Monday, October 17, 2016

Hope: A Living, Breathing Thing

"Sometimes providence guards us from pain. Other times, the providence is in the pain." - Seth Haines

Pain has possibility. Most of us wouldn't see that in the every day, because pain is difficult. It makes us uncomfortable. Pain makes us have to feel things we don't want to feel. Wikipedia states "pain motivates the individual to withdraw from damaging situations and to avoid similar experiences in the future." But what about the pain that is unavoidable? I'm not talking about the physical pain you might feel when you stub your toe or break your arm. I'm talking about emotional pain - the deep stuff. The stuff that hurts so much you don't even want to read any further. (Keep going, it's okay. Trust me!)

The kind of pain that we all have to endure at some point in our lives but we all hope we never have to endure. The pain of broken relationships. The pain of hard situations and circumstances that t-bone you when you least expect it. Painful situations don't seem like they have possibility. But they do.

Sometimes God allows pain into our lives to change and shape us. That is such a difficult lesson - and one that often will take us years to understand and process. In the meantime, we can take a look at King David - the man after God's own heart. He had a lot going for him - he was a king chosen by God himself. But he suffered greatly, and his pain was so overwhelming for him.

Let's look at the beginning - before he even assumed the throne - he was working for King Saul, who became so jealous of David that he wanted to kill him. Numerous times he fled for his life. He spent many years on the run from Saul. But God used that time in his life to change and shape him - it was in those times that he wrote many psalms and songs that we still read today.

Fast forward to the New Testament and we see another Saul - also called Paul - who suffers much pain in his ministry. This is the one who had spent time chasing down and arresting Christians who was vehemently opposed to the gospel of Jesus. Until he had his own encounter and literally saw the light. After that it was his life's mission to bring the news of the life and resurrection of Jesus to everyone he saw  - both Jews and Gentiles. This made some Roman officials very angry, as some Jews didn't believe that Jesus was the Messiah. Numerous times Paul was arrested and jailed and put on trial for living out his life assignment from God. At one point, he was arrested for doing nothing other than performing a Jewish ritural in the temple. The Jewish leaders had been trying to catch him for so long they leapt at the chance, after which they had nothing to accuse him of - at least not anything that would stick - and he was passed from official to offical to official until he was finally set free. This lengthy process allowed him time to write the many letters to the surrounding churches to encourage and guide them - what we now know as the Epistles.

Pain has possibility. In the deepest, darkest and most painful situations. When we just can't handle the pain for one more moment - it happens. He breathes hope into the hopeless situations. It may be just a little whisper. It might be just a spark of encouragement. It may be something grand. But it is hope just the same. And hope is His promise to us as we struggle through day to day life. Hope is His promise to us as we face the painful situations in our life.

It was Paul, the one who had been imprisoned numerous times during his missionary journey, who wrote the book of Romans. So when I read these words, I know they are coming from someone who endured suffering and pain:

"Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of unreserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God's glory. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us to develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope and salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love." Romans 5:2-5

Even through the painful situations, we can see hope through Christ. He breathes hope into our lives, and even through the pain, we are transformed.

One Sunday morning as we were worshipping in church, we were singing a song that I felt right down to my very core. And in that moment, I felt like He had breathed hope right into my body. My broken, aching body. The words that crept into the secret recesses of my heart and filled me with life:

Death has now been swallowed up in victory
Then all hurt and pain will cease
And we will be with Him forever
And in His glory we will live
So lift your eyes to the things yet unseen
that now remain for all eternity 
though trouble's hard it's only momentary 
and it's achieving our future glory. 

Pain has possibility. It can even be a gift that we are grateful for. I never thought there would come a day where I would stand there and confess in my heart that I was grateful for this debilitating disease. But here I am, saying it. I am thankful, grateful and hope infused for this pain, if it would be this that He would use to someone point others to Him, whether it be by my life or my words.

So whatever pain you are experiencing, be it emotional pain, physical pain, spiritual pain, or all of the above, it is my prayer that He will breathe hope into your hopeless situations today. Because His hope stands forever, long after our painful situations have passed away.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Liquid, Laziness and a School Project

My son is obsessed with liquids. I don't know what it is about them that he likes. But he just can't stop. Like that time he poured the oil everywhere and turned the stove on. Or that time I decided to treat myself to a more expensive body  wash only  to find half the bottle on the floor of the shower when I was ready to use it.  The time he spilled the laundry soap on the floor. And then a few days later, all over the front of the dryer. What a mess that was to clean up! 

The thing with liquids is that he loves the sound they make as they spill. He loves watching the different consistencies of liquids pouring all over different places in my house. And do you want to know what else makes a great splashing noise when not disposed of in its regular environment? Urine.

