Monday, October 24, 2016

Standing Firm through Shifting Seasons

Skies are grey today. The cold seems to edge in a little closer with each passing week. I look outside my windows and if I didn't have the testimony of green trees this past summer I'd be convinced that the majority of stark skeleton maples look to be dead. The yellowed underbrush and and perennial beds are giving into the browning and limping effects of frosty nights. The evergreens stand tall and proud, determined to hold their own through the oncoming winds of winter. Two rows of poplars tower like soldiers at attention in yellow uniform. I'll leave the silver dusty miller in until spring as it keeps it's own along the walk while all else dries off or flops to the baring ground. There are still purples and cranberry colors flashing about in defiance and one hardy white petunia against the backdrop of the red garden shed that appeared this summer out of it's own will. Funny thing is, it'll be the last flower standing and I didn't even plant it. For several weeks I've been enjoying the sight of the slow growing Mountain Ash. This past summer it seemed like it was going to meet it's demise to the ravages of a relentless sapsucker however I got the better of him with grocery bags flapping in the branches. The wounded trunk with weeping gashes looked sparse and the whole thing has leaned at a pitiful angle for a few years. Next its branches were nearly stripped bare thanks to the ravenous caterpillars that wormed their way into all things green and growing. To my wonder though, and the help of water, fertilizer, a few sprays of malathion; the leaves grew back, beautiful clumps of red berries hung all around. A few weeks ago I decided I was quite capable of figuring out how to stake this tree and give it the platform it deserves. I look out the kitchen window now and 'see the little tree that can', as I've dubbed it. It has sacrificed it's berries to the robins and blue jays that fly about the yard now in pursuit of winter stores. I'd say this little tree has been the best work in progress in the yard this summer.

There's one though that calls all attention, it boasts with leaves all ablaze. Hanna exclaimed yesterday " I just can't take my eyes off it." Oh I know. Each time I open the door my gaze is drawn to the captivating color that glows in the center of our yard. We planted it the same year as the 'little tree that can' but this one is a good fifteen feet taller; a good four feet of growth this summer. It's orange turning to red is brilliant and brazen against the dimming surroundings and holds out the longest of all. Though that color will fade too, the Canadiana leaves letting go, it's beauty lingers in thought. A rest for a season, a busy time of green and growth and then when all else is slowing it gears up for the final show. I look forward to it every year and invokes a feeling of thankfulness. The yard work can make one feel a little defeated by nature when the Autumn color can't hold on much longer, the leaves and berries falling to a carpet on the ground; and it certainly does not motivate me as the Spring start did; but that flash of fall red keeps breathing life into the sighing surroundings.

It's obvious by now that I love trees, I notice them wherever I go. Trees teach. Nature has a way of proclaiming the creation and the wonder of its Creator.

Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it. 
Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.   
Psalm 96:11-12 

I've had times this last year where I feel as though I'm in a season of Fall in my life. My spirit sags after frosty days of frustration and limps along when I give into debilitating disappointments. When I allow winds of change to toss my feelings to and fro. Who can rely on feelings anyway? Leaning a little too heavy to one side when mom guilt or failures weigh in. Sapsuckers and caterpillars? They happen too when we inflict ourselves with the comparison and control of social media, leaving wounds weeping with 'not enough' ? Its easy to allow resentment to cause a hardening off effect. And then there is fear. It strips the leaves of joy and character right off the limb, leaving the soul stark , running for cover from the oncoming winter, and it can so easily seem like all else around is standing tall and strong, ready for whatever comes.  Coming out of a postpartum phase this last year I can mark the seasons: a Spring and a hope with the beginning of a new baby, adjusting to newness of family dynamics. A Summer of tending and growing; wiping, changing, feeding, washing, cleaning, little sleep, long days and short nights. Fall follows, kids in school, the third a preschooler, baby not so baby anymore and sleeping through the night. Baby duties turn to busy tot running around. Husband has had a full plate this year and all around life has felt demanding. This season hasn't really slowed but maybe it's my heart that has and awareness to who I am or have been in the past years. I have felt the pressures of needing to be productive yet feeling empty, like my surroundings are grey and weather beaten around me. It seems as though the days of the last years I've done the what I had to do, but bigger projects too daunting, the want-to-do's falling by the wayside. Not feeling the liveliness that makes me tick, wondering where that streak of brazen flitted to and knowing I need to be rejuvenated. Like a depleted tree needs water and nutrients so need we the same. 

