Wednesday, December 26, 2012

My Christmas Hope

Christmas has come and is almost gone. Four days of festivities behind us and a couple more to go. Hanna is convinced by now that Christmas will just keep on coming every day. Jake is going to bed each night clutching his toys in his hands and Wayne has two precious mornings of sleeping in after a year of rarely getting the opportunity. Me, well I've been awake for a few hours, it's seven o'clock and since four I've rubbed Vick's and given cough syrup to Hanna, soothed Jake's cries back to sleep, tossed and turned in between. I'm possibly still on a sugar high from all the Christmas goodies and I think this baby has done acrobatics the entire night. So if pondering the hours away in sleeplessness is all I can do I may as well get up and blog about what's been filling my mind over the holidays.

This Christmas season, preparations and decorations took on a much lesser degree of importance. Many of the usual doings fell by the wayside and left room for learning a deeper meaning of the season. The holidays can become so routine amidst to do lists, dollars spent and places to go, so much emphasis on those things that we miss out on what each new Christmas has to breathe into our lives. This year, I don't think I've ever heard so much bad news. Tragedy always seems to befall this time of year. I don't know if this year  really holds any more than other years but maybe it's because it seems so much closer to home, closer to heart. Maybe it's the media available at any touch of a button, or facebook statuses and prayer requests, or maybe it's me. Maybe my eyes are open a little wider; facing the reality rather than my daydreams.

Ironically, or maybe Providential, over the last month we've heard a four part series at Church on the Good News of Christmas. Each week we've heard more bad news. Death, senseless mass violence, young children left without a mother, families planning funerals during the holidays, hurt hearts and bodies behind closed doors. Those doors get flung wide open and we're left in shock and disbelief. Yet is it any shock, did Jesus not come at such a time as Christmas to open the doors, to open our eyes, to open our hearts? To give us what He offers. We see and hear this heart wrenching stuff all year long and yet it cuts so deep at this time. Just when we want respite to see lights all aglow and give glad tidings. Joyce Meyer said last week that in the midst of our affliction is often when our bonds are broken. How many bonds do we cover with false Holiday pretense only to miss out on the real Joy that the Lord brings to the World?

I felt the stronghold of a bond last week that I thought I was well on my way to being done with. Fear. It gripped me and held on for several days and restless nights. It was so easy to turn back to those old fears especially when the world seems a little darker. I read somewhere a while back that when fear is present, faith is absent. Ouch, that hurts. As a child, my mind wrestled with many fears and anxious thoughts, looking back now they were mostly self inflicted and never to become realized in reality. The sad truth is those fears chased me right into adulthood and though I've come a long way in replacing fear with faith it still remains a weak spot.  A few weeks ago our Pastor spoke on how many times in the Christmas story the topic of fear comes up and the phrase 'Do not be afraid' is used several times. That was something totally new for me to consider in relation to Christmas but as it became real to me last week the words chimed in amidst my fearful thoughts. Do not be afraid. A few mornings ago I woke to see Hanna next to me. I asked her how she ended up there and in her matter of fact manner told me, "oh Mom, I just had a bad dream so I just laid down next to you and fell asleep again." No tears in the night, no staying a wake in fear. Quite different than how it felt for me as a child.  Yesterday evening Hanna's uncle was teasing her about her moving downstairs when baby comes and that she would be to scared to sleep in the basement. She just giggled and said "I won't be scared, I'll have my brother with me!" No big deal. My story was different. I was fourteen and it had probably taken two years to muster the courage to move downstairs and another two years working out my fears while I was down there. Craziness, thinking about that now.

Thankfully as much as I was trying to work away the fear, I was trying much harder to pour out my faith in prayer. I opened my Bible a couple evenings ago looking for a verse on fear and Mark 5:36 jumped out in red. Jesus' words and they are a simple, profound truth: Don't be afraid, just believe. He couldn't have spoke any more clearly to me. To break the bond of fear I would have to simply believe. Believe that at Christmas when hearts ache, shock numbs and grief lingers, that in drawing near to the manger in belief we will be filled with a sense of hope. A hope that overcomes. I realized in my sleeplessness last night that I could learn a lesson through my little girl. She had a frightful dream but believed that to simply slip in quietly next to my side, all would be well. Or what fear could the basement hold, knowing her brother would be by her side. If I slip in quietly next to the Saviour's side with belief, the fear subsides. If I kneel by the manger and think about what a baby brings how can I not be filled with hope. As moms, we hold our newborns and we are filled with the hope of a beautiful future after the going through the affliction of painful childbirth. Jesus came to offer us that hope, to open the doors and help us walk through this painful world with belief. That His perfect love will cast out our fears.

I know bad news will keep on coming, it's inevitable. The good news within myself is seeking and learning to overcome the bad news. One of best gifts I received this Christmas was Mark 5: 36 and a prayer of hope. The best gift from my hubby is the way he challenges me think beyond my doubts and fears. I love him for the way he sets aside concerns and pulls in next to the children, whether its rebuilding Lego with his nephew, doing a Dollarama Christmas tree craft with Hanna or taking over my tearful troubles with Jake in the night when he has to get up in a few short hours. I learn so many lessons through him and our children. They are God's best gifts for me. I can't even begin to offer Him enough thanks in return.  Drawing to His side, we have spent meaningful days with family around the table, sharing memories and food, playing with our children and laughing with them. Hanna said it was her bestest Christmas ever.

Mark 5:6 ... Don't be afraid, just believe.



Christina

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Measure of Life

When I was in high school I hung up a banner in my room with this quote on it:

"Life is not measured by the number of  breaths you take but by the moments that take your breath away."

I loved English class and many quotes I came across were jotted down in a journal; this particular quote meant a lot to me. Yet as a sixteen year old girl who hadn't really experienced life in it's reality I couldn't even imagine what those big and often oh so simple moments would be that would take my breath away. Or that often those moments aren't noticed at the time but come as hindsight later on.

