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Category Archives: Family

Diversity Is Strength

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My new t-shirt arrived yesterday and I love it!

This t-shirt gives voice to my thoughts. My thoughts are anti-racism. My thoughts want to encourage and love and build people up. My thoughts can sometimes creep towards anger and hatred and other negative things when events like Charlottesville happen, but those are not the thoughts I want to voice. Those thoughts need to be taken captive and replaced with positive thoughts. The positive thoughts need to be communicated with words.

As much as I love words and sentences and wordplay and more words, sometimes the right words just aren’t there. I can’t wrangle the appropriate words together to truly capture my sorrow over the brokenness of our world. And so, when I saw this t-shirt, I knew those three words said a whole lot, and I want to wear those words as a prominent proclamation. Diversity is Strength. All of us together, with all our differences, make society better. We are greater than the sum of our parts.

When I’m wearing this shirt, I am saying to other white people, “Our brothers and sisters from other racial backgrounds are valuable, worthy, and necessary. You and I are just one shade of skin and we need all shades. Our differences don’t make us less or better, but we are all better with a collection of differences. Please join into the collective better with me.”

When I’m wearing this shirt, I am saying to people of different skin colours, “I am with you. I am for you. Your story may be different from mine and I can’t claim to know your pain.  But I can learn from you and I value you. Your opinion carries weight. Your perspective counts. Yes, your life matters. Your culture enriches mine. I am honoured to be in this collective with you.”

When I’m wearing this shirt, I am saying to my children, “This is the standard for our family. This is how we treat each other, and this is how you need to treat everyone. Family is a safe place to be different and loved, and as you launch out into the world, make sure you are a safe place for other people to be different and still feel loved.”

Obviously, diversity isn’t limited to race. I know there are a whole slew of other things. It is completely absurd to me that the cause of racial harmony is in the direst need of champions right now. But if that need is to be met and eradicated, then it needs to be acknowledged. That is the need that I am speaking into now.

There. I’ve managed to add a whole bunch of other words to a very simple message. Diversity is strength. I would also love to be able to express how perfect I think it is that my son wanted to wear his Canada hat for this picture…but I have no words.

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Posted by on August 30, 2017 in Beauty, Family

 

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Window Pains

I started an art project a couple of years ago. Towards the end of last year, I was getting to the point of pulling it all together. I needed a cool frame and decided an antique window was just the thing. After a bit of searching, I found what I was looking for. I bought it and brought it home. It was dirty and I wasn’t quite ready to use it just yet, so I left it on the front porch, leaning against the house. I intended to get working on it within a couple of days.

And then a big storm came and the wind blew the window over and one of the panes shattered. I cleaned up the broken glass and my husband moved the window out to the barn where it would be safe from future storms while I figured out what to do next.

That same week, a storm of a different kind blew through. Our oldest son came to “teach us a lesson” by breaking apart our front porch bench and using it to smash our main floor windows. After 9 years of the figurative darkness that he brought to our lives, he also brought literal darkness. Our windows were boarded up for 10 long winter weeks.

Well, we got through all that, only to have a family health crisis blow through like another storm. (I’ll save that story for another post.)And it seems we’ve gotten through that, too.

Then suddenly it was July and my broken window was still sitting in the barn.IMG_9255

I had half-attempted to find out if I could get the one pane replaced, but I kind of figured that was a lost cause. And I had proceeded far enough with that exact size of window in mind, that my efforts to just replace the whole window were also fruitless. I needed a new plan. I needed to remove the other panes.

It has taken me a couple of weeks. Sitting on the driveway, hunched over my project. Scraping and chipping away at the ancient caulking that was holding the panes in place. I could have just shattered the glass and been done with it…but you’re never really done with shattered glass. I know. Shards lurk for months. For…ever.

Curled over those three remaining panes, carefully trying to restore the project as a whole, I was struck by the metaphoricalness of it all.

I have 4 children. One of them is broken (seemingly beyond repair) and gone. The other 3 remain, but our family is not the same. Trying to rebuild the project without further damage is painstaking work. We can never fill that empty quadrant. There’s no way to fix it. We had to revise the plan. Do our best to make something beautiful out of the wreckage.