So that is how my day started. I don't know about you, but the words "I've had an accident" cause me to pause. What kind of accident - and was it intentional or not? Then I hurry up the stairs to strip the bed or empty the toybox, or mop the floors or all of the above. The boy gets a bath and Mom gets to clean up. Again. I've learned to be gracious when it comes to urine all over the place - even though every time it happens it's like fingernails grating against the chalkboard of my mind. 

The rest of the morning  I was wrapped up in a task I expected to take an hour. I ended up missing breakfast and rushing through lunch, which isn't all that uncommon for autism parents. In the short hour or two before the kids got home from school I quickly fired off some e-mails, tidied the kitchen, and ran a few loads of laundry through the wash. And then it dawned on me. Aiden has a school project due tomorrow.

And then worse...he hasn't even started it yet. I don't know about you, but when I was his age and a project was assigned at school I organized my thoughts and then started into it right away. Usually it was finished a few days before it was due. I was in no way prepared to have a son who is, let's face it, a procrastinator. So when he walked through the door, sat down on the couch and picked up the TV remote, I came undone a little bit.

Okay. I came undone a lot. My day had not gone as I had planned and now I had to help someone with an assignment that could have been done by now. I was stressed and empty. And hungry. 

So I started ranting and raving about how laziness was unacceptable and how he needed to learn how to time manage. I went on and on about how he needed to be more responsible and that I didn't want him to procrastinate ever again. I even made up a new rule about how when he was given an assignment he would now have to work on it every night until it was complete. And all that ranting and raving? It didn't do either of us a bit of good, we both got upset, and I am pretty sure the whole point got lost on deaf ears before it even left my lips.

Oh, that God would give me a mouth that knows how to stop before it begins. While nothing I said was hurtful, it wasn't very constructive. My little boy couldn't figure out why I was so upset, and I just couldn't stop yammering long enough to let him get a word in edgewise.

In the end, he got the project complete. Granted, not without me holding his hand and directing him on what was expected. Except, here's the thing - what I didn't see before I started my tirade was that he had already been thinking about his project. He had already collected his thoughts, and had some pretty interesting and unique ideas to bring forward. He just was unsure of how to get them out and how to compile them into a report expected by his teacher. He had done the ground work long before I had ever opened my mouth.

Have you ever felt like you may have blown it in a mothering minute? If the goal is to teach, equip, strengthen and encourage - I definitely failed today. We live in a world where sometimes the cookie cutter children are expected.  I of all people should know that my children just aren't capable of being that kind of kid. And here, in this crazy frustrating moment I forgot it all. All that I knew about expectations. All that I knew about autism. I had forgotten, and had unrealistically put expectations on my son to time manage, to organize and to get his project done. Autism aside, these are all learned skills. I mean, he is only in grade six after all.

Reality set in and I found myself totally wrong and in need of forgiveness. So I had to seek him out and apologize for my irrational thinking. We had a great conversation about how to move forward. Since communication is not his thing, I will need to be more diligent myself. I don't want to hold his hand for a lifetime - at some point he is going to need to run on his own. But maybe not  yet.

So as I sit here reflecting on my behaviour, I can see his report peeking out of his school book. I pull it out and look at the assignment -  I look through his eyes for a moment and see an assignment he would not be thrilled to have to complete. A science project asking him to create a new animal that has to have adapted to life on a certain, uninvented planet. His eyes tell me he is fustrated because it is not real science - it is entirely fictional. His eyes tell me he is frustrated because there is a creative element to it, having to design a new animal and all of its features and its home. His eyes tell me this project will be hard for  him.

And then I take a sip of my latte and think of all the praise I could have given him. Praise for struggling through something difficult to come up with an animal. Praise for being a flexible thinker and not dwelling on the fact that its habitat was not true or factual. Praise for knuckling under and getting the project done. And in this moment, I wish I could have a do over.

Sometimes do overs are possible, and other times they aren't. But at the end of the day, I know we love each other. I know he doesn't hold a grudge and neither do I. I know we can work together to help him get to where he needs to be. I know that we really and truly are flying by the seat of our pants.

And like I tell him when he has made a bad choice - tomorrow is a new day and a great opportunity to start fresh. 

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Thanksgiving - A Little Reminder

This weekend brings another Canadian Thanksgiving, and with it people are giving thanks everywhere. If we are being honest, the long weekend usually means stuffing yourself silly on turkey dinner with all the fixings. And pie - oh, the different pies that people make this weekend! Pumpkin, apple, pecan - you name it, people are making and eating them. But what does Thanksgiving really mean? 