At eighteen, I never knew that at the graveside of my fathers' funeral when my eyes locked with Waynes' across the crowd through blurry vision, in a few weeks time would begin my journey towards a lifetime with him. A situation of irony: laying the most important male figure in my life to rest and on to a new beginning with the man who would become the most important male in my life. It takes my breath away.

 
Delighted in marriage and it's new beginnings, yet I was terrified at the thought of giving birth in the future. A positive sign left me in shocked silence as I contemplated that my world was really about to change. Almost two years after our wedding,2008, our firstborn was delivered into our arms. I went through four days of nurses tending us, many tears, little sleep and a body that felt like it would never recover. I remember the morning we left with our Hanna tucked into a car seat as the three of us sat in the car. I looked back half hoping a nurse was climbing in too and it hit me that this was up to us now, time to take our baby home and learn how to live life in a new way, many doubts and fears assailed me. It took my breath away.

Those newborn days were overwhelming for sure: constant care, falling into bed exhausted, adjusting to new routines and rediscovering my role that included wife and mother. The toddler stage didn't seem much easier with tantrums and a strong will staring me in the face. Yet looking back in Hanna's album as she often likes to do, I don't see the evidence of the trying, tiring moments. Page after page there is a sweet smiling girl wrapped up in cuddles and kisses, with her loved ones around her. Joy exuding her eyes as she takes in the world around her. I took time to snap the moment with a camera, why didn't I take more time to hold my breath and count the moment in my heart?


It seems I went through many growing pains with my firstborn and so many times I've feared that I've only done her wrong.  God shows me fruits of the labor though, through Hanna wrapping her arms around me every day as she reminds me how she loves me, through the moral concepts she has begun to understand, the songs she makes up about her family and Jesus, the hearts she cuts and pastes together for the people she loves and the forgiveness she gives me when I humbly apologize for my childish behaviour. The other day she cut out her drawing of Jesus, drew a bible and glued it to His outstretched arms and cut out little hearts that she pasted onto His body. I asked her to describe it to me and she said it was the big Jesus ( she also drew the baby Jesus) and He had the Bible to teach us what to do and the hearts were there because 'we give our hearts to put our trust in Him'. Simple Truth.  In that moment I really gave thanks that in all the anxious, frustrated breaths I've taken, He has moved His Spirit through my girl and that out of the mouths of children we have much to learn. It's breathtaking.

Jake. Much to our delight in 2011 we came home with a baby boy. Feeling better equipped the second time around, albeit busier, I took more time in the newborn days to rest at home as it was winter time. I wasn't so anxious to carry on with the other wants in life though definitely still a struggle at times to give up even more of my independence. He sure gave me run for my sanity with seven months of sleeplessness and gassy nights. So tired, so many breaths to take. At seven months it came to me that something had to give. I needed a change and that change was moving my baby downstairs to sleep by himself.  He slept through the night, the night after that and almost all night following. I don't know whether it was the timing, him needing space alone, quiet form the train outside or if his body was done working out its kinks but it worked. It left with me  a 'I can't believe it's working' breathlessness and took me a while to train myself back to sleep. Finally I was able to find some rejuvenation and focus again on life besides worrying about sleep.

 
Jake is less than a month away from turning two. He has a spirit that delights and brings many laughs, though the screeching has left us pulling our hair many times. Much of the screeching has been replaced by the world of words he has discovered. It's been so unique to watch a relationship form between him and Hanna. They are each so typically boy and girl. Hanna is in a Barbie and crafting world, while Jake has trains and semis in his hands wherever he goes with a different driving sound for each machine. Together they tickle, run like the dickens around the house, look at books and push each others buttons without mercy. And when they hug, they are just the perfect fit. I watch and realize how much they have changed me in the last couple of years, taught me more patience, gentleness, slower to anger and filled my cup to overflowing. They steal glances at us across the room, with mischief in their eyes and flash us smiles that stop time in its' track and our breath bursts out in laughter. Jake will steal too many breaths some day if he keeps up with his dimply grin, just like his Dad's smile stole mine.

Our family of four is soon to be five. My body creates more space every day to be filled with this growing baby, while we try to create more space in our small home to fill with another baby. Hanna reminds me every day that we are going to have a baby soon, as if I could forget that through the uncomfortable stretching and aches I feel each day. She is filled with glowing anticipation. Her mind is spinning on how this is all going to take place and ever so innocently asked me the other day if she could come with to the hospital to see God's special way of bringing the baby? I lose my breath and my mouth hangs in silence for a bit. I'm not ready for these four year old questions. I laugh and tell her that in due time she will know what God's special way is and it's left at that for now. I felt much anxiousness this past summer at the thought of handling three children but through the last month I have felt more peace replace the fear. The more I surrender my helplessness the more strength through faith I receive. I'm still not eager for the process but I know I can do it and He will get me through it.

This verse has recently spurred me on, not only for childbirth, but to help me through marriage, mothering and learning to be a woman that takes joy in the moment, one day at a time.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Phil 3:12.

I have many more moments to share and my post wil quickly turn into a short story if I don't stop for a bit. The moments will be continued in life and on the blog...

Christina



Sunday, November 18, 2012

Embracing Death

I'm not trying to be morbid, but to be completely honest I'm drawn to the topic of death. As a child the idea of it haunted me, left me so frightened that death would too soon steal me away. I discovered early on in my teenage years that Ecclesiastes 3 would be a defining chapter in the course of my life. I take to heart that there is a purpose to everything that God allows, even death which is so often misunderstood. I never knew how real those words 'a time to die' would become when my father suddenly was gone. A time that really tests what a person claims to believe. Death brings sadness, shock, longing, finality, uncertainty. It's taken me several years to sort out my feelings, to ease the fears. When I started this blog it came natural to me that Ecclesiastes 3 would be at the heart of my writings and looking back at many of my posts I can see that people would think my mind is often on things of sadness and grief. I confess that is often where my mind is at, but not because I want to be sad or negative but I truly seek to learn from reality that these topics play in our life. It is through these times I truly find the answers I seek about God. In order to find answers one must be prepared to embrace the situations through which we find resolution.