The finished project tells a more meaningful story than anything I had envisioned IMG_9294when I started it. His love endures forever. Through even the bleakest of seasons. When everything else is falling apart or already broken beyond repair. When plans need to be reconfigured, re-envisioned, or completely restarted. His love endures forever.

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2017 in Adoption, Family, God, Personal Growth

 

A Crisis of Faith

This has been a rough month.

There is a person in our lives who has rejected the measures of help we’ve offered, but who feels very entitled to what he thinks would help him (basically enablement without any accountability). He recently decided to make us pay for destroying his life. He came to our house while we were out, and smashed in 3 of our windows and our front door.  He was arrested later that night, and then released with conditions until his court appearance. He breached those conditions by threatening to come back and do more damage, so he was arrested again, and held in custody until his court date. Last week, he was released on probation.

I can’t give many more details than that, as I’m unsure of what is yet to come regarding court dates and charges. But I wanted to set the scene for you. This is a person whom we welcomed into our lives because of our faith. This person deeply resents the boundaries that we’ve put on the kinds of “help” we’re willing to give him (see above re: entitlement, enablement, and accountability). This resentment has grown into a violent hatred towards us, which has been expressed numerous times in the ways he has verbally attacked us, made accusations against our Christianity, and now physically attacked the safety of our home.

And he is free. And he is still angry. And we are not safe.

We have taken some security measures: motion-detecting lights and security cameras. Our conversations about ‘what to do’ have included the ideas of restraining orders, moving, getting a guard dog. We have been very communicative with the police, the court, victim services, and his probation officer. But none of these things, we realize, are realistic protection. The court did not rule in the way that we had hoped and prayed for, and now there is nothing stopping him from coming back.

And so, we come back to the faith that brought him into our lives in the first place.

We have to put our faith in Almighty God. It is a daily choice to focus on His capability. We adamantly cling to His promise to turn evil plans into His good purpose.  We resist the urge to live in fear, knowing full well that He might still allow another attack, but we stand firm in the assurance that He will also carry us through whatever evil may still come our way.

This is not easy. It has made me analyze my beliefs. There’s that old saying, “Faith isn’t faith until it’s all you’re holding onto” – you may have seen those words on a poster, probably accompanied by a picture of a kitten dangling from a tree branch with one paw. It’s a stupid poster, and the words are cliché to the point of being nauseating. Oh, but the truth therein! Passive faith is just empty religion. A vague belief in the existence of God serves us nothing. Trust is easy when life is good. Faith becomes real when it’s all we’ve got.

lovewinsMy faith is work right now. But it’s refreshing work (even while it’s exhausting). As a reminder to myself (and to everyone who drives by our house), I painted one of the boarded up windows. Love wins. Not our own love (which is broken and insufficient and clearly more “conditional” than we want to admit), but HIS love. His love compelled Him to step into the midst of our mess – our brokenness, our neediness, our entitlement, our anger. His love brings healing and restoration. His love is the only security worth trusting.

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2016 in Adoption, Beauty, Family, God, Uncategorized

 

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Love Hurts

On the first day of grade eleven, my daughter came home and told me about a new girl who sat behind her in one of her classes. She’s from Denmark. She’s living here for one year. She doesn’t know anybody.

Alice needed a friend. And I knew Abi was the right girl for the job.

“You’ve been there. You’ve had that exact same need,” I told Abi. “You’ve lived in a different country and needed deep friendships even though you knew you would be leaving. You know how hard it was to get people to invest deeply in a temporary relationship. And you know how hard it was to say good-bye at the other end. You need to grab Alice and immerse her in your circle of friends tomorrow. Treat her as if she’s always been there and as if she’ll always be there. Don’t wait for a slow-developing, organic friendship. Make it deep immediately.”

And that’s what she did.

Now, if you know Abi at all, you know that she has big feelings about everything. Every feeling that she has is big. BIG. She is emotionally invested in ALL THE THINGS. Every relationship. Every activity. Every place she’s ever been. Everything she owns. Every bite of food. She is ALL IN.