"He is like a tree planted by water,that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit."
Jeremiah 17:8  

Sometimes it's care we can do for ourselves like a tree that conserves energy for the changing seasons and sends strength into it's roots as it prepares to rest. I've been reminded in the last while that it's important to take time for the things that make us feel alive. For me that was being purposeful outside this summer and enjoy the yard, either through gardening or some fun things with the kids or having
a coffee in the morning sun. A surplus yield of apples inspired me to make some extra pies and offer them for sale. It seems minor but it took some mustered up confidence to venture out with that. Sitting down to write today was a choosing to help myself; sorting out my thoughts and connecting them to what's happening around me. Learning to say no is ok too, or maybe stepping away from social media for a bit. The best thing I've done for myself is to choose to be more consistent in reading God's word. It's not always a continuous stream, some days just a trickle, but there have been many penetrating moments of reminding me of who I am in Christ, how to remedy where I've falling short and how to keep growing.

Trees are added to a yard to create contrast and and to compliment what else is growing beside. They lend shade to that which needs protection from the hot sun, a wind break for shelter and a refuge for wildlife to live. Sometimes our care and rejuvenation comes from the relationships around us, those that God sends in to lend a hand or maybe encourage through words. My week started off somewhat grey and went to bed one night feeling quite discouraged. Help came in the morning through a friends prayer and text of this verse: 

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9

How timely that was for me and it changed the entirety of my week. That same day I was loading kids and bags into my car in the store parking lot, and a man came by in passing and simply said "you're doing a really good job!" He doesn't know that those words have stuck with me all week, reminding me that despite where I think my limbs look a little gnarly God sees the work in a whole different light. To the broken places he adds beauty. 

Any tree grower knows that a good pruning is done in one season so that in the following seasons it will be stronger and give a better yield. A young tree is pruned so that it's roots are firmly established, able to support it for years to come. Early sacrifice for later bounty. In raising children we can especially relate to that as much time is sacrificed to train and teach our children to become productive and grace filled adults. We are driven to do this because of hope, for what we have in the present and what we hope for it to become. That's what keeps us growing, reaching upward to greater heights with thankfulness in the sway and bend in life and a prayer in the wind. So do what makes you your unique you, your blooms are different than the other flowers in the garden. Find moments to be ablaze with color, shining so vivid. Your Creator cannot take his eyes off you. He looks out of Heavens door and smiles. Lend that color to the ones growing and striving around you. Shine and hang on to that which remains the longest; the steadfast love of God. That which no one can uproot, that no season can destroy; so that those who behold it may be filled with hope. That when winter rushes in after the fall, the love of God lingers and remains, and that whatever fury the winter may bring there remains a covering of grace, giving rest for the roots of our being and a renewed trust.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord
And whose hope is the Lord.
Jeremiah 17:7

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Road 72 North...and the search for hope

It's Easter Monday morning and I'm driving out of Austin to my sister's home, down the familiar 34 highway with it's bumps and the neighbouring yard sites I see in passing. The kids are with me and are unusually quiet, probably the result of a very busy Easter weekend. I'm quiet too; my heart's been quieted by the chill of death, a silence that settled after days of anxious prayers and the diligent searching done by our community in the wake of a missing toddler. I imagine many are feeling this silence after our lost one was found, a relieved thankfulness for closure and yet the finality crushing us all and so so much more for his loved ones.