Several weeks ago these verses struck me through our Bible Study book:
It is better to go to the house of mourning
than to go to the house of feasting,
for this is the end of all mankind,
and the living will lay it to heart.
 Sorrow is better than laughter,
for by sadness of face the heart is made glad.
Ecclesiastes 7: 2-4
 
King Solomon, the author, reveals that it is helpful to think about death. I took from this passage that God uses death and sorrow to stir our hearts, not towards anger, but toward Him, to his purpose. That there is a beauty and gladness of heart to be discovered through pain and sorrow. It shouldn't make sense, not when in our humanness we want lives of safety, health and happiness.  It isn't easy to take pain as a gift, to understand the ways of Jesus above our own. This past year I have seen so many, loved ones and community members, deal with loss, disease and suffering and am so often left wondering 'Why'? Giving thanks in all these circumstances? For what? It doesn't make sense. King Solomon was that wisest man in the world. He prayed that God would give him wisdom and he was abundantly blessed with much knowledge. Only the more wisdom he imparted the less he failed to heed his own advice and spent much of his life apart from God. In the end he discovered the best knowledge of all: that apart from God, life was meaningless and empty, it didn't make sense. And so, when I can't make sense of life and its' futility I can only take his insight to draw myself nearer to the reasons of God. Death and it's eternal value leads me to making sense of life.

Yesterday I joined my husband in saying a final goodbye to his Grandpa who is lying there waiting for Jesus to take him home. I dreaded going at first because who really wants to face those final moments. My humanness wanted me to stay dis attached because it's hard to see death and not be taken back to my father's deathbed. Those verses above though reminded me that it would be okay, I would lay it to heart. My heart reached for the hearts of his children saying goodbye, for Grandma at his bedside. It's hard to say goodbye to a dad no matter what age or stage in life they are at. In the quietness of the room, God gave me a gladness of heart, for I began to understand what a beautiful picture was before me. I cry as I write this for I am truly thankful to have been in that room, to see  and feel the peace that was present. There he laid, a man with a lifetime of memories and days behind him, with only one purpose ahead: to join the Heavenly angel band. A man just as human as you and I, not a saint who has earned his way to Jesus, no more deserving of eternity than any other, yet he in his weeks of pain and suffering discovered the secret of letting go of all the temporal things of life and was ready to see the light of Eternity. Who could want anything else in the face of death. I could see on the faces of everyone that despite the sadness of goodbye they are passing him on to Eternal peace and freedom, to the One who truly loves him more than the love we earthly families can bestow. I expected beeps and monitors, and found that everything was turned off. There was no watching a screen. It would've been meaningless for all that matters now is waiting on the Lord. It was joy to sing at his bedside knowing that soon will come praises and songs we can only imagine. I came away ways from there feeling blessed by the experience. There was no fear, no shock. It was different from not being able to say goodbye to my Dad. It took much longer to find peace that way. We would all want to face death peacefully with loved ones  by the bedside, but we do not have the choice. I can say though that through two different experiences of goodbyes I have learned peace and meaning through both. No matter the process we are as grass, as Isaiah claims:
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
because the breath of the Lord blows on them.
Surely the people are grass.
 The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God endures forever.
Isaiah 40: 7/8
 
God is the only one that remains. Let's seek him while he may be found. Solomon, despite his often negative view of life because of his neglect to heed to wisdom God gave him; encourages us to enjoy life by seeking purpose and meaning of life through God. Saying goodbye at a loved one's bedside without the hope of eternity would leave no reason to find meaning in life. It would feel useless. Solomon ends Ecclesiastes with this conclusion:
Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind.
Ecclesiastes 12:13
 
So maybe it's not that morbid after all to embrace what death has to teach us, for if we seek the answers while we live then with confidence we can conclude that though we may not understand all mysteries, pains and struggles of life; we can believe that God takes us through them for a reason. That He may love and breathe us into his arms. I remember sitting as a young girl in a funeral home beside my dad, where he heard the song ''Safe in the Arms of Jesus" for the first time. We came home and he sang that song for weeks on end. He found gladness of heart in the house of mourning. Today I'm thankful for the reason to believe that he is Safe in Arms of Jesus. Jesus, who is ready every moment to receive more into his fold.
 
Grandpa is still breathing and I pray that his moments of slipping into the arms of Jesus will be moments of peace and that the Angel band will break into harmony.
 
 
 
Christina

Monday, October 8, 2012

Blessings and Books

It's Thanksgiving Monday, and I don't know if I've ever been more thankful for a grey and cloudcast day because, Hallelujah!, there are Heavensent puddles dotting the driveway. I just pray the rain keeps on coming. There is a peaceful silence in a morning such as this and I feel compelled to sit a little longer, breathe a little deeper and enjoy the moment. It seems fitting to have come across this quote today:
 “We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature—trees, flowers, grass—grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence. We need silence to be able to touch souls.”  - Mother Teresa of Calcutta
 
 
As soon as the stillness of fall arrives I love to delve into my passion of reading. I am so thankful for the gift of the written word. It changes the world, changes lives, changes the soul. I've been reading for several weeks now when I have spare time; whether it's time of devotion, a recipe book, doing homework in my Bible study book, a series of non-fiction or keeping up with my favorite blogs. I admit sometimes I get caught up in reading so much that my work slacks a little, the clean laundry stays kind of wrinkly and I only respond to the kids after several repeated questions. Sometimes I've used reading as an escape to find a fictional world different than my reality. Many times I read with a searching heart and it's amazing how so often I come across exactly what I need to hear, whether it something I need to change within myself, words that heal a wound and phrases that give new perspective. There is a miracle in picking up something to read without realizing when you start how much the words will apply uniquely to oneself and the moment you're in. Of course we found those miracles in many different sources, through music, relationships,nature,  pictures and so on. These gifts of teaching lead us to a better understanding and passion for our broken world. We are led through the mess to a path of thankfulness. I found some of that teaching through a novel I read this weekend. It's a powerful story that affects all of ones emotions, convictions and stirs the heart. A soul wrenching story about a young girls journey and the choices she makes to rise above the despair. I couldn't put it down and can't quit thinking about the character Millie Reynolds in the book "Into the Free" written by Julie Cantrell. Even if reading isn't your thing I would urge anyone to seek out this book. I will eagerly await a sequal and maybe reread this one.
 