So to tell her to invest in a relationship was probably redundant advice.

But to recall that conversation with her this week was helpful. This week brings Alice’s year here to an end. There have been a lot of tears. (Not just at the final good-bye last night, but on random days leading up to the inevitable. I think those random days started a couple of months ago. “Honey, why are you so upset?” “Because Alice is leeeeeeeaving!!!!!” Jesus, take the wheel.) And we looked back at that first day of school when Abi made the choice to love Alice – knowing how deeply she was going to love, because that’s just who she is, and knowing how much it was going to hurt saying good-bye.

I am so proud of my Abi Mae and her example of Christ-like love. Relationships don’t always end in heartbreak, and when they do, we don’t usually know at the onset that that’s how it’s going to work out. But choosing to love deeply for the sake of what might end sadly, that’s no small thing.

Today we said good-bye to Abi for the next nine weeks. She is off to camp for the summer to be a counselor to dozens of kids. We talked again about loving deeply. About investing emotionally, even though it’s an even shorter timeframe. It is her best gift to give, and the hardest.

And she’s the right girl for the job.

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2016 in Family, parenting

 

Single At Night

We’ve been parenting together for 16+ years now, but when it is nighttime, I often feel like a single parent.

In the beginning, there was a very logical reason. I was nursing the babies. There wasn’t a lot my husband could do to help. Sure, I could have woken him up to change a diaper after I’d finished the feeding, but that just seemed mean. I was already up.

Once the nursing was no longer an issue, he reasoned that it still made more sense for me to get up. I could fall asleep so much faster than he could after the random midnight crises were tended to. I didn’t argue. I was too tired.

There were, of course, a few times that I insisted he be the one to respond to a child’s cries, only to have the child desperately want Mommy anyway.

He did get up that one night a mouse bit our daughter’s finger. Blood-curdling screams tend to jolt a person out of bed.

And there was another long, long night with multiple near-death experiences (as portrayed by our offspring). When there was yet another call from a far-off bedroom, I just couldn’t do it. I started crying. Eventually, my sobs compelled him to get up and see to the child’s needs. He returned  shortly thereafter…to ask me where we keep the clean bedsheets.

(Just one mom on the jury. That’s all I need…)

Our kids are mostly old enough now that nighttime emergencies are few and far between. But our youngest still has the occasional accident or night terror. Or itchy nose (for the love!). Recently, I was up with him four nights in a row (and more than once each night). By myself. Every night. I did not have lovely, tender thoughts towards anyone in those moments.

I recall being awakened the morning after the fourth night by some outside noise. A scratching, scraping noise, over and over again. It took several moments of fighting towards consciousness to identify the sound (and at the same time, trying desperately to stay asleep for just a few more minutes. I was So Blasted Tired!).  It was a shovel. My husband was shovelling the driveway.

Just then, the clock radio clicked on. Time to get up. I stayed where I was for a few minutes, realizing that he had been up for more than an hour already. Reading his Bible, bringing in a bin of firewood, getting the woodstove burning for the day, making my coffee, and shovelling our long driveway. All before my alarm went off.

I may be single at night, but praise God from whom all blessings flow, I am married in the morning!

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2016 in Family, Marriage, parenting

 

How to Buy Gifts for Someone Whose Love Language is Gifts

Birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas… You know you need to buy something “meaningful”, but…

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What does “meaningful” mean???

The pressure is on. And it makes you wish for an alien invasion, the second coming, Armageddon and the zombie apocalypse all at once, just to get you off the hook.

Well, Muffin, I am here to help you out. Take a deep breath. You can do this. And it won’t be nearly as hard as you think.

When buying a gift for someone whose love language is Gifts, the gift needs to say one of three things:

  1. “You are worth listening to.”
  2. “You are worth thinking about.”
  3. “You are worth spending time/effort/money on.”

Pick one; it does not need to say all of those things together. (Although on those ultra-special occasions when you know it is absolutely imperative that you hit a home run, then yes, these are the three bases you need to hit.)