With my soul quieted and hands on the wheel I begin to notice the silence of countryside. A misty fog is coming in over the land, it settles in the low places, it softly flows over the waters of the Pine Creek. The sun does not pierce, it's light glows gently through the high places of the bushes and trees, hampered by the morning mist. My breath slows and tears form, and I realize the beauty and the sadness of it all. It is as though the land is being laid back to rest. Road 72 North. In a matter of days hundreds of people were familiar with this area of the country, the roads teeming with search and rescue vehicles, news anchors, volunteers with helping hearts and hands bearing food, and passersby with lifted prayers. All of our attention headed to a small homestead only 1 mile west. The fields of frozen mud were awakened to the pressing onward of teams of searchers, neighbouring yard sites combed through over and again, the dense bushes and tree lines mixed with dead fall and brush were sought through high and low, the meandering creek with it's mystery of frozen sheets of ice, and places of spring thaw, the focal point of that first night. It continued for five days, the radius expanding in kilometers. The countryside alive with the anxiousness and desperation for answers. I can imagine the wildlife finding it's own hiding place and the birds retreating back into the high treetops, maybe holding back their spring song. The weather was uncooperative, up and down quickly with its extremes, much like our emotions. All those travelling this road, were also travelling with the hearts of the parents enduring a pain that we could all imagine we'd feel; as we hold our children closer now.

I've travelled Road 72 all of my childhood and teen years. A long, gravelly road connecting the highway to the farmyards in the miles beyond, a main road for most in the area, but generally travelled with everyday purpose and not much pressing on the heart. I've been down it daily on the school bus, to town, church or friends with my folks, of course a little too fast and independently when driving on my own at sixteen, and maybe a little too late when driving with my honey. Only once did I drive it in dread of what's to come, the day I drove my mom to the spot my Dad lay down with his last breath, not knowing how we'd find him. And then coming home down that road to an empty aching spot at home and in my soul. I cannot relate to the pain of losing a child, I'm sure a mother knows no such a heartache as that. The parents of Chase, who's name is known to so many now, will come home after his funeral to a very empty spot, a large gaping hole in their heart. Their lives and grief have been displayed so publicly and yet they have to face a new kind of lonely back at home. Their yard site was laid flat with hundreds of footsteps, more than 30 000 volunteer hours stretched across the land and it is only the small set of rubber boot footprints and the hours spent with a little tot who loved being out in the yard that they will long for.  A hard road to travel.

I left my children with my sister for a few minutes and took a little drive down the road. I needed to take in that silence and listen. I took pictures and and they can't even do justice to the morning air. A couple days ago, on Good Friday, a few of us drove to a yard site that had been heavily searched, close to his home. We felt the fading hope, the air of desperation. And I was reminded of the fact that it was Good Friday and the road of despair that Jesus walked to his death. The hopelessness of it all, but he pressed on for only He knew the closure and awakening that was to come. At the time of his death there was a darkness that covered the land for hours and suns light faded. Jesus cried out "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!" After this it was cried out by a centurion " Certainly this man was innocent!"' and it goes on to say that the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, returned home beating their breasts.' We have all returned home too, beating our breasts over a little innocent boy, so young to be gone.  We've prayed, sang songs, beseeched our God, the family and loved ones have beat the drums and committed his spirit to eternity; finding some closure.

I felt a nudge to drive back to that old yard site and go down to the creek. The fog had a hard time laying down in the sheltered area and the sun shone through the trees. The ice on the water sparkled like diamonds and the flow was just a soft rippling. Hard to fathom that these waters claimed the breath of a little boy. The silence was over with a chorus of birds in the trees, I heard cracking in the bush and knew the wildlife was out of hiding. A different feeling from two days ago. Much like the feeling I imagine that the women who went to Jesus' tomb felt when they did not see his body and found angels instead who asked " Why do you seek the living among the dead?He is not here, but has risen.'' There must have been something different in the air as they looked around the place of His death, which had been surrounded by darkness only days before. In the midst of their grieving, they marvel in unbelief at the angel's claims and wonder how it could be so. Jesus met them on the road, spent time with them while their eyes were kept from recognizing  Him, he listened to their hearts and later that evening he revealed Himself when he broke bread with his disciples. They were astonished at his presence and then he vanished from them. "did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?...The Lord has risen indeed!" He appeared again and said to them, "Peace be to you!"They were startled and frightened and He said "why are you troubled and why do doubts arise in your hearts?See my hands and feet, that it is I myself. Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures and said to them" Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations." While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy." (from the book of Luke)