 
Leaving you with a portion of the Author's words:
 
I am here. I am here for a reason. for something more than to just breathe, blink, swallow. I am worthy of happiness and love. Worthy of a good life filled with good people who love me in return.....I turn again to the words on the wall just as morning breaks through and beams of sunlight reach the wooden cross. It may make take a long time, but somehow I believe that the broken pieces of me will come back together. Someone, somewhere, is on my side.
 
Through this story I was reminded that Thanksgiving is not a day or a turkey dinner. It's looking back on our journey and finding blessings through the joys and pains of our life, through the times that led us away from Jesus and the times that we joined Him in his Grace again. That though we have control over our choices we are predestined to intersect with God's plan to bless us and when we search closely we can see clearly how much Thanks we have to offer back.
 
Not what we say about our blessings but how we use them, is the true measure of our Thanksgiving. -W.T. Purkiser
 
 
 Christina
 
 
 
 
 
 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Turkey Talk

This past weekend I enjoyed the privilege of cooking a Thanksgiving meal for my In-Laws. It was a first time for me to cook a complete stuffed turkey dinner with the trimmings. In order to to avoid the anxiety I usually get with preparing for company I started two days in advance so that I could take things in stride. I stayed home Sunday morning while Wayne took Hanna to church so that I could get the turkey in the oven on time. It took me back to the days when my mom would stay home from church to cook her holiday meals. Dad I would come to savory smells and country gospel music on the radio. Sure enough, I got in two full hours of the Sunday Request Show and turkey in the oven by Twelve. It felt great to even get a nap in before company arrived. I woke up to a well done turkey and visitors at the door shortly after. It was a pleasure to have my mom-in-law work beside me in the kitchen, she did a beautiful job of carving the turkey that I'm sure I would've mutilated. And thanks to Brian 's forearms we had smooth and creamy mashed potatoes.
 
So the menu:
turkey with stuffing
mashed potaoes(mom and Brian) and gravy
peas and carrots, marinated carrots(mom)
cranberry jello salad, lovely fruit salad brought by Sonya
butterhorn rolls, rhubarb punch
pumpkin pie and banana cream pie
 
Menu for the next week? many turkey inspired meals as we hardly made a dent.
 


We realize at times like this how small our table is when our elbows are touching. However many hearts at the table is much to be thankful for.

 
 
After full bellies and a hot house we followed the kids outside. It was a beautiful evening for a bonfire. Mom suggested a family photo and so we wrangled the kids together, wiped dirty mouths and set ourselves up in front of the wood pile while the sun was quickly setting. Pretty good photo for  a self timed shot set up on a Little Tykes car.
 

 
Jake looking rather grown up these days with his curls trimmed away.

 
Here's me at around seventeen weeks with Hanna proudly patting. She asks me almost every day if my tummy is still growing. It surely is, as I'm starting to feel a bit like a stuffed turkey myself.

So one Thanksgiving feast down and a few more to go over the next weeks. I absolutely love this holiday. The thankfulness season sets the stage for the coming of Christmas. Each morning I look out in awe of the colors that are so refreshing after the dull dryness of this past summer. The vibrant colors paint a picture of how I want my life to portray living out the vibrancy of 1Thessalonians 5:16-18:  Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

I pray that this beginning of October will be such a month, a new beginning of giving thanks in all things.

Christina

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Birthday Wishes to You, Kassandra

 
Happy 18th Birthday to you,my sweet niece, Kassandra! Wasn't it just me who turned eighteen only a few short years ago? Or maybe it's already more years than it feels like, the only reality is that time sure flies.

You were the cutest brown eyed, brown haired little girl coming to Grandpa and Grandma's on weekends. We just adored your sparkling eyes and big, flashing smile. I have to admit to being slightly jealous, as I was used to being the baby of the house until you'd come in the door. Mind you, my days of sitting on laps and getting all the hugs and kisses were over by then. When you came though, they let it all slide, if you wanted ice cream for breakfast, you would get ice cream. As if I was allowed to that. Haha, I'm not bitter though.  However, I may have to apologize for sometimes acting like a mean, older sister. I would tickle and tease you till you cried, bounced you too high on the trampoline when you didn't want to be bounced and who knows what else. Glad we've grown out of that phase and I get to just be the best Aunty now!!

 
I'm so proud of the beautiful woman you've grown to be. I felt privileged to be part of the family  who was able to celebrate with you on your Graduation Day this past year. You certainly were the 'Belle' of the ball. Your Grandpa certainly is smiling down on you too, he would be so proud of you. When I'm around you, and see your funny humour come out, your smile and eyes, I see my Dad's similar characteristics shine through you. He loved the weekends when you came. I remember him trying to teach you German phrases and holding you on his lap alot. Grandma was so excited about your Graduation and she often speaks so proudly of you.

 

 
My prayer for you, Kassandra, is that wherever you may go in life, that you will remember there is One who longs to walk the way with you. 

Jeremiah 29:11-14

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord
 
 
 I pray your confidence as woman will blossom as you face life beyond high school. That no matter what comes your way, your eyes will not lose their sparkle nor your smile dimmed. The road may twist and turn  but may you always remember that you have a family that holds you very close to heart.
 