In Canada, it has been a holiday since 1879, when the government caught wind of the American thanksgiving and decided it sounded like a good idea. Then in 1957, the governor general of Canada decided on a day "of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed – to be observed on the 2nd Monday in October." How things have changed in nearly 60 years since that decision. How many people leave God out of the occasion?

It is easy to be thankful without bringing up God at all. We all have occasions to be thankful - all things new. Like weddings, new babies, new jobs, new opportunities. All the big things that are good. And then the smaller things that just make you smile - like a new outfit, a cup of your favourite hot drink, a sale, a rainbow, or a sunny day. Small things can make you thankful. 

The interesting part about good things that no one really thinks about much is this: "whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens." James 1:17a Every good thing. 

This Thanksgiving, be challenged to remember this. When you sit down to eat your turkey dinner (or tofurkey, in some cases!) remember who has blessed you with the ability to purchase and make the food. When you gather with family and friends, remember the One who has surrounded you with these people that you love. When your children, who have been home from school on an extended break, are driving you bonkers - remember they are a gift from God. 

Thanksgiving can't happen without good things. Anything we are thankful for is a good thing, that was given to us from God. Therefore, Thanksgiving without God is just any other day. This Thanksgiving, remember to thank the One who has given you things to be thankful for. 

Friday, September 9, 2016

Goodbyes Are Not the End

I can't imagine a world without my friend Wendy. She's been a good friend for so long, it really seems like she was part of our family. That was her way, though. She loved well and was so giving of her time and resources to others. Our family can attest to that as much as any other. Maybe even better.

Wendy died this morning. As I write these words, I can scarcely believe it myself. It was not even a month ago we were laughing uncontrollably about something ridiculous. We definitely loved to laugh together. That was before she texted me to tell me she had cancer again. That was before the long chat we had about what could happen. That was before it did.

I had the privilege of being able to sit with her before she died. To hold her hand and sing to her. As I looked around the room I saw the blanket my Aiden picked out for her. I saw the purple socks Micah chose for her warming up her feet. My heart broke all over again, because in a way Wendy was a grandmother to them.

She was doing respite care for us before it was an actual thing in our household. She would love on my kids from the time they were just babies until this morning when she went to her heavenly home. She did all sorts of things for them, so many adventures with them.

Like doing a puzzle by the fire. A pirate puzzle, because that's his favourite thing. And baking cookies to enjoy together afterwards because that's just what they liked to do.

Like the time she took Micah to Winterfest. I could have hugged her a million times because he had always wanted to go but my legs couldn't allow for that much walking in the snow. And when he returned home, cheeks rosy and eyes wild with excitement - hers were too. 

Like that hot September day she took Aiden downtown to a concert during the Harvest Jazz and Blues festival and he beat a drum to his hearts content. I am sure she had a headache later that evening, but if she did, she didn't seem to mind. 

Like that time she took Micah to see the Minions movie. Even though she hated Minions. She later told me they grew on her because the boys liked them so much. 

Like the time she took them to the Country Pumpkin. Many trips in the summer and fall. Fresh veggies, the bakery, the animals.  I think sge enjoyed it as much as they did.

Like the many, many times she made Aiden this happy because he was heading over to her house for a sleepover. She said she figured he would be bored at her house. He never was. 

Like the time she took Aiden to the travelling Reptile Zoo because he loved them all so much. She knew what his little heart needed. 

Like the time she took them on a hike. Up, up and up they climbed. This is one of my favourite photos ever. Wendy with her boys. (Maybe version 2.0 since she had two grown boys of her own).

I know they will feel the loss of such an important person in their lives. Although today, they're rejoicing she's in heaven and no longer living with cancer. 

It isn't just them who will feel the loss. She wasn't just a respite worker, although the kids often introduced her that way. Wendy always said "friends first, respite worker second." That was so true. Because she was indeed my friend. 

And I will miss those giant belly laughs. I will miss the lunch dates and the shopping trips. I will miss the crazy stickers we added to our texts. I will miss her cherry cheesecake. I will miss her purple hair. All of those things. 

But most of all I will miss my friend. So thankful and blessed to have had her in my life. So grateful for the time we did have together. And tonight, as I lay my head down to sleep, I'll rest knowing she's at home with her Saviour. 

Goodbye, my dear sweet friend. I will see you again some day. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Suffering ~ When Life Leaves You Weeping

Sometimes life is hard. There are days when you feel bogged down with the ins and outs of every day life and the stressors that brings - little annoyances that threaten to push you over the edge. Things that aren't massively important in the grand scheme of things, but in the moment you feel so frazzled that you don't know what to do or where to turn. Let's face it, we have all been there. Those are the kind of days that end with you crying in the shower. Nothing to be ashamed of, really. We have all been there.