It so hard to find any joy in all of this, for our hearts are blinded by grief and questions and it's hard to recognize Jesus in the fog. When He lifts the fog we see that has been along the road beside us the whole time. He has been searching tirelessly and weeping along side the hurting, given strength for the duty and diligence of our professional patrols and searchers, bonded the hearts of our community as we've loved our neighbours. He hears the unbelief and the criticisms of social media and points us to look at our own selves and the futility of life no matter how hard we try to keep accidents from happening. He takes up life again from the dead and carries the spirit of that precious child safe to his loving arms. He breaks the bread of life with us and nourishes us with healing and strength to carry on, just as the crowd was given nourishment to carry on at the search site. His family may cry why for a long time, there may be no answers for a long time. I hope we all will continue to pray as fervently as was prayed days ago that in time the fog will be lifted, that they can travel a new road, paved with healing and a hope that cannot be lost. The memories of their sweet boy will forever be etched in the road of their heart, there will be reminders, like bumps, that will always surface mingling pain and memory together. The land and the waters will cry out his name for a long time. And in those moments down the road I hear to how the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. Psalm 19:1 And there is hope.

For Easter is celebrated in vain if Jesus had not been resurrected to give us hope. It is a celebration of praise that we do not have to be alone in the pain of death but can rise to a new hope. I heard on Sunday that one can only live four minutes without air and only seconds without hope. Thank our God that death is defeated and that he brings his little ones with love into his sheltered wings. And deal kindly with those suffering the pains on earth and give them hope by continuing to walk along the road beside them. So that they may again hear the birds in the treetops sing their songs.


Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas Ponderings...of Babies, Mangers and More.

It's Christmas Eve morning, early morning that is, with a baby in swaddling clothes who doesn't sleep all that soundly. Her manger bed of comfy flannel, cuddly teddy, lulling aquarium doesn't seem to encourage as much rest as I require. And so, we lay on the couch by the glowing tree, rubbing the sleep from my eyes. She's all eyes at the twinkling lights and the glow of the tree reminds me of the very familiar nativity picture that we all know of. The one with the baby Jesus and his parents encompassed with glowing halos, the light shining around them. I imagine though, that was not the sight in the tiny stable, or cave as it may likely have been. The sight was probably not as elaborate as Christmas cards display. I imagine it to have been dark, a mix of pungent staleness and sweet smelling straw. Perhaps a a chill from the dampness of the animals yet an exuding warmth because of it's safety and shelter from the outside elements. Maybe there was a faint glow cast in by the moon and stars. Hardly a place to imagine a baby being born and yet a relief would've filled them to find a place to lay.The only experience I'm familiar with is that of a hospital room and professional help. What a wondrous fear and trust in the plan of God that it entailed for Joseph and Mary There are so many details to wonder about it all, many we can only imagine. I've heard the story all my life and as much as I can imagine all the details, this year, I took note of a simple fact in the story that held new interest for me.

I was reading in Luke and it stood out to me anew how it is mentioned twice that Jesus was wrapped in swaddling cloths. Luke 2:7 states 'And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger'.  Maybe it's because I have a baby with whom there's always a blanket carried along that this detail resounds with me this year. It's interesting that that the sign given to the shepherds to identify that the baby Jesus as Messiah was that "you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger."Luke 2:12. Those details are obviously so significant, especially from the mouths of angels; details orchestrated by God, and yet they seem so plain and ordinary. It would seem so much more spectacular if the sign would have been to find a baby with glowing halos surrounding the family. So then why are the simple swaddling cloths so significant?