We love you, Kassandra.
 
Christina

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Blushing Brides

Hanna has been asking me for months to wear my 'bride' dress. She's all about being a bride someday like mommy and she looks at our wedding picture often. I kept stalling her as it seemed like too much effort to get out the dress. However, this past Sunday was our wedding anniversary and so it seemed like perfect timing to play dress up. Her eyes lit up and excitement bubbled over when I told she could be my bridesmaid and wear the veil.

I have to admit I was a little excited myself to wear my dress again. I think no matter how old we get, there is a ''little girl wanting to be princess'' in all of us. We both started twirling and gliding around, all smiles and giggles. I teased Wayne that I was his blushing young bride again. The groom though, wasn't too eager to dress up; so he got the photographer's position.

After our photo shoot, I had to convince Hanna that I couldn't wear my dress all day but said she could have the veil to play with, much to her delight. So now the dress is packed away again, maybe I'll pull it out on our tenth anniversary. I actually would love to do professional photos again as we seemed to have missed the wave of photography that we see now in our local community. Our pictures almost seem outdated. Might be difficult to convince the groom to do that over again. So for now I downloaded a free demo for photo editing and had fun tweaking these pics. 




Hope she will always feel like she's a little princess, and hold onto that child-like wonder for many years.



So thankful for the blessing of marriage to this man I love. I hope that our children will learn by our example, that they will see our bond only growing stronger. Through our roles as husband and wife I pray that we will raise up sons and daughters that will someday yield the values and hearts needed for for the marriage journey. We have all kinds of ups and downs, but each day it comes down to making a choice to love, forgive the greivances, accept the differences, change as we are convicted and rest in the assurance that this is God's work.

Song of Solomon 2:16 - My beloved is mine and I am his...

Christina

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Passing Storm

''My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I AM STRONG. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10


I hardly know where to begin. The last several days have taken the thoughts and hearts of many to a young woman who is very dear to many of us. To share her sorrow, feel the depth of her pain and the aching wish to help ease that saddness as she says goodbye to the man she dreamed of a lifetime with. The kind of goodbye no one wants to say.


After the days of rain I stepped out to marvel at the beads of water collected on the plants. It reminded me of the collective sadness we as families, friends and communities feel when tragedy strikes. We pour ourselves out, raining down tears, compassion and efforts of comfort though the sharing of songs, prayers, verses on Facebook, through phone calls or travelling the distance to be with those mourning. It`s a stormy time, like we are clouds pulling together in pursuit of releasing the pain, the `whys`, the humanness that hampers our understanding of tradegies.

There is strength in a storm. A strength that rises out of the storms of our hearts as we band together to call on Christ`s power, a grace so sufficient.
Grace that forgives our questioning, doubting humanness.
Grace that gives us a measure of understanding that it`s all for a purpose, according to His plan.
Grace that heals, soothes, and gives hope.
Grace that teaches us to count joy in all circumstances.
Grace that promises no earthly security, but only that He will walk with us through all situations.
Grace that uses the life of one person to band together the hearts of many.


Do you see that, through the storm, there is power so infusing that we are like the plants, soaking up drops of God`s inifinite Grace. That these are teaching moments for us all. We may feel weakness through the heartaches of our lives, but we are people designed to be healed. Our bodies fight to close up open wounds and so our broken spirits long to be healed. As rain nurtures a plant, The Healer nurtures with His Grace. To bind up our wounds. Psalm 147:3 He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.

Ìt`s hard to see clearly through the storm, leaving us wondering whether we`ll ever see clearly again. Storms always pass though, even the storm that wiped out most of mankind came to an end to bring up again the beauty of earth and the promise of a rainbow.
I know a rainbow will shine down on my dear cousin as she weathers this storm of her life. I pray that through the pain, though it always leaves a lasting impression, she may find a peace that passes all understanding. That someday looking back she will see more clearly, That she will rise up and be called blessed to have shared a brief time with a man through whom she saw the image of God, in whose presence she may have an eternity.

A life cut short is not a life wasted at all. We all have just enough time.


I think God allows hardship so that in alleviating it, we might understand his mercy.-author unknown


Christina


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Hanna's Day and Mother's Day

Hi there...just catching a few minutes out of my busy week to share some special moments of last weekend.  Our 'Hanna-girl' turned four on Saturday, she waited with much anticipation for 'May 12th' for quite some time. We had a great day getting ready for a family picnic party that evening so that she could share her joy with our loved ones. Good food, glowing bonfire and too many gifts :)


Disney Princess seemed to be the running theme in several gifts...




Jake took in the party fun and food with great delight...



All smiles...Hanna adores her cousin Calista


Sunday brought about Mothers' Day and nephew Reid's second birthday. A BBQ Lunch at my In-laws' celebrated both. Hanna tagged along after her boy cousins  while Jake had many sights to explore on Grandpa and Grandma's yard.  


A weekend spent celebrating my role as a mom and the milestones of these little children has encouraged me this week to enjoy the little moments and laugh a little more. We've been working really hard outside this week and the kids tag along in the sunshine and dirt. My favorite moment was a wistful Hanna approaching me yesterday asking ''Will Jesus come and take us to Heaven today?'' She was so earnestly wishful, The corners of my mouth tugged and I replied with ''Yes Hanna, it could be today or it could be a long time, Jesus wants to surprise us''. That seemed to satisfy her for now. Just love watching her process the things Wayne and I are teaching her and watching her spirit grow. Despite all the tiring and maddening moments we have around here, those little hearts that are so full of love and forgiveness make every moment worth it.