No need to panic, Pumpkin. I will explain further. Please note that I will use feminine pronouns because I’m speaking from my own perspective on this and I am a girl. But I’m pretty sure the same logic could be applied to guys, so don’t let the “she/her” vernacular confuse you.

  1. “You are worth listening to.”

Your loved one wants to know that you listen to her. She probably says very obvious things in everyday life that will help you know what kinds of things she loves and hates. If she says, “Sweet Chili Heat Doritos are my favourite junk food”, make a mental note of that (or a physical note. It shows you care.) Now you know that you can pick up a bag of Sweet Chili Heat Doritos and make her day anytime!  If you know you need more than that for a bigger occasion, then a compilation gift of several of her mentioned favourite things will score big points. (IE. A bag of Sweet Chili Heat Doritos, a pound of maple fudge, a bottle of Inniskillin Late Autumn Riesling, and a pair of fuzzy socks.) These are easy-to-find, inexpensive gifts. You don’t need to overthink it. Just pay attention when she talks.

Caveat: don’t pay half-attention. If she says how much she hates wasabi and all you hear is “blah blah blah wasabi” and then buy her wasabi everything…You have to know that this is just about the most hurtful thing you can do to a Gifts Love Language Person.

  1. “You are worth thinking about.”

Gas station gifts that you grab on the way home from work on December 24 send the message that you weren’t thinking about her at all. And THAT sends the message that you don’t love her, not even a tiny little bit. That will not make for a merry Christmas. You can pick up something completely dorky and inexpensive and if you tell her you bought it in October because it reminded you of her and you’ve been looking forward to giving it to her all this time, that says you think about her.

Ordering something online in the wee hours of Christmas Day and wrapping up the order confirmation will make her think you hate her. Telling her on December 2 not to open any of your emails that say “order confirmation” will prove to her that you were thinking ahead. And thinking of her means you love her.

Bonus information: In one brief shopping trip, you can buy an assortment of inexpensive token gifts and keep them hidden somewhere so that on any given day through the year, you can just hand her something and say, “I was thinking of you” and she will melt like coconut oil.

  1. “You are worth spending time/effort/money on.”

This is probably the one that is the most daunting for gift-buyers, especially if you assume that spending more means more. Relax, Cream Puff. That is a myth that I can dispel for you right here, right now.

Your goal here is to take resources that you have and show her that she is worth spending those resources on her. If you have some spare time and you choose to spend that time working on a gift for her instead of doing something you want to do, that sacrifice of time says she is worth more than your hobbies or bros. And her expressed gratitude will likely outweigh the joy gleaned from hobbies and bros anyway.

If you have a special skill set or craft that you use for everyone else’s benefit, and she expresses interest in that particular thing, but then you’re tired/bored/annoyed after expending all that effort for other people and so you don’t really want to do more of the same for her…that tells her that she is the least important person you know. Do not expect special expressions of gratitude. Duck and run, my friend.

If your general MO is to save/budget/skimp/reduce/do without, and you actually do have financial resources to spare, then the occasional extravagant gift is a good thing. Hopefully, if this relationship is of a marital nature, then you’re on the same page with the whole saving/spending thing – so frequent overspending will cause stress and turmoil. But once in a while, you would do well to knock her socks off. Just make sure it’s something she actually wants (Back to that whole listening thing. An Alaskan trekking adventure for someone who hates being cold and wishes all snow would die…bad idea.).

In conclusion, dear reader, how you present your gift can make a world of difference in how it is received. If you can show that you were thinking of her and that you were listening to her, it really doesn’t matter how much you spend. At all costs – put duct tape over your mouth if you have to – resist the urge to make excuses for a crappy, after-thought gift. Laughing off your forgetfulness says, “Not only did I forget to buy you something because I hate you, but I think it’s hilarious how much I hate you. Come on, that’s funny, right?”

Post-script: I have one more point to make. There is a right way and a wrong way to do a gift that’s something you share.

Right way: A glass of wine for her while you make dinner for both of you.