I did a bit of research and it seems there are many ideas out there. Explanations of the cloths being the same as burial cloths signifying that the Christ baby was born to die for mankind. Or that it may have been significant to the shepherds because their custom was to take the firstborn lamb from their flock as the sin offering. They would wrap it in swaddling cloths and place it in a manger to keep it safe and without blemish until it was stronger to go to it's mother. Again a foreshadowing of Christ being the sacrificial lamb. Also that it was custom to wrap babies in strips of cloth to bind it tightly so as to keep the baby from injuring itself and it was believed that it help the baby to grow stronger limbs. It would have also been a source of comfort and warmth much as the same reason we still wrap our babies today. However in those days that absence of these cloths would have been a sign of poverty, generally the rich or royalty would have their babies wrapped. This would have been significant to the shepherds, because a baby wrapped in rich man's clothes and lying in a feed trough would have been an incredible irony and sign to them. The cloths signify the royalty of Jesus, coming from the Davidic line and that he was born in the city where David was born. The angels declared 'for unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.'Luke 2:11. How odd and amazing it would have been for them to search for royal blood in a barn.
And then maybe the mention of swaddling cloths was maybe simply to affirm to the shepherds that they were looking for a BABY. That a baby wrapped in  humble clothes of the world was the Savior come to clothe the world in robes of righteousness. For all those willing to seek him and tell the news as the shepherds did.

As a mom there is an instinct within that when I hold a baby I want to wrap and hold it close. Although my physical circumstances are much more comfortable than Mary's would have been I can relate to the feeling she would have had in wrapping her baby. Even though I can hardly comprehend the awe she would have had in beholding her Holy child, there are so many details to the story that one can't help but be drawn in and feel as though we are all part of the narrative. God's intentions exactly. I love how it's Holy yet humble, angels from high to shepherds so low, the gift of Love come down wrapped up for us to receive.

Luke 2:19, such a poignant verse; But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. Isnt' that what we are to do each year at Christmas, why we keep celebrating? We eat, drink and be merry; we prepare for weeks and praise with song. Amidst all that, let's take time to ponder the Baby in our hearts, to rekindle the glow within ourselves. For that is where He really resides; born into the lowliness of ourselves and that His life may shine through us.

This Christmas may you be wrapped in the warmth and  light of His Love.

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying,
“I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness,
but will have the light of life.” John 8:12


(It took me nearly five days to complete a post, hence the reason for the day started and the day I actually posted. Ponderings come in short spurts amidst the busyness of my household:)

Friday, October 16, 2015

Soul Spending

It's been so long that I feel like a stranger here, really not even sure where to begin. I suppose that waking up on Thanksgiving Monday, the fierce fall wind howling outside and a mutual acceptance with the early baby that the day has now commenced is good motivation. It might also be the fact that I have been kindly reminded in several ways this past weekend that early morning grumbling (or at any time) will not set the tone well for the day, the week, and most certainly not for my soul. So while the wind is shaking up the world outside, stripping the trees bare and shifting the season, I want to work on shaking off the stresses that have been dragging me down. Trying to shift into a season of more gratefulness, less whining and taking moments for that soul thing that inspires hope.

I know that one of the best ways for me to do that is taking time to think about what I'm grateful for and to write it out. I haven't been doing that for a long time, not even in my own personal notes. Sometimes it feels like 'me' has fallen by the wayside in the last couple years. I'm pouring a lot of me into my hubby, children, home, away from home activities; as is what moms do. It seems though that the soul part of me has become the area that I'm too tired to deal with or only when there are a few minutes to spare. The excuse is that it's so hard to find a block of time without fifty interruptions that why bother at all. Months ago I heard Lysa Terkeurst quote this on a Focus on the Family podcast:
"A woman who lives with the stress of an overwhelmed schedule
will often ache with the sadness of an underwhelmed soul.''

She suggests to be very intentional about finding a few hours a week to spend time doing that thing that makes your soul shine; that gift that God has given us that allows us to pour out and bless others with it. I know people in my life who do that wholeheartedly through their gifts of making food, public speaking/teaching, lending a helping hand, they bless others and are filled themselves.