Christina

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Birthday Blessings


Twenty six years of life lived; there is a storehouse of memories and history in these years. Yet this age is soo young to many who have lived longer before me. Really it's only the first several chapters if I live through the entire book to old age, yet almost difficult to imagine that God could write my story for many decades yet. I absolutely love the feel of a book in my hands and to compare my life to that of a manuscript seems fitting. There's the introduction, the main characters, sequence of events, heart of the story, opposition to the main character, climax and conclusion. Don't all those components seem so fitting to the act of one's life? My intro...slightly unusual...born pretty much as an afterthought to my parents who were in their forties at the time who had basically raised there family of three already with the youngest being twelve. My mom became pregnant with me during a very sad time in life when her sister tragically lost her little girl. At that time a woman giving birth in her forties was unusual and her doctor was determined to have me aborted, but by God's Will and my Mother's determination I was meant to be. I didn't share a childhood with other siblings but rather became an aunt at the age of six months to my niece who became my 'twin sister.'

My Mennonite, farming, 'older' parents were the main characters in my life aside from myself and would shape and influence the person I am today. Growing up with an older generation way of life I believe is the reason I'm so drawn to history, things of old, cultural practices and often feel like I'm born into the wrong era. My life at home was quite old fashioned in a sense and yet my school life taught me all the ways of keeping up with the times. Today I'm often drawn to older people, the carved lines in their faces and wisdom shared leave me thankful and pondering how their stories were written.

In school I loved history throughout the ages, the science of time, and I even admit to enjoying creating time lines in class. So naturally all my albums of scrap booking are done in sequential order. I find myself often going back, looking through the pages and taking note of the big and small moments in my life and the changes the evoked.  The pictures bring out the color and antics of my growing up years. Not a childhood of a lot of extra curricular school activities, no video games or i pods or cartoons in the morning. I sat on my Dad's lap every morning at breakfast and rode my trike around the stalls of the dairy barn. My mom let me roll my own little buns on miniature pans and I tugged on her busy phone cord alot. My weeks spent playing barbies and picking rain worms off the driveway with my niece and our bright little pails. oh yeah and we made a lot of pretend pea soup with the little pods from the caragana bushes in the spring. Saturday night baths, the Polka Party, Catechism verses rehearsed and listening to Pap practicing out of the Gesang Buch for Sunday morning. Sundays were spent in our little country church, Mom's roast chicken dinner, eagerly waiting for my folks to get up from afternoon naps, and either getting company or finding somewhere to go after the chores were done. My school life came fairly easy to me, it was long bus rides and many books read, dedicated to my academics, poured out my creativity and imagination and trying to fit in with all the non Mennonite kids. I never did fit in very well but came out of Grade 12 still true to my roots and going back to where I'd come from. I was a pretty happy kid growing up in this very condensed version of childhood. There was so much more and many levels of deeper struggles I was surrounded by too. Of course those would be the details I'd be hesitant to share but essentially it's those tough things that would shape me into a teenage girl trying to find myself and my purpose. On the inside so restrained by shyness, insecurities and socially awkward; yet confident and outgoing most with those who knew me best.

It is in this part of myself where the Devil taunts me and I fight the opposition. As a teenage girl I longed to find confidence in my faith, who I was and to be at peace with the way He planned my being. I was tempted by the partying phase of life in efforts to let alcohol boost my confidence and bravado, yet it always ended as such an empty facade and I was back to looking at myself in the mirror. I tried to be socially outgoing through my friends but as everyone moves on into adulthood and the circle breaks I was back to sorting out those old fears. Through the passing of my dad and a budding relationship that turned to marriage I found focus on my faith again. Marriage gave me purpose. Having  a handsome strong husband gave me strength and often his presence fueled my confidence in crowds and that kept me going till I got back home, and the mask comes off. I'd let the little things evolve into big worries. The insecurities turning into pride and selfishness. Trying so hard to be a people pleaser but running myself down. Travelling through periods of fixing my eyes on Jesus only to fall carelessly away to soon. Struggling to fix my own roots of faith and not just riding along rules and traditions that I thought were required to please Jesus.  It seems crazy that the toughest battle one has with opposition is mostly fought within oneself.

Motherhood gave me a sense of new direction. With it has come great love encompassed in my heart, self sacrifice and stewardship, discovering common ground with all mothers and an entirely new testing and refining of my faith. Being a mommy isn't an easy road, I still struggle with inadequacies and insecurities in my role as a parent. I still struggle with accepting that I am in a place in life where most of my time and self is for my kids when I selfishly want my time and independence.  That totally resurfaced for me on my birthday weekend. I spent my days running after a busy boy and struggled with envying those around who were laughing, visiting and relaxed around all the family events we had going on. I'm ashamed of the moments I resented what i had to do. I'm ashamed that despite the birthday prayers and blessings I chose to have pity party with myself rather that choosing joy in the moment for what it was. I'm ashamed to have written my name on the rededicating list and to have forgotten so soon of my intentions. I'm ashamed that I still let the Devil rehash all those old insecurities a loud. Tired of forcing myself to be what I'm not, that it's okay to be that slightly introverted person who doesn't find large crowds easy to be around. To know that there are groups of people who love me for how I am and I can let down the pretend mask I sometimes wear. To reveal that the true me is very human. I am who I am by the influence of my upbringing, even though I am loyal to my roots and history, God is calling me to let go of some of the traits I've inherited and cling too. He wants my roots to be planted according to what He is revealing to me specifically. That may not be being well versed in the gift of connecting verbally with people, that I don't need to be in the center of a crowd to play a part in His work, that confidence won't come from my own self indulgence and aspirations but simply being assured that He is working His plan through me whatever it me be, and right now that is giving myself to my family.  On my birthday morning our Pastor challenge us to rededication and refocus through the book of Nehemiah, and that rededication can't fully happen without full confession of our sin. Chapter nine versus 35 and 36 speak of the blessings we receive from God often makes us forget him. Rather than focusing on being thankful for the blessings we choose to rely on being secured by the blessings. Going away from the crowd on the weekend and seeking God out on my own, in my silence where I most often find Him, I was affirmed in the realization that I am blessed to live this story, to be this unique, strange me. After the craziness of trying to feel secure through everybody else God reveals that His blessings come to me in often simple, understated ways. After the craziness of the weekend I saw my birthday blessings through:

