so tightly wound by activity... something is going to suffer.

I believe that my previous paragraphs have sufficiently established a case for doing less. Perhaps there are families out there that can juggle their schedules enough and not suffer in the richness of their family culture. Yet I am craving a more calm, relaxed life. One that does not hurry the kids to the next place or event. I wonder what life could be like if we did not have to rush.

I don't know exactly the course of action I will take - and if the chopping axe will immediately cut some activity from the family calendar. However, this issue is in the forefront of my mind and I'll be prayerfully considering ways to protect our family culture. I believe that as a family, we should not be defined by all the things we do, but that as a family we can just BE together. I believe that in this "quieter" (figuratively, not literally) state, we will be more open to quality conversations. The elimination of much of the hurry-induced stress will allow for me to lead my kids and mentor them. We'll bake more, read more, cuddle more and most of all, weave a beautiful tapestry that defines us as FAMILY.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Some crazy stuff about me and my family

There have been a number of times that my husband and I have been told we should write a book about our lives. We've done a lot of crazy things over our marriage, and most people are shocked when they learn about our lives. So I'm going to work on a list of some of the "crazy stuff". If anything, it will give me a chance to reminisce about our lives!

Crazy stuff about our homes and moving:

1. We have moved 13 times in our 13 years of marriage.

2. Our first home we bought was a condemnable trailer (AKA "mobile home".) There were holes in the roof, a big section rotted and missing out of a wall, drug paraphernalia and cigarette butts, and water soaked carpet from an aquarium that the renters who left had spilled all over.

3. We lived in Thailand for 8 months as self-supported missionaries, and while overseas gave birth to our 4th child (unassisted, but that is another category.)

4. While temporarily homeless after a poor job decision (we thought we'd be resident managers at an apartment and the owner was a slimeball -to put in polite terms-) we stayed in a friend's basement for a few weeks, sleeping on a 3/4 size bed (in between a single and double) with our 4 month old baby.

5. We lived in a barn with our four kids on Salt Spring Island for two months, after we moved back to Canada from Thailand. It had a composting toilet, a wood stove for heat and rats. Hey, it was free.

6. Most of our moving has occurred in winter. Usually when it is -20 C.

7. We moved into our current house the day our sixth child was born.

8. We moved into the aforementioned home while it was gutted (stud walls, no drywall) and my husband sweetly installed a toilet that very evening in a bathroom which you could see through the walls - there were no walls!

9. Our current 5 bedroom home has 4 adults and 8 children living in it.

Crazy stuff about children:

1. We have six kids

2. I have had nearly every kind of birth experience:

-C-section (my first baby, who was breech)
-Midwife attended hospital birth with an epidural for a posterior baby
-Midwife attended home water birth
-Unassisted home birth in Thailand
-Hospital birth with an epidural
-Unassisted home water-birth at a friend's house while we were sleeping over for the night.

3. I have been overdue with all my babies. Everywhere from 13 days to 26 days overdue.

4. I homeschool my kids.

Crazy stuff about marriage:

1. We were married when I was 18. We had dated for just over a year - our engagement (included in that year of dating) was about 5 months.

2. We had our first baby after 11 months of marriage. Imagine the romance involved in bringing a 3 week old on your first anniversary trip!

3. I gained 65 pounds the first year we were married. I was pregnant! But I will admit that it wasn't all baby belly.

4. I will point out that I now weigh 20 pounds less than I did when we were married. Even after six kids. So there.

Health things:

1. We drank raw milk for nearly a year for the health benefits.

2. I don't vaccinate my children due to both moral and health concerns.


1. My husband attended full-time university (graduate and post-graduate level) for two and a half years, not in succession. This occurred several years and several kids into our marriage.

2. My husband has worked at least 10 different jobs throughout our married lives. In no particular order, they included working for: IBM, working as a high-rise window washer, inside-sales at Telus, framing for a construction crew, taught courses at both a College and University, was a full-time Forex trader and instructor, and now is currently employed as a lead Pastor.

3. To help pay the bills while my husband was in University, I worked as a server at Earls and Ric's Grill.

4. The second restaurant I worked in, Ric's Grill, was renowned as an architectural wonder. It was a steak house that was built in an old water tower, high in the sky.

Well, that is all that I can think of off the top of my head. I'm sure there's much, much more - but that will have to be included in another posting on another day.

Friday, February 4, 2011


It's a whirlwind, the world I live in. A constant running to and fro, up and down, back and forth. My children dance around me like little leaves being tossed by the wind; fluttering and occasionally close enough for me to catch. When I have a moment, I look down on the fragile little life in my hands and I am captured by the intricate design, delicacy and preciousness. Then "whoosh" and the winds of life blow us on to the next activity.

Will it slow down? Sometimes I wonder how I can ever fit in all the enriching, culture, love, prayer and creativity that I wish filled our home on a daily basis.
Wouldn't it be lovely to sip my coffee in the early morning with children happily tucked under my arms, some good literature being read and lovely classical music in the background?

Yet my attempts in the meantime are constantly thwarted by spilled milk, playdough being put where playdough does not belong (in the nose or mouth!) - or, once again, the baby is playing in the toilet!

"Children, " I say in my sweet motherly voice "Remember that one must always shut the lid of the toilet when one leaves the bathroom." (Well.. maybe it doesn't come out quite like that, but writing is often filled with great intentions!)

For the time being, God grant me patience.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A New Measurement

If only you could hear the noises in my house today. There is a child practicing her piano pieces along with a CD, only the piano is tuned a semi-tone off concert pitch because it is so old. What an atrocious sound! Every note is being played properly, but sounds just nasty!

Sometimes my life feels like that. You feel like you are making all the right moves, doing what you know to do, but something just feels off. There is no beautiful music to be heard.

This makes me think of the words in 1 Corinthians, chapter 13, "The Love Chapter". It talks of all the things you can accomplish, but without love, you sound like a clanging gong or cymbal!

It is important, as a busy mother and housewife, to measure my productivity not by how many homeschooling assignments we accomplish on a particular morning. Nor should I be counting my worth based on how clean my house is or how nicely my kids' hair is done and whether they are wearing matching socks or not! Sometimes we will eat Kraft dinner for dinner and sometimes I give up and hand out bread and peanut butter and say "Make your own food!"

The temptation is in the measuring stick. I'll admit, often mine is made out of all of the wrong things:

Clean house
Clean, well-dressed kids
Nutritious meals planned and prepared
Stellar homeschooling (where I actually follow and complete the week's schedule)
I'm dressed in "real clothes", have exercised, done my hair and make-up
My early morning starts with devotions and quiet meditation
Oh, and the biggest one... All the laundry is done AND folded AND put away!

So the question to ask myself, is this: Would I really be happy if all these were accomplished? To what end? Would my children and husband feel that I had spent meaningful time with them, loving them? Probably not.

What if we just used love as our daily measuring stick? How then, would we score?

This doesn't mean I throw all the scheduling into the garbage, and stop wiping the high chair tray for the fifteenth time that day, and avoid the laundry baskets for weeks! However, I think what this means for me is paying attention to life and looking for MOMENTS to operate in love. I will look for opportunities to affirm, comfort and exhort. I will hide away for minutes at a time and instead of browsing Facebook, I'll bask in my heavenly Father's love by reading His word or talking to Him.

There will always be dishes.
There will always be runny noses and dirty shirts.
For sure there will always be tangles in my 5 year old's hair (at least for the next 8 years until she discovers boys).

But for now, I'll stop and seek to infuse more love into my life and the lives of those around me.