I wouldn't go as far as to say that I'm a writer or even a blogger due to a lack of consistency, maybe even a lack of confidence. But I am woman with a lot of pent up thoughts and ponderings that pour out through my hands. I've had loved ones urge me to begin blogging again to help deal with the moments of motherhood that are so overwhelming. I struggle with feeling guilty in taking this time for me because maybe I should be waiting until the children are grown up, or I shouldn't sit while house is in upheaval, or maybe it's just selfish ambition. Yet I found grace for those thoughts this morning when I happened upon Wayne's bible open with a devotional he's preparing with the title Using Time Wisely. Interesting how it relates exactly to what I've been feeling.  He shares the verse in Psalm 90:12 Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. He sums up his devotional with the fact that our days are predetermined, we ought to live each day with eternal perspective and purpose. Rather that just letting that soul desire keep slipping away because of excuses and not diligently carving out time; I want to share in the wisdom of God by sharing what He has given me.

It is God honoring being a steward of little ones, keeper of the home, repeating the mundane, everday things and also to carve out space to spend moments on the soul.

In those moments we find release and are ready to soar again and to new heights.

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, "children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation." Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. and them I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. Philippians 2: 14 -17


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Wrapping Up and Opening Anew

It is already a new year but alas I've have yet to catch up on the end of last year. That's that the story of my life though, always have some catching up to do. Everyday things like laundry and dishes, procrastinating on projects with deadlines and then trying to make up on lost time. Thinking about finishing projects I've set aside but never seeming to get to them. Let's not even go there. The good thing is though most of those things don't disappear( although I wouldn't mind if the dishes did) and there isn't some New Year's deadline that erases the months before.
So let's go back a bit to November. You know that month where the cold and the hustle and bustle of Christmas start to set in. I don't always like November that much. I think it's because going from October, a very meaningful and thankful month for me, leaves me with not knowing quite where to start with Christmas just around the corner. Well this November a plan was all in place! The first week we welcomed baby Kade into our home while his Mommy would be working in the office next door for a few afternoons a week. Kade is only just over a week younger than Peter so both babies are pretty much at the same stage, it's a taste of having twins! They have taken to each other so well and I'm pretty sure they'll become good buddies. Jake and Hanna just love Kade too and keep the little boys entertained. Peter gives Kade his big toothy grin at first sight and makes a beeline for Kades soother. It's been a bit more challenging to get nap time to coordinate but there have even been some days where I get a little snooze in  before they wake up for snack time. They can hardly stand to watch each other eat, it's almost as if I should put the spoons in both mouths at the same time.  The other good thing about babysitting is it makes me stay home more and plan my week out a little more efficiently!
We fit in some special days in November; A morning helping my friend Dora pack up her basement for an upcoming move,  a whole Saturday spent scrapbooking at a school fundraiser (without kids, without interruptions, I was giddy!), birthday parties for Hanna's friends Mikayla and Chase. I was also busy with plans for our upcoming Church Christmas Dinner. At the end of November we left everything behind, except the kids and clothes, and headed to the city for two nights at a hotel. Hanna and Jake were so excited and counted down the sleeps the week of. So Thursday evening I finally gave into Hanna's begging to pack up. Well the picture below shows everything she lined up along the porch wall. Both suitcases full of clothes and two purses with doll clothes, stuffed dog and accessories and other miscellaneous items that she would have so much time to play with right? Oh yeah and a tractor for Jake, can't forget that!  After they were in bed I purged several items and narrowed down to one suitcase and one purse!
We stayed at the VicInn with the Dino Splashpark. The kiddos loved every hour of being in the water while I felt sorry for myself every hour spent awake at night with a baby who was a little out of his comfort zone in a playpen next to his siblings. It was definitely tiring for me and Wayne but so worth to see the joy of adventure for our children. My family came for the weekend too, so the kids loved running to Grandma's room or aunties room and using the elevator was the biggest thrill. We didn't go out shopping much but Saturday evening I took my nieces to the mall. It was fun connecting with them and just being a little silly. It was a good two hours of being reminded what it's like being a young teen.
The kids even caught sight of Santa Clause at the Hotel and we chased him down for a photo!
Dressed for School! It's been a couple months since school started and so far Hanna very eagerly gets dressed to go to school. I hope it keeps up because that's one of the school morning routines that I dreaded the most. For the most part she gets her winter gear on herself when I say it's time to get ready; mom does the finishing touches and out she goes. The cats follow her to the lane and keep her company till the bus arrives. Lately before she leaves she will ask me if I've remembered her stuff and she'll list off each particular thing like Did you put milk in my lunch? Is my home reading bag in there? Is my sweater in there?  Several years down the road and it will be me asking her if she's remembered all her stuff and pushing her out the door to make it to the bus on time. For now she has it covered with her child like eagerness.
Mornings where Jake wakes up after Hanna has left don't go so well because he missed his ritual of leaning over the rocker recliner and watching out the window till the bus has come and gone.  Children are definitely creatures of habit and they let you know when something is out of turn. 
Here's a familiar scene. Peter gets his space invaded quite frequently. I can just imagine how shocking it must be for him to be lying there and then all of a sudden two big kids come lumbering over the side of the crib. Those wide eyes probably get a little wider. Of course I should probably be keeping them out of the crib (not sure what the weight limit is) but they sit there and crank the volume on the aquarium and usually start singing to Peter boy. Sometimes it's not so appreciated when he's supposed to be falling asleep and they get him all excited again. Or there's the times Jake is determined to go kiss Peter after he's already asleep and I'm chasing him down the hall to keep him from bursting into babies' room!