But then there are the days that are worse than the frazzle that is the every day.  There are days that leave us feeling so broken in our body that we can't stop weeping. Days where we have received life shattering news about a family member or a friend, or even ourselves. Those days are weeping days. Those are days where we can't even crawl out of bed. We can't even face living life on those days. Everything has stopped, suspended in in time - frozen for a moment that seems to last forever.

I had one of those days last week. The day itself wasn't bad - perhaps a few annoyances here and there. But then I received some devestating news. Two of my friends have cancer and it doesn't really look good. And then, not long after that news, a text from a friend that her sweet blessing was born still.

It has been a week and I still can't even think about it because I am the kind of person that when tragedy strikes, I need to step in and help if I can. Sometimes God provides me with a way to do that, and sometimes...He doesn't. How can you help a situation like that? How can you DO something when there is nothing to be done except trust in God's plan?

A few weeks ago, I posted a little graphic on Facebook - you know, one of those things you see that gives you the feels, or that you can just really relate to - so you share it.

I liked this because I have been there before myself and I have had so many of my own plans fail. Proverbs 16:9 says "we can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps." I don't know about you, but the Lord has determined my steps all over the place and I am not stepping anywhere I thought I would be. But that's okay, because I really do trust He has better plans for my life. 

I know it is not always the case for everyone. In fact, when I posted this, one sweet friend who must have been having a frazzled day wrote - "well, what are they then?" In the moment it made me smile. I have been in that spot before. Hello, Lord - I know you have a plan, but I am freaking out a bit because it doesn't quite match up with mine.  Can you help a girl out? The truth is, if we stopped being selfish for just a minute, and looked back over our life we could see how His plan for our lives unravelled. And that every good thing comes from Him. But that is another topic for another day, today we are weeping.

The pure and honest truth is that even when we are weeping, His plan is unravelling. Even when we can't see the good in the situation, it is part of His amazing plan for our lives. Or our friend's life. Or a family member's life.

A few years ago, a friend of mine went through one of the worst situations a parent could go through. Her healthy daughter went from running around with other kids to the point where they thought they were going to lose her in the span of a few days. They had lots of weeping moments. Devestating and heart breaking moments. I am sure in those moments it was hard to trust God's plan. But miraculously, His plan was for that sweet thing to LIVE. And now she walks around with a magnificent and mind boggling story of God's healing power that will follow her throughout her entire life. A testimony that she can use to bring others to Christ. 

When you are in a situation that causes you to weep, sometimes the worst happens. Sometimes it is hard to see God's plan in he midst of it all - when things keep piling up, and bad news gets worse. Sometimes, God's unfolding plan means the end of a life in this world.

Such was the case for another friend of mine. Oh, how I miss her deeply. When she shared that she had cancer, it seemed so unreal. She was so young and very healthy. Heartbreakingly, it was only two short years later that she went home and left behind her sweet husband and two sons. And her other family members who still struggle with her death as I write these words. Her funeral was packed - and there was a lot of weeping. My soul ached for them, and any other person whose life she had touched. But do you know what? She DID touch lives. She witnessed to many people as she took each blow with grace and peace. Coworkers, nurses, friends - her life was a testimony to them. Her life was a testimony to me, too. I only hope I have half of the grace and peace that she had as I deal with my own health issues. 

The worst part about situations like these is that there is no explanation as to why it is happening. Why do people get cancer? Why do babies have to die? We do not have answers, and so we weep. We cry until all our tears are gone because of the uncertainty. Because of the unexplicable pain. Because of the heartbreak. Because it seems there is nothing good in it.

But you know what? Even in that weeping, even in the pain - there is hope. When you are weeping, when you are faced with a terrible circumstance, there are three things we can remember. He is there, He hears prayer, and He deserves our praise.

I promise you, even in the darkest moments He is there. He is present and His love outlasts the end of all of our days, whether they be short or long. Matthew 28:20b says, "And be sure of this: I am with you always, to the very end of the age." When I read that just now I got that Buzz Lightyear voice in my head that says, "to infinity and beyond!" Because while it doesn't apply to Buzz, it does apply to the Almighty God. Forever and ever and ever and ever and ever....

Love unfailing and never shaken - strong and powerful. In the weeping moments, He is there. When I have cried all my tears, and my heart seems slightly less broken - when I have a moment where I can actually breathe and think, I like to remember this verse in Psalm 147:3, "He heals the broken hearted and bandages their wounds." Oh, that He would bandage our weeping souls. 