-celebrating the ninety five years of longevity of my Grospap whose life story is in the final chapters with an eternal home as the epilogue.
-enjoying heartwarming common ground and conversation of family who I was unfamiliar with, they took time to encourage my writing and share some of their story of the past with me. I get choked up when I think of this man and his wife seeking me out, for through the words of older men I often regain that feeling of my father's presence and the love he had for me. I give thanks to God that He puts those men in my path to speak to that little girl heart that is still inside of me.
-little girls and a dear friend calling me with early morning birthday wishes, Sunday school prayers and understanding women, special tokens of love from family all around, facebook greetings, sharing birthdays and special bond with a cousin.
-my hubby remembering my birthday, much to his surprise and mine, and watching the kids for a couple of hours the next for that me time I desired. With him I'm so thankful to  walking this road of life as we contiually learn to lean on Jesus, not depending on fullfillment of each other but having God fullfill us together through His ways.  I love this man who despite my shortcomings encourages me always to try again and be open to the changes I often fight.
-my mother's arms of love and service, honored to be a part of her story, praying her final chapters will be lived with learning to lean on Him more and more, doing that together with her.
-the absolute trust and love in me in the eyes of my children. The realization that the more I let Jesus tell the story through me the more of Him my little ones will see in me.

So how could I ever doubt the blessings that are so obvious now after some soul searching. Sometimes it takes a little refocusing and trust God with the story He is writing about me, finding full confidence that despite how or when the  climax  and conclusion may be I will wait upon the Lord and my strength shall be renewed, I will mount up with wings as eagles;run and not be weary; walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31 My humanness may fail me again and again but God never will.



Christina

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Whole Lot of This...

The winter months have swiftly passed time, in our household there has been no time for any wintertime blues or boredom. The last several weeks have consisted of teething toddler tantrums, helping 'Hanna' hands, Wayne's work woes turned into Worship, and Mommy trying to make the most of  all the moments.

I have had a very busy kitchen in the last while as I've been selling home baked goods locally. It certainly adds a lot of busyness to two days of my week and a little more organization with my kiddos. I really enjoy my home filling with the smells of breads baking and using my hands to produce. Not only is it for the benefit of others it's to our advantage also as now I have baking on hand for the weekend and lunches. It feels good to walk to the freezer and not to the store for bread. Hanna of course wants to roll her own little buns but she has also been good at understanding that she can't have her little hands in all I'm doing. She is pretty cute in her little apron and princess dress though. She wore that ensemble for about three days one week until I hid it in the laundry hamper. To me it's a picture of a princess willing to serve whom I hope to teach life lessons to, that someday she may be the Queen of her home and willing to serve others.




This little boy has us running, laughing, frustrated, hugging, and everything else all at once it seems. He's so full of curiosity and antics. Teething antics that is. Four molars are coming at once and preceding has been much screaming, headbanging, fever and clinging onto mommy. It's testing for all of us in the house but I try to remind myself that God promises to not give us more than we can handle. Despite the fact that I feel like I'm losing brain cells quickly some hours, the next hours may bring hugs, happiness and peace. I'm thankful that almost always each trying day ends with a good, relaxing sleep and the best smiles and hugs any mom would want to wake up to the next morning.


He's all about feeding himself and the broom or mop is pulled out of the closet several times throughout the day.


Wayne's new best friend is his I-phone and has Hanna quite enthralled too. She's all of a sudden feeling very entitled to take photos. (and now thinks she can use my camera, but that's still a no-no). Although I'm very unsavy with phones and they don't generate much of my interest, I have to admit it's quite a genius piece of technology. I can see why it's right up Wayne's alley but maybe the novelty will wear off...or not!


I've had several topics on the go this year in my reading/listening/blogging studies. In church we are studying the chapter of Nehemiah, and it just captures my attention so far more than any chapter ever has. The topic of being a builder for God, a builder who is driven to fix the broken places, has inspired me to think daily about what breaks my heart, what job does God have for me as a builder, in what place can I have a part in building up? It would've seemed to me that to qualify as a builder for God, I should be out on the mission field in another country, volunteer regularly at a homeless shelter, or be more involved in areas where God's work take places. While God has called many people to be builders in these areas I search for what he has called me to do. I found my answer in reading through a chapter of our Study book "What's It Like Being Married to Me?" by Linda Dillow. An excerpt jumped out at me as follows

'Did you know God says a wife is a builder? "A wise woman builds her home, but a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands" Prov.14:1'

My work has started already as a builder. Am I building properly, because it's scary to think that I can easily tear down my home with my own foolish ways. Easily done if I'm a nagging, complaining wife or a bitter,unthankful mother. It takes wisdom, God's wisdom. Nehemiah sought this out by praying, planning, pursuing and praising. (I'm stealing our Pastor's use of alliteration here). In my book I discovered this quote that parallels Nehemiah:

'There are four steps to accomplishment: Plan purposefully. Prepare prayerfully. Proceed Positively. Pursue Persistently'

I can Plan by making choices about what's really important to me, like making sure my husband never ends up on the back burner and creating a home of gratitude. I can Prepare by praying,; I feel so much more equipped to handle my day if I have started it with Holy conversation. If I give my complaints and brokenness to Him; He is the only one who can bring me relief.

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." Ps. 46:1.