Some of the kids' Lego creations. I love that Lego is so entertaining and encourages kids to be creative. Hanna keeps busy with her house and Lego girl while Jake gets me to make him a truck while he tries to figure out how to make a trailer with many random pieces that is supposed to hitch to the truck. This results in many angry outbursts if it doesn't hitch just so. He doesn't give up so it's quite a fiasco till it's all hitched and the wheels are all turning!


Welcome to the play-do bakery. What would you like to order?

Jake has the stockings filled already while Peter attempts to strip the tree of it's finery!

The Austin Christmas Celebration was a much anticipated day for the kids. Hanna had been practicing for several weeks for her part in the concert at school. So the morning of, with songs of Jingle Bells and Away in a Manger in her head, she excitedly went off to school in her party dress and curls. Meanwhile we made caramel popcorn and got dressed to go out to the parade in town. We made our way to the side of the street when we saw the parade coming. I was just going to hold Peter on my hip, and then the window rolled down in the vehicle next to us and there was my Aunt. She insisted I give her Peter to sit on her lap so that I didn't need to hold him. And so, he never even made shy and contentedly sat with his great Aunty watching the parade or more than likely playing with her steering wheel. I'm sure moments like those can only happen in a small town.  Jake was thrilled with all the 'Mighty Machines' and seeing Santa Claus.  The candy was a big hit too, even for mom!  After the parade we rushed home for lunch and back to the school for the concert. Peter was definitely tired by this time but he was a trooper through all the festivities. It was so special to see Hanna's first school performance but silly me, I didn't get a great picture and I should've recorded the songs with my phone. She came home later that day so thrilled with all the Christmas events and candy!
Outdoor skating party at Aunty Trudy's'. It was COLD but that didn't stop anyone from enjoying some old fashioned fun on a homemade skating rink. Jake enjoyed being slid around the ice on a chair but I had forgot my skates so it didn't take long for Jake and I to head back where it was warm.

 Wayne promised Hanna that he would sleep with them in a tent one Saturday night and Hanna did not let Daddy forget that. So here they are, with their makeshift tent in the dining room and glow sticks to wave around in the dark. I preferred the comfort of my bed rather than interrupting the cozy nest when Peter would be up in the night so I sprawled out in my bed as much as I wanted. Great night for all!!
And let the Christmas festivities begin. We started with Christmas at Grandma and Grandpa's where we enjoyed a very warm and comforting brunch of waffles, cinnamon buns, bacon, fruit and family around the table. Wayne and Sonya provided the entertainment as they played instruments together for the first time ever. Children playing and eagerly awaiting the presents.