And while He is in the valley with us, holding us, He hears our prayers. Even when we can't even find the words to pray, He hears our hearts. Romans 8:26b says, "for we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings to deep for words." Can you just close your eyes and think about that with me for a minute? When we just can't even...when our hearts are so broken we can't pray for one single second - the Holy Spirit, who knows us intimately, prays for us. 

Sometimes, all we can do is to whisper His name. I remember sitting with a friend, going through something together and just feeling so broken and spilled out, all we could do was say, "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus." That moment was so powerful. The Spirit was present and we felt so filled with peace. There is power in His name.

And because of all of these things - all of His love, all of His peace, all of His interceding prayers, we need to praise Him. Even when it hurts. Even in the middle of the darkness. Now you might argue that if you can't even pray, how can you praise - am I right? I have been there. In times like that, I pop on some worship music and just listen. Like I mentioned earlier, He sees our hearts. He knows them intimately. And you know what? When life is at its worst, and everything is broken, that is when we need to praise the loudest. That is when we need to climb mountains and shout His praise. 

When you do this, you will feel your heart lighten a little. The words and songs will come easier for you. And even though your lips may not be able to sing, your heart will.

And when our heart is singing, even in the weeping, we truly know that no matter what the outcome, we will be okay.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Fight for Marriage

**Note: It has been awhile since my last blog post. My Grandmother passed away two days after my blog post. I took a bit of time off from writing, because my heart was broken for a little bit. Even though she was old. Because I loved her. No, I love her. Still. Thank you for all your sweet comments and sympathies during that time. I am back writing again - but this one is pretty heavy! Be prepared.**

I hate divorce. Whenever I hear of someone I know breaking up, it wrecks me. Even if it is the friend of a friend of a friend and their spouse. I weep a little - okay, if we are honest - sometimes I weep a lot. And it happens so often that it makes me feel sick. Why are people breaking up SO much? Just...why?

I am no expert on this topic, because I have a happy marriage. I honestly do, and thank God every day for giving me a guy who loves me and who I love. Giving me a guy who accepts life as it comes (oh, does it ever come some days!) and who rolls with the unexpected. For giving me a guy who is faithful to Him and to me.

But - while we are happy, so many other people aren't. A lot of people I know are walking into marriage thinking it's not permanent. Thinking that they aren't really marrying their one true love. Thinking if things go wrong, they can easily get out of it. And the truth is, they can. It doesn't take much to legally dissolve a marriage. In fact, friends of mine who were married last year had to actually fight with the bank to allow them a joint account - they now strongly dissuade couples from joining their assets because divorce rate is so high. And not just in secular circles, either. In churches, y'all. Christian homes.

Why!? I mean, I have to say as much as I hate divorce, God hates it more. Malachi 2:16 clearly states that. But the Bible goes on to talk about the serious nature of marriage as well. You know that popular marriage vow "what God has joined together, let man not separate?" Matthew 19:6 - it is actually in Scripture. God knows it will happen, and as such there are Old Testament laws in Deuteronomy to protect divorced couples, especially women.  But just because He expects our sinful nature to allows us to divorce, He really doesn't like it when it happens. And I am sure He wants us to fight for our marriages.

And let's face it. People have stopped fighting.

Many times when I hear of yet another couple splitting up, I look at my husband and I say "how does this even happen?!" I guess I already know the answers...

1. It Happens Quicker Than You'd Think - I remember someone telling me that they almost had an affair with someone else, even though they loved their husband. Sitting over coffee, my heart broke for this woman as she confessed to dates with a colleague. Her husband was so busy with work that he travelled often, and he was often not home. She felt left out a lot and wasn't feeling special. One day when she was at work there was a luncheon scheduled and only she and this other man showed up. The food was there, so they stayed and ate lunch and conversed. They laughed a lot - something she missed doing with her husband. A few days later, he casually asked her if she wanted to take her coffee break with him as he was on his way to the kitchen. Thinking nothing of it, she went along. And so it continued over the next few weeks - coffee break and lunch breaks alone with another man who was not her husband. It didn't seem like something she shouldn't be doing. Until one day he asked her if she wanted to go out with him for dinner after work. Her husband was away so she agreed. It wasn't until she was at home that it hit her. She was in her walk in closet looking for something to wear when she spotted one of her husband's ties had fallen into the pair of shoes she was planning on wearing. Shoes she only wore when she went out on a date with her husband - somewhere fancy. She said it was as if alarm bells sounded in her head. She sank to the floor and sobbed. Had she ruined everything for a few meals and a few laughs?

Thankfully, no. She called her husband immediately and told him to come straight home - it was an emergency. He dropped all his appointments and flew home that evening. She confessed everything and wept bitterly in his arms. They worked it out together. The important marital lesson that came out of this was this, as he would tell me later: my wife should not be less important than my career. He later told me, "my wife felt like I didn't notice her anymore. She felt like I didn't make her feel special. I was running from one meeting to the next and treating her like my personal assistant." It happens. It's easy to happen when you are soaring through life and getting ahead.