Wrong way: “Hey, this thing I got you was in the super-reduced clear-out bin so it only cost me a buck. And with the money I saved on your present, I went out for lunch. Win-win, right?”

Merry Christmas everyone!

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2015 in Family, Humour, Marriage

 

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Boys are…Different

I would like to go 7 years back in time to when we were in the middle of the adoption process and change my answer to the question, “Would you like a baby boy or girl?”

Not because our now 7-year-old boy isn’t delightful. But because all the other 7-year-old boys are not delightful.

Really, really not delightful.

We love our delightful 7-year-old boy, so we decided to throw him a birthday party with a bunch of other 7-year-old boys. And they are not delightful. Really, really not delightful.

I booked the party at the movie theatre. We did that last year, and it was an easy party. It’s not terribly expensive (compared to most other party options out there), they can accommodate a group as small as 8 (unlike most other party options out there), and we were really excited about “Big Hero 6”.

We arrived at the theatre half an hour before the movie (as per the manager’s instructions) to allow us lots of time to get our cake and presents and any decorations set up in the party room. Unfortunately, they’d double-booked the party room, so it wasn’t available for us until after the movie. They did provide a space for us to lock up our presents, cake and coats. But the boys…the boys were not contained.

The screaming, running, break-dancing little monsters were everywhere. In the foyer, in the arcade, in the bathroom and running out into the mall. I could not keep track of them. And there were only 8 of them!

I didn’t even know all the kids or remember their faces after their parents dropped them off. Imagine a crazy lady snatching kids as they came out of a public bathroom, asking, “Are you supposed to be with me?” Yeah, that was me. Classy, eh?

After much chasing and herding and gnashing of teeth, we managed to get everyone to make a trip to the bathroom (“Are you SURE you’ve gone? You can make it through a two-hour movie now?”) and sorted out their drink and popcorn orders (“I don’t like popcorn.” “That’s too bad.”). Finally, the dreaded half hour of free reign was over and we were in our seats.

All I can say is, “I’m sorry” to everyone who was sitting behind or in front of us. There was talking and spilling and crying and many trips to the bathroom.

After one trip to the bathroom, I returned to my seat and whispered to the kid next to me, “What happened?”, thinking he might fill me in on any pertinent plot details. “I don’t know,” he non-whispered back. Okay, fine, I can figure this out. Oh. An important character died. Really? That wasn’t an obvious, helpful little tidbit that you could’ve shared? Thanks, kid.

And the crying. “I dropped one of my Pokemon cards and I can’t find it!” “We can look after the movie is over and the lights come on.” Crying continued for 45 minutes until the movie was over and the lights came on. “Oh look, here it is. Maybe you should put them in your pocket until the party is over so none of them get lost again.” “I don’t have a pocket.” I am going to throat-punch your parents.

So the movie is over, we get to go to the party room now, right? Wrong. The other party is still in there and then the room will need to be cleaned up. But we got some free arcade tokens to use in the meantime.

Again with the screaming, running, break-dancing monsters. Except now they’ve had Coke and M&M’s and they have basketballs to throw and game tokens to lose. “Can I have one more? I lost one behind that game.” How did your token get behind that game?!?!

Finally. The party room. That blessed little space where they can be as loud as they want and I can just block the door and keep them there.

That blessed little space where drinks are spilled and kids try to play tag and icing is smeared all over faces. “Look at my blue boogers!” “I got icing in my hair!”

And then I hear, “What the *#$%&@!?” from one of the not-delightful monsters. I look over, and one of the other not-delightful monsters is opening a present. A present that was meant for my child! I got in that kid’s face, with my finger pointing right at his nose. “This is NOT YOUR party and that is NOT YOUR present. So hands off! Sit down! And maybe try being NICE to the people around you.”

Don’t judge me.

Do you know what little girls do when they have a birthday party? They dress up in princess costumes so you can take them for high tea at a real castle. And they walk in a line to see all the fancy, old furniture. And they use their napkins after they nibble on fancy cookies. And they stand and smile for a group photo.

This is what boys do for a group photo

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Posted by on November 8, 2014 in Family, Humour, Marriage, parenting