Typical poser for the camera, bringing out some new style while playing Christmas songs.
Some gag laughs for the siblings. I've never been very good with buying gag gifts or really taken part in that kind of thing but it turned out to be fun and funny. Wayne came home with a musical toothbrush and a dishcloth eensy weensy teeny bikini for moi!
The kids so happy with their special gifts from Grandma and Grandpa. Lego creativity for Hanna, Jon Deere style for Jake and Peter happy with his barking puppy and even more excited about all the wrapping paper.
Next was one of those two gatherings in one day kind of a day plus a Sunday school concert in the morning. I had a hard time gearing up for the day because nap times are thrown way off and a go-go-go kind of day is so tiring. However, it turned out to go pretty smoothly after all and the kids (and mom) did alright and we enjoyed our time with the extended families. I was happy to get in some photos with the great Grandmas.

Christmas morning at the Doerksens. Hanna and Jake weren't even up very early, although I had an interrupted night with Peter-boy. Sleeping in like the rest would've been so good but some hot coffee washed away the sleepy eyes and gave me some quiet time before the excitement began. It wasn't long before the living room floor had paper tossed about, the kiddos wearing their new housecoats and busy setting up their new toys to play with.

Here's me excited to have received a Christmas card from my Honey. He's not the card buying type so I was very pleasantly surprised with such a special card.
We enjoyed being able to have Christmas Day to spend all day at home. Brunch and a rest, Christmas movie and supper preparations; Mom and Dad and Brian joined us for supper. It was a cold, cold Christmas season and we were happy to spend more time at home where it was warm and restful.

Boxing day was Christmas at my mom's. I was looking so forward to one of the best meals she makes; deep fried chicken with lemon sauce and shrimp. That was such a favorite of Dad's and we certainly love it too, although I still can't get Wayne to touch the shrimp and lemon sauce. We had such a fun time playing games with my nieces and nephews, feasting on Christmas goodies and thankful to have day together with mom.

Christmas went by so fast as it always does every year and then dawns a New Year. Now I'm much more an idealist than a rational thinker and so my ideal beginning to a new year would, well, seem new; somehow different from the last day of the old year. New attitude, New motivation, Newer fresh faced person looking back at me in the mirror. New resolution for the new me. Better this, better that, better mom, better friend, better wife, better me. However, faced with reality, the first week of January really didn't look any different in our household than the week before. I felt a little bit let down. The only thing that's new is that I'm little bit older. So January still holds interrupted nights, the need for coffee to perk me up, dishes to be done and floors to be swept continuously, days where I've scolded louder than I care to admit and grumbled not so silently under my breath, still the same me feeling like I too often make the same mistakes again. Last Sunday a line from a song really caught my attention: Turn all my strivings into works of grace and my humanness cries out why? Why would God bother with transforming toil, purging the pride that drives me to getting everything right? Seems like a tough question but the answer is so simple...because of Love. This passage from a devotional by Max Lucado had me flipping back to it several times during the Christmas season: He humbled himself. He went from commanding angels to sleeping in straw. From holding stars to clutching Mary's finger. The palm that held the universe took the nail of a soldier. Why? Because that's what love does. It puts the beloved before itself.  When I feel like I've failed or come up short, God doesn't push me aside because I've missed a mark of divine expectation. Instead He graciously encourages me to keep going despite my shortcomings, straightening my crooked paths with his hand. I learned two words recently that really encourage me in the path of being the woman God calls me to be by learning to Fail Forward.  Maybe that's what will be new about this year. Letting God show me that I'm a work in progress and that though I may stumble daily in my walk as a wife, mom and daughter of Christ I will not fall in defeat but fail forward in mercy. Thankful for  last years trials and triumphs and take delight in today and tomorrows story of life.
Isn't it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet - Anne of Green Gables
Psalm 37:23-24 The Lord makes firm the steps
    of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall,
    for the Lord upholds him with his hand.