Pay attention to your spouse. Don't forget to make them feel special. They need you and you need them.

2. You are NOT Safe - This one hits harder for me. You see, I have an amazing husband who thinks I am beautiful. Honestly? I have no idea what he sees in me! I mean, if you follow my blog than you know I am more than just a little overweight. I am "morbidly obese." It's not attractive, y'all. Not even a little bit. I always figured my husband must be a little bit deranged, or perhaps blinded by love to think I am beautiful. So I thought to myself, no worries at all, I will never fall into this trap because no one else will think I am attractive. Right? No. WRONG.  Something I failed to see is that there would be men out there who would see my heart, too. I kind of wear it on my sleeve, don't I? There would be men out there who would notice me because my personality is even bigger than my body. Seriously. If you know me, you know this is true. One day, I realized that yes, this could make me unsafe.

It all happened when I was talking to a friend of mine from school - way back in the day. My little baby boy was playing in the play park at the mall and my husband was off getting his hair cut. The play area in the mall was located next to the bathrooms, so he passed by it and noticed me. He came over to talk to me right away. It had been a few years since he had seen me - and this was before Facebook connected everyone and their dog. We made small talk for awhile, and shortly before my husband returned he said, "I am sorry you are married already. I mean, you might not have married me any way, but I had - no have - this huge crush on you. You are the triple threat - smart, funny, and beautiful." I laughed it off in the moment, but I was relieved when my husband returned. I introduced them to each other and it wasn't long before he was off again. But in that moment, it was more than just those words. It was the look in his eyes. It made me wake up and realize that I wasn't safe after all.

Sometimes, as the days get long and my body gets worse, I think the same thing. But here and there people come into my life, innocently. It always starts that way - but then sometimes a look or a comment makes me feel uncomfortable. Perhaps I read more into than I should, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Because it reminds me I always need to be on guard to protect myself from situations I don't need to be in.

3. Be Careful When Life Gets In The Way - One of the common reasons for divorce is "we just didn't love each other anymore." THAT SHOULD NOT BE A REASON. I understand that life gets busy - it's one of things that is so tragic about this world. You get married and you imagine what your life will be like together. Your honeymoon is a dream. Then you have a baby and that's a dream, too. But then those babies - they kind of take over your life. They require a lot of time and attention. And then they grow - and you get even busier. Playdates, library trips, preschool programs. School starts and it all just seems to fly by - but then there are sports teams, dance practice, swimming lessons. At the end of the day after you have been running the kids from one extra curricular activity to the next, you just want to sit in front of the television and veg for awhile. You don't want to talk to your spouse. You don't want to talk about things that matter because it is exhausting, and let's face it, you are already exhausted. You think about how wonderful it would be to escape together - take a little second honeymoon - but life is so busy you just don't have the time. And then, you just don't see each other any more. You keep busy with work, or with hobbies and it just seems like you become each other's roommate.

Don't let that happen. Date each other - do it often. Block it off in  your calendar if you have to. I get that it is harder to do with small children in the house, and sometimes babysitters are not affordable. But there are tons of great ideas for at home date nights floating around on the internet. Don't give up on each other.

4. It's Worth The Work - This is a popular one, too. "It just isn't worth it anymore." It probably stems from being so tired from your busy life that you think it isn't worth it. But you know what? Marriage does take work. Every day. It is always a little bit of give and take. It's always compromise. And marriage is ALWAYS worth it. Your spouse is always worth it. Sometimes you need to look back to the days when you first met and when you were dating. Remember how you felt when you were first falling in love? Grab that feeling. Explore that feeling a little - your spouse is still the same person you fell in love with all those years ago. They aren't going to be perfect. But if you are in a committed relationship, then you are committed to not look for perfection in someone else.

Want to know a little secret about a good marriage? Your spouse gets even better over the years. My husband is not the man I married. I desperately loved him then - I could not wait to be his wife. But that guy back then had some flaws that he worked out. No, that we worked out together. I am sure that I am the same. I know I had some flaws too (like those anger issues - just ask him about that mirror I threw at him in our first year of marriage. Phew! But that is another story for another day!) But I will tell you my husband is more mature, more responsible, more loving, more kind, more gentle, more wise and more godly than he was when we got married 12 years ago. So much better. And I love him more.

Did you catch that? 12 years. We have been married for 12 years. It shouldn't seem like a huge milestone. BUT IT IS. Right now? In this day and age - 12 years is amazing. So many people don't make it to five years, let alone ten.