I can Proceed by being positive. By changing my attitude!If I want to build a house of Gratitude, I must cultivate a  thankful spirit. This is where my third source come in. I follow the blog of Ann Voskamp over at A Holy Experience. She is the author of 'A Thousand Gifts'.  She challenges her readers to give Thanks, seek Grace and find Joy each day, in all that is around us. Her words are such a testimony to me, for I so easily fall prey to ingratitude and negative thinking. I've dared to count to a Thousand Gifts in my journals, and though it doesn't always come easily, I find that is seeps into my everyday thinking. These verses drive me to proceed:

"He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors ME, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God." (Ps. 50:23)

"Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble;i will deliver you and you will honor me." (Ps.50:14-15)

"It is good to praise the Lord and make music to your name, o Most High, to proclaim your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night." (Ps. 92:1-2)

I want Thankfulness to become our language in our home.
The fourth step I can take is to Pursue with persistence. Persistence is the hard part, on my own I'm much more prone to give in. In my notes on Nehemiah I wrote that 'a builder relies on God's hand, with reference to Ps.127:1 which reads: 'Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain.' Last night Wayne and I talked about going through difficulties and this quote popped into my head 'If God calls me to it, He Will bring me through it.' Our strength to carry on in building will come from Him, sometimes it may take making tough decisions, taking a break to regain strength, facing outside opposition to bring out the best in us or being called to be part of a team of builders as Nehemiah was. Building my home certainly isn't a one man show, I have very key teammate in my husband. My team mate, my leader. We are in this building project together but this is where it can quickly veer off course as found in our marriage study book. The HOME is my building project, not my HUSBAND. God didn't put us together to have us focus on changing each other but work together through acceptance, communication, understanding and appreciation of one another that God may bring about the change in us. As the wife team member, I have a divine calling to be a 'suitable helper' (Gen.2:18) to my man. A responsibility to respect and reverence the man who has been called to love me sacrificially. We have very important roles to play in the Marriage building project. Christ's perspective on being in a team is "I came not to be served but to serve" (Matt 20:28, paraphrased). We receive instruction on building attitude in 1 Thess.5:11: ''Encourage one another and build up one another". We have had to put this teamwork attitude into action a lot over the past several months through relationship difficulties, continuous truck repairs, and parenting struggles. I have seen the rewards already as God as called us right back to the beginning to start laying a more solid foundation in him. As I write this my mind goes back to the song that Hanna often sings of the 'wise man building his house upon the Rock' and I'm reassured that despite the opposition we will stand firm in the end. This building project will never be completely finished as we are continuously building up here on earth only to someday take part in the greatest building project ever with the Ultimate teammate, our Highest Helper, Jesus.

These thoughts have been brewing for a long time as God as shown me the connection between Sunday morning services on the builder Nehemiah, my job description as a builder through our Ladies Study and giving Thanks and receiving Joy through the motivation of Ann. As I pull knowledge from the sources of books and Bible around me I just can't help but feel excitement and renewed purpose for what I'm called to do each day. To take my hammer and nail, and fasten my life upon Christ.

Christina

Monday, February 27, 2012

Leaving a Legacy


Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Matthew 5:4

He heals the brokenhearted, binding up their wounds. Psalm 147:3

This past week I attended the funeral service of a cousin; a loved wife, mother and grandmother. She was in her early fifties and God brought her Home after a tiring battle with cancer. It's difficult seeing the grieving family at the front, so young and so many firsts to face without their loved one. There was preparation and acceptance of saying goodbye but still a whole new world to begin after the funeral is over. The grieving process still has to be faced and worked through. I was really struck by the pastor's prayer for the family to go from the moments of memories that will ignite sorrow and pain to coming to the times that memories will bring laugher and warmth to the heart. I know that place can be reached because I experience those times now with my family; the aching pain has healed over into laughing and reminiscing at recollections of our father. There will always be a bittersweet pang but God really does bind up our wounds when we mourn in His comfort.

'Biblical mourning is the embracing of pain/and or sorrow for the purpose of renewal'

I came away from the funeral knowing that this blessed woman was a woman who left a legacy of love and sincere faith behind for her family. She died with prayers for her family and a longing to see her Jesus. The pictures displayed depicted a beautiful young woman as a gem for her husband, a nurturing heart to her children, a cancer patient treasuring times with her grandchildren, a faith that could not be severed by her disease. What a blessed heritage to leave behind.

This week I also think of a special Uncle we said good bye to nine years ago this time, the legacy he left behind through the ministry of his music. Today I see him shining through the voices and musical talents of his children. I think of my Grandpa, who will be ninety five soon and is recovering in the hospital from a very close encounter with death. God has given him continued time to enrichen his legacy, a chance to put away the former things, choose love and celebrate what is left of life.

 I sit here with thoughts of the legacy I wish to leave behind, the words that I wish to have said after I die.  At our Ladies Bible Study we are reading 'What's It Like Being Married to Me' by Linda Dillow. The first chapter challenged with a scenario of attending a funeral and coming face to face with yourself in the casket, sitting down in shock as your husband stands up to read your eulogy. The author intends to have us think hard about what we would wish for our spouse to say about his experience in marriage to us. To take what we would want to have said about us on our final day and apply it today and live with "the end in view". A quote from her book says ' we are 'daily' people, not lifetime people, but God wants us to be eternal people.' To daily store up the treasures of our hearts in Heaven. 
 That on the day our loved ones say good bye they will say we have been:
Wives 'worth far more than rubies.' Prov.31:10
Husbands who have loved and honored their wives. Ephesians 5:25
Children who ave honored our fathers and mothers. Ephesians 6:2
Father's who have not embittered their children. Colossians 3:21
Women who have put on the fruits of the spirit:compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12
That in suffering we have been strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Ephesians 5:10
And simply that we have 'lived a life of love, just as Christ loved us' Ephesians 5:2

In our own strength it's difficult to live out these holy attributes, and often our own weaknesses take power. No matter how close in view the end is, if it hasn't come yet we can always call upon Jesus who longs to forgive and renew.To fill us with the desire to fight the good fight, finish the course and keep the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7. A legacy worthy striving for.
                                                                                       


Christina