Just...try. Fight. Work on it. Love each other deeply. Don't be afraid to get hurt - and apologize when you hurt each other. Make love, and lots of it. (Yeah, I said it!) Work through the hard things together. Celebrate when good things happen. Cry together when bad things happen. Pray a lot. God is right there with you in the middle of it all. He's not distant. He's fighting along side you. He is there when you are celebrating. He is there when  you are crying. He is there when you are feeling desperate. He knows. We had our wedding rings engraved - and inside of my husband's ring it says "Marriage takes three. God, and you, and me." It really and truly does.

If you have been divorced, this is not meant to make you feel ashamed. This is not meant to make you feel broken. This is meant to encourage you in your current marriage - or to give you hope for a future one.

Fight for love. Love each other. And don't give up. Marriage is not something you should take lightly. It really and truly is a gift. Don't throw it away! Cherish it. It's sacred.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

It Is So Hard to Say Goodbye

Today I found out that my Grandmother is dying.

This brings on feelings of deep, absolute grief. And also deep, absolute relief. We have had time to think about it over the years - it seems uncanny but almost as if she had nine lives. Every time things seemed to be heading that way, she would make a quick recovery. Much to our relief and delight - but these days, not to hers. She just wants to go home.

My sweet grandmother is 94 years old, and she has lived a rich full life. Born in the roaring 20's, when the world was full of promise and rip roaring excitement. (Perhaps a little too much!) She lived as a child through the Great Depression of the 1930's when she could count the peas on her plate and watched her mother lovingly stitch her only dress together wearing it inside one year and outside the next. She was a beautiful young woman in the 1940's, and after the war ended one of the most exquisite brides you ever could see. The 1950's brought her a full household of children and a cross continental move. Or two - possibly three. In the next three decades she would move 23 times to many different countries in both North and South America as well as Europe - all part of life as the wife of a successful business man. The 1970's and 1980's brought her sweet grandchildren. And sadly, in 1987, the loss of her beloved husband. But the next thirty years after that, she lived. Oh, how he lived.

Mr. & Mrs. Gilbert
July 28, 1945

I loved my Grandpa very much. He was my very first best friend - oh, how I loved him. I was nearly five years old when he went to Glory and just about to gain a new baby sister and start my kindergarten year. The family felt his loss deeply, but one would argue not so deeply as my Grandma and I. I think it was our first bonding experience. And one of many...

The grief of losing her grips me like I can not even express. So constant in my life, she is like a second mother to me. But there is peace and there is joy in the memories. And so, I am going to share the memories. Beautiful memories.

I remember basking in the sun on her plastic reclining lawn chairs - the hot surface sticking to my skin as we watched the waves on Lake Simcoe roll by. A pitcher of iced tea beside us. I remember just laying there beside her as my Mom fed my baby sister and my Dad watched my brother swimming. (And later probably cleaning up his bloody feet - there were so many zebra mussels - ouch!)

Her joy - sweet joy - when my brother was born.  He didn't even have a name for three months (back in the day when that was okay) and everyone addressed our Christmas cards with our names and "no name baby." How he loved to hold him. Even when as he grew he really became quite the mess! She did not approve of our nickname for him "the grubby toucher" - but we called him that anyway.

Every Easter, she would come and buy us all new clothes for church. Imagine the excitement of a little girl as she opened her closet to look at the likely ridiculous frock with lots of lace and flowers - and a matching hat - and waiting with baited breath for Easter Sunday to finally arrive. And when it did, a Laura Secord chocolate egg would be waiting with my name on it. She did everything with class.

Our Easter Outfits 1988 

Speaking of class, everyone always knew when she was out and about because she had a cranberry red Cadillac with white leather interior - it was hard to miss. Everywhere she went she would wear a hat. Kids at church would call her "the hat lady" because she always had a hat to wear. I remember sitting on the floor of her walk in closet marvelling at the many hats she had - hat boxes everywhere. Oh, how we loved to try them on. (Many years later, my own sweet son would fill an afternoon trying on some old hats in her basement laughing as he put hat on top of hat on top of hat.) I now have several of her hats in my own closet. Perhaps I should put one on.

My favourite childhood memories are from the time we spent at her cottage. I can still picture the plaid covered couch, the orange fuzzy carpet, the blue toilet - clearly your 1970s special. But so many memories. Campfires, swimming, reading books, chasing the chipmunks. Grandma loved watching us swim and told me that I swam like a mermaid. After that I would pretend I really was a mermaid, with long beautiful red hair, like Ariel. Every girl's dream in the early 1990s.

Grandma was an amazing cook. She put on the loveliest dinners. When I sat at her fancy dining room table, I felt like a member of the royal family. Not only did she make the best lasagna I have ever had in my life, her pumpkin pie recipe is the only recipe that feels like home to me. There was, of course, the incident of the peanut butter and relish sandwhiches. Maybe she just needed to get groceries and was feeling desperate, or maybe she actually liked the taste. I wasn't entirely bad...but it was absolutely memorable.

Not only did she know how to cook - she knew how to decorate. She really did miss her calling as an interior decorator. One day when we went to visit her, we gasped at the sight of a deep and beautiful red wall in her dining room offset with a vintage lookng wallpaper in white and red. What was she thinking!? Clearly she knew what she was doing, because three months later it was all the rage in the interior decor magazines. I often sought her advice in my home decor plans. When I walked down the stairs today my heart was caught in my throat as I saw the walls - she helped me pick the paint. Right now I never want to paint over those walls.

Not only did she have a knack for decorating, she had pretty classy fashion sense. One year for my birthday (I think I was 13) she gave me a pair of jeans. Not your typical blue jeans, but a pair of creamy taupe jeans with dusty rose roses emblazoned all over them. "Thank you, Grandma, I love them!" I said as I unwrapped them. Then later, out of earshot, "These are so ugly and I will never ever wear them!! YUCK! What was she thinking??" Then a few months passed and I noticed something on a celebrity. I wore them until they needed to be thrown in the trash.

When I was in middle school, we had Grandparents day at school (in Ontario private schools elementary was K -8). I was not a very popular girl, though I longed to be. Chubby and with a different last name I was absolutely the odd one out. I was not cool. AT ALL. Until Grandparents day. When my Grandma pulled up in her fancy red Caddy. She stepped out dressed to the nines, as always. And then the whispering began. Instead of the snickering I was used to, I could hear amazment, awe and wonder. Just whose grandmother was that, anyway? Were those giant diamond earrings real? Look at that car! It was my only moment in glory as I proudly stood up and said, "Mine. That is MY Grandma." Laterthat day, she had her own moment in glory as she danced the Macerena in front of the entire school. And of course, she did it with finesse.

When I was in high school I remember coming home from school and finding Grandma there. It wasn't surprising to see her. I think part of the reason why we were so close is because she was so constant in my life. This particular evening, we were having tacos for dinner. They were a huge family favourite (still are in my house.) Even though she lived in Mexico, Brazil and Colombia - she had somehow managed to avoid tacos. Until that fateful night. We gulped ours down in a flash and then watched as Grandma tried to daintily eat her tacos - and finally gave up and asked for a fork.

Moving to New Brunswick was hard because we were leaving Grandma behind. Everyone cried. Not too long after we had moved, she came to visit us there - her first of many visits. I had joined the swim team for the school that I attended, who conveniently had a pool in their building. During her visit, she decided to come and watch me at swim practice. I had my head in the water and was busy working on the butterfly stroke when I heard the same kind of murmurings I had heard that day back in middle school. Only this time, they were saying, "who is that lady? It looks like the Queen Mother!"

After that visit, I didn't see Grandma as much. I moved off to school and was living the dream. Before long I was graduated and in University. When I could, I would go back to visit. It was always lovely to see her. She was still part of my life. She was ever present in my life and in my heart, filling the broken places with love and a handmade quilt. That quilt is now on my bed - a beautiful reminder of her love.

The quilt before she packed it up and mailed it to me

The quilt arriving in New Brunswick

It wasn't the only handmade gift from her. She was a talented seastress and made me many dresses. But my favourite was the last. When I graduated from University she sent me a beautiful gown that she had handmade for me so I could go to the graduation formal. She knew I didn't have anything in my closet and let me tell you, that night I felt like the Queen herself.

I have had many sweet moments with her over the last decade, as I have brought my own children into the world. They were - still are - such a joy to her. One of the most beautiful things about her love for me is that she has constantly upheld my family in prayer. Understanding that we bear a heavy burden, she has lifted us in prayer over and over and over. I am going to miss her prayers. I am going to miss her constant love - although it is so deep rooted inside of me now, that even when she is gone, it will remain.

Now I sit here, on a rainy day, with a soul as heavy as the clouds. Preparing myself to say goodbye to someone I so deeply love. And at the same time, feeling happy for her as she will soon be perfect and whole and out of pain and in the arms of her Father. Most of all, feeling grateful that I am so blessed to be her granddaughter. I only pray that I will someday be half as classy, half as beautiful and half as talented as she is. 

I love you so, Grandma. And some day we will be together again, raising our voices in praise together. Until then...until then.

My all time favourite photo - me, Mom and Grandma

All of us in 2013 

My last picture with